Monday, April 15, 2013

The Right Stuff

Working in the music business and seeing the kinds of women male artists are attracted to, I have often felt a bit awkward as the chick that all the boys want to talk to about business and what-not, but never one they look to for a good time.  I've mentioned before: I'm not svelte, I'm a little bit older than the average musician and I'm than most of the men I encounter on a daily basis. 

There are days when I can feel like a bit of a wallflower, awkward and alone in the back of the club while the other girls are up front making googly eyes at the lead singer.

And then I see this:

And it's all kinds of right. 

As a fan from "back-in-the-day", I follow a couple of the NKOTBs on Twitter though I've not made the effort to see any of their shows since 1990.   I've noted for a long time how appreciative and embracing they are of their fans - women who have followed them around for 20+ years.  These women come from all walks of life, and in all shapes and sizes.  And the band LOVES THEM!  They put their fans up on a pedestal and invite them with open arms into their lives.  They honor them at every show, in every town and with every tweet.  I can't tell you how utterly refreshing that is....too often it is the other way around, with the artists allowing themselves to be idolized and deified.  It's really quite shameful when you think of how the music industry model has changed, and direct interaction with fans is downright imperative to drive sales.  Given that most money is made off of touring and merch sales, the last thing an artist should do is keep too much distance between them and their fans.  It's easy to download a tune online, but it takes effort and desire to purchase a ticket to a show, let alone follow a band from town-to-town.

In spite of a long period of downtime, NKOTB has got it figured out.  I point to them as an example for the younger artists I work with as I say honor (ALL) your fans.  The dividends you receive for years to come are well worth the time.  And by dividends, I don't just mean money....there is something to be said for long-term loyalty.  Just ask the Blockhead next door!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Loving Love

A lot can happen in a year. Last year this time, I was in a deep emotional quagmire over a relationship in which I found myself involved that was neither healthy nor nurturing.  I knew that he was taking advantage of me but couldn't pull myself out of it, in spite of pleading from my closest friends. It wasn't until I met someone else that I saw what I was doing to myself through his eyes. That other person turned out not to be a "romantic interest" (much to my chagrin, but in hindsight for the best) but more the catalyst for me to finally see how following the path I was on was getting me nowhere fast.

When I think about where I am today with my outlook on life, it amazes me that the thought of finding someone to spend my "right now" with has been trumped by thoughts of finding someone with which to spend my "ever after".  I believe that gone are my days of casual, pretend-relationships where I was fully aware they are short-term in nature, but yet refused to accept or believe that until they self-combusted. I think those times when my heart felt broken and busted into tiny shards, it was because I was most hurt by the person closest to me: myself.

In my 20s and 30s, I jumped from one inappropriate man to another even more inappropriate man, not realizing what sort of damage I was self-inflicting.  For this, I've paid the price: physically and emotionally.  The mere thought of how much time I've wasted makes me a little bit sad, but wallowing on the sins of the past does nothing to ease the present or set the stage for the future.

There's a song by the Mowgli's, an energetic and vibrant LA-based band introduced to me by my equally vibrant sister.  The song is called "San Francisco" & the opening verse says this:

"I’ve been in love with love
And the idea of something binding us together
You know that love is strong enough"

How be in love, with the idea of love.  An ideal notion that love conquers all your woes. Indeed, that was true in my case. I was playing at love in order to ease whatever ache I was feeling inside.  In reality though, I was doing a disservice to myself. No amount of play-love could cure what ailed me.  I was treating a chronic disease with placebos when what I needed was medicine for my soul.

I read something recently in Proverbs 3:3 that stuck out to me:

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."

I took that passage to mean Love of God; in turn, Love of Self. In my view, to love God is to love yourself enough to put complete Faith in Him and trust that He will guide you down the right path. Don't try and go it alone, as you may find yourself going down the wrong way on a one-way street, towards a very grumpy cop. No one wants that.

If you had asked me a year ago how I felt about God and spirituality, I would have given you a very honest and academic answer: "I believe in a higher power, and that my relationship with that power is mine alone."  And although I still believe this to be true, I think that notion is very shallow and not at all satisfying. Much like the relationships I've had with all those inappropriate men. Going through this process of redefining what my spirituality means to me has served the very important purpose of redefining what I mean to myself.  I am special, in the eyes of the Lord and beyond.  I must respect myself in order to find that person who will respect me and treat me well. 

It is only then, that true love will bloom.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Random Thought #4567

“I'll just bury it deep in the back like I did my feelings…..

