Monday, August 26, 2013

Fashionable Lady and the Hare Krishnas - Musings from my Commute

Like a good New Yorker, I spend a fair amount of time staring at people on the subway, making assumptions about their lives. Today, I see a woman in her 20s reading what appears to be a fashion trade publication. Over her shoulder, I read a few lines about the Saks brand merger and its implications. Her bouffant hair is obviously yet intricately dyed in varying shades of fire, pinned back into a bun at the nape of her neck. She wears a three-quarter sleeve royal blue dress with white lace embroidery at the bust and trimming the bottom. Her tan embossed leather lace up saddle shoes are the perfect complement to this motif, but I never would have thought to put them together. I decide she works in fashion.

It makes me think of one of my NYC singer-songwriter friends who loves fashion. She told me about a temp job she held, shortly after moving to the city, at a fashion company. Each day, she would carefully select her outfit, hoping to impress the higher ups. Apparently she was successful, because they offered her a job at the end of her temp contract, which she declined because she knew that a career in fashion would take her away from her true passion, music.

I can see her in that world, decked out in designer, carefully selecting and putting things together and negotiating, traveling around the world. Carried far by her impeccable taste, steel work ethic and keen business sense.

I probably should have been an English teacher. I'm sure I would have loved it -- the kids, the books, and being part of a school community. Almost across the board, I loved my English teachers. They were intriguing, artsy folks who introduced me to many beautiful things that I loved, music and poetry and literature, and helped me to explore and nurture the creative parts of myself.

But I've never been able to seriously consider a job that gave me too much incentive to stay forever.

And then I fear that the dreaded "forever" will come anyway, and I'll look back only to realize that I'd have been no worse off making a commitment.

I can somewhat wistfully imagine my face inserted in the happy wedding, baby, and family vacation pictures I see on Facebook. But then I think, if that was my life right now, at least a piece of me would be imagining my face in the photos of girls with guitars and bands, wondering how it would feel to make the music I never made.

You can't win.

I get off the train at Union Square and see a group of the Hare Krishnas of NYC gathered outside, chanting "Hare Krishna...Hare Krishna..." and beating on various percussion instruments. I like Hinduism plenty well, but the Hare Krishnas look kooky to me, bald heads and flowy garments and gleam in the eyes which suggest they are far away from here. I can't imagine joining in.

(As I write this, I realize the outfit I'm wearing today would have totally fit in.)
Anyway, I'm standing there watching them, feeling their chants and drum beats, and I can't deny I'm soothed by it, peaceful. 

I'm going back to my neighborhood, to my favorite bar, to get a happy hour drink. 

Is that going to make my happy? What is the correlation between the things I am inclined to do on a daily basis and the level of happiness that results?

My longing for a new romantic relationship -- would that ultimately make me happier, or is it just another craving I'm motivated to satisfy?

Are the things I rally against really the things that might truly make me happy?

Or is happiness less about my external choices and more about the choice to find happiness, regardless of my circumstances?

Hare Krishna....Hare Krishna....

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What Happened, and What is Left

A lot has happened since my last blog nearly five months ago. I started a new job, moved yet again, and released my record.

My new job is exactly what I needed -- I can be my authentic musician self there, I don't have to hide. It is a long commute and there is plenty of work to do, but my time is not expected outside of normal business hours, so I should have the ability to pursue music after hours and on weekends. The people are very nice. The cause is good. My boss, also an artist/musician/writer, is the kind of person I would have been friends with had we met outside of work.

My new apartment is wonderful, in exactly the neighborhood I'd been hoping to move to, and a lovely roommate with whom I feel comfortable and safe. The apartment is spacious, modern, well-managed, reasonably priced, and two blocks from the subway.

My record release was amazing. I sent Kickstarter rewards care packages to my backers near and far, and reveled in the excitement as people received their CDs, stickers, and t-shirts. People have been enjoying the album, listening to it repeatedly, and offering thoughtful feedback. It's gotten positive reviews and press coverage.

The release show was at Rockwood Music Hall, my favorite venue in NY. It was a dream to perform there. The band was amazing, and the house was packed.

But I feel tired, and I feel lonely. I feel like the summer raced by and I never saw a lake or an ocean. I have a great new apartment but I can't afford furniture. I have an album and I gave it -- and the release party -- everything I had, financially and spiritually, my effort and attention. And I don't regret any of it, but I feel kind of empty now.

I guess it's to be expected, when a long project comes to a close. You always have that thing to do nagging at you, the urgency and feeling of being overwhelmed and anticipation that drowns out everything else. But then it's over and you are faced with whatever is left. Which may be, the parts of your life you were neglecting as you put all of your energy into what is now behind you.

