Can’t Get Music Off My Mind

Have you ever had the experience where you hear a catchy tune and then find yourself singing it to yourself for the next three days straight? I went through this last week, but now I can’t remember any of the notes or the band or the song.

Yesterday, I woke up with the song One of Us by Joan Osborne on my lips. Interestingly, I have not heard this song recently. Why did it come up? My favorite lyrics are in the chorus:

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

I think part of my creativeness expresses itself through music. I sang in choral groups large and small during high school, which I loved. If I had an alternate life, I would live it as a singer. I would have asked for singing lessons, or spent my babysitting money on lessons, or tried to trade singing lessons for some other task I could perform in return. A few years ago, I took singing lessons. I simply did not have the ability to let go and let it all hang out, which is something you need to be able to do in order to sing emotions through the music. This is not news, if you’ve been reading my blog since January or so.

Back to the One of Us lyrics: The chorus in this song appeals to me as an ex-Catholic. The idea that God had both human and divine elements to Him is a central part of Catholic doctrine. Upon this idea rests the idea that Jesus’s suffering was not inconsequential because he was  part human; I no longer remember why his being half-divine did not alleviate this same suffering. I think that may have gone unanswered in my religious education classes. However, the idea that God is both among us and one of us resonates beautifully in the chorus, and it is one of the few ideas from which I used to draw comfort.

This morning I woke up with Turn the Beat Around By Vicki Sue Robinson in my head. Like One of Us, I have not heard this song recently. I walked into a craft store today in West Hempstead to hear this song blaring over the radio. Again, the lyrics in the chorus grab me:

Turn the beat around
Love to hear percussion
Turn it upside down
Love to hear percussion
Love to hear it

I love to hear someone sing out loud about what they love. For Ms. Robinson, percussion was her love. Not only is the tune catchy and makes you want to wiggle along with her, but you soon find that you’re lovin’ the percussion, too.

I wonder what music my mind will bring me tomorrow.

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Letter to the Editor of The Wendy Times

Dear Staff of The Wendy Times:

I read the article in your paper last week Wendy Won’t Write a Word, and I was aghast to find so numerous inaccuracies about the writer and her writing habits.

Your claim that Wendy was never a good writer is false. I have personally been in her presence when her teachers, family members, and friends have told her that she was always been a great writer. Most recently, I heard one of Wendy’s best friends from high school make that statement.

What does being a good or great writer mean anyway when the person is a child? I grant that possibly the writing was not writing material worthy of the Pulitzer Prize; however, Wendy was in 7th grade. She was learning. How about cutting her some slack? Keep your bitter criticism to yourself or direct it at an adult who, after years of writing, has made no progress. This certainly has not been the case with Wendy.

This blog and this letter are contrary to your article. I herein refer to https://playswithwords.wordpress.com as direct proof that Wendy has, in fact, written quite a few interesting words and told gripping tales, if only to and for herself.

The failure of a child to grow in a subject area  is not necessarily the fault of the child. Teachers should ignite the flame of learning inside their pupil’s souls. I understand this is no small task with plenty of variables; however, a teacher who grades a child’s papers should point out where the writing could be improved along with suggestions on how to do it. A teacher who marks a few errors with a grade and no explanation is a poor example of a teacher. Can you blame the child for thinking she could not write well?

Before you go blasting the author’s progress as an adult, please keep in mind that seemingly minor issues in the life of a child who was rarely encouraged to try new things, if at all, can be a stunning blow to that child’s further development. The purpose of childhood is to learn, to make mistakes, and to grow from those lessons. Without some encouragement to take risks, a highly sensitive child might return to her cocoon instead of reaching outside of her comfort zone. How can you blame her for that?

Dear editors, remember: The world is better off with kind words instead manufacturing lies with which to litter the literary landscape.

Sincerely,

Wendy’s Inner Defense Team

(Written for Exercise #5 of Week 1 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way).

My Waking Up Pages

In The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she suggests writing every morning upon awakening. She calls them morning pages because they are to be done in the morning. I call them my Waking Up Pages because it will be waking up through my writing, which has meaning on more than one level.

In the Basic Tools chapter, Julia lists 10 Basic Principles that followers of the 12-week program are to read every morning. Item #6 reads:

The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

I made two copies of the Basic Principles list. I put one inside my daily writing journal and one inside Julia’s book. I wanted to ensure that I would read the list before doing whatever writing I was doing. Number 6 in the list has been particularly poignant for me because I have refused to be creative for my entire life.

