The Risk to Be Touched

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I’m reading something called The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  It’s a “daybook”–that is, it’s one of those books where you read one entry every day for a year.  I seem to think that once I come full circle with this book, I’ll probably read it again and again.  Yesterday’s entry was titled “The Risk to Be Touched,” and it was quite poignant.

Nepo writes that the simplest reason that we want to be touched is that touch heals us.  He goes on to say that what hinders this is our fear to let others into our personal space.  We fear being hurt by a multitude of reasons; however, these are all reasons that even though they may be rooted in past experiences, are only perpetuated by the power of our own minds.  In effect, we are our own worst enemy.  Our minds hold power over us that is impossible to understand, at best.

So where is it that we draw the line between fear and acceptance?  When is it that we push the mind chatter to the back and exist in the silence and peace at our core?  Of course, if I had the definitive answer to those questions, I would be the author of a best-selling book.  Eventually, we need to take that chance with other people, accept them at face value, and take the hand they offer.  Though we can be incredibly self-reliant animals, eventually we need the support of others.

Nepo closes the entry with the following paragraph:

“Sometimes we would do better to admit the heart works best in mime.  For beneath the worries and fears of being hurt or rejected or taken advantage of, beneath the avalanche of excuses and explanations, there waits a deep and simple pulse that we need from each other in order to be whole.”

And really, when one person becomes whole, doesn’t that inspire others to do the same, thus coming closer to the ultimate goal of supporting not just those around us, but everyone on the planet?

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Clown Cars and Music Theory

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After I wrote my first blog about our new church (“Amalgamate”) I received a few “concerned” emails.  These emails expressed what boils down to a fear for my eternal soul.  Apparently the church that we’re attending is “too accepting,” and according to these people, that is a problem.  How funny that a church where they actually act the way Jesus did is the “wrong type” of church.  Go figure.  That being said, I was reminded by a friend of a bumper sticker that says “God Loves Everyone–No Exceptions.”  I found that somewhat humorous in light of the current situation.  I was told that we shouldn’t pick a church because we agree with their “opinions” (I put that in quotes because that it what the email said).  Well…at least to me, agreeing with the message seems to be an important criterion.  Maybe I’m crazy, but I wouldn’t pick a church where I don’t agree with anything they say–that would just be stupid.

Fast forward to my most recent blog about the theory papers that I wrote.  A seemingly non-religious subject: music theory.  I have been informed that I am wrong…through more emails.  What I gathered from the majority of these emails is that college was a time for me to get all of that pesky independence out of my system and meet a husband.  Apparently I was supposed to be spending thousands of dollars on tuition in order to get an M.R.S. degree.  I thought these people had met me before, but I’m guessing they never paid any attention to my actual personality.  According to most of them, this music theory business is just the inevitable next step of Satan trying to get his hooks in me (their words, not mine).  The first step was us going to this church that is “so focused on accepting everyone and all that diversity nonsense.”  Still not grasping the connection between the two subjects at all, but whatever.  Many of them told me that now that I’m 30, it’s time for me to settle down with this “school nonsense,” be a “good housewife,” and focus on having lots of babies.  Wow.  Who knew that it was supposed to happen like that?  We won’t even go into the “focus on having babies” part, as I might have a little [precedented] explosion…you know, like the kind you have when inadvertently provoked in the middle of some random store amongst unknowing people…yeah, that kind.

Needless to say, I deleted quite a few people from my Facebook friends list in the past couple days.  I’m sorry if they think that the church we love is evil, just because they don’t preach all the fire and brimstone nonsense and they actually accept everyone.  I’m sorry if they think that I should become a “good housewife” and settle in to spend the rest of my child-bearing years cranking them out like a clown car.  But more than anything, I’m sorry that they don’t grasp the actual concept of the religion they claim to practice.  Social justice, environmentalism, equal rights, activism, helping those in need…I’m pretty sure these are foreign concepts to most of these people…and I’m willing to put money on the fact that they won’t ever want to learn about them.

Just a random observation from the world of feminist, educated, logical, socially conscious Lauren.

