“As I sit on the end of this never-made bed…”

“… an old guitar in my lap a new tune in my head.”

It’s an early night.  The house is dark and I’m in bed for the duration, listening to “The Muse” by the Wood Brothers.  It’s part of a small playlist I have on in the background as I am performing said playlist in a few days as the opening act of a anniversary celebration at a popular local open mic locale/nightclub.  The cat is talking to me about her day, or possibly bitching me out for being out so much as of late – who can say.

As I lay in the darkness listening to the tune, my mind starts to go into overdrive recalling the events of the last few weeks.  I had told myself that I needed to slow my pace down a bit a couple of months ago.  The opposite has happened.  Since just before Christmas, my life has a become a whirlwind of increased exercise, additional music opportunities, and more time spent with folks I care about.  I’m struggling to process it all, take stock, and figure out how I can continue on this path of personal improvement I have firmly placed myself on…  and then the chorus plays:

“Times like these so sweet and so true, Thinkin’s the last thing that you wanna do.”

It’s safe to say we all think too much.  I personally just hit the official one year anniversary of my divorce (I’ve decided I have too many anniversaries marking annual events so I’m going to join the rest of the world and just stick with New Year’s going forward, but I digress…)  Probably not co-incidentally, I have decided that I am at a place physically / mentally / spiritually where I am ready to explore the romantic side of life again.  Not forcing or pushing it, but open to the idea of it.  Big step – for me at least.  There were times/events in the last year where I thought I was ready for it, but no, I really wasn’t.  It feels better now, more real, more genuine.  My friends – my darling, wonderful, caring, twisted friends – have been on me for sometime to get this in gear.  Some have said to take it easy, using some bizarre formula of years married divided by the square root of how long you were with the person minus half your age plus 3.  Others have simply said “Dude: You need to get laid”.  Both arguments have their merits, but I am not going to overthink this.  What happens, happens…. and the next song comes up on the playlist:

“Darling remember from when you come to me…  That I’m the pretender, I’m not what I’m supposed to be”

I have no clue what I am supposed to be, but I do know what I am.  In just the last couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to play and sing with a bunch of different folks, in many different scenarios ranging from basements in beautiful homes to quick practices in stairwells that almost made me tear up, to collaborations “on stage”, to solo performances.  All had amazingly special moments and all felt right and natural.  People seemed to enjoy them all, which is wonderful and satisfying.  I no longer feel that I’m the pretender in these situations.  I belong here.  Next track up on the playlist…

“I was just guessing at numbers and figures… Pulling the puzzles apart”

But some of my favorite moments in the last few weeks were “just” conversations.  Talking about music performance in a hallway in a night club with a relatively new acquaintance who I have become quite fond of.  Online chats with friends near and far.  Discussing condo fees and the different types of mid-life crises with a group of folks I am super-attached to while watching a good friend sing his heart out at a local restaurant.  Being thanked for being supportive and kind from one musician friend while listening to another musician friend sing her ASS off at a new open mic.  Making dinner in my kitchen while discussing life with an amazing soul…  and on and on.  All of these moments required no effort, no guessing.  They just were what they were.  The less I think – the less I analyze and process life’s puzzles, the better life seems to get.  Next tune comes up:

“Why am I so emotional?  No, it’s not a good look, gain some self-control”

Yeah.  This one is a challenge.  To again rip off someone very close to me, I experience everything at 2x or larger.  This is a lot for people to take.  It often gets misconstrued, and often gets me into various levels of trouble.  I am working on this, but I think that self-control thingy is going to be the carrot I never quite get to.  Oh well – I’m ok with it.  I have accepted this is who I am – who I am always going to be – and who I am meant to be.  The playlist ends…

“Good love is hard to find…Good love is hard to find”

When I chose these tunes, I thought I did it for pacing, accessibility, and as a good way to start off a night of some very talented performers that have allowed me to play with them.  It occurs to me though that something else was going on inside me… but this last song quote is actually not true.  Good love is actually easy to find all around you – in many different forms.  You just need to be open to it.

