Many of you know that I do voiceovers.
(A voiceover is a piece of narration in a movie, TV show, PSA, commercial, service machine, or other broadcast, not accompanied by an image of the speaker.)
I posted a beautiful video on Facebook today, for which I did the voiceover, and immediately had some thoughts that turned into a really long comment I posted below. And then I thought the comment seemed like more of a complete thought than a mere aside. So now it’s turned into a blog post.
Anyway, here’s the video:
And here is the comment I left below, after a lot of people chimed in support and praise that seemed understandably as attached to the words in the video as to my performance of them:
“For balance, you should know that I also voice for banks and orthotic inserts and, just yesterday, an employee training video for an often-boycotted fast food restaurant. I am not particularly political. I began voiceover (VO) work to support musicmaking, and it has given me not only an income stream that supports me making precisely the music I want to make, but loads of experience learning my voice in all kinds of ways, given countless hours of feedback between microphone, headphones, and directors.
“I put out a lot of my own original stuff, so I want to give a fuller picture of the context of my VO work…
“These are other people’s scripts. And that’s kind of the beauty for me. Speaking other people’s words requires me to climb into the headspace of the writer… to really get into their world and look out from there. So I do this shapeshifting detective work under the name Chloe Taylor. I dig the wider perspective that Chloe gives me over time. (You musicians will relate – this is me doing covers.)
“I post the VO’s Chloe has done if I think they’re beautiful or compelling. And magically in recent years she’s been landing more and more spots that align more closely with my own thoughts about the world. I am super thankful for the ever-increasing alignment in all my areas of work/life… but I also appreciate the contrast and challenge of conjuring Chloe to do something I can’t readily see a path to (maybe I’ll post an appetite-suppression pill commercial at some point?)
“Finding one’s voice in the world is a wild trip.”
[Hey, did you know I’m playing in Asheville on Jan. 13? Only 50 tix available. Get yours!]
Wait, I’m coming
I didn’t know that
You wanted it black
Without all the foam and the sugar
Wait, I’m learning
I didn’t know that you
Were ok with me just as I am
Without all the clutter
Wait, I’m coming
Won’t make you wait
Won’t make you wait too long, ’cause
God help me, i’ll go simpler
I’ll go simpler
I’ll make it black
I’ll pour it slow
I won’t dress it in nothing a woman’s not born to wear
I’m not myself
I put on this face
Wish you thought that it was me
That i’m the queen of this place
I’m getting it
I’ll just begin to show you what’s within and not control you
Recalibrate from the pomp of the show to the girl in the back row
Yeah, i’m growing
I can feel the breaking aching pain of making way for change
So i pray…oh i pray
That you hear me calling
I want you to know
I don’t want you to go
You said sugar makes you crazy
It makes you lazy
‘Cause the wildest, warmest coffee don’t taste so sweet after
I’m not myself
I put on this face
Wish you thought that it was me
That i’m the queen of this place
I wasted time, putting on this face
I should try me out…before i lose the taste
I’m getting it
I’ll just begin to show you what’s within, and not control you
Recalibrate from the pomp of the show to the sound of a
‘Til the fear departs
Of the hungry sharks that live in my dreams and keep me from you
With their sinister teeth, tongue, lips
And my throat in grips
Down to my heavy hips
The new album is sooooo close to final touches.
P.S. If you’re reading this in an email, reply to this and I’ll get it. If you’re not on the email list, look for the pink box at …
I am walking again, listening to my book. My phone is connected to a charger. Audio drains power. I am proud of the self-sufficiency implied in my having bought the charger, charged the charger, and remembered to put the charger in my bag. I am, for a moment, newly appreciative of the fact that a small rectangle can hold onto a stash of energy, and give it to another small rectangle upon my request. I spent $30 for that ability. A sound investment.
