Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Life More Ordinary.

Yesterday I sat with my lover for almost 8 hours, working on an e-commerce website for a client of his. At the end of it I felt as though I had developed tunnel vision from all the screen-staring; I had almost broken down in tears several times and yet somehow we muddled through, learning just enough to do what we needed to do... Learning, also, to work together and come out at the end of the day still making each other grin even though the work was frustrating and boring. 

I'm also learning that I'm not good at buckling down and doing stuff I dislike. Performing in front of hundreds of people? Not remotely a problem. Practicing my instrument on the other hand? Ugh. Taking over a rehearsal when the music director is sick? Ok, no problem. Plugging away for hours at an e-commerce site that yields its secrets slowly? Makes me teary and stubborn almost right away. Typical bright-child syndrome: I'm used to 'getting' things right away so having to actually apply myself is difficult. My brother, who wasn't as book-smart as me, learned how to study. I never did. Now the bright older sister is living in one bedroom in her brother's house wondering how she managed to get to 40 without a degree, a real job, or any money in the bank. Well no, actually, I know. Some of it has to do with the fact that I never learned to apply myself, to stick with things even when the going got tough. 

Don't get me wrong; I love my life. I have wonderful friends, a family who supports me (sometimes literally), and many jobs that are exciting even if they leave my bank balance somewhat low. And I work hard, in fiery bursts followed by periods of aimlessness. But after so many years of scraping by, something has got to change. I made a decision this year to put more roots down again in my city, and as I said in my last post, it's paying off. Love came into my life again. Friendships and bands have blossomed. And in my downtime I buckled down and applied myself a bit more: resumes, websites, an increased social media presence. Songs written, songs recorded. Job applications, job interviews, job prospects. This month has been good to me so far, even if my wallet is slim. I landed some jobs and I await news of more. 

It's been a long time coming, this knowledge. And I haven't mastered it yet by any means. But I feel the shift within myself and I'm proud that I haven't been idle this month by any means. 

Today, my guy and I ate our bacon-and-eggs together and talked about our dream projects: a song of mine he wants to animate, a children's book we want to create together. We are both going through some intense transitions right now, both struggling to make a living. But his work ethic inspires me to try harder; my talents as a songwriter and performer inspire him to draw more and think outside the box. We can be good for each other, I think. 

Can I combine living-the-dream with making-a-living? It's still a work in progress. But I feel as if the first tentative steps have been taken, and damn, it feels good. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Planting Seeds.

Blossoms and crocuses are poking up their little heads in this mild, mild winter month. It's wrong, for February, but lovely. I want to say "Slow down, little flowers! You have a few months yet, even in balmy Vancouver," but it's like 2010 all over again, the year we hosted the Olympics and no snow came.  
Little seedlings in the bike lane
Opportunities are poking up their heads for me, too. I went after 3 jobs at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, and got 2 (and the 3rd may yet be mine, it hasn't been decided). I interviewed for 2 more jobs with a company that's hiring for some really interesting stuff. I'll hear about those ones soon.
I feel as though I've made a strong commitment to Vancouver this year, and like a lover who senses that you've quit hiver-hovering and made up your mind, it's rewarding me. With out-of season flowers, yes, but also in the form of new possibilities and opportunities. And a network of family, friends and lover who are all cheering me on, even the ones from the town I'll not be working in this summer. 
Take a deep breath. Can you smell Springtime?

Friday, February 13, 2015


The other day my guy and I had a phone conversation that was a little... intense.

After I hung up, still seething with blame (both towards myself and him), I went over things in my head, as women we tend to do when things go awry. 
Being forty, and fairly clear-headed (I think) when it comes to my shortcomings, I could go back over the conversation and how it had played out, and see where I had said things that were inflammatory. I could also see a pattern in my dealings with other partners which had led to conversations that were all depressingly similar in their outcome: painful discussions with no resolution. What I couldn't see was this: How on earth do you re-wire your brain so that you don't fall into old, bad patterns during important discussions/negotiations? 

A friend of mine recently founded a company based on this very question. His website says:  
"Professionals are using live simulations as a regular part of their training programs, as often the most unpredictable element is the human one. How these professionals assess the situation and react can mean the difference between life and death. What is at stake in your business?"
Good point. and what's at stake in our personal relationships if we can't get beyond the traps that lurk when we try to have emotional conversations? Think about all the things we find it so hard not to say (and by 'we' I mean me) when we're upset:
You always...
You never...
I hate it when...
I'm sorry that I... 
(a really passive-aggressive one that, and one I'm guilty of using: apologizing for a shortcoming instead of getting to the point, which is that I'm angry/I need something.)

The more we use certain phrases, the more we trigger an antagonistic response in the other person; the more defensive/angry/upset they get, the more defensive/angry/upset WE get, and on and on until it's impossible to say anything sensible. 

I've decided that it's time to learn how to defuse my irritation and anger, but how? Simulations, like the ones my friend offers, are a great idea, but I find that the one-person version of this (having imaginary conversations in your head with the other party) are frustrating, and have the effect of making my tension level rise significantly since there's no one else to mediate or offer an outside opinion. One good solution, offered here, is to 

"...defuse the energy of anger.”
Go for a run, focus on your artwork or finish a DIY project, he said. “Break something that needs to be broken.” As he said, the most amazing works, including music, poetry and art, have been created from anger.

It's true. Yesterday (the day after the unsatisfactory conversation) I could have moped around all day feeling frustrated and upset. Instead I tried to do something productive. I ended up writing two songs: one which focused on the darker side of love (thanks to Noel Coward, who wrote an amazing poem on the subject, which I've quoted from before) and a romantic song for my guy.  I exorcized some demons in a creative way and had some tangible results to show for it. 

So what will I do the next time an issue comes up and I need to have "the talk" with someone I'm close to? I don't have all the answers- hell, I don't have many of them. Things I will try: 
  • deep breathing
  • articulating EXACTLY what it is I need to myself, before I even think about talking to the other person
  • finding the balance between blurting things out when I'm overwrought and "sleeping on it" (where the danger can be that I end up stewing over things and making mountains out of molehills)
  • defusing my frustrations by reprogramming my brain: exercising, writing, music...whatever it takes. 
So what happened next, after the phone conversation? Well, while I was still fretting, I heard my phone buzzing. Looking down I realized that I had mail from my guy, who sent me a sweet and sexy message which soothed me into sleep. True to our genders, he moves on while I fret and over-analyze. We've chosen to leave that conversation in the past... for now. And at least I have the perfect original romantic song to send him tomorrow- just in time for Valentine's Day.