... that so much time has elapsed since my last entry?
Wow! I think a whole LIFETIME has passed since I last wrote. Or at least a whole Lifetime Television movie!
The past 1.5 months have been full of singing, traveling, ailing, recovering, grieving... you name it. Iʻm exhausted just thinking about it all...
But itʻs time to start a new chapter. Life continues. And so will I.
Iʻve been thinking about what to write about recent adventures. I guess those stories will come when theyʻre ready to be told.
Iʻve been afraid to write lately. Weird, huh? I mean really... whatʻs going to happen if I put some thoughts down on paper? Or in a blog? But have felt really BLOCKED.
So tonight Iʻm allowing myself to babble in this post. Iʻm allowing it to be a really lousy post. And Iʻm celebrating that Iʻm posting ANYTHING at all! Iʻm breaking out of the ice thatʻs formed around me. Right on!
Despite the difficulties, Iʻm feeling really blessed. So many amazing things have been happening here. Itʻs a time for growth, for sure...
I don't know about you, but packing light has never been easy for me. For years when I was making my daily commute to work on the subway, I carried a backpack FULL of things to keep me occupied: books to read, music to listen to, paper to write on, etc. In NYC, it's not uncommon to see folks, female and male with some sort of bag. (Males' bags are often lovingly called "murses") New Yorkers live a portable lifestyle as we often commute by subway, cab or foot. You learn to pack all that you'll need throughout the day. No one wants to have to make a trip back the apartment because they have forgotten something...
I think my packing habits probably began when I was a kid. My family would take RIDICULOUSLY LONG car trips in the summer. We'd often drive from Boston, MA to Pittsburgh, PA. During those trips, if you wanted something, it was imperative that you had packed it your "car bag" before you'd left. There was no going back. And getting a replacement version once we'd arrived at our destination was not an option.
Additionally, we moved almost to another city almost EVERY summer. (The hotel/restaurant business is so similar to military life in that respect.) And the same rules applied: once something had been packed into a box, you wouldn't have it again until you UNpacked the box at the destination.
I've become somewhat CRAZED when it comes to packing... trying to make sure that I have everything that I could possibly want. Everything that I could possibly need. And the preparation necessary just to leave the house can be maddening!
When I travel to another city, I will obsess for WEEKS about what to bring with me. My biggest fear is not that I'll encounter travel difficulties. Instead, it's that I won't have something with me that I would want. And that quickly turns into something that i NEED.
I've been prepping to head back to Hawai'i next week. I'm heading to Molokai. It's an amazing island. It offers so much... more than I could ever imagine. I'm staying with my extended family in Hālawa Valley--an extremely remote nook thatʻs tucked away on the islandʻs east end. Life there is simple. Life there is beautiful. No electricity. The water that runs thru the PVC pipe into the shower comes from a waterfall. We work. We sing. We tell stories.
Why on earth am I obsessing about what to bring with me?
Iʻve been worried that I wonʻt have enough clothing--although one doesnʻt NEED much clothing in the valley.
Iʻve been worried that I wonʻt have the right books with me--although in all of the times that Iʻve gone there, Iʻve never been known to sit and read.
Iʻve been worried that I wonʻt have the right song sheets and music books with me--although most of my time there is spent learning NEW songs.
Itʻs so silly. Really. And quite sad that so much energy has been wasted on something as silly as material things. Especially because there, while we have little when it comes "things," we have so very much when it comes to spending quality time with each other. Just being together. Sharing stories. Sharing songs. Sharing the experience of working with the land.
I know that for this trip--more so than any other trip Iʻve been on--packing light is not just a good thing to do, it is essential.
I know I can't really complain--only 2 days over the 90-degree mark in the month of August. The temperature isn't really the beast. It's the humidity. Like walking thru water at times. And my hair--well, that's a whole different story! YIKES!! What made me think I wanted to grow long hair??
I've been relatively sequestered in our apartment, studying Hawaiian music and writing a bit. I'm totally blown away by some poets that are rocking my whole universe at the moment. Especially my all-time-fave, Mr. Ted Kooser. His work makes me smile. (And sigh.) What a gift! Currently reading for the ump-teenth time DELIGHTS & SHADOWS.
I've also been crushing on Mary Oliver. Only recently came to know more about her. I re-read part of her book, THE POETRY HANDBOOK, while in a bookstore the other day and I feel like I finally got a glimpse of who she is as a poet and as a person.
