throwing out the bandages

Throwing Out The Bandages

When you’ve suffered a cornucopia of mental, emotional and physical trauma over a sustained period of time, it can be tricky to know when you’re healed. You get so comfortable with your bandages, procedures, and therapies – both figurative and literal – that they become part of you in unintended ways. Life starts to become viewed as a series of trials to overcome, and after a while you begin looking for them in places they don’t exist. And when this happens, it becomes really hard to accept being in a fully-healed state as a real scenario.

That’s not to say I haven’t had plenty of high points in the last few years, as some of the highest peaks have accompanied my lowest valleys.  It’s just to face the fact that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel complete, and not in a perpetual state of healing.

But I think I’m good now. Not perfect, but damn good.

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super blue blood moon insights

A Lunar Cleansing of Sorts

The moon the last two nights has been outrageous.  Insane.  Spectacular.  Inspiring.  It’s been referred to as the super blue blood moon and we won’t see it in this state for at least another 50 years- at which time I’m reasonably sure I’ll be six feet underground and unable to appreciate it again.

A super blue blood moon is the combination of a total lunar eclipse alongside a blue moon (the second of two full moons in a single calendar month) a blood moon (when particles in the atmosphere make the moon appear reddish in nature), and a super moon (where the perigee, or closest point in the moon’s orbit to the earth, makes the moon appear unusually large).  That’s a freakin trifecta of spiritual convergence right there.

And it follows a long period of tragic convergence in my life.  The meaning is not lost on me.  I couldn’t let this one slide past without some serious introspection going on.

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The Adventures of a Reluctant Empath, Part Deux

Just because you can feel emotions outside of you doesn’t mean you gain amazing insight into the world around you. In fact, it’s often even harder to know exactly what I’m feeling now, than it was before I started figuring out what was going on with my empathic senses. My current emotional state can easily get blended with those I’m sensing around me, and if I’m not careful, I can read things wrong or act completely out of character.  Hesitant can feel apprehensive. Happy can actually feel smug or self-important at it’s core. Lately I’ve been working really hard at filtering my own emotions out from those I empathically sense, and it’s had both good results, bad results, and laughably hilarious results.

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rocks vs streams

Rocks vs. Streams

Life can move quickly, and it can get a bit confusing at times. My own personal issues and aspirations aside, it’s hard not to feel beaten up by factors outside one’s control living on the southern coast of California this last year. So many lives have been affected by both the Thomas fires and the resulting mudslides last week it’s been a very overwhelming time to live here, particularly as an empath. These are times when both my own angst and that of those around me can be heavy, cause me to dramatically overthink things. Fight against the stream of things, to rally against fate, timing, and nature. So this morning I’m centering on rocks, streams, and natural order to get a grip on it all.

When a rock and a stream confront one another, the stream always wins through its persistence, not its strength.  No matter how solid, strong, and resolute the rock may be, constantly running water will always mold it slowly into what nature intends. Water will never be impeded for long but find a way around, over, through any obstacles, wear down that rock, find it’s path forward.  For a long time I’ve focused too hard on being a constant rock in a ever-flowing and changing world.  These days I’m trying to respect the stream around me more.  The difference is astounding.

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tiptoeing into 2018 carefully

Tiptoeing into 2018

It’s now 5 days into January 2018. That seems a short time in words, but it can feel like a very long time under the right circumstances. Oh, the things I’ve done with just 5 days – conceive and pitch a new product, write half of an album’s worth of material, record a few albums worth of material, span 5 continents – but this hasn’t been one of those 5 days.  It’s been a quiet, introspective 5 days.  I’ve primarily been cleaning up fire and holiday messes and loose ends this week, and trying to establish a new daily rhythm after almost a month of schedule chaos and geographic disarray.  But in the monotonous overload of everyday this last 5 days, I’ve learned some things that have helped me look back on the last few years with less jaded, better focused eyes.  I’m not going to deal in New Years resolutions or big sweeping judgements of my past this year, just share a few things I’ve discovered as I’ve tiptoed into 2018. Grab a coffee and pull up a chair.

