Monthly Archives: March 2016

Another Birthday

I just had another birthday — before I was ready. I’d barely gotten used to my last age, and now the number has changed.

The older we get the faster the birthdays come. In fact, every year seems to go faster than the last one.  When I was a kid my birthday never arrived quickly enough. The same was true of Christmas. But in our adult years our age is directly related to the speed of time.

I’m not sure what happened to all my previous years.  How did I even get to be this new age?   My attention must have been distracted for a moment and it snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking. The truth is I feel at least twenty years younger than my chronological age — so I’m sticking with that.

Realistically, my past is longer than my future.  No one has yet lived to 150!  I know for sure that time is limited, though the specifics are not mine to know.  A sense of urgency dogs my days and activities. I want to read more books, write more stories, learn more music, and travel more places. I can’t make things happen fast enough.

Perhaps I’m too impatient. Perhaps my accomplishment standards are too high. Perhaps I push myself too hard. Perhaps I take myself too seriously.

My friends, if asked, would probably say, “Yes, that’s all true.” They’re not naysayers, just truth tellers.

My truth for my new age is: “I’m pushing forward. I’ll keep reading, and writing, and learning new music. The third annual recital will be in April 2017.”

What’s your truth for the age you’re in, and the next one that’s right around the corner?

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

Swamp Crossing

Quote of the week:  I am here today to cross the swamp, not to fight all the alligators.

I don’t know who said it — and it doesn’t matter. I found it in my most recent read:  The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

Crossing the swamp is about getting from Point A to Point B. The journey is from where you are now to some new place — a place you think and dream about. Perhaps it’s a place that only exists in the Kingdom of Wishful Thinking. Perhaps it’s a place that seems achievable for other people but not for you. Only you know what your Point B is.  For me, it’s getting my memoir published and playing my second annual piano recital in April.

A swamp lies between Point A and Point B, but the swamp is not the problem. The real problem is the alligators in the swamp. Alligators. ALLIGATORS. ALLIGATORS!! They are all those things that make your journey to Point B impossible. They are your excuses for not attempting to cross the swamp. We say to ourselves, “I can’t cross the swamp until it is totally devoid of alligators.” Translation:  everything in my life has to be perfect and in order before I can begin the journey.

I’ve named a few of my alligators; you might do the same:

  • Messy Desk
  • Dirty Bathrooms
  • Company’s Coming
  • Personal Incompetence
  • No Time
  • Need A. Nap
  • After I Get Organized

We work, or play, at eliminating the alligators. We get rid of one only to discover others are eager to take its place. You know how it goes. We just can’t seem to get ahead of the alligators.

Here’s the question: Do you really want to get to Point B? Really.  Really!

If your answer is yes, then you have to find a way to get there in spite of the alligators. Recognize them for what they are — excuses — and take the first step of your journey.

Here are some scenarios you might consider:

  • “Alligators, I’m building a wall across the swamp. Your territory is the left side of the wall. I claim the right side of the swamp for myself.”
  • “Alligators, keep your swamp.  I’m building a bridge above the swamp, a bridge too high for you to reach.”
  • “Alligators, I’m walking across your backs, like stepping stones, while you’re sleeping.”
  • “Alligators, the best feeding grounds are the nearby swamp. Follow me and I’ll show you how to get there.”

You have a choice. You can stand on the bank, wishing you could cross the swamp, but you’re too afraid to move. Or, you can take charge of your own swamp crossing and find a way to get to the other side — in spite of the alligators.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

French Threads

I count on Dr. B, my piano teacher, to expand my repertoire with new composers I’ve not studied before.  And that’s exactly what he’s done in the last two years. In addition to Chopin, Beethoven, and Debussy who have been with me for decades, I’ve now experienced  Mendelssohn, Liszt, Schumann, Ravel, and Faure.

Last year as part of my musical study I decided to read biographies of the composers I play, hoping to enhance my understanding, and therefore my playing, of their compositions.  I started with Paul Roberts’ biography of Claude Debussy, a composer I’ve played since my teen years. His musical imagery is unlike any other composer I’ve played. In my reading I discovered Debussy’s connections with other French composers, particularly Faure and Ravel. These French guys, as I refer to them, pushed the musical norms to create their own melodies and harmonies and musical experiences. I read that Faure was one of Ravel’s teachers and that Debussy, though older, was an influence in Faure’s life. I was particularly intrigued because I was learning pieces by Ravel and Faure for the first time in my life. I was spending hours every day trying to play their compositions; this glimpse into their lives and musical community added meaning to my endeavors.

Shortly after that, I read Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. To my surprise, Faure’s music was referenced throughout the book.  I often thought, “Wow! I know that composer.” I didn’t expect such music in a book by a South American writer.

Just this week, I read Nora Webster by Colm Toibin.  Again, Faure’s music was mentioned several times — this time by an Irish author.

So I’ve been thinking about these composers and authors in my corner of the world.  What we learn in one area of our lives often pops up in unexpected and unrelated places. Dr. B may have a plan for my musical studies — the only thing I’ve told him is that I like to be challenged and I like to experience new composers.  And the books I read — I think I randomly pull them off my shelf. But perhaps not. Perhaps none of this is random or meaningless or coincidental.

