A little word association is the inspiration for today’s selection. Plus, at the tail end of a cold, a song that you can sing breathy and chesty at the same time (thanks, Marilyn) is just divine!
Sometimes I think people start a long term project, and then panic when they get a few days in to it. Oh my gosh and golly, it’s only been three days?! How am I ever going to keep this up for 362 more? This is where you just have to keep pushing along. A few years ago, I worked with a personal fitness trainer whose mantra was, “it doesn’t get easier, you get stronger.” Yeah, you think, but that means it’s still hard. True, but to quote millennial saint Lin-Manuel Miranda: “look at where you are, look at where you started…”
And just keep on keeping on.
I think the challenge with New Year’s resolutions is that they are more often about the end result than anything else. As the year goes on and people see that there is no way they are going to meet this ideal, they get discouraged and throw in the proverbial towel. *Raises Hand* I do. Every year. I set myself some grand and lofty goals that I could only reach if I were some sort of android, and then tend to abandon them a month into the journey.
This year, I’ve decided it’s all about action. As long as I can act, I will be satisfied. I will not judge or criticize, rather I will simply do. Nearly 30 years old, and I think, I finally understand what Yoda was encouraging Luke to do… just act, and the rest will follow.
So, part of my goals is to sing and record a song a day. It’s not going to be perfect. The levels will probably be off, my voice will crack, but I am only allowing myself 5 takes. And then I’ll upload them here…
Cheers to 2017! At the suggestion of my Maestra, Vanessa Pace:
At the start of 2015 (February to be precise, the scariest month of every year), I purchased this book/diary. I brought it with me every where, and one day my boss spied it sitting out on my desk.
“So, have you gone skydiving yet?” He asked with a sly grin.
No, I thought… BUT, I have joined three different Meetup groups in Seattle; gone to a movie, and a play, and a festival BY MYSELF; and have tried octopus sushi… all within two months. I’ve also freely complimented my servers and fellow bus riders AND followed-through on 4/5 of my social commitments.
As of this nanosecond, I’ve also committed to posting a blog once a week (yes, I know everything’s been said, but it hasn’t been said by me); planned a trip to Ireland, and accepted an invitation to join a new professional organization.
OK, so this blog post is really about two weeks late… but it’s still published.
Bring me giants!
It has been proven by science that we do not give ourselves enough credit for the things we do. At least Megan-science (aka years of observation). I know some quantifiable-extraordinary people: two rocket scientists, a world-traveler, at least six software geniuses, and a plethora of brilliant artists.
I also know a 70-year-old woman who is determined to go to the gym for 15 minutes twice a week; people with chronic depression who tell the funniest stories; and a man who makes me smile every time I see him by being kind to friends and strangers alike.
They’re all my heroes.
But doubt is a powerful foe, and in spite of their achievements, my knights-in-shining-armor often let slip that they’ve lost their sheen. They fear that they’re not good enough, or not doing enough with their lives, or have missed out on something they should have been doing. They forget that between them they’ve: written a novel; moved across the country to pursue a new and better life; produced their own plays; conquered a heroin addiction; found love again; and rolled out of bed every morning to participate in the daily grind of humanity.
Doing something scary does not mean jumping out of a plane; it means sending a text to someone you haven’t seen in four years, or driving to the other side of town. It means putting a toe (maybe even two!) outside of your comfort zone and embracing the consequences. It’s an exploration of the mysterious continent: yourself.
We, and I most definitely include myself in this summation, should consider that we do not know everything, especially not how our actions affect others or how much we mean to them. And, quite frankly, we may never know … but if we can believe in ourselves, we’ll find the courage to not only skip over the molehills, but to conquer the mountains.
And why you never want to stoop to their level.
People suck. Well, some suck more than others. And some have suckiness thrust upon them… usually by parents who spoil them rotten. The point is, there is always going to be someone out there who annoys the piss out of you.
Take S, a certain acquaintance who is outstandingly narcissistic and parasitic. S uses people I care about, draining them of their energies to the point where I’ve seen them neglect their own needs. S is clingy. Suffocating. S is the bane of my existence.
Back in the day, after a certain amount of time spent dealing with S and feeling like the situation was only growing more intolerable, I decided enough was enough! No more Miss-Nice-Guy; I’d beat S at their own game. I’d be the one getting what I wanted all the time… damn the consequences. I started manipulating my friends, I made snide remarks behind S’ back, and I started to clandestinely exclude S from social get-togethers. I was finally going to make myself feel better by treating S exactly as was warranted.
It worked great! … So great that I ended up alienating my friends and being viewed for a time as a cold-hearted she-dog. For all I know, there are still some who view me as such… and really, there is no one to blame for that but myself.
