reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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a beginning. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

no book on menopause or post-menopause – that i have read thus far – really prepares us. i haven’t found a steponesteptwostepthree-handbook on how to sort this. the phases of a mom’s life intersect and overlap and are messy and as full of emotional upheaval as they are full of gratitudes for blissful. every piece, in my own messiness-of-this, is sticky and pulls at every other piece, like marshmallows in hot-off-the-bonfire s’mores. no matter the professional pursuit, the hobby, the exercise, the diet, the zen-yen, it is all interwoven with the loss of mom-identity, the constant babystep-by-babystep redefining of relationship with one’s children and one’s self.

of early days of motherhood, anne morrow lindbergh in “gift from the sea” wrote essays sparked by seashells, “eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim.” she is the “still axis within the revolving wheel of relationships, obligations, and activities.” in a metaphoric nod to the shell argonauta, anne paints the picture of the mother argonaut floating to the surface and releasing the young, then floating away to a new life. sailors, she says, consider this shell “a sign of fair weather and favorable winds”. yet, she muses, “what does the open sea hold for us? we cannot believe that the second half of life promises ‘fair weather and favorable winds’.”

it is a total reorientation. it takes time to re-find the center of gravity. true center. even with a child of 32 and a child of 29, i find this not to have been or be instantaneous. one does not click off the light-switch, or touch the base of the 1980s brass touch-on-touch-off lamp, turning off the questions of identity. it’s the yarn of a new cape, from mom (and all the other titles) to woman (and all the other titles).

“whether we’re talking about giving up baby clothes, toys, artwork or schoolwork, the issue is not mere sentimentality. it’s about letting go of our children. […] we think that keeping all of those things will let us keep a little of each child who left us.” (claire middleton – “the sentimental person’s guide to decluttering”) i would guess that, even in my intentional attempts to set wind for their sails, my children would cite my fierce hanging-on to them. at the least, they would attest to my quiet weeping at their leaving, each time they leave.

i clean out the house, clean out one thread of four decades of career, glance at my piano – always whispering to me “don’t forget this is who you are too”. i write, i cartoon, i write more. and then, more. i think about composing – new simple feathers of music, pieces that would float in breezes and find center. i sit in quiet. i wonder.

is this an identity crisis?

“but there are other beaches to explore. there are more shells to find. this is only a beginning.” (anne morrow lindbergh)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

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on-the-bench & off-the-bench. [d.r. thursday]

every sunday morning for years and years we have sent a photograph to each other. every single sunday, mostly without fail. there might be one or two we missed, but no more than that. it is a cherished tradition and i envision us as little old ladies still sending texted photos on sunday mornings.

it started because most people we know are not sitting on a pipe organ bench first thing on a sunday morning. since we both were, we shared “this is where i am in the world right now and i am thinking of you” sentiments, knowing, without saying all those words, the other would completely understand all that meant.

for over a year now i have continued to receive them: benchviews, a slice of her church, a close-up of a pew or ornate woodwork, a candle, linens draped on the chancel, flowers, registration stops of the organ, piano keys, measures of music – all while my photos to her have dramatically changed.

instead, my early sunday morning photographs include various quilts, coffee mugs, shadows playing on the wall or on the fence, views of snow falling between miniblinds, the backyard, airbnb’s where we have awakened, out-of-town-out-the-window, glorious breakfast, and dogdog. the rule is – where you are right now – and since that is no longer at a church my view is sometimes narrower and sometimes broader, both.

not working at church every single sunday has given me much to think about. at first i really missed it. truth, for a long time i really missed it. thirty-something years is a long time. i was devastated by the loss of our community-family and a job i loved. i missed the organ bench and knowing which pipes were ornery and the choir and the ukulele band and those hauntingly beautiful handbells. i missed the curmudgeon of a piano. i missed dueting with the guitarist – boom mics and cables and the occasional feedback. i missed the tiny pew up front and the familiar musty smell of the balcony.

each church i worked at through the years has had its magic. but each church i worked at through the years has also had its toxins. not unlike -really- any other place of employment, being on the “inside” affords a different view – snapshots of the good, the bad and, definitely, the ugly. churches are not immune to that. and that’s the stuff i don’t miss.

because in our hearts, the one place we go that we would expect to be consistent, certainly not divergent, with mission – of kindness and grace in some manner or form – would be the religious institution we have chosen to be part of. we would expect the people there – whether in leadership or in congregation – to go the extra mile, to set an example, to navigate and solve difficulty, to negotiate differences, to reject-forswear-renounce personal agenda, to seek unity and transparency, to sort to love.

seeing – up close and personal – that isn’t the case is a rude awakening. no, we don’t expect perfection anywhere. yes, we do expect trying.

i adore seeing susan’s from-the-bench pictures, all so viscerally intimate and always part of me. and i love sending her my view as well. so, as it has been for over a year now, she’ll continue to get photos off-the-bench now. it’s not what it was.

dogga laid tucked in on the quilt next to me as i sipped coffee and watched the light gather in corners of the room. sunday morning. i took this picture to send her.

and i realized that i – finally – don’t miss that organ bench anymore.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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artists. funambulists. [two artists tuesday]

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between us we have two master’s degrees, two bachelor’s degrees, four businesses, a coaching and consulting practice, various certifications, multiple states of teaching credentials, fifteen albums, four singles, hundreds of paintings, multiple play-scripts, countless productions and concerts and performances and gallery showings, a radio show, four cartoons, books, blogs that contain a few thousand posts, numerous and diverse leadership positions in theatres and churches and educational institutions, too many non-profits to count, long resumes and a combined total of over eighty years of work experience.