It's weird I haven't cried very much at all. I don't know, maybe... maybe you're only allotted a certain amount of tears per man and I used mine up.”

-          Carrie Bradshaw, SATC the Movie

 Amen, Sister.


Sitting in the cafĂ© across the street, eyeing people as they walked through the open doors of the building I had passed 1000 times before, I could feel a little bit of anxiety building up in my chest and sneaking its way up my throat.  Why was I so nervous?  It’s just Church.  I used to go to Church all the time.  It’s not like I was going into a stranger’s house. 

Or was it?  Church is, after all, the Lord’s house.  But was He really a stranger?  Aside from the random wedding, baptism, funeral or Holiday service I had not been a regular Churchgoer since 1986.  I became a confirmed Catholic in 1984, and slowly began to pull away from the Church after that.  Call it teenage rebellion or just plain apathy, I decided at the time there was no place for it.  That is not to say I didn’t maintain an open channel to God (you can read my previous blog to get the lowdown on that.)  However, I have decided that at this point in my life that channel needs to be a two-way tributary; I want to make more room in my life to give my spiritual beliefs room to grow.  I don’t want the Lord to be a stranger to me anymore.

So on a blustery yet sunny Sunday morning I took a deep breath, gathered my belongings, threw my half-consumed latte into the bin and made my way across the street and through the open doors, feeling very much like I used to feel on the first day of school.  A myriad of thoughts circled in my head: Will they like me?  Will I make any friends?  Will I know what to do?   

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I saw was kind of cool: smiling people milling about in the lobby, welcoming folks into the Service, shaking hands and freely giving hugs.  A young woman welcomed me and handed me a pamphlet, which I perused after taking my seat in the last row.  Although I was game, I was still timid.

Hmm…haven’t I seen that on the side of a Metro bus?

I looked up just in time to see the band take the stage.  They took up the entire stage.

Wait…where’s the altar?  Where’s the pulpit?  I’m so confused.

Downbeat happened at about 9:05.  Yes, downbeat.  Was I at Church or the Crocodile?

More confusion set in but I just decided to roll with it.

Attendees stood up en masse to join in on the festivities; yes, it was like a party was happening right there.  No pomp and circumstance, no procession down the aisle, no smell of incense wafting in the air.   Some sang along; others reached their hands up towards the ceiling in prayer.  From my position on the aisle in the back row, I could see a petite Asian woman in the front, about my Mom’s age, in a purple outfit topped with sparkles; arms extended upwards dancing along to the beat.  I smiled.  She was so….free.

About the third song in, a youngish guy in a car-length wool coat, with a hoodie and blue jeans underneath took the stage and introduced himself as the Campus Pastor.  The music never stopped, but he invited the crowd to take the opportunity to introduce themselves to each other and welcome visitors into the Church.  The woman next to me smiled and extended her hand, as did her husband.  The gentleman across the aisle stepped over and shook my hand as well.  I took a deep breath and started to relax.

The music continued…these were not traditional Hymns or prayers.  These were foot stomping, dance-worthy pop songs.  My confusion subsided as I started to take everything in and just accept the fact that my idea of Church to this point, was not in play.  This was different.  Most different was the fact this Church building was just one of three that were networked together.  The officiating Pastor was actually in another town, but his sermon was broadcast to our location.  He, at least, was not wearing a hoodie.

His sermon was fascinating.  He preached about Luke 19:1-10; Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House.  I’ve read this before, but what I never had the benefit of was someone teaching me what it meant to me.  This is something I believe a lot of people struggle with, regardless of denomination.  How does the Bible apply to us in our modern-day lives?  Sitting there, listening to the Pastor speak poetically to the story and its current application was probably the singlemost enlightening moment I have had on this journey thus far.  It was enough to make me want to be there, and more importantly make me want to return there. 

When the service was over, I looked at the clock and astonished at how much time had passed – it was already 10:30AM.  As I walked out of the building an hour and a half after entering, a smile crept across my face for I knew I would be back again very soon.





Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Perceiving Reality?

"Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world." - Hans Margolius

They say perception is 9/10 reality. I think that may have been true before the advent of Facebook and Twitter, but nowadays, perception is truly what you make of it.  You can say what you want in the virtual world, create whatever personae you wish to be, but that may not be a reflection of true life. How many times do you hear tales of online scams and internet paramours taking advantage of innocent and desperate people?  I myself was once almost a victim of such a scam, but fortunately realized I was being snookered before any money changed hands.  It's so easy to get taken in by the perception that the person on the other end of the virtual wire has intentions that are good and pure.