One of my first memories is playing with Barbie dolls with my friend, Kendall. She loved dolls, dressing them up, and pretending that Barbie and Ken were going on dates. I remember begrudgingly playing with the dolls because that is what my best friend loved to do, and I wanted to play with my best friend. I remember admonishing myself about not having anything to add, that I didn’t know what I was doing, and that I did not what to make the dolls do, either.

In a recovery inspired manner, the twelve chapters of The Artist’s Way help the reader address various blocks. Week 1 is about Recovering a Sense of Safety, an important base from which creative work springs. My morning pages writings have centered much on recreating that sense of safety and exploring ways in which I have refused my creative drive. Even if you do not believe that creativity is core to the nature of human beings, my refusal to follow a creative path has been counter to my own nature.

This morning, I did not write upon rising. I had some food and got ready to go to an aqua fit class. I arrived in the locker room only to realize I had no towel to dry myself off. I wanted to pout and go to Starbucks for a consoling snack, but I left my wallet at home. I came home, answered emails, and felt a rising panic in my stomach. I was conscious that I was putting off my writing. But why?

My husband and I came to work at the Bellerose Starbucks, and I began to write my daily writing. Although I had interesting dreams to write about, I ignored them to go to aqua fit class. When I sat to write, I could no longer remember them. I vaguely remember exploring themes of companionship and self-care, but the interesting details were gone.

Why did I not write them and go to a later class? My unconscious mind was feeding me back the issues of creating my own safety net and truly taking care of myself. I refused to let myself learn. I refused to grow because an external, logical reason told me that I had something more important to do. Despite knowing there was an afternoon class, my decision to go to the morning class meant that my left brain refused to relinquish any control to satisfy the right. Half of my brain is the prison guard convinced anything not like itself is to be crushed to dust.

This has been the crux of my lifelong creative self-denial: Creativity cannot be defended as logical and practical enough to be respected. Why does my left brain contain such a self-effacing critic that seeks to deny and to destroy anything within my life that is not the same as itself, especially feelings, desires, and urges? As a recent observer, the realization is shocking.

I acknowledged today that I have not wanted to write upon waking because I am too fuzzy headed to think clearly. But maybe that is exactly what I need. I need to act before my rational brain is awake enough to interfere with the expression of my creativity. Using the I’m not awake enough excuse is similar to the I’m not feeling well excuse, the I don’t know what to write about excuse, the the cats won’t leave me alone to write excuse, and the I’m in pain today excuse. Because I have fibromylagia, I chronically experience pain despite taking pain meds.

I need to wake up through writing as my head gains clarity I open my eyes. I need to wake up to my discoveries of self, to my own ability to protect and nurture my self, and to wake up to my own life as it is and can be through creative endeavors.

I am waking up to my conscious and unconscious mind, to my creativity and spirituality, and to my excuses. By surrendering my refusal to create and my negative self-will, I wake up to my life as if sunshine were waking me up from a long, cloudy existence.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Artists Way Cover ArtLast week, I decided to crack open a book that I have owned twice, The Artist’s Way by artist and writer Julia Cameron. I bought the book the first time when I was in my early 20’s. Back then, I was terrified by my desires to be an artist that I let the book sit on my shelf untouched for many years. I even gave it away at one point.

Sometime last year, I bought another copy. Between graduate school, packing, and moving, the book remained unopened and unused.

Back to last week: I decided that I would start adding practice writing in a journal in addition to my daily blog posts. I figured I would never get anywhere editing my novel if I tried to sit down without any kind of warm ups. I also decided to start reading the book.

Ms. Cameron is a 12 week, theme-oriented weekly course where you tackle your creative obstacles one by one. She recommends two things: first, daily writing practice that she calls morning pages because you are supposed to write them first thing in the morning; and, second, taking yourself on an artist date wherein you go and have some fun to feed your creative side and keep your creativity burning.

Both of these basic tools are easy enough. I already planned on doing the first suggestion, and I am thrilled to consider implementing the second. What shall I do next? What are your suggestions? Ideas?

Sometimes Cats Are Jerks

Know what the thing I miss most about the home I am renting out? A separate office with a door I can close to get away from my cats, especially since my office and my living room are now the same place.

I was peacefully listening to the Trentemoller radio station on Pandora, weaving myself a comet tail inspired earring, when my small cat Gwendolyn came prowling on my desk.

