Mountain Climbing: Walking a Creative Path Through the New Industry Wilderness

Sometimes walking this creative path feels like hiking up a mountain: it’s steep and exhausting, but I can see the top – however distant – and I know I’ll find a way to reach it because it’s worth the blisters and aches.  Other times, it feels like I’m scrabbling at the base of a sheer, insurmountable cliff.  If I were to look at when I get the latter feeling, it’s usually the days when my goals fall through or just aren’t there or when I hit another roadblock.  I don’t have a “path” in the way many other careers do, especially with the state the music industry is currently in.

"Sinking?  Who?  Me?" - the Music Industry

“Sinking? Who? Me?” – the Music Industry

This gives me a lot of freedom to make my own plans.  To a certain extent, I get to cut my own path and decide what the road I pave will look like.  But at the same time, I’m battling the bloated, old structures that are still grasping on to life in an economy and technological age that will never support them the way they’re accustomed to.  That’s a whole blog in itself, but what it really boils down to is that sometimes it feels like there isn’t truly a place for creative people in our world today.

Don’t get me wrong; we wedge ourselves into the chinks and cracks in society and many of us find a way to live.  Some of us transmute our passions into hobbies or part-time affairs because they never quite sustain us.  Some of us live on less or paycheck to paycheck in order to get the emotional and spiritual fulfillment we’re seeking.

Think of it as the grown up version of this triangle.

Think of it as the grown-up version of this triangle.

I’m still trying to figure out how to make my passion my livelihood and decide how much of that livelihood it should be.  Ever since I was a child, I have had the urge to create things – beautiful, good things that bring something wonderful into the world around me.  It’s what drives me to sing, to play instruments, to draw and knit and cook and write these blogs.  It’s the same urge that feeds my desire to be a parent one day.  I want to create concentrated reflections of love in my lifetime that can echo down through time to someone else who needs them, the same way other artists who came before me blessed me with their creations – some of which probably saved my life.

I’m not driven by stardom or fortune; I’d like to be able to raise a family one day without worrying how I’m going to feed it, but that’s all I really ask.  I’m not concerned with being famous or having people identify me on the street; I’m terribly introverted and talking to people is usually the most exciting (and mildly terrifying) part of day.  What I want is to be able to pay forward the gifts I have been blessed with – both my creativity and the impact that the creativity of others has had on my life – without starving on a street corner.

Or maybe it is our suffering that makes society happy and we're really just the next generation of sad clowns but no one's told us yet.

Or maybe it’s our suffering that makes society happy and we’re really just the next generation of sad clowns but no one’s told us yet.

Maybe I have a bit of a flower-child mentality.  Perhaps the world just doesn’t operate on words like “love” and “beauty” and “goodness.”  We live in a society that runs on words like “profit” and “sales” and “marketability.”  I recognize that my set of words doesn’t fit so neatly with our cultural vocabulary, and this means that I will have to work way harder than your average bear to survive on my little piece of poetry.  But I’m determined to find a way.

When I get caught up in the numbers and focusing on forcing my art to make money, my art suffers.  But when I just make my music (or knitting or writing) because that’s what I was put on this earth to do, it seems to affect people.  On those days where I’m climbing a mountain rather than just kicking a brick wall, I can visualize where I want my career to be in 10 years as clearly as if it were happening.  It’s almost like a vision.  I can see myself on stage, playing music that I wrote to be powerful and emotionally impactful – not marketable – to a crowd of people who are moved by what I create, not how I look or how short my shorts are.

I think this dream might be where the music industry is headed as a whole.  Maybe it’s a ways off or maybe it’s only the rosiest possible outcome, but I’d like to think that it’s at least where my little slice of the pie is headed.  I have to believe that that vision is the top of the mountain, and that I will find a way to reach it.  I firmly believe that I can build a career off of good music rather than good looks, a career founded on truly touching people rather than writing the next scientifically-proven-to-get-stuck-in-your-head flash-in-the-pan.

I just have to keep climbing that mountain.

At least it's a beautiful view.

At least it’s a beautiful view.

Somewhere There’s Always Snow

This morning my twelve-year-old German Shepherd, Dixy, passed away.  Despite being a self-professed Cat Person, I do love dogs (I merely prefer cats) and I really loved that dog.  My family got her as a puppy and I watched her grow from a tiny, bald-butted baby to a silver-faced old lady.  She was always the hardest to leave – from my first year of college to my move to Nashville, nothing made me cry like knowing that she wouldn’t be guarding my bed while I slept.