I’ve been pondering this French thread that’s running through my life — a thread that I’ve just noticed. Why do French composers keep popping up in my piano lessons, in the books I read, and on my car radio?

I’ve discovered a bit of an answer.  One of my long-time challenges as a pianist is to play with emotion, to feel the music, and to allow those feelings to affect my playing — it’s a playing beyond the right notes, the right rhythms and the right dynamics. It’s a level I often lack, though I do get there some times. The French composers force me out of my classical, predictable, musical box; they make me learn new chords and harmonies, they create sounds and tone pictures I’ve never seen or heard before. They are exactly what I need. Even though most music is composed with emotion and feeling, I get it best with the French guys. One day I’m hoping my learnings with them will spill over to Beethoven and Chopin.

My question to you, my readers, is

  • What threads (ideas, concepts, quotes, nudges, connections, happenstances, coincidences) are running in your life?
  • Ask yourself “Why?” Why these things — here — and now?
  • What message does this thread have for me?

Take a look. Connect the dots. Ponder their meaning.

Then move in that direction.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

Resistance

In The War of Art Steven Pressfield, explores the subject of resistance — that force whose “aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”

“It’s not the writing part that’s hard,” he says. “What’s hard is sitting down to write.”

His book is filled with such nuggets that stab at our truth: We are experts at avoiding the work we say we want to do.

Resistance prevents us from achieving, from taking the next step, from doing the work that is difficult or uncomfortable, from moving into new and unknown territory and experience.

It stops us cold — because we allow it.

Resistance presents us with a myriad of things that are much easier to accomplish than facing the blank page, the blank canvas, the new music that looks too hard, the needlework and crafts that are stashed in our closet of good intentions.

Pressfield’s most brutal truth is: “Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.”

I’m only on page 8 of his book and I’m ready to put it back on the shelf. His words are messing with my life. I get it. Resistance is my fault. Therefore, I am the only one who can change my life.  I have to make different choices.  I have to own my truth.

Most of my work is going well right now, with one major exception.  My memoir manuscript is complete, after several years of work.  The next step is finding an agent to represent my work.  Marcia Trahan has ably guided me through the writing, editing, synopsis, proposal, and the initial steps of the query process. Now the agent search is mine to do — and I’m having difficulty proceeding.  Why?  Because piano practicing, blog writing, lunch with friends, even exercising at the gym are easier than agent searching. Why? Because agent searching is unfamiliar ground for me, the on-line research is tedious and time-consuming, and it feels difficult.

Resistance keeps me from sitting down to do the work. I suspect you’ve had similar experiences with your work, complete with a list of excuses that keep you off track.

Then Pressfield zings me again. “The danger {resistance} is greatest when the finish line is in sight. . .It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.”

Yep. That’s where I am. Closer to the finish line than I’ve ever been.

I’ve done years of writing and editing. That now feels like the easy part. But . . . if I stop here the book will never be published. Never. Ever.

“The professional tackles the project that will make him stretch. He takes on the assignment that will bear him into uncharted waters, compel him to explore unconscious parts of himself. . . So if you’re paralyzed with fear, it’s a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.” Yes, Steven, I know you’re right. I just needed a pep talk this morning.

I took a step two days ago. At the bookstore, I looked at every memoir, its author, publisher, and agent, and created a spreadsheet of the information. This research took me from overwhelmingly long on-line lists of agents who represent memoir to a more specific list, one that works for me. Last night I researched four agents from my list and sent one query.  Another query is nearly ready to go.

Starting is always the hard part. Once we set ourselves in motion, it’s easier to maintain our momentum. Like Newton’s law: An object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest.

I’ve begun moving. How about you?

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

Party Time

Have a piece of cake. Light a candle. Put a flower on your desk. Turn on your favorite music. Tie a helium balloon to the back of your chair. Raise a glass.         IMG_1686

It’s time to celebrate!!

This blog was birthed two years ago today. And thanks to you, dear readers, for reading and commenting over these past two years. You’ve been faithful in letting me know that my words and ponderings matter to you.

Had I thought, at the beginning, that I would write 52 posts the first year, and 52 posts the second year — and 52 posts every year after that — I would have been paralyzed into silence. My ideas would have dried up, the words would have been trivial, my voice would have become a mere whisper. But rather than think about the length of the journey, I focus on one Tuesday at a time.  My list of random thoughts and ideas is always ready to prime the pump when the well seems dry.

My tag line — Show up. Do the Work. Claim your Life. — was the result of my work with Christina Katz’s book Get Known before the Book Deal. The exercises in her book served as a funnel for my ideas and passions and expertise until a tag line emerged that is exactly me — because it’s how I’ve been living for the last forty some years. This particular tag line allows me to share a variety of ideas with you that are all related to being present in our lives, doing our work, and being intentional about our choices.

If you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe to this blog by using the subscription box at the right. Then my blog will show up in your email every Tuesday — just like magic!!

Thanks for sharing the journey with me — and here’s to many more adventures.

Party! Party! Party!

Until next Tuesday . . .