Two Birds

Made two people with two people. Out of youth, one; out of love, two.

("The clouds look like mountains or castles or both and I just want to be with you.")

Carried them both in the same little room; a space in my body

Universe filled with atoms collecting, it all coalescing

Into bodies brand new.

 

Thirty-six moments (A.K.A. thirty-six years)

Out of time, three; out of sight, four.

(Caught up to the age of the death of a girl who was so old to the people she'd made.)

And what about them?

How would they know that she was just one flake

In a whole lot of snow?

Where we are all falling

We are all falling

Yes, we are all falling

So where do you want to go?

 

Birds, if you need a people, a person to blame

Hold out your wings and I'll give you my name

Out of words, five; out of excuses, six.

Can't make amends for all that was battered and bruised yet

I shall always carry you

'Cause we are all falling

We are all falling

Yes, we are all falling

But what do you have to lose?

July Twelfth Two-Thousand and Three

I find that I fade out of moments and struggle with words I fear are wrong.

Caught up in upheaval,longing for the ability to keep my eye on the ball.

My dreams disturb me, the players never right, all the wrong characters coming and going, kissing my mouth and I blush, turn around, and close my eyes.

Where is the even-tread?

We stare into mirrors lovely, tired, worn, and console ourselves with pots of colours, with notions, with idealism run rampant born from a magazine.

I see a girl. Reciting words to her mother, "This means family, this means love."

She calls her mother a bitch, stares hard to hurt, her mother withdrawing in pain.

I watch that embrace.

I hate that girl, these girls, those girls with their mothers.

They do not know how good they have it.

We have the smoking gun.

We have so much to lose.

We have run hard to ignore.

We have our projections to share.

My revenue is dropping.

My profit is waning.

My status is under review.

My outlook is revised.

Here is a sprinkling of words that mean nothing to you.

I toe the line, I dive right in but without the optimism he tends to pretend.

You light my fervor

You stop my waning woebegone Sundays on fire.

You tickle my fancy maybe

you speed up my heart, a low-battery jump start and a Pop Pop Pop of my love is jumping out at me.

I would write you a song we all could sing and hope you'd remember me but I don't have it in words, just love.

Mitch and Manda

While driving through Alabama or Mississippi, (I don't remember which as they sort of blend together a bit) I looked up at a bridge that I was passing under, a small one, nothing fancy, just your typical ol' overpass. And there, on the side, in blazing, blue letters was: MITCH AND MANDA

I immediately began to wonder about these two. Was it possible that they were the Romeo and Juliet of their bit of the world?

Was it a mean joke that some guys pulled on their buddy, Mitch, linking him with the local, hirsute laundromat owner?

A hopeful youngster pining for the town prom queen?

Or maybe it was her? Maybe Manda herself walked down the aisles of the local Wal-Mart and picked out the just-right perfect shade of blue.

I thought about these names a lot over the weekend.

First off there's the glaringly obvious point (at least to me) of why?

Why, and how.

I remember when I was little wanting very much for people to know that I existed. I would write messages and send them off in helium balloons, my own proverbial messages in the bottle, not even hoping for an answer really, just putting myself out there.

I did get a response once from a lady in South Carolina.

"Dear Meghan,

Your poem was very nice. Thank you for sharing. The bit about the clouds was sweet. Your Mother must be very proud. You should know however, that it's not a good idea to let balloons go into the air. When they pop, birds and animals sometimes try to eat the pieces and then they slowly choke on them and die.

Take care,

Mrs. Something or another"

So, I didn't do that anymore.

 

I think I do understand what would compel someone to, for instance, write their name in the sidewalk or to declare their love on an overpass. It's being able to go back to a specific place and say,

"Look. I was here. I did something. It was stupid and badly done, but I made a mark. People will see my name for a long time."

How silly we are. I am very guilty of this. I know that those I love see me, and know me, and think that I'm great, and yet I want to see a tangible something that I have contributed in one way or another.

I don't think I'm doing a very good job trying to make my point. If I ever had one.

Can't you just see it, though? Mitch with his paint can, slightly drunk, perhaps Manda is with him, and they're staggering out of the car and across the road to the other side and he's yelling,

"I'm gonna show ev'ry one that we's goin' out!"

She's giggling and saying,

"Miiiitch, you're sooo crazy..."

Or maybe Mitch and Manda have been married five years already now and on the morning of their five year anniversary Mitch awakes and thinks,

"I know just what I'm going do to surprise her..."

Every times Manda drives to town for milk she sees her name linked with Mitch and gets just plumb tickled at how "romantic that man is and all..."

Was it hard, I wonder? Was it tricky? Do you need a lookout to tell you when cars are coming? What if a police car came by?

"Oh, hello there sir...oh, the spray paint? This? Um...I was just out walking on this random overpass in Alabamippi or Mississama in the middle of the night and...tripped over the can sitting here and it got all over me." When I think about it, it becomes sort of romantic, sort of goofy, the cement version of the heart carved into the tree trunk. How nice.

Wanderlust

What to say. It's 3:30am. I should be sleeping. I have far too much rolling around in my head. I have the strangest sensation of wanting to just pack up and go somewhere.

77 degrees. Streetlight outside and a halo of fluttering creatures drawn to the light. My slumbering gardenia bush. Catch-me-if-you-can front yard but watch out for the hill, you could fall down, scrape a knee or two.

In the window next to me sits myself, typing just like I am. Only my other me is in the sleeping gardenia bush, balanced lightly on top, hovering in midair.

Let's go on a trip. Find some roadside restaurant, meet a waitress named Jackie who has blonde hair piled high and calls us, "Sweetie." Watch as she pulls a pen from her hair somewhere, cocks her hip ready to write. Order the special with fries and talk about Life and Love and how you can't separate the two.

Hit the road - no maps - just plenty of conversation and a book that shows you where all those awful tourists traps are; let's go see the big ball of rubber bands. I'll roll down my window, turn on the oldies station and stick my hand outside, feel the currents, pretend it's an airplane. We're in slow motion, this is where the rain could start and then we're through that patch and looking behind to see how very dark, look how dark is that sky.

Stop by some ocean for a brisk swim, get the sand all over everything, in our sandwiches, in our ears. Just for one day though, I don't want to have to use too much aloe lotion. I burn easily and not just literally. Stick around for the sunset and I would tell you a story about the time when my sister and I swam out to a big boat full of men who catch fish for a living. Big, burly men with loud voices, real, working hard, strong.

We stood chest high in the water, watching them pull in thousands of fish with their nets, while we shrieked as the fish that escaped tickled our legs. Let's pretend we're mermaids, let's pretend we're looking for our dolphin friends, let's pretend.

How we waved to our mother on the beach. And she's calling us in, it's time for her to check us, rub us down with lotion again, smooth our faces with mother hands, and are you hungry? We should've kept waving, she died a few months later. And now I'm aching.

I look at mirrors, watch them change while I stay the same. Our scenery is lovely, I try to take it all in. Play my game where I see how long I can keep counting white dashes. They're like train cars, you have to stay ahead of them or you'll lose track.

It's my time to drive now, you sit back. I'll drive in the dark, lights on, music low, empty roads that will start to call us home.

Canyon Cake Maker

I was walking the edge of the canyon line-- Slipped and fell into that great divide--

All that caught me was memory and time;

A ledge on the outer edge of my mind.

I had been making cakes for everyone,

Watching them eat and leaving me crumbs;

A drill sergeant for an army of sons--

A mask so heavy it made me go numb.

 

I have dollars and plastic,

My head has a roof,

My body a bed and my body no bruise,

Fingers are warm; my belly is fed

But that means nothing when you’re fucked in the head.

Dare I long for more when at least I have bread?

When that far away child is quite close to death?

But who’s to say they wouldn’t want the same,

If they stood where I stood and had my same name?

 

Needed to find a place to belong--

Wanted to right the wrongs with a song--

The words they tumbled out of my hands,

And the melody left me for another man.

So just let me lay here for a long while--

Ledges are better than falling for miles--

My mind is slipping, my heart so tired

From everything of me that has been required.

 

 

Stardust...

Before I begin I just want to thank everyone who read and commented on my "coming out" post. Your comments were kind and a lot nicer than I thought they were going to be. A lot of atheists report horrible backlash when they finally decide to share with people about their atheism. Atheists are viewed by a lot of people as evil and lacking in morals. One study found that people distrust atheists more than rapists.  My decision to tell everyone about my atheism was, in some ways, directly tied to this stigma; I want to give a voice and face to what an atheist looks like. There are so many people out there who are atheists or agnostic (I'm going to write a post about that later) and most of us don't even know it.  

Now, on to the actual point of this blog post.

