I was so proud to be part of this lovely single on both bass guitar and aerial footage. Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mamas who put in their love, energy, and patience day in, day out. All our love.
Just breathe. Just be.
Those seem such simple and obvious statements. After all, breathing is reflexive, right? We do it in our sleep, in waking, and never stop – it’s not something you generally put your mind to unless it becomes difficult. But sometimes you just need to give yourself the permission to breathe… and nothing else. Feel the air enter your lungs, enrich your blood, and leave the way it came. Let the world slow down around you and actually experience the moment you’re in. Live fully in the moment… and I’ve spent the last year living exactly in that place.
Once more for the record, I’m an adrenaline addict. No talking my way around that, either – it’s a fact. I jumped out of planes for years, my most brutal injuries have been willingly self-inflicted, and the feeling of calm and peace after huge adrenaline surges is one of my most favoritest feelings in the world. Ever. I love flying through the air more than standing on the ground. Despite the risks.
When you’ve suffered a cornucopia of mental, emotional and physical trauma over a sustained period of time, it can be tricky to know when you’re healed. You get so comfortable with your bandages, procedures, and therapies – both figurative and literal – that they become part of you in unintended ways. Life starts to become viewed as a series of trials to overcome, and after a while you begin looking for them in places they don’t exist. And when this happens, it becomes really hard to accept being in a fully-healed state as a real scenario.
That’s not to say I haven’t had plenty of high points in the last few years, as some of the highest peaks have accompanied my lowest valleys. It’s just to face the fact that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel complete, and not in a perpetual state of healing.
But I think I’m good now. Not perfect, but damn good.
The moon the last two nights has been outrageous. Insane. Spectacular. Inspiring. It’s been referred to as the super blue blood moon and we won’t see it in this state for at least another 50 years- at which time I’m reasonably sure I’ll be six feet underground and unable to appreciate it again.
A super blue blood moon is the combination of a total lunar eclipse alongside a blue moon (the second of two full moons in a single calendar month) a blood moon (when particles in the atmosphere make the moon appear reddish in nature), and a super moon (where the perigee, or closest point in the moon’s orbit to the earth, makes the moon appear unusually large). That’s a freakin trifecta of spiritual convergence right there.
And it follows a long period of tragic convergence in my life. The meaning is not lost on me. I couldn’t let this one slide past without some serious introspection going on.
Just because you can feel emotions outside of you doesn’t mean you gain amazing insight into the world around you. In fact, it’s often even harder to know exactly what I’m feeling now, than it was before I started figuring out what was going on with my empathic senses. My current emotional state can easily get blended with those I’m sensing around me, and if I’m not careful, I can read things wrong or act completely out of character. Hesitant can feel apprehensive. Happy can actually feel smug or self-important at it’s core. Lately I’ve been working really hard at filtering my own emotions out from those I empathically sense, and it’s had both good results, bad results, and laughably hilarious results.
Life can move quickly, and it can get a bit confusing at times. My own personal issues and aspirations aside, it’s hard not to feel beaten up by factors outside one’s control living on the southern coast of California this last year. So many lives have been affected by both the Thomas fires and the resulting mudslides last week it’s been a very overwhelming time to live here, particularly as an empath. These are times when both my own angst and that of those around me can be heavy, cause me to dramatically overthink things. Fight against the stream of things, to rally against fate, timing, and nature. So this morning I’m centering on rocks, streams, and natural order to get a grip on it all.
When a rock and a stream confront one another, the stream always wins through its persistence, not its strength. No matter how solid, strong, and resolute the rock may be, constantly running water will always mold it slowly into what nature intends. Water will never be impeded for long but find a way around, over, through any obstacles, wear down that rock, find it’s path forward. For a long time I’ve focused too hard on being a constant rock in a ever-flowing and changing world. These days I’m trying to respect the stream around me more. The difference is astounding.
It’s now 5 days into January 2018. That seems a short time in words, but it can feel like a very long time under the right circumstances. Oh, the things I’ve done with just 5 days – conceive and pitch a new product, write half of an album’s worth of material, record a few albums worth of material, span 5 continents – but this hasn’t been one of those 5 days. It’s been a quiet, introspective 5 days. I’ve primarily been cleaning up fire and holiday messes and loose ends this week, and trying to establish a new daily rhythm after almost a month of schedule chaos and geographic disarray. But in the monotonous overload of everyday this last 5 days, I’ve learned some things that have helped me look back on the last few years with less jaded, better focused eyes. I’m not going to deal in New Years resolutions or big sweeping judgements of my past this year, just share a few things I’ve discovered as I’ve tiptoed into 2018. Grab a coffee and pull up a chair.
It’s easy to fall victim to the stereotypes of the working musician – for both the musician and fan alike. A life of public adulation, excess, and grandiosity (is that a word?). The exquisitely tortured artistes extracting beauty from life’s poignant moments all gypsified and moving nomadically from town to town. But the reality of a career in the creative segment is more blunt, and there’s entire curriculums of required knowledge they didn’t teach me in music school. The kind you have to skin your knees and bloody your nose to learn. The dirty secret of the game is that it’s not good enough to be a talented musician or artist- you gotta be a warrior in both practice and spirit if you wanna live the life longer than a year or two.
