First time here? See the original post for the run down.

Monday, February 28, 2011

day 54: MC Everett, the box of life and what it means to some

I played an acoustic show tonight at a cool little pub called The Old Nick (that served amazing pesto burgers!). I decided to conduct a little social (and musical) experiment. I brought with me to the venue a box marked "Life Is…" fashioned into something like a ballot box, a pencil case and dozens of strips of paper. About halfway through the show I explained a bit about the blog and what I was doing, and that I wanted everyone to finish the sentence started on the box. My friend Nyree assisted, handing out pens and slips of paper and then collecting them a couple songs later and putting them in the box. I also explained that near the end of the show I was going to pull one of these conclusions of "Life is…" randomly out of the box and make up a song on the spot. I had pre-thought nothing; lyric, melody or chord, it would all me designed off of the one sentence that I would choose.

   The phrase I ended up retrieving from the "Box of Life" was "Life is a chance to see what life is". I thought that was actually pretty cool. The song itself went rather well I'd say, with only a few lines mumbled incoherently and most even rhyming! MC Everett, what?!?!

   Anyway, I knew what I wanted to do from the get-go, which was share the results with all of you. Some are funny, some are serious and everything in between, but the coolest thing is, most are from people I've never even met. Here's a list of what Life is to some of us…

Life is a never ending journey.
Life is full of mystery.
Life is facebook, these days.
Life is growth.
Life is in between lie and line in the dictionary.
Life is making you laugh.
Life is a chance to see what life is.
Life is all about the trajectory of the hippopotamus.
Life is what you make it to be.
Life is made up of all the in-betweens.
Life is… a beanstalk…  isn't it?
Life is Free Bird.*
Life is the excitement of falling in love!
Life is a turnip.
Life is better with you in it.
Life is an excellent excuse to look fantastic!
Life is too effing short.
Life is a long road, but a journey worth taking.
Life is a way of finding out what we handle.
Life is a four letter word.

   I laughed at a lot of these and took time to ponder on a few. The sad thing is, the person who wrote the chosen line, "Life is a chance to see what life is" never admitted to writing it, which was too bad because I wanted to commend them on a great lyric. I'd also like to say, that if you're reading this and have a unique way to end your own "Life is…" question, comment it! I'd love to read it. Today I savour 20 ideas from 20 individuals (and possibly more to come). Day 54, in the bag.

*This was probably in response to me telling the audience that if they requested Free Bird I would stab them.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

day 53: a melody, a lyric and a song

I've given up… Life isn't what I was promised and I feel like there's nothing anyone can do about it. Wars rage, politicians play their games and even art has been bought by big money who churn it out as pablum for the complacent masses… is what I WOULD say if I had. I wouldn't, and yet I have been close enough to know why one might and in such a moment wrote a song as that man. At first I thought it was me in an alternate universe but really it's just another part of me who needs release once in a while. As I often do, I found that release in a melody, a lyric and a song. Today I savour the balance that we all need to keep going.


written by James Everett

Goodbye my love,
Though we surely had some times worth remembering
And though I'm just as torn as you that this is ending
I'm sorry love but I have to walk away

Hello my son,
Though it's hard to understand while you're so young
And though I know for you that life has just begun
I'm sorry son but I have to walk away

Hello the ghost,
that I've been living with for most of my life
I'm laying at your feet, the heart of my strife
So now I think that it's time to walk away

Cause this life is cold but you'd be a fool,
To think with words you could change the truth of it
I'd rather be sticking it out on my own
Than live among you but feel alone with,
Just my thoughts and hopes
That you'd hold me close, even as I go, as I walk away

Well hello Mother,
Thanks for the man that you've uncovered
And though I could never repay the life that you gave
I've learned from mistakes that you've made
So I'm sorry mom, but I have to walk away

Cause this life is cold but you'd be a fool,
To think with words you could change the truth of it
I'd rather be sticking it out on my own
Than live among you but feel alone with,
Just my thoughts and hopes
Cause I love you so, but I have to go, I have to walk away

Goodbye my friends,
My greatest regret I'd say, is that we never met

NOTE: Any lyrics that differ from the recording are how I sing it now

Saturday, February 26, 2011

day 52: best friends, worst enemies, and everything in between

There's a person in my life I'm never quite finished with. I don't know any other way to put it simply. I think we all have that person in our life. We've loved them, hated them, moved on, never let go... The one thing that remains consistent is that no matter where you left off you will always miss them when you think of them and when you see them again after so long apart, you will quietly let go of whatever grudge you had fully intended to hold. The universe, for whatever reason, has connected that person to you in a way that may never be defined and will never truly dissipate. You may be friends, lovers, partners, combatants, distant acquaintances, infatuations, true friends or sworn enemies, but more likely, you will be all of these things at different times.

   What I think I'm starting to understand is that no label will ever fill the space you leave between the two of you, no matter how large or small. You were never meant to understand your role with this person. It was always meant to be ambiguous. And if it some day takes a shape you know how to express, don't lose heart when it changes yet again. A creek doesn't complain when a fallen tree diverts it's path, it simply flows along the tree until it can continue it's course. The only thing it controls is that it is constantly moving forward.

   I want to be more like the creek. Accepting the power of nature, but not powerless. We always have the power to keep going. This new path is unknown and sometimes uncomfortable but more and more I'm finding courage in myself. That I don't always need to know what's next. That not everything I need and want can be chosen. Not everything I need/want can be chosen…  Hm.

Short blog, but some food for thought. And I'm always hungry.

Friday, February 25, 2011

day 51: think like a kid: every bump in the road is a chance to get air

It's been a crazy few days. Despite having an extra 24 hours in my week and waking up early I seem to be busier than ever. Today I spent working on my resume, waiting around at Service Canada then chilling with a dear friend. Tomorrow morning it's up for 6:30a so I can head north for some zip-lining and snow-tubing (god bless you groupon, or whichever it was). Then at night I'll be shedding my winter boots for my dancing shoes until late. I don't know when I'll find time to catch up, but I want y'all to know that I'm having adventures and introspecting and doing all the things human's ought to do. I will be back with prose in the near future.

Also a fun note, if you're free monday night (Feb 28th) come and grab a pint with me at the Old Nick (Broadview Station). I'm doin' an acoustic set. Music starts around 7:30. And bring a pen, we're gonna make ourselves a community blog and I'm gonna improvise a song about it. It's gonna be grand.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

day 50: revelry, mistakes and what it means to be fatherless

Today I actually talked a month's worth of blogs with an old friend over a pint. She's a friend who, like me, has put a lot of time and effort into self-discovery and introspection. Quite ironically, this pint took place when I was meant to be at a rehearsal, not 2 city blocks away. I missed the entire rehearsal with my phone on vibrate.

   I say 'ironic' because it will be the topic for this evening's blogatron. Upon realizing what had happened I was immediately and forcibly disappointed with myself. I was supposed to leave teaching and go right to rehearsal, not, grab a drink with my friend and forget entirely. It took some work to quiet my despair over my colossal fuck-up (naturally, for the sake of my friend, playing it like it wasn't a big deal). Anyone in tune with my last 3 weeks wouldn't begrudge me my distraction and scatterbrain, but I have a hard time being as forgiving with myself. I've honestly NEVER missed a rehearsal by simply forgetting it existed. It's upsetting to think of the people I let down, or who's time I wasted, or who's respect I lose with little events like this. It took some work to let it go, deal with the here and now and accept the consequences of what happened. It also takes equal or greater effort to convince myself it isn't actually a big deal. I know that missing one rehearsal, regardless of the circumstances isn't going to stop the world from turning. It probably isn't even going to reflect in my next performance with this band (since we don't have any upcoming gigs).

