Turtle Tales

My musings on life and music... but keep in mind that my spirit animal is the turtle, so I may not be all that quick about it...

One of the harder journeys 

I’ve been thinking about something that my empathic friends might appreciate. It’s a topic I’ve had to really look at and work on a lot, particularly since the passing of my father who was a wonderful man but a deeply flawed parent. So here it is. 

If you’re struggling with something, and you make a reasonable request of someone to do, or stop doing, something that would help you feel a little better, and that person not only says “no,” but adds a layer of “you’re so hostile” or “you’re so critical” and turns you into the “problem” in the larger group around you… that’s classic gaslighting 101. You don’t have to take it in, even if EVERYONE around you falls for it! Gaslighting is a form of bullying. Period. I often don’t handle it well, myself. My buttons are clearly marked and easy to push. I get hurt, frustrated, angry and often experience an overwhelming sense to run. That’s me falling for it and acting out, and the responsibility for that behavior rests with me. Don’t. Fall. For it. And for those times that you do, have a safety net - friends/family you trust who will safely guide you back. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we could avoid these altercations altogether? When we share office space, home space or any other kind of space with others, we can’t simply demand respect for our needs. We also need to make an effort to understand and respect the needs of those we’re sharing space with - physically, emotionally, or work or family related. Sharing what you need is NOT an unreasonable request or a criticism of the other person. Respect each other’s emotional process instead of simply focusing on your own. Finding a middle ground doesn’t have to be that difficult. When both parties can do this, there’s no need to gaslight, because there’s nothing to “win.” 

As artists, particularly those who are also empaths, we spend a lot of time caring for those around us and we’re often afraid to ask for what we need. Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t make you hostile, critical, or anything else. You’re perfect as you are. There is no such thing as the gibe, “Oh I guess you’re right, and the rest of the world is wrong.” This was a classic dad line. The truth is, sometimes you’re just in the wrong “world”. I promise you there’s another one out there that was made just for you. 

As for that gaslighter in your life…it’s not always intentional gaslighting. Some people are so wrapped up in fighting for their own power that they don’t even see how they’re taking away yours. If you really want to reclaim your own power and remind yourself of how beautiful you really are: pray for them. Send light their way, and pray that they can experience their own healing and maybe someday be lucky enough to be as powerful as you. 

We don’t fight anger, hate, or cruelty with more of the same. We don’t need to rally a bunch of people to our side so we can say, “See! I’m not the only one who feels this way!” That’s the job of karma. We don’t fight anger and cruelty with anger and cruelty. We fight it with love. And just like the oxygen mask on the plane - we show it first to ourselves.

On turning 52...  

I thought I'd update my blog with a couple of things I've recently shared on other platforms. This is something I wrote on June 8th, the day following my birthday.

I can’t really put into words the experience leading up to this birthday, and celebrating an age where I literally have one remaining joint that works, and where... when I spotted a tampax wrapper in the ladies room I had a tender “remember when” moment... but I digress. Through my many life experiences, chapters, loves and lovers, heartbreaks and losses, bar fights (ok only one), music, and day jobs that give me an endless supply of material, like my boss coming into my office with a piece of cake singing his best Happy Birthday, I somehow arrived at a quiet evening in a beautiful cocktail lounge, with two women who are my family, and chandeliers that reflected through the windows to magically float out over the city… and I was here and that was enough. The countless well-wishes serve to remind me that I am more loved than I often believe. 

In the days leading up, and the days that have followed, I've struggled to align myself with the simple idea that "I am" and "I am here" even though I philosphically believe this to be true. I struggle with the way human beings tear each other down. I shake my head at my own behavior, and I still manage to be shocked by those that hurt me. Maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe still being shocked means I still expect the best of people, and maybe that means I have maintained more hope than I realize. I long to be back on that magical equatorial archipelago where Mother Nature seems her most tangible, and her most at peace. But today, I'm still here. It's highly likely I will be tomorrow as well. In fact, if I trust my philosophical and spiritual beliefs, I guess I'll always "be here" wherever here may be. But that could be the gummy talking.

Music is...  

As someone who grew up surrounded by music, with a range of musicians from music educators to music appreciators to performing artists strewn throughout the family, I have had many years to contemplate the question, "What is music?" What does it mean to me? To my family? To other musicians? To my students? To my teachers? To my history? To my future? To my life? Throughout my 51 years on the planet, I've drawn countless conclusions for myself, and each conclusion... each answer... was always the right one. Why? Because music, like life itself, is somehow both constant and always evolving. It grows with us, rages with us, cries with us, laughs with us, runs with us, strolls with us, wounds with us in anger, and heals with us in love. It brings cities to life and forests to stillness. It is NOT an 8am theory class or 8am juries (which should be outlawed for voice majors), and it's not that paper analyzing the overture to Don Giovanni that you somehow allowed to be lost to the void within your Apple 2e... (or is it?)

I recently was given an opportunity to bring my voice studio into a new wellness center opening later this year, and work among a group of practitioners ranging from therapists and MDs to Reiki masters and Yoga teachers. My first thought was that this made so much sense, because mindfulness and the ability to exist in the present moment are already core elements of my own vocal technique and my pedagogy as a voice teacher and performance coach. After all, my entire technique revolves around the idea that singing is thought. Ok, it's a lot of things that I won't bore you with in a simple blog, but if I have to describe it in one sentence: singing is thought. So what could be a more appropriate teaching setting than a wellness center where my focus as a practitioner would have to be mindfulness? Well, naturally this idea lit a spark in me and inspired me to look at my teaching from a new vantage point. The only thing that would really change was the intention. Instead of being focused on artistic achievement, we'd focus on creation and healing and awareness. And THAT is an idea that truly turned me on. Regardless of whether or not I accepted the offer at this particular center, I knew there was something here that I wanted to explore, so I set out to write a new program for voice lessons and landed on a service I'm calling The Healing Voice. So, how would I incorporate into my healing voice lesson the many techniques I'd picked up from Yoga teachers, meditation teachers, the practice of EFT, the lessons learned with the author of The Thought Exchange, and the techniques bestowed on me by my favorite duo gurus of Inside Game ®? This was what I needed to design within my new pedagogical approach, but before I figure that out, I first sat down and drafted yet another to answer to my lifelong question. What is music? Here is what I came up with, which remains pinned to the top of my social media profile.

Music is thought, and vibration. It exists inside each of us. It exists around all of us. It never leaves us. Music has no judgment. Music has no limits. Music needs no translation. Music is ageless. Music is healthy. Music is strong. Music is powerful. Music is personal and private, and music is the ultimate connector. Music is prayer. Music is science and spirit and magic all at the same time. Music is timeless. Skill and knowledge and experience are secondary, because music is available to us all. Always. Music is breath, and and as long as we live, we will always have breath, so we will always have music. Music belongs to us all.

Perhaps tomorrow, I'll define it as something else entirely!

I want to leave you with an experience I had this afternoon. This directly ties to the final thought of my definition above about music being breath and as long as we live, we have breath. So... As part of a physical therapy regimen, I see a massage therapist weekly. My therapist has become one of my favorite life teachers. We've discussed every topic you could possibly imagine, and today we landed on emotional pain and how it manifests in the body. I mentioned that when I try to focus on just the physical sensations connected to my sadness, I find that I do have the ability to sit in it, but I've become aware that I sometimes stop breathing. Again, as she often has, she reminded me on how important it is to keep breathing. We breathe into the pain. We breathe through it. As she left the room and I sat up on the table, I realized the song playing through the speaker in the room had landed on one phrase that the singer repeated over and over again. "All we can do is just breathe."

Wishing you all great music,