Going on a Date with the Unplanned

Last night I was supposed to play music at a lovely lounge with a friend. I was going to play for a half hour during his set break and was quite excited. As it turned out, the bar was closed for cleaning and they hadn’t told him.

I was caught off guard, sitting on sixth street with my guitar and a pretty dress in rather sweltering heat. My friend told me there would be an open mic in a few hours at a bar around the corner, so I decided to set up shop there while I figured out what to do.

If you’re ever in Austin and see a girl sipping a beer and furiously writing in a notebook instead of talking to people, probably with a guitar propped on her bar stool, please, do come say hi.

One of the things I began pondering was how sometimes, you just can’t force an unplanned evening. It wouldn’t be the same. Many potential plans started to arise- there was an open mic near my house, an open mic across town, a birthday party. I had to pick. I realized this particular flavor of groundlessness was something to cherish because I never would have been able to fabricate it. Deciding on going to that bar would have been in my consciousness at least an hour in advance so that I could get the right bus.

I began to think about the universe as if it was a person, or at least, a thing with a personality. I was noticing that perhaps part of this personality included a tendency to put me and maybe others in situations where they were groundless. What the incentive would be is beyond me, but perhaps it has something to do with getting us to actually be able to listen. It’s easier to listen and feel for me when I’m not in the middle of a plan.

I decided to stay at the open mic I was already at. It didn’t feel right to do

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

anything else, almost like there was a current to follow. I would get to the birthday party afterwards, since that was the most sentimentally important thing on the list. It turned out that the showcase act who would have played from 7-8pm did not show up. The gentleman running the event let me play early and ended up giving me about five extra songs, partially because most people hadn’t shown up yet for the open mic and partially (at least I imagine) because the folks at the bar were actually enjoying it. Plus I was wearing a pretty dress.

Many times I have thought that the fabric of our connected reality really does have a personality, and a sense of humor. I have seen it most in the times when I had fewer plans. Last night was a fresh reminder that there are so many options to tap into that unplanned state, and we never get to pick when they happen. We just get to pick how to relate to them and how much appreciation to give them and ourselves during those times.

Sometimes those times are linked with trauma. I don’t think the same appreciation would be possible in those cases. Instead, I think it could be directed at ourselves and our space and our ability to be open to what we need when we need it in those times.

On another note, I opened my Etsy shop. It is called Jenerprise Jems. The world right now to me feels groundless still. I’m following up on job leads and hoping to find something soon, especially if it leaves me time to keep creating necklaces and improving my ability to play music.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it's too big.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it’s too big.

Have you had any dates with the universe lately where plans didn’t go your way and ended up leading to new connections or inspiration?

Have you thought that the universe has a personality of sorts, and if so, what’s your favorite aspect of it?

If you do think it works that way, how do you account for all of the many terrible things that also happen? Is everything just random, is there a higher power controlling it, is that power simply unable to prevent us from doing horrible things to each other but there to guide us when we are open to it?

Maybe it’s my joblessness catching up and turning me existential..but for now this is what I can think of to write about.

Also, please do look at the sky. Especially if the sun is setting, rising, or absent.

Busy Being Humans

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

The Buddha pointed out long ago that we do not have a solid self. The denial of this fact can lead to suffering.

I’m noticing that we are expected to feel, often times, one way. Either hurt or happy, sensitive or tough, falling apart or totally together.

I’m noticing that this isn’t true to most of our experience.

If someone gives me criticism, it is one of the most potent times for me to notice that split. On one hand, I may really try to take in what they are saying so that I can fully absorb it. On the other hand, I may be a little hurt in a little kid way. On the third hand, I might be touched and thankful that they actually gave me feedback at all.

But it’s hard to put all of those things into a tidy sentence in the moment, or to wear it as a sensible facial expression.

When you think about how we are presenting ourselves to much of our world right now, via Facebook and texts and twitter and anything else, this idea is even more pronounced. You write a single status update, for every single friend. You send a text with no voice intonation, maybe even to someone you just met who doesn’t know the nuances of your speech patterns. We constantly seem to be in situations where having one thing to say or feeling one way is appropriate, expected, and normal.

This seems simple enough, doesn’t it? I think it’s a nice thing to think about, especially as we listen to other people talk. It’s sometimes useful to remember that every feeling has a whole lot of others that are also there, not always expressed, and not even always incredibly conscious.