 

I wrote the song Stardust back in July (of 2013) sitting in a south facing 20th floor apartment in Manhattan. It was sweltering hot in the city; the heat indexes were some of the highest in recorded history. The apartment was only slightly cooler as the A/C unit struggled to keep up with the temperatures. The view, however, was incredible as the picture window took up almost the whole south wall of the apartment; the Freedom Tower the primary focus. And how could it not be? The southern Manhattan skyline once more dominated by a towering height of steel and glass. There was a guitar in the apartment and as I sat on the bed strumming the strings, I was ruminating on the damage that "faith" (a word Peter Boghossian defines as "Pretending to know things you don't know.") has had on humanity. All the things that people have done because "God" told them to, or because they had "faith" that it was the right thing to do. To be sure, it wasn't Christianity that brought down the Twin Towers, no. It was a group of people who ardently believed that Allah wanted it; people who believed just as firmly as the Christians; just as firmly as the Hindus; just as firmly as the Jews; just as firmly as the Mormons, etc. that what they believe is the ONLY right way to believe.

I thought to myself, How profoundly sad that most of us live waiting for an afterlife. That people think, "One day I will be in heaven and won't have to deal with any of this anymore."

I want to live for now. I want to die trying to make the most of NOW.

And so the words poured out:

 

Waste away in buildings built

To ease our sorrow, ease the guilt

Supplicate to the up above

Hate to say no one's listening, love.

 

Time was lost to a fairy tale

Forbidden fruit that led to nails

And born to see but rendered blind

By mankind to save mankind

 

Oh we're stardust

And we must

Make the most of this

While we're breathing

No more living

For after dying

No, I'll die trying

To make the most of now

Darlin'

 

Ate the body, drank the blood like

Every good boy and girl should

Babies raised on bread and wine

Let your little light shine

Oh let it burn

Let it shine

Oh watch them burn

 

(CH)

 

The amazing Deke Spears, producer and musician and friend extraordinaire.  Shot with a Yashica Mat-124.

Below is a rough recording of the song that I started with Deke Spears. The song is still in its infancy. Deke and I recorded in the performance hall at KSU - he played the acoustic guitar and I played the gorgeous Steinway Grand piano and sang. We messed around with backing harmonies and then, later, Deke threw some drums and bass on the track to see how it felt. I'm not sold on it but it's all I have to share with you right now.

The gorgeous Steinway Grand I was honoured to play.

Please know that it's not mixed or mastered and most likely will end up sounding different. However, I've found that nothing I do will ever meet the standards I have in my head, nothing will ever be perfect enough, and so I need to get over my stupid self and share whatever it is that I have at that time. Capiscé? Hate it? Love it? What do you think? Be honest. Honesty is a very very good thing.

Many thanks, everyone.

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/122485677" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

 

( By the way, I know that some of you are going to hate this; it's going to make you very uncomfortable. I'm sorry for that and yet, I really hope that this gives you reason to consider why you believe what you believe. Stretch your brain a bit, it won't kill you. I promise. ;-) )

I'm finally coming out of the closet...

...as I have grown weary of "hiding" who I am, and have been, for over a year now. I have put this off and put it off for a while now but I realized that I needed to be up front and honest.

Also, I wanted to put a face to what I am:

 

 

I am an atheist.

Not even joking; not even a little bit.

I'm going to attempt a bit of a summary -- if that is even possible. How can I even try to sum up what has been such an evolution of self?

It was a gradual process and not a path that I deliberately set out upon. Ten years ago I began asking myself questions about whether or not I thought that the Bible was the inerrant, infallible word of God. And so I started reading. The answers I discovered scared the shit outta me.

Allow me to give you some back story if I may:

You see -- I was raised in church. My Irish Catholic mother became a "born-again spirit-filled" Christian when she was twenty-four years old. My father sort of stumbled along behind her in his faith for a few years until finally becoming a believer. I grew up in the Vineyard, a church that was, at the time, non-denominational and becoming well known for its contemporary worship songs. I loved church. I loved the music. Life was good. I learned my bible verses. I went to the youth retreats. I learned the hand signs for all of the worship songs. I longed for the day when I would speak in tongues. The laying on of the hands. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Oh, I learned it all. It was a language, a lifestyle; easy as breathing. I was told I had a gift for worship, that God had blessed me with melodies from heaven. My talents were not mine, they were to be used for God's glory, and I accepted that totally and without question. Why would I question it? I didn't know anything else.

After my mom died when I was thirteen life was pretty rough. I still went to church for a couple of years after that but, as I got a little older, my father and I fought like it was our job and my siblings and I were left on our own quite often while he was working. I worked a lot, too, working as many as three jobs at a time to help pay bills. I dabbled in underage drinking; I chain smoked cigarettes and generally felt very sorry for myself. I lied a lot back then. Life was so wretched that I wanted to be anything but me and anywhere but where I was. I didn't really do church all that much in my later teen years.

One night, in a drunken stupor (that I was driving in such an inebriated state makes me shudder), I drove myself out to the cemetery where my mother is buried. I threw myself down on my mother's grave and had a long conversation with Jesus about whether he was really real. I had an experience that I believed was real. I truly thought that I felt the presence of God. I decided then and there to start going back to church. I joined a Christian band, got married to the tall bass player of said band when I was a WAY TOO YOUNG twenty year old, and had my first son, Phoenix, when I was twenty-two. During all of this I became heavily involved in the 6:00 pm night service of my old church, the Atlanta Vineyard. It was started by a young worship intern at the church; a bright-eyed, talented optimist named Billy who wanted to create a church service geared towards people in their late teens and early twenties; it was called Vineyard Sunday Night. VSN grew from being just a young adult service to a service that attracted people of all types. "We attract a certain psychographic - not a demographic," was something that was often said. I became a regular worship leader and band member; sometimes traveling all over the country to lead worship alongside Billy for different church retreats and functions. VSN became so well known for its music, especially within the Vineyard churches, that we even recorded a live worship album called "1000 Generations".

A core group of us took our now rather large evening service taking place in a suburb of Atlanta, and planted a church in Midtown Atlanta. It was at our leaders group meeting that we voted, if I remember correctly, and the name Trinity was decided upon. Trinity Vineyard ( now Trinity Anglican Mission ) was born. The first service happened in October of 2002. It was a great success. In fact, the church is still doing really well; some of you reading this probably attend Trinity or, at the very least, a church planted out of it.

In 2005 I read a book by Daniel Quinn called "Ishmael". It was the first time that I had read something that made me realize that not everyone took the Bible and it being the literal "Word of God" seriously. That there might be different interpretations. Yes, yes, I know. I was naive; however, my natural rampant curiosity took hold and I picked up a book about the inconsistencies of the Bible. I don't even remember what it was called. It just became, "...that book that scared me." I read about two chapters and didn't go any further. The cognitive dissonance roaring in my brain was dreadful. It was easier to retreat to the known and comfortable. Plus, my marriage to the tall bass player was crumbling and it was causing problems with my relationships in the church. The last thing I needed was to throw the, "...and hey, I'm not sure I think this stuff is true," into the fray. I locked all my doubts up in a corner of my brain and got down to the business of survival.

June of 2006 saw the end of my marriage and the scandalous kissing of Zack Arias in my front yard.

Life got all kinds of hard and glorious and sweet and sorrow all at once after that and I didn't have time to think about much of anything over the next few years.

July 2008 Zack and I were married; blending our families -- a cocktail of 3 parts Arias' and 2 parts Coffee's, and then -- SURPRISE -- 6 weeks after our marriage, finding out we had one on the way.

It was in Barnes and Noble with a brand new Hawke Danger in a baby sling that I found myself in the philosophy section holding a book called "Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible" by Bart D. Ehrman. My little sister, who had come out as a lesbian a few years earlier, was struggling with reconciling who she knew herself to be with the fact that we had family members who believed she was living in sin. "We love her but hate the sin." Or, "It's not God's best for her." Or, "She just hasn't met the right man." Or, "The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. God abhors it. We can't condone this. What's next? Are we going to legalize beastiality?"

I couldn't make sense of that. I had been reading all of the Christian apologists in an attempt to figure out what Christians believed. Why is this so hard? I would wonder. Who has the TRUE and RIGHT interpretation of what the Bible says? Everyone has an opinion; who is right? I bought the "Jesus, Interrupted" book with the thought that it would only be fodder for strengthening my faith. God was on my side. We were a team. I had a RELATIONSHIP with him. God was gonna cream Bart D. Ehrman and send him crying home to his momma.

