Aug 222008

Not major craziness, mind you.

Usually this would be the point where I publish my “Story of the Month” because it has been the only thing I have written this week. But it’s not really a story just the beginning of one, and so you’ll have to wait for that one.

So, I’m just popping in here to say that I’m still alive, that I have read through all of your blog posts, my laptop is still not back, and the house is looking awful.

Next week kindergarten will start again but teaching will not and I have high hopes of getting my life back then.

See you, and have a nice weekend.

May 222008

The Ultimate Party

Looking at herself in the mirror Myra thought about what to wear that night. It felt like a day for red. The red dress. The dress that made her look voluptuous, and curvy; the one that hugged all the right places, felt good, and was easy to wear. The only question was whether to go the vamp route this night or more punk-like. High heels or army boots? A hat?

She’d probably regret high heels later in the evening, she always did. She thought of putting a pair of flats in her handbag but that was for sissies. Boots and a leather jacket would tone it all down a bit.
She’d be overdressed either way. Though she wanted this to be the ultimate party it probably wouldn’t be.

But what better place to meet new people than a party? So she put up her hair, put on the big dangling earrings, the red lipstick, the red pumps, and went out in a cloud of perfume.

There weren’t that many people at the party when she arrived. She frowned; everybody came late the days until there was hardly any time left to party. She said hello to everybody, fetched herself a beer, and joined a group of people she didn’t know to make new friends. If possible.

There she was again, thought Laura. This Myra. Always the same. She entered the room like she owned it in her terrible clinging dress. Laura would never have worn something so tight, so short, so clinging, showing so much cleavage. Horrible.
Wherever this woman went there was a whirl in the crowd. Squeals, laughter, disturbance. She talked all the time, as if anybody was interested in her stupid stories, she went from group to group, on to the buffet, loading her plate with food, not waiting for anybody.

Laura was glad that she at least knew how to behave.

Phew, this is boring, Myra thought. Maybe it’d get better later when there would be dancing. Maybe.
So far there were a lot of familiar faces, and as usual, people were stiff and as mute as maggots. She already got tired of her own jokes.
She saw Laura sitting on the other side of the room. In the corner as always. Such a beige girl. Short beige hair, beige face, all her makeup in pastels, and wearing black. Again. That woman looked like she could use some fun. And makeup. Nice earrings though.
And, Myra thought to herself, I don’t know how she does it, already most of the men in the room are drifting towards her. Drawn in by the pale, obviously.

Well, at least I can choose whom I speak to, Myra thought, looking for the promising looking guy she’d seen earlier, going after him, isolating him from his companions, and dragging him on the dance floor. Dancing was always a good way to determine whether someone had potential. Or not.
This guy didn’t look that good on the dance floor. He slinked off as soon as he could. He didn’t like to dance; neither did anybody else. Apart from Myra, that is. So she went right to the middle to dance alone.

Laura barely heard what that huge blonde guy standing by her side was telling her. Despite the fact that he was practically yelling in her ear she had forgotten it the minute she heard it. The nerve that woman on the dance floor had. Starting to dance even though everybody was looking at her. How embarrassing. And she wasn’t even dancing properly. No, she had to twirl all over the place, waving her arms about and grinning at people. Laura shuddered. Suddenly she wanted to go home. It had been a mistake to come in the first place. It was boring. She just wasn’t the type for parties, parties were for outgoing, extrovert people not for shy people like her. Inwardly she cursed the friend who had persuaded her to attend. She should have known better. A party was not a good way to meet somebody new. She promised herself to go as soon as she could without drawing attention to herself. Then she would go home, despite what her friend would be saying, eat some dark chocolate, have a glass of wine, and watch “Singing in the Rain.”

Boring, boring, Myra thought. At least it was better to be bored while dancing than while standing around next to boring people making boring conversation. The others didn’t look, they never did. As if dancing were only possible without any eye contact at all. Nobody looked interesting. She had checked. Twice. She had even talked to the group of musicologists in a corner between the buffet table and the piano. Dull as dishwater.
There had to be exciting people somewhere in the universe but certainly not here. Should she stay a bit longer? There surely would be more people coming in later.