AND... I can't forget to mention my crush on Kay Ryan. Her compact poems appear so simple. I stress the word: APPEAR. They are powerful! So much to love and soak in. What a gifted writer! I love reading and then immediately RE-READING her poems. And then going to the computer to learn more about the subjects in her works. Really inspiring stuff. Current favorite collection: ELEPHANT ROCKS
I love the fact that I can go into the bookstore and purchase a collection of poetry--usually a slim volume and relatively inexpensive--and then put it in my backpack for enjoyment throughout the day. Sneaking a peak at a poem or two (or five!) while I'm on the subway. Or waiting in line at the post office. It's like attending an art exhibition without having to go to the museum. (Museums and galleries can sometimes be VERY intimidating places here in NYC.)
These folks continue to inspire me. And make me smile--even while dripping with sweat and pushing my afro out of my eyes. Right on!
I made it to the gym today. I keep telling myself that if I get myself moving more, not only will I look a little better, but I'll also FEEL better. I managed to get on the treadmill and get my desired miles in for the day. Feeling pretty thankful for that. It never ceases to amaze me that each time I run, I feel like I'm going to black out/go into cardiac arrest for the first 2 miles. After that, it's like everything suddenly changes and I'm having a blast and don't want the run to end. Not really long enough for "runner's high" to be setting in. But I've read interviews with runners who've described a similar experience. It seems starting out is tough for everyone. And I certainly understand that from other areas of my life, too!
Looks like if I want to do it again tomorrow, I'm going to have to go EARLY since I'm planning to meet up with old friends at lunch. Will be great to reconnect. It's been too long.
Spent time working on music today and catching up on the computer. Pretty great day, I'd say...
Wednesday morning. It's been a while since I've taken a minute to sit down and write. My goal was to post on this daily. I'll try to be more faithful.
The past two days have been really intense. I've been working on music to sing when I'm back in the islands later this month. It can be an OVERWHELMING task! Because I'm not a native Hawaiian speaker, my language skills (or LACK of language skills) prove to be somewhat of a hinderance at times. I'm trying to honor the songs and the composers by keeping these beautiful pieces of music alive--keeping them them "in the air" instead of just "on the page."
And it's made me feel completely and totally PARALYZED. I didn't know where to begin with the whole thing...
Then, thru a combination of signs that all seemed to be pointing in the same direction, I stopped all of the fussing and the fretting. I took a deep breath. And I dove in. One song at a time. One word at a time. Slow. Tedious. And WONDERFUL.
Remember those books that were all the rage a while ago--ALL I EVER NEEDED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN? Well, maybe I don't agree with that statement entirely... but I will say that by the time we were in middle school, had learned a lot of the truths we need to know in order to survive in the world.
I resorted to using a method that our English teachers used to teach us vocabulary words every week. Slow, yes. Tedious, yes. But that's where the WONDERFUL part comes in... the songs started to sing again. Like a flower opening its petals to the sunlight, the verses to these beautiful songs opened up and new life was breathed into something that had been buried in the dust for a long time. Unbelievable!
If we honor the process, we'll see the fruits of our labor. If we rush around like idiots, there is a great chance we'll miss the beauty along the way. When will I ever learn??
What a great weekend. Just being able to run around and get caught up on things that we haven't been able to do all week... Traveling to places beyond the "isle of Manhattan" is always a treat.
I'm in full-prep mode as my trip to Molokai approaches.
New and creative ideas pop up in the strangest places at the strangest times! Loving it! Went thru one of those mega-craft stores yesterday and my head exploded. So many things to inspire!
And yet instead of feeling like I'm losing focus, I actually feel MORE focused than usual. It's like I've found my groove--at least for the moment--and I'm loving it. Sure, I'm a bit wobbly as I find my legs, but I'm having fun in this groove!
Ok... I'm writing this as the thoughts come. It's raw. Unedited. Bear with me...
This week so much of my focus has been on the concept of time. I think I was letting my OCD play with that. Too much. I loved the idea of following a schedule, but then found that I only followed it loosely. That drove me crazy. I was feeling like I'd found the answer to "getting it all done" and then wasn't following my own advice.
This morning, I received a phone call with some distressing news. A special person in my world was told they had a cyst--and the possibility of cancer. Now cancer is not a new thing in my world. So many of the people that I love have had cancer. I know that's nothing unique. I would be willing to bet that most people's lives have been touched by cancer in one way or another. But I was sick to my stomach when I heard it. And then I kicked into gear. "Well, we'll deal with it if it comes to that," I heard myself saying.