And of course, perhaps tinting all of this is a watercolor wash of my long relationship, which ended almost exactly five months ago. As it gets farther behind me, I miss certain things more, like the day-to-day making coffee for him in the morning, going out to dinner, and watching shows and movies together on his ridiculously large TV. I had my rebound-ish fling which was kind of fun and relatively emotionless, but that ended without fanfare or protest on either side, and now I am really alone. Questioning whether a partnered life is just not suitable for me at this point. Wondering if I might someday regret not spending this time trying to establish something real, as the friend wedding wave subsides and is followed by the friend baby wave. Wondering if I am sacrificing the normal things that make people happy for a pipe dream that may never come true.

It's okay, though. I feel sort of content in this sadness, like I just need to keep moving forward with my plans, I don't have to make any serious effort to turn frowns upside down. This is just a natural shift in brain waves which can't help but follow a series of intensely positive life events.

And the real joy of all of this is that I am well into the writing of my second album. From all of these emotions are coming songs, real songs, that I can already hear coming to life in the next months and years. And I have new ideas for what will make an album better the next time around, now that I know what it takes.

So I guess I still feel like I'm on the right path. It's just that sometimes, sadness is part of it.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Re-Discovering Joy

Everything has shifted.

I write this sitting on the floor of my new room in a more-than-hundred-year-old brownstone on the Upper West Side, literally a stone's throw from Riverside Park.

As soon as I woke up here the first morning, I felt compelled to run. Riverside Park is the ideal place to run on every level I can think of. A former marathoner, I have largely abandoned running since I moved to DC three years ago, sprained my ankle, and became a yoga addict.

But the riverside path calls to me.

In the past, I always ran because I wanted to get more fit, lose weight. Right now, I am the thinnest I can remember being, not for being in great shape but because of the heartache and anxiety the past few months have provided. I've lost my appetite.

Yesterday and today, my first two mornings waking up here, I ran just to run. Just for the feeling of it, the moving freely, the rush.

This past Tuesday, my grandmother, age 93, moved into a nursing home. After a few weeks in the hospital, she had lost much of her mobility. I watched her get winded while walking down the hallway, assisted by a walker and the physical therapist.

She always took such joy in her daily exercise. It was so strange to witness her wanting to stop walking, to sit back down in the wheelchair. She was never one to sit down.

Movement is a gift.

On that same Tuesday, the man I called my boyfriend for the past year and a half boarded a one-way flight to San Francisco. Though I've been preparing for the loss for a while, now it is actually here. I'm in New York, and he is gone. I wandered the streets last night, trying to reconcile with my new reality. I found no clarity. Eventually, I went home, and went to sleep.

Then I woke up, and went for a run.

In times of great loss, we can reconnect with the gifts we still have, especially the ones we may have overlooked for a while. I am enjoying the re-discovery of running on a beautiful spring morning. I think, I hope, there will be many other joys to re-discover. And maybe even new joys to uncover.

Now, I'd better get to unpacking.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Sean Rowe, a wonderful folk singer/songwriter from my hometown area, is performing on the Jimmy Kimmel show tonight. Like in a few minutes. Like I have the TV on, which I hardly ever do. I've written about Sean before. He's a great musician and a great guy. I used to go to his open mics and shows back in the Albany area. Actually, come to think of it, I first met him because I played a set during one of his shows, way back in the day. And now he's playing on national TV!

I'm kind of bugging out about this. Okay, time to watch.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Beauty Against the Backdrop

Sometimes the bad times are quite beautiful in their own ways. When life is falling apart, when you're losing things, when there's pain, it becomes necessary to hone in on the good things, to focus on them and observe them closely, intensely, in slow motion. To fixate on them. Maybe this is why sometimes the fondest memories are created in the bad times. Normal, everyday joy, set against the backdrop of sustained despair, is euphoric.

And, I am not quite as despondent now as I was a week ago. Perhaps I have settled into the new reality, especially as the details become more concrete. I am still being left, but I understand and accept it as what must happen. As a friend said to me, "Acceptance is letting go of the idea that things could have been different." I see exciting new possibilities on the horizon, of a new job and things I will learn and people I will meet. A new place to live will mean new friends and experiences. I will get to fall in love all over again. (With my track record, probably many times over again, HA!)

I have started to share my situation, my need for help in this moment, with everyone I know. I have already been receiving tremendous support, and am now receiving even more. I feel like I am being held firmly in loving arms, surrounded by a wide circle of people who are not going to let me fall.

I just have to keep climbing.

Ultimately, I need to help myself by taking the necessary actions, going through the process, of looking for and applying for the things that I need. Taking each action, each application, each piece of searching, as part of the process which will ultimately bring me the things I need, and not letting the fact that most of them will result in nothing, make me feel like the process is for nothing.