It’s relatively easy to focus in on the things we want in life. The things that our hearts, minds, and souls pull us towards despite all logic and better judgement – both for the good and the bad. The things in life we need, though, they reside in another category entirely. Quite often the things we need are exactly what we fight against the hardest, build up resistance towards, deny and overlook. It’s hard to focus in on the truly essential things to pursue in life as the things we want tend to overwhelm us, like a kid in a candy store with wide eyes but only a few shiny coins to spend.
For the first 8 years of my son’s life, I was the breadwinner. The provider. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a dedicated and loving father, but we’d always split the duties of Devin’s parenthood right down the middle with virtually no overlap. My wife was a full-time mother, maintained the home base, and took care of our household and family matters, I hunted and gathered to fill the coffers, pay the bills, and put a roof over our head and food on the tables. For quite a while we were both happy with this split of duties and responsibilities. It’s what we’d thought we both wanted. But it wasn’t- and took a heavy toll on our relationship over time. Forcibly becoming a single dad made me realize how unbalanced our relationship had become.
The hill was tall and rocky against a cloudy sky, with a stone lighthouse piercing the sky at the top. I never understood why, but I felt I needed to get to that lighthouse more than anything else in the world, and scrambled feverishly up the hill towards it with every bit of my strength. My hands and bare feet were scratched, bruised and bloody by the time I crested the hill, and just as I found my footing it happened. Just as it happened every time.
It ain’t easy being an empath. Especially when you’re a newbie at it. Factoring in that 2017 was also a shit year on many levels, this here empath finds himself left with a mixed and somewhat depressing set of feelings in late December. Let me be really straight up front – this year most assuredly saw amazing progress related to finding my personal center again, reconnecting to my inner muse, and releasing old baggage, but it was overall a shit year for things outside my control. The sheer amount of ‘straight out of nowhere’ disasters that struck me were far beyond expected boundaries of normal. But I still learned a lot.
It’s beginning to look a lot like… well, I’m not entirely sure. As the smoke and ash subside I’m starting to notice subtle holiday scents again, like our piney Christmas tree and that awkwardly-gifted cinnamon candle on the table by the door. But once I walk outside and look up to the charred hills, down to the scattered swirls of ash and pyrrhic dusts all about on the ground, it feels far more like a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter than a white Christmas.
We’d had spotty electricity all day due to an automobile accident up the street taking out a power line, so when the lights started flickering back on and off Monday evening my son and I figured maintenance was still in progress. The sound of helicopters in the distance were a bit non-standard, but we still tucked in and went to sleep anyway – not knowing that the Thomas fires now ravaging the area were the new reason for the outages. It wasn’t until the sun peeked up and shone a blood-red glow into my bedroom that I realized things had gone seriously sideways while we slumbered.
When life is challenging, it’s important to keep yourself balanced. Look at everything that’s going well, and not focus on your struggles so much- as once you’ve counted up your blessings, they’ll far outweigh your burdens. And this Thanksgiving morning I’m truly grateful for everything that’s come my way over the last three or four years – both the good and the bad.
It’s been difficult for me to watch the #metoo campaign against sexual abuse and harassment towards women develop this week.
That isn’t remotely because I disagree with or oppose it, but quite the opposite.
I’ve never (at least not that I’m aware) used my influence, power, or strength to harass and abuse women. I have never groped anyone who didn’t clearly expect and invite me to.
But I have been abused, harassed, groped and intimidated by men and women alike. I’ve had advancement in my career offered in exchange for sex. I’ve had record deals and press coverage extended to me, contingent upon ‘quid pro quo’ favors – both discreetly and not. And from that perspective, as a man, I support #metoo wholeheartedly.
You’ve surely heard why a bird can’t be helped out when breaking the shell of it’s egg for the first time. Newborn birds need to fight and struggle to be free of their shell in order to develop the strength and power needed to survive their crucial first days and grow further, to adulthood.
In contrast, human newborns aren’t expected to do much more than survive the birthing experience and don’t consider the broader concepts of ‘breaking the shell’ as directly, or personally. Growing pains. Rites of passage. We’ve created our own analogies for the process of breaking and healing and growing.
I’ve felt solid with myself lately after a few heavy years of change, but a bit stagnant in my new skin. My content management work at LinkedIn has been busy recently, just as I’ve also been focusing most of my free evenings recording an upcoming album project. It’s been quite a blur this last 6 months of fumbling forward into my newfound full-time single dad life.
The first week of July – vacation time – was always blocked out in my calendar for a vacation, but all things considered I went a little bigger this year and booked a 2-week sojourn for my son and I across Italy and France starting on the 4th of July. Kaboom.