A Typical Morning

Continuing a theme…  what a typical morning in my world is like.

4:15am

Starting to come out of deep REM sleep…  a dream about a friend of mine… or was it a woman I’d like to know better?  Wait, was I with a bunch of people?  My alarm of ocean sounds and crashing waves reminds me I really have to pee so I grab sweats and a tee and I’m off to the loo.

4:30am

Turn on the computer, head downstairs and feed Skani the cat, who is protesting the speed in which I am putting away last nights dishes and making her breakfast.  She watches the train go by with passing interest, which berating me vocally for being a horrible owner.  I tell her to bite me and provider Her Royal Self with her breakies,  Clean the litter box and her cat food dishes and it’s practice time.

5:30am

I’ve run my major scale modes, my pentatonic modes/shapes, some arpeggio exercises, and variations on all of the above.  I have Pandora on the Redbird station in the background, and there is a fine selection of tunes being fed to me from the ether this morning.  Sang a few tunes, worked on some harmonies, all in all a great practice session.  Wait, wouldn’t this be a neat idea for a blog?  Dog knows I need writing practice…

6:00am

Running a bit late this morning, but I’ve checked work emails and production jobs for any issues/crises and everything is smooth today, unlike yesterday.  Grateful.  Quick check of personal emails and FB and I’m off to the treadmill.  65 minute incline program while listening to my set list – always listening to that, always trying to get more comfortable with the tunes and make variations as it makes sense to.  My thoughts are absolutely all over the place, from lamenting the cancelled gig tonight due to impending horrible weather all the way to thinking of those I am closest to.  Not at all interested in Thanksgiving but looking forward to spending time with friends, a gig on Saturday, and a few days off from work.  Halfway through the incline routine, I switch to “Another Day, Another Time” on my Kindle and watch one of my favorite concert films ever.  The routine goes by quickly, and I am dripping with sweat.  Wonderful!

7:30am

Yeah, I think this should be a blog post.  If nothing else, it will remind me that my mornings are pretty productive and I should be proud of that.  Let’s get that typed up and hit the shower.  Continue the work day, and I’ll work breakfast in there somewhere.  A good start to the day.

No wonder I’m so tired at night.  Yikes.

A “typical” weekend

My weekends are never boring.

In this post-divorce life of mine, I find that weekends are full of so many different events that it takes me many days afterwards to fully process what the hell just happened.  I thought this time I’d write about it while it was still fresh.

Friday:

Vacation day from work.  Hair cut scheduled for the late morning, gig at one of my favorite haunts in the evening.  Original plans include a nap in addition to the other two events.  I wake up and workout after I run modes and scales for a bit.  The cardio session is a good one, with me thinking about a setlist for the night and trying to sing high parts while not passing out from oxygen deprivation.  Tricky business, that.

As I sit down for breakfast I decide I want to do something different with my hair…  it’s a running gag that I overuse with lots of friends on how awesome it is, but the truth is it’s seriously out of control and I want to change things up.  Should I put a color in for fun?  Not talking get rid of the grey – I earned those, and I’m not in denial – but maybe something cool.  The place I go to has some seriously talented folks who both own and work there, and I’ve become friendly with a few of them.  I’m actually pretty excited about this, as the woman who cuts my hair is a musician so we always talk shop.  Fun stuff.

As I go to sit down in the chair, I mentioned that I am feeling adventurous and am considering a non-standard coloring.  The eyes of a couple members of the staff bug out, high-pitched squee noises are made, and the owner has a big disarming smile on her face.  At this point I realize that I just became a 6 foot hairy canvas, and that I should just go with it.  The popular wisdom is that a golden rose highlight motif would be best, and we get to work.