Discombobulation

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Apparently I haven’t written a blog in almost a month.  “Why is that?” you ask.  Just after I wrote the last blog, I began doing my analyses and research for two theory papers.  These papers were to serve as my portfolio in my application packet to the MMus program at UNM.  Keep in mind that I haven’t actually analyzed any music in almost eight years, so this task proved to be somewhat of a stretch for me.  Difficult?  Not really.  But let’s just say that my brain spent a fair amount of time sweating during this mental workout.  I think it is also fair to say that when presented with a handful of augmented sixth chords in the Beethoven piece, I spent more time banging my head against the wall than actually figuring out the function of the chords.

Let me begin by saying that I’ve never written papers like these before (and was told by a friend that these type of papers aren’t normally written in undergraduate programs, so there was no reason for me to have experience writing them), so the whole concept of a theory paper was somewhat foreign to me.  The Beethoven paper was straightforward as far as information goes.  I chose the first movement of the Op. 10 No. 3.  So…write some background on sonata form, write some background on the piece, examine any noteworthy sections based on analysis, write a conclusion.  Done.  The Marrolli piece, however, was a different animal all unto itself.

At first glance, the Marrolli piece looks simple–and strictly speaking of the notes, it is.  That being said, it starts with a spoken section (that after a few measures has voices in different time signatures) where voice parts are pitted against each other.  After a handful of bars, a drone enters that stabilizes a simple melody in the upper voices.  This is the end of the normality of the piece.  In comes people singing the melody whenever they want at basically whatever speed they want.  That section was the easiest to analyze, as the whole section is one giant D-minor chord.  Here comes the fun part: the last section of the piece has eight chords.  No, not eight chords over and over…just eight chords. People sing one word throughout the entire section, and similar to previously, sing it at whatever tempo they want.  The whole section creates this support system for the mezzo solo that is floating above.  Okay, so there is the whole run-down in a tiny, tiny nutshell.  This is the analysis that proved to be the most difficult for me because the majority of the analysis was over the programmatic aspect of the piece.  It is really simple to listen to a story, hear a piece that is telling that story, and then say, “oh yeah, I totally hear all of that.”  It’s a whole other thing to sit down and make a bunch of inferences about what you think is going on.  But…the papers are written, so that’s all that matters!

 

Hopefully I wrote something similar to what the selection committee is expecting.  Who knows, maybe it’s exactly what they want…or maybe it’s nothing like what they’re expecting.  In a perfect world, they will look at it and say, “we MUST have her in our program!”  (especially because I wrote a paper about a lesser-known composer, right?)  Because of this whole starting-a-PhD-that-I-found-out-that-I-hate-and-now-trying-to-switch-programs-to-music-theory thing, I’ve been quite discombobulated (and I use that word in homage to a recent conversation).  Does that mean that I have ignored my blog writing?  No, but it does mean that I have gone through writing two papers and covering the material in three semesters worth of music history as well as four semesters worth of music theory in the last three weeks.  My brain is fried, yet I can’t get enough.  The more I read, the more I want to know.  Most people in my life know that this is just a part of who I am.

 

 

Now it’s just all about playing the “waiting” game.

 

Pour l’Amour de Musique

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I thought I had squelched music after undergrad.  Not squelched it in the sense that I never wanted it in my life anymore, mind you–but squelched in the sense that I thought I was through that part of my life where I needed music in order to breathe and be whole.

This is clearly not the case.

It has become even more apparent in the last few weeks before starting my doctoral program, and now the most prevalent after I’ve finished my first week of classes: I can’t stop thinking about music.  It’s the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before going to sleep.  If this is where my spirit lies, then I picked the wrong doc program.  Shocking, I know…I’ve spent my entire musical life trying to run away from it in one way or another.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), it has caught up with me and attached itself to my soul.

My mom likes to tell the story of when I was a junior in high school and decided that though it was incredibly icy out, I was going to drive to school.  She said, “you aren’t driving, it’s icy outside.  I will drive you!”  Well, I got upset and walked out, slamming the front door on my way.  It was incredibly icy outside.  I slid off the porch steps and flew partway down the hill in our yard, only being stopped by my shoulder slamming into a tree.  Yes, it hurt.  Did I tell her?  No, not until six months later it  still hurt.  She took me to the doctor and I ended up having torn my entire rotator cuff and had to have it reconstructed.  That means surgery plus four to six months of rehab.  Mom likes to refer to that as the “it’s icy outside” moment, and often brings it up.  Why?  Because every time she tells me something that I don’t pay attention to and then she turns out to be right (which is most of the time), all she has to say to me is, “Lauren, it’s icy outside.”

