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prime

Sometimes I don’t understand my own brain. Let’s see, a year ago I was obsessing over prime numbers and making myself crazy jumping from one to the next, visualizing them, thinking about their oddness, googling them, wondering if they get lonely or if they consider themselves the unicorns of the number world. Numerical disparate components.

Maybe, maybe not.

I don’t know what I was thinking about before I got on the prime numbers tangent, but I’ve always been someone who jumped quickly from one thing to the next, often skipping essential elements that would or should get me from point A to point K. I don’t know why. It isn’t intellect or that my mind moves at an above average speed. It’s more likely fractiousness, eyes that dart from one place to another (is that fear?), and I guess sometimes anxiety that I will miss something, won’t fit it all in, or don’t have the luxury of time to take things slowly. I’d be a terrible teacher I guess. I’m often not a good explainer.

But I think that’s why I love writing. Writing makes me slow down. Writing makes me show my work. It is effective, sometimes, to say, “John was born in 1927 and died in 1939.” That leaves a lot of room for interpretation and the potential insertion of many different imaginative scenarios. But I think most would agree that a far more compelling story would give you the in between. And as you might’ve noticed, the in between has become a theme for me this year. The spaces between one thing and the next, I’m trying to stretch those out. I like them.

Happiest of Wednesdays to y’all.

AM

PS – Maybe blondes do have more fun.

time

Boy. Was I an anxious sort when I wrote my entry on time last year. I was clearly struggling with the concept of it — or the concept of having too little of it and the guilt surrounding what I do or do not do with it.

I look up to see the backsides of hours departing like high-speed trains leaving a station. Trains that will never be seen again. I want to shout, “Come Back!” at them. I want to tell them I didn’t mean to let them go. I want to tell them I’m sorry I squandered them on emoticons and pressing the delete key over and over, I want to tell them I’m sorry I didn’t fill up each one of them with deeper thoughts or at least some that would help me toward peace. I want to apologize for infusing even one of their minutes with anger or sorrow or tears or frustration. Those minutes do not deserve such treatment.

So serious, Moorer. Folks, I’ve got some good news — I’ve actually loosened up a bit. Maybe it has been the commitment to my meditation practice, the swirling mantra to let go, or just plain old age. But I realize I’m never going to get it all done and I’ve given up thinking that if I just punish myself enough, I will. I’m never going to read every book I want to read, see every great film, go everywhere I’d like to, or perfect even one thing that I care about doing. I’ll never be a perfect mother, partner, friend, writer, singer, artist, cook, homemaker, gardener, or any damn thing. Some days I won’t even be the best version of those things that I can be. But some days I will. I’m a little bit more comfortable with that reality a year on.

Most of us do the best we can. And most of us have an awful lot to carry while we’re doing it. I’ve been working on extending grace to myself, to honor my own feelings instead of always just pushing through, to make room for my own humanity. And I am happier for it. I am nicer, less crazy, and maybe more pleasant to be around. That will probably make me a better mother, partner, friend, writer, singer, artist, cook, homemaker, gardener, and every damn thing. I’m working, and will always work, on letting that be all right.

That pursuit has been and is time well spent.

Happy Wednesday, Y’all.

AM

PS – I think always making time for swinging is a grand idea. Just think – if everyone got in a swing every morning for ten or fifteen minutes, how much happier and healthier would we be? This might be the answer to world peace.

availability

Last year I was thinking about the extension of myself in a public way when I decided on the word. One year later, I’m zooming in to the personal. There is only so much time during a day, and there is a lot to get done during most of them. I often wonder how to make enough time for my work, for all of the things that need to be done, and make sure I’m taking care of my relationships. Even though I know in my heart and tell myself all about what is most important, I sometimes don’t operate by that truth. Sometimes I’ll not answer the phone if I’m in the middle of something. I don’t think I have time for the impending conversation, the mental space for the introduction of even one more thing to think about, or the distraction from what I’m doing.

I spend a lot of time typing into this machine. And that typing, if it is to be meaningful and coherent much less something anyone else wants to read or hear, requires thought. That thought requires quiet. That quiet requires carved out time in which it can be created. That carved out time has to be protected, or the words don’t get written. Sounds a little selfish, doesn’t it — “Oh, don’t distuuuurrrrrbbbb my genius.” I’m no genius, not even close. But I know I’ll never get close if I don’t keep my butt in the chair, in the quiet, reaching for the thought that can be turned into an idea, into words.