Dixy was so excited to see me home from school that she braved a moving dock to spend time with me (and to eat dead crabs).

Dixy was so excited to see me home from school that she braved a moving dock to spend time with me (and to eat dead crabs).

Last night, my burglar alarm went off while I was sleeping.  It may well have just been the humidity or the cat I’m borrowing leaning against the window, but it scared me bad enough to make Attractive Young Man drive to my house and check my downstairs while I cowered next to the alarm system’s panic button.  Wiping the sleep from his eyes as he checked all my windows and rummaged through my garage, he warned me that I really needed to get pepper-spray or a dog if I wasn’t willing to learn to use a gun.  I thought of how, had Dixy been at her usual spot next to my bed, I wouldn’t have felt the need to drag my sleep-deprived pilot from his beauty rest.  At her fiercest, she looked a little like a wolf and as gentle as her temperament was, I knew she would never let anyone lay a finger on me.

This was my favorite thing to see before I went to sleep.

This was my favorite thing to see before I went to sleep.

This morning I was up early to work the spotlight at a rehearsal.  I was just sitting up in bed to check my email when my father called to say that Dixy had made a sudden turn for the worst.  “The bottom dropped out,” as he put it.  She’d definitely been aging.  The last time I saw her I burst into tears.  An inner-ear problem had left her head tilted at a bizarre angle and she swayed like a drunk when she walked.  It seemed while I was away, all her years had suddenly caught up to her and I even felt a little responsible, as though it was my absence that had aged her.

Although it's entirely possible that the furry demon cuddling with her is what really sent her over the edge.

Although it’s entirely possible that the furry demon cuddling with her is what really sent her over the edge.

After over a decade with her, I can’t imagine going home and not seeing her waiting at the door.  The first time I came home from college, she was so excited she pooped herself.  Gross, but it was hard to miss the sentiment.  Every time I’ve been back since then, she’s the first person I look to greet and the last I made sure to say goodbye to.

I said goodbye for the last time over the phone this morning.  My parents put me on speaker phone in the vet’s office so I could keep telling her how much I loved her and what a good dog she was until she was gone.  I broke down crying as soon as I tried to say “good girl” and didn’t stop until I had to pull it together to walk into the rehearsal.  I’m crying again now.  I wish I had been there with her, but I’d like to think she heard me and understood.

She did have a way of looking you in the eyes like she understood things.

She did have a way of looking you in the eyes like she understood things.

I know for some people, it’s hard to understand how I can get so upset over a dog.  It’s an animal, after all, not a person.  But she was one of the most important creatures to ever come into my world.

She saved my life.

If you knew me growing up, it was probably pretty clear that I was very depressed.  There was a while where I wished I could blink out of existence; I felt like a burden on the world.  Breathing was excruciating.  I never felt like a burden on that dog.  Somehow, at my lowest point, she knew there was something wrong – without even being in the room – and barked and scratched on my door until someone finally came to check on me.  I’ve come a long way since then, but there was a time when the only creature I would really feel bad for leaving – the one soul that made me hesitate – was Dixy.  I don’t think I would have gotten this far without her.

Dixy and I are 5 and 16 respectively in this photo.

Dixy and I are 5 and 16 respectively in this photo.  At this age, she was still the glue that held me together.

She was the one creature that never judged me; I was never too skinny, too weird, too nerdy, too bookish, too angry.  If I could be half as forgiving or come anywhere near to offering the level of unconditional love she brings, I would be a better person.

And maybe I would be better at pulling of hats and bandanas.

And maybe I would be better at pulling off bandanas.

I hope – where ever she is – that she’s with Rosie, her lifelong pal and partner in crime.  I hope it’s snowing.  She tolerated the summer heat, but she came alive in the snow.  I hope everyday is full of fresh fallen snow traced with deer tracks and rabbit prints.

The alarm last night made me wonder if I shouldn’t adopt a dog.  Part of me would love the chance to have a bond like this again, but another part of me is already thinking about the pain of losing a friend and family member a few years down the line. That’s part of why I like cats – the shortest-lived feline I ever had died at eighteen.  But whatever the case, it’s too soon right now.

For now, I just have to miss her.