Well, good ol' Bart, while not clobbering God in my mind, definitely did some serious damage. I could feel myself thinking, "C'mon, God! Get back up! You're not going to let him do that, are you?" I did, however, finally give up on the idea that the Bible was without fault; that it was God's word to humankind. Obviously that wasn't true anymore. Okay, then, I thought, the Bible is an amazing piece of historical literature written by people who weren't who they said they were and who cares if the first five books of the Bible were written by four different people? Who cares that there are so many contradictions? It made me feel better knowing that God hadn't done a shitty job communicating to human beings through a Bronze Age book. Good. That would've been a bad idea anyway.

My curiosity, however, was only increased. I surreptitiously started reading everything I could get my hands on.  The God Delusion by Dawkins. God is not Great by Hitchens. Godless by Barker. I started googling the hell out of everything. I would read something profound in an atheist book and run scrambling over to the Christian writers looking for anything to provide a retort; a better answer, of which, sadly, there were none. What about my spiritual experiences? Those were real, right? Oh, apparently not.

I desperately wanted the atheists to be wrong. I would lie awake at night having long drawn out conversations in my head with God. "C'mon. Please. You're kidding, right? You ARE going to show up, right? Is this like in the movies when everyone thinks the good guy is dead but he's really not and there's like a big fuck off dramatic moment where the good guy shows up at the last minute? Is that what this is? C'mon! I'm FALLING HERE. PLEASE CATCH ME." I kept up the act with everyone. Praise Jesus. Let's bow our heads. I'll be praying for you. Amen and amen.

But the more I learned the quieter the cognitive dissonance became till one day I realized that I didn't believe in God anymore. I didn't need anyone to catch me because I had caught myself.

It broke my heart, though. I wrote down the following words:

"I never set out to lose my faith in you, but you made it so easy to do."

I went through a period of feeling oddly guilty that my thoughts were just that -- my thoughts. Julia Sweeney describes it perfectly in her autobiographical humorous monologue "Letting Go of God". (If you have the time, you should listen to it. It's funny and insightful and really really good.) Then there was the realization that, Oh my goodness. I'm an 'effing ATHEIST. But wait - I'm still me. I didn't turn into an evil, crabby (well, except for monthly punctuation), baby eating, weirdo who lives in caves and lies in wait for someone to bless me when I sneeze so that I can destroy them.

Zack, of course, was the first to know. That was a year ago. Then I told a couple of my closest friends here in town. Then a couple of months after that I emailed all of my closest friends that don't live in town and "came out to them". Then I emailed another larger group about it, too. I didn't want everyone to find out...well -- like this. Some responses were lovely and accepting. Some were tinged with sadness. Some didn't respond at all. One friend said something telling, (and here I'm going to paraphrase badly)

"You always post such interesting stuff on Facebook and I always thought it was cool because you were challenging some of the traditionally held beliefs but it was okay because you were a Christian, too, and I thought it was a good way to get people to stretch their brains a bit."

"So what you're saying is that when people find out I'm an atheist I'll be written off? Like, Oh, NO wonder she was sharing that stuff about transgendered people and all that weird stuff. She's an ATHEIST."

"Yeah, basically. It's sad, but true."

"Great. That sucks."

Anyway.

So, there you have it. That's where I am.

To all of you believers out there:

You're not going to tell me anything I don't already know. For instance, here is a list of things most of you are thinking and/or have thought while reading this:

1. Satan has overtaken me and deceived me. Screwtape and Wormwood and all that, right?

2. I'm under spiritual attack.

3. I must've not been a TRUE believer in Jesus.

4. This is a phase.

5. I'm being dramatic.

6. That I might've given up on God but God has not given up on me.

7. That I need to lean not on my own understanding.

8. It was my search for knowledge that led me down this path and knowledge is evil.

9. What is my purpose now?

Please, do me a favour, and watch this:

15 Things Christians Say to Atheists (And Shouldn't)

Hemant Mehta does a lovely job here. He's a nice guy that Hemant.

Have questions? Put them in the comments or shoot me an email: meghan @ meghanarias . com

Thanks for reading.

A Question and A Response

Last night I got an email from a lovely lady that I follow on Instagr.am. who had written to me regarding this blog post I had written a couple of months ago. As I replied to her, I realized I was finally getting out what I had been ruminating on for a few weeks. I asked her if she minded if I shared our exchange and she wrote back to say that she didn't mind at all. So here it is: I was just reading your blog and listening to "Twine". When I started reading your post about Kicking the Fat Girl, I was utterly overwhelmed.  Even now as I write this, I'm fighting.  About a third of the way into it I thought, she's inside my head, she's writing about me.

 

All my life I've been the strong one, the supporter, the shoulder, the cheerleader, the one that stands up for everyone else.  Sometimes I feel like one of those people in the sport of curling, like I'm one of those people brushing the ice and frantically skating sideways so that someone else can achieve a goal. My parents divorced when I was 8 and my dad all but disappeared while my mom decided to live her own life with my brother and I as appendages. I had to stand up at that point and take care of my little brother and myself.  I'm going through some pretty intense personal struggles right now and I found myself ruining my keyboard while I sobbed over it.  

 Thank you.  Thank you for showing me that other mothers and wives feel the way that I do, that it doesn't diminish the strength of who I am to feel lost and shadowed.  That it's ok to take time for myself.

 Always,

J

 

********************************************************************************************************************

J,

 

Thank you for writing. It means the world to me that you would take the time to do so.

 

Personal struggles? LAWD. I get it.

 

Your metaphor of the sport of curling is well said.

 

I have found that there are other women out there who don't necessarily think that being a mother is all they should long for, but it's like a secret that they feel they can't share or something. I've said it before, I'll say it again--I've just grown weary of shutting myself down to make other people comfortable. Hell, I need to know that I'm not alone in feeling this way, too. I love being a mom. Love it. However, I am an artist, too. I don't think those two things should be mutually exclusive but for some reason, they mix like oil and water. There always seems to be too much of one and not enough of the other. It requires a constant shaking to make it work and, frankly, it gets exhausting.

 

I am deplorable at taking time for myself. I tend to stuff and stuff and stuff and stuff and then--Zack can attest to this--I blow up and everything is way worse than it should be had I allowed myself the ability to care for myself in smaller increments. Does that make sense?

 

The other night--Monday night--I was literally so mad at Zack (and really, poor guy, he had nothing to do truly with why I was angry. He merely unwittingly lit the fuse…) I called him an asshole and stormed out of the house right after dinner. Ended up in a movie theatre parking lot where I sat -- fuming. Decided I'd see The Great Gatsby. BY MYSELF. BECAUSE NO ONE WOULD WANT TO SEE IT WITH ME ANYWAY. BECAUSE HELL! I'M THE ONLY ONE IN MY FAMILY WHO HAS READ THE FUCKING BOOK. ( And it probably won't be any good!* ) I watched that movie and ate six fun size Baby Ruth's before the previews had even finished.

 

I left the theatre and returned home three hours after I initially left feeling spent and sheepish.

 

"I left myself alone for too long."

 

You see, after the "Kicking The Fat Girl While She's Down" blog post, when Zack finally came home from his travels to Dubai and Istanbul where he was doing cool shit and meeting cool people and just generally being awesome, I crawled into bed and didn't leave for a week. There may or may not have been a bottle of Vanilla Smirnoff on the floor by my side of the bed. I was a mess. I was so tired. It took some time but, after that week, and going to my Dr. and getting on an anti-depressant, I'm doing much much better. I realized that a lot of it could've been avoided had I slowed myself down. The expectations I have for myself are so fucking high I think that, if I ever did attain them, I'd end up in the same fate as Icarus. I need to go easier on myself.

 

Which brings me back to the other night.

 

"I left myself alone for too long."

 

I realized that it had been a year since I had been in the studio. A year since I recorded what would become the two EP's, The Cracks & The Crevices and The Loss & The Love. Realized that I needed to get back into the studio again to pour out everything that has been building up in me. The pouring out is a pouring in of sorts. I have to spend time pouring into myself or I will become a bitter, cynical, shrew of a woman and I know that is not who or what I am. I have to tell myself, everyday, that my circumstances and surroundings do not define who I am. They do not. This does not always work. Some days I tell myself that and I might as well have told myself that I can fly if I just believe hard enough. Some days I tell myself that and end up eating my feelings in the form of Chicken Tikka Masala and a Coke and twenty-seven BBQ chips and a brownie (gluten free at least, I mean c'mon--I have standards) and oooooh! Are those Skittles? Good for me. I only had four of them. Packs. The small kind.

 

I marvel at Zack's ability to care for himself so well. It's not a selfish thing; it's not a self centered thing, it really isn't. It's not that he doesn't stress about stuff -- he does. However, he can just turn things off; simply, and without the wrestling around that I go through to get there. I honestly don't know how he does it. When his head hits the pillow every night he…get this…goes to sleep. I can't do that. I surmise that when my head hits the pillow my brain associates that with, "Time to think about everything ever -- in DOUBLE WARP SPEED. Time to make a list of all the lists you have to make! Aaaaaaanddd GO!"