Astoria Park is in after-school swing. So much shouting, so much laughter (**shout out to AD fans**). I check my phone. A corner-mart water bottle crinkles in my bag. I tie my hoodie around my waist. The sun is behaving in the mixed benevolent-chiding way it does in the fall: whispering heat but crouching down to glare light directly into the eye sockets of drivers and walkers and playground-players. I have mirrored sunglasses. Back atcha, sun. I stop at a bench to focus. The bench is empty, about 9 feet long, surrounded by 4 other empty 9-foot benches, in a sort of semi-circular cluster. It is the right balance of anonymity and proximity. My bag mushes down to my right. I rewind the chapter a little. I put my head back. I like being read to, especially by the author, or by a friend. This woman is both now. It’s freeing to just listen, to not be responsible for responding, to quiet in myself the urge to. It occurs to me that it would behoove me to treat more conversations as if I’m being read to.
She’s getting into some meaty emotional territory. She’s adopted a new perspective on her relationship, and on herself. She now speaks of being in awe of her husband, of the strides he has made in navigating his own rugged life terrain… how even though his actions have felt painful to her and have garnered an army of sympathizers for her cause, his path has been his own flawed attempt to inch toward the light, as hers has, and is not to be taken personally. Now she can understand this. Because she has learned to be kind to her own self, to feel all her feelings as opposed to judging and squashing some of them, and from that place she’s able to see the world easier from his vantage point. She concludes that they’re not so different.
My head still back, I cry. It’s a release. A step up from rigid resolve. Just real. I pick my head up to clear my eyes. I am squinting, even with sunglasses on. The sun is relentless. Seemingly from directly out of it walks a 4-foot, thin, dark, very old woman. Straight toward me.
She sits down. Next to me. As in: right next to me. Her leg is touching my leg. Her leg makes my water bottle crinkle in my bag. She is wearing a perfectly white headscarf around her white hair. Her clothes are blue, with tiny pink and yellow flowers. Cartoonish socks. Perfect leather sandals.
I sit, staring forward, awkwardly (“PERSONAL SPACE!!!!!!!”). But then, not 12 seconds in, I observe myself moving my bag to the ground to allow her closer, putting an arm around her.
10% of me remains observer of myself and this woman. 90% is pure impulse and connection.
She lifts her left hand, palm up, over my right thigh. She points to a large knot on the side of her wrist. “Pain,” she says. “Pain.” It sounds to me like “Pan….Pan.” I well up at this word, uncontrollably, visibly, audibly. I put my left hand over the knot. I feel it throbbing. She breathes deeply, tears up too. We sit with our “pan” for the next five minutes.
She looks up into my face, puts her hands on my face, notes my big hoop earrings. She scrunches her face and shrugs. Why do we do this, us women? That can’t be comfortable. She lets it go, bright blue eyes looking into mine, mine mostly looking into hers. She says,
Somewhere between 3 minutes to 2 hours later, she turns toward me. She puts her 90+ year-old legs in criss-cross applesauce, and with hand on heart, says, “Pakistan.”
I jump to say “Des Moines.” But she means, and I soon know she means, I am one of our representatives from Pakistan. Yours and mine. As in… I’m a Pakistani Stephanie. You are an American me. I’ve been sent.
We turn forward, huddled. My cheek is lying on top of her head.
Some more time passes. Maybe lots of time. I notice my breaths, deeper, longer. I’m still crying, but in that way one might cry at seeing a childhood friend after 20 years. I am absolutely ok. She turns to me and puts her hands on my face again. She wipes tears, kisses my forehead, looks into me, assures we connect one last time. Then she walks away, back from where she came, which I now see is the house across the street. She can’t get in at first. Someone (her daughter?) lets her in, seems surprised she had been out.
I feel all my feelings. I feel love for Chuck, whole support for anything his path and guides compel him to do. I gather my things.
I walk, listening to more of the book. The author continues, says something like, “We are all more alike than we are different.” I put my hood up, imagine it to be a headscarf, and wonder what it’s like to live in Pakistan.
I am walking in Astoria, Queens, NY, on the edge of the park, which is on the edge of the East River. I’m walking back to my friend Joe’s apartment. I have been walking. I am still walking. In my earbuds is a woman’s voice, nurturing, young for her age. She gives an account of the splitting of her marriage and of her simultaneous path to knowing herself a thousand times better. The sun is shining, and I am walking. She is explaining her hurt, her anger. She is articulate, specific. I see trowel marks in pavement, seams passing under my feet. I’m wearing a jacket. I have mirrored sunglasses on. Today I wear the jacket only when in shade, which isn’t frequent. I seek the sun. I sacrifice a straight path for the one that maximizes heat and light.