I hate to tell you, but as altruistic as Bill Gates is, he's not just handing out money to random strangers for passing on an email to their ten closest friends.  He would be broke several times over by now if that were truly the case. I work in a place where I often receive complaints from recipients of these phishing mails...mostly from concerned citizens who know it's a scam, but occasionally from hapless souls who are desperate for the money, and want so badly for it to be true.  Those are the ones I feel for as they will likely fall prey to evil intentions.

In this modern age of social networking, we are flooded with information to which we may not have had access before (i.e. what are your friends having for dinner; where are they having dinner; and with whom are they having dinner?). This trove of information in turn, begs the question:


Why is that information important to know? Is it a natural human desire for attention?  Perhaps in some cases. I know I'll tag myself in places or with people as I know it will strike up a conversation or invite some sort of reaction from others.  I also do it out of boredom, particularly if I'm alone and have no one to converse with face to face.  The internet is a great place to reach out to your community (real or imagined) and feel connected. It's that connection with other people that keeps us engaged with life. It's why I refresh my Facebook feed 39 times a day.  It's why I scroll through Twitter when I'm bored at work.  It's even why I write this blog: to reach out and touch someone.

On the flip side's still a bunch of noise. Loud, staticky noise. Which bring me to the quote at the top of this blog:

"Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world."

With so much noise these days, can we really expect that everything we perceive is reality? We are constantly inundated with information at a speed with which our feeble minds may not be able to accurately process. I know for myself, I tend to over-analyze the more information I have thrown at me, and that my perception of reality occasionally does not match up to the real deal. My view can easily get distorted and until I have clarity, I can believe that which may not be true. And being the intelligent person I am, I tell myself not to read too much into things that I see online, but my instinct to believe that which I see often overpowers common sense.  And I know I'm not alone.. we have all been guilty of that. It's just the way we are programmed as humans.  We want to believe what we see; the good, the bad and the ugly, because if we can't rely on visual perception what can we rely on?  As a species, we have not evolved extra-sensory perception, so we have no choice but to initially believe what we see.  We need to learn to condition ourselves to allow common sense to step in and ask the question: "Is it real?"

That's not to say we should go around doubting everything and not trusting people.  On the contrary, one thing the internet had also done is allow us to peak into people's lives and see what they are about. Some tend to use Facebook and Twitter as a sounding board, an avenue to vent, which is fine as long as you don't go too far with it.  But realizing you may be looking at - or even through - a filter will go a long way to quiet the noise in your mind.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Light the World

Barring your soul in a public and open forum is daunting at best.  It stirs up many emotions that you didn't realize you had...a mix of relief, joy, sadness and anger, mixed with a teeny bit of self-loathing and regret.  I experienced this phenomenon yesterday when I decided to publish three different blogs, exposing heart and soul (literally) after reaching an emotional saturation point and needing an outlet for my thoughts. 

I'm hot and cold with my writing...sometimes it flows like a mighty river after a spring thaw; other times it is as hard to come by as rain in the midst of a desert drought. Clearly, I am in need of wellies these days!

Anytime you put yourself out there, there is a risk it will change peoples' perception of you. At a certain point though, you have to learn not to care. In my quest for personal growth and healing, I am learning that to keep my faith strong inside, I have to take risks and allow my light to shine outward.  Matthew 5:16 states “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven.

Maybe I'm misinterpreting the meaning, but for me I've felt for a long time as if I've kept a piece of myself inside, buried deep in the back of my closet, running perilously close to not seeing the light of day again.  One day, I decided I'd had enough of diving through mountains of clothes, bags of scarfs and boxes of purses, just to find the one, bright shiny item I needed for a special occasion.  Tossing the excess baggage aside, I organized and catalogued every keep-worthy piece until the closet shone bright and new, a joy to behold!

And then I looked over and realized the toss pile is stacked high to the ceiling, with no place to call home. If I don't discard these items, I run the risk of burying my precious shiny pieces again.  Likewise, if I don't deal with what is keeping my light from shining, it will once again be buried deep in the back.

Where do I go from here? 

And so the journey continues...


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Living Faith

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. 

Thinking about work, about love, about family.  Mostly though, I've been thinking about God and my relationship with Him.

In times of strife, one often turns to God for help.  Help in the form of guidance, protection, or a miracle.  Having been baptized and confirmed Catholic, I grew up with a strong sense of spirituality, but had an omnipresent hesitation towards the Religion.  In my teen years, I started to pull away from the Church - largely out of rebellion towards my parents, who were trying to force me down that path even after my Confirmation, but I saw no point in it.  Eventually they gave up trying, and I gave up caring. 