   The part where the irony really sets in is in one of the topics we hit over that ill-gotten alcohol. Both of us having a fairly tumultuous upbringing, we talked about the affects of having somewhat absentee fathers. It's obviously different for women than it is in men, but one of the main things a man loses is the opportunity to push against someone. The ability to, as we are figuring out who we are, push against our "ideal" male to define where we stand. This offers us two significant learning/growing opportunities; the ability to see stability and constancy (I can push against you and you won't disappear) and the ability to know where your boundaries are by pushing against the boundaries of the person you had emulated until now. For me, these opportunities were lost. I didn't really rebel to find out who I was and I've never been totally sure that I could be in conflict with someone I care about and have them be there when the dust settled. There were a million times I wanted to argue or shout back when my mother would reprimand me, but how could I argue with the one person who was still there and know I wouldn't end up alone?

   The job of defining the ideal male for me then went into stories, tv and movies. I built my concept of the perfect father, boyfriend and man out of heroes in the stories I loved. With this expectation I became the man I am today, and truthfully, I'm very proud of who I am. There are drawbacks though. I have had, in the past, an expectation to be a person no one could ever be, perfect in every way. Somewhere along the line my need to be a human being conflicts with that. The need to be hurt, express pain, to allow myself to fail, to allow myself to be who I really am instead of who I think I should be. It doesn't fit with those men in the stories. They are stalwart, and strong. They solve problems and take it where others would fold. They don't need approval and they will say what needs to be said, even when it hurts (something I used in place of rebelling). All of these are things I wanted to be, but they didn't encompass all of the things I was already growing to be, a lover of laughter and mischief, a horrible academic (in the traditional sense), a person who needs to be loved and cared for (like any human being), and on and on. All these traits that made me human, not a hero.

   Obviously this is a journey for many people and even though I've made leaps and bounds along this highway (thanks to mix-master-mary), I still sometimes struggle with forgiving myself. Tonight was a good example of that. I made a mistake in a time of huge change and upheaval, and you know what? Even without this week's understandable flakeyness I should be able to make a mistake and not hate myself for it. I'm not perfect, and thank god I'm not. I've much preferred living life as a human being. Someone who encompasses everything it means to be human, good and bad. That puts day 50 in the bag. Good gravy, 50 days. Plodding on. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

day 49: jesus, don't take the wheel, I got this...

I have a habit of taking control when control is taken from me. It's my way of coping. When something really throws me for a loop or shows me a bit of chaos I couldn't plan for I tend to over exert my control in another area. Over exert makes it sound kind of negative, but I'm actually pretty good at making it have a positive impact.

   Certain things lately, large things, have been wrestled from my control and I've made some pretty big moves to fill the gap. The biggest move has been to re-imagine myself a little. If James is to grow from this point, where could he grow too? If I want to move onto something new (in this case, career wise) what's the best next step? And how do I grab the reins and start steering this mustang down the path that fits?

   When it comes to jobs I'm a tough sell. I've only really stuck to one job in my life for over a year and it's because I need new challenges and new experiences in my days. As soon as something becomes rote it becomes a chore and I need to move on to something new. This can be a troublesome trait in blue collar jobs but it also manifests itself with people, if only in relationships that exist in constant cyclical interactions. If it feels like a treadmill, I get anxious. Most of my relationships aren't though, they're living organisms that are alive with meaning and purpose. It doesn't need to be conflict, it just can't be static (or in the treadmill analogy, static with the appearance of movement).

   Anyhizzle, I first thought of 3 things I've imagined myself doing over the last year; psychology, music theatre and video game development. Only slightly different fields, right? As I say, no person is any one thing. All represent different aspects of myself, different manifestations of my passion and all are highly stimulating for me. At this stage of the game I figure, why put only one iron in the fire? In just the last 12 hours I've travelled to Sheridan College to talk with the Program Coordinator of their music theatre program about jumping into their audition process, called up friends in the video game industry to ask about hooking me up with a Q.A. position (game testing) and talked at length to a psychoanalyst about a 6 year program in downtown TO to become a psychotherapist (talk therapy).

   This might be what I mean about over exerting. I'm making solid steps in the right directions, but so many directions and with such force. Mary would say to slow it down (actually, Mary DID say to slow it down), but I'm not sure I want to fight my natural mechanism to move on and throw myself back into the fray. I know in some ways it's to ignore what comes of losing that original control (something I'm apparently not ready to grieve yet), but at this point I don't have a lot of options but to push on and do the best I can do.

   So today I'm appreciating the knack for a little rash planning, the ability to cope with losing control, and the inclination to always keep myself in over my head. Day 49. Was in the bag, but the bag fell in a river and got washed away. I fashioned a new bag out of chain mail cause that's how I do. Day 49, in the chain mail satchel. Let's see your arrows fuck with it now, fate! Your chaos arrows! I've lost my train of thought… These next few days will be scattered. Steel yourself.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

day 48: megabus, megamom and chance meetings

I had a neat little adventure on friday night. I was due to come back to Toronto from Kingston after visiting with me mum and so found myself at the Kingston terminal, Megabus ticket in hand. Turns out CoachCanada (they who run the Megabus routes in Canada) is as bad at predicting volume as I am at weather. It's goin rain! *Cue snow storm

   This was like that, except all the signs should have pointed to GET MORE DAMN BUSSES since it was the start of reading week for many, the end for others and a long weekend for EVERYone. Instead, I arrive 25 minutes early for my 7:15p departure and find a line up of about 200 people. This included about 50 people who had been waiting for the 5:15p bus to have it never arrive. I personally handle these situations pretty well, but by the time 8:15 rolled around with no signs of more bussage and no direction/information from the station itself I was admittedly on the brink of losing my patience. By 8:30 a bus DID roll in from Montreal, but it only had 13 seats available to continue it's trip west and those were gone almost immediately.

   "Think of the solution, not the problem", right. So I call up my mum (mom and mum are interchangeable for me) and ask if she can look into car rental places that might still be open. Another guy from the line had tried to interest people in splitting a cab ride but the cabby was asking $370 (which is just insulting) and I figured I had a better way. A few in the line became interested and asked me questions. Some, instead, opted to make shivering noises, I assume to draw my attention to the fact that they of all the people were most in need of shelter and aide. These, coincidentally, were also the people who had been complaining ceaselessly about the injustice of Megabus doing this to them. One incident even had a girl putting the newly arrived bus driver on the phone with her mother so her mother could bitch for 15 minutes about why her daughter "needed" to be on that bus. The poor driver couldn't take it and caved. You tried good sir, you tried but were found wanton.