Okay. I can hear it now. Yes, I know I should have placed her back on the floor, but she sat down so I figured it would be fine.

WRONG!

When you weave, you should give yourself extra to make sure that you do not run out before your project is finished. This means that sometimes you pull the needle above you head and back to be able to work the thread taut against the beads.

Apparently, this motion was enough to terrify Gwendolyn into panic mode. Since she was laying on a piece of paper I left on my desk, her feet slipped as the paper slid out from under her. Her back feet tossed a pile of bagged beads and ear wires against the wall and down through the one-inch clearance between my desk and the wall.

The beads I had poured out in five, neat piles on the fleece surface I used to lay the beads were an instant sparkly jumble of blues, whites, and golds.

Moments like these make me want to become a hermit with no cats. Or at least a room with a door that I could close and keep the cats out. A room without their litter boxes. That would make me very happy.  Swapping my living room/office for my bedroom might solve the problem except that it would require a lot of piece-by-piece furniture swapping in an apartment less than 650 sq. ft.

Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

Overheard in NYC About Love

Love Story #1

We are leisurely walking eastward on West 18th after an early evening dinner at Westville, a restaurant that focuses on fresh food at reasonable prices. A slim couple dressed in black clothing are briskly walking in the opposite direction from us, their arms tightly linked. The man stands a head taller than the girl, and their heads angle in towards each other. As they pass us, I overheard this conversation:

Woman with a husky voice asks, “Do you believe in love?”
Man replies, “I do.”

Love Story #2

We are on the Long Beach bound train on the Long Island Rail Road heading home to Floral Park. A couple of boisterous friends who are audibly drunk sit down behind us. Woman #1 tells woman #2 about a casual one-night stand she recently had. I wonder whether the whole train car can hear her or just our half. Woman #2 is worse off and wants to get off the train as soon as possible.

Woman #2: “Are getting off at Jamaica to get a drink?”
Woman #1: “No.”
Woman #2: “Do you want to get a drink at Jamaica?”
Woman #1: “No, we never stop here.”

Woman #1: “What is the one word that can relief all of the burden of our pain?”
Woman #2: “Jamaica!”
Woman #1: “No! What is the one word that can relief all of the burden of our pain?”
Woman #2: “Jamaica!!”
Woman #1: “NO!! What is the one word that can relief all of the burden of our pain?”
Woman #2: “Jamaica!!”
Woman #1: “NO!! The word is LOVE.”
Woman #2: “Arrrrrrgh!! I don’t do love.”

Currently Reading: Daybook by Ann Truitt

Ann Truitt (1921-2004) was a major American artist in the mid-20th century. Although I recently learned about her, I cannot remember how I came across this artist. When I discovered that she wrote Daybook as a journal of her own discovery process as an artist, I knew I had to read it.

Ann was a minimalist sculptor, writer, and mother. Her writings share her feelings about whatever she was going through at the time: her time at Yaddo, an artists colony in Saratoga Springs, NY; her financial struggles before and after her divorce; her childhood; and how she came to be who she was as an artist.

Instead of feeling a huge gap between me and this artist, I feel close to her. Her journey is my journey. Where she has gone, I can go but in my own direction. Where she was, I have passed there. Here is one quote where I know what she means (italics mine):

I begin seriously to contemplate taking a routine job of some sort but am loathe to do so. Not out of laziness but because I fear the kind of sickening failure implicit in betrayal of self, the spending of my energy drop by drop instead of into the waves that lift my work into existence.

For most of my life, I lived an existence of sickening self betrayal. I know that hard knot in the stomach put there by an internal screaming that tells you, both at once, that you cannot fail at this thing called life  and at the same time screams that you must cannot open yourself and follow your hearts desires. I know the shallow panic of a closing throat and the internal silent hysterics that are whipped up from the prohibition that no one can know how I really feel. I ate the pressures of self submission into conformity until touched by another’s stressful requests, which then exploded all over the two of us. I was left shaking in shame; they were left confused and afraid.

Ann Truitt’s Daybook is the journey of herself and the journey of artists everywhere. I am not sculptor, but I see and feel the life she crafted as she made her way forward through and into her art. I can craft that for myself, maybe not in color blocks, but in words, in story, and in the sharing of the self. I share my Self in the hopes that someone else can see their tracks in mine, their hopes in mine, and their dreams in mine.