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Author Archives: AllisonM

intuition

This is beginning to be fun, this looking back to where I was a year ago. I’m beginning to see my work here as not only an attempt to communicate with whoever wants to be communicated with, but as a source of keeping up with and communicating with/to myself. The old, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down,” thing. I do hope it’s not all too navel gaze-y and off putting, but when I have that thought I remind myself that participation is optional. Not for me, but for you.

So for today, the subject of intuition. I looked at the topic yesterday in anticipation of writing today’s post. I didn’t read what I wrote until just a minute ago, and I was super curious about where I was with the idea then. Here are a few lines from 2018:

Defined as “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.” The etymology says it comes from the latin word intueri, which means consider.

I then revealed that I’d made no real results-based resolutions for 2018, as the year was still new, but instead wanted to work steadily to become more emotionally healthy and whole.

What I planned to do, and what I’m working hard at learning how to do is to improve my mental health, to strengthen my relationship with myself and my center, my intuition if you will — to tune in to that inner voice that I sometimes ignore because either I or someone else tells me it’s wrong — so that my actions are aligned with my intentions.

At the beginning of this year I revealed here that about midway through 2018 I’d had to take myself in hand about this particular thing. I had to get real about not ignoring my inner voice, my boundaries, my hard won good sense of what is right for me even when what is right for me is unpopular with others. I think I’ve gotten a little better at it since then. I’m aware that I at least sometimes appear tough, as a fighter, but that’s at least a partial cover up. If I had felt comfortable at any point in my life with the idea or action of standing up for myself, I wouldn’t have needed to appear to be so hard-bitten about it. That I have is mostly about fear. A person who is comfortable with and strong in her boundaries just says no to what would cross them and doesn’t argue about why or raise a ruckus. I think I’ve softened up a bit since I’ve become more at ease with identifying and saying what makes me uncomfortable and resisting the habit to bear, or just shoulder situations I know don’t suit me. I still get angry, and I can still cuss a blue streak and rear up on my heels when someone crosses me, but I find that the episodes are shorter. I’m less attached to how they feel about it. I don’t need their okay or approval to say what is right for me. I express myself (still, sometimes badly but I’m working on it) and then recover. Progress, not perfection, right?

On another note, I was thinking about the difference between intuition and suspicion.

Suspicion is defined as “a feeling that something is possible, likely, or true. Cautious distrust.” The etymology says it is from the latin word suspicere, which means distrust.

Intuition feels slow. Suspicion feels fast. As in judgement. Intuition seems to start with openness and kindness, hence the considering, not deciding out of hand. While suspicion is often rooted in fear and anger, hence the distrust, the decision already being made before it needs to be. Interesting.

Thanks so much for reading.

Peace, love, good judgment, and happy Wednesday, Y’all.

AM

travel

Last year’s entry was made in a hurry. I was touring, doing shows with my sister, and had snapped a photograph of some beautiful building in Dublin while we sped, in the still dark and wee hours of a Monday morning, to a ferry.

Almost everyone I love travels almost constantly. Even my son is a seasoned professional at going from pillar to post. Maybe we don’t think about it because it is uncomfortable to do so, but travel makes a person highly vulnerable. Flying through the sky in a metal tube, hightailing it down the highway in a vehicle, going into unknown territory and trusting those around us to help us make it through — these activities, when considered for what they really are, put us at risk.

H. will begin a tour next week that will go on for most of the year. And all I have to offer is a prayer and a reminder to, from time to time, touch the St. Christopher medal I gave him years ago to keep in his wallet. May he, and may we all, be carried across the river safely.

Happy Wednesday, Y’all.