There is tinfoil in my hair, and I am under a blow dryer.  If you know me at all, you know how non-standard this procedure is for me.  I go with it.  A close friend comes in to shoot some photos and provide emotional support, while folks on Facebook clamor for before and after images.

After a session with a flat iron and some delicate work, I look like a different person.  The people who work there are pleased, and I am pretty stoked about the new look.  Photos go online and affirmation is provided.  Perfect mental space to be in for the gig that night.

Get to the venue super early and setup.  Not expecting a big turnout as lots of things are going on in town and I’ve already had a bunch of friends contact me with apologies on not being able to attend.  No worries there as I put the same amount of effort forward for 50 people or 5 people.  Always try to provide the proper amount of respect to the pieces I choose, otherwise why bother?  Thankfully, quite a good turnout presents itself.  Yay for that.

Have a quick chat with my friend who will be providing percussion for the evening.  He’s actually one of the most talented musicians I know and has this uncanny knack of knowing what, when, and when not to play.  A rare thing.  Off we go into the first set and I feel like it’s a bit rough (my fault, not his) but I get through it and then it’s time to let a young local musician get up there and work the room and the owners of the establishment in the hopes of getting some future gigs.  She’s quite talented and wows the room.  Mission accomplished.

Now for the second set…  Peter Mulvey talks a lot about how when he plays, he is sharing an experience with the audience.  Yes, he is the one singing and playing, but the room itself is part of the experience and when it’s good, the energy and feeling is shared and he gets lost in the moment, like he is more of a bystander than he is an active element.  I totally get that and am fortunate enough to get to that point this evening.  I occasionally snap into reality and see folks singing and moving to the beat, and generally happy faces all around.  I feel like something really special just happened – doing songs I didn’t even plan on performing – and once again count my blessings.  End the night having a wonderful conversation with a new friend and it’s the end of a full day.  Tomorrow will be quieter, yes?

Saturday:

Start with a weight training workout and walk, catch up with a emails and a bunch of friends online, housework and laundry, and practice.  During the day, my environment is quiet (sans the new release from The New Basement Tapes on an endless loop and MAN do I need to learn the song “Kansas City”) so my my mind decides to start messing with me…  the usual crap we all deal with, e.g., money, relationships, happiness, etc.  I shoo those demons back into their hole and now it’s time for dinner with a friend and a movie.  Quiet evening planned, in theory.

I get to the restaurant early (I’m always early), and get a drink at the bar.  I soon take notice of a woman two seats down from me, who keeps looking over at me because I am singing verses from that “Kansas City” song under my breath.  As I focus on her a bit more, I decide that I am going to strike up a conversation with her…  and then I realize that she is hammered and it’s only 5:15 pm.  The poor thing is struggling, fumbling around in her pocketbook for money to pay the check, trying to get a cab called for her and some food to go from the waitstaff, and is just in general a bit of a mess.  At this point I realize she reminds me of a person that was a recent failed attempt at a relationship and I feel myself being drawn to her to help out (get her home safely, find her a cab, take her myself, etc).  The staff finally get her a cab home, and I watch her go without saying a word to her.  Maybe she was just having a bad day, but I decide I need to stop taking on “projects” with the frequency that I tend to.  I’m proud of myself for making the right decision and while there might have been a missed potential long-term opportunity there (who knows), going with my gut feels right.  The movie is super fun as is the conversation with the filmmakers afterwards, I chat with a few friends, and off I go to catch the last set of a friend playing in town.  Meet up with another friend walking her dog on the way over, another nice convo, and I close out the night with some tunes, FB messaging with one of my dearest friends who is struggling, and a calm soul.  Win.