This segment of the book is tedious. She is devastated. She is angry. She tells him she will not forgive him. Well-meaning friends and family have stepped up to fortify her anger. This is a story I have heard plenty. Still, there is a lot more book left; I decide to trust. I keep walking. I hope her story will take a turn, away from the easiest emotional conclusion. If it doesn’t, her only reward will be the tighter bonds she has formed in opposition to this person, her husband. And she will still have the pain. It will not morph into something better, more useful, more conducive to life. It will, at best, be packaged away, pointed at like a tragic painting on the wall of a house where she throws a party for herself and her helper-angry friends. But she will have to look at it when they go home.
Her clean-timbred lilt continues. She is putting her life back together. She is finally willing to sit on a yoga mat. She kisses her kids. I glaze over for a few minutes, find a squirrel. But then she says something like this:
Maybe being “in love” doesn’t mean being in some state that two people say they’re in, as in a long-term state of things. Maybe you’re “in love” only when you’re inside a moment where you’re seeing the other fully, and allowing yourself to be seen by the other fully. Being “in love” is being “inside of love”, inside that moment.
I stop walking. The woman behind me grunts, skirts around me.
Maybe the state of being “in love” is not as intimidating as I thought it was. By this definition, it’s available now, and now, and now. It could happen with a person, with a squirrel, with a worthy math problem. It’s a moment… a communion. A moment of being natural, unscripted, ourselves. Together.
But this new way of seeing love also renders it not nearly as dependent on someone else playing along….I can do at least half the work by myself. I can practice being in love wherever I go.
But it’s not that easy, either. It can only occur as frequently as I allow it. I actually have to be willing to accept my feelings as they morph and change moment to moment, even the stuff that makes me look like a fool, because otherwise I have no way of allowing another person access to me. I have to be a little vulnerable to the other, to allow my flawed self to be fully seen…by both of us, at the same time. That, according to the author, is a moment of “in love”.
Implications abound. The instant I go and close up, withdraw from this kind of unsecured openness… even the instant I believe that I’ve fallen in love and now I can crawl into this comfort zone and quit with the uneasy feelings…that’s the instant I fall out of love. No matter what I might say otherwise.
I pass a white dog on a leash. I make eye contact. She stops, ceases panting, relaxes her ears, looks at me. I’m not sure what to say to her business-suited owner. “Can I pet your dog?” No, that’s not what I want to do. I want to keep looking into the dog’s face. I search for more accurate words: “I just… love her face. It’s a kind face… I don’t know if that’s the word. But I feel happy looking at her.” The business suit beams. He says, “Oh…that’s…I didn’t know if other people saw that about her, or just me. This is Cami. She’s the most special thing in my life.”
We walk on.
If you want to listen to the audiobook, it’s called Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton, and it’s a fantastic, personal, real read if you’re seeking freedom and better connection in your life and relationships. And Oprah digs it, so… ?
I’ve been waiting for the muse to deliver this post to my psyche in a tidy way–for total clarity about why I’m “going solo”, what exactly I intend to do–so that I can render this clarity, in turn, to you. But the truth is, the reasons I’m “going solo” are evolving even as we speak.
This is partly because the decision, at least to go this solo, is not entirely by choice. Life has led to circumstances which right now prevent open communication between Chuck and me, and though I’ve considered playing music under my own name for a while, the universe is one-upping me by necessitating the decision. This situation has been very painful, and I have certainly resisted the wisdom and experience it has to bear. But on good days, I have also allowed. So, perhaps for an hour I will feel clarity, then fear of the unknown sets in, and on some days, my mind gets jabbery and I fall asleep wondering if I’ll ever sing again. Then I’ll sit on the porch of this temporary abode, staring at nature in its perfection, or talk with a hustling coworker like Jonathan Scales, and I begin to remember my inherent sense of purpose. This is how I’m making sense of the cloud-picture of my musical future: haltingly, and mostly self-lovingly. I’ll do my best to explain here. But there ain’t no real way of pinning this cloud to a blog post.