On a sudden impulse she picked up her handbag and jacket, found the host in the kitchen, told him a big story about how she’d love to stay, how sorry she was, and that she had to get up very early the next day, so sorry, great party, ciao.
She walked home all the way, through the drizzling rain in her spiky high heels. An hour later she opened her door, changed into her pajama and woolen socks, opened a beer and a bag of potato chips, and stayed up late to watch “Funny Face” with Fred Astaire.

Nov 202007

Just a short note to tell you that finally you can listen to me music again. You can find it under the “hear me sing“-category.

Excuse me, I’m going back to the keyboard for NaNo. If I can keep this pace up I’ll be finished by Sunday. Normal reading and blog-visiting will be resumes in short order.

Mar 062007

or: What I did for the last, um, month or so.

New! Now with better spelling and added links!

First of all, some of you might remember that I signed up for “February Album Writing Month”. Well, I have three started songs, none of them finished. This had to do with several things. I jumped into that project a week too late and without preparation (no pre-assembled food this time), I was determined not to loose sleep over this one and, maybe the biggest obstacle, I have been having tonsillitis since the beginning of February now. I’m currently on my third round of antibiotics and hope to fend the bacteria off for good this time. Any good vibrations sent my way are deeply appreciated. My husband had another kind of bacterial infection, staph. Not pretty, highly contagious which sent us on a quest to wash every single thing he touched in the whole house while feeling queasy and weak from infection and penicillin. All that time we were worried that our son might get any of our illnesses, but no, he had chickenpox. And another ear infection on top of that.

Those are the few moments when I regret being self-employed. When the doctor asked me, “What do you do for a living?”, and I said, “I’m working as a singing and piano teacher.” and she replied “Not this week.” and I had to work anyway. I cancelled one singing lesson and had two students calling in sick, so all went well. But I’d rather have stayed in bed.

One other reason why writing 50,000 words in a month did work and writing 14 songs in a month didn’t was that I can write my 1,700 words in about two hours but a song takes much more time than four hours. I originally had planned to just record a couple of 3 minute long free improvisations and count those as songs but my sore throat made that impossible. Also I don’t really want recordings of a dozen improvs, I’d like to have a couple of songs.

But now for the important things like why I haven’t been blogging much lately. Well, to be frank, I fell in love. Oh, no worries, I fell in love again with my husband. We have been acting like newfound lovers, talking and talking to each other. It is amazing. I’m not quite sure if this is legal. It feels weird and surreal but very good at the same time.

About two weeks ago we decided to turn our lives around big time. You might ask why because everything seemed to be good before. Well, but there were two things a little off. One thing was that with all my improvements, plans, strategies and systems my life didn’t feel like I wanted it to. I thought I had to become even more efficient, more goal-oriented, more organized; always leaving space for a little fun or creativity of course because otherwise I’d know it wouldn’t work. My life became a series of thin slices of time. I would have loved to be able to slice time like these monks in the “Thief of Time” who were able to move very fast and accomplish things other people couldn’t but I had to fall back on giving myself little allotments of time. “So now you are allowed a little blog reading for ten minutes and then you have to make lunch. When you have cleaned up the kitchen you might have ten minutes for taking a shower and then you have to practice scales for three minutes before you have to teach. – And don’t dawdle!” Somehow that didn’t work as well as I had imagined it would. Instead I’d often spend all the time reading blogs then taking the shower and open the door to my first student with slightly damp hair. So, of course, I set intent to be even more structured and effective, to make my chores streamlined and efficient so that I would have more time for the things that I love. I complained that I did everything right but that life felt wrong anyway.

My husband on the other hand whom I deemed morally superior and successful with his “monolithic approach” to life had the exact same feeling about life. I think I have talked about this approach before but can’t find it right now. The “monolithic approach” means that you do a necessary minimum of housework, exercise, social contact and such and otherwise you just teach and make music. Nothing else. I always admired him for being able to do this but I knew this could not be my approach because every time I tell myself I can’t have something I immediately dash off to get it. Like when I set the firm intent to focus on songwriting only, and then immediately got myself a blog. Or whenever I went on a “diet” and then immediately spent the next weeks bingeing. But he has succeeded in making two CDs this way amidst house renovations and the birth of our son. Then, one day I talked to him about something De wrote about her husband reading her blog and we started talking about what all those new things I’m doing like blogging and writing mean for him. And he told me that maybe he wanted to have new and exciting friends too. Maybe even on-line friends. How he didn’t like my immersion in blog-land because he still was disappointed that I hadn’t made writing songs my top priority. And not because he was so attached to having a composing wife but because I said so. Ouch.