By coincidence, I happened to pick up a book that I've been reading for a while, KŪ KANAKA, A SEARCH FOR HAWAIIAN VALUES. The pages opened to a section on the Hawaiian concept of QUALITY TIME. How fitting, I thought. Thatʻs what Iʻve been thinking about all week. Dr. George Huʻeu Sanford Kanahele goes on to say that the traditional Hawaiian way of thinking is to remain in the present moment, as thatʻs all that anyone really has. And itʻs not the quantity of time thatʻs important, but the quality of time. He goes on to say that the subjective value of time "lies in the quality and meaning of what we do with our time. Or, in other words, we should relax more, and live according to Hawaiian time." (Sorry, Dr. Kanahele, but I donʻt know how to do footnotes anymore!)
Now... I loved that. It made my whole body buzz. I get it! Itʻs not about getting 500 things done every day. Itʻs about doing something and doing it right. Using the time weʻre given to really concentrate on the task at hand.
Then the whole picture started coming together. Hereʻs this person in my world whoʻs confronted with the possibility of cancer. How should they live their life? In a state of stress because they werenʻt able to cross everything off of their checklist? Or concentrating on whatʻs right before them. Right at that moment. Isnʻt that what we ALL should be doing? Do we need to wait to have some sort of health crisis to understand that?
There is a happy ending to this story. This afternoon, my friend spoke to a good doctor. While they canʻt be sure until a biopsy is done, there is a very strong chance that the cyst will prove to be benign. All will most-likely be ok.
But this served as another powerful WAKE UP! call in my world. Ok... So I might make a list of things that I hope to accomplish every day. Ok... So I might give myself an outline of how long I hope to spend working on each task. But if the task takes longer, then it takes longer. Iʻm going to try to give it my REAL and FOCUSED attention. I want to do things until theyʻre done. And done well.
And that way, if Iʻm blessed to see the sunset and review the day, Iʻll be able to say that for that day, I lived as well as I could. And did as well as I could.
Today hasn't been an easy one. Lots of physical pain that started last night with a back spasm that lead to a day of migraine headaches. Still managed to get some stuff done, but it's been tough.
Had a great conversation with my cousin, Steph. A kindred spirit. We are cut from the same cloth, for sure! The oddballs of the family. I think we see things a bit differently than most. But I think that we validate each other. Priceless!
She inspires me more than she'll ever know. She sees what she wants and then goes for it. It certainly seems that she's not the type to get "lost" in her head, OVERthinking everything so that she becomes paralyzed. This gal is a mover and a shaker. She's going to change the world in ways that will blow her mind. She already does by just being the kind spirit that she is. I feel blessed to know her.
Tomorrow promises to be a bit easier... I can feel the pressure in my back, neck and head starting to subside. Little by little. And heck, any bit of relief will make tomorrow a bit easier, right?
Maybe tomorrow I'll take a ride downtown to walk around a bit, too. It would be good to get out and about for a few hours. Let's see where the day leads...
Today's schedule was heavily modified from it's original form. Lots of "issues" managed to pop up and throw my allocated times into a tailspin. But you know what? I still managed to make my way through my list. I still managed to give quality time to the things that I wanted to work on for the day. That silly list full of appointments and allocated times is so liberating! Funny how something that I once considered to be a prison has actually turned out to be my liberation!
I'm also learning that even though I try to be a "hang loose" kind of spirit, I'm still uptight. I mean, I had to move all of these blog posts to another blog--one whose address is spelled correctly! If I was really "hang loose" I would have just rolled with it.
But the coolest thing about it all, I'm totally fine with being wrong. Wrong in my belief that schedules = prison. Wrong in my perception that I'm totally "hang loose" and could roll with anything that came along.
Maybe that's being a "hang loose" kind of spirit after all!
When I was working in the corporate world, I lived my whole day based on a piece of paper that had my daily schedule printed on it. Each morning, I would arrive at the office and break the day out into "chunks"--meetings, projects, etc. I'd print it out and be on my way with the paper as my guide. It kept me on track. And it was much better than just writing a list of things to accomplish every day--things have a funny way of just being "put off until later" when I operate with a simple list.
For the past year, I've been trying to "find my groove," so to speak. Trying to determine how my creative cycle ebbs and flows. But, just like when I was in the corporate world, I would manage to get some things done and others would just fall into the "later" pile. And it was always the same things that wouldn't get done--usually the things that made me the most nervous.
