I had a written blog ready to go, but after the events of this past weekend, instead of sharing my written words, I want to voice my thoughts with you. Sometimes, what I want to say can best be said through the power of music. This is the first original song that I've ever posted online, and it's a very personal one that I wrote about a year ago. As things happen in our society, the words keep coming back to me, and again the truth of the song calls out to me in light of the senseless tragedy that occurred in Orlando. Let's spread the hope of freedom for all mankind!
Only in a Song...#WeAreOrlando
Truthfully, there are mornings that I wake up and I wonder if I have the courage to be who I want to be, instead of being the person I think others expect me to be.
I'm not sure where to start with this. I've been on quite a journey over the last several weeks, both professionally and personally. Although I create two distinctions there, I'm not one of those people who segments my life into obvious compartments. I don't typically live with the idea of having a: family life, personal life, business life, spiritual life, etc. I just see life as...well...life, and it all fits together as one. The last several weeks have been filled with unique circumstances and challenges. I won't go into all the details just yet, as the dust still seems to be settling, but it has been a tremendous stretch in many ways.
I wonder if you're like me. You see, I've learned through the years to operate in the world based on what I am capable of doing, and I have been able to do those things quite effectively. Yet for years, something gnawed at my insides, an incessant cry of the unfulfilled call within my soul. I learned the skills of business and ministry, and I was able to get along in life as long as someone gave me an opportunity to prove my worth. But over the last 2 years, I have taken on a re-invention, in the literal sense of the term. I have flipped upside down so many things in my life, that if I were to stop for a moment and gawk, I might remain there for a while with my jaw on the floor. And yet, there is the gentle reminder that in as much as I have re-invented, I still have boundaries I want to push, and there is this deep calling to show up in the world the way I want. Truthfully, there are mornings that I wake up and I wonder if I have the courage to be who I want to be, instead of being the person I think others expect me to be.
THE MIRROR OF EXPECTATION
Now of course, I know those of you who are positive thinkers like I am, and you would say, "of course you do." And there are those of you who know me, and you would say, "of course you have the courage." And maybe that's the crux of my point. I THINK people expect me to have the courage. Maybe the reality is that I do have the courage, but I know that I wake up some mornings, and ebb and flow through the day having to make the decision to take a stand on the person I want to be, and not who others expect of me. But living in the mirror of others expectations is deeply engrained in me. I don't have an issue being authentic, it's not that I'm playing someone I'm not. It's just that my authentic was established a long time ago, based on what I believed at the time, and I can say now, based on what I thought others wanted to see from me. While it's served me well in continuing my existence on this earth, it has also kept me from being who I truly want to be in this life.
HOW DEEP DOES THIS GO?
There's a long way around the corner to where I'm headed with this, so I'll try and shorten the distance. I have hidden myself for a long time. I'm getting a better picture as to why I've done so, and the reality is that it doesn't much matter as to why. You see, the life I live is like everyone else's, it doesn't make perfect sense, it's not predictable, and it's not always what I want. And yet, those 3 things are the things we constantly fight to maintain and control. We fight so hard to make our life make sense, we are so certain that our predictions what will come true if we do "x", and we are always trying to get what we can get. Through some pretty amazing relationships, and with some good work with an incredible life coach (who is also a partner and a friend), I now wake up every day aware of the opportunity that I have to make the decision to show up in the world the way I want to. And when I take the courage to show up in the way I want, I am awakened to an understanding that I have tremendous freedom, and the power, to participate in the creative process of my life. And there is so much more of the "full" life that I want to live. There is more mountain to climb, more space to journey...and here's the deal, I want to see how deep it goes...
THE ART OF CREATION
I'm an artist, and I've been one since as far back as I can remember. I learned to operate in the world as a minister, as a speaker, and as a business man, because I could do those things, and yet, at the core of me is this...artist, a creator. Everything I have ever done has been an effort to create something. I am currently operating in this space of providing for my family (as a business man), which sometimes (okay, often) entails me being engaged in things that I'm not really excited about pursuing. But nonetheless, I operate out of the artist way, using my skills as an entrepreneur to create opportunity to feed my family. But then there's this "place" that calls out to me like a beacon of light shining from a lighthouse on the sea. It's a true-north compass, pointing the way home, and in it is my passion, drive, hope, sanity, and breath. It is the call of the artist, and all I want is to see how deep the gift goes. It's all I want to do really. It's my contribution to the world, and it's my way of giving people the opportunity to see the beautiful power and freedom that they have to live the life they want to live. I want to see how deep it goes for me and how far it might reach. I want to squeeze the marrow out of it and see how it tastes. As an artist, I want to see how true I can be.