 

********************************************************************************************************************

I ended the email by telling her to keep an eye out for a thing I've been working on; a thing that, maybe, in time, I will share more about here. I signed it,

"Much love, in buckets, your way."

I sat there for a bit staring at my monitor while Hawke and Joshua and Caleb and Phoenix laughed and fought and bickered and played around me. While I watched Zack in our bedroom packing for a big job he has in Arizona this weekend. While I stared down the never-ending laundry (whoaaaa...whoaaaa...whoaaaaa...) in front of me on the dining room table. It dawned on me that I hadn't really given J an answer. Not really. Nothing definitive. All I did was share where I am and probably too much of my icky bits and that didn't feel like enough. Then I thought that--in situations like the ones we moms' are in--sometimes that's all we need. That in the times where the lines of where we end and our children begin starts to blur; in the times where we feel reduced to being mere drill sergeants; the times where we feel victorious getting to take a dump in peace; the times where our teenagers look at us like we're something the dog threw up; sometimes all we need to know is that we're not the only ones who struggle to remember who we are when we aren't caring for other people. And that it's okay to feel a little lost sometimes and like everybody else is a better mom than we are. That maybe you don't agree with Nancy Turner when she says, “The best thing a girl can be is a good wife and mother. It is a girl's highest calling...” That maybe you don't think it's the best thing a girl can be; maybe it's one of the best things a girl can be. It's okay. It doesn't make you a bad person or a bad mom. It does not. And if, at the end of the day, you have no one else in your life telling you this then I swear, you have me. Little ol' Meg, over here in my southeast corner of North America, waving my hands and saying, "I GET YOU!"

So, I thought all of this. And then?

I hit send.

 

“The great motherhood friendships are the ones in which two women can admit [how difficult mothering is] quietly to each other, over cups of tea** at a table sticky with spilled apple juice and littered with markers without tops.” ― Anna Quindlen

 

*It actually wasn't too terribly bad despite the fact that the movie portrayed Daisy as being far more interesting than Fitzgerald ever intended her to be.

**That would be red wine at my house.

 

Cuba

Zack and I just arrived home from Cuba yesterday after spending a week there with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. Zack was one of the leaders' of a group of people who all obtained special visas to Cuba under the People to People Cultural Exchange program. It was life changing.

I'm still processing everything that I saw there. Processing through conversations that I had, people that I had the privilege to meet, and the experience of being in such an interesting part of the world. I went because Zack didn't want to experience Cuba without me - to be honest, I wasn't sure how I was going to fare surrounded by a bunch of photographers, but I think I managed to hold my own. I used my little Epson RD-1 that Zack purchased for me a couple of weeks ago; I treated it like a film camera (I kept the screen turned around and left the leather case it came with on so that I wasn't tempted to try and see what I was shooting), and tried my best to capture how I see the world. It was intimidating being the only person there who didn't really know what I was doing but I had a great time. There were so many fabulous moments but the discovery of the brilliant photographer Raúl Cañibano was truly the highlight. Zack and I, along with a few of the other workshop attendees (who I now consider dear friends), had dinner with Raúl and his wife Lisette and it was amazing.

Oh you guys, I didn't mean to, but I totally find myself being drawn to the capturing of moments with a camera. These are a few of my rudimentary photos from the trip.

You can click on the pictures below to see them larger if you'd like.

I cannot wait to go back to Cuba; we only just scratched the surface while we were there. I came home sunburned, exhausted, overwhelmed, and yet completely happy. If you ever have the chance to go; go. You won't regret it.

Figs

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

 

-Sylvia Plath

 

My figs aren't exactly the same, but they are figs nonetheless. Still here but wrestling hard.

Kicking The Fat Girl While She's Down...

I left my counselor's office yesterday feeling absolutely awful. It wasn't her fault. Dr. Sarah was lovely, as always. "We've got to help you learn to take better care of yourself," she said at one point.

"All I want to do is sleep," I replied.

"That sounds like depression."

"Great."

 

 

I was/am feeling pretty beat up. Zack left for the other side of the world to go teach and inspire and help people. Also to shoot for Fuji in Istanbul. You know, cool stuff. It's a constant battle between the two of us on this issue of his work.

He says, "It's what pays the bills. It's draining. It's not glamorous. It's hard work."

I reply with, "Yes, but you get to do what you LOVE to do. You're working with a camera in your hands. You get to work in photography."

I am the mom. I do the mom stuff. I am told that should be enough. That to be a mother is the most noble thing. The best thing.

There must be something wrong with me.

I love my kids but I long to do more with my life. It's hard to watch my husband walking in his talents and not feel left behind. To not feel shut down. To not wonder, "When do I get a turn?"

Maybe that's selfish.

I'm being pretty vulnerable when I write this.

Maybe I'll erase this.

Anyway, all of this was going through my mind yesterday. Like it does. A sort of endless cycle.

"Just hang on, Meg. In 11 years you'll get to make a decision for yourself. Based on what you want to do. You can do whatever the hell you want. In 11 years."

 

I miss my husband. I like the guy, he's my -- as Hawke would say it -- "best priend". Last night I started watching some of his YouTube videos just to hear the sound of his voice. While watching the Pro Photographer Cheap Camera Challenge I made the mistake of reading the top few comments.

Where I saw this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 3.00.44 AM

 

The fat girl is me. I was the one walking around in the background with Alamby.

I saw that and logically knew that I shouldn't be affected by it. But I was. Oh I was.

So I wept. Hard. And for a long time.

I had a moment of what I would call "weakness" where I shared the screen shot on Facebook. Normally I am not one to share something like that, but I did. A lot of people responded with kind words. Words that were a balm to my wounded little heart. They meant a lot to me, so if you were one of them, thank you very much.

 

I am trying very hard to pull myself up by my bootstraps -- like I always have. Like I always do. But I am having a much harder time of it than I normally do.

I am tired. So so tired. I've been pulling myself up by my bootstraps since my mother died when I was 13. Taking care of everyone else. I don't know how much longer I can keep up. Part of me wants to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep -- Rip Van Winkle style -- for a long ass time. Even trying to write this is hard. It feels stilted. Clumsy. Wooden.

Being a mom is hard. Being a creative mom who can't find herself is harder. Yeah, I just said that.

I know I will make it out of this somehow; right now, though, it's feeling pretty grim.

What are some things you do when things feel so dark? I'm telling you -- I could use some insights.

 

 

The Possible Impossible Project

IMG_9180Damn it all. I'm really in for it now.

I swore that I wouldn't get sucked into photography ANYTHING.

That's what Zack does. He's the photographer.

And yet here I am walking out the door everyday with my little SX-70 trying to capture moments in real time and not just in megabytes. Not in pixels.

I want something I can hold.

I don't do well with screens. I don't like looking at screens (she said, while typing staring at a screen), I don't look good on screens; I am not a fan of digital period.

Give me analog or give me death.

IMG_9030

Thus, the beauty of the Impossible Project and the loveliness that comes from their effort to bring back the analog image. Muchly much joy is derived from the sound of the camera launching into action and giving me a picture of what I just saw. Never as I originally saw it, though. Always something elusive in how differently the camera sees what I see.

It's addictive.

I love it.

Shhhhh...

A Quote From Christopher Morely

This was the last message Christopher Morely gave to his friends and it is resonating with me deeply these days. And so, because I like you, I want to share it with you, too. "Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity."

Why are you thinking/doing/being/believing what you purport to think/do/be/believe?

More importantly, are you sure about it?

The Loss and the Love

I am sitting in good ol' St. Arbucks right now, in my little home of downtown Decatur, GA. I am wearing a sweater. And a scarf. Both of which make me so happy. I am not a hot weather girl. I am a boots, jackets, sweaters, scarves kinda girl. Today, on this very perfect 9th of October, I am releasing the next batch of songs that I worked on over the summer. When it was hot.

When I recorded the vocals in a hot warehouse storage/band practice area at night, because the sun had gone down and the heat of the day had dissipated for a bit. For the day. For a few hours.

Deke, my good friend, and my genius producer, constructed a little vocal booth out of blankets and a couple rolling walls. We would have a fan blowing in the booth in between takes to try and make it bearable for when I was in there. I can't listen to these songs now without remembering the heat and the late nights. The only time I will remember heat fondly, I think.

The song "Twine" with its green and white and its strings makes my heart swell.

"Lucille" was written after a particularly painful trip to NYC where I spent time with two different friends who were/are going through very difficult and/or growing (depending on how you look at it) times in their lives. Unrelated and yet not. Separate but always and ever together in these lyrics.

