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home

I first had in my mind the notion that I would weave something here about travel, the challenges of being away from home, and how you cannot make a place that is not home feel like your home and that trying to do so inevitably makes us more raw than accepting the discomfort, however slight, of suspended animation, which is ultimately what traveling is, at least for me. But I decided that I would just tell you how happy I am to be on an airplane right now, heading back to the comfortable nest that holds the soft and cozy bed I know and the coffee cups that feel right in my hands. I am thinking about how completely awful it must be to have that snatched away, to be displaced through no action of your own. I am thinking about those who have lost their homes this weekend in the California fires. I am thinking about those who have lost their homes at any time through any means, period. It’s heartbreaking.

Home is one of the big concepts as far as I’m concerned. I’ve even entertained writing a book on the subject, and who knows? I may just do that. What home is to different people is endlessly interesting to me. Today, I’m feeling deep gratitude that I have one to think about.

It has been written many times that home is not a place, but sometimes home is at least partly about place, if not fully. We don’t always know that until we lose the safety, physical and emotional, that our shelter provides us. I whisper a prayer of thanks, and one for strength for those who are not as fortunate as I am today.

vulnerability #2

I’m going to have to bring this up again. It won’t leave me alone and I know it’s going to keep bugging me until I come to some sort of terms. Writing is how I do that. Thanks in advance for reading and for bearing with me.

I started limping for no apparent reason. The outside of my right foot had begun to hurt, and in typical fashion, I kept walking on it, recognizing the pain, but figuring it would go away if I just brushed it off as nothing to be concerned about and went on about my business. I did keep going, but the pain didn’t disappear.

H. insisted I see a doctor. He acknowledged what I wouldn’t — that the intermittent ache and inability to walk properly meant that I had hurt myself somehow and I needed tending to. Fast forward to the next day and the foot doctor’s office. An x-ray revealed a stress fracture and the treatment was an ugly, black, decidedly unchic walking boot that has now made a bruise all the way around the middle of my lower leg. I hate this thing. Not only is it uncomfortable and unwieldy, it has foiled my fall footwear dreams and plans, which royally pisses me off.

On a deeper level, I don’t like to be slowed down. I like to do what I need and want to do when I need and want to do it. Deeper than that, I don’t like to ask anyone to do anything for me. I don’t like to admit I can’t do something all on my own, even if that something is supposedly insignificant — like not being able to put my own bag in the overhead compartment on a plane, or having to resist moving a piece of furniture by myself. I am a stubborn, set my jaw, I don’t need anyone, break my own back instead of taking a gentle helping hand kind of fool. On the deepest level, I can’t explain how frustrating it is to be unable to come up with a way to blame myself for this happening. I have no idea how this fracture of stress got in my foot, therefore I have no way to berate myself over how I could’ve been so stupid to allow it to get there. It’s just there. It just is. I have to let it be.

This whole thing is a metaphor the likes of which has not hit me over the head in quite sometime.

A lesson, a teacher, I suppose right when I needed it.

This year has been an emotional one for me. Shoot, they’ve all been emotional in one way or another. But this one in particular has made me examine myself more closely than I can remember previously doing for such an extended period. What is [fill in the blank] teaching me? What am I supposed to take from [fill in the blank] experience so that I can become a smarter, more compassionate, more present version of myself who isn’t thrown so badly by situations beyond my control and ps all situations except my internal ones are beyond my control? How did I get here in the first place?

This foot episode, specifically, has let me get a really good look at how I became a person who didn’t ever want to depend on anyone else. My mind races back to my three-year-old self — I don’t remember anything before that — and my first experience of dissociation. My family was unstable. I was insecurely attached to my parents. I learned that the only way I could survive was to depend on myself and the parts of my world that didn’t constantly change (school, my grandparents, my books, my music). Out of control situations sent me inside my mind and cut me off from the external. A pretty good trick, but a wee bit disconnecting, yes? Yes. I guess that was the point, wasn’t it? My mind comes back to present day and I’m still that three-year-old, trying to get safe and having very few ways to successfully do it without cutting myself off like I did when I was a child, and certainly never trusting another soul not to let me down. Telling the world, “No, I can do it myself.” Daring it to try to tell me anything that might make things easier. Living afraid of losing the tiny shred of self-respect that I’ve held onto, the shred I was left with after the bulk of it eroded because I was let down and then was unable to free myself from the shitty situation. I cling to and claw for assurance that I won’t be hurt again. You have to make yourself available to be hurt, and asking for help is definitely making yourself available. Ta f*cking da! And how does that make me behave in a relationship with another person now? Ooofff. Lord knows I try but I might be what they call a tough nut.