Music is no different.  I told her today about thinking about going back to music and she replied with, “Lauren…it’s icy outside.”  Why is this?  Because she has told me ever since I was about 10 that I was destined to be in a musical field.  Yes mom, I know, you’re right again.  That being said, it’s not going to be in the realm of piano performance, like most of you would expect.  My performance anxiety is too high to put that kind of stress on my body all the time.  Do I know the specific field I want to pursue?  Not really.  Ethnomusicology, theory, composition…I pretty much want them all.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me, so long as it’s music (though most of you also know that I’m somewhat obsessed with theory).

I know at least one person, maybe two, who will appreciate the on-paper (and possibly aural, as well) beauty of the works that are George Crumb’s Makrokosmos.  This is the kind of stuff that makes me excited.  This is the stuff about which I’m passionate.

So many possibilities within so few tiny black dots.

I guess a decision needs to be made.

 

 

 

Le Rocher

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In a previous blog, I stated that I believe that everyone who comes into our lives does so for a reason.  This has happened to me for my entire life.  Whether it is a need to learn something, make a change, or see something about myself more clearly,  I get my answering person.  Usually I already know the person; however, at that point in time they clearly emerge as something different than I previously thought.

Many of you know that over the past year, though I have fallen in love with Santa Fe, it has been an incredibly difficult transition for me, especially when it comes to my circle of friends.  Before moving here, I had previously lived in basically the same area for most of my life.  That being said, I have an amazing
circle of friends there; however, it has become increasingly difficult to have the same caliber of conversation via the phone.  Yes, you can talk about many things over the phone, but eventually you need an actual human in front of you to give you feedback.

Somewhat changing gears: I have stated in so many words that the majority of this blog was being written as a healing process.  But what brought me to that point?  In short, a program about healing trauma through the arts.  The person organizing said program needed some people to sing in her choir, so I agreed to do it and didn’t think anything of it.  Unfortunately, not too long into the program, I was starting to have a breakdown concerning some past trauma that had not actually been grieved through.  Sure, I put on the happy face, but I never actually did the work.  Said organizer was the catalyst to starting this process.

I’m going to purposely leave out a plethora of information, as I really just don’t feel the need to share every single detail of my life (if that were the need, I would be on a reality television show…not WordPress).  This person, though has ended up helping me through things that I didn’t even realize were happening.  Two weeks ago when the Joplin tornadoes happened, there is no way that I could have handled all of that myself, being so far away from my childhood home.  She was basically my rock, every time I got a phone call or a text about people dying.  Between her and the church with which we’ve fallen in love, the Joplin news was bearable.

So what can we take from all of this?  Why is it that people always come at the
right time?  And the people who impact our lives in such a profound way…are they drawn to us for the same reason?  I’m a firm believer in everyone having “student” as well as “teacher” moments in life, but can we be both at the same time?  I don’t know that there is a clear answer to that question in my head.  If I had to answer, I guess it would be “yes,” though there have been a few people over the years who have made me wonder.  This particular person would not be one of them.  I’d like to think that if the need ever arose, I would be able to help her in the capacity that she has helped me, but really that will remain an unknown until the situation warrants it.  Or maybe I already have…who knows…but the journey is the fun part.  The fact that it is helping me become a
better person is just icing on the cake.

Amalgamate

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I have been avoiding writing this for many weeks now, but after just over a month, I’ll breach the subject.  We have been going to church–yes, a Jesus church and everything.  Those of you who are close friends of mine know that this is a HUGE deal…not because I have a problem with religion, but because of the qualms I have with (a) many of the denominations’ treatments of the Bible, (b) the general attitude of many denominations toward women and homosexuals, and (c) the attitudes of some religious people.  To this day, my favorite bumper sticker reads:

So my hang-ups aren’t with religion, but with the human treatment (or bastardization) of the message of Jesus.  All of that aside, we have been attending a local United Church of Christ (called United Church of Santa Fe) that came highly recommended by a good friend.  Unlike any church I have ever been to, they are truly and genuinely accepting of everyone from all walks of life.  Now, I don’t say “truly and genuinely” lightly, by any means.  I know that some of you are thinking that other churches are this accepting, and some of them are.  But please don’t confuse “truly and genuinely accepting” with “we will accept you and then pray for you so that you may change.”  These are two completely different things, one of which is why I have resisted going to church for so many years.