We started talking in earnest. I really thought we were talking a lot before, but as I said, now we’re back to the kind of talks people have when the meet for the first time and fall in love with each other. We have been living quite separate lives apparently. Every evening we would sit in our respective rooms and do something alone. I’d spend all my time sitting in front of the computer with my back to everyone while my husband was playing guitar in the next room. We already knew that we had had a tendency to polarize in the last years but we didn’t knew that we had taken it that far. He’d be the fuser and I the isolator. I’d be the one to constantly try new things and go places and he’d be the one staying home. I’d be the one to read comics and watch TV and he’d be the one quoting Hegel. I’d be the one with the midlife crisis and he’d be the calm one who already had gone through it.

And then we started talking about how he felt lonely too. And a little jealous. And how we forgot how much we love spending time with each other. And that it is not possible for one of us to have a crisis without the other being affected. And then he started reading my blog posts. And instead of just rolling his eyes when I’d say the word blog or blogger he really questioned me about it. “Why are you doing it?”, “But you already have a real life, why do you want to have a virtual one too?” “Is blogging really a valuable creative outlet?” and “Why do you need to sign up for something like NaNoWriMo in order to get something accomplished? Don’t you think your desire to write might be fake?” and the always dreaded “You know that you can’t have it all in real life, don’t you?”. And this time he didn’t ask to make me cave in and say that I only do all these things like an addict craving numbness but that there might be valid reasons for all those things too.

So we both made a commitment that our relationship and family comes first. To really be where we are at all times. Not sitting in front of each other nodding with a mind somewhere else. And you know what? I really enjoy spending time with my family. When I’m not constantly thinking I should be doing something else instead. We acknowledged that our lives are full enough as it is. Even if we were to do only our jobs, housework and parenting, life would be full enough. That doesn’t mean that we won’t strive to be creative but it does mean that we honor what is. And if I prioritize my life by spending hours and hours in front of the computer then I shouldn’t tell myself that I really want to be a songwriter.

When we made that decision it felt as if a tension fell off that had been there for years. For a week or so I felt totally shapeless. As if the pressure had been the only thing to give me structure. It still feels scary. Going into the unknown without a plan. But I decided to trust myself. That I don’t need to be an efficient goal-achiving machine to get things done. That not having a plan and a timetable wouldn’t mean that I would spend my days in bed reading, watching TV and eating while surfing blogs. I still have a little voice inside of me that is saying, “But you don’t get anything done. You should be cleaning right now.” but I don’t think the house will fall apart if I continue to not doing zone work for a couple of weeks.

I try to be label-free for now. No more thinking about whether I’m a write or a musician or both. I had to accept a couple of truths though that I didn’t like. It seems that I’m much more unreliable than I would have liked. And much more sidetracked. That my enthusiasm has to be taken with a grain of salt which I already knew. That I am much less patient than I would have liked. But that my husband is okay with that as long as I don’t pretend to be something that I’m not. And after crying and feeling awful for a couple of days (I really want to be reliable. Really. And I worked so hard on that one.) I feel relief. I can just let it go. Not that I want to become one of those people who say, “Well, that’s just the way I am, I can’t help it.” but to know it. So I can work with it instead of against it. Like I had to accept that I can’t be trusted around potato chips and chocolate and so I had to make up rules for myself.

I know this is a long post but there are still things I haven’t talked about. Sometimes life is so full that you can’t write about it. It fells exciting and scary. And who knows, my husband might even take up blogging. For now it feels weird but good to have a husband who not only reads this but actually tells me to go blogging already instead of asking if I’m still sitting at the computer. And it feels very liberating to let go of all those intentions and goals and plans and just do what I’m doing and enjoy it.

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Feb 142007

I have been meaning to write on small talk for quite a while now. I have been thinking about small talk for even longer. The thing that got me thinking in the first place was this: Why are there conversations that I enjoy and others that I find outright boring and what’s the difference between one and the other?