So many answers are found in the questions themselves. I don’t have any definitive answers today, never will. But what I do know for sure is that the biggest obstacle to revelation is the inability to admit there is a need for one. Sometimes, when it hurts, you have to stop and figure out why. And then sometimes you have to sit down until the hurt heals or at least gets better.

The boot is heavy, y’all.

Happy Monday and lots of love and compassion and patience to all of us.

AM

romanticism

“Later I quietly straightened my things, my notebook and the fountain pen. The cobalt inkwell that had been his. My Persian cup, my purple heart, a tray of baby teeth.” — Just Kids, Patti Smith

 

Not in the way of romantic love, rather a state of being, in finding meaning in life’s smallest details, in the noticing of them in the first place, in the tendency to feel heartbroken over something so seemingly insignificant as a feather on the sidewalk or a loose button in a tiny bowl.

I am raising my hand as incurable.

My sentimental leanings might make me more susceptible to tears, but I don’t seem to care about that anymore.

I do try my best not to hold on to too many things. I don’t like the feeling of being weighed down by objects or being a slave to the upkeep of them. I realize, however, when I look at where I live, that most of the things I do have wouldn’t mean anything to anyone but me. They are mostly things that tell my story, and things that point me in the direction that I want to go.

In the photo accompanying this post you see the magnetic board I had made to be a sort of changing art installation — an upgraded bulletin board I guess — it’s about six feet tall and four feet wide, heavy and unwieldy — the thing is a romantic gesture in itself, as I was planning to plan and plot with and be inspired by it. It is propped against the wall behind my desk so that I face it when I sit here. It’s where I put the photos I want to see everyday, the words I want to think of, the people I’d like to emulate (note K. Hepburn and L. Hutton dressed in their white shirts and masculine trousers – both embodying my emerging sartorial direction), a card from a café in Paris where I ate with H. on a quick trip there 3 years ago. The shape of it all changes a lot, just as I do. Sometimes I’ll rework it, make some space on it for new things, while the ones I take down go in a box I keep on a shelf. There are 3 boxes now.

There is energy in objects just as there is energy in a thought or a wish. I pick up a small, clear crystal from a baby blue, heart-shaped bowl and rub it with my thumb as I think. Why do I have this crystal? Why do I have a heart-shaped bowl? Maybe optimism, maybe attachment to the ideas each thing holds for me.

Maybe being romantic is just about having hope. When we do attach the word to love, isn’t that what it’s really about? Believing that a relationship can actually work out? Did anyone ever fall in love while simultaneously telling themselves that it would only last a few years and then they’d move on? Why bother?

Maybe being a romantic is about having hope that it’s never too late to dream. Believing that we will wake up tomorrow. The photographs, my son’s first pair of blue jeans, the collected, tiny gold bands in my ring box that I stack up on my fingers some days, the crocheted dress that my Mama wore when she was a baby, my charm bracelet, my dogeared cookbooks, my first editions, that pair of fawn, suede Lanvin oxfords that tie with grosgrain ribbons that I bought on a trip to Paris with my very best friend to celebrate our 40th birthdays, cards with words I like written on them, a drawing of stars I made with a fountain pen, reminders to keep at the work even when, especially when, it gets harder than I ever imagined it would be… talismans of a life lived – of things seen, of love given and received, of work done – and reminders that there’s, Lord willing, another breath to take and a way in which I want to take it.

Hold on to your hope. Be proud of it. It doesn’t make you fragile, in fact, I think it does exactly the opposite.

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

 

sister

Mama said she caught her getting me out of my crib when I was just a tiny baby. I don’t know what her plans were, but I’ll bet they were fun and involved listening to Willie Nelson or Miles Davis while driving fast and laughing. She told me that by the time I was born, she was hip to what the situation was and she was primed and ready. She pretty much always has been.