What I can say–and I can only speak for myself–is that I’m not declaring that I don’t want to play music with these guys in the future. My only resolution is to step more fully into the idiosyncratic space that I was born to occupy, and check out the view from there. A few people have asked if this means I’ll be performing alone. No, I plan to work with a band, I just don’t know what that looks like yet. I mean, maybe at some point I’ll play alone, but that’s not the plan. I love playing with others. The “solo” designation is just about playing under my own name, which, if you don’t know it, is Stephanie Morgan. The name part provides an important headspace for me in several ways:
Since almost the beginning of stephaniesĭd, I have relied upon other musicians to do some of the work that I don’t like doing but that could make me better at what I do. I say almost, because I did put together the first stephaniesĭd show all on my own, back in 2003. But it was hard, and I made some rookie mistakes. Even though I was working with great musicians, the show was pretty trainwrecky, essentially because I didn’t really know how to lead.
I was relieved when I started working with Chuck. He spoke fluent music theory (MT), and also knew a lot of the players in the Asheville scene. He was already really good at working with teams, having a lot of experience in bands and on basketball courts. He also seemed to know how to translate my ideas into MT more accurately than anyone I’d worked with up to that point. I began to rely on him to make chord charts and organize players and rehearsals. He provided structure. He could also act as translator when i had a musical idea that wasn’t getting through to a player, and he could fatten up the chords I was able to hack out in those early attempts to transcribe the symphony in my head. Chuck (and Tim, when he came along) loaded the equipment for all the shows. They kept a better sense of the tour schedule than I did. The fact that they were both dedicated to the project, and would generally verbalize their support when I’d verbalize desires about the creative direction of the band, made it easy to want to maintain status quo on a lot of fronts.
But over time, I found myself avoidant of performing with other players, without Chuck and Tim around. It wasn’t completely paralyzing, but I’d have to make myself do it sometimes. And when I feel a fear like that, I have to move into it and face the music, so to speak. So I started sitting in with other bands, taking morning music theory lessons via Skype with Jonathan, arranging more parts for horns and strings, and just generally bringing more fully-formed ideas to rehearsals. I have been working toward more confidence in my ability to bring a song to the table and to full manifestation with any set of players. [And I am happy to report that I have just taken a big step with the recording of my solo album! But I can already tell this Part 2 post is gonna be long, so I’ll have to save that topic for Part 3.]
One problem with comfort zones (CZ’s) is that they have to be defended. And when a group of people (even just two) have been working together for a long time, maintaining the CZ can involve muting things that are naturally wanting to be heard but could be a threat to the CZ: ideas, criticism, dreams, radical new suggestions… anything your mind deems upsetting to the team, to these people you love. It’s easy to do this muting unconsciously, because there’s so much to like about what’s going on in your world that you might not even notice you’re beginning to block the natural life force of group creativity, which has nothing to do with comfort and everything to do with the thrill of the hunt… the exhilaration of aiming at a moving target together.
On the one hand, it seems there are these conflictual urges: one toward better and better music, and the other toward taking care of each other. But I believe that if each member of the group stays tuned in to themselves, and stays present to the weird little truths that only our own hearts can dictate, these urges aren’t in opposition at all, because when we bare all the truths, and look at them not as problems but as puzzles to solve, we’re taking the most supreme care of ourselves, each other, and the art, all at the same time. I believe that’s the gift we must give as artists–our emotional honesty–but it is always a vulnerable thing to do. I’m sad because I don’t think we ever really resolved this apparent conflict of urges in the band. But it’s hard to shift a culture, and I believe everyone has acted out of the best of what we are good at: love, love of music, love of the show, loyalty. So I truly feel the gift we are giving to each other by setting ourselves free.