Sunday:

Long AM walk, and then yoga.  Only my third time, but I am becoming quite addicted and it’s a wonderful addition to my regimen of improving my health and strengthening my spirit.  A great session is had, and then it’s off to a local bar for brunch and tunes from another musician friend of mine.  Lots of folks show up that I know, great conversations are had, I get to sing backup harmonies on a tune, and shots of Patrone are imbibed.  I look at the clock and it’s already late afternoon and then it’s back home for a the first and only meal of the day.  Now it’s movie time with a close friend, where I get to share one of my favorite films and we talk about things I haven’t brought up in 30 years.  I look at my phone and the absolute kindest things are said to me about my performance on Friday and about me in general from yet another dear friend.  I go to bed at peace and wake up with a need to write and cardio is imminent before the work day starts proper.

That’s a typical weekend.  How fortunate am I?  Life is truly what you make of it.  Get the eff out there.

Box steps

Had the opportunity to play a last minute solo gig in a small quiet room last night.  I was looking forward to it immensely, as I had a lot of emotion bottled up inside me and was desperate to “get it out” and get rid of it before saying farewell to quite possibly the closest friend I’ve ever had.

I sat down to play and found that I was working too hard to purge things.  I tried to force it and it instead latched on to my guts and stubbornly got worse.  I felt like I was being choked.  Then I paused, took a breath, looked at people, and just went on auto-pilot.  Just let everything be what it was, and sang and played.  Next thing I knew, an hour passed, and then two and I was done.  Did that just happen?  Did I do ok?

What convinced me it was ok was that I saw expressions on peoples faces that were a combination of smiles and surprise.  I’m pretty sure total strangers were in on what was going on with me, and felt it as well.  Talked to a couple of folks afterwards and they were appreciative and kind.  The “universe” let us enjoy a moment, and only because I stopped resisting and just let it happen.

I feel like it has taken me far too long to understand people, the world around me, and life in general. By comparison, others seem to get it a lot quicker and set an example that is easy to follow. I have been so blessed these past couple of years to become close to a lot of those folks I just described. While I don’t profess to have a totally firm grasp on things, I think I finally understand that it is better to have to deal with pain and grow from that, than to shut yourself off from it all. I’d never be able to shut myself off anyway, but I’ve always railed against the pain aspect…

… this morning though, I think I truly understand. I have needed maybe more example exercises than most, but I believe it’s finally sunk in. I welcome the heart-ache, tears, doubt, and all that other nastiness because once I wade through that, I see that for a time I’ve been gifted with an experience with a special spirit that is only going to help me grow, and expand both my heart and my world.  This life is not easy – and I realize I have it far easier than many – but it is worthwhile and gives us such an opportunity to improve.  “Dance with the universe” has been said to me often and I have dismissed it summarily and with not a small amount of disdain.  Today though, I have learned my box steps and will work on the complicated routines as time goes on.  I welcome the experience.

For those that know me and are concerned: it’s ok.  I’m fine.  I appreciate your love and friendship – and am freely soliciting hugs – but it’s all fine.  Looking forward to dancing with you all.

Simple comments, not so simple after-effects

This was said to me today – paraphrased – and had a profound and complicated effect:

“I was feeling bad about all the stuff that has happened over the last year but then I look at what you and others have to deal with and I realize how blessed I am.”

o.O

While I’m happy that this person had a moment of soul-searching and could find positivity amidst a year of pain and loss, I wasn’t sure how I felt about being held up as an example of “see how much worse it could be?”…  Not because I think my life is so horrible (it isn’t), but I think because I know so many folks who are dealing with much worse and scary items, such as:

  • One person sold their business and is looking at a future of unknowns
  • One person started a new job with tons of responsibility and lofty goals set for them
  • One person juggles multiple businesses and tries to maintain health and sanity
  • One person is leaving a “safe” life and traveling the path of building their own business
  • One person had an on the job accident and is dealing with pain and potentially lost income
  • More than a few people continue to deal with complicated health issues that are serious and impacts their daily lives
  • Three are fighting cancer

I could go on, but the point is made.  I guess this is a challenging time for me, and it’s been a year of challenges (see previous blog entry), but really by comparison this is absolutely nothing.  I have my moments of concern, grief, confidence attacks, etc., but I have been through far too much to let these things derail me, just as the person who made the original comment has.  We are all stronger than we give ourselves credit for.  Time to draw on those reserves, I think.