"Spanish Bombs" is a cover song from The Clash's "London Calling" album. I fell in love with this song after I was asked to cover it for an ATL Collective event last year. I suspect the Spanish in the song is most likely wrong but I chose to sing it true to how good ol' Joe originally sang it. I just chose to sing, "Oh my heart" at the end. Changing the Spanish to English to reiterate the beauty of the words. It really is a beautiful song. I just hope Joe isn't turning in his grave.

I sang the song "Sweet Hello" through 3 times. No stopping. No cutting and pasting of vocals. I think I ended up choosing the 3rd take. I wanted that song as close to real as possible.

I just got a notification on my phone that my parking ended. 5 minutes ago. Which, knowing my luck, means that a parking ticket officer fiend person, was standing there waiting on my time to end and is now gleefully dashing off a ticket to put on my windshield with a flourish.

I should go check.

In the meantime, please listen to my latest musical offering. I am already working on the next, and (for this project) last batch of songs. I'm hoping to release "The Hope and the Hurt" sometime in February.

Much love.

Saturday's Child Works Hard For A Living

Hawke Danger turned three years old this past Wednesday. On the 16th. I can't believe that. He took his sweet dang time to decide to join the rest of us on the outside of me, that's for sure. It took barbeque, the movie "Zorro, the Gay Blade", and "Zach Galfinakis: Live at the Purple Onion" to get him to come out.

Anyone remember this old nursery rhyme?

Monday's child is fair of face, Tuesday's child is full of grace, Wednesday's child is full of woe, Thursday's child has far to go, Friday's child is loving and giving, Saturday's child works hard for his living, And the child that is born on the Sabbath day Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

Hawke was born on a Saturday. However, I have a feeling that the only thing he's going to have to work hard for is to get people to take him seriously. ;-) The child is a born entertainer.

(Insert the joke you're probably all thinking. "Gee, I wonder where he got THAT from?")

Har har.

We're going to have a party for him this Sunday. A Spiderman birthday. Or, as Hawke calls him, "Miterman." This always makes me think of a man in jeans, with toolbelt and googles on, standing akimbo next to a miter saw which gleams in the light.

"I'm Miterman! Here to save you from the evils of bad crown molding! The injustices of inaccurate crosscuts!"

For fun I looked up when Zack and I, and our other boys were born.

Zack was born on a Tuesday and he really is full of grace. Not literally mind you! But in how he operates in life. He's much nicer than I am. He's grace and I'm justice. We balance each other out.

Caleb and Joshua both were born on a Monday. Fair of face? Damn straight. Those boys are so handsome they'd make Brad Pitt swoon. (Not sure if that really makes sense. Let's just go with it.)

Phoenix was born on a Sunday. He, too, fits his "description". Well, most of the time. He IS an eleven year old boy, the "good" part he's still working on. When he read this poem, and got to the Sunday bit he said, "Mom, I don't have anything against people who are gay but...I happen to really like girls. So this is only kinda right."

I laughed.

I was born on a Thursday. Apparently, I have far to go. Awesome. Where exactly? And when I get there will I like it?

"Oh ho! Welcome Thursday's Child! You had far to go, and so you did, but you're here now. Well done."

"But this is an Applebee's."

"Quite right. Would you like an appetizer and two entrees for just $20?"

Happy Birthday, Hawke. You make us all belly laugh several times a day, your smile is contagious, your passion for life already so evident, your love of shoes rivals that of any woman, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Thank you for being so dang good at being you. I love you more than chocolate loves milk. More than macaroni loves cheese. More than the dish loves the spoon.

"A three year old child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a fifty-six dollar set of swings as it does out of finding a small green worm." 

Bill Vaughan

All You Want Is To Be A Rockstar

“All you want is to be a rock-star.”

“You suffer from delusions of grandeur.”

“You disdain motherhood.”

These three statements, made by a person I once called a friend, have reverberated in my head nearly everyday for six years. I allowed them to permeate my heart and there they festered and poisoned my self -esteem, my dreams, and my hopes. I let them. Heaven help me, I let them. I began to think that everyone saw me this way. That I was seen as a woman who was too much; who was too big; who wanted too much; who wanted more than I had a right to want.

This fact used to embarrass me. Why was I letting the words of this person bother me so much? Then I grew angry and I wanted an apology. But slowly, over time, I began to realize that these words were spoken by someone who didn’t understand me, who was riddled with their own insecurities and doubts, and, most likely, couldn’t stand to see someone think outside the box, to see someone decide to not be bound by what is expected of them. That’s when I began to feel empathy for this person. I thought about the idea of forgiving them. Then I thought about it some more.

Then I actually did.

All of a sudden I was free. Oh, it’s such a cliche isn’t it?

It’s true though, like most cliches always are.

A couple of blog posts ago I wrote about my time of solitude out at the Serenbe Farm near Palmetto, GA. It was there that I really wrestled through this. It was there that I had a bit of a break through over the fear and doubt that had been ruling me for so long. I allowed myself to rest. I offered myself some grace. Let myself off of the hook I had been re-hanging myself on everyday. I looked in the mirror and slowly, one by one, began to pull out those barbs that had settled so deeply into my heart.

I have always been a little afraid of the things that I think up. Since I was a little kid. The ideas that I have, oh boy - I have lots and lots and lots and lots of them. By afraid, I mean that I was afraid of what others would think of me if they knew what I dreamt about. I operated under a shroud of false-humility.  (Donald Miller has an incredible blog post about this. If you want to have your gluteus maximus kicked in a well written way, go read this ) I spent way too much time denying that I had big ideas, and big aspirations, and that I was talented, because one isn’t supposed to think that way. Somehow, (sadly mostly from the “church”. I’m pretty positive this pisses Jesus off big time) it was communicated to me that to believe in myself, to believe that I had a lot to offer, was wrong and vain.

When I got home from my respite at Serenbe, I noticed the manifestation of the time I had alone by the way my piano no longer mocked me when I walked past. It looked…friendly again. It wasn’t a reminder, a kind of remnant of what I used to do. Of what I used to love.  I sat down. Let my fingers wander over those familiar friends, those smooth white keys, and let the colours of the notes shyly step into my brain.

That was four months ago. I have written several new songs since then. Not all of them have been any good mind you, but they have been brought forth into the world. I have allowed myself to be creative again. I have allowed myself to dream big dreams again.

That is a big expletive deal.

Here’s the thing.

I got over myself.  I got over my dang ol’ silly self. I started thinking about the things I’ve said to friends of mine, who are seriously and amazingly talented (I’m thinking specifically of a conversation I had with my friend, Liz Chai), where I pretty much chastised her for not believing in herself. Where I said that she had so much talent, so much to give, and to stop comparing herself to other people who seemed to have it more together than she did.

Fuck Expletive ‘em” I said. “You are too good to hide behind doubt.”

I've been talking with my friend, Betsy, like I do, and she told me how she keeps a picture of herself at five years old up in her painting studio as a reminder to be that wide open. To be that alive. To be that free. It was in mulling over this conversation that I had a sudden revelation.

That I need to tell myself what I would tell myself if I wasn’t myself.

This is what came to mind when I decided to do that:

I am really, really, really, talented. I am good at a lot of things. And I should celebrate that. Not hide it. Why should I be ashamed of my talents? Why should I apologize for them? I have ideas of how to bring some beauty and wonder into this wide wide world; moments to sweep you away, dear reader. Moments to make you think. Moments to help you push through your past, to inspire you to create, to inspire you to fight off the same depression and shame that I have walked though. I want to do this because I need these things, too, not because I want any sort of accolades or admiration. Expletive that. I will do these things because I truly believe they have been placed in my heart by God to do. Ideas and dreams that will not be silenced any longer. And I want that for you, too. I really, really, really, do.

(I just used the word “really” six times. Just letting you know that I noticed it, too. And I’m leaving it that way so THERE.)

I will fail at some of them. Oh I will, I will. But I will not cower to that anymore. I will fail big. I will celebrate the losing. I will welcome the inevitable failings because, at the end of the day, I freakin’ TRIED.

Perhaps, you know, somebody, or lots of somebodies, will say that I suffer from delusions of grandeur.  Well then fine. If that’s the case then may I be deluded for the rest of my life.

At this moment I am sitting in small studio, on the Westside of Atlanta, literally one mile away from where, six years ago next month, so much pain was wrought in the community I was a part of. Because I made a choice to step outside of what was expected of me. I asked for a divorce from Phoenix’s father and chose to make a new path for myself. And people were pissed at me. However, out of that choice so much joy, and love, and growth, and hope, and life, and redemption, and FRUIT has been born. These songs reflect that. Some of them are old, from years ago, songs that I dusted off and welcomed back, and some that are so new they’re still teething. I can’t wait to share them with you.