Sure, there was a strong and true reason for the name. Back in 2003, it was the banner for a journey I set upon: to peel back the onion layers of behavior and thought I’d accumulated by being schooled, societized, acculturated, Texan, Iowan, female, Catholic–to get to the meat of who I organically was, underneath the rules I’d adopted about how life was supposed to be lived, and to connect with that same place in others. It started out spelled like this: “Stephanie’s Id“. But it turns out that when you type that name (try it), you almost always hold the shift key too long, and you get “Stephanie’s ID”. Even our booking agents and close friends would misspell it. After 3 years of showing up to venues whose marquises read “Stephanie’s I.D.”, I changed the format of the name by mushing together all the letters like a website, clean and with no punctuation, AND I added the pronunciation symbol I was taught in first grade for the short sound of the letter “i” (as in “kĭd”). Oh, and all small letters. It looked beautiful: stephaniesĭd. And I figured the altogetherness of it would force people to have to ask, mitigating the likelihood of it being misspelled. That worked better. The name was still misspelled, but always in a different way, which was better than walking into a club in Columbus, Ohio to greet whomever would show up to see a pop-noir band named after the singer’s driver’s license.
[When I showed up in Virginia to record this new album, the producer didn’t even have a good grasp of how to say it.]
Dearest fans…I think you’ve excelled in your ability to suss out the ethos of stephaniesĭd. But I’m going to venture to say that this has happened despite our name. And what’s in a name, anyway?…and Shakespeare and shit. It’s time to take this light out from under it’s hard-to-prounounce bushel and shine it for all the world to share and forward on Snapchat.
When I was a little kid, I was enrolled in sports, not music lessons. But I would spend hours at my grandparents’ houses, and each had an organ. I’d make up songs, and teach myself how to play songs I had heard other people play. And I remember endless car rides, where I would lie in the back of a station wagon, singing harmonies and melodies to AM radio, mimicking DJ voices, trying to see how high or low my voice would go, noticing how it was different depending on time of day and temperature. And I noted how certain songs seemed to attach themselves to events, and become imbued with emotions the songwriter didn’t even intend. Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” played as we drove away from an entirely burned house that my aunt wanted to show us one day. That song felt haunting to me for years afterward, but in a compelling way. I loved how it allowed me to feel the weirdness of that scene with only the artifacts of the emotion, not the trauma of it–it sort of gave beauty to the whole thing–and I could just play with the emotion, dramatize it and be a little removed from it.
I remember my mom would sing to me a lot. She enjoyed it, and I loved her voice. I had a full relationship with music before I was even in Kindergarten, fostered by the sheer joy of making noise. I didn’t know the name of any note, hadn’t had a lesson… but I still knew that certain combinations of notes on the organ sounded scarier than others, and that there was no such thing in music as one pure feeling. They were all mixed up, even in one song or one homemade riff.
Music reflected and elevated life and all its complexities, and made it whole. I lived an appropriately sheltered childhood, but there were things my mother didn’t hide from me – like the burned house. Or when I was 4 and asked if Santa really exists, and she said no. And when I asked why she was crying one day when I was no more than 5, and she gave me the whole complex answer: that she didn’t think that things should be different between her and my estranged bio father, but that sometimes she still missed him. Music could handle all this information, and feed it back to me in a way words and my own thought couldn’t (and still can’t).
I’ve carried this organic relationship with me throughout my life. But I’ve also sometimes doubted myself in a roomful of people speaking MT. Sometimes I’ve checked my relationship at the door of those rooms. And sometimes that’s been because some (not all) MT folks seemed to hope I would do that, that I would learn to speak the language or get outta town, because the way I speak about music is with a lot of emotional words, and some people are uncomfortable with that. Sometimes I’ve just gotten intimidated, believing that only MT’s are real musicians. Don’t get me wrong–I absolutely believe in the power of speaking MT–it’s an efficient language in wide use in the Western world–and I intend to work toward better and better fluency. But my MT friend Matthew Richmond reminds me that music theory is descriptive, not prescriptive. I want to honor my native tongue and further develop my own effective way of communicating with a band.
I’m very emotional about this transition. And I hope that as many of you as are able to make it will join us at the last ĭd show, next Sunday in Asheville. It’ll be a good time to come together and celebrate the ephemerality of life. Let me know if you need a ticket due to financial hardship or want to buy and donate tickets so that others can go (talktotheid at gmail dot com). And I want you to know that I don’t intend to stop creating. On the contrary, I plan to expand the playing field and continue to play ball.
The past 3 months has been the most eventful period ever in band’s 13 years.
