little old normal me

“The important thing is to go below the clichés to touch the texture of your experience. Your mind is hungry to be alive. You give us that gift by laying down your true mind on the page. We read it and you open up fields of our own imagination.”

Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away

Sometimes I need Natalie Goldberg to write. I always need coffee. I  always need to shower first.  I often need music. But only in tricky times do I call on the writing goddess that is Natalie Goldberg to help get me started. And she always delivers. The quote above this Pegasus thing (initially chosen for its title but made the cut because I actually started to like it) is in response to a student of her’s who worried that she couldn’t write a memoir because her life was too “normal.” In a way only she can do, Goldberg assured this student and then readers of her book that all  true experiences have worth. This passage, entitled “Ordinary”, really spoke to me today.

I’m in the process of reorganizing this here blog and my web presence in general and naturally when projects which require sensibility and objectivity arise, I like to slip into something less comfortable like my old buddy self-doubt. Like the student in the chapter, I’ve been worried about being normal. Now I’m secure enough to know my multiple diseases and inherent sparkly self are enough to keep me out of permanent beige town. But what if I’m too quirky that it becomes annoying? Or what if I run out of clever things to say (perish the thought!). What if my life has stopped being crazy and I have nothing left to write about? Goldberg answered all of that and essentially told me to “shut up and keep going.”

And if you think about it-normal is an adventure for people like me. After decades of self-created drama, the challenge today lies in living the truth. Things like calling people back, following through on plans, paying bills are out of the norm for me. In addition to honoring my day-to-day experiences, I need to embrace “normal” life and go against my programming to be, dare I say it, happy! Talk about drama and the ultimate fish out of water story! I owe it to myself to keep going because this normal adventure is really interesting.

So if you just paid your phone bill or cleaned your house or showed up to work on time today, congratulations! If you are used to living in calamity and uncertainty and today your life is pretty quiet, I salute you! If you can now be counted on and trusted, way to go! You are deliciously, unabashedly normal. And I think that’s pretty spectacular.

The songs that save your life

Awhile back Chris over at Rainbow Alliance wrote a brilliant blog entitled Music is Emotion.  Since then, I’ve been thinking about songs that have pulled me through, made me smile or maybe just affirmed in one way or another that it was all gonna be okay.

I worked at a record store on Vermont in the late 90s and early 2000’s in Los Angeles. Being around that much music was an education. Anything I was remotely curious about, I could listen to. And that’s what I continued to do as an employee, a deejay and a music lover. Little did I know I was also building an army of musical soldiers whose songs would come to my rescue when times were tough.

Flash forward 9 or so years when music’s healing powers were needed more than ever. As I tried to shake off 20 years of drinking and using drugs and end a 12 year relationship at the same time, my iPod headphones needed to act as a sign that life was more than this and that things would change.  They just had to. See, music has always been able to do and say what mere mortals never could- tell the truth, give me hope and make me listen. When Chrissie Hynde says “The reason we’re here, a man and woman, is to love each other, take care of  each other.” I believe her. When I feel like the world is conspiring against me and Bjork tells me “It’s not up to you. It never really was.” I know deep down in my bones, she’s right. When my heart is breaking, sometimes Dorothy Moore is the only one who understands. When I think human intelligence is non-existent, Elvis Costello proves me wrong time and time again. Music can’t solve all of my probelms but my world  is certainly more bleak without it.

In that first year of recovery, there were some songs I listened to over and over again. Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley fame personally kept me from jumping off a cliff about a dozen times that year with her beautiful and soul shaking songs from her Acid Tongue record. But it was Godspeed that made the tears drip down my cheek and told me I could get through all of the crap I was going through. The words, “No good, no how no man should treat you like he do” rung true and gave me the strength I didn’t have on my own. Kate Bush’s “Cloudbursting”suddenly had new hope behind it when she sang, “I just know that something good is going happen. I don’t know when but just saying it could even make it happen.”Paddy Casey, Annie Lennox, David Bowie, Jill Scott, M83, and even Kelly Clarkson were some of the  other artists I had to lean on that year too.

Yet when it came the song that proved the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t a speeding train, I had to look to Doly Parton. Say what you will about Dolly but she’s a badass songwriter, an amazing musicain and can harmonize with a buzzsaw. The Light of the Clear Blue Morning is a song she’s recorded several times in different decades. It’s now become a standard for choirs and choral groups. You can easily see why. For me, the song played in mind when I walked home from difficult doctors appontments or struggled to get through days without thinking about using. It wasn’t even on my iPod but playing in my brain, on repeat. Until I believed it. And eventually I did and the days of crying with the iPod became less frequent. And Dolly was right.

So if you’re struggling, get yourself a theme song or a mantra or a soundtrack. And if you dont have one, feel free to borrow mine.

Its been a long dark night
And Ive been a waitin for the morning
Its been a long hard fight
But I see a brand new day a dawning
Ive been looking for the sunshine
Cause I aint seen it in so long
But everythings gonna work out just fine
Everythings gonna be all right
That’s been all wrong

Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of a brand new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
And everythings gonna be all right
Its gonna be okay

The Light of Clear Blue Morning, Dolly Parton