I have made peace with the fact that I will never fit into normal. I am a messy-sparkly-clumsy-loud laughing-tight hugging-beautiful-slightly fluffy-funny-rubber faced-firecracker of a breath of fresh air.

Damn it all, I am PROUD of that. I've grown weary of shutting myself down because I just might make someone uncomfortable.

So now I ask of you, what are you hiding in yourself? What are you shutting down for a "someday"? What are you waiting for? Your children to get a little older? When you’ve lost some more weight? Who has told you that you are too much? Or, conversely, that you are not enough? (I think you’re allowed just a wee small moment of imagining that you’ve told them to go jump in a vast boiling lake. After that, though, you need to work on the forgiveness part. It’s kind of important. Just sayin’…) It just might be yourself telling you all these things and if that’s the case, may I suggest you do what I did.

Tell yourself what you would say to yourself if you weren’t yourself.

I dare you.

"All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was.  I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory.  I was naïve.  I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer.  It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with:  that I am nobody but myself." 

Ralph Ellison, "Battle Royal"

The Need For Solitude

I haven't blogged in 84 days. So.

There's that.

I am not a blogger. But you probably knew that already.

Currently I am writing in a "Starbucks" in a Barnes & Noble somewhere in Newnan, GA.

Why Newnan?

Because the wifi signal at Serenbe went kaput earlier and I decided to go for a drive and find one. Now I'm here. It's the closest place that I could find that had a wifi signal that wouldn't relegate me to sitting in an Applebees. Or a Krystals. I can't decide which is worse.

I arrived at the Inn at Serenbe a little after 5pm on Monday, the 9th of January. The girl at the Guest Relations house immediately knew I was who I was because I was the last person to check in for the day. She gave me my key with the small cowbell on it, showed me the layout of the community, and wished me a good stay.

It took me 10 minutes to actually find my room. I lugged my suitcase up and down stairs in the Farmhouse, trying to find my room number. I finally found it, off of the front porch, completely secluded from the rest of the house. I unlocked the door, dragged my suitcase inside, took a look around and promptly began to weep.

I mean weep. I mean the long makes-the-stomach-hurt crying.

I have been battling some seriously bad depression since the beginning of September. I had been sliding into it for a while before that, but I refused to acknowledge it. I hate, utterly abhor, feeling weak. It's a problem. Zack says it's my pride, which is probably true. I don't like needing anything. I don't like feeling vulnerable. To admit that I wasn't doing well felt like defeat. And I was already feeling so defeated in every other aspect of my life that to admit that I was depressed felt like I had nothing left at all.

I was defeated in my music. I was defeated in my writing. I was defeated in my journaling. I was defeated in my painting. I was defeated in my mothering. I was defeated in my everything.

Or so it felt.

It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning. Everything made me feel on edge and anxious. It was if all my nerves were on the outside of my body. Like a sunburn of the soul. I was a hairpin trigger away from blowing up.

So here I am, at Serenbe, in a last ditch effort to try and regain a bit of myself back.

(I'm now back in my room, by the by. Shortly after I started writing, three pimply faced boys sat down at the table next to me and proceeded to play wretchedly bad music over their laptop speakers. Loudly. In the bookstore. I glared at them. I raised my right eyebrow to show my annoyance. They were clueless. I left.)

On our GoogleCal it reads, "Meghan Out Of Town to Write Her Book".

I've done none of that. Of the 6 chapters I've written thus far, not a single word has been added to them. Not another chapter. Nothing.

I brought a journal. Wanna know what I've written so far?

null1

"I tend to draw snails a lot."

"Pinot Noir. Stuff in a jar. Martha the waitress. Harry Connick overhead And a restaurant to myself."

photo2

"OMG. Lamb Risotto at The Hill in Serenbe for the win!"

I know.

I know.

The sheer brilliance that was wrought forth from my hand is almost too staggering to be believed. Please. Stay your desire to begin sharing with the masses as I'm not sure the general public is ready for such heady artistry as this.

I have been doing a whole effin' lot of nothing. Mostly sitting here in this room. It was pouring here yesterday and yucky and cold today, so I haven't done any walking about the farm here. I've been sleeping. A lot. Reading a lot.

Feeling guilty. A lot.

I know that I need this. I know it. I'm just having the damndest hard time accepting it.

Why is it so hard for me to accept that I am enough just sitting here? That if I didn't sing another song or write another word that that would be okay? That I would be okay? That the opinion of those who love and know me best wouldn't change?

I can feel myself recharging. This is a very very good thing. I am an introvert. People who don't know me well tend to think otherwise but really, when I am in social situations, I assume a role; I think of it like real life theatre improv and by the time it's done...I am done. I think it's safe to say that for every hour I'm around people, even my family, I need two alone to make up for it. I was so far overdrawn in my recharging that I was damaging my body.

Well. I'm going to go sit someplace else now. I have the whole Serenbe Inn to myself right now so I'll go look and see if there is anything to read in the library.

I hope that all of you are well. I hope that perhaps this makes sense to some of you, or that perhaps this helps you make sense to yourself. That you are enough. Where you are. I'm learning it, too.

For those of you who are introverts as well, I think you'll enjoy this article. I know I did. It made me laugh!

Caring For Your Introvert

"The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space, free from the outside pressures, which is the incubator of the spirit." Marya Mannes

One From The Archives...

 

...because I have been so absolutely and utterly and overwhelmingly SWAMPED.

It's a good thing, though.

I had a lovely coffee time with Mindy Fletcher today and in our getting to know one another's she mentioned that she and I had once worked for the same company. It reminded me of this post I had written around this time of year 5 years ago.

Five years ago.

Five years ago.

And I shake my head.

I was touring quite a bit then. And trying to navigate being single mom and still follow my heart. Now I'm navigating being a mom to four boys and being happily married and STILL trying to follow my heart.

So, because I have been wretched at posting anything of merit lately I humbly offer this bit of past writing to you and sincerely hope that all of you are doing well.


A Movie Moment Of Sorts

In the times where I am not traversing major highways and byways to play my music in far away places I am a music instructor for Courtnay and Rowe, "Atlanta's Premier In Home Teaching Service". I have about fourteen students total ranging in ages from six years old to fifteen and tonight I added my fifteenth student. This student is the first adult student I have had this year. Quite a nice fellow he is, and he lives literally down the street from me with his wife and their cat in a darling little apartment complex.

Complex is right.

I arrived five minutes early to make sure that I wouldn't be late.

Aren't you glad I cleared that up for you? That would be a Captain Obvious moment.

I called my student to let him know that I was there and that I could see his building, which I really thought I could, based on the number of his apartment on my directions sheet. He gave me a few more instructions on how to find it and I said, "Great! Well, I'm outside now so I'll see you in 30 seconds!"

I walked, so very confidentally, towards the building I thought he was in and realised that it wasn't downstairs, it wasn't on the street level and neither was it upstairs.

"Hmmm," I thought, "they must be on the other side." And so I walked down the path towards the street, turned right onto the sidewalk and made my way to the path back down the apartment on the other side.

I was pause here to mention that only a half hour earlier the city of Atlanta had been beseiged with a fantastic thunderstorm, resplendant with lightning and rain that blew sideways. It was just a joy to drive in, I must say, especially in Atlanta, why it was postively a picnic!

(Insert a dramatic stage wink here.)

As I gingerly picked my way down the sidewalk next to the street, I was very careful to avoid puddles (I usually would be careful to step IN them as it's loads of fun, but I was WORKING...and had on cute shoes) and was mere feet from the little sidewalk that led back towards the apartments on the other side, when barrelling down Clairemont out of nowhere came a large bus. A bus for our very own Metro Atlanta Rail Transit Authority. MARTA! In seconds I was covered in a wave of water that had pooled in the street at the exact location where I happened to be. I am not exaggerating when I say it went over my head.

I was soaked.

I stood there, in shock, for a good minute or so, although I did have the presence of mind to actually move away from the street.

Dripping dirty water I made my way down the path to the next set of apartments where I was thrilled to find that they also weren't the right ones. Back into the parking lot I went where I was discovered by my student. He had gone looking for me when I hadn't shown up right away.

What a sight I must've been. My jacket, skirt, hair, shoes, everything was dripping wet.

"Hi! I'm Meghan! I'm your piano teacher. I was just baptised by a MARTA bus, you know...they do that sometimes. Aren't I a lucky girl?", and I extended a wet hand in his direction which he very kindly shook. He showed me into the apartment (which had been on the other side of the complex and in my defense the numbers are not AT ALL logical...) explained to his wife what had happened and his wife immediately offered to put my jacket into the dryer. I was given a towel to dry off with and then we began the lesson.