The same can be said for relationships. Not looking at this failed relationship as anything more than a piece of the process. Perhaps the process of eventually finding a lifelong love. Or at the very least, the process of learning to love, learning about myself. And a reminder that we don't actually get to keep anything this life, especially people.

Through this all, I am finding intense joy in the good things. A nice stretch. A delicious cup of coffee. The way the raindrops look beautiful freckled on the window. The chivalrous gesture of a handsome stranger.

I'm not alone. I have so many people rooting for me.

And Spring is coming.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Most Effective Beauty Product

Monday evening, I went into Kiehl's, an expensive skin care products store that I have no business buying anything from at this moment in my life. But, I have been noticing lately that my eyes are particularly dark and puffy, and my current products and concealer are not doing all that much to help. I notice the dark circles in the mirror, in photos, and in videos I make of myself performing. I want them to go away.

So, I bought this night repair cream, which is supposed to work its magic overnight, and you wake up with visibly reduced darkness and puffiness. Okay, I thought, let's give it a shot. I slathered it on before going to sleep.

When I woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror, my eyes were PUFFIER and DARKER than they had EVER been. At least, that I can remember.

Then I realized that, the night before, prior to the eye cream application and going to sleep, I had spent an hour on the phone with my boyfriend, who is in the process of moving to San Francisco, without me. I was crying hysterically for a significant part of the conversation.

No amount of eye cream was going to counteract an hour of crying hysterically before bed.

I am so sad to lose this relationship. To lose this person who has been the biggest part of my life for more than a year now. But in that moment, waking up with the puffy dark eyes I had spent money I don't have to counteract, I realized that the current state of the relationship is having a visibly negative impact on my well-being. What I'm sad about losing -- a relationship that brought me joy -- I have already lost. What I have now -- a relationship that is causing me pain -- is necessary to lose, if I am to be happy in my life again.

And there is no beauty product more effective than being happy in your life.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Everything You Ever Have, You Lose

I should know by now not to worry too much about today's problems; they can be ousted in an instant by tomorrow's problems.

My boyfriend is leaving me.

It's for his work, which softens the blow on my ego, but not my heart. Tech people go to San Francisco to start companies. New York made sense in the beginning, but things change quickly when you're working with technology. I hear that Bloomberg has a "Silicon Alley" initiative--trying to make NYC a desirable place for tech entrepreneurs. Whatever it is, it is apparently not worth missing out on an opportunity to get in with the cool kids in Palo Alto and Mountain View.

And neither am I.

I mean, I'm not saying I should be. Part of what attracted me to this person was his passion, his myopic focus on building a successful company. I've never dated someone with so much drive. And it's not even about money, although I'm sure he will make plenty of that--what motivates him is changing the world.

Tech entrepreneurs are changing the world, for sure. For example, thanks to the tech startups, I have an album coming out this year. I've always had my music, but my Blogspot blog and Facebook account helped me to raise money through Kickstarter, which, due to technological advances in home recording which has lowered the cost of high-quality production, was enough to pay a talented music producer to help put my songs together.

Yes, it's been a spiritual journey. Yes, it was through my yoga practice that I realized my true calling. But, it was technology that allowed me to place the call.

Back to my relationship. We met at a bar in the East Village last November. By April, I had moved into his apartment. In September, we signed a one-year lease on a place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As I type this, from said apartment, he is in San Francisco, looking for his next apartment.

We have a good relationship, I think. Or at least, I thought we did. It's loving and sweet and we get along and rarely even bicker. We have good times and have helped each other through a mutually tumultuous year as we both pursued our dreams here in NYC.

The plan was to stay in NYC. But the company investors say, come to San Francisco. So, off he goes.

Mostly, I think I'm in denial. I don't know what the heck I am going to do, and I'm trying to figure it out. But there's part of me that doesn't even care what I do, in this moment, because I'm just so sad about losing my partner, my love. I just heard a 1960s song by the Marvelettes called "Destination Anywhere" in which the singer relays a story of going to the train station, and telling the ticket agent she doesn't care where she's going, because "my baby don't love me no more."

I feel that right now.

The apartment is a mess and I just stare at it. I have to force myself to eat; preparing food seems like too much of a hassle, and I'm not hungry. Yoga, my sanity, seems like too much effort. When I force myself to go, I am weak on my mat.

Sadness is great for the songs. I've already written two songs, inspired by this impending loss.

In the moment, I would rather not have the songs or the sadness. But maybe someday I will appreciate them.

Days turn to nights, the plates in the earth shift without our even seeing, the whole world changes in the blink of an eye. Hold on if you can, or better yet, don't hold on. Let go. Wherever the storm lands you, there will be people to love, and people who love you.

Might as well enjoy the storm.