This Above All…

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.

Connect the Dots

According to MBTI, I am an INTJ. Now, like all qualifiers of personality, I am not certain how accurate this assessment is, nor do I intend to go too far into what it means to be an INTJ. However, most commonly we are labeled “Masterminds;” always thinking about “the plan” and how things fit together.

In other words, “I live in my head… because they know me there.”

And yet, in spite of my introverted nature, I am a Communications professional. Networking is not an option, but a necessity. I go to events, I shake hands, I swap information… and miraculously of all, I make small talk.

My job centers on making connections outside my head… and I confess, I LOVE doing exactly that.

What is “connection?” It is a linking, a joining… connect Legos, and you can build a rocket ship; miss your connecting flight and you are stranded, unable to move forward; connect with another human being and you become friends… or more.

We crave connection as proof that we exist; proof that we affect others and are affected by them.

When I make a connection with someone, I actively listen, both to what is said and unsaid. There is much to be learned in silence… probably why it’s golden.

And yet, I find that I am most connected when I sing. Connected to myself, to others, and the “something bigger” that we share in that experience. Performers thrill when “there is great energy out there;” energy generated when an audience gives as much to the artist as they give of themselves… and believe me, when you feel it, I feel it. Connection Established.

And beyond the realm of performance, be it professional or artistic, I realize that the mind-body connection is crucial to my contentment. If I neglect one in pursuit of the other, I am decidedly unhappy. That is why singing is such a wonderful outlet… it demands that I connect with my body (breath, posture); my mind (lyrics, pitch, story), and another human being (the audience).

So this week, I invite you to go forth and connect (and if you’re shy, do not underestimate the power of re-connecting with someone or something worthwhile).

Consider: connecting the dots is often the final step to completing a beautiful picture, a brilliant rhapsody, or the journey from Point A to Point B.

Dear Friend

I’ve been thinking of the transient nature of life. Almost since I was born, I have moved every four or so years. When people ask me “where I’m from” or what my “hometown” is, I laugh. And then, after apologizing for giggling, I take a deep breath and start ticking off the locations on my fingers: Born in Washington, moved to Texas, than Cheyenne Wyoming, then Maryland, college in California, and back up to Washington. “I guess I’ve come full circle,” I chuckle, even as I wonder when the circle will break and I’ll find myself elsewhere.

The longer I stay in one place, however, the closer I am to finding “home,” because the people I encounter during this time become very special friends.  These friends are special not because they are superior to others, but because they inevitably see more of my life and who I am.

These friendships start with shared interests (theatre, choir, school, career), which then extend into shared sympathies and humors. As time passes, I inevitably grow to have an understanding with these friends; an understanding of what is said in silence; an understanding of the words beneath the words; and an understanding of their hopes and fears… past, present, and future.

And it seems strange, at times, to realize that some of these friends of whom I am thinking, are people whom I rarely engage in conversation anymore, or even see.

I suppose the nature of adulthood is that we leave things behind. The myth of adulthood is that we ever do. When someone has truly touched your heart, in any way, it lingers; like a spray of water upon your skin, even after you’ve wiped it away.

We don’t shed people and places, we carry them with us; wrapping ourselves up in a quilt of memories; each thread a link to what was, each square a fragment of recollection. These memories are imperfect, idealized, but they comfort us, and strengthen us, so we cherish them, even when they start getting a bit tattered around the edges.

It never ceases to amaze me how powerful these connections are, and how some friendships continue to endure in spite of neglect. These people re-enter our lives in “very unusual ways” : an unsolicited letter of love when we are feeling utterly alone; spending time with someone after five years apart, and feeling like it was just yesterday that you said “see ya’ around”; the voice in your head, which offers counsel during times of trouble, taking on the tones of a childhood companion.

Instances like these make me reflect that although life is transient, and I myself am never destined to remain in one place for very long, everywhere I go is home so long as a friend is there.

A Blank, my Lord….

“White. A blank page or canvas.
The challenge: bring order to the whole.”

I am not in the habit of starting projects and leaving them unfinished. I hate seeing my inbox full of unread messages; books neglected; my to-do list unconquered. I get anxious when I know there are things awaiting my attention; things that need to be gotten out of the way before more (read: more challenging) things take their place.

Is it any wonder that I approach this project with some trepidation? This undertaking to document my life… and then pair each post with a song (recorded by yours truly) to better express myself?

I’m also endeavoring to write without going back and editing… at least not until the end of the post. This, above all, terrifies me.

Then again, perhaps it is an apt metaphor for this whole “living” thing. We stumble and run and fly through this world, with some sense of what we want, but never REALLY knowing… and only rarely do we look back and wince at our mistakes. Sometimes I wonder what lines of dialogue I’d change if I could tab back through the years (“But you don’t care at all.“); what events I’d alter (“I have to tell you something. And it’s gonna be hard to hear…”); what characters I’d create to replace their flawed-counterparts (a clever man, but kind in spite of it); and so on and so forth.

But of course, in the wise words of Pink Martini, we tomatoes can only “Hang on to the vine…”

Like life itself, this blog is likely to be rough, rambling, and on some days downright pointless. However, better something than nothing… for “the rest is silence.”