For most of my life, I could never explain these waves of foreign feelings that would consume me out of nowhere. “You’re just overly sensitive,” people would say. Intuitive. Insightful. Sharp. But I knew something deeper was going on, and unfortunately for decades I’ve hid it, instead letting myself believe that I was just a little introverted, a little twitchy, a little off. Empathy is a strange topic for those of us who have abnormal levels of the sense. I’m only just now beginning to realize the depths to which it can (and has) affected me through my lifetime- both for the good and the not-so-much.
“Finish him,” the voice inside me said. The hulking late-teenager facing me may have been a brown belt to my white, but I had an extensive-yet-rusty set of kung-fu skills from my late teens/early twenties and wasn’t going to let him get the best of me.
I’d already won the fight. Young and brash, he’d pushed the offensive and showcased all his flashiest moves to intimidate me. Being older and wiser, I let him run himself into a sweaty, panting mess of carefully-masked frustration. Yet in the split second of opportunity as I saw his chest and throat open up, I abandoned my wisdom and the safe win. Instead, I opted for the show-stopping, Mortal Kombat-style finishing move to teach him a lesson. And I ended up teaching myself my biggest lesson in humility to date.
Today would have been my nephew Jesse’s birthday. We lost him due to still-undetermined medical reasons in his sleep, late last year. The unexplained cause of his death makes it all the more unsettling, unresolved. I’ve had to process a lot of loss over the last few years but Jesse’s death may have been the final straw, bringing me lower than I’ve been in decades. I write to heal, and this is no exception. However, I’m writing this a few days earlier and scheduling it, as my hopes are to be somewhere along the coast with Devin at sunset to wish Jesse a happy birthday by the ocean he loved so much.
“You’re a creature of habit,” she said, setting the same old soup and salad combo I always order at the bar in front of me with a flourish. “It’s a great habit,” I retorted. And it was a pretty fantastic pairing, no doubt. Best soup and salad in town.
But that’s beside the point- it was still a pretty obvious habit of mine. Performed by an obvious creature of habit. Ouch. That feels like a lesson coming on.
I woke up suddenly around 3:30am this morning. It wasn’t just a minor stirring amidst the sheets, a quick mid-sleep water break or dazed round-trip to the bathroom. My eyes came fully open and my head was clear, although my thoughts were anything but. I’d gone to bed early after my Sunday rehearsal and a quick dinner. However, despite pleasant company throughout I felt unsettled and withdrawn the whole evening, and not in a particularly social mood. Some words I’d spoken still hung in my ears:
“I feel like a stone in the eye of a tornado. Like I’m barely holding onto balance while everything around me goes crazy. And I mean batshit crazy.”
At that moment, I hadn’t made any connections between that phrase to any other particular event or circumstance. There’s been an awful lot on my mind over the last couple years, and I know at times things have seemed a little scattered. It’s been sometimes hard to put a finger on exactly which brush fires are causing me the most heat, generally speaking. But when I looked at the calendar again things started to come more into focus.
It’s the opening day of Winter NAMM 2017, the music gear event of the year for most musicians I know. Vendors roll out their latest drool-worthy instruments and gear. And there’s a name for the affliction many musicians emerge from NAMM with – Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS).
Umm… Gear Acquisition Syndrome?
Yep, it’s a thing. GAS’s key symptom is a relentless drive to grab your wallet and upgrade all your instruments, gear, and accessories to the shiny new hotness you’ve just played with. When it comes to GAS afflictees, I’m pretty much a poster child – so it’s a good thing that I’m not attending in person this year. Restraining my wallet hand is getting easier with age, but from early signs we may need medics at NAMM this year. It’s gonna be a gear acquisition syndrome outbreak!
Here’s my first two candidates for ‘wallet magnet of the week’.
2017 hasn’t come fully into focus yet, but already feels like a breath of fresh air. I haven’t really gotten back into the swing of my daily routine(s) yet, but I already feel like the baggage of 2016 has finally slipped free. The road ahead is foggy but highlights are starting to poke through the haze, drawing me forward with curiosity and intent.
I decided to not kid myself this year with the usual New Year’s resolutions. Instead I’m just sticking to the basics, with the goal of leaving this year stronger than I began it. And by doing so, hopefully find the road ahead to more productive paths for personal and professional growth.
In retrospect 2016 feels like such a mess- oh, what a glorious disaster this year has been. Not without it’s blindingly bright moments in time, mind you, but an utter disaster year nonetheless. As I looked back, sprinkled throughout this year were serious moments where I nearly said ‘okay, fuck this all’. A true WTF year, 2016 was shockingly beautiful in it’s tragic optimism yet absolutely crushing in it’s toll on my emotional and physical well-being and the general state of the world around us.
I’ve been living a bit of an experiment with expectations the last few months during my healing process, and it’s become so telling that’s it’s far less of an experiment now and really just a Very Good Thing to be mindful of in general. My experiment really gets down to managing expectations, and/or the lack thereof.
Given tonight’s Supermoon is the biggest in years, ushering in a phase of rebirth and cleansing, I’m gonna focus on what I’ve recently learned about expectations and hopefully get an energetic leg-up this evening. Let me explain.