   After a bit of waiting my mom called and said there were no rental places open. She then offered to give me a ride to the Oshawa GO Station. This is a big drive for her, at least 2 hours there, then another 2 back and it was already nearing 9 o'clock. I hate to be an imposition on people as a rule, even my family. When I went to school I didn't want my mom to pay for anything. She covered my cell phone the first couple years but I never went to her for emergency money, or called her when I had a problem, I dealt with it on my own. I thought that's how it should be. I've since learned more about people and what it means for someone to offer help and what it means to accept. Some times letting someone come to your rescue is as rewarding for them as it is for you. It's also just important to know that you're not alone and leaning on a friend or family member once in a while is actually a demonstration of trust and care rather than an act of taking advantage (although some walk the other side of that line, for certain). Because of that understanding I've gotten better at accepting and appreciating help and in this instance, I was ready to do just that.

   As I got off the phone a young pair of students asked if I had managed to rent a car. I had already been considering what to do about the other two seats in the car since my mum had offered them up to others in the line if I wanted. Captain Shivers seemed to need it but I knew she'd be stale company. It may sound selfish but I decided then and there if I was going to throw a bone to 2 people in 200, I could at least do myself (and my mum) the favour of bringing people who might be entertaining. The two students who had asked were actually among the only in the crowd who had spent the whole hour and a half joking and laughing instead of complaining. I explained the rental shops were closed, but if they were game I was getting a ride to Oshawa. Best choice I could have made.

Christine and Shawn turned out to be two very cool, very funny human people. We spent most of the time squished in the back seat of my mum's Cavalier, talking and laughing. My mum spent most of it white-knuckled and wide eyed as 100km/hr gusts of wind came in and out like Anne Heche. Thanks mom! You're the best! Haha, oie. All in all we made it home thanks to a fast friendship, my mom being awesome, and Shawn's dad driving into Oshawa to take us the last leg of the trip (also awesome). In the end it was a better ride than I could have hoped for on the Megabus, even if I arrived a little later and started my journey a little frozen.

   I think this is part of that concept of not sweating the things that are out of your control. Don't let life's bumps make you angry and bitter, even in the moment. Okay, maybe a bit of anger in the moment, but anger didn't get us in a car and safely back to Toronto. Thinking of solutions did and taking control of the few things we could. Without their attitude, I wouldn't have chosen them. Without my attitude, the solution wouldn't have presented itself and we could have been on that platform for hours more. It worked out great for 3 stranded travellers on a cold friday night and it continues to serve me now. Day 48, in the bag. I think I'm getting the hang of this.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

day 47: interruptions by your best friend and appreciating presence

This Blog has been jacked SUCKA! So James is savouring a day off of blogging right now and I, Joshua "MCOJ" Tustin, am taking the reins. I am an inexperienced blogger and I warn you that my sentence structure, sucks banana runs Eiffel tower.

   You can't see it, but I have written and erased about 15 paragraphs of possible blog action. I have way more respect for James for being able to put all his thoughts and feelings out there. This is hard. I guess I've never really felt like a guy that had a lot to say. I am much more of a conversationalist than a writer. I like the back and forth. Bouncing ideas off of others and sharing opinions.

   It seems to be getting harder to find opportunities to do that. Most conversations nowadays are fragmented into "LOL"s and emoticons. I'm reall agitated by texting and MSN or BBM or facebook messenger or whatever the hell you kids are into these days. I always misinterpret shit and take things the wrong way and vise versa. How many times has someone gotten mad at you for something you said in a text or on an instant message chat because they took it in a way that you didn't intend? I think it really shows our insecurities. If I read something that I know was meant as a sarcastic joke or just an innocent comment I can pretty much choose how I wanna take it. If I am having a "fat" day I might get pissed about someone asking what I had for dinner. It is just not the way I wanna communicate.

   Ha ha ha, I was just thinking that you could be reading this and think that I sound really bitter (irony fail). Trust me that is not the case. I get how texting and MSN and all that can even strengthen relationships if it is all that you can do. If I was to spend a lot of time away from my wife, a text would make my day and an msn chat may be a lifeline. All I am saying is that I think we, as a society, and me, as an individual, need to really appreciate the time that we spend with others. I just had a late night dinner with my best friend and my wife and it was a blasty. Nothing exciting or amazing happened but I just really enjoyed the great company.

   Sharing is caring y'all. Put it to the test. Watch a comedy. Now watch a comedy with your three best friends. It's probably three times as funny even if it sucks. Hell, it's probably funnier because it sucks. Whenever I do something fun I always think, "shit son, I have got to tell James about this shit". And yes, that is how I think. I just love the feeling of sharing something I love with others. Or having them share with me.

   So ask your friends questions. Simple things that can lead to learning something new. And ask yourself two questions. If you were to die tomorrow, what would you tell the people you love? And, why haven't you told them yet? I might recommend not bbming it to them.

Joshua "MCOJ" Tustin


Hey all! James here. Insane day today. I spent the whole day tracking a song/video for a band I play in called Monday the Milestone. I got loads of free time coming though, so I promise some proper postage soon. That being said, what did y'all think of the guest writer? I thought it might be neat to have a friend interpret the blog once in a while. I gave Josh no warning, but I think he did a fine job. I think it's neat to see, A) another person's interpretation and where it takes them, and B) the way my friends write in this environment. Neato! More to come!

Friday, February 18, 2011

day 45, 46: in transit

Yesterday and today I've been/I'm going to be running around like crazy, getting my drivers license (re-getting) in Kingston and visiting my mom. Here's two miniature moments to stand in place of proper posts:

1. Rode the bus to Kingston in the most uncomfortable seats, next to someone who took up a sizable portion of my seat...BUT, I did meet two interesting women, used wifi on the bus and my ticket cost me $10. Megabus, a-waaaaaay!

2. Timing. Call it kharma or good planning but in the last few days things have worked out really well timing wise, even when the "plan" had to be scrapped altogether. Sometimes things won't happen in the order or time you expect (or at all). Worrying about it won't change it. Throwing a fit won't change it. You only have two options; go with the flow or take action. I'm starting to get a good balance of those two things and not letting the chaos that is life get me down. Miniature (actually, significant) win!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

day 44: thank you brain

Today I appreciate the head on my shoulders. Thank you brain for making me scattered. I know you only do it when you know I've got too much on my plate. You scatter my thoughts to keep me safe. You scatter my thoughts to keep me sane. You remind me of important stuff at JUST the last minute so I don't ever truly mess up. Sorry I've hated you so much in the past. I know you're doing the right thing, even if it's the hard thing. The thing that makes you unpopular. I can relate. Let's be friends.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

day 43: courage and what it means to be an extraordinary machine

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow."  Mary Anne Radmacher

I'm continually asked to qualify what possesses a man to wear such personal affects in a public forum. Translates to: WTF w/ teh blog? This is an interesting question because the answer is fairly complex. The best answer is, I'm learning every day why I write this blog. The process itself informs me and the process will let me know when I'm done and what I've achieved. Today's reason may not be tomorrow's but as long as I have your attention, let me explain a bit of why this process persists in me this week.

   Truth be known, this blog-writing thing terrifies me. Some days I sit with my cursor over "Publish Post" for minutes at a time. I constantly question if I'm making the right choice making all of my most vulnerable moments a public tribunal. Ironically, that horror and fear is part of what makes me eventually hit publish. I'm a believer that courage not tested is not courage at all. Writing this is a way to test my will. In some strange way I feel like I need to scare myself to keep moving forward. It's even something I practice with my vocal students. I talk about it in day 26, but basically the process involves putting yourself in ever more nerve-wracking performance environments. Keep pushing yourself into things that make you nervous and eventually you can conquer that fear.