She is the bravest person I know.

She taught me how to ride a bicycle, how to make cinnamon rolls, how to fish, how to drive, how to smoke a cigarette, how to sing, and how to dream big dreams.

She makes me laugh harder than anyone else on the planet by hardly doing anything at all.

She used to take a .22 and go into our grandparents’ backyard, shoot a squirrel, skin and clean it, fry it in the skillet, and eat it.

She is handy with tools and can make things. Impressive things.

I don’t know anyone more soulful, anyone who does everything they do with more depth and feeling than she does. The things she can’t do that way, she typically doesn’t bother with. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

She is smart and she is kindhearted. She is funny.

She is an exceptional artist, a singular singer, and a wonderful writer.

She would stand between me and anything that threatened to harm me in any way. I would do the same for her.

I have never spoken to anyone who regretted that they had a sister. I am filled up with gratitude for mine. We are both very fortunate to have so much love in our lives, but we know that we are the walking versions of perfect love for each other. Always have been, always will be. I hope and pray that we both grow to be very old, always together in mind and heart and speaking our unspoken language, and that in another 50 years we can sit and sip something in a pretty garden somewhere and say, “Look what we did, Sissy. We did alright.”

Happiest of birthdays to the shining light that is my sister, Shelby Lynn Moorer.

Happy Monday Y’all,

AM

 

waiting

Some days I don’t know if I live in the spaces between the lines I write or if I write in between the lines of my life. Don’t read that sentence too many times, but do you ever wonder what drives what?

The other night at my sister’s house, I sat at the table with her and two other writers after dinner and somehow we wound the conversation around to how we’re always waiting on the next line. We laughed when we admitted how we can each be in some dramatic situation with a lover, friend, family member, etc. — but no matter what goes down we always have our antennae up to catch a well-turned phrase or profound thought that might lead us to a beautiful sentence or paragraph, a song, a story, a book, a screenplay. I think what I said was, “You’d crawl over your dying Mama to get to the next good line.” No one disagreed.

You might laugh at that. And it is a funny image and thought. But it’s not as much of a stretch as it may seem. We’re always collecting. Be careful what you say around a writer — you might hear it come back at you later.

Artists often have dramatic lives, which begs the question — do we have dramatic lives because we need something to create about or do we just have dramatic lives and then can’t help but become artists so that we have a way to deal with it, to process it, to make something out of it all so that it has some sort of meaning?

I’m sure it’s some of both on most days, one or the other on other days.

You can’t time creative convergence — sometimes I have the space in my day and can’t get it going, sometimes it’s going and I don’t have the opportunity to sit with it and get it down. Crazy notebooks filled with pages of scribbles I make in the heat of the inspired moment, approximately two-hundred, seventy-seven notes in my phone of titles, sentences, ideas… I’ll never get to them all. What a way to live, in a state of waiting, fingers tapping. Waiting for the wave to rise, hoping you’ll know when it’s coming, and being able to hop on and ride it out when it does.

It’s cloudy today. I’m contemplative. You probably noticed.

Thank you for reading my thoughts.

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

heart

I’ve been thinking about this word since yesterday — not in terms of what’s beating in my chest, but instead in terms of what’s running through me, what propels me. My will, my life force, my energy, my gumption, my courage, my vitality.

Some days it feels stronger than on other days.

I have not succeeded much more often than I have succeeded. In fact, when I look at my life, it’s rife with supposed failure if we’re weighing wins and losses in a practical sense. I’ve failed at two marriages, never made a record that sold more than 75,000 copies (and most of them haven’t sold half that), never had a top 40 single (or even close), have played to more half-empty rooms than sold out ones, have never been gainfully employed in a way that could be written down as work experience on a resume, I haven’t invested well, I have made a lot of what amounted to questionable business decisions, I struggle to keep up with my friendships, I’m frustrating in a relationship, and I’m a fair to middling mother. Though I am an incredibly fortunate woman, things have not been exactly, let’s say, easy.