AM

color

We don’t always notice the days going by or even what they look like. We are so busy, and so determined to stay that way. I like to reflect on some aspects of life but don’t always take the time to do so. My therapist insists that I do it, and that I actually write down what I’ve done in a specific period of time. Even that secret page of things makes me uncomfortable. I’m someone who almost never looks back at work done or accomplishments accomplished and only looks ahead to what there is left to do. I suppose I believe that’s it’s dangerous for an artist to sit back and say, “look at all of these things I’ve made.” Is it a better practice to let work done inform us for the next and let that be it, rather than cast too many (possibly) self-congratulatory glances at a successful capturing of something no matter how hard it was? I don’t know, everyone is different. But for me, once it’s done, it’s done. I am easily embarrassed when asked to recognize myself. Not sure why that is outside of the art question. A female tendency for sure, but also one of a person who is dealing with some demons that come in the form of shame and unworthiness. I have a feeling I’ll never really think I’ve done enough, but my goodness, would I like to think I will.

But reflecting can be fun! And it can help, at least a little, explain the inexplicable and beautiful package of life. Last year I went to yearofcolor.com to have my 2017 Instagram feed analyzed, so I did the same thing this morning to see what happened in 2018. I got excited before I pushed GO!, thinking I was about to see some metamorphosis or at least an indication of a shift in direction.

There was nothing exactly earth shattering revealed, but there has been a definite bend. 2017’s analysis revealed more blacks and grays — the circle of dots was cooler. In this year’s I see more muted colors, more earth tones. Blue is right in the middle, but working outward, it gets warmer. I thought about that for a little while this morning and came across a thought: that means skin. Skin tones. Skin tones mean people. That has to mean that there were more people on my Instagram feed in 2018 than 2017, which can only mean that there was more friendship and love in my life and more inspiration to share it with the world. When I arrived at that thought, I smiled and thought, “That’s progress. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?” That is work done, the most important work that I can do, actually. And I have absolutely no issue with looking back on that and feeling proud.

Thank you for joining me here. It means the world to me. Stay warm and have a very happy Wednesday.

AM

obstacles

Don’t we all find our way around obstacles one way or another? I’m inspired, every day, by the persistence of those who know their purpose and pay it the proper attention.

That was last year’s entry on the word obstacle. A photo of a piano in the woods with a tree growing through it inspired me to write about getting around things that are put in the way to what we want or need. I didn’t have many words, just a feeling of focus, and an at arm’s length admiration for those who focus their attention somewhere, even if it is only in the direction of a feeling or an aesthetic. I was aspiring to do that with my own attention. I still am.

For a while on my phone wallpaper I had these two words: “Don’t Struggle.” They were there to remind me that if I caught myself gritting my teeth, trying to force something somewhere it didn’t want to go, to stop. To take a deep breath and reconsider. Do I really need to be doing this? Am I attempting whatever I’m doing in the wrong manner? Can I find a better way or just relax about it and let it happen in its own time? Some things are hard, no doubt, but not everything should be. Sometimes one has to step back and take the tension down, take a deep breath, look from another angle, find the center and start again. Bring it back. Bring it back. Practicing yoga taught me that. I can struggle to go deeper into a pose, but why? What is the point of pushing my body somewhere it doesn’t need to go? I should at least ask the question and examine the need, yes?

One day last fall I changed the words to this: “The End is Inherent in the Means.” The way you do anything is the way you do everything. The intention dictates the outcome. Now, I don’t totally buy this because there are both happy and sad accidents in life, and there are total flukes and freaky things and I do believe in such a thing as beginners luck. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t necessarily guarantee old age and a hedonist can live to be one hundred and one and innocent children get sick and killed and tragedy befalls us for seemingly no reason at all. But I do think, on the whole, that dedication increases the odds of the desired outcome. Let it be easy and it’ll feel easy. Make it hard and it’ll feel hard. Do nothing and get nothing. Put the hours in in the right way and see what happens. The Picasso quote again about inspiration being pleased to find us working…

There are all sorts of obstacles in the way of our aspirations and yearnings — to love, to success, to comfort and ease. Sometimes they are put in our paths to make us reconsider.  Maybe it’s not the right one or maybe it’s not the right time to take it. Shall I build a bridge to get over this ditch or should I turn back? Sometimes they’re put in our paths to make us find a better, perhaps easier way. Don’t struggle. Sometimes they’re put in our paths to make us work harder to reach the source of our desire so that we are damned sure by the time we reach it that we’re supposed to be exactly where we are. I wrote, sang, toured, mothered, relationshipped, hustled, thought, loved, practiced, networked, walked on stumps, all in all tried hard and worked my ass off despite the hurdles I had to jump but I did it and I deserve this. Down the road, we might look back and be thankful for them or not, but we are never oblivious to them. They won’t let us be. That’s why they’re there.