It’s a paradox. It is true that in order to have something to say, one must participate in life. It is also true that one must shut out life in order to process it all and get it back out in an artistic way. Considering all of the struggles to make a life out of the pursuit of creativity, I see that this is my biggest challenge. I don’t lack inspiration, I don’t have a problem coming up with ideas. What I don’t have is enough time with which to explore them all.

Patience…

I know, I know. I am not going to, at the end of my life, regret that I didn’t work more. I will regret not showing up for my friends and family, so I try to keep that in check. But my thought today is about balance and how sometimes there just isn’t any. When I need to stay in the zone, when there is a looming deadline even if it is only self-imposed (those may be the most important ones), I might not be able to answer when the phone rings. Should that produce a state of suffering or can I find compassion for myself and give myself what I need first, knowing that if I don’t and I ignore what my mind is calling me to do, I’ll have to deal with the worn thin attention of a person who tries to do too many things at once and resulting resentment from too many tugs at the sleeve?

From last year’s entry on availability:

But there is a limit. I do extend, but always find myself pulling back, protecting, struggling to find a way to replace what has been spent.

It’s really about saying no. I think about this a lot. And saying no is a deep issue that runs from something as seemingly trivial as the management of time to the very important issue of being able to turn down unwanted or inappropriate attention. Women aren’t supposed to say no. We’re supposed to be A V A I L A B L E to everyone at every moment, putting our own needs aside in order to make someone else feels okay about theirs. It’s often a drag. And is it all because we are the supposed nurturers? An endless amount of questions come up when I think about it. I won’t answer them today, or probably ever, but I do think it’s important to ask them and to check myself when I feel like I can’t say no to something when my gut tells me I should.

Those boundaries I keep talking about…

Happy Wednesday, Y’all.

AM

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

vanguard

When I was twelve years old, my Daddy made a cassette recording of our family singing and playing music together. My sister and I have both spoken about his recording us when we were young, that he had a reel-to-reel recorder set up in the house, and that playing music at home and in public when we were children was a regular part of our lives. But by the spring of 1985, things had ramped up. Sissy was emerging as a real vocal talent and her desire to make singing her life’s work was growing. We recorded several songs on her jambox and Daddy put a label on it, as if it were a real record, with one word on it. The word was VANGUARD. I didn’t know what it meant then, so I went straight to our dictionary, as was my custom.

 

Vanguard: 1. the foremost part of an advancing army or naval force. 2. a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas. 3. a position at the forefront of developments or ideas.

 

Hubris.

A little grandiosity never hurt anyone, though. At least when it comes to making art.

 

+++

 

My sister and I completed our touring cycle for “Not Dark Yet,” on Saturday. There is a marker there for us, not only because we both returned home musically in a way by doing the project together, but because we made the record at all, because we went through the process hand in hand, and because it brought us closer than we have possibly ever been. The release and subsequent activities plus touring came with the same old set of thrilling victories and astonishing hardships as our individual releases have, but we each found more gratitude within them, mostly because we were together. Now, having completed that process for at least the time being, my mind turns to what comes next.

 

We sat close to the stage for the 1030PM performance of The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, a group which is not filled with youngsters, at The Village Vanguard last night. They were so incredibly adept at their jobs — they are masters, really — and clearly took their work seriously. Who knows what each individual member had on their minds as they sat and worked their way through tunes that could simultaneously make me think of traffic and the ocean at the same time — I know my mind will sometimes wander to inexplicable topics during a performance — but as each one stood to take a solo, they gave it their every cell. They sweated, turned red, and turned up. I smiled like an idiot through the whole thing and can’t recall the last time I was so happy seeing live music.

 

I said on the cab ride home that the cruel joke of life is that you’re old by the time you figure out how to really do a thing. It doesn’t take only 10,000 hours. It takes openness, a willingness to turn up no matter what, even when all of the possibilities for stardom are dead and gone, even when you don’t have a thing to gain but knowing you’ve put yourself forward in a way that shows the world the heart you’ve got. If a tree falls in the forest, yes, I believe it does still make a sound. And I believe that if a horn player blows the best solo of his life in front of an audience of 98 people when he is considered past his prime, it still got played and it’s still the best solo of his life.

 

I am forty-five years old and am just learning how to sing and write. My job is harder than it has ever been. But seeing those players last night made me appreciate how much I appreciate learning and trying to get better at whatever I’m pursuing no matter the form, and appreciate how exciting it is to know there is always a way to gain ground, even if it’s just the slightest difference that isn’t perceivable to anyone but me. That is new, THAT is what comes next, that is the dangling carrot that is making art, and that is the vanguard.

 

Happy Monday.

AM