He did quite well and is now supposed to practice playing, "Jingle Bells", as silly as it sounds, so that he can get his right and left hands to learn how to play well together.

I am now home, showered and warm and just thought I would share this moment with you. I seem to have lots of crazy things happen to me and I wonder if I have some sort of built in "odd moments" magnet somewhere in my body.

I'm swimming around in the Brothers Karamazov again and so I think I shall snuggle back down into the couch and pick up where I left off in the pages.

 

"If you love you are of God. All things are atoned for, all things are saved by love. If I, a sinner even as you are, am tender with you and have pity on you, how much more will God have pity upon you. Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and cleanse not only your own sins but the sins of others."

--FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY, The Brothers Karamazov, Book II, Ch. 3

The Voice, or, how I auditioned for a reality T.V. show and lived to tell about it...

This past Friday I spent nigh on 5 hours of my life standing in line for an experience that lasted all of 7 minutes. Maybe. I never auditioned for American Idol. I never wanted to. Granted there were a lot of people who said that I should, or asked me why I hadn't, or asked me if was going to, or asked me why I wouldn't, but it simply wasn't something I ever thought was for me.

"I'm not a pop singer. And I feel more comfortable playing an instrument anyway. And I don't have the 'look'."

I don't think I ever replied exactly like that. I have, for your benefit, condensed it down to what I think I might've said had one caught me on a day where I had had enough sleep, lunch and coffee all in the same day. Which never happens.

Then, this year, The Voice sauntered its way onto our television screen.

The first time a commercial for the show came on Zack turned to me and said,

"You should totally be on that show."

"Why?"

"Oh c'mon. With American Idol you were always saying that they picked a lot of those people based on their looks. Here it's not even an option."

I shrugged. But secretly I was interested.

From that point on, it seemed that every time the commercial for the show, or the actual show was on (Yes, we watched it. Yes, we were rooting for Dia.) either Zack or Caleb or Phoenix would turn to me and say,

"You should try out for this show."

At first it was cute. Then it grew to a level of annoyance that, upon them even turning my way, I would narrow my eyes and scrunch up my mouth really tight, like one of those old people faces made out of pantyhose.

Then came the announcement that they were CASTING! FOR SEASON TWO!

"Do you think you've got what it takes?"

BLAM! BLOO! WOW WOW WOO WOW!

I chewed the inside corner of my lip. Ran my tongue over my front teeth. Scratched my nose. Yawned.

The thought I was trying to suppress wriggled out from underneath the weight of my subconscious and ran smack into my not subconscious and lay there gasping for breath for a moment. Every other thought that was vying for my attention - Desire For Chocolate, Do I Need To Pee, Is that Hawke I Hear, I Really Should Have Drunk More Water Today Why Didn't I Drink More Water, When Vincent Van Gogh Cut Off His Ear Did It Affect His Hearing All That Much Really And Could He Have Potentially Grown His Hair Long To Hide It - all stopped and stared.

"Maybe!", it squeaked out finally.

"Maybe what?", I replied. In my head.

All the other thoughts swiveled their attention back to the tiny squeaky thought.

"Maybe you have what it takes."

I stared at it for a moment. Raised my eyebrow. You know, in my head. Because I have eyebrows inside my head, too.

"I should be kicking you out right about now. However. You may stay."

"Thank you very much. May I have some water now, please? And a nap?"

Shortly after that I found myself on The Voice website. Then I was signing up for an Artist Login that made everything feel very official.

August 5th.

I kept it a secret for a little while. Then I showed Zack the email.

"Whoa-hoh!", he said. “Good for you! This is gonna be awesome.”

I told my family. I told my counselor. I told a couple of close friends.

There was a point where what song exactly I should audition with became a big deal. At one point Zack was scrolling through the top 100 songs on iTunes trying to find a popular song for me to learn. I was scoffing at his suggestions.

“I”m telling you,” he said, “this is a pop show. You’re gonna have to learn pop songs.”

I don't listen to the radio. Everything on the Top 100 list was crap. I think I recognized maybe three artists? Maybe six. But I wouldn't know the songs. At all. Is this good? I dunno. I'm woefully ignorant of current culture. This either means that I am very cool or that I am getting old.

I ended up narrowing it down to three songs that I love to sing, pretty much all the dang time:

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen One by Harry Nilsson All I Need Is Everything by Over the Rhine

These are very popular with myself.

Friday, August 5th, rolled around. I got up. Got the boys off to school. Zack left for the studio. Caitlin, my little sister, showed up at 10am to help me with Hawke and I crawled back in bed.

I laid there and stared at the ceiling.

Do I really want to do this?

I had been sent an email with my "OFFICIAL ARTIST AUDITION PASS". There was even an audition time on it. 2pm. I was to print it out and bring it with me, along with my photo ID.

Do I really want to do this?

I said that I would.

But I could totally go to a bookstore and write and read and have some coffee and spend that time on something FUN.

And that's when I knew that I didn't really want this. But that I should do it anyway, because I said that I would. And who knows? Maybe. And if “maybe” then maybe I would want it.

If you like me I'll like you. Or something like that.

Zack came to pick me up at 1:30pm to take me downtown to AmericasMart. It's this humongous group of three buildings that I had never been in before. Twenty-nine years that I’ve lived in this town and I don't think I've ever been inside AmericasMart. After having been there now, I'm okay with the fact that I wasn't, or hadn't, before. Did that make sense? Possibly. I'm going to go with it.

I was a wreck on the way there. I was picking a fight and word stabby.

"Do I look okay?"

"YES! Of course! You look beautiful!"

"Well, you didn't say anything when I got in the car and I didn't want to ask but because you never tell me I look nice I had to ask. AGAIN. I just want you to notice me blah blah blahasdaoruitqhrigaosidgnaorihghrgoaidgablahblahblah...."

This is where I would like to walk up to myself in this remembering of it and punch myself in the head.

Who is the biggest dramatic dumb dork right now?

Raises hand. Me. I am. Hi. Where’s my trophy?

Zack dropped me off at the corner of Peachtree Street and Harris. Kissed me.

"Good Luck. I love you."

I got out and walked to the first entrance I saw with the AmericasMart sign on it.

A woman was standing just inside the door. She took one look at me and said,

"The Voice?"

"Yup."

"Go back out, turn right, turn right at the light, turn right again and you'll see the line."

"Ack. Okay. Thanks."

I turned right one block too early, ended up walking the long way 'round and finally, FINALLY, found myself at the back of the line.

I passed so many people walking to the back of that line. They all stood there, hearts practically hanging out of their chests, every kind of person one could imagine, the hope and longing was so strong the buildings were humming with it, it was coming off of them like heat waves on pavement.

Speaking of heat waves it just so happened to be about 98 degrees outside that day. Positively balmy. I was so pleased to feel my shower freshness disappear into the rivulets of sweat running down my back. I practically heard my hair declare, "Well sh*t. I give up."

I won’t go into detail about the girl behind me who was going on and on about her recording deals and how she’s worked with so and so and been with him and her and them and those guys. When a man with a microphone walked by the line and said,

“Who wants to sing on the radio?”, she squealed and yelled, “I do!”

She was pretty, and tall, and because she sang A LOT, I can tell you that she had a decent voice. I finally couldn’t take hearing her talk about her anymore and put earbuds in and proceeded to listen to The Boxer Rebellion. This made me look strange, I’m sure, as they seem to cause me to launch into a lot of really bad air drumming. Fortunately the line was moving relatively quickly and soon I was inside of a loading bay area of some kind. The line snaked around 5 times before it finally led back outside.

This was in the last bit of the line before heading back outside.

The entrance.

Then, blissfully, I was being ushered into the actual inside of the nirvana of air conditioning. A big burly man checked my ID against my audition pass, a nice lady checked the content of my bag.

"Oooh. You brought yo'self a orange! It's kinda small doh ain't it?"

"It's a clementine."

"A whut?"

"A clementine."

"Oh yeah! I had one uh deez before. I jus' figure if I'm going to eat a peez o' fruit I gon' get a big one! You fine. Go on up the 'scalator."

Up the escalator I went. And up. And up. Then there was a wide open space with just a huge banner at the end. As if to say, This show is such a big deal we are going to devote this entire space just for this banner.

And yet another escalator. Then another wide open room with twelve lines. Six on one side and six on the other. A nice man directed me to the left lines,

"Pick from lines 2-6. Whichever is shortest."

I picked line number 4. Stood. Waited. About two and half hours had passed since Zack had dropped me off. Waited.

A girl asked me,

"Do you know what's going on up there?"

I shook my head. Nope. All I could see a ways up was a long table. With people sitting at it, looking official and stuff.

Finally I sat down on the floor, peeled my clementine, drank my water and pulled out my book, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. One of my favourites. If you’re fond of reading you should go read it. Right now. Go on. Get out out of here.