In meditation, you’re not doing it incorrectly if your mind wanders, you’re doing it incorrectly if you don’t notice your mind has wandered and then bring it back to the breath. If you do notice and bring it back, that’s a success. I was hugely relieved when I learned that. And it resonates so deeply when I think of wandering off course in any pursuit for any reason — it’s okay as long as we catch ourselves and bring the focus back to the center. I am forever bringing the focus back to the center, looking up and around at where I am and where I want to be, studying those who’ve already gone ahead, considering the obstacles and then refinding my own intention. Bring it back, I say to myself. Bring it back.

Happy Wednesday, Y’all.

AM

PS – Guess what? That tree didn’t really grow through that piano. Someone put the piano around the tree.

routine/ritual



Do we create structure in our lives to give them a shape? Do we fear that without a routine or framework of some sort, we are at risk for losing track of all that is relevant and as a result, getting nothing done to support those things? Or would we be more aware of what matters if we didn’t worry so much about staying on a specific track. What’s that saying — “not all who wander are lost” — and that other one about going off the beaten path and finding something better? Yes, okay. But that immediately makes me think of Picasso saying that inspiration likes to find us working.

I’ve always craved and needed order to not feel at loose ends. I’ve never thrived in a messy environment, and I’m constantly organizing this and that, whether this and that is a bookshelf or an abstract concept like space or hope. I always want to know what the elements are so I can sort them and get rid of what isn’t essential, or at least put everything in its proper place to try to control the inevitable chaos. I also know that how I spend my time is in many ways what makes me who I am, and I have to be careful with my days. I like to be disciplined but being dictatorial makes me miserable. Where is the line?

I do think there’s a sweet spot between the two, floating between the hypervigilance and the lackadaisical. Not that many of us can run around all willy nilly all the time, and not that many of us would even want to after the novelty wore off, but I can tell you a way in which I’ve changed since I first wrote about this topic of ritual/routine a year ago (on January 8): I threw away that productivity planner I had (I just make a regular to do list now) and I’m so glad I did. Lo and behold, I didn’t quit doing what I needed and wanted to do, but I have been working on being more flexible in the way that I do it. I didn’t miss the added task of writing down the things I’m grateful for, but I’m somehow more mindful that I have an embarrassment of riches in my life because I am more naturally taking the time to just think about them. Maybe writing all of those things down for that period trained me to do it in shorthand. Or maybe I’m just a year older and have let go of some ridiculousness that I was holding onto and I’m letting myself enjoy life more and am quite into it, thank you very much. I’m learning that if I don’t schedule spontaneity completely out of the picture, which allows for not only creativity in work but in every aspect of life, I might even be more everything I want to be if I develop cultivating free time as a skill because it makes me happier. Meditation, time spent in thought or prayer, and taking more time for nurture seems to have an effect.

I do still, however, have a pretty regimented routine. But I think it’s the increased time for personal ritual that has given that routine a more polymorphous quality. Among my many blessings is that my work allows for that. Among my many blessings is the ability to remain curious about life and the world around me and how I can better relate to it. Among my biggest blessings is the providence that is returned to me when I can be open. I believe it’s much easier to receive when we’re ready to.

May we all live openly.

Happy Wednesday, Y’all.

AM

PS. I do love a list. For some great ones, check out this piece on Susan Sontag in Lithub today. And here’s Umberto Eco’s beautiful book on the subject.

And here’s a great Murakami quote about the discipline of writing, also from Lithub:

Cultivate endurance.

After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work. What’s needed for a writer of fiction—at least one who hopes to write a novel—is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, or two years. You can compare it to breathing.