   In television land we call this "extreme sports". These are men and women who have learned that they are prewired to seek the next challenge and have made a career out of it. We call them thrill seekers, and seek they do. We idolize them for their daring because they are the fulfillment of the occasions we didn't rise to, the goals we let slip from fear of failure (or in this analogy, fear of bodily harm).

   In a way, what I do here fulfills that same purpose. I write these posts for a million reasons but part of it is that I find it really challenging and I love to dare myself to be that vulnerable. It's not as cool as watching someone try to jump 100 school buses on a motorcycle, but it's just as important to my career as a musician that I challenge myself and do things that scare me. Especially things that explore the murky depths that are me. That's the kind of stuff I want to write songs about, that's the stuff that, for me, taps the human experience. It's not just something I'm prewired to do, it's my job.

   This blog won't be here forever and I won't always choose to put the trials of my life on display. Eventually I will reach the goal I haven't yet set and move on to something that pushes me even further. When I get there I will be terrified, and hesitant, and possibly (probably) pee my pants, but I know I'll get through it. Today it's not something big. Today the scariest thing is just imagining getting up tomorrow and fighting the good fight. It doesn't need to be big. But it will never be easy. That's how you know it's courage. And that's day 43. In the bag.

Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine

Monday, February 14, 2011

day 42: happy valemtimes! last mushy post for a bit, promise

I recently played a game of "what-if" all up in my mind-grapes. I met a pretty rad woman who has a son and it made me wonder what it would be like to date a woman who had a kid. It was a bit weird to even contemplate. I think we all, while young, entertain our fantasies of how it's all going to play out and I think it's a fair bet that our expectations start with the perfect person who has no kids, no prior marriages and is not sporting too much emotional baggage. We imagine nurturing and raising our own children with that person, taking them to soccer practice and being called "Dad" (especially moms). Maybe some of us pictured a fight here and there, a few trials, but it's not until you start to really see life as it is that some of those expectations demand a little scrutiny.

   At one point I was seriously pondering on what it would mean to me to adopt a child instead of having my own. It wasn't like I hated the idea, it was more like I had never even considered it as a possibility. That same confusion now infiltrates my musings on being with someone who has kids from a previous relationship. I guess viscerally there is a hesitance around it, it obviously doesn't jive with my original concept of what my relationships would be, but at the same time I feel like it may not matter at all. The woman I'm with could make all the difference. Like when I met my first really serious girlfriend and found out she smoked. "Ah well, she's awesome but she smokes, it'll never happen". Yeah, that lasted about 3 weeks. In the end the sum of all she was completely outweighed my "need" to date a non-smoker.

   I guess what I'm getting at is, as you grow up you start to learn the difference between a "need" in the person you want to be with, and a "want". I would never ask a woman or man to lower their expectations of how they should be treated for instance, but I may have thought of a way to separate one from the other. I'm gonna call it, "Quality by Entitlement". It's a test that will actually produce different results based on who you are as a person, that's why it might actually work. All you do is speak a sentence out loud, starting with "I deserve someone who…" and finish it with a quality/trait. If the answer sounds "off" to you, you're probably giving the quality undue importance. If you finish the sentence and it feels right, then you've hit something you probably shouldn't compromise on.

I deserve someone who treats me with respect. That just sounds right to me. That's a quality I won't compromise on.
I deserve someone who owns their own car sounds stupid to me when said out loud. Now I know that that's not important enough to me to factor in.
I deserve someone who is my equal sounds right. That one is a "need".
I deserve someone who has never had children before. That actually doesn't resonate with me. It does trigger something, and deserves more thought, but it still feels wrong. I vote it down as a "need".

   The reason I think this system can work is that it's based on your own intuition about the different qualities you assess. For instance, you might say to yourself "I deserve someone who doesn't have children" and your most visceral reaction is, "yeah, that resonates, I really DON'T want to be with someone who has kids already". THAT'S OKAY. In fact it's better than okay; it's perfect, for you. You're basically asking yourSELF how important a quality is to you and letting yourSELF decide. Your answers don't have to match anyone else's. Your goal is only to learn what matters to you. Try it. Say some things out loud and study your gut reaction. What did you learn about what you "need"?

   The other thing to keep in mind is that we are ever learning, evolving, changing and growing. Maybe 20 year old James would have hated the idea of dating a girl who has a kid already, but you know what? That was his right. I'm not the same person then as I am now. And it's not like I lowered my standards to reach this new conclusion, I simply matured into the concept that everyone has something from their past life, nobody's perfect, and it doesn't actually bother me that what they bring from their old life is a little human. That's an acceptance I grew into. Meanwhile, my expectation about how I should be treated, listened to, respected and accepted hasn't really changed over the years.

   I guess I'm starting to look at relationships in adult terms more and more. If my mom read this she would probably say, "of course dummy, there are remarkable women out there you would be missing out on otherwise" because she is wise and I'm just starting to get the big picture. But I don't think the question of what qualities/baggage your mate should and shouldn't have (ie; the conversation of "settling") really ever goes away, even if the qualities you're measuring change with time. Like from, "I deserve someone who will always text me back right away" to "I deserve someone who makes me feel like I'm home". Yeah. That second one feels right.

Happy Valemtimes everybody!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

day 41: romance in the air (reprise)

Day 11 featured some misadventures concerning the romancing of one lady on behalf of a friend. Before you take that the wrong way, click here for that story.

   Now that we're all caught up, today represented the kibosh on that objective and the culmination of over a month's planning and scheming (planning's deviant, but better read brother). Over the last month, my friend, committed to romancing his lady back into his loving embrace, wrote a rather beautiful song about her. The song was to be performed on his visit back to Toronto at an open mic, with her quite unaware until the song was underway. This event took place this evening.

   The original plan involved pyrotechnics and an elaborate pulley system with a live baby wearing fake wings and holding a bow and arrow, but we scrapped that early on (when my neighbours noticed their baby missing). The next plan was much more simple. Get a band to be on stage, a band that the lady wouldn't know but that would already know how to play the song. Get our Don Juan to come on stage and act like he's never met us and then BAAM, play the song through perfectly (much to everyone's surprise), evoke a tsunami of tears and win our man back into the lady's good graces.

   Like any good romance movie or book (or sonnet in the days of yore) it wouldn't have been authentic without a slew of hiccups and last minute debacles seemingly meant to derail our best laid plans. Like the venue needing all open mic-ers to arrive at 5pm for sign up. Then again at 7pm to choose a time to play. Then again at 8pm when the open mic starts. Unfortunately we had decided to rehearse the tune at 4pm on the day of and it's an hour transit to the venue. Because of this, the singer/guitar playing Don Juan couldn't actually make it to the rehearsal until 6pm, then cabbed it back to the venue to secure a time. Then the only way he could get a time earlier than 1:30am would be to do only one song. Well this ruined the scam we had where the band members did a song as a trio and then Don Juan just barged in to play his song. Our ruse seemed to be foiled, and good.