Sure, over time there have been heart-racing periods like when we played Bonnaroo or got on NPR or had a ballet choreographed to our music or toured in Europe or heard our songs on TV or that time when we had to leave the trailer at a seedy gas station in New Jersey. But there’s been a recent kind of “eventful” that has bubbled up from the depths of the ĭd itself, inside the emotions each one of us in the core trio. Painful stuff. But… necessary, inevitable. The kind of stuff that you know will pave the way for something important… but you have to go through it first. Growing pains.
Each of us–Tim, Chuck, and I–have been opening ourselves to the next level of our creative lives. I’m super proud of us. But it has not been neat and tidy. Maybe you can relate? I’ll just pretend you can. That’ll make things easier.
For a while, I’ve been wanting to try working with an assortment of people, in order to learn things you can only learn that way… expansion of my capabilities as a singer, arranger, band member. So several months ago, I took a big leap and recorded a solo album in Richmond with players I had never even met (more about that in Part 2!). Chuck and Tim were supportive of this. One thing I love about this band is that we are family. They helped me get the songs ready, make demos… the stuff you’d only do for people you love.
Around the time I was making plans, Tim moved residence to Charlotte in search of a whole new paradigm. We supported him, adjusting rehearsal plans to travel back and forth. Before he landed a great day job at a brewery, he would send us texts about this crazy-dangerous tall building he was doing construction on top of. Aren’t there OSHA regulations? I digress.
It’s safe to say that Chuck went the deepest. He turned to face the big stuff, from his past (we all know these things can tenaciously follow us into the present). And sometimes when you really brave it, the upheaval is fundamental, mountain-moving, even visible from a great distance. Just as we were scheduled to play our big show at Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, he was in the hospital.
This was very sad for a lot of reasons, obviously. Everyone including the theatre showed great concern and compassion for Chuck. The show was halted, the theatre lost money. And the show had been designed to support the very thing Chuck has dedicated so much of his life to: connecting with people by ushering them into the performing arts.
His role with young people has been massive in the community. He’s taught private piano lessons since college, showing people the ropes: how to play scales, work with other players, connect with the material. He creates opportunities for them to perform and to get over anxieties. He has worked to make lessons accessible to everyone, and he shares his own creative struggles when that can help a student break through to the next level. Ticket sales from the show were priced to raise money for the Youth Education Scholarship (Y.E.S.) fund, whose ethos states, “No child should miss the opportunity to learn through the arts….regardless of economic circumstances”.
The folks at the theatre spent hours calling ticketholders and assuring people that they would make every effort to reschedule. People who drove into town for the show turned around and drove back out of town again. Did I mention that the theatre lost money? I probed. They did.
Chuck posted this a few days later:
To date, the post has returned 332 overwhelmingly supportive comments on Facebook, many from people that simply love Chuck, but also from so many of you who understand what it’s like to go to the difficult places, and who wish we didn’t have so many taboos around talking to each other about it.
I’m going to leave it up to Chuck to communicate with you about how he’s doing now. But in any case, we determined that Chuck could play the show, and settled on a reschedule date of Sunday, May 1 from 7-9pm. I’m grateful for the work of Rae and the theatre folks for giving this another go. I won’t lie: the reschedule has significantly impacted attendance numbers from regular theatre patrons. So we have a long way to go to bring numbers back up and re-fund the fundraiser. I thank you ticketholders for your patience and support of not only us but the greater cause of the show. And to our amazingly dedicated extended family of musicians who have worked out their schedules, too. I know that none of this is lost on Chuck. And it warms me to feel your enthusiasm for May 1!
For reasons that I’ll explain more in Part 2, the band has decided that this will be the last stephaniesĭd show, and there’s a lot of love gathering around it. People are even beginning to buy tickets even if they can’t get here, and forwarding the confirmations to us to give away to people who want to come but have hardship paying the fundraiser ticket price (I just started a thread on our FB page for postings). Tim’s driving in from Charlotte. The strings are hailing from Tennessee. The scholarship recipients will be there, performing with us and on their own, and other very special guests are joining us on stage, too, including some current/former students. It’s the perfect event for us to all welcome these kids to the world of the performing arts, celebrate the role of art in expressing the wholeness of human life… a time to drop political debates and whatnot to come together to make some music.