Oh sure, I could make excuses about immaturity and bad advice solicited from others, but to do so would be self-deceiving. In short, because I took the low road (even though I mistakenly believed I had the moral high ground), I wound up becoming someone I didn’t like and… surprise! Not many other people liked the new me either.
Thankfully, I did manage to salvage my self-respect and restore my good name, but only after leaving the S debacle alone. Full stop. At the time it felt like “giving up.” Now I realize it was sanity.
Did I ever make peace with what I had done? I’m attempting to, chiefly by writing this blog post.
People like S will always be in my life. Whether within my own family, my workplace, or other activities in which I participate. However, being the sadder, but wiser, girl I am, I now recognize that the best course of action is to simply walk away from these people and not let petty grievances drag me down. And, if I find myself in a position where I can’t leave, clapping my hands over my ears and singing lalala is a feasible Plan B.
Unbecoming behavior from one whom we expect to be unbecoming is, for better or worse, acceptable. Unbecoming behavior from one whom people respect and admire is shocking, if not horrifying, to behold.
If, however, some sort of confrontation does become necessary between you and your S, be direct. As a communications professional, I can tell you that “I statements” do work much better than “you-centric” finger wagging. Keep calm; don’t let your voice rise with your temper. Above all, don’t knock yourself out while knocking your head against a brick wall…. if you’re not getting through, there may come a time when you simply have to grin (with clenched teeth) and bare it. Ah, adulthood.
That said, here is today’s parting metaphor: a gnat in the ear is not worth a stinging cheek when you strike yourself while trying to rid yourself of a pest.
I call it the Introvert’s Dilemma (#692) … the “Everyone’s-Looking-at-Me-and-is-Judging-Me-and-is-Going-to-Interrogate-Me-and-If-I-Don’t-Have-the-Right-Answers-They-Will-Evict-Me-From-The-Human-Race” syndrome.
As introverts live so much inside their own heads, they conduct most interactions with imagined versions of the people they may (or may not) encounter. As a result, they often overestimate how invested the other party is in any given situation, because they are playing both roles… and fully committing to them. Trust me, I have played entire 3rd Acts in my head for which I deserve a Tony.
However, reality rarely measures up, and if we are not disappointed by the other person, we are often relieved at how BRIEF the actual interaction is. This is especially true when ordering food at a restaurant, conducting business at the post office, and going in to speak to one’s supervisor when they call you into the office.
However, although survival in these circumstances is worth celebrating, is it any wonder that most introverts (myself included) then feel the need to retreat and recharge? After all, 90% of my energy was spent in the hour before I went somewhere: I conducted 15 interviews in my head, mentally repeated the facts 50 times, anticipated the joke I would tell if the situation became awkward, AND had Exit Strategies Alpha through Echo all ready to go.
… and all that was even before I triple-checked my look in the mirror.
Despair not, for I have found that the solution to curtailing this massive waste of energy is to pretend like I know exactly what I am doing.
You see, as I mentioned earlier, most human beings we encounter daily do not give two figs about “the other guy”. As my dear colleague quips, “Copernicus called; You are NOT the center of the universe.” And you know what, fellow introverts? THAT’S GREAT!
The truth is, the more I look nervous, the more I fidget at a party, the longer it takes me to say “Hello” … the more attention I draw to myself. However, if I stroll into a reception with my head held high, shoulders back, and smiling… people tend to leave me alone because they assume I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing what I do. And, because I have my eyes open instead of glued to the floor, I am better prepared to exchange a greeting with someone else or accept their offer of a drink (or, as much as one may wish to avoid it, a hug).
This is true not only in social settings, but also business ones… people respond to good carriage; in fact, they admire it. I don’t know why… probably some innate biological response that says: “this lion knows how to stalk about properly; I don’t think I’ll try to eat her.”
Thankfully, my training as a singer has enabled me to conquer my inclination, as a tall girl, to slump… and as I progress in my profession, I am thankful for it. Whereas I used to be very self-conscious of being taller than the boys in school, when I wear high heels now I get compliments from the women and men (over whom I am towering) alike.
* Shoulders back
* Chest slightly elevated
* Spine straight
* Eyes forward
* Move with purpose
Not only will you look better but, because you are opening up your airways, you will literally breathe better and think more clearly (oxygen to the brain and all that).
Is it work? At first, until your body remembers how good it makes you feel, and then you will start to make these physical adjustments reflexively.
In any case, it is a far more valuable investment of your time than rehearsing for the encore performance of “Chow Mei–wait, I Meant Fried Rice! and Orange Chicken.”