Also unlike any other church I have attended, I not only look forward to going and hearing what the ministers have to say that day, but (and I have told many of you this) if they had services every day, I would move my entire schedule around so that I could attend.  And yes, I actually pay attention to every word that comes out of their mouths (which also shouldn’t be confused with “I would drink the Kool-Aid if only they asked”).  It is very apparent that there is scholarly research that goes into the creation of the sermons, and that, I can get behind.

I have heard them mention Islam, Buddhism, the Navajo religion, and multiple other non-Christian faiths, and not refer to people who practice these faiths as “going to hell.”  They practice “creation care” in many forms, one of the most prevalent being through pressing environmental problems.  They not only accept, but celebrate women, all races, and all sexual orientations…and for those of you playing the home game, that is what Jesus did.  Of course I could mention how brilliant the choir director is as well (along with her musical choices), but that is the subject of a whole blog in itself, I’m sure (insert witty smiley face here with some kind of a tongue sticking out while saying “me likey whitachords”).  All things considered, we have found a fantastic church that we love to attend as well as a bunch of great people go there (including, but not limited to, the choir and the ladies who lunch).

So what prompted this?  First and foremost, living in the high desert.  In a previous post, I said that just living here is a spiritual experience, and I still stand by that statement.  There is nothing like walking out into the desert and just listening.  Something about the near barren surroundings is conducive to a meditative state.  That in combination with my recent emotional flooding (brought on by a program with the previously mentioned choir director) as well as esoteric conversation over a couple of beers pushed me in the direction of church.  Well, nevermind how I got there.  If I explain the whole route, you will need a Garmin just to get back to your own head.

The point is, we got there…and we’re not planning on leaving anytime soon.

Mon Pouvoir

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Power.  This is a big word to some people, and to others, inconsequential.

What gives us our own power and who or what takes it away?  A handful of times in my life, my power has been taken away; however, this only instigated me learning to defend myself.  Personal power though, even when one has to defend oneself, is still left unguarded.  So what happens when you are somewhere that you normally feel safe and your power is taken away?  Recent experiences have dictated, at least for me, that I go into anxiety overdrive.  Things that normally don’t bother me suddenly make me flip out for no apparent reason.  Food is hard to keep down.  Noises of any type make me jump.  These are not things that I want to embrace or welcome into my life.  Anxiety is pretty much my least favorite thing on the planet, and when you take into account the 13 years of playing piano in public, I have definitely had my fair share.

This is pretty much me when put into any performance-type situation (as well as after any traumatic event, which is interesting that I lump “performance” and “traumatic event” in the same category).  Because I am prone to anxiety, I can literally go from completely fine to every worst possible outcome in less than a minute.  Do you know what psychologists say helps?  Aversion and exposure therapy.  I’m sure those work for some people, but apparently not me.  Many people like to say, “oh, you just have to perform more and it’ll get easier.”  Really?  Five times a month for 13 years isn’t enough exposure to performance?

I’d like to think that if the stress-induced anxiety was under control, then maybe when I encountered situations where my power is at a loss (though I hope I don’t have any more of those), I wouldn’t spend the next few days freaking out about anything and everything.  That being said, maybe because it IS stress-induced, I’m just going to have to learn to deal with it in a different way.  Do I know what that way is?  No.  Today though, it included lots of X-Files, at least five rotations of the Bach Cantata 4, fish tacos, a prickly pear margarita, and some hilarious conversations with a friend.  Obviously that’s not something I can do every time I get into a stressful situation (however nice it may be).  As it turned out this past weekend, the hike at Bandelier was exactly what I needed for my then state of mind…so maybe when the anxiety comes, I should be doing more communing with nature.  The desert, specifically, can heal pretty much anything, I’m convinced.