Let’s have a blast and fill this place UP! Let’s show the people at Diana Wortham Theatre that ĭd fans are about more than just rocking out – that we understand the importance of art and community and of lighting torches for the young. Let’s sing! Let’s dance. Let’s listen to Chuck Lichtenberger play a freaking baby grand! Let’s bask in the glow of Erik’s lighting design, and give out some scholarships!
I love you guys. I hope you can join us that night. Life is a trip, and I’m gonna sing about it.
Get tickets in advance. Do it now – it’s that kinda show. Live out of town? You can be like Michele Benoit in Maine or Andrew Nesbitt in Charlotte, and purchase tickets anyway, for us to give away to others (just forward the confirmation to me). Your presence will be felt. http://www.dwtheatre.com/performances/calendar/2015-2016-mainstage/stephaniesid
Part 2 coming soon.
Meanwhile, I’m getting ready for the show.
I’m writing this one while listening in headphones to Matthew E. White’s “Feeling Good is Good Enough” (from Fresh Blood), on repeat. For max enjoyment of this post, I suggest you push play too:
I was wavering on resolutions this year, so yesterday I just borrowed my friend Emily‘s. She’s doing 2 things:
Got up this morning. Got angsty because of an email that I should have waited to check anyway.
Sat upright in bed. Closed eyes. First 3 minutes: Watched the swirly, dirty brainmakings go by. Whatever. At least I’m trying it. Maybe I’ll just be able to breathe deeper or something. Minute 4: Maybe I can multitask…include resolution #2. Climbed outside my body, sat in front of myself. Tried to see my own eyes. Nope. but I could feel my hair and my cheeks. Talked to myself, as if I were 10. “Your brain is working hard, huh?” We laughed a little. We talked for a little while.
WE. Laughed. WE. Talked.
Myself and myself went on the regular short morning walk with Chuck, wherein he reluctantly asked me to try to be ready at 9 in the mornings for this, which is our general agreement anyway, but I’ve been slacking. I’m usually pretty defensive about making time goals. But in the span of 1 second, the me that wasn’t in my body called a huddle and said something like, “Yeah, makes sense. You’re cutting into his piano practice. When you’re late, he probably feels rushed, and then this awesome neighborhood/nature/check-in walk that you both love to do isn’t awesome.” Coach Steph doesn’t seem to take things personally. Also, she adores me. And she’s super charming. So the me in the body just kind of shrugged and agreed, like hell yeah, 9am? Done.
“Sorry, Babydoll. I’ll totally do that.”
Super happy Chuck.
I swear to god she’s still sitting with me right now. She looks just like me, but I get the sense she’s happy all the time. She totally gets it. Like, she wouldn’t even say she’s happy, because that kind of word doesn’t apply when there’s no suffering as opposite. She’s just kind of… really good. She’s sitting here watching me correct my grammar and finding that hilarious.
That email was from the folks at Spacebomb Records. It was completely wonderful in objective terms, because it laid out the timeline for the RECORDING OF THE NEXT ALBUM (there’s your announcement!!), which head honcho and touring artist Matthew E White will be producing! They have this really groovy old-school house band situation (as you can hear), and their records make me soooooo happy!! <—-But Coach Steph told me to put all those exclamation points there, because Body Steph read that email and fell into a sort of inexplicable intimidation funk. I’ve had a crush on Matt and his horn/string arranging posse for some time, and it’s taken a lot for me to swallow my own arranging pride so I can learn from folks further up the chain.
But now it’s 11:11am, we’re on our 9th or so loop of “Feeling Good is Good Enough” (CS can just hear it. She doesn’t need headphones.), and with the aid of some potent 1-second team check-ins, Body Steph (BS) re-read that email with a similar exclamation-mark-eliciting feeling. So, here we go, kids… IN MARCH, IT’S ON!! BIGGEST RECORDING UNDERTAKING SO FAR.
Thanks, Em, thanks Matt, thanks CS (she’s looking like she’s all that. pshaw….).
I feel it only fitting, at this time of year, when all is cozy and family and gratitude, to register the following:
one complaint. just one, about existence.