–from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

growth

I apparently began 2018 thinking big thoughts. The title from January 3 last year is growth. Tackling such a concept was a bold move. But bold is a relative term, just as growth is, its meaning shifting in shade with the context in which it is presented.

It seems we cannot help but grow if we’re participating, and I certainly did my share of stretching in the past year. But I am now presenting myself with the task of figuring out exactly how and where it occurred. Was it outward growth, as in the type that would occur from my edges? Was it from reaching toward something external? Or was it inward growth, as in the type that would occur in my center from reaching to my own depths, feeling around toward something more truly me? Did I do both? Is there such a thing as one without the other? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Look up a year from now and you’ll probably be different from how you are today, even in the most subtle ways. Maybe how you got there isn’t the point, but it might be at least some of it, if only for learning’s sake, in case you want to do it again.

I can reach for something that is out of my grasp. But if I haven’t made an alteration in my center in order to accommodate an outward change, will it last? I can decide to exercise every day in hopes that I will be healthier and look better, but if I haven’t made that decision because I’m interested in doing my best for myself, hence the need for being healthier and looking better, will the decision stick?

A year ago I wanted to learn how to get more done, be more organized, be friendlier, get more sleep, develop healthier eating habits, just be better overall. I reflect and see that I did some of those things, those external things. But when I think about how I got to them, I land right in the middle of 2018, when I hit an emotional wall and had to get simultaneously severe and really gentle with myself. Everything about where I was demanded that I look at how I’d gotten there. Everything about where I was demanded that I learn one really hard lesson — do not ignore your inner voice.

Now, my inner voice is complicated. I often want to ignore her because she doesn’t always tell me the things I want to hear and she can be mean to boot and even sometimes seemingly insane. But some time around the fourth of July she got loud enough that I had to reckon with her. If she had real hands she’d have taken me by the shoulders, pushed me down into a chair in the middle of an empty room, locked the door, and lectured me until I couldn’t tune her out anymore. I started listening in a real way, and the loudest message I got was, do not ever accept less than you deserve ever again.

That was tough to hear and it still is, because it requires that I stand up for myself, set limits in my life and relationships, give myself the gift of time and space — in essence, it requires that I send all the love I possess to my own soul first before I go scattering it about over the sources that I think need it. That’s hard for anyone. For someone who was raised in chaos like I was, it’s damn near impossible. Children of addicts are told to ignore what they see, hear, and most importantly, what they feel. But so what? I knew it wasn’t negotiable. I didn’t want to walk around feeling at odds with myself anymore. I didn’t want to demand so much of myself without ever giving any nurture to the place where all the demands’ needs are met — my heart, my brain, and my body. I didn’t want to deny truths of any sort anymore, even if the world makes it incredibly difficult to be honest, sometimes most of all with ourselves.

So I spent a ton of time in therapy. I exercised a lot. I tried to rest and sleep more. I tried to laugh as much as possible. I cried more than I probably have during any other calendar year. I did some really hard emotional healing, I have way more to do, and came to terms with knowing there isn’t a finish line in that particular marathon. I let myself feel and told myself that it was okay. I meditated. I wrote. I got really sick of turning the rocks over. I reached inward. But guess what? I’m better than I was a year ago. I’m ultimately happier and I like myself more. So I suppose that’s growth even if I can’t measure it with some yardstick made for tangible things — human beings waver in their progress, sometimes it’s two steps forward one step back or even two or God forbid, three — but I feel better, more relaxed, happier, more open, more quick to laugh and cry and even sometimes more calmly speak my mind (still working on equanimity but we all have our challenges). And best of all, I have more love inside of me, probably because I finally know the real stuff has to start with me. That’s pretty bold indeed.

Happy Wednesday, Y’all. And may 2019 hold plenty of reaching in whatever directions we wish.

AM

2019

For the year of 2019, I’ve decided to change my blog post day from Monday to Wednesday. I’m going to be revisiting last year’s topics in attempt to measure my own changes and lack thereof during the time that has passed since I wrote 2018’s. So this week’s entry will again take the title of “growth,” which first appeared on January 3, 2018. Each week’s entry will follow accordingly. I want to possibly expand, or even zoom in on the initial thought and see where I am with it now, a year later.