I always meant to start this post with something like: I don’t like small talk at all. I thought it was all about shallow topics. I prided myself on being very deep, thoughtful and philosophical, and therefore I deemed myself to be above the usual party talk. Well, as anyone who has read this blog ever can testify that assumption turned out to be – incorrect. Then I thought, this is a muggle versus artist thing. I’m way above all those shallow, non-creative types. Yeah me, I’m actually so advanced that I don’t have anything in common with ordinary people. More on that later.

I started thinking about this whole issue when I started realizing that I didn’t like parties anymore. I go there, not very often, I dive in, find something to eat and to drink and then chatter away for hours. Sometime later I go home and say to my husband, “You know, if I had stayed at home and spent he whole evening looking at a blank wall I would have had a better time.” He said, “Well, nobody could have noticed that the way you kept talking everybody’s ears off.” I’m a highly trained small talker. I can talk with everyone about everything for hours. Especially when I’m tired, exhausted, or have imbibed alcohol, my mouth goes on automatic pilot and keeps blubbering away without any connection to my brain. I’m one of those people, Jane Espenson recently talked about who always tell funny stories completely with gestures and sounds. And I didn’t fully realize that until I read about it. And then happened to glimpse myself in the mirror while telling a student something about my day. Completely with sounds, facial expressions and gestures. The only thing I didn’t do was get up from my chair and act it out. But only because this was a piano lesson and during piano lessons I don’t get up. Only during singing lessons. While I can’t see myself in the mirror while teaching voice, I’m sure that I am acting out too. Completely unrestrained. But my students usually laugh, so maybe that’s okay.

But back to the parties. As I do often since becoming more mindful, I started watching myself in social situation. Doing the funny stories and everything while part of me was sitting in my head watching over my shoulder and asking, “So, if you don’t enjoy this, why are you doing it precisely?” and “What if you just sat there for a minute and let somebody else have a go at talking?” “What if you just listened for a while?”. I know, shocking concept, but well, I thought, maybe there are other people out there who enjoy telling something who don’t have trained the art of grabbing everyone’s attention as hard as me. Like, maybe my husband. He’s usually the one in the corner who has something really insightful to say, but nobody will hear it, because a) everybody is speaking at once, b) nobody is listening anyway, and c) he actually waits for somebody to leave a space for him, and d) he stops talking if nobody listens. He is also usually highly frustrated by parties and such social gatherings.

As, strangely, am I. But I really enjoy people from time to time. So, what to do? The next part of the answer came to me when we went to a concert last year. A musician friend of ours had a performance with his band. We went out, my husband and I (Only parents know how marvelous it can feel to be free and childless for the evening.) first to the station. In the train we spotted clusters of teenagers and twens. Oh oh. Young adults with beer. Nonetheless we entered the train and were greeted with, “Hi. Do you want a beer too?” The cluster of suspicious males turned out to be two of my husband’s students with the rest of the band. Quite a good band which we already had seen. We declined the beer which they had brought with them to save their hard-earned money. Turns out that nowadays they get drunk on the way where the beer is cheaper. We talked. About where we were going, performances, bands, I don’t know what. We left the train. We went to our jazz concert. We met a lot of friends. We talked about music and musicians and whatnot. We went home early. On the way home I thought about how I had enjoyed the conversation on the train and how boring the conversation had been with our friends. So, why? I still can’t say for sure, but it surely wasn’t the topics. There was nothing deep or insightful in either encounter. But after the evening I almost wished to have gone with the young ones.

At the end of NaNoWriMo there was a celebratory dinner of a group of writers based in the big city. When I told my husband that I wanted to go he said, “But that’s our friend’s birthday. She’ll probably having a party that day.” That’s quite typical of her BTW, we knew that she would have a party then, but she didn’t yet and so there was no invitation. I thought about it and then decided that I’d rather go to a meeting with people I barely knew instead of celebrating the birthday of an old friend of my husband whom we have known for years. And we know all the people who were likely to be there. And I like those people. That’s not the point. But it was one of there parties were I first found out that maybe staring at a blank wall is not that bad an option for an evening. I wondered. Was it because the writers and I had more in common? But there were even musicians at the party. I was puzzled. But I never regretted not going and even my husband was relieved to be able to say, “Oh no, we can’t come. Susanne is out and I have to be with our son.” We thought maybe we were turning into misanthropes. But then I had a lot of fun at the dinner. Not that misanthropic.