Dixy 2013

Living To Work

Almost two months ago, I left an internship that I was really convinced was going to be a day job.  It was going to be the coolest day job ever.  For six months, I arranged in-store concerts for bands at amazing venues like Amoeba Records; set up promotions with Other Music, Everyday Music, and Rough Trade; and organized on-air performances for independent artists.  I even assistant engineered a video shoot for Roland.  But I wasn’t paid and, when I finally made it an ultimatum, it became clear I was never getting paid.

Nope.

Nope.

For the last half of the internship, I was tired all the time.  It was really hard to get up in the morning and I started main-lining coffee to try and seem enthusiastic and stay alert (which had its own set of side-effects).  By the end of the day my eyes would be blurry from staring at a computer screen.  There were a few evenings where I was seeing double so bad I couldn’t reliably dial the phone.  My back injury flared up sitting in a chair all day, and I had to start going to a chiropractor again after spending one weekend unable to sleep because laying down was excruciating.

Have a friend kick you in the back a few times then repeat this mantra and you can understand why I maybe wasn't the chipperest employee.

Have a friend kick you in the back a few times then repeat this mantra and you can understand why I maybe wasn’t the chipperest employee.

Meanwhile, my stress level was through the roof.  I wanted so badly to be great at that job.  And I wasn’t bad at it.  They had never had a relationship with Amoeba before I established one.  But I studied songwriting, not business, and I didn’t know anything about distribution or promotion.  All I really had were great phone skills from Phone-a-thon in college and the pig headed determination to fit a square peg through a round hole.  I was pouring as much – if not more – emotional energy into my work than I was physical energy.

This made me realize that I can’t work to live.  I live to work.

I don’t know how to half-ass things.  On the rare occasion that I do, I feel miserable about it – nausea, headaches, sweating.  When I do something, I pour all of myself into it – even if it’s a spreadsheet.  It doesn’t make me a great multi-tasker and it means that I’m not always the fastest worker, but it does mean that I work really hard for the best possible product.  I’ll practice until my fingers bleed, run until I get shin splints and then run some more, dance until I fall down.

When I left the internship, I started waking up earlier – naturally.  The chronic pain I was experiencing subsided.  I had been pretty depressed and not even realized it.

Wait, this isn't what job satisfaction is supposed to look like?

Wait, this isn’t what job satisfaction is supposed to look like?

I was pouring that full-on, all-of-myself energy into the wrong thing.  Working as hard as I possibly can unpaid is fulfilling when it’s for my passion (i.e.: my music career) but is soul-crushingly demoralizing when it’s for someone else’s business.  I spend more hours a week working than I did before on things that often feel make-it-or-break-it to me, yet my stress-level is a fraction of what it was.  I”m sure part of that has to do with escaping a toxic living situation, but a lot if it also has to do with not spending myself on work that didn’t benefit me at all.

Looking back, I knew the job wasn’t the right fit for me for a while.  The only reason I hung on for so long were the regular mentions of hiring me.  Every time this came up I’d initially be very excited.  But as I’d lay in bed that night, I’d start crying.  Somewhere in my heart I knew it would never happen and I felt like an idiot for allowing myself to get strung along, but there was also a part of me that was terrified it would happen.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in actual physical pain for someone else’s vision when I had such a clear one of my own.

I really wish I knew how to work to live.  I’ve wanted to be a musician and fully commit myself to my passion since I was a kid, and as long as I’ve held that dream I’ve had people suggest that maybe it should be a hobby.  Surely there must be something else I would rather do for a living.  When you hear something enough, you start to internalize it.  I suspect that’s part of why I was so determined that I could enjoy and be successful at a part of the music industry that wasn’t making music.  I started to believe – like so many people seemed to be hoping for me growing up – that music was a fun side activity until my actual career started.

Because apparently in the real world you're only supposed to enjoy your work if that work is posing for stock photos.

Because apparently in the real world you’re only supposed to enjoy your work if that work is posing for stock photos.

But here’s the issue with that logic: I don’t make music because it’s fun or pleasurable or easy for me (it’s not), I make music because it’s a bodily function that I can’t resist any more than I can resist breathing.  I need to make noise – sometimes more than I need to eat; I’ve missed meals, appointments, sleep – all while deep in some weird zone of playing or writing or even booking shows.  It’s anything but a hobby.

And, contrary to popular belief, I’ve made more money making music than I have at any of the “real jobs” I’ve worked over the years.  Even while people were telling me it wasn’t a profitable career choice, I was filling the savings account that allowed me to move to Nashville and pay to work at various “real jobs” in the industry.  The craziest part of it was that I totally bought what people were telling me – that I couldn’t make money in music – even while I was cashing checks and counting the tips I made at gigs.