DO vs. BE
I want to create, to write songs, I want to play for large crowds all over the world, I want to act, I want to write books and blogs...and I'm curious to see how those things might impact the world around me. Maybe I won't change the world, but I want to been enthralled in the pursuit, and steeped in the being of it all. There is something to be said in, "well, just do it", and, I am. But even beyond the doing of those things, there are the days that I am filled with the courage to BE. And it is that BEING that draws me in the most. It is like the intoxicating smell of a lover, calling, daring for me to just let go...and BE. I find in moments that keep stringing together with more frequency, is my ability to just let it all go, to quit trying to control everything, and just be.
BLOWING UP EXPECTATIONS...
A dear friend of mine commented the other day that there is a new "lightness" about me, and he wasn't referring to my stellar physique. Over the last few months, I have found a profound lightness in life. I've found myself to be a little more whimsical, not taking myself so seriously, and yet grounded in commitment and focus. I was trying to figure out how I stumbled upon this state, and while I'm not a big "3-points" kind of guy, there are 3 ideas on which I have continually mediated over the last several months. Those ideas are: 1. Life turns out the way it does, and if "this" is all I am, I'm okay with it, because I am already tremendously blessed. If I never do the things that I really want, at least I will die, climbing the mountain, being WHO it is that I want to be, pursuing the life I want to live. Even as I type those words, that little voice speaks up telling me where I should be in life, and reminds me of my potential. It's telling me, "that's not true, you would be devastated if you never get to do those things." I hear you voice, but you don't always tell the truth. Truthfully, I have reached the belief that I have nothing to lose, because I have nothing to prove. Seriously, I have nothing to prove...and it brings about a certain lightness, and might I say, joy, to my life. If I have nothing to prove, I can move forward in the life I want to live without the bondage of expectation or the fear of failure. 2. I cannot predict what will happen in life, much less control it, although our human nature thinks we can...I cannot. So therefore, I now have the option of not being disappointed with unmet expectations. When I release control, I am also able to handle circumstances based on what they are, as opposed to fighting the emotions of what I thought they should or shouldn't be. 3. I don't give a fuck. Ohhhh, I know I just disappointed some of my readers with that word. I KNOW, certain people have an expectation that I wouldn't use such language, but to be honest, it's the only word that describes what I feel. And I've worked hard to get here. I really don't give a fuck about what people think about what I'm doing. In fact, it has been a mantra for the last 2 years that has provided me relief, as well as a place to stand when I need it. I don't say that in anger, out of bitterness, or just to be crass. I have spent the majority of my life concerned about what I thought other people need, and then doing my best to become whatever it is that I THOUGHT they needed. I've become pretty adept at attempting to become all things to all people. And while it has gotten me to some pretty spectacular places in life, it has also kept me from going where I really want to go, and more importantly, prevented me from showing up in the world the way that I want.
Wrapped up into all these thoughts, actions, and being, is life. It's unpredictable, it's challenging, and I think more and more, it can be more simple than we have made it out to be. Maybe life is as simple as being loved and taking care of the ones you love, and chasing your dream and the life you want to live in the process. That's it! It takes courage to make it that simple. It takes courage to be who you want to be, as opposed to being who you think others expect you to be...and maybe, just maybe, you have the courage!
The month of March was quite a month for us. We spent about 14-15 days with our family sick, except for one of our daughters, who I have now nicknamed, "Little Oak." She was amazing throughout the entire time as every single other family member got sick, including me and my wife. As a family, we are almost always in good health, so this was quite a departure from the norm, especially with everyone down at the same time. We had a trip to the ER for an x-ray on the littlest one's ankle, which came back negative, and about 5 hours after that, she was walking and running again (thankfully). Then a few days ago, I had a surgical procedure on my side that took a little more effort than we had anticipated. I have quite a few stitches holding stuff together, as long as I don't laugh too hard. It's all good though, and no, I did not get ab implants. So, goodbye March!
LET'S GO PLAY
This past week, I showed up to an open-mic, writer's night out in Franklin. It's in a great place just off of interstate 65, and I've visited the restaurant/bar a couple of times. The organizer told me a few days before that it had been a pretty low turn-out the week before so I might get to play quite a bit.