I started doing these posts as an experiment, as a practice, and as a way to try to communicate with whoever wanted to listen. I’m so glad I did. Even a thing as small as it is gives me guardrails in my writing life and in my life period because I’ve vowed to be as honest as possible in this space and to share that honesty with all of you. I’m delighted every time I hear from someone that they read my entries, and even more so when they tell me that something I’ve shared has meant something to them. 

I will keep the hour long time limit for writing. Not only do I not have more time to give to it right now, but I think that part of the practice keeps me honest as well. I can’t edit myself too much, or overthink as I would with something I fear would be judged in a harsher light. This part of the practice knocks my inner perfectionist out the window during that block of time, which is good for me. I always let her back in the door when she comes back, because I need her and think she should mostly be obeyed, but perfection isn’t what these missives are about. I thank you all for understanding that.

And I wholeheartedly thank you for visiting this space. It means the world to me.

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

resolve/resolution

I’ve been turning over these two words in my brain all day. Their similarities, their differences. Is resolve the same thing as resolution? 

To resolve is to settle or find a solution to something (solve is in the root of the word itself, of course, and I want to examine the re part but I remember I only have an hour here), to go from discord to harmonic concord musically, to heal, to fix the problem. The latin origin is solvere, meaning to loosen. In the noun form, having resolve is to have commitment, a firmness in feeling or thought, which to me is the opposite of loosening, right? In a way, yes, in another, no — depends on what your personal parameters are. Sometimes the loosest and most free one can be is when they are absolutely certain about something and waver not an inch. 

Resolution is a decision to do or not do something, or having the quality of being determined or resolute. Same latin origin — solvere — meaning to loosen. 

So let’s see: A resolution, or having resolve, is ultimately a solvent to whatever is the matter at hand, and a solvent is a loosener. Same root. Yes, I had to make that come together for myself. Thanks for your patience.

All of that came from thinking about what I want to resolve in the coming year. I don’t exactly know what I want to make better or change in concrete terms — I think goals are great and we need them — but I often find that when I focus on the black and white quality of something I must do lest I be considered a failure, I miss the growing that occurred while I was trying to get to the finish line. So I decided to make a list of the things I don’t want to do in 2019. I’m about to get real honest.

  • I resolve not to punish myself for my sometimes momentarily crippling anxiety. I have a lot to be anxious about and I’m tired of telling myself and others that I don’t. I also resolve not to push through it with negative self-talk, and instead remind myself that I am in charge of almost exactly nothing and that my need for control is what causes most of the anxiety in the first place.
  • I resolve not to let myself believe that I am not a good enough mother. There.
  • I resolve not to dread aging, even though I am forty-six and a half years old and am in the throes of peri menopause and it is a grizzly bear. No, it is Medusa. No, it is Satan’s leashed to a pole beside my bed sweathog’s breath radiating in and around my confused body. It boils me from the inside and reduces me to a quivering, greasy, broken out, internally and sometimes externally pudgy hot mess that considers herself suddenly irrelevant and over the hill. Then five minutes later, I’m skipping down the street having broken free of said sweathog and I am fan-fucking-tastic. Pass the ice pack and vodka, please.
  • I resolve not to tell myself that I’m not smart enough, attractive enough, stylish enough, or thin enough.
  • I resolve not to be as selfish with my time as I need to be and to not give away everything I have without first giving everything I can to myself.
  • I resolve not to not go to the doctor when I need to.
  • I resolve not to argue with the unreasonable, even when the unreasonable is me.
  • I resolve not to not listen.
  • I resolve not to not see.
  • I resolve not to tell myself I don’t need to be heard.
  • I resolve not to allow myself not to be seen.
  • I resolve not to take less than I deserve.
  • I resolve not to not love every minute that it is possible even when it is the last thing that I want to do and the hardest thing I can imagine, and resolve not to forget that if I am stingy with love for myself, I deprive others of it.
  • I resolve not to not reach out to my friends when I am lonely, and I resolve not to assume that they know when I am.
  • I resolve not to wait on someone to call me first.
  • I resolve not to tell myself that something is impossible or even not worthwhile. It is all possible and it is all worthwhile.
  • I resolve not to focus on the time I’ve used up, rather on the fact that I may not see 2020. 
  • I resolve not to reduce my accomplishments. I’ve done a lot.
  • I resolve not to rest on my laurels. I need and want to do a lot more.
  • I resolve not to worry so much about all of that and be the artist that I am and trust that if my intentions are in the right place, I will be on the right path.
  • I resolve not to not resolve, every day, all the time. That’s just the way it is.