When i click “unsubscribe” on an email newsletter, I then sometimes have to log in to a website to make that happen.
But I just want out, not in.
Clearly, my affair with that newsletter has petered out. I don’t even care about it anymore, much less the more substantial realm of its web-habitat of origin.
Ok, obviously I was in a really whimmy place when I got involved with said habitat. A part of myself could envision living there, or visiting often enough that putting myself through the rigors of obtaining login credentials made sense. They were giving away a free voice lesson, or 10% off hand-felted worry dolls, so I persisted when my usual password was rejected by its state-of-the-art security system. I was so committed that I tried 12 more capital letters and a $ sign. I can only imagine that I felt a certain delirious victory when I was finally let in… it’s the kind of dementia that renders one heedless of the limitations of human memory.
But, y’know, it happens, right? And I remember seeing a friendly notice when I was there that said “you can unsubscribe at any time.” Sweet–free stuff with no commitment! So, once out of my beer-goggle stupor, when I find it time to cut the tie, I reach for the handy unsubscribe button in the latest email installment, glib with with fond memories of our time together. It can be such a lovely parting. Should I ever decide to revisit, the door is open. aww.
Or SOMETIMES there’s no handy unsubcribe button. There’s a “manage email settings” link. This thing is like 10 pages of paperwork preceded by a login screen. It’s like trying to get a divorce in Arkansas. It’s like, “Oh no, you diii’ent! ‘fyou wanna be like that, you can just come in here and MAKE ME unsubscribe yo ass.”
And dammit, what was that password? And wait, was it my email address or a username? So many possible combinations. I try several. “For security reasons”, I am locked out for 20 minutes.
At this point, I reeeeeally want to get in. It’s like crack. I bargain with myself: “I can’t believe these people would… I’m getting the hell out of here as soon as I… I just need to get in there one more–wait, they updated their interface… that might be really awesome… it wouldn’t hurt to just look around… if i could just”–and then, “ok, i don’t have time to wait right now, but I’ll definitely try again when i have time.” But by then, i am just fooling myself. i’ve fallen victim to the principle of effort justification, and I will never leave.
So what is my point? How will this post help your life and the lives of your friends and family? Dunno. You should all subscribe to my newsletter to find out.
We get what we focus on.
Some terrorists are focusing like mo-fo’s. Seriously. Diligently creating what they want to see. And despite opposition from most of the world, some of them are super successful in achieving their biggest goals.
Those aren’t my goals. What I want most is honest connection with people, and I spend a lot of time pursuing that. I’ll sit on a couch in deep conversation until I go hoarse. I’ll grapple with one lyrical phrase in a song til it articulates exactly what’s in my heart. Working in the service of connection, in some way or another, is what comprises a lot of my day.
But what if I shifted my focus to “Those men are evil! They must be stopped!” – which leads to a comment on Facebook about how this or that politician is doing a stupid thing about the situation – which leads to me articulating my security plan for the world, which is a no-brainer (clearly everyone else is a dumbass for not realizing how simple it would be)?
I’d have a lot less focus left to pursue what I actually want to see. And wait… what do I want to see? Connection. Oh.
I just can’t leave my dreams–and those around the world who share my dreams–shorthanded. So my response to these attacks must be to remember how grand the playground in which I live actually is, and learn to open the valve in my own heart ever wider, toward all people. Because that’s what I want. Connection. The quality of my life depends upon remembering this at these challenging times.
So, terrorist, you are teaching me to focus. You are challenging me to be clear about what I want to see in the world, and to not be a pansy about putting it out there. You remind me that if there are weaknesses in my conviction, in my resolve to connect, I’d better get it together. Because we get what we focus on.
If connection is my goal, every time I think of a terrorist as fundamentally different from myself, or even spout anger at a politician, I am slacking on my goals.
And there are people who are most definitely not slacking on theirs.
So, Paris, Beirut, Tunisia, Cairo, …. for you and for myself, I make this re-commitment — to tune in with more focus on what I want to see, to live better, to appreciate the physical world while I have access to it, and to love all others by remembering that there is not evil, only disconnection from love, and that we are more alike than we are different (and we are. We just are.)