   We needed a different plan and we didn't get a chance to make one until we had all arrived at the venue. I text Don Juan to meet me in the washroom and we talk strategy. Apparently this is a known function of the washroom because other peeing men started chiming in their two cents. New plan is: band goes up and sets up, he leaves the table once we're all ready to go. He even spiced up his exit by adding a "I guess that's my cue" and then handing his lady an iPhone with the lyrics on it. No hesitation the song begins and as I understand it, we achieved our tsunami. My man sung beautifully, the band played great and after it happened we all had a sit down and I finally got to formally meet the woman for whom I had raced the length of Toronto and arranged a band (paid for in steak and broccoli).

   She's lovely and quite deserving of my wonderful friend. And the romance? Big win. That means I'm starting to actually bank good karma. If there were a good vibes free market, I'd be investing right now. Now's the time, the market's got no where to go but up!

   I'm also piling up on mushy love experiences (that by some cruel joke, haven't involved me directly yet). I see that as a good thing. Apparently all you need is love. Course, if you follow that line of thinking you may also believe we all live in a yellow submarine and that the sea mainly consists of time, holes and monsters. I'm gonna make it an original thought and say, all you need is love and fleece blankets. Everything else is optional. Fleece blankets, here I come!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

day 40: mario, weddings and trial by shoe

Tonight was really nice. I went out to the wedding of two friends. It was a beautiful wedding with heart felt words, endearingly awkward moments and a bit of music provided by myself and a couple of guitar playing friends (including a performance of the Mario theme song for the wedding party's processional. Awesome).

   It had one especially cool moment where the MC had the bride and groom sit in chairs on the dance floor facing away from each other and blindfolded. Then each of them was given one of their own shoes in hand and one of their partner's shoes in the other. Questions were asked like, "who does the cleaning" and the bride and groom would each hold up the shoe of the person they attributed the answer to. I'd never seen this done at a wedding and it was really cool.

   Some of it was inane like the cleaning comment (or who does the cooking, etc), but then they started to add more polarizing questions, like who's a better cook or who's a better driver. It was really charming to watch them really honestly answer and see how well they had taken stock of each other's strengths and weaknesses. They weren't always in sync, but those were actually some of their best answers. It was always when the question attributed real respect or care for the other person. Like, who's the most generous. Almost every time a question took this turn the bride would hold aloft the groom's shoe and the groom the bride's. It was really endearing and made me take stock of what it means to truly care about someone else. The respect you offer. The ability to put the other person before yourself. I was shocked when the question "who is smarter" came up because I've always worried that could be a point of contention in a relationship. They surprised everyone again by answering each other. How perfect an answer. They respect in each other the intelligence and wisdom each holds, even though it would likely be in much different ways. I don't think they were trying to be kind in this, and I don't think they were selling themselves short. It just went to show how much they truly respect the person they're committed to for life.

   My authenticity meter was as present as ever, but it found no word of a lie and no trace of the disingenuous. It's really wonderful to see two people so perfectly intwined and in love. It makes me warm inside. Maybe in the past it would have me dwell on the life I've yet to truly share with another person, but I didn't need the blog to remind me of how futile that would be tonight. Instead I just enjoyed the good company and celebrated a happy day. Day 40. Short but sweet. Night interwizzles!

Friday, February 11, 2011

day 39: 30 Rock, distractions, and-OOOO look at the puppy!

Blog is tough competition for 30 Rock. Tina Fey is speaking to me through a charismatic, calamity creating, comedy conduit! Also, she's a fox. Alec Baldwin too. If they ever get together on the show I'm going to be jealous of both of them. I'm not gay but I'm told it's not that complicated to switch.

   Speaking of distractions, I've been noticing lately how full my life is with them. Especially at home. I get all A.D.D. up in here on a regular basis and it's bad news (I won't say 'bad news bears' because Billy Bob Thornton ruined it for everyone). I get home and check my email. Then turn on my iTunes while I write my replies and then hear a song I like. I crank the volume and go to the drums, jam along with the next few tunes that come on. Get a phone call and start walking around, end up on the bed. Conversation ends and I think, my, reclining is nice, so I turn on the TV (free cable, what what! Take that Rogers!). After flipping back and forth between the comedy network and teletoon for 20 minutes I turn on the Xbox and run around in Assassin's Creed just startin' shit for no reason. Shoot a couple citizens with a crossbow. Parachute off the top of the colosseum and try and land on a horse, mess it up and spend 5 minutes climbing back to the top of the colosseum to try again (turns out you can't do it). Get bored and remember I wanted to clean the floors. Vacuum the living room until I find a bill I was supposed to pay, run to the computer to online bankify it. Reward myself with a few more episodes of 30 Rock while making a peanut butter sandwich, check my email again. Jump to editing a project in pro tools, realize I want to record an overdub, setup the amp and guitar for a quick track, do the overdub and realize I had intended to call the chiropractor. Check my email again. Check my email again. Check my email again.

   Don't get me wrong, I've got long stretches of good headspace and focus (you should see me in rehearsals, I'm johnny-on-the-shutthehellupanddoitagain), but everyone's had these days where you just can't settle. While I'm sure attacking the root of this problem would be handy (day 38, ahoy there!), this is a case where I worry the problem could be endemic to the symptoms. My house is simply full of too many options! Especially since the computer alone is 10,000 things to do. I've created an environment that doesn't just sustain my more distractive tendencies, it exacerbates them.

   I need to find a way to shut it down once in a while. I think I've come up with a good way to start. I get home from work every day at 1:30pm (I also have 7 locks and a pit bull, fuck off Hamburgler). Even though I'm on a computer all day at work, I still have a neurotic tendency to check my computer upon my arrival home for new messages. I also check before work (how lame is that? *sigh*). BUT, I can program my computer to turn off at night (which I already do at 1am in case I forget to shut it off) and have it not turn itself back on again until 4pm. That's a minimum of 2 hours a day I spend at home with no computer. So no music library, no online games, no email checking, no anything in my digital window. That's a first step. A first step in trying to quiet down my home experience once in a while. Any other suggestions? I'll give free cold pizza to the best ideas! Also, doritos!

   I may have one-upped the year to savour concept. This is better than appreciating what you have, it's trying to appreciate having even less! James FTW!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

day 38: letters, trust and extracting from experiences

A young boy writes a letter to his mother. He's visiting with his father for the summer, but he's allowed to write back now and again and he's only recently begun to spell to his own satisfaction. He's six and he writes in purple crayon on a light green piece of paper. He lays on the floor and chooses his words carefully. He chooses his words carefully because he knows his dad will read it. He's afraid that if he says the wrong thing it will be repeated in court. It will be repeated in court and it will hurt mommy, just like last time. At the age of six, he doesn't trust adults. Not strangers and not those closest to him. He's already lost the belief that parents are there to protect and nurture. Lost the belief that adults are infallible beings. He's writing in code. He doesn't mention physical objects from his mother's world. He doesn't mention her boyfriend. He doesn't talk about his sisters. The letter is finished and he hands it over, signed and sealed in an envelope. It doesn't matter. Envelopes can be opened and resealed. It was just in case. You have to be careful.