Yesterday, I decided that I needed to really carve out a chunk of time each day to write. And today I did just that... Not only time to put my thoughts down in a blog, but also time to confront the collection of stories that I've been working on. It's been awhile. I was really afraid that I'd lost my groove... That the stories wouldn't sing to me like that had been doing in the past.
But the most amazing thing happened:
When the appointed time came for me to sit down and confront the blank page, I did it. I sat down and thought to myself, "Ok.... You can do this. Just start putting words on the page. One after the other..." And sure enough, the stories started to sing again. It was wonderful! Maybe they'll always sing when I ask them. Maybe my mind did it because it was just totally freaked out that I was operating on a REAL SCHEDULE again like I had when I was in the corporate world. Who knows? I'm just so glad that the groove came back this afternoon.
The schedule worked for other things, too! Things that I love to do got done. (Of course!) Things that I try to avoid got done. (Hooray!) And at the end of the day, I had a checklist of what I'd accomplished. Herculean efforts and achievements. Not too shabby, I must say!
Moral of the story: Whether I'm living the corporate life or the creative life, I need to keep myself on a schedule. Period.
I've determined that I need to create a real schedule for myself that includes WRITING. Not just waiting for the muse to speak. Not waiting for the "right time." Instead, I've got to carve a real and, more importantly, REALISTIC time to write each and every day. Especially if I hope to make any progress on the current collection of stories.
Even if I just sit there and write really bad poetry or prose for the allotted time, I've got to do it. I need to start training my mind and my body to accept this as part of my daily routine.
Not to mention, I miss discovering and writing the stories. They bring such joy. And surprise. And a great feeling of accomplishment. Wait, what's the problem? Why isn't this already part of each and every day?
This past week, I spent a few days back in LA with some of my writing buddies, The BAMFs. JF asked me to come and speak to her art students. The school had set aside money for a guest lecturer (or a field trip!) and JF managed to secure the funds for me! I was asked to come and talk about creativity. Felt totally overwhelmed at first. What the heck did I know about the big C word?
Then I stopped. Took a deep breath. And remembered that for the past year, I have been on a quest to define my own creative process. Quitting the job and moving to the west coast was a leap of faith. Waking up every morning and confronting the stacks of music, the blank pages in the notebooks, the silent 'ukulele... I had to figure out HOW I was going to make this whole thing work. I had to look at myself in an extremely critical mirror. WHO am I? WHAT is it that I hope to do? The kids are confronted with these same questions. All artists are.
Are there other jobs that constantly ask these questions? Do those that arrive at the same office every day for 40 years constantly redefine themselves?
I told the kids about some of my sources for creative inspiration. How-to books that suggest one person's "method." Biographies and autobiographies of artists in many genres... how did they do it? How did they get by in this wacky world? Quotes. Movies. Songs. Especially the songs that get me out of bed each and every morning. I'd be lost without them.
And as I spoke to the kids, I realized that I was also speaking to me! I needed to hear my own words. I needed to fall in love with the process all over again. Like a recommitment ceremony where a couple renews their wedding vows, I found myself recommitting to the process and this journey all over again. For better or worse.
Their eyes flashed. Recognition. They are not alone on this path. I am not alone on this path. We are all in this together.
Writing with the BAMFs last Thursday reminded me of how much I LOVE THE PROCESS of putting a pen to paper. Of watching where the story leads me without my editor mind trying to control the whole process. Of being surprised. Of being delighted with a few small phrases. It's magical!
Singing Hawaiian songs and watching people's faces smile. That look of relaxation that comes over the muscles of the face. The way their mouths relax and slightly open--a smile and laugh ready and waiting. Sharing stories of my crazy times in the islands as the ultimate "outsider" who gets himself into ridiculous predicaments. Gosh... What a wonderful journey!
And now that I'm back in the Big Apple, I'm inspired. Inspired to pick up my 'ukulele and learn new songs. Inspired to open up my notebook, pen in hand, and confront the blank page again. Inspired to try my hands at new ways to express myself, too!
I love this feeling. And I need to blog about it so that 6 months from now, when I'm feeling like I have no idea where I'm going and what I'm doing, I'll be able to read this and remember it.
That was something I heard all the time when I was growing up. It was something that adults did when they wanted to sit and talk. Good news, bad news, a simple conversation. Mom always went to "put some coffee on." So I thought it was a fitting title. Come on over and stay for a while. I'll go and put some coffee on...