Sometimes I feel like Alabama Worley (Patricia Arquette) in True Romance when Virgil (James Gandolfini) beats the life nearly out of her, then he gets up to shoot her and she holds out a corkscrew she’s managed to find on the motel room floor to defend herself with. He smiles at her and says, “You got a lotta heart, kid, you know that?”

I keep getting back up and trying to do better. I keep trying not to die. That’s what most of us do.

We have heart.

I think I started thinking about this because I picked up a book called “The Rise,” by Sarah Lewis. I’m 14 pages in and I can’t wait to read every word. It’s about failure. Specifically, about what we find in failure. Thank you to The Unspoken Podcast (love it) for the tip, by the way.

I want to send these words out to everyone I know who is in danger of losing heart due to the past few weeks of ridiculousness we’ve had to endure. Please don’t. It’s so easy to get discouraged, but think about where you get the juice to get up in the morning and make eggs instead of having cold cereal. Think about how you push yourself to do three more reps during your workout instead of giving yourself a pass and stopping. Think about giving birth if you have to (those of you that have) and how hard that was and how you’d do it all again for that sweet baby. Think about the things you’ve worked your tail off for and how good you felt after you did. Think about where we’d be if those who came before us hadn’t persevered, if they hadn’t kept going and working at whatever seemingly insurmountable task they had before them and saying, “No — I’m not settling for that.”

Think about how you’re a badass at life.

I have failed at so much so many times. But if I’d sold a million copies of my first album I probably wouldn’t have made what I think my best one is. If my first marriage had lasted I wouldn’t be emotionally awake or had the humbling experience of having to check my own stuff. I’m not one of those, “I’m thankful for that bad thing that happened because it made me who I am today…” people. Of course, everything that happens makes us who we are and it doesn’t have to be bad to be character building all of the time. Spare me. I’m for good things shaping us through increasing gratitude! I digress… My point is, we do find ourselves when we have to pick it all up and try again. And we find that we have more heart than we thought we had.

That is a lovely, awesome thing.

Sending so much love today, particularly to my fellow failures, who keep getting back up and trying.

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

gawk

I want to stare back at you. I want to imitate your face with my face and show you how ridiculous and awful you look — eyes bulging, mouth often open because your jaw has gone slack with incredulity. But I don’t, not usually, not unless I’m in a particularly perturbed mood and feel like a confrontation, which I know you won’t accept. It’s not only because I want to keep him focused on me and how I don’t think he’s at all strange, of course I want to do that, but it’s also because I know it’s not polite. Didn’t your mother tell you that?

It’s not nice to stare. Don’t stare! Quit staring! Remember?

I can understand when children do it. They don’t know any better and have to be constantly told most things until they learn them. But adults? Give me a break. Children stare with curiosity. Adults stare with disdain and discomfort, letting everyone know that they can’t believe their precious experience is being disturbed by something they’d rather not see.

From an evolutionary perspective, staring is supposedly meant to indicate dominance. Someone wants to assert power, so they lock their eyes on the threat. The object of the laser beam then interprets that they are somehow inferior and cowers from the starer. Whether my son feels inferior because of your rudeness or not, I don’t know. He doesn’t really seem to. But then his face might not register the correct emotion to go along with what he’s feeling. I’m told that he can be sad while uproariously laughing. That you would potentially hurt him, that you would try to make him feel inferior, boils my blood. Is it okay with you to know you may be doing that with your insensitivity and inability to mind your own business? That’s part of it, though. You’re not thinking are you? It is my hope that your attention just bolsters the sense of cool that he already has. I hope he says to himself, “Look at that pitiful jackass. They’re so square and normal they don’t know how to take in the awesome being that I am.”

I pray. I doubt. I sometimes think I see his face fall just a little bit when he feels someone boring holes into him with their unintelligent eyes. He gets a little quieter, his movements become a little bit less large. Some would argue that that’s a good thing, but I would suggest someone changing themselves because of someone else’s disapproval or bewilderment only serves to make us all go more toward the middle. Gag. Yuck. Gross. No, thank you.

And by the way, do you think you’re so very void of unusual traits? Maybe your constant throat clearing and nose wiping strikes me as odd, annoying, and even repulsive. Maybe your verbal tics and slew footedness make me want to cross the street to avoid you. But I tend to remember what my Mama told me. I wouldn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable because you’re different.