   I've spent a lot my adult life trying to extract meaning from patterns and experiences. It's complicated work and often emotionally draining, but it's work I'm wholly committed to. If you ever hope to grow as a human being you have to be willing to do two things. One is be honest with yourself. That's the harder of the two, and if you can manage that then the next step is simply to dig. Dig and dig and dig. Find a pattern, and dig for the root. How and why did this behaviour start? Why was it necessary then and do I need it now? Not all patterns are bad. Some will simply be a part of what makes you, you. Which means sometimes it's just about understanding yourself better. And if you come across a behaviour that does cause you anxiety, that you want to change, you still can't fix it without addressing the root of the problem. The why.

   In comparison to some of my past introspections the question that arose in me today was pretty easy to figure out. Why am I so wary of people's authenticity? Whether it's a compliment or someone just referencing their own accomplishment I am continuously and hyper-actively listening for the lie. Whether sarcasm or bold faced fabrication; subversive or overt, I suspect many things as untrue until it can be proven otherwise. It's why I'm slow to trust people (especially men) and why I'm usually the first person to spot someone being duplicitous. Except it's overdone. I worry everyone's a fake, everyone is putting on a show. And perhaps a lot of us are. It was Shakespeare who wrote, "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players". While I hope to play, I hope never to be "playing at" who I am and I'm weary of the possibility others might be.

   As I said, it has an easily identifiable root and, comparatively, little complexity. I was that little boy. Learning the things I needed to learn to survive what my life was…things no child should have to learn. Not at that age. Not to lose faith in those who were charged with their care. Not to grow into a man who has a hard time trusting anyone's authenticity. That's a behaviour I'd rather be without. And identifying the root is that first step.

   There's always a balance though. I became so good at detecting falseness that I was even wary of it in myself. I've tried very hard to keep duplicity out of my life. To be the same person to every person I meet as best I can. Lately it has seemed an impossible venture. It's not always the game the world wants you to play, but I'm starting to see that there are ways to make it work. No one person is any one thing and we can't be all of those things, all the time. I'm finding that my peace with this will mean involving different aspects of me in different situations, and that's okay.

   This is what growth is about to me. These are my thoughts through a microscope. This is my year to savour what I have, and understand what it really means to me. Day 38, in the bag.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

day 37: isolation, friendship and watanalogies (water analogies)

I sometimes find myself faced with a feeling of debilitating isolation and loneliness. Not loneliness as in, for the company of other people (although I'm certainly human in that respect), but as in feeling like I don't belong among my fellow man. It's this sensation that I just don't get other human creatures. I use "creatures" because some times I don't feel like a person at all, and other times I don't feel like anyone else is. It comes in alternating waves. Sometimes I rage at what I think is the pitiful squalor of man, sometimes I feel like I was never meant to measure up. It's all very human I suppose, but it's all accompanied by this very deep and profound sorrow that I will never meet others like me, or that I will never find anyone to take me in. It's rare I sway heavily into this mindset - despite my wearing everything on my digital sleeve I think I may be one of the more balanced people I know - it just comes to mind now and again if I spend too much time introspecting.

   I'm sharing this because, in the spirit of this blog, I've had quite a contrary experience to this in the last few days. In the last few days I have had such an incredible outpouring of support and care from friends and family as I've never known. I've been going through something of a public trial and, until a few days ago, thought the weight of it might finally pull me under. I'm not trying to be sensational (this time), it actually felt a bit like drowning. Instead I feel like those I care about most in my life have brought the floor of the ocean up under my feet. Not just kept my head above water, but gave me ground where I was sure there was none. I can't express my gratitude. It's been more than just listening, it's been more than just being there, it has been a genuine and authentic show of care and respect and I honestly can't not smile when it comes my way.

   So I want to take some time to thank you. Thank you for reminding me that I'm not a stranger in this world. That there are those who value what I value. Those who care for me as I care for them. Those who would fight what I fight for, live for what I live for. And that it doesn't take a copy of me to understand me (thank god). We all deal...

   To those of you who have offered anything to me in return for nothing, please know I will be there in your darker times. And when you feel like you don't quite fit anywhere, there's always room over here.

   Much love.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

day 36: a year to savour, now in song form!

I wrote this song a few days ago. It's a song that wouldn't exist without this blog and wouldn't exist without the conversations that have come from it. This song belongs to all of you. Thanks for listening.


Wading Through
written by James Everett

You could be bested, you could be tested
And all the while wonder where you went wrong
You constantly question that you did your best and
Wonderin if you’ve what it takes to move on

I know its like everybody else keeps winning
You cant catch a break to save your life
But as that dawn pulls in, you begin to see
What you need, has always been inside

A young man has lost a father again
And he’s farther from home than he ever has been
And it’s a long way home

My life it's callin' out to me
Sayin that nows the time to be, nows the time to do
False to form, I ain’t gonna hesitate no more
cause the man I was before is wadin through

Feelin' the pressure, a note on the dresser
Says, "this must be what it feels like to drown"
And as you dwell upon the thing you couldn’t start
Conversations, revelations and thoughts that brought you down

Cause your love didn’t grow in the way that you hoped
And you’re farther from home than you ever thought you could be

Sunday, February 6, 2011

day 34: friends, forced company and making a choice

I had something of a revelation a couple of years back and I was reminded of it today in a conversation with a bandmate. I remember thinking about all of my friends and realizing how little choice I had had in them. Before feelings get hurt, please, lay down your arms. I'm being purposely sensational. Let me esplain.

   Think back on your meeting of your closest friends. I would bet that almost all of those friendships began in a situation of 'forced company'. As in you worked with them, took a class with them, were in a band with them, were roommates, etc. In some way you had to be in their company for extended periods of time. And in some ways, this means that if you had met this person and not had a reason to spend time with them, they may have passed you by without ever making an impact on your life. This might sound like a pretty harsh assesment, as though saying "I wouldn't spend time with you if I didn't have to", but it shouldn't, and that's not what I'm driving at. The fact is, I've been in classes with hundreds of different people and probably been coworkers to even more. The very small percentage of those people I still spend time with are among the coolest people I've met, and certainly the ones I've resonated with the most. That's just how friendship usually begins. My old apartment mate is a great example. We started living next to each other in our 2nd year of college and all told, there's a good chance without that and the first ensemble we played in together we may not have ever become the friends we are now. Instead, we've spent the last seven years talking, laughing, arguing, crying, growing and messing up in each others' company. I wouldn't do a thing to change our friendship today and hope it never ceases, even if circumstance did play a part in it's beginnings.

   No, I don't cite this to devalue the wonderful friends in my life, but I do resent the flip-side. The flip-side being that we some times come across people that we share a very visceral, instant connection with and without a reason, or 'forced company', we rarely take the time to cultivate that friendship. This made me sad. Off-hand I was able to think of at least 3 people I had met for one reason or another, had a lot of fun with, and then never saw again. And I know I'm not the only one. I'm not sure if this is due to faith in fate (where if you're "meant" to meet again, you will) or simply a complacency with the natural order of the universe, but it all began to strike me as strange. We rarely choose our friends, our circumstances do. I don't regret the amazing people 'chance' has put in my life, I simply wonder if we can take control of the other part. I wondered at it so much, I eventually gave it a go.

   It started with trying to call an old friend from college to tell her how much fun I thought she was and how engaging her conversation had been. I tried to set up a time to grab coffee but I think in a way she couldn't get passed the idea that I might be coming on to her and I eventually gave up. I tried it with a guy friend but reached a personal impasse, not knowing how to ask for a man date and not trusting to tell him it's because I felt a "connection" with him (it's a trust issue, not a too manly issue). 