Last week I was at a meeting of the parents of my son’s preschool group, an informal meeting at a restaurant. They have those about twice a year. Interestingly only four mothers were there. Yes, mothers, no fathers. We sat there, talked about nothing much, the children and a possible date for ice skating. Again I was doing lot of the talking though not most. Again I was secretly waiting for the best time to go home. Again I hoped I could have stayed home, played the piano, watched Buffy, or stared at the wall, and I thought, “Why?” These were very nice women. We talked about children, learning, and such. All topics that I care deeply about. I was puzzled. And then I got it, or so I thought: nobody was really caring about anything we talked about. We were only making what I’m calling “mouth-noises”. What these conversations lacked was passion.

But then I thought again. For example, my father is really passionate about taxes but that doesn’t help me to find talks about taxes interesting, not even with him. And then I really had it: it was not the topics at all. I have had interesting and stimulating conversations about things like bell bottoms or plumbing. No, it was the people. That was why I often found talking to my students more interesting than to people my own age. When you grow older, often something inside of you dies a little. You’re buried in everyday life, you don’t play, you don’t have real fun and then you get a little deader inside every day. And that’s what I can’t stand. My mother told me something similar when I told her about my problem with small talk. She said that she missed working not because of the work but because of the chance to talk to younger people. She said, “Everybody my age talks about the same things over and over again. This is boring.” Well, about everybody my age seems to do it too.

But then I’m talking about the same things over and over again and I think that’s a different brand of boring. At least I care and I’m passionate and don’t have the feeling my life is running on tracks and there’s nothing I can do to change it. And this giving up a little every day and dying a little every day is what my husband calls the danger of growing older. Not the danger of growing old, no, the danger of growing older. One of the women at the preschool meeting said, “I’m always happy to have a chance to go out in the evening.” and I sat there staring in bewilderment. I like it at home. There are plenty of interesting things to do at home. (Like blogging.) I don’t really need to go out and do something I don’t really care about only to distract me from my utter and sheer boredom at home.

Okay, so it’s about the people. But then maybe not. So, where do I go and where don’t I? If everything that’s not an absolute yes is a no, does that mean I won’t be attending any preschool-related activities any more? Or family gatherings? Because those often feel the most boring of all. I don’t want to sit there like a teenager with a face that says, “Are we done yet? Can I go home now?” But I don’t want to stop seeing old friends and family. Any strategies for getting people to talk about things they really care about? Things I don’t know about them yet? Or about the world?

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Feb 062007

I received my postcard from the “Blogger Postcards around the World” event! All the way from Australia! Wow! (And this makes me regret even more that I forgot to put an “air mail”-sticker on the one I sent. Sorry. It’ll probably arrive in six weeks or so. Shame on me.)

Not only did I receive this magnificent card, the lovely Ellie wrote a veritable letter in it. You probably can’t see it, but it’s a big card. She took the time to read my blog (well, probably not all of it) and to write something as sweet as the desserts she is making and blogging about at Kitchen Wench. And she apologized for not having found a Valentine’s Card twice. Once in the card and once in her post about sending the card. You know what? I don’t care at all. In fact I’m not that much into Valentine’s Day and what could be better than something with flowers, glitter and sparkles? Well, it could have been orange, pink and red, but that would have been a little too much. Instead the color matches that of my piano stool.

So, this postcard really made my day. My only problem is that since I read Ellie’s blog I started fantasizing about making truffles or whatever. But knowing me I’ll probably end up making the same easy cherry pie as always, and with last minute panic, when I’m inviting my neighbor over. And I won’t take a picture of it. Really, I don’t know how those food bloggers do it, everything looks so delicious and easy to make.

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Feb 022007

Well, if one of your favorite authors in the world asks you for a favor, and especially since it doesn’t take much and even if it’s more a joke than anything, you’d surely do it. Won’t you? So in an attempt to, um, “google-bomb” somebody I’ll link to Penn Jillette. Who obviously has a radio show. In which he made fun of Neil Gaiman. Who seems to have liked that. I still have to listen to that so I don’t know.

Oh, in case you wondered, Neil Gaiman doesn’t know that I exist. Neither does Penn Jillette. Which is totally fine.

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