 

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

energy

I knew there had been a shift when I picked him up Saturday morning to take him outside. He felt lighter, less here.

He wasn’t sick for long. He was a tough little dude — by the time he was ten years old he’d torn the ACLs in both of his back legs because he liked to jump off of things that were too high to jump off of, but he never made so much as a peep. Both injuries slowed him down for a while, but Petey could still fly when he wanted to. He was pretty hardy for eight or so pounds. When I noticed the cough he’d developed when he’d try to sing along with something he liked (y’all know he was singing until the very end) and that I also heard when I picked him up to hold him, I took him to the vet. I feared cancer or something, but the x-ray and EKG revealed nothing but a general inflammation and fluid sort of everywhere. Just old dog stuff, they said. He’d been slowing down for the past few years so I wasn’t surprised. His eyes were going and he’d lost most of his teeth. But I was determined not to put him through a bunch of drug therapy or surgeries. He’d lived a long time and though I wanted him to be here for as long as he could, I knew that as long as he could was something only he could decide. I wasn’t about to put a geriatric dog through pain that he didn’t need to endure or prolong his time here because I couldn’t stand to see him go. I trusted him. My only desire was to keep him comfortable, to love him as much or more as I always had, and to let him have his dignity. We started him on a diuretic and he seemed to be doing fine — the cough didn’t go away but he seemed happy. He spent the week before the last of his life sitting on a pillow in his beloved sunshine in Tennessee. Petey was a king and he knew it.

When we returned to NYC a week ago I told him he could be still for a while. A less than twenty-four hour trip back to Nashville on Wednesday found him with his sitter as I didn’t want to make him travel again so soon. He was the ultimate road dog and rode in a bag underneath the seat in front of me on I don’t know how many planes, and has traveled in more tour buses, vans, and cars than I can count. He was a trooper and hardly ever complained. But I knew I was time to let him rest. When I got him back on Thursday, he was his usual sweet self and did all his usual sweet things.

Saturday morning came with some heavy and rapid breathing. I knew the the corner had been turned so I wrapped him in a blanket and spent most of the day on the couch with him. I consulted with all of my fellow dog lovers, mostly my sister, and they coached me through my worry. He was still drinking and eating, so I thought he’d be around a while longer even though he seemed to be heading out. At 1am on Sunday morning I woke just in time to hear him take his last breath. Petey always slept with me and that night was certainly no different. When he exhaled for the last time something in the room changed. He was no longer in that tiny body and that I knew. I thought my heart would burst from sadness as I looked at him and stroked his little head, but I was also taken by the fact that I could feel him all over the room.

When a spirit leaves a body, where does it go? I know that it supposedly means those of us who believe in any sort of afterlife possess outside egos and that’s what makes us think this plane isn’t the last one — we can’t possibly be snuffed out and cease to exist, right? But I don’t agree with that theory, and not because my puppy just died and I don’t want him to be completely gone. Energy can’t be created or destroyed. It can only be transformed or transferred. (Thank you Law of Conservation of Energy).

We are energy. Petey was energy and I saw that when I felt him leave his body. I felt it the morning before when I picked him up and noticed it had changed. He was getting ready to go. But does energy concentrate in one place, like a ball of glowing ghost material? Or does it scatter like the sparks that fly off of the tip of a sparkler, throwing itself into every corner of the universe? Can it do whatever it wants whenever it wants if it isn’t harnessed into a container?

I don’t know. But just as I know souls come from somewhere when they inhabit a physical form, I know they go somewhere when they’re out of one.  Godspeed my faithful companion Petey, and send your light to us whenever you’re not too busy getting cosmic belly rubs in what I hope is the most beautiful sunbeam you’ve ever seen.

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

voices

My voice has provided me with an exceedingly cool life.

My voice is not all there is to it, but in a lot of ways, the things I get to do begin and end with what does or doesn’t come out of my mouth or from the tips of my fingers.

