Saturday, 25 October 2014

Finding Equal Space

You know what music is? 
God's little reminder that there's something else besides us in the universe; 
harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even in the stars.
~ Robin Williams (August Rush, 2007)


I remember one of my first karaoke experiences about 15 years ago: I was a cast member in an amateur community theater production with a tradition of celebrating the Friday night of performance week in a karaoke bar. A practice that typically made the direction team a little nervous since they needed us to be voice-ready for 2 performances the following day. This particular amateur cast contained a few... not so amateur voices. Meaning they were uber-talented. Trying not to be discouraged, I climbed on stage as they stepped down and offered my own version of... I don't even remember which song. Another cast member commended me afterwards for getting up on stage after the uber-talented, saying she didn't think she could have done it. Her comments meant to lift me up actually confirmed what I'd already been feeling – slightly less.

For a long time after, I limited most of my solo performances to groups of people who's vocal talents were, in my mind, less likely to exceed my own training. That's not to say I didn't come across some amazing, uber-talent in those groups. But in a safer and smaller way that didn't make me feel slightly less.

A few months ago my feelings about all that changed a little when I wrote a blog about practicing less & performing more. Since then I have had some opportunities to do just that – metaphorically in other areas of my life of course, but literally and musically as well. Like this past Monday when I participated in a line-up of musical talent unlike many I've been a part of before.

A talent show of sorts, or Un-Concert, displaying the abilities from within the choir I joined last year and presented as a fundraiser for the upcoming concert season. Solo and small group acts braved the stage to show off their own hidden gems. Not surprisingly there is some uber-talent within this group!

Finding myself closer to the bottom of the line-up, I sat in the audience increasingly regretting my decision to take a step further in this vulnerable space by sharing an original composition with my them. Knees shaking under my guitar, I reminded myself of the practice less ~ perform more blog and how much I had been able to relax and enjoy the performance that inspired it's words because the pressure to be perfect was lifted. I told myself that in this space of talented peers who know the nerves of performance, the pressure to be perfect – or even better – could be lifted. Deep breath, smile, enjoy!

After the last of the music faded the encouraging, praising, “I didn't know you did that” chatter began. From audience members of course, and between participants. I know my confidence has grown; my voice trained and matured since that karaoke experience 15 years ago. But that was affirmed once again on Monday evening when I felt like I found a space for myself among those talented musicians. A space that – no matter our varying degrees of talent, training, or experience – felt comfortable, accepting, supportive, and best of all: equal!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Writing Hasn't Stopped

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
~ Maya Angelou

"For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization 
that he has come upon the right word."
~ Catherine Drinker Bowen

So it's Saturday afternoon, and once again I find myself quickly putting words on a screen to get a blog posted before the end of the week. Frustrated with myself for yet again leaving it until the last minute. Knowing that writing is not only something I enjoy doing, but that it helps me cope and thrive in life. It gives me a space to process my thoughts and feelings; to figure out what I want to do next. Whether there is some big personal growth piece I'm trying to work out; a work/career/business step I'm trying to take; or a passing social commentary-type thought that caught my attention.

So why the procrastination over the past few weeks? Why the frantic Friday night or Saturday morning writing sessions?

It's true that the past few weeks have been busier in different ways. It's true that my focus has been divided between business plans put in action, a new relationship, on-going family health struggles, and typical every-day life. Exciting adventures, worrisome situations, and regular routines that take time and energy – both physical and emotional – and sometimes means there is less to give to processing and writing.

But what is also true is that sometimes processing and writing brings up thoughts and feelings that I may not be ready to face. Or at least may not be ready to share openly. In part because sharing openly becomes slightly more difficult when the personal growth pieces more closely involve other people. In part because sharing openly sometimes brings a certain accountability to follow those thoughts and feelings through with action.

Yet when I look through my writings I find at least three pieces that have been started over the last month or so. None of which feel complete enough to share openly today. All of which tell me that the writing hasn't stopped.

The struggle to complete them and to share them means they are not finished. I am still in the middle of processing, and therefore writing. Which means I am still in the middle of coping and thriving in my life.

The writing hasn't stopped. Procrastination isn't taking over. The process is just shifting a little. And as long as I keep coming back to the words on the screen – whether on a Tuesday leaving time to edit, or on a Saturday in a rush to publish – I will eventually process my way through this piece and open up space to move on to the next one.