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Musicians and Road Warriors

Musicians and Road Warriors

It’s easy to fall victim to the stereotypes of the working musician – for both the musician and fan alike. A life of public adulation, excess, and grandiosity (is that a word?). The exquisitely tortured artistes extracting beauty from life’s poignant moments all gypsified and moving nomadically from town to town. But the reality of a career in the creative segment is more blunt, and there’s entire curriculums of required knowledge they didn’t teach me in music school. The kind you have to skin your knees and bloody your nose to learn. The dirty secret of the game is that it’s not good enough to be a talented musician or artist- you gotta be a warrior in both practice and spirit if you wanna live the life longer than a year or two.

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wants vs. needs - or the fine art of letting go

Wants vs. Needs (or, the fine art of letting go)

It’s relatively easy to focus in on the things we want in life. The things that our hearts, minds, and souls pull us towards despite all logic and better judgement – both for the good and the bad. The things in life we need, though, they reside in another category entirely. Quite often the things we need are exactly what we fight against the hardest, build up resistance towards, deny and overlook. It’s hard to focus in on the truly essential things to pursue in life as the things we want tend to overwhelm us, like a kid in a candy store with wide eyes but only a few shiny coins to spend.

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becoming a single dad

Becoming a Single Dad

For the first 8 years of my son’s life, I was the breadwinner. The provider. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a dedicated and loving father, but we’d always split the duties of Devin’s parenthood right down the middle with virtually no overlap. My wife was a full-time mother, maintained the home base, and took care of our household and family matters, I hunted and gathered to fill the coffers, pay the bills, and put a roof over our head and food on the tables. For quite a while we were both happy with this split of duties and responsibilities. It’s what we’d thought we both wanted. But it wasn’t- and took a heavy toll on our relationship over time. Forcibly becoming a single dad made me realize how unbalanced our relationship had become.

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on dreams, and dreaming

On Dreams and Dreaming

The hill was tall and rocky against a cloudy sky, with a stone lighthouse piercing the sky at the top.  I never understood why, but I felt I needed to get to that lighthouse more than anything else in the world, and scrambled feverishly up the hill towards it with every bit of my strength. My hands and bare feet were scratched, bruised and bloody by the time I crested the hill, and just as I found my footing it happened.  Just as it happened every time.

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The Thomas Fires in Ventura - sky view on Tuesday

The Thomas Fires

We’d had spotty electricity all day due to an automobile accident up the street taking out a power line, so when the lights started flickering back on and off Monday evening my son and I figured maintenance was still in progress. The sound of helicopters in the distance were a bit non-standard, but we still tucked in and went to sleep anyway – not knowing that the Thomas fires now ravaging the area were the new reason for the outages. It wasn’t until the sun peeked up and shone a blood-red glow into my bedroom that I realized things had gone seriously sideways while we slumbered.

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Giving thanks for my blessings.

Counting your blessings

When life is challenging, it’s important to keep yourself balanced.  Look at everything that’s going well, and not focus on your struggles so much- as once you’ve counted up your blessings, they’ll far outweigh your burdens.  And this Thanksgiving morning I’m truly grateful for everything that’s come my way over the last three or four years – both the good and the bad.

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me too

Me too.

It’s been difficult for me to watch the #metoo campaign against sexual abuse and harassment towards women develop this week.

That isn’t remotely because I disagree with or oppose it, but quite the opposite. 

I’ve never (at least not that I’m aware) used my influence, power, or strength to harass and abuse women.  I have never groped anyone who didn’t clearly expect and invite me to. 

But I have been abused, harassed, groped and intimidated by men and women alike.   I’ve had advancement in my career offered in exchange for sex.  I’ve had record deals and press coverage extended to me, contingent upon ‘quid pro quo’ favors – both discreetly and not.  And from that perspective, as a man, I support #metoo wholeheartedly.

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chill-on-seine

Getting Perspective

I’ve felt solid with myself lately after a few heavy years of change, but a bit stagnant in my new skin. My content management work at LinkedIn has been busy recently, just as I’ve also been focusing most of my free evenings recording an upcoming album project.  It’s been quite a blur this last 6 months of fumbling forward into my newfound full-time single dad life.

The first week of July – vacation time – was always blocked out in my calendar for a vacation, but all things considered I went a little bigger this year and booked a 2-week sojourn for my son and I across Italy and France starting on the 4th of July.  Kaboom.