This isn’t to say I’m raking in the dough.  Right now I’m trying to reestablish my performance calendar after not gigging regularly for a couple years which takes time and patience.  But I sense that there is a million times more potential for growth and success making music than there was in a system that thrives on unpaid labor.  And at the end of the day, I’d rather go hungry for my own art than someone else’s.

You still can't eat passion, but you also can't eat

You still can’t eat passion, but you also can’t eat “college credit” so it’s not really a loss.

Now, talking about unpaid internships is a whole other blog post, but I have to say that I’ve had great experiences at all of the internships I’ve had.  I’d do every single one over again.  But there is something deeply flawed in a system that tells young people their work is worthless, that they don’t deserve to get paid for what they do.  Even pouring coffee and taking out trash.  We pay people for both of those roles: they’re called baristas and janitors.  “Experience” and “credit” don’t strike me as fair compensation, especially when the employers is directly benefitting from the intern’s work.  One of the events I arranged at Amoeba Records resulted in the on-site sale of 150 CDs.  If each CD was $10, that’s $1500 in sales in the space of two hours, but I never saw a cent and as a college graduate, credit doesn’t really mean anything to me anymore.

Look at all that

Look at all that “experience” she’s got there! Must be awful heavy!

I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to attempt to live to work rather than work to live.  But whichever arrangement of those words works best for you, they all need to be present to be functional.  By this I mean, if you’re doing some kind of work, you should be making some kind of living.  For me, “experience” and “credit” don’t qualify as a living.  My utility company certainly doesn’t accept them as payment for my electric bill.

Apparently, they also refuse to accept IOUs.

Apparently, they also refuse to accept IOUs.

I guess, the ultimate moral of this story isn’t that unpaid internships are bad or “live to work” because not everyone is able to or enjoys living for their career.  The real moral is, listening to yourself is harder than it seems and incredibly important.  It can be challenging to differentiate the messages you’ve adopted from years of hearing them repeated and those that come from your true moral compass.  But once you sort the wheat from the chaff, you might be amazed by what you hear.

Things I Shouldn’t Talk About And Salted Wounds

There’s something very frustrating about blogging.  In some ways, it’s extremely intimate.  I share a lot – maybe more than I should – and I try to stay open and honest and not be too limited in what I say by how others might react to it.  The same goes for my songwriting; my mom might not appreciate the topic/language/images I use, but I can’t let that constrain my expression, especially since expression is so much of how I define myself.

At the same time, there are limits to what I can share and what’s appropriate and it can get really hard to walk the line.  For the past two months I haven’t posted anything because I’ve been trying to protect someone who hurt me deeply and never made amends.  Unfortunately, the conflict has been consuming my energy and dominating my waking thoughts – it turned my life upside-down – so it’s the sort of thing I would really want to blog about.  And I have, I just never posted it or removed it or set it up to post later and canceled it.  As vitriolic and acidic as I’ve been with this person in my anger and pain, I’ve at least resisted the urge to write something that might implicate them personally.  Actually, even though some of what I’ve written would go over the head of anyone but the person in question, I’ve resisted posting that as well.

But I think this is adding to my resentment.  There’s a certain amount to which we have to constrain ourselves for other people, just for the sake of being functional members of our society.  But having to act like nothing is amiss is making me feel so isolated.  It has nothing to do with calling out the other person, I just desperately need an outlet for the stress and emotions that are wreaking havoc on my life.  I already have to live every day in the wreckage left by someone else’s choices; I wake up to it in the morning and sleep in it every night.  This person and this conflict has been inescapable and unavoidable for me, so it already feels like an unwanted and overbearing influence in my day-to-day.  But then to stifle my voice for it, even though they never asked me to, makes me resent them even more.

I was wounded so deeply then left to fester in silence for two months, punctuated only by the occasional salt in the wound.  It’s taken an exhausting amount of self-control to only snap at the person in question and not yowl at the top of my lungs like a kicked dog.  And it’s not fair of me to add my frustrations at my morally imposed muzzle onto the bitterness I’m already holding towards them.