As I got older, I began to realize that some of my hesitation was directed toward what I felt was the hypocritical a-la-carte approach to the Faith, by many Catholics who called themselves "practicing" but in reality were picking and choosing what was convenient for them.  Midnight Mass was in the same bucket as baking Christmas cookies and decorating the tree - a nice Christmas tradition to do with the kids every year and an excuse to show off the Christmas dresses. 

I'm sorry, but what about every other Sunday in the year?  One thing I know is that to be in the Lord's favor you need to live, breath and set example through your Faith and the Tenants of that Faith as directed by Church leaders.  Going to Church once a year didnt cut it; as a Catholic, I was (at a minimum) expected to go to Mass and take Communion on a weekly basis (more often during Lent) and serve Penance monthly.  My youthful observation that others didnt take that seriously didnt sit well with me but rather than leading by example, I walked away altogether. 

That being said...I still maintained a strong sense of spirituality that serves me till today.  Case in point:

I was 24 and at one of the lowest points in my life when I went hiking one night at sunset to the top of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. I was two years out of college and had moved cross-country to work in the exciting world of politics. It's a long story but I lost that job after my boss was indicted on embezzlement charges and didnt think I had any other prospects. My first inclination was to run home to mom and dad.  I was all set to go, but I kept feeling this sense of failure.

I got to the top of the mountain and looked out over the Valley and the tears started flowing. I honestly didnt know what to do. I looked up at the sky, with the stars coming out, and said out loud "Lord, please help me. Please guide me to the right decision. I'm putting my life in your hands because I dont know what else to do."    It was getting late so I hiked back down the mountain and went home. The next morning I woke up feeling this strong sense of peace and the knowledge that I couldnt leave; I had to stay. Long story short, I went out and found myself gainful employment, and remained in Phoenix for three more years until leaving under my own steam. 

Since then, my Faith has seen me through....a fact not lost on me but one that I havent embraced until recently. 

At the suggestion of a friend, I have been reading scripture; specifically Proverbs.  I've started at 1 and am currently on 18.  It's taking me awhile to get through each one as I find myself thirsty for spiritual knowledge and reading them over and again so I can absorb as much of the meaning as possible.  In these days of personal "complications", I am finding comfort in the Word.  I am finding a sense of warmth and security I hadnt had before.  And I am finding my way Home. 

Closure Found

Further to my previous blog, I thought I would take a moment to document a fortunate episode that happened to me on a recent trip to London. 

About 7 years ago, I was in a relationship with R.  We were prepared for marriage and spending the rest of our lives together.  He was my first real love, and "adult relationship."  I loved him and he loved me.  We were compatible on so many different levels, and incompatible on others.  I let the latter get the best of me, and opted to wait on Ever After.  Unfortunately, that meant R - a citizen of the UK - would have to return to England after his US visa ran out.  We agreed it wouldnt be a long separation; he could still visit me, and I him, and within a year we would get it sorted so we could be together.  Alas, the physical distance between us quickly led to emotional distance and after a brief phone call one Saturday afternoon, we parted ways.  We reached out to each other on occasion, but as in many other similar scenarios we eventually stopped corresponding altogether.

R was never far from my mind though.  I thought of him often, and regarded him as the "one who got away."  It was during one of those "I wonder whatever happened to..." moments early one Spring morning that curiosity got the best of me and I sought out his Facebook page.  R was never a frequent social networker so it hadnt struck me as odd that I hadnt seen him online in awhile.  The first post I saw was from his friend, and left me in shock:

"Praying your soul rests in peace and our memories of you stay alive in our thoughts and hearts forever. You will be missed."

What?? couldnt be!

I read on:

"I'm in shock and deeply saddened. You were a shining star in this world and will be missed by many."

"You will be missed dearly man. God Bless your soul"

"Rest in Peace"

He was...dead?  How could that happen?! 

Shock faded to tears and I immediately got up and called my sister.  She didnt know what to say; she hadnt seen or heard anything about R in 4 years...what could she say but "I'm sorry, Beth."

I needed answers...but he and I didnt have any mutual friends in common anymore.  I went through his Friends list and found a name I recognized as a family friend whom he had spoken of often.  I sent her a message, explaining who I was and asked her what had happened. to him  She responded almost immediately and explained that he had passed on due to some sort of infection.  She had more information she wanted to share with me over the phone, but we never did connect.  I just continued my life, occasionally succumbing to moments of sadness, usually manifesting in a deep sigh and a temporary fleeting thought "I wonder what would have happened had we stayed together?  Would I be a widow?  Would he still be alive had I been around to take care of him?"  I'm smart enough to know his passing was not my fault, but still...I wondered.