Saturday, 11 October 2014


One day you will wake up and there won't be anymore time to do the things you've always wanted... Do it now!
~ Paulo Coelho

I have this bulletin board that I'm pretty sure I bought years ago when I was in University; that for quite sometime now I have been meaning to use to create a vision board for myself. Pictures of the life I dream of, goals I want to achieve, activities I want to do, places I want to see... a reminder on the good and tough days to keep going!

Yet even now that bulletin board is mostly empty. Thoughts of someday I will do it, when I have time, when I have money, when I have space. And sometimes I wonder, what does that say about my vision for myself?

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in a virtual conference for entrepreneurs and small business owners. The timing was quite perfect in many ways, as I was feeling lost for motivation, inspiration, and knowledge about what to do to move my business another step forward. I learned a lot, sitting at my kitchen table and listening to various webinars about marketing, time-management, commitment. And focus.

What has lingered, even as the initial excitement of such events begins to fade? One marketing strategy already put in place and other ideas percolating in my mind. A time-management formula I try to stick to, with a “tomorrow I'll do it better” loop in my plans. And focus.

If there is one thing that truly resonated with me and stuck with me from this virtual conference, it is the need to focus. To name it. To envision clearly what I truly want my business -my practice- to be.

I have thrown my name in the ring, saying that someday I want to narrow down my scope of practice. Someday I will take more courses in the counselling approaches and strategies I believe in; someday I will narrow down the kind of clients I accept; someday I will do what I really want to do. For now I will take on whatever comes my way. And someday – when I have gained more experience and started making some money – I will focus.

And sometimes I wonder, what does that say about my vision for myself?

What if someday was today? What if I created my vision and named my focus today? And what if I worked towards it everyday? What if someday was everyday?

Would I find the motivation, inspiration, and knowledge of what to do next? And what would it say about my vision for myself? I suppose it can't hurt to try.

I've tried starting a business without naming the focus of what I truly want to work towards – now. And here I sit... not in the place I thought I would be in; not in the place I wanted to be in. So instead of continuing to push forward in the space I'm in, I'm going to try something different. I'm going to take a step backwards. I'm going to try a new path; with that will hopefully provide more direction, and I'm going to see where that takes me. Maybe, just maybe I will find that someday is today and everyday!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Who do I show my weakness to?

To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
~ Criss Jami

A few months ago I was going through a bit of a low period when a friend commented, “I wish you would write a blog so I could know what you're thinking about.”
A voice inside me whispered, “Then ask me.”

What I wanted in that moment was someone to talk to; someone to really and truly open up and share all of my innermost thoughts and deepest fears with as they were occurring. But I often have difficulty being the first to open up. Once I get talking (especially after a glass or 2 of wine!), or after some time to process and diminish the intensity, it mostly comes tumbling out. But sometimes I need a little patient push to get started. And even then, to share the innermost and deepest in the moment, it usually has to be the right person(s)...

Which has begged the question for me, who do I show my weakness to?

Because I have often been referred to as strong, capable, brave. I am the one others come to; the one others share their innermost and deepest with; the one who offers support in many ways. So much so that I sometimes feel as though I cannot let my weakness show, because I have to be strong for the others.

I remember the first time that question truly formed in my mind. I was sitting in a workshop about supporting people who struggle with mental illness. The facilitator was talking about naming and affirming the strength we see in those individuals; something they may have difficulty seeing in themselves. And while I wholeheartedly agree with that approach, I found myself asking “But who do I show my weakness to?”

Because for those of us who wear that strong mask, for those of us who can wear it often and well; sometimes we long to take it off. If only for a moment. Sometimes we need to take it off, if only for a moment. And sometimes – often times – it is difficult to know who will be strong enough to pick it up and carry it until we are ready to put it back on.

Especially if we have misjudged someone's ability to do so before and found the mask lying cracked at our feet.

I remember hiking one spring over trails that still had the occasional patch of ice. I felt the grip tighten around my hand every time we came across such a spot, and I was reassured. In that moment, if only for a moment, I knew that if I stumbled someone would catch me; if I fell someone would pick me up; if I let go someone would hold on. That moment passed before I ever got to the point of fully taking off my mask. But the experience left me with a sense that I wanted to find that feeling again; I wanted to learn to trust it; and to be able to drop my mask when I needed to.

Learning to trust someone to take care of the mask? Though the past year in particular has pushed me in new ways to open up in the moment, I still have difficulty with that. Who do I show my weakness to? There are a few I can count on in the most intense innermost and deepest moments ~ when I let myself do so, which can sometimes be as difficult as finding someone worthy of that trust.

And then, after time to process and diminish the intensity, it mostly comes tumbling out in a blog!