Today is Constitution Day. So in celebration of the great voices who gave us such a terrific document, I’ll be making some noise with my own when I will join a cast of other loud mouths at Cooper Union’s Great Hall for a special edition of Voices of a People’s History of The United States. I’ve been so lucky to have been included in many of these events since my first one, which also happened to be in the room we’ll be in tonight, in 2008.

Thank you to my dear friend Anthony Arnove and to Howard Zinn, without whom we would not be gathering to do such a thing. I’m humbled by their work to bring the voices of those who spoke and speak the truth to our attention, and I’m reminded today to use my own for good.

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

intention

I think about intentions a lot. In my work, in my daily actions, when considering the overview of things — I want to be able to call them good, wholesome, unselfish, sometimes maybe even lofty. If I am honest with myself I can stand back and point out when and where they haven’t been or aren’t, and instead exist to serve my ego in some way. I hate that.

My intention yesterday was to have this posted by midnight. Despite that intention, I didn’t get it done. Though the ticking clock nagged at me all day, I didn’t live up to the deal I made with myself that I’d do this every Monday during 2018 and instead am offering it now, this Tuesday morning, I guess better late than never, but still late. I hate that.

But as in most or probably all things, what happens in my life drives a question. Why is it so important that I live up to a deadline imposed on me by me? What is this structure doing for me, my body of work, my life? Why do I do this at all? Is it simply to serve my ego or is there something else going on?

I’ve put plenty of work into the world. Sometimes I think I don’t need to do any more. I’ve written lots of songs, made a handful of records, even have a fair amount of written work floating around and, much to my delight and surprise, have an actual book coming out next year. I ask myself why a lot. Did the world ever need any of my input and does it now? Truth is, I’ve chosen to earn a living by taking what’s in my brain and heart and trying to convince the world it’s worth paying attention to and paying for. But the truth also is that I probably could’ve chosen an easier route to having money to pay for groceries and the roof that keeps my head dry. Regardless, it’s the route I’m on. And having some guardrails around it keeps me from ending up in the ditch of doing things later or not at all. Confines and deadlines keep things moving. Is it all ego driven? Probably. Is it possible to make any kind of art without ego? Probably not.

I guess I’m just trying to figure out how not to die when it gets down to it. And putting these paragraphs here is one way in which I’m trying to leave something behind, one way in which I’m trying to say, “I’m here. And after I’m gone I hope someone will remember that I was.”

I could give you a list of why I didn’t make it to these paragraphs yesterday. I could tell you about the thousand little joys and heartbreaks that forced themselves into my day and made me stop to catch my breath, my lists of tasks and my amount of overwhelm, but they don’t matter I don’t guess and I know new ones will line themselves up again today. I see them out of the corner of my eye and hear them breathing behind my back right now.

I will tell you that one of the reasons I am late with this missive is that I was lucky enough to watch John Prine receive The Troubadour Award at BMI last night. So I was out late and found myself too emotional afterwards to put any words down that would’ve made any sense. I had thought I would, but no. Yes, I love Prine’s aching songs as much as anyone does, and enjoyed hearing the performers who were chosen to sing a few of them. “The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” “Big Ole Goofy World,” “Angel from Montgomery,” and “I Want to Dance with You,” were all delightful and made me feel almost light. That was not the case, however, when Robert Earl Keen delivered, with grace and gravity, “Hello in there.” That song is so damned lonely it makes me not just cry but actually tremble every time I hear it. I get scared when I become that moved, and astonished when I feel so seen. But that’s what the best songs do, don’t they? They make us feel understood. Even though I am not Loretta just yet, I, like most of us, feel like I will be one day and sooner than I want to admit. As I always say, art is a mirror. I don’t always realize that I’m afraid I will be Loretta until I hear the proper words wrapped around the devastation of invisibility.

So I reckon my intention is to try not to be invisible. I don’t want to disappear before my own eyes, become irrelevant to those I’m supposed to be relevant to and even myself, and stare out the back door screen today or any of my tomorrows. I know I most likely, at some stage, will. I get how it usually goes. But for now I’m fighting it like the devil. For now I’m trying, like the rest of you, not to die. For now I’m saying, “I’m here.”

It may not be the best intention, but for today it’s the one I’ve got.

 

Happy Tuesday,

AM