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static and chaos, aka foam

Empathy, and Empaths

For most of my life, I could never explain these waves of foreign feelings that would consume me out of nowhere. “You’re just overly sensitive,” people would say. Intuitive. Insightful. Sharp. But I knew something deeper was going on, and unfortunately for decades I’ve hid it, instead letting myself believe that I was just a little introverted, a little twitchy, a little off. Empathy is a strange topic for those of us who have abnormal levels of the sense. I’m only just now beginning to realize the depths to which it can (and has) affected me through my lifetime- both for the good and the not-so-much.

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humility

Humility

“Finish him,” the voice inside me said. The hulking late-teenager facing me may have been a brown belt to my white, but I had an extensive-yet-rusty set of kung-fu skills from my late teens/early twenties and wasn’t going to let him get the best of me.

I’d already won the fight. Young and brash, he’d pushed the offensive and showcased all his flashiest moves to intimidate me.  Being older and wiser, I let him run himself into a sweaty, panting mess of carefully-masked frustration. Yet in the split second of opportunity as I saw his chest and throat open up, I abandoned my wisdom and the safe win. Instead, I opted for the show-stopping, Mortal Kombat-style finishing move to teach him a lesson. And I ended up teaching myself my biggest lesson in humility to date.

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Jesse climbing

Remembering Jesse

Today would have been my nephew Jesse’s birthday.  We lost him due to still-undetermined medical reasons in his sleep, late last year.  The unexplained cause of his death makes it all the more unsettling, unresolved.  I’ve had to process a lot of loss over the last few years but Jesse’s death may have been the final straw, bringing me lower than I’ve been in decades.  I write to heal, and this is no exception. However, I’m writing this a few days earlier and scheduling it, as my hopes are to be somewhere along the coast with Devin at sunset to wish Jesse a happy birthday by the ocean he loved so much.

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Creature of Habit

“You’re a creature of habit,” she said, setting the same old soup and salad combo I always order at the bar in front of me with a flourish.  “It’s a great habit,” I retorted.  And it was a pretty fantastic pairing, no doubt.  Best soup and salad in town.

But that’s beside the point- it was still a pretty obvious habit of mine. Performed by an obvious creature of habit. Ouch. That feels like a lesson coming on.

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Equinox

I woke up suddenly around 3:30am this morning.  It wasn’t just a minor stirring amidst the sheets, a quick mid-sleep water break or dazed round-trip to the bathroom.  My eyes came fully open and my head was clear, although my thoughts were anything but.  I’d gone to bed early after my Sunday rehearsal and a quick dinner. However, despite pleasant company throughout I felt unsettled and withdrawn the whole evening, and not in a particularly social mood.  Some words I’d spoken still hung in my ears:

“I feel like a stone in the eye of a tornado.  Like I’m barely holding onto balance while everything around me goes crazy. And I mean batshit crazy.”

At that moment, I hadn’t made any connections between that phrase to any other particular event or circumstance. There’s been an awful lot on my mind over the last couple years, and I know at times things have seemed a little scattered. It’s been sometimes hard to put a finger on exactly which brush fires are causing me the most heat, generally speaking. But when I looked at the calendar again things started to come more into focus.

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the road ahead

The Road Ahead

2017 hasn’t come fully into focus yet, but already feels like a breath of fresh air. I haven’t really gotten back into the swing of my daily routine(s) yet, but I already feel like the baggage of 2016 has finally slipped free. The road ahead is foggy but highlights are starting to poke through the haze, drawing me forward with curiosity and intent.

I decided to not kid myself this year with the usual New Year’s resolutions. Instead I’m just sticking to the basics, with the goal of leaving this year stronger than I began it. And by doing so, hopefully find the road ahead to more productive paths for personal and professional growth.

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Expectations can really suck.

I’ve been living a bit of an experiment with expectations the last few months during my healing process, and it’s become so telling that’s it’s far less of an experiment now and really just a Very Good Thing to be mindful of in general. My experiment really gets down to managing expectations, and/or the lack thereof.

Given tonight’s Supermoon is the biggest in years, ushering in a phase of rebirth and cleansing, I’m gonna focus on what I’ve recently learned about expectations and hopefully get an energetic leg-up this evening.  Let me explain.