I’ve not been a saint through all this.  Like everyone, there’s a bit of Jekyll and Hyde in me.  I really try to be a kind, caring person who puts others before herself – and I am 99% of the time, which I think is why I get so upset when someone else isn’t.  But if someone hurts me or exploits my kindness or betrays my trust, I go nuclear.  And I can use my words to express my anger and pain just as pointedly as I do to talk about love and excitement and fear and philosophy, which is a hellish combination for the person that burns me.  It’s not something I’m proud of.  In fact, my temper is something I really don’t like about myself (along with my acne prone skin and cellulite).

When I express something, I want it to be heard.  Theres a – perhaps slightly narcissistic – need in me to share what I create.  I don’t think I’m alone in this.  Why does anyone blog rather than just keeping a journal?  But when the only person who gets the full force of my language is the person I’m angry at, it ends badly for both of us.  I don’t feel good about it and I know that I have a particular talent for turning words into razor-sharp weapons coupled with a compulsion for someone – anyone – to hear my desperate expression of pain.

There are things I shouldn’t write about, which is why you’re not getting a name or a context or anything other than my feelings and my actions.  But there are also things I have to write about.  I can’t pretend that everything is gumdrops and rainbows because it’s really not.  I’ve been miserable and bitter and angry and I think until I either reach a resolution with this person or finally escape the situation, I’m going to stay miserable and angry.  I’ve been hurt too badly to just get over it or move past it.  And since the other person has left me in silence, my words – both those of simple, honest expression and those of anger – have been building up inside me like water rising to boil over onto the stove.  The silence fuels my anger – it reads as condescension or dismissiveness to me and I ramp up the vitriol to get a response and it’s ugly.

So this is my pressure release valve.  This is my cathartic expression of frustration and hurt.

Silence doesn’t work for me, so I’m breaking it.

Extended Periods of Radio Silence

It’s been radio silence from me for a while.  I’ve been quietly working on posts but haven’t managed to finish any.  A lot of this is because the things that are really consuming my energy and emotions right now aren’t things I can blog about.  I tried and quickly realized it was a bad idea and immediately canceled the postings.  All of the goings-on in my life for the past two months have stunted my sense of humor so everything read as just depressing rather than hilarious.

Took a selfie.

Took a selfie.

Meanwhile I’ve been trying to write about my bizarre addiction, but I keep engaging in my habit instead of actually writing about it.  (I’m not telling you what it is because I still believe I might finish the post eventually.)  And maybe that’s what I need to do right now.  It keeps me calm (and isn’t that damaging to my social life).  Life has suddenly become so busy and complicated – and some of the issues I’m dealing with are so deeply personal – that I need to either actually engage with the situation or avoid it all together to stay sane; philosophizing via the internet only makes it more stressful (as much as I’d like to think that flaming out in a post would make me feel better).

The biggest thing that I can write about is that I’m moving!  Again!  (SO FUN.)

Only fun if you're a cat or toddler.  Cardboard hell for everyone else.

Only fun if you’re a cat or toddler. Cardboard hell for everyone else.

This time I’m definitely staying in one spot for a while, which is awesome.  It’s the first time in a long time that I can recycle my boxes after moving rather than just saving them for the next inevitable transition.  And this go-round, I won’t spend any time without furniture.

You were great, Fernitur, but I'm still paying chiropractic bills.

You were great, Fernitur, but I’m still paying chiropractic bills.

I’m not sure how I’ll fall asleep without the delicate screaming of the train that runs two houses away from me or the soothing, hour-long howling fits of the dog next door, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to cope.  Maybe I’ll pay someone to intermittently throw all my pans on the floor and blow an airhorn in my living room to replicate the sensation.

I have come to like my little neighborhood: the bus that can’t quite make the turn at the end of my street, the unsupervised children chasing each other with scrap metal (I worry almost as much for my car as I do for them), the guy who does target practice in his yard from time to time, that ef-ing dog.  But I suspect there are greener pastures ahead.  And as convenient as it was to be able to sit on the edge of my bed and touch every piece of furniture in my room and open both doors, a little more space and a lot more freedom and control over my situation will probably do me good.

On second thought, this is probably more square-footage than my current apartment.

On second thought, this is probably more square-footage than my current apartment.

As excited as I am, moving has pretty much been a 25-hour-a-week job in addition to my actual work.  Between transferring utilities (AT&T, you know what you did), finding home insurance, and the other sundry complications that come with getting a new place, I’ve barely had time or energy for anything else.  And there’s a semi-crippling melancholy/depression that comes from still having to wake up every day in someone else’s collateral damage, even knowing there are better days ahead.  It’s made it pretty much impossible to move on.  I’ve been on edge for two months now, but I’m finally starting to relax the closer I get to the actual move.