My theory is that the more we all are aware of these things, the less we will feel like we are “doing it wrong” when we actually are just being humans, and the expectations apply more easily to robots. And the more we allow for this type of thing in others, the more everyone else gets to feel less isolated themselves.

I just lost my well-loved job. Now is a time of many mixed feelings. Maybe that’s why this topic is on my mind in this way. I spent a lot of the day making jewelry on my living room floor, listening to local music and thinking about the future. I have to figure something out soon, and until then, I’ll sell  necklaces at little markets and spend what I saved as little as possible while I wait for more potential work with the same organization to come back.

But yes, these are interesting times. I hope everyone is well, and I hope that I’ll be writing more often soon, I know it feels so great when I do!

Do you think that you often times feel just one way, or is it usually a mix?

Do you feel like it’s easy to express that mix in a way that people understand?

Do people ever expect you to feel one way when you don’t?

Stuckness

Old rainbow

This new song has double the listens of any of my others.. http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/twine-by-jennifer-stuart

A few things have happened recently.

One is that I turned 30.

Another is that I got a music fan who is 9 years old, and more badass than I’ve ever been.

A third is that my morning glories have started thinking about blooming.

I go through rapid phases of self confidence that comes from my heart and a feeling of utter insecurity and doubt. Usually they follow each other in annoying little circles.

I wonder if I’m addicted to attention, or if I’m becoming that way. Or if I’m delusional, or if I’m just very, very smart and if eventually that realization will stick.

A big lesson lately is that things don’t last. Not good things like love and dogs, but things like anger and repulsion towards someone or myself. These things pass. It becomes really clear as I continue my work in a contemplative community where being present is key.

When I’m present, I’m not attached to the mean things someone said to me last week when I see them this week. I know that anything can happen, and I know it from experience. Most importantly, the more I can let go of the assumption that the icky feelings will last, the more open I am to having new fresh exciting and possibly pleasing ones come in.

This is all for now. Thoughts, reflections. Vague, but possibly more universal than they feel at the moment. 

On a side note, I have a column in Kickass Women’s Music magazine. You can find my first entry here. The column itself is about Music and Mind and relating to various aspects of playing music with mindfulness. There’s an audio thing that pops up with a lady talking, just mute it if you want to read instead. 

I hope everyone who still reads Enjoy Life for Once is well, I hope to make more posts soon and more potent and pointed ones, but right now this is all I’ve got.

Are there any feelings that you’ve had for a really long time about someone or yourself that feel permanent?

If you could change one feeling that you have, for someone else or yourself or a situation, what would it be?

These are fun things to think about, even if you don’t want to comment on them. Just imagining the changes is sometimes a good step in the direction of actually allowing the stuck things to move.

Try it out. 🙂

What Are Fears Afraid Of?

Recently, a few things happened. One is, I learned to relate to some aggressive sheep dogs. The other is that I played an open mic. I’m realizing that working with fear is less about solving a mystery or scaring it away or ignoring it, and more about making friends. 

Let me explain the sheep dog scenario. I live part time at a ranch, and there are a few sheep dogs. They are doing a job, which is guarding the sheep. The sheep happen to be right outside of my front door. So walking my dog anywhere quickly became a problem.

If you are any type of perceptive, you probably notice I have a lot of pictures of my dog up on the blog. That’s no accident. I’m his biggest fan. I love the ever-loving Hell out of him. I don’t want him getting bit up, beat up, or intimidated by some dogs based on a misunderstanding of the threat he poses to some sheep.

What I did at first was just run from them. That didn’t work, they felt powerful and chased me. I then started carrying a stick to raise in the air and scare them if they chased us. That sort of worked, except sometimes they got really angry and truth be told, that stick wouldn’t do much if they wanted to attack me or my dog. Then I tried something else, which was to come outside to actually greet them alone before walking my dog.

You know what happened? They freaking loved it. The girl one even let me pet her, which is nearly unheard of. She gets happy to see me in the morning now. The boy one does as well. They say hi to me, get excited, and then they leave us pleasantly alone while we walk by the river. They don’t even bark. If they do, I say their name, and they stop. It’s that freaking simple.