I was munching away on some cashews, blissfully reading, when one fell down into the dark abyss of my cleavage. I looked around to see if anyone was looking in my direction. Should I go fishing for it? Would it seem I was getting my jollies? Or would people think, Oh look. She must’ve accidentally dropped a bit of cashew into her mammary crevasse. I debated. I went for it. Right then a woman in the line next to me leaned over and said,

"Do you go to Trinity?"

I whipped my hand out and made a big show of brushing off the front of my dress.

"Not anymore. But I used to!"

Dear God. Please let her have not noticed that I was trying to stave off the potential cashew butter in my bra.

We struck up a conversation until my line started moving faster than hers and the people around us were becoming visibly annoyed. I said I'd find her on Facebook and then realized too late that I didn't know her last name. (She found me though. Hi Paige!)

When I got up to the table I was given a blue wristband by a girl who was so bored I almost reached over to prop her chin up for her.

Someone else directed me to the right side of the room where another person showed me to a row of ten chairs. There were about 40 rows of 10 chairs on the left side of the room and the same on the right side where I was. All were full or being filled. Across the room people were erupting into cheers and everyone on “my” side of the room quickly gathered it was because a row of people were being directed someplace else. The rows around mine sort of started to bond. Singing and dancing and laughing. I was texting the "play by play" as it were to my family and a couple of close friends.

At one point my dear Jenny R. messaged me,

"Just remember; they cannot eat you. No matter what."

and then,

"Oh geez. This is worse than a Shamalayanamama film. Whatever his name is."

My sisters were telling me that I had this. No problem.

I wasn’t so sure.

Betsy told me she was sending a Chocolate Prayer Cupcake with Holy Spirit Sprinkles.

That made me hungry.

The rows across from me were being ushered out of the room. Everyone started to get louder as their nerves began fraying.

Finally my row was asked to line up and we followed a girl up another escalator to...

More rows of chairs.

*facepalm*

In the bathroom girls were primping and doing vocal exercises.

"If you sing the melody but while blowing your lips it will help warm you up."

"MMMMMMMwwwwwwwAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHhhhhhh!!!!"

"Do re mi fa so la ti do! Do ti la so fa mi re do!"

Another half hour later a woman counted out ten of us in sequence and led us to a wide hallway with rooms on either side, all with signs, all with ten people standing outside, all with gray carpeted doors, all with a human being wearing a headset standing outside.

I was waiting outside of room A2. Waiting. You know. Because that is what life was about now, it seemed. I was going to wait, being led up different escalators to sit in rows of chairs, to then stand outside of doors until I could no longer remember what I was waiting for exactly. Just a mind numbing series of halls and white walls and...

THE DOOR WAS OPENING.

The ten of us, now my treasured companions in this saga, watched as the people who were in the room came out, a bit dazed looking, and had their blue wristbands cut off. But there were only eight people. We were whispering now. "Only EIGHT." Rather the other nine were whispering. I was quiet.

The door was closed again. Then an adorable couple came out. He of the black hair, she of the perfect waves and fedora hat. They were each holding a red piece of paper in one hand and each others hand in the other. A man seemingly appeared out of nowhere and instructed them to head down the hall. The rest of us, lined up like cattle, watched in wonder, some even started to applaud, as they walked further into the building towards the glowing light of promise. Which was probably a window or something, but from where I stood, it looked an awful lot like promise. But I’ve been mistaken about that before. Sometimes promise is found under a rock, or buried in ivy, or inside old warehouses. Or inside me.

I digress.

We handed over our audition passes to our headsetted human being and then walked through the door into a drab, boring, gray room. There, at a folding table, the kind one finds in any church fellowship hall anywhere ever, sat the casting director. Next to her sat another woman wrapped in a blanket. I suppose she was cold. We had been told outside that the casting director was the main director for the show. The head honcho. Great. You know, no big deal or anything.

We sat in the chairs provided and the Head Honcho Casting Lady lifted up the first audition pass and called out the first name.

It began.

A girl with a church voice.

A girl with a small quavery voice.

There was only one guy in our group. A nice looking man with a white "doorag" on his head that was then topped with a white ball cap with the tag still on it. I found myself wondering why he was wearing both. Had he forgotten that he had already put on the rag...of...doo? Was his head prone to getting cold? Did he realize the tag was still on his hat? It was dangling near his ear, did it bother him? His name was Wayne? Leroy? I don't remember now. He sang. It was...okay. I noticed he had to adjust his key lower when he got to the chorus. I wasn't impressed.

One girl just talked for a couple of minutes. She couldn't start. Finally she launched into Adele's "Rolling in the Deep". Her voice was nice but she cracked several times. I inwardly winced for her.

One little girl, and I mean little because she was...tiny...short and little, with white cowboy boots and bleach blonde hair, got up and sang Etta James "At Last". She had a good voice, it was strong and as she sang her whole body moved and swayed. One could tell that she loved to sing.

Then.

"Meghan?"

I walked to the white line marked out on the floor. Actually I kind of clomped over to the line because my foot had conveniently fallen asleep.

All I could hear in my head was,

"Daisy, Daisy sour cream. Fresh and tasty naturally, a dip for you and a dollop for me, Daisy just goes with family so do a dollop do do a dollop of Daisy..."

I stared at the very very gray drab walls. I looked at the two poor ladies who had been sitting there for God knows how long.

"How many times have you heard "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen today?", I croaked out. I was going to woo them with my charm. I was going to just charm their socks right off.

"Uh...not very many times.", the H.H.C.L. was looking over some papers in front of her.

"Well, that's what I'm going to sing for you then!" and I smiled and twisted back and forth a bit. And then launched into it.

Then I sat down.

A couple more people sang.

Then the H.H.C.L. asked the little girl in the white cowboy boots to sing something else.

"Something current. Off of the radio. Something country perhaps? I'm looking at your cowboy boots and assuming country?"

The girl looked dumbstruck.

"Uh. I dunno. I mean, I know some songs but..."

"What was your back up song?"

"Amazin' Grace."

The director shook her head.

"How Great Thou Art?"

Again, shaking of the head.

"I can sing another Etta James song?"

"No, no. You're a young girl, what kind of artist do you want to be? Do you have anything? Anything current at all?"

"I could sing Rolling in the Deep, I guess, but that girl just sang it.", and here she gestured over to my side of the room.

"That's okay. Just sing that."

So she did. But I could tell she was focusing more on trying to remember the words than really sing. She did fine. The H.H.C.L. looked over at the woman in the blanket. They shrugged.

I thought to myself, if they ask me to sing something current I'm hosed. I was going through every song I could think of that I thought could work and found that I was looping through a mixture of songs from The Cure, The Boxer Rebellion, Aimee Mann and the Daisy Sour Cream jingle. I was royally screwed.

But the H.H.C.L. never even looked my way.

She looked at the guy.

"Wayne," (I'm calling him that 'cause I can't remember his name) "keep your phone on. If you don't hear from me by 8pm tonight that means you're not through. I'm marinating on you. Everyone else, thanks so much for your time. Have a nice weekend."

And just like that, we were done.

The little girl in the white cowboy boots was devastated. Her eyes were already pooling with tears by the time we reached the escalators. She was wearing coloured contacts, they were a very brilliant shade of royal blue and that, mixed with her tears, made her eyes look like glass marbles. I reached out and touched her on the arm.

"You did a great job."

She nodded soundlessly, already on her phone, trying to keep it together. I hurt for her.

Down down down the escalator.

Out out out the door.

I sent out a text to my family,

"I'm kind of shocked at how disappointed I am."

And I was.

It was 7:30 when I walked out of the doors and into reality again. Out to the sight of a man digging through the garbage cans across the street looking for food. Back out to the reality of the heat. Back out to the sight of tourists squinting at signs telling them that they were where they were but where was that exactly? Here. You are here. At this red dot.

The ground outside AmericasMart was littered with discarded hope. I could imagine the feeling of it around my ankles, like kicking through leaves, fluttering and a bit crunchy, already brittle. I folded my hope up. Tucked it behind my ear to look at later. Right then I needed to call Zack. Right then I needed to figure out where in the H-E-double hockey sticks I could get my hands on a good margarita.

A big one.

I ended up getting my margarita. I haven't looked too closely at my hope yet. It's safe though. It's sitting quietly on my bed side table at the moment. I suppose I'll pick it up in time for the ATL Collective show this Wednesday at Eddie's Attic. I'll sing my heart out through the songs of The Clash. I'll bring my hope out on stage with me and give it some room to breathe.

It's 3:45am and I should go to bed. So, Goodnight then, gentle readers.

"Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops... at all."

~Emily Dickinson