It’s still hard to believe it’s really happening, but it gets more real and I feel more positive about it every day,  It’s very much a light at the end of the tunnel kind of effect; every day it gets bigger and brighter and more tangible.  The long, dark tunnel leading up to it has been fairly miserable – essentially one long anxiety attack teaming up with a migraine – but sometimes you need to stretch until it hurts if you want that brass ring.

And at the end of the day, it’s all just lyric fodder.  Hopefully, I’ll have some more music and blog posts to share with you all in the near future.

Soon, friends.  Soon.

[I was going to insert a scary clown picture here and vetoed it for all of our sakes.  You’re welcome.]

IT SNOWED AND THE WORLD IS ENDING

I come from a place that gets snow in the winter.

A lot of snow.  Up-to-the-top-of-the-door snow.

A lot of snow. Up-to-the-top-of-the-door snow.

So when word got around that there was going to be snow here in Nashville – maybe up to a foot – I was curious to see how the Music City would handle it.  It was like being a kid again, the morning of the storm; waking up, running to open the curtains to see what wintery wonders lay outside.  And I saw this:

God save us.

God save us.

It was, needless to say, a bit of a let down.  Less than an inch, but the city had ground to a halt.  The roads were empty, businesses were closed, pedestrians were bundled up like they were trekking through an arctic wilderness.  Less than an inch and it was like the FREAKING APOCALYPSE.

Now, to put this in perspective, the Boston area has gotten about 7.5 cumulative FEET of snow over the past couple weeks.  This is what my parents’ house looks like:

There's a house under there.  Somewhere.

There’s a house under there. Somewhere.

They’ve gotten one to three feet at a time without a single day above freezing to melt any of it.  It’s blown in drifts up to the roof (see above) thanks to a gentle hurricane force breeze that also brings a windchill close to -38 degrees fahrenheit at the right time of day.  Despite all this, they’ve managed to get out of the house, go to work, and generally continue their lives.  Which isn’t to say that they haven’t been trapped at home a few days, but they make it work.

Here in Nashville, I’m on day two of lockdown from this storm.  A lot of the issue is that it dumped quite a bit of ice (which I spent last night chipping off my car) and that is hard to deal with.  You can’t just plow it, after all.  Except it started as slush in the road that could have totally been plowed, but it wasn’t.  They plowed the main roads once early in the day, and decided that was enough.

When people told me that they get ice in the South, I was expecting some miraculous form of weather that I’ve never experienced before.  It was described to me with such awe and terror, some sort of natural disaster.  The ice, it was explained, is why they struggle so much with winter weather.  It’s way harder to deal with than snow.  But when I saw what the ice was, I realized we totally get it in the North East.

A few years ago during winter storm Nemo, the Boston area got about 3 feet of snow in 36 hours.  They made it illegal to drive in Massachusetts for a full 24 hours.  Drifts were deeper than my waist, people were cross-country skiing down Comm Ave, and everything was covered in ice.  It had blown on to every north-facing surface.  Like this lamppost:

Nature's way of telling you it's time to move.

Nature’s way of telling you it’s time to move.

Yet, within 24 hours, we were back on the roads like nothing had happened.  Every winter is spent negotiating ice coated sidewalks and slush covered streets while carrying heavy bags of groceries.  Months of this.  We have months of long-term, caked on ice, but we make it work.

We salt and we sand and we plow and we prep.  None of which seems to happen here in Nashvegas.  A lot of it is a lack of resources, but apparently this happens once a year.  It’s not that much of a surprise or some freak of nature.  It’s a pretty regular event, though a still infrequent one.  Yet there are no resources allotted for it and little effective prep-work done.  And I can see how it might be hard to allot funds for something you might use two or three days out of the year, but it’s probably about equal to the revenue lost when the whole city has to shut down for days.

Look, I’m not meaning to blame or shame Nashville, but coming from the land of this:

This.

This.

…you can understand how I find this reaction a bit, well, ridiculous.  I’m trying to understand you, Nashville, I really am.  I know this isn’t your forte; I’ve seen how you drive in the rain and that’s not pretty either.  But basic winter weather needn’t be a natural disaster.  Maybe we can start thinking of having, like, two plows next year instead of one?  Or maybe some salt?  Or sand?  Just a friendly suggestion from someone grew up in a place where you kept kitty litter in your trunk from November through March.