Jump ahead two years to last month: I traveled to London to join my brother and his family on their vacation from Italy.  R's family friend saw mention of my trip on Facebook and asked if we could meet.  I said yes; that would be lovely. 

We went for lunch near Hampstead Heath - a quaint British pub that had a photo of the Queen Mum on the wall, pulling a pint.  We exchanged stories about she came to know him and his family, and watched him grow from a young boy.  She shared with me about how he used to talk about she knew he was quite fond of me.  And she mentioned how it seemed to her that after our split, he never seemed to find anyone else he could love as he loved me.

When I heard this, I didnt know what to think.  I was confused.  Should I feel guilty?  Should I have worked harder to make the relationship survive? 

Then I realized...this is what closure looks like.  This is an opportunity for me to finally close the chapter on that part of my life and to open myself up to other possibilities.  Of course, I've often felt I was open (reference prior blog) but I dont think I really was, which I realize in hindsight may explain some of my bad luck (and bad choices) with men. 

I came home from that trip feeling elated...feeling that finally I could seize whatever opportunity presented itself, and that maybe I can just own up to my feelings towards a certain someone.  Unfortunately, my timing was off and it was too late to have that conversation with him.  I was devastated, and am still upset about the situation, but what can I do? 

I believe in my heart that if God sees fit, he will set me on the path to finding another true love.  As they say, when the Lord closes one door, he opens another.  And I am anxiously waiting to walk through. 

Inconvenient One

"You're too good for me."

That's what he said. Immediately after declaring he was in love with me, he finished his thought with that bombshell. There was no "but" conjoining the two sentences; making them two separate - polar opposite - powerful statements.

I couldn't even begin to understand what he meant. But I knew this much was true: once again, I was hitting a brick wall at 100MPH.

Over the years, I've often wondered how much abuse one heart can take: how many times a heart can be broken and expected to heal. The scenario above isn't the most recent but it's one of the more poignant. I've heard everything; mostly ridiculous excuses from men who are too chicken shit to admit they aren't brave enough to take me on. I'm the inconvenient one. The one with the "good energy", "the big heart" or "the sharp mind"; but I'm never the pretty one, the one who gets the guy she wants. Someone actually said to me not long ago: "Only skinny girls get the guys they want." 


Let's face it...I will *never* be skinny. I don't want to be skinny. Skinny wouldn't look good on my larger frame. I'm descended from peasants and poor nobility; we don't do skinny in my family line (unless you are a fortunate recipient of the recessive "princess" gene, like my sister). In any event, admittedly, I could be in better shape and trust me...I'm trying to get there. But in the meantime, I look in the mirror and I don't see an ugly face. I don't see someone who isn't worthy of love (not that anyone is unworthy....everyone should have someone who loves them). I have a pretty good sense of style, Im smart and can maintain a witty banter. Why am I constantly left out in the cold?

The answer should be obvious but I'm still unwilling to accept it: I'm swimming in the wrong pool. The problem is the guys I like are younger, a little left of center and still care about having a good time and not rolling it up after sunset.  The only problem with those guys is they want the pretty girls who make them look good. Being older and more established, I may as well be walking around with a big "Danger" sign around my neck. If you want to be with me, you have to be willing to jump into the deep end of the pool. I'm ready to get married and have children. That can be repellent for some younger men who may not be in such a rush.
In the most recent scenario, I can only blame myself for my broken heart. It's not his fault. He didnt know. I was too scared to tell him because I cared for him too much and didnt want to risk losing him from my life. And now...even if I wanted to, it would be too late. He's found someone else, and she isnt me. She bears zero resemblance to me, and makes me think even entertaining for a nanosecond he would have ever reciprocated my feelings was just foolish and trivial on my part.  I want to channel the anger and resentment I feel right at him, but I can't.  It's all on me this time.  And that hurts more than anything.  Which begs the obvious question....what am I going to do about it? 
"Some may say, I'm wishing my days away"
That song is playing on the overhead right now.  Maybe that's true...wishing, hoping and praying that my ideal will come along and rescue me.  The truth is, if I cant rescue myself, what point is there to any of it?
And so the personal growth continues...
The song has ended and this one has taken its place:
"Someday. Someway. Maybe I'll understand you."
Yes, Self, maybe I will understand you someday.  Until then, let's just muddle through with a beat-up heart, shaky legs and fortitude strong enough to make it to tomorrow.  A brand new day indeed.