State of Things. State of Mind.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. For the past several months, I’ve been in an abyss of sorts, uninspired to write or sing. The muse wandered off someplace, and I’ve never experienced such a prolonged period of creative drought. It feels as if my very soul’s been frozen. Although I’m still thinking it through, I believe it’s been caused by a combination of factors: the death of my mom, exhaustion from the demands of the day gig, family issues, the ongoing crisis in the United States and, most recently, breaking my wrist. I’ll share more in a future post. But for now, the only thing that’s going to snap me out of it is to simply begin again. So, I’m writing this.

If I had one word for the state of things right now, it might be chaos. Something awful happens, and before we can fully process it, we’re hit with something else. A lot of days, my brain feels unruly. Under the constant barrage, it’s almost impossible to corral all the thoughts and feelings that come up. I live in a perpetual state of disorder. But I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. In fact, I know I’m not.

Here are a few of the things that are in my heart and on mind right now. They’re in no particular order. Each has its own unique weight. Perhaps the mere articulation will clarify next steps, or at least provide a tiny spark to a fire that’s been dormant for too long.

  • The very foundation of the United States was built on white supremacy and racism. This has been a common denominator from the time European settlers landed here to now. And white nationalism has been a global threat for decades. Today, as white nationalism rises prominently in this country once again, history holds a cold and sobering mirror .  Still, I never thought it would be instigated by the Commander-in-Chief himself. The proliferation of hate groups and violence is staggering. For the first time in my life, I’m afraid of this place. I understand, finally, the terror that black and brown people have felt and expressed again and again and again.  Shame on me for burying my head in the sands of white privilege for so long.

  • There have been many political administrations that I’ve disagreed with, but my faith in checks and balances never faltered. I believed in the safeguards established in the U.S. Constitution and in the fair leverage of power across the three branches of government. But I was naïve. What we’re witnessing now is the complete erosion of constitutional norms and protections, as well as an egregious disregard for human decency from the officials elected to protect us. The darkest of forces has taken over. I don’t know where we go from here. Or how. Beyond continued resistance to ongoing injustices, the next logical step is to vote in those who truly represent the interests of the people.  My fear, however, is that the electoral process is compromised beyond comprehension. Who knows if a fair election is possible anymore?

  • I’ve been musing lately about heaven vs. nirvana. Heaven is a paradise rewarded for a virtuous life. It’s a goal we strive for and a place we arrive at, presumably at the time of death. Nirvana is also a goal of sorts, but something we can attain in this lifetime. Nirvana is liberation from suffering, especially struggles of our own making. It’s transcendence available in the here and now. I’m an over thinker. It’s chronic, problematic and often painful. My monkey mind is perpetually flinging poo, twisting me in mental knots. I ruminate incessantly, rarely getting anywhere productive and often creating worst case scenarios that never materialize. I’m not a psychologist, but I sometimes wonder if overthinking is some kind of grasp for control. I’ve observed that overthinking intensifies when I’m presented with situations that are beyond my control. Regardless, it steals from me. If I’m to have any kind of meaningful impact, to bring even a sliver of light to counterbalance the darkness, then I need to first find peace within myself. The Dalai Lama says, “A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.” My work is cut out for me.

  • As I get older, I find that I’m less invested in achievement (career, artistic, etc.) and more interested in connection and emotional proximity to the people I love.

  • Over the past year, I’ve felt a significant shift in passions. I no longer have a strong desire to sing. The joy I felt from singing started to fade about a year ago. Although I continued to keep my voice in shape and to hustle for gigs, something was missing. I suppose I could ascribe reasons for this, perhaps some of the things I’ve already articulated in the opening of this post. I can certainly confess to a measure of industry fatigue. But another possibility is the simple truth of change. Maybe I’ve changed. Maybe it’s time for something different. There’s also a chance that this lull in inspiration is temporary. I don’t know, and that’s okay. The drive to write hasn’t changed.  I believe it will stay with me forever. Also, “Weirdo” is still very much alive. I’m just not sure what its next iteration will look like. The hardest thing about a change in passion is ego. After doing something for almost twenty years, it becomes part of your identity. Letting go of a craft you’ve spent much of your life cultivating and/or who you think you’re supposed to be relative to that is extremely difficult. In this regard, ego can be as problematic as overthinking, especially in terms of peace.

  • As some passions have faded, new and unexpected ones have emerged. Who knew, especially at this juncture in life, it would be football? I’ve been a pretty fervent Seattle Seahawks fan for a while now, and the archives of this blog prove it. But the past couple of years, I’ve become a dedicated student of the sport, doggedly on the path to elevate my football IQ.  I want to have a deeper understanding of what I’m seeing on the field. I’m interested in things like defensive strategies, offensive schemes, route trees, penalties, special teams and everything in-between. I read a ton. I also listen to sports radio, watch film when I can and pick the brains of more knowledgeable fans. Sometimes I go to local high school games just for the study.  I have no clue what drives this. I’m not sure it even matters. All I know is that it makes me happy. That’s enough.

  • Breaking my wrist taught me a lot about vulnerability in all its forms- physical, emotional and financial. This was my first experience of physical limitation, and I had to rely on a lot of other people for help. I also learned how a single moment, like a fall in the laundry room, can change everything, wiping out a huge chunk of savings in a nanosecond. (And that’s if you’re lucky enough to have savings.) I’ve asked myself, “What if this had been much worse?” I’ve reflected on the vulnerability of aging.

  • Climate change is real. While I make a conscious effort to reduce my carbon footprint on this planet, I know I can do more.

  • Transgender people have been especially vulnerable to the biases and cruelty of the current administration. Fundamental rights are slowly being stripped away. Military service has been tested. False narratives (i.e. sexual predators in the bathroom) have been amplified, elevating violence against transgender people, especially black trans women. As the mother of a transgender daughter, these threats are deeply upsetting to me. Transgender people are human beings. And it’s vitally important to hear their stories.  People, specifically cisgender, need to understand the lives of our transgender friends and family members. The more we can connect with someone’s humanity, the harder it is to be complicit- in deed or negligence-in their oppression. Transgender people just want to live with dignity and in peace. My daughter wants to live with dignity, in peace.

  • Income inequality is at an all-time high, and the working class is struggling more than ever. Recent studies show that 40% of Americans would be unable to cover an unexpected expense of $400.00. The cost of living is steadily rising, while incomes aren’t. Many people labor paycheck to paycheck, barely getting by and fearful for what’s ahead. With so many focused so intensely on the bare minimums of survival, we’re experiencing a collective failure to thrive. Is there something we can do in our own circles to counter this trend and to fill up our fellow travelers? How can we make things a little easier for each other?

The other night, my daughter and I were discussing radical optimism. She believes it’s the most potent form of resistance, as the one thing the oppressor wants more than anything is for the masses to feel defeated. I love this idea of hopeful defiance, especially as articulated by my beautiful daughter. As I listened to her words, I felt a flash of something bigger.  Is it possible, still, to believe the best about the world and humanity? I don’t know. But with her as my north star, I’d like to try. For now, I know this much: The laws of impermanence, if nothing else, are reliable. It won’t always be like this.