If you don't get it, Google it.    [Image courtesy of veganbeautyreview.com]

If you don’t get it, Google it. [Image courtesy of veganbeautyreview.com]

Stay safe and warm, Nashvegas!

The Trouble With Boxes

I haven’t been as consistent about posting as I promised myself I would be when I wrote last.  I have worked on stuff, I just can’t bring myself to finish it.  It’s not funny enough, it’s too serious, it’s too goofy, it’s shoddily constructed.  I think the issue with it all is that it’s not just train-of-thought.  Everything I’d written up-to-and-including my little “I’m sick and it makes me sad” meltdown was stream of consciousness.  Nothing I’ve been working on since is.

I want to be interesting.  I want to say something fascinating and provocative that will capture a reader and make you think and pass it along.  Nothing that I have been trying to write has accomplished that because I don’t think I can just make that happen.

I’m a stream-of-consciousness kind of person, in everything I do.  Maybe it’s part of being creative.  I finish tasks in my own way and my own time.  For most things, I can’t perform perfectly on command (much to both my chagrin and that of employers – although I never do a shoddy job).  It’s tough to explain to people – that I have whole days where I’m just not on.  I mean, everyone does, but I think I’m a little more inconsistent that your average bear.

And that’s alright with me.  I’ll probably grow into it more – I already have.  It’s part of what makes me who I am and part of my creative process.  Often when I’m about to write a song or come up with a new concept for a piece of knitting (yup, I knit – both yarn and less conventional materials) or write something more prolific than my usual blog post, I am a broody dysfunctional mess until I get it out the way it needs to be out.  I can’t get sentences to come in order, I can’t carry a conversation, I can barely drive my car.

I always thought I would come to understand myself and know which box I fit in: an office, a recording artist, a manager, a player, a teacher, a writer.  I would figure out which shoebox fit me the best and settle myself into it and my broodiness would disappear or at least be compatible with my new niche.  If something didn’t fit me well it was because I just hadn’t tracked down my box yet.  I was trying to force a square peg through a round hole; I just had to keep trying shapes until one fit.

But I’ve been realizing lately that this is a lie I’ve grown up telling myself, and likely being told.  It’s not that I haven’t found the right box; I just don’t do boxes very well.  I can flit in and out of them and tolerate their rigid, rectangular walls for short bursts, but I can’t survive in one.

When I was a kid, I caught a peeper toad and tried to keep it in a Tupperware with holes in the lid.  I gave it water and leaves and sticks and terraformed the makeshift tank with everything I had seen in it’s natural environment [sic: my front yard].  But in an hour the peeper had blanched white and my mother insisted I release it back to the wild.  It hopped away; relieved, happier, and the proper color.  It hadn’t mattered that I had recreated it’s habitat in my box – it was the box itself that was sickening it.

I am a peeper.  (Is that a weird statement?  I don’t care!  Your social boxes are nothing to me.)  I can’t live in a tupperware.  I need the wild, untamed openness around me, even if that wilderness is really just someone’s front yard.  I need to create my own structure, my own way of making things work, just like the peeper makes it’s own very un-box-like burrow (I think, I don’t know what they do with their free time).

I’m not happy with the box.  It doesn’t work for me and, frankly, I don’t think it works for a lot of people.  But it’s very hard to refuse it altogether, to say no to rectangles and walls.  And maybe we shouldn’t.  Maybe we just need to make a round box for ourselves.  I don’t know.  I’m figuring it out as I go.  But at least I understand that I need something other than your standard shoebox.

At the heart of me, I’m an artist.  Not in the sense that I make especially beautiful or insightful things – I’m still in the childhood of my creativity.  I am an artist in the sense that I am driven to create.  I am pulled to absorb the world, much slower and more deeply than some, and reflect it back – in music, in word, in art, in fiber.  If I have to build a box, I will build it around that.  It will be strange colors and asymmetrical and rambling and constantly changing.  It will be startling and uncomfortable to look at and fascinating all at once.  It will be a suit of armor tailored to my form.  It will have space for all the pieces of me.

I am struggling to release myself into the wild of my front yard.  I’m clinging to the walls of my tupperware in confusion as I try to shake myself out.  But, slowly and surely, I’m accepting the unbounded and uncertain tracts of grass are wonderful.  Are right.

Off to build my burrow (probably).