   Overall it's been a challenging path but it has had some success. One of my friends (the chap I was aiding in romance in day 11) who I used to share employ with has become one of these. We didn't work together a lot at our job and he has since moved to Edmonton, but we recently reconnected and he may be on his way back to TO. This really would be a friendship by choice, and it's one I really hope stands the test of time because he is an incredibly genuine person and that's a rare quality.

   Maybe this is all part of needing control, but some times you do have to supersede the natural order of things to get what you want. You wont always get it, and that's okay, but you'll certainly never get it if you never try. Think about it. Imagine someone amazing you met in the past, some one you didn't get a chance to reconnect with. Why didn't it stick? Can you offer something to get the conversation going again? Do you have the courage to try? Because who really knows, it could become one of the defining friendships of your life. And you can go through it knowing that you didn't leave it up to fate, and you didn't leave it up to chance. You chose a friend. And now I'm choosing a friend. His name is bed. And we're besties.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

day 33: annie leonard and more on consumerism.

I've been getting away with posting other people's musings on here en lieu of my own now and again (and today will be no exception!), but I just feel like there's often no reason for me to put in my own words what has already been stated so clearly.

And so I offer you this. Because I couldn't have said it better than Annie Leonard.

   This video framed this problem so beautifully to me. It continues the conversation Naomi Klein began back in 2000 with her bestselling book, "No Logo". It's challenging information, especially for North Americans (who exploit this process as much as any and more than many). Even if you believe in it wholly, it can be tough to represent it in your lifestyle in your own way (as you can surely see from my earlier post about consumption). Not everyone can strip down and live in the woods to reach their peace with Gaia, but we can all afford to find a few good ways to deny the consumer in us something it doesn't need. Every time you do you gain a little victory for your wallet, for yourself, for the people along that production line and for the environment.

   The easiest way is to participate in the 3 R's. An interesting thing a lot of people don't know is that the three "R"s are actually put in order of their significance. Reduce is first because it's the most important thing you can do to help. The less demand for disposable products, the less production, the less people exploited in the process, period. Juice boxes and water bottles are good examples. If you can ignore the fact that you're paying for something that comes free out of your tap, you are still buying something that is packaged packaging. Individually wrapped anything (new Turtles boxes anyone?) is like giving a mushroom slap to the environment. Both painful AND degrading. You can also reduce by not adding items to your personal inventory without something going out. Like, if you have enough shirts to last a couple weeks don't buy a new one unless one of your old ones have completely worn out, or you've given it to a clothing bank. No one needs 40-50 shirts to wear, the least you can do is pass them on (I'm told women have shirt exchange parties, which I think is awesome).

   The second is Reuse, and reuse for as long as you can. Keep things as long as you're comfortable, even when something shinier comes along. Anyone who knows me knows I kinda blew this with my TV (I loves me moving pictures!), but my last computer I had kept for 6 years until the motherboard fried, I've been using the same studio monitors since 2004 and most of my electronics are well loved and second hand (and I've only ever owned one iPod. Take that Steve Jobbs!). I also recently asked for a refund for a $200 software update I had purchased. After thinking about it I realized I didn't need it. The added features of the new software were cool, but the program already did everything I wanted it to do. It was shiny, but unnecessary. The software may not have had a huge environmental impact, but it did have a huge impact on my mindset and certainly my wallet.

   The last step is recycle. Annie mentions that on it's own it will never be enough, but it's still very important. It's also good to know what you can and cannot recycle. I know a lot of people ease their conscience by throwing anything but food into the recycling, but you actually harm the process when you put in items that contaminate otherwise recyclable items. The worst I see are coffee cups and pizza plates. You can't recycle cardboard covered in grease and you can't recycle MOST coffee cups (although you often CAN recycle their lids and heat shields). You also can't recycle napkins that are soiled. For more info on what can and can't be recycled in the GTA, CLICK HERE.

   Some don't like being told to do these things, as though they were being judged by those who bring it up, but they should remember that this kind of stuff is extremely important to me and I still fuck it up. It would be hypocritical for me to judge. All I want to do is try my best to be part of the solution (and only very occasionally part of the problem). The best way to do that is to raise awareness and start by making a change with yourself. As Ghandi said, you have to "be the change you want to see in the world". Or as the King of Pop put it, "make that change". Yeah. That's what Immo do. Listen to Michael Jackson.

Friday, February 4, 2011

day 32: another man's reflection

I searched and searched for this quote I used to keep up in my locker in high school. It meant a lot to me then. It still does.

"If you do not want what I want, please try not to tell me that my want is wrong.

Or if my beliefs are different from yours, at least pause before you set out to correct them.

Or if my emotion seems less or more intense than yours, given the same circumstances, try not to ask me to feel other than I do.

Or if I act, or fail to act, in the manner of your design for action, please let me be.

I do not, for the moment at least, ask you to understand me. That will come only when you are willing to give up trying to change me into a copy of you.

If you will allow me any of my own wants, or emotions, or beliefs, or actions, then you open yourself to the possibility that some day these ways of mine might not seem so wrong, and might finally appear as right - for me. To put up with me is the first step to understanding me.

Not that you embrace my ways as right for you, but that you are no longer irritated or disappointed with me for my seeming waywardness.

And one day, perhaps, in trying to understand me, you might come to prize my differences, and, far from seeking to change me, might preserve and even cherish those differences.

I may be your spouse, your parent, your offspring, your friend, your colleague. But whatever our relation, this I know: You and I are fundamentally different and both of us have to march to our own drummer."

from "Please Understand Me" by David Keirsey

Thursday, February 3, 2011

day 31: babies, egypt and defining yourself by extremes

I got to spend more time with the babies today and on the ride home with Jeff we got to talkin'. I've always felt like Jeff and I were two sides of the same coin. He's very intelligent, well spoken and is constantly concerned with authenticity, especially internally. I can't think of a more admirable trait. The reason we're two sides would be that his search for truth and authenticity lead him down the path of christianity (he's actually studying/apprenticing to become a reverend) and mine down the path of atheism. It's oddly, not a contentious relationship in any way. Actually, him and his wife may be the only christians I know personally who are better versed in the bible and it's history than myself - and by no small margin - and it's lead to enriching conversations (with certainly more ahead). Today, as we often do, we found common ground on a topic I've thought a lot about over the last month.

   The conversation began about the troubles in Egypt with the protest demanding the end of a regime and the current president, Hosni Mubarak, refusing to step down. We were talking about when violence is necessary and if it's necessary. Classically the argument falls to WWII and Hitler, about how there really was no other way to talk or negotiate down the conflict, it could really only be resolved by removing him from power by force. In this case, Egypt provided an interesting juxtaposition because there has been pretty extensive reporting (including word I heard from one of my Egyptian students who has family in the region) that Mubarak had ordered military to pose as protesters but to incite violence and riots in hopes that the world looking on would not see the protest for what it was, well organized and peaceful. It didn't create the mob mentality they'd hoped, so instead the militants began spraying gunfire and tossing molotov cocktails into crowds. It showed a government willing to stop at nothing to annihilate the voice of those struggling to be free. It showed that 8 million strong in peaceful protest will some times not have the power to change the game, even while several countries including the United States call for aid to the country to be suspended until Mubarak steps down. With the world watching on, it's unsure what will need to happen to really inspire the change the Egyptian people are crying for. At some point, removal by force will become the only option for a free people to make the difference.