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time to turn that page

Turn the page.

To say the last two years have been strange would be an understatement. Beautiful, tragic, confusing, powerful, humbling, life-changing – all of these words apply equally well, and collectively. Any sense of normalcy took a hard turn in the opposite direction last year.

In some ways, that was all expected. A little over two years ago I very nearly died. In practical terms, I was actually dead for a hot moment. I was out of critical care and back home recovering within a few weeks, but the devastating ripple effects of this experience couldn’t be predicted or prepared for.  And as a result, I didn’t realize what was happening until it was far too late.

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Seriously wrecked

partially OK

It’s been a long time since I’ve had my ass handed to me. Last month I got the comeuppance I’ve been due for quite some time, and it’s been incredibly humbling. I love to mountain bike, and in particular jump and hop said mountain bike around, between, and over obstacles both large and small. The feeling of flight and weightlessness is something I’ve chased since my skydiving days, and frankly, only get to experience when leaping a bike these days. Having been a rider for most of my life, this type of risk is really nothing new or unexpected for me. I’ve been doing it for so long I take my skills for granted, as the feeling of flight, speed and weightlessness are as close as I can come to feeling superhuman.

However, on October 12th of this year I took what was to be a simple, innocuous ride up and back on the coast- which ended in utter disaster. Approaching one of the many ravines I traverse on this trail, I really didn’t feel differently- no sense of foreboding, hesitation or even concern- I’d jumped off this particular ledge so many times that it’s almost become reflexive. A quick bunny hop off the top and I was floating over the edge, slowly rotating my center of gravity to match the angle of the transition 18′ below me. But as time compressed and weightlessness engulfed me, I knew in my gut something was wrong. The bottom of the hill had been churned up from the normal hard-pack and was instead loamy and soft. The angle I took over the edge had me going a few degrees left of my usual line, and despite a last-ditch effort to push my rear wheel out and down to adjust and shift landing weight off my front wheel, it still dug into the soft dirt and washed out just as I flipped my heels to pop the clips and get free of the bike, and everything went wrong. Horribly wrong.

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Connection

I’m going to the NAMM show this year, for the first time in almost 20 years. I’ve been saying 12 (when I last moved from Carpinteria, and its comfortable, less-than-8-hour drive to Anaheim), but doing the math it’s been 20, as I didn’t attend NAMM any of the years I lived here last, either. Craziness. In case you’re confused, NAMM stands for “National Association of Music Merchants”, and is *the* biggest music conference of each year. To be looking back at 2 decades of avoiding NAMM as a constantly-working musician is, frankly, a bit strange to me. Maybe even a bit embarrassing, honestly.

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Chill

The holiday break has been wonderful here, albeit a bit colder in weather than I would have hoped (which is mostly unnecessary whining, as we still wore shorts to the beach on Christmas Eve).

20121231-074438.jpg

(Yeah, I’m wearing thermals in the pic above, but swear I was actually wearing shorts over them.)

Mostly it’s been a quite chill-as-in-relaxing holiday week for me more than the get-a-sweater variety, and I’ve spent the entirety of it with my wife and son. Doing randomly stupid but oh-so-therapeutically-beneficial tasks like shooting stomp rockets at the beach, kinda like this:

But that’s not all…

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Proud

In retrospect, I’m honestly not sure how 2012 turned out so well, given how it started.

Last December I was suffering a job that demanded more and more of me in my time, ethical compromises, sanity and grey hairs, yet returned less and less as time wore on (salary and benefits notwithstanding).  My wife was increasingly depressed, struggling to keep a therapy business afloat in an area (Oakland) that was already ravaged by the macroeconomic landscape before Occupy Oakland and the Oscar Grant riots tore it even further apart.  My son was happy but at great financial and emotional cost – a very expensive school that would only support him for another year before we had to choose between bad, worse or unacceptable options locally, or ship him off to somewhere with an affordable option for the attention that his wicket-smart brain already demands.  (With a lot less of Oakland’s well-documented senseless crime to either tempt or threaten it.)  Looking back now, I can easily see how I rarely felt proud as a father, or even as a person in that environment.

So believe me, to say I’m really proud of 2012 is something I hadn’t seen myself doing, not by a long shot. And there’s a lot of reasons why.

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