There enters music.
In musicals, there comes a point (18-20x per show), when the characters are so overwhelmed by emotion, saying what they feel is inadequate. So, naturally taking advantage of the orchestra at their feet, they start singing.
Throughout the song they’ll run a gamut of emotions and pitches and volumes… if they start softly, they’ll crescendo in triumph or anger… if they start at full volume, they’ll soften into moments of introspection or fear… but at the end, they generally know what they have to do next.
Well… they are the “Luckiest People in the World.”
This Sunday, July 26, marks the first anniversary of my father’s passing. In the intervening year, the world somehow has had the audacity to keep turning, and my family has had to find ways to move on.
As I considered how to best commemorate this via today’s blog, all I heard rattling around in my brain were show tunes… and not only songs about loss (“No One is Alone” or “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”). I heard songs of determination (“The Impossible Dream”), songs of whimsy (“Camelot”), silly songs (“Moses Supposes”), love songs (“It Only Takes a Moment”), angry songs (“Not a Day Goes By”), and heroic songs (“Into the Fire”).
My father was 6’6″… barrel chested… conservative… a country boy… and he LOVED musical theatre. The first “adult” (aka non-Disney) movie I remember watching with him was The Sound of Music. Although a good portion of the plot was not understood by my four-year-old-self, I do remember the songs. In particular, I remember how proud I was when I mastered the B-section of “Do-Re-Mi” (Sol-Do-La-Fa-Me-Do-Re, Sol-Do-La-Ti-Do-Re-Do); I couldn’t stop singing it to myself.
Being the enabler he was, he next purchased the Rogers and Hammerstein VHS collection and we worked our way through The King and I (loved it!), Carousel (too boring for little Meg), State Fair (one of my most beloved cassettes), and Oklahoma! (I liked the last song). In between, he showed me Singin’ in the Rain (I lost my voice imitating Lena Lamont), Hello Dolly! (my little sister would later beat me up for not telling her Michael Crawford played Cornelius, and Camelot (Richard Harris holds a special place in my heart forever).
I was hooked. I listened and watched anything he put before me… and over 20+ years, there was a lot of music we shared.
My father even went so far as to join the board of my school’s CAPPIES program, encouraging my theater-critic ambitions… all those stage-moms + my dad… his courage knew no limits. He also sat through many a voice lesson and nearly ALL my school concerts… as I said, a brave, brave man.
We went to my first Broadway show (at The Kennedy Center) when I was in high school. Thankfully, the Elton John score and colorful stagecraft of Aida made my mother a musical believer too! Every family vacation thereafter we’d try to go see something. And later, during college, every visit home usually included a show.
When we didn’t see each other (first due to university, and then to another cross-country move), I’d keep him in the know with my weekly reports (thanks Playbill!) of who was starring in what, and which of the newest musicals were worth the price of their soundtrack.
My father was a man of great culture and curiosity… and he encouraged the same within me (and my sister, and my mother… and maybe even the dogs, if they could appreciate a good Gershwin tune).
Because my father introduced me to musical theatre, I have learned that “witches can be right,” never to step on someone else’s cue, that beauty can change the heart of any beast, that there is more to life than “Great Big Stuff,” and that it’s always “A Grand Night for Singing.”
Now, I don’t know if the angel of music sings songs in my head… but I know my father still does. And every time I sing, or go to a show, or revisit one of those corny old flicks, I love and miss him with all of my heart… but I’m happy to have shared something so wonderful with him.
Last week I was depressed.
It was a perfectly bitter draught of physical turmoil, nauseating nostalgia, work-worries, and playing the role of psychologist for several of my nearest and dearest.
That is why I missed my deadline on Friday for this blog, which of course made me feel very ‘blegh’ when I woke up, far too early, the following Saturday.
As I blinked myself into consciousness and watched the sunrise through my ineffective window blinds, the mental negative-nellies were there. They reminded me of my ignored obligations and personal disappointments as the sky turned from a rich cobalt to a pale pink. I tried to shake them off, tossing myself to the other side of the mattress and pressing my face against the pillow, but closing my eyes only amplified those thunderous “tsk-tsks”.
It was 4:15 in the morning… I didn’t want to get up, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. So, with a soft growl of frustration, I flung my arm out and snatched up my mp3 player. I shoved the earbuds in place, pressed “play”, and waited…
“You can’t run away forever, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a good head start. You want to shut out the night, you want to shut out the sun, you want to shut away the pieces of a broken heart”…
Oh my god, Meatloaf. And Jim Steinman. Saying exactly what I needed to hear.
And as I started to cry and laugh at the same time, I realized that perhaps this day could be saved… but first I needed two more hours of sleep.