   The conversation Jeff and I had though, quickly moved from that to what makes people take extreme points of view like "War is never the answer", which is, in and of itself, a wonderful sentiment, it just doesn't allow for the complexity of nations in conflict or the rules the aggressors of any War set down. But war is only a convenient example. Why is there such heated debate on both sides of any topic when so often the truest answer to a question lies somewhere in the middle?

   The answer is control. It's truly difficult for a human being to accept chaos as a dominant factor in the playing-out of the universe. It's hard to envision your life in a world comprised of so many variables you have no way of deciding or knowing. This makes an extreme point of view very attractive. From the outside, feeling strongly about something gives us purpose. It gives us control. Do you like green more, or purple? GREEN! I could then show you a tone of green you hate, or put purple in a painting that takes your breath away. Some times it's harder to simply admit that there is no definitive answer. That even in the few times we really can say with absolute certainty that one thing is "right" and the other is "wrong", the timing, placement, approach and execution can change the answer drastically, thus making our right/wrong labelling a little superfluous in the first place.

   I'd like to think that the reason I've never been able to choose a favourite colour or favourite movie is because in some visceral way I've always been aware of how much circumstances play into our experiences. There's a particular song or band for when I'm cheery and another for when I'm angry. There's a time when I think abortion is the wrong choice and some when I think it's the only (but always believe it's in the hands of the parents). More important than accepting that though is accepting that any new information can change this at any time. Jeff surprised me a bit tonight by saying if he found tomorrow that christianity was unsustainable he would be forced to completely rethink the way he approaches life. This is a unique and completely admirable quality in any person; the ability commit to honesty so thoroughly that you would forsake even your "belief structure" to uphold honesty within yourself. 

   That has always been very important to me and has never failed to enrich my life while in it's employ. It may mean I assert with total conviction something one day and renege on it the very next, but it's as true to myself as I know how to be. And the fact that it's ever changing just proves the point. The answer to life's questions are rarely static. If you try too hard to lock onto one solid idea you may find in the end that you've missed the point entirely.

   Tomorrow this will beg more editing, but sleep is necessary. Night all!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

day 27-30: catchup

So the last few days have been just unreal. Sunday I had a recording session for a young cello player at a church, followed immediately by a rehearsal until 12am. The next day was work, editing of the audio/video from sunday (which, as I learned a couple days prior, needed to be edited, mixed, mastered and synced to video by the tuesday), a friend's final recital (wherein I played guitar) and some social time afterward. Next morning I missed work so I could finish editing and send off the video, went to Mary and then straight to two lindy hop classes back to back. After getting home I needed to make a few alterations to the video for the client and send it all off again and by the time that was done it was the bed for me. Today has been a little crazy too and I'm just now sitting to write this after a few days of being off the map.

   A few things have inspired me in the last while. On sunday's session the cello player was truly talented. At the age of 15 and having been playing for 3 years he is already oozing musicality. I don't find a lot of occasion to listen to classical music, so when I get to hear it live it's always a treat. I have never, however, heard such a young musician who felt the music so clearly, who could phrase with such hauntingly mature awareness. It can't be said there weren't techniques still to be conquered, but shining through the occasional squeak or poorly intonated note was a plethora of perfectly intonated ones and a tone that matched a player of much more age and maturity on the instrument. That was a lot of fun. It didn't fill me with envy as it might have in the past, and didn't trample on my own sense of worth as a musician, it was more a genuine celebration of another person's accomplishment. I've never been particularly bad for this (at least, as bad as many musicians I've known) but it has presented challenges and I'm glad to see myself at ease. I'm learning. Learning is good.

   Monday gave me a chance to perform myself, with a close friend from down under. I'm quite confident in my guitar playing, but in some songs "changes" arose that I was required to solo over. This is the dreaded part where I remind everyone that I actually went to school for voice and soloing over changes isn't my cup of able-to-do-it-at-all. Instead, I kept my peace. I trust my musicality and my ability to perform. Maybe I don't trust my ability to improvise in certain situations, but luckily that wasn't really being asked. Instead I plotted myself out a solo, not note for note, but to give myself a sense of safe zones during the part with changes (more or less what other guitar players do on the fly). Come performance time I did my best and what I may have lacked in perfectly connected lines I made up for in hip-thrusts and pained, "he-must-be-feeling-it-real-hard" faces. Which, to my surprise, I was. I've got to learn to trust myself more. In all respects, but music is a convenient example. I've had a few people in my past shut me down when I stepped out of the bounds they had labelled for me and that's kind of trashed my desire to go out on a limb. Admittedly, I accepted and some times helped foster the labels, but I'm over that now. The only label I choose to wear is musician. And even that is non-exclusive and ever fluid. I hope I'm never only described as a "musician".

   Tuesday followed a similar theme at swing dancing class. Turns out "Intermediate Choreography" presumes having taken the intermediate class. When the class started I realized it was hitting a pace I had never experienced before with the lindy classes. It also happened to have some of the more talented dancers I had seen at the Dovercourt House just the saturday before. It threw me back to times I had reached "above my station" and been embarrassed for having done it. I started to get panic in my chest. I started to worry everyone would realize I wasn't worthy. I started to contemplate pulling out of the class with gravest apologies for having wasted everyone's time. I get the steps as fast as anyone else. What the what?

   I need to stop surprising myself that I can learn things quickly, that just because something starts to really challenge me doesn't mean I'm reaching beyond what I'm worthy of. I've done this all my life, and when I wasn't presented the option to just run, I found a way. I would say, as humbly as I can, that finding solutions is one of my best attributes. Solving problems is at once my greatest skill and at the same time one of the ways I used to drive everyone with a problem crazy (unsolicited advice anyone?). More than that though, it's about accepting the limitations that others set out for you and that you set out for yourself. As the class ended the instructors started explaining that the choreo would keep getting piled on and that we should be ready for it to get harder. I realized they meant it would get harder just to remember all the steps in sequence. That's what I was worst at back when learning dances for musicals. Memorization. I started to get that same anxiety from the beginning of the class until I decided I wasn't going to let my perceived limitation get in the way of doing something I want to do. Use that brain of yours, James. Got it, video camera. I ask the instructors if I can video the classes for the purpose of review and they're definitely into it. I even get other students asking if I can share it. Looks like I'm not the only person worried about memorization. Surprise, surprise.

   Obviously there was some sort of safety mechanism involved in keeping myself from things that I felt were out of reach. The most obvious would be that when we don't reach for something that challenges us we won't have to deal with the disappointment of failure. I think the rabbit hole goes even deeper than that, but at this point it doesn't actually matter. What matters is the ability to choose a new way of being. Today I'm choosing (and appreciating) to value and challenge myself. To reinforce self-respect by giving myself the opportunity to succeed or fail. April 1st, I perform after 9 weeks of learning and perfecting the lindy choreography. I'm looking forward to the challenge and the fun of learning a bunch of new dancing. See y'all on the other side. And many times in-between.

I should add, you know you're a bachelor when: you didn't need to stage this photo.