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO
I arrived at the restaurant to find that there was only 1 other songwriter currently there...and that's all that would show. I had some people on the way, but they had text and asked if I could possibly go on closer to 8pm, as they were trying to get there. The night began at 7pm, so the plan was to have the other songwriter sing at least a 30 minute set, then I could go on near 8pm. My fellow songwriter kicked it off and started sharing her songs. Come to find out, this was her first ever songwriter's night to play, as she had just recently moved to town with her husband. She filled up about 30 minutes of time, and it was my time to go.
A SMALL CROWD
I actually had a list of new songs that I wanted to try out on an audience. I had 12 songs total on the list, with all of them but 2 being new. So I stepped up on stage and looked out across the big restaurant. There were a few people around the bar with their backs to me, engaged in their food, drink, and conversation. There was one table of 4, that included the other songwriter and her crew. There was a table with my wife and a friend/fellow songwriter who came out to support. There was a table of 3, with 2 of those being part of my team who came out to watch. Then there was one table of 2 people who just came to the restaurant to eat. Behind a pony-wall, about 25 yards away, were several people seated at tables, there for dinner. All this to say...I was about to play to an essentially empty restaurant, with people who did not come to listen to music, much less an acoustic set by a singer-songwriter.
NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A CORNER
It's always interesting to see how we grow and develop as people. I remember playing in front of smaller, distracted crowds before, and I've never liked it. In fact, I would say that I've despised it, and would find myself not wanting to even be there. Nobody puts Baby in a corner. Haha! It's not that I liked it this time either, but my perspective is different. It was my thought that this was just the setting I needed. At the time, I didn't judge whether it was good or bad, I just simply looked at it as the setting that I had been dealt. I'm one of those people who would prefer to perform in front of 10,000 than 10. I've always been that way. The largest crowd I've ever played for was over 17,000, and I remember the energy that came from that audience. But my mindset is different now, and I had some specific things that I wanted to accomplish: 1. I wanted to play as many of my new songs as I could so I could get a feel for how they feel on stage, and get some feedback from the audience. It's one thing to play in a room or the studio, and it's a whole other experience to play them live on the stage. 2. I wanted to use this opportunity to work my performance muscles, getting in shape and simply getting used to being on stage in this type of setting. 3. I wanted to work out my vocal muscles in a full set to continue preparing my voice for the times that are coming when I will be singing shows and larger sets several days in a row. I sing daily as it is, but there is nothing quite like the rigors of singing full shows and sets for a live show. I accomplished all of my objectives and felt great about it. I showed up in the way that I wanted to show up, regardless of the crowd or their level of engagement.
ITS ALL IN THE MINDSET...AND THE VOCALS...AND THE SONG...
I had the mindset as I began, that I was going to play, do my very best for that night, and I was going to entertain those who were interested. I didn't rush my set, I took my time. I spoke between songs, and tried to let the audience know a little bit about me, and I told some stories about the songs themselves, including their inspiration, or how they were written. Somewhere in the process, I got more comfortable, and aside from thinking about the next words on a new song, I quit thinking and just had fun. I played a total of 10 songs, just under 1 hour, and I got great feedback on several things, including songs that connected with different people in certain ways. The organizer of the event came up to me afterward and said, "so what are you doing? Are you doing the artist thing or just songwriting?" I told him that I'm doing the artist thing. He said, "man, your vocals and songwriting are great, like way above average." It's always nice to get that kind of feedback, and to know that there are people who like my music. And by the way, one of the songs that I sang is a song that my team and I believe will be my first single. Yes! It's a great song, and I can't wait for you to hear it!
If I can play to a room of a few interested people and supporters, mixed in with a hand full of people who are distracted, with just a guitar and my voice, then I can certainly handle when the crowds are bigger, engaged, and I have a full band. And I am so looking forward to that! Oh, and remember that small table of 2 people who were there to eat? They hung out the entire time, watching and clapping, and they didn't leave until my last song. So, maybe I won over a couple of new fans too!
I've got lots of work to do, continuing to write, perform and play. AND...we're beginning our major fundraising for the project and everything that goes along with that, this month!
SPACE TO MOVE FORWARD
I've found the space in life to keep moving forward toward the life I want to live. It's not easy, nor without challenges, but I'm having a blast. In fact, I would say we're having more fun now than ever, me as an individual, and we as a family.
Thanks for joining me on the journey!