Jamie: Year One

Yup, another blog.  You’ll live.

Simply put, I need to write more.  Those of you who know me, know that I am quite verbose on occasion – especially online – but I need to write songs so this may be a good gateway to do that.  We’ll see.

So what to talk about?  Well, it’s been a year since I moved out from my old house and from my relationship with my ex.  A good time to take stock.

Let’s get something out of the way though; I really do not harbor any ill will towards her, if I take a breath and think about it.  It all boils down to we definitely had a different image in our head of who the other person was at the most basic of levels and we were both wrong.  Plenty of blame to go around.  While the effect on both of us was a tumultuous thing, it’s really as simple as that.  Moving on.

Moving on… well there it is.  The events of the last year absolutely blows my mind.  Considering where I was physically, mentally, and emotionally to where I am now is as drastic a change as I think you can find.  Music has certainly been the driving force, and has added so much to my life.  From music, I have gained confidence, strength, clarity, and most importantly, love.  I have now SO many wonderful people I can call friend and an embarrassment of people I love as much as I have loved any family member.  They are now my family, they are my conscience, and they are my guidepost.  Some of them have left and some of them are leaving soon.  I am devastated on many levels, but my desire to have them be happy in this world outweighs my selfish need to have them close.

Spending so much time in the city of my birth and early life has turned out to be another lifeline.  Amazingly, I cannot walk down the street without seeing someone I know and care for.  What a rare and wonderful thing!  Just last night, I was walking to a solo dinner (those aren’t as bad as they sound) and a bartender friend who saw me on the street waved me in to her place of business and tackle hugged me.  How is this now my life?

The music community has taken me in, supported me, and apparently likes to hear me perform.  That means more to me than I can actually verbalize, and chokes me up often.  It’s upon me to never give them a reason to remove their support and love.  Keep practicing, Jamie.

Thankfully, old friends have come back into my life and have provided clarity, support, love, and perspective.  One especially dear one recently said the following:

“I’m really proud of you. I think you have come a long way in the past year. I know you have been deeply wounded. But you haven’t let that stop you from continuing to better yourself. One thing I’ve learned for myself is that I am not happy remaining “the same” – not that my core being is going to change, but I do need to continue to grow as a person and explore and you really are never too old to learn new things and try new things and to change your path in life. I admire how well you’ve taken the lemons and made lemonade.”

And that, my friends, is as simple as that.  We all need to keep working, trying, failing, changing, and spreading love.  A bit corny, but I truly believe this.  I’m “alone” now, and may be for some time (a blog for another occasion), and yet…  I’m very much not alone because I invite the warmth and kindness of genuine souls into my world…  and to my amazement, there are a lot of these souls out there.

So… was that so bad?

We Need To Talk About Ireland

Myles O'Reilly's, Arbutus Yarns.

A film by Myles O’Reilly documenting the Trailblazery event We Need To Talk About Ireland, a 90-minute creative celebration of Ireland past, present and future which took place in front of a live audience from The Round Room at Dublin’s Mansion House on St Patrick’s Night, Monday 17 March, 2014.

The brainchild of Irish creative collective, The Trailblazery, this innovative cultural event challenges some of Ireland’s brightest innovators, thinkers, artists and creative entrepreneurs to explore what it means to be Irish in 2014. Featuring inspiring TED-style talks, interspersed with music, comedy, poetry, film and a large-scale choral spectacle, We Need To Talk About Ireland was produced by The Trailblazery and was broadcast on RTÉ Player and The Washington Post.

Over 90 minutes, the speakers and performers told the story of Ireland, from our ancient past to our potential future. The vision of the project is to evoke a new cultural…

View original post 105 more words