The open mic. There’s another one. A small handful of my friends have heard me play and sing, even though I’ve been doing it for more than ten years for just my own amusement. It’s not a side of me I show very much, yet have always yearned to in some form or another. Since joining Soundcloud, where things are safe and distant, I’ve learned that my lyrics really do have a great impact on some people. That’s a great feeling.

I was half-watching a movie called “The Waitress” last night (Nathan Fillian is in it, come on how could I not), and one of the things the main character Jenna said was “I was addicted to saying things and having them matter to someone.”

That’s exactly how it was. I became addicted to wanting to share, wanting to share my words with whoever would want to hear them. Plus I like getting over fears and hesitations. So I did the open mic.

Image

A new song about feeling proud of what you are even when it’s not much comparatively:
http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/until-its-done-by-jennifer

Before going, I addressed my fears one by one. I knew that if someone went before me and sounded amazing, that I would tap into a feeling of “I’m super proud that I get to offer something very different” instead of “oh jeez I’m going to just suck compared to them.”  I meditated, I even played in front of my boyfriend for hours and had him talk to me and try to distract me while doing it because I knew my mind would attempt such things later. I met every possible fear in a friendly way and worked with it so that when I was there, I felt prepared.

It went wonderfully. I sang three songs, I made some friends, I plan to go back and do it again next week. A few months ago, I would have probably bet my dog’s right front paw that I would never do an open mic for at least a few years. But working with my fears has really made my world feel bigger.

The way that I faced the fear of singing in public and really chose to want to work with it instead of run from it or fight it was very similar to how I finally learned to be less scared of the dogs. Maybe fears are as afraid of us really looking at them as we are of them. Maybe they are more afraid of someone being nice to them than of a direct challenge, because it’s amazing how fast they can scatter once you make up your mind to just let them do whatever they want after they get a friendly “hello” from you.  It’s easier than a battle or feigning ignorance, because even if you aren’t looking, they still have a strong prey drive.

How about you, have you overcome any fears lately?

Do you like to do things that are scary, or a specific type of scary? 

Do you ever look at your fear or fight it, or try to learn about it to dissolve it?

Hope everyone is well!

Harness Your Inner Opposite Day!

The other day I had this thought, and it has turned out to be a really useful one.

To set the stage, it was late at night. I fell asleep reading in a cozy bed with a dog at my feet. I believe my mind was saying something like,

“God I don’t want to get out of bed to brush my teeth. I just want to keep sleeping.”

And then it went,

“I wish I wanted to brush my teeth. How would that feel?”

And I proceeded to pretend like an actress that all I wanted to do in the whole wide world was get out of the cozy bed, put my feet on the carpet and walk myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I even pretended to look forward to the feeling of cold water.

The result was rather amazing. It made it a lot easier to do it than when I was fighting off my loathing for leaving the coziest place in the universe.

I continued to try this with other things.

“I am going to be so nervous when my friend asks me to sing with her later.”

Pause.

“I cannot WAIT to sing with my friend later. It’s going to be so fun. I am just so excited to see what happens!”

and then, even:

“I wish I never had to sing in front of anyone, ever. I don’t want friends. I don’t want to sing. I hate the whole thing!”

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Sometimes you have to play around with extremes to see where you actually want to be.

The thing is, there are always many ways to see things. But usually we just stick with the first one. “I don’t want to do the dishes.” “I wish it was sunny out.” “I am not the kind of person that would enjoy walking in the rain, playing an open mic, dancing with a stranger, eating a salad for dinner…” anything at all. We get stuck and save time by not bothering to see things in the less familiar way.

We get these fixed notions, but what about trying for fun to see the same thing in the opposite way? And then maybe, a third way? A made-up way? A way that just reminds our brain that really, the first notion we have about the way something “is”, especially when that something is as complex and lovely as our human being selves,  is not necessarily the ideal one.

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday. I’m hoping that by continuing to do this, I’ll get through some aspects of stage fright and other patterns. Even if that doesn’t happen, the process of doing this is fun and leads to some cool perceptions. This picture, if it was moving, would display me singing in front of a new friend. So clearly, something is working.

Do you ever think about things in an opposite way just for fun?

Are you going to try it?

Do you know some of your most solid beliefs or ideas that you wish could change but you are just positive that they won’t?

Do you remember being different than how you are now, and wondering if life would ever change?

I hope your week is going well!