Fast forward to seven o’clock. I set out with a new sense of energy; running some errands before I attended my weekly
therapy session voice lesson.
With every action taken, the nagging-negative-nellies grew quieter. They never vanished (they rarely do), but soon they were drowned out by other voices cheering me on and reminding me that, yes, life goes on.
Until recently, I took for granted how much courage it takes to live. Every time you make up your mind to move forward in some way, you have to defeat those “twin serpents, Doubt and Pride.” Some battles last longer than others… but every victory is hard-won and worthwhile.
Many a schoolchild knows that when something scares them it’s “Fight or Flight.” However, that there is a third, more insidious option: do nothing. Apathy is attractive, until you realize that not doing anything often makes you feel worse than making the attempt and “failing.” Failure, at least, offers the knowledge of what went wrong; doing nothing leaves you with nothing.
Therefore, I have resolved to not fear Fear. After all, “Fear is the clearest signal we will get that we’re on the precipice of greater success, greater happiness, greater impact.”
I think about the stage fright I still get before every performance. I’ve been singing for 20 years, you would think I’d have gotten over it… but now that I reflect on it, I realize that my “fright” is just my body/mind being revved up for what lies ahead. The butterflies flapping about in my stomach are like wind turbines, filling me with energy. Every time I wonder, “eeeh, can I really do this?” there comes the immediate, almost angry, declaration of “Hell yes I can!”
Perhaps the reason I get uncomfortable at this time is because it is not my natural state… but should it be? I am more alert, more excited, and raring to do more than usual. Maybe then, it’s time I embrace fear and thank it for kicking me into gear.
I’d rather be in a state of chaos than sunk in depression any day.
Rock On, Readers!
To thine own self be true.
Platypus Meggie | “Odd duck” is understatement | Still she is Happy
Recently I had a discussion with my mentor about pursuing the things that make us happy… simply because they make us happy.
Isn’t it strange, I mused, how the things that make us naturally happy as children: eating tasty food, running around like ninnies, dancing and singing with abandon, blowing bubbles, etc. are frowned upon when we are adults?
Judgement (and the fear of being judged) hangs over our balding heads:
Enjoying that brownie? You’ll regret it.
Want to get out and do something? Good for you! Staying fit will keep you from getting fat… (um, actually, I just wanted to go for a walk because)…. FAT AND LAZY! AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
Dance down the aisles of the grocery store to the music playing overhead? Sing while strolling down the street? Is there something wrong with you? What a strange person.
It seems to me that as we get older, and in theory are therefore supposed to become masters of our own universes, the less agency we truly have. We spend so much time worrying about what others think of what we do and what we say, that we risk shutting down entirely; going through our lives with the same tight-lipped, slightly disdainful expression of shopfront mannequins.
This anxiety is not without cause, mind you. I know the pressures of too many bills; student loan and credit card debt; annual rent increases; bad (and I mean BAD) genes that may strike me down in middle-age; not enough time in the day to be a functioning, social human being; concern over the welfare of my loved ones… and those are just my personal woes. There is, of course, the threat of war, melting polar icecaps, some future epidemic that wipes out 90% of the population and renders the survivors nearly feral for the first quarter century…
Whew! Hand me that blanket; I’m going to sleep for the next 100 years.
However, in spite of the sturm und drang of… existing… if you live as the person you are, you’ll be happier.
I know, I know. This sounds super trite. I’m not advocating that you quit your job to write the next Great American Novel. Instead, if you can make the commitment to yourself to write for thirty minutes every day… you’ll be better for it. Don’t do something because it’s expected of you, do it because it is what you want to do.
It’s taken me nearly three decades, and the loss of some truly incredible people, to realize that embracing ALL of who I am (slightly-OCD, lover of terrible puns and lame jokes, no-nonsense introvert, compassionate friend, musical theatre nerd, childish, self-centered brat, mature, thoughtful human being), brings me joy; even on those days when I hate what I’ve done or how I look in the mirror. Remembering and cherishing the crazy platypus that I am allows me to step back, take a deep breath, and go sing something. And I feel better.
As I expressed to my Maestra, there is a reason we describe the things we love to do as “emotional outlets.” When you plug into an outlet, you generate power; power that can light a room or an entire city block… so shouldn’t we plug into our outlets as often as we can? Even just for a quick “charge?” It’s clean, renewable energy!
No effort is wasted. Wild yeasts in the bakery make the best sourdough bread… but an empty oven will stand cold and rust and produce nothing nourishing.
Bake your bread. Blow those bubbles. Fly those “freak” flags. Be your own platypus.