Happy Monday, and Happy New Year, Y’all.

AM

restoration

When there is no more sage or parsley in the refrigerator. When there are no more clean desert plates. When all of the ham is in a Ziploc. When the extra lemon squares have been sprinkled with fresh confectioner’s sugar and neatly arranged into twine wrapped waxed paper packages for the guest’s departures. When the tablecloth and napkins have been laundered. When the mental notes have been made of where the boxes are in the attic so the decorations can be taken down and put away as soon as they can be but not today because that would make one appear hasty and grinch-like. When the throat is sore and the energy and excitement have all been depleted, there is quiet, solitude, and respite. These things too must be taken seriously.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.
Peace and Love,
AM

softness

 

It’s tough out there. H. told me that on his way to the taxi stand at the airport last night there was so much car honking that he felt anxious and wanted to react in some way — to shout at the honkers, to admonish them for creating such a cacophony. Of course he didn’t. He is not that way.

I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I am that way. I have attempted, for most of my adult life, to be measured in my approach to how I deal with the world, but the world has sometimes gotten the better of me and I have responded to its harshness with my own, stirred up from the depths of a less than solid sense of place and belonging. Stirred up by fear. I have lacked the equanimity that I have simultaneously craved. I have mistakenly thought that a blow deserves a blow back, a scowl deserves a smart, shaming retort, knee-jerk opinions deserve a shouting down. Meh. I’m learning. Some battles you fight, and some battles you refuse.

These days I’m much more interested in what happens if I let it pass. What would happen if I learned to breathe, to center myself, to be kind to myself and quiet my own fears about what occurs outside of my skin and let idiots just be idiots without input from me? It certainly won’t change anything about what’s going on past my fingertips. But maybe it will change what happens inside of me. I did a google search on forgiveness. One article suggested a mantra of, “I decide to let these things go.” I have written that sentence down every day for months now. Maybe as a result of that simple action or maybe not, I am much more interested in how light a touch I can bring to something now IF I can remember to manage my own knee jerk. I know what a forceful one will bring. The language we use these days — kill it, crush it — no, no, no. That all sounds like something I don’t want to do.

I’m thinking about this a lot right now. This time of year brings us so much pressure and stress — I’m trying to refuse to participate in that this year. I want to have a smile on my face and not have it be tightened by tension. I want to not react without thinking or do without intention. I think it might all be okay if I don’t manage to get the perfect gift for someone or provide the ultimate instagrammable experience for those I’m sharing the holidays with. I will do some cooking, some ordering, some whipping up of tablescapes and lighting schemes, but I want so badly to do it with lightness, happiness, and no have to. Have to creates a lot of not want to for me. Maybe I’m just stubborn that way. Regardless, I know my triggers. I know in which direction my personal river flows. I won’t be able to change the trajectory, but I’ve had enough of it rushing through, over, and past like it has a dam to break somewhere up ahead.

A compassionate consideration, a thoughtful and empathetic response, or maybe even no response at all sounds like an easier way to go than using a hammer on every supposed nail. Life is hard. Why should I be hard too?

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

PS — I have one tip to offer. If you find you’re becoming anxious or irritated, picture the person who’s doing the offending as a two-year-old. Then picture them gone for good. Reset. Might come in handy these next ten days or so…

 

Photo credit: Kristen Barlowe