we are artists.  and, as you know, that is not the easy path.  it’s gig economy in a corporate environment.  it means piecing things together, working a plethora of jobs at once, purchasing your own healthcare, investing in your own so-called retirement, advocating for your own value, balancing, balancing, balancing.  the tightrope is thin, but anyone doing the tightrope dance (funambulism) is well-acquainted with the balancing pole and standing tall in the center of mass on the rope, necessities in an artist’s life.

in a workplace conversation once, i was asked how i would even speculate about having a second job.  an incredulous moment, as a person who has always had simultaneous multiple jobs, it was ludicrous to me that the person asking this, who apparently has always lived in absolute bullet-pointed stability, could not fathom having more than one job at a time.  were artists to be so lucky.  were any gig workers, in their area of professionalism, to be so lucky.  that is another world entirely.

so we are always on the lookout for additional gigs, so to speak.  education, experience and skills from the wide spectrum of the first paragraph speak well to helping with growth and change processes and insight and honoring students and employees, not to mention the separate and interwoven threads of music, painting, theatre.  these experiences that span decades speak to the arts, that which the world turns to in times of chaos, unrest, dis-ease, periods marked by adjectives like distraught, devastated, frenzied, unprecedented, uncertain, arduous, splintered, divided, distrustful, untrue, exhausted.  the arts – that which feeds society.  yet, “creativity takes courage,” understated henri matisse (painter, 1869-1954).

as many of you, we receive solicited and unsolicited lists of jobs in our email.  we peruse through the obvious ill-fitting options like neurosurgeon or stem cell biological researcher; we look for opportunities to plug our work as artists into the world.  we are also emailed positions that line up with our professional abilities and tenure in the arts.

and this is what we’ve been sent:  sandwich ARTIST and GALLERY advisor.  it’s hard to know whether to laugh or be insulted.  sandwich artist?  if this is really what subway calls their employees, i would say most of us have related experience since the first time, at like age 3, we spread peanut butter and jelly on our wonder bread.  and gallery advisor?  tesla, really?  car dealer concierge maybe?

it’s a dim future if you cannot see relevance for the arts in a society, if they are secondary to anything and everything else, if they present in sandwiches and on dealership floors.  where are the organizations, the institutions, the employers who recognize the multi-faceted diamonds in an artist’s perspective, an artist’s drive, an artist’s commitment, an artist’s vision, an artist’s project-driven dedication and multi-layered stamina, an artist’s sensitivity, an artist’s heart?

as two artist-funambulists, we’d like something better for the gifted artists giving breath to joy and hope and tomorrow.  from the tightrope of this gig economy, it makes our toes curl to think any differently.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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i came into this world…it’s personal [two artists tuesday]

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every time we get a text from david or molly with a picture of sweet dawson coloring i believe i see an artist-in-the-making.  he is intense, all not-even-two-years-old of him.  his crayons seem deliberate choices, his drawing coming from a place inside that beckons him to the paper, the cardboard box, the canvas. it’s innate.

charlie is a second grader.  he practices batting every day.  he has ground down an area of the backyard so much that seth thinks there will never be grass there again.  charlie can cite all the players on the kansas city royals and their stats and he will narrate his own one-person ballgame in the backyard, an announcer with great animation and accurate details.  such a small person with such a big passion for the game.  it’s innate.

khloe, a teeny but mighty seven year old, would come up to the chancel each week and john would let her play the drum set.  she didn’t pound, she didn’t arbitrarily hit drums or cymbals.  you could see by the combination of joy on her face and an expression of concentration that she was pretty serious.  she has the beat.  it’s innate.

when my sweet beth and i talked on the phone she said, “i’m not sure how i feel about her going into music.” she was talking about her older daughter, who already has been cast as the lead in three plays this coming school year.  i don’t think she has a choice.  for emme, it’s innate.

each of us spokes-in-the-giant-wheel come into this world with something.  something that is just ours.  ours to do.  ours to bring.  it’s innate.  already in us.

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trust where you’re going. [two artists tuesday]

TRUST this one.jpg

so if you are an over-thinker like me, this is tough – to trust where you’re going.  there are too many details that get in the way of the overall picture.  d is a global thinker…he looks at the bigger picture, he calls it “from 30,000 feet”.  i need to be able to envision each foot to get there….ok, maybe not EACH one, but i need a few more details lined up in order to believe something is possible.  that disparity gets us in trouble sometimes.  we talk about something and are having two different conversations within the same conversation.  mostly, we usually agree on the ultimate Thing, but getting there is, well, sometimes cloaked in a tad bit of disagreement.

who was it that said, “everything will be ok in the end.  and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end” ???  such brilliance! and optimism!  i suppose we gauge so much of what might happen on what happened Before.  we have pre-judgments about how something will turn out; we have reluctance to start; we think, “i’ve already DONE this and it didn’t work.”

i am at a crossroads.  after 15 albums, i haven’t recorded an album in 8 years, haven’t recorded a new vocal album in 16.  16!  where does the time go?  albums are very expensive projects, not only financially, but emotionally.  as i have already talked about numerous times, there is financial pressure on independent artists now like never before.  streaming and illegal downloading has lead to a literal trickle of income, despite millions of “listens”.

so – where do i go from here?  songs have been waiting; the piano beckons.  something in me resists, afraid of not recouping even what it costs at the front end for something new to be released.  part of me wants to believe – believe that it’s time to release something new, in this new time of my career.  put it out there and not be concerned with how it is received, how many cds are purchased, how many paid downloads vs how many times it is streamed or pirated.  but that won’t pay any bills, won’t afford a living.  i am having trouble seeing the 30,000 foot view.  not to mention all the feet in-between here and there.

like you, in some arena of your life, i am trying to trust.  that whatever decision i make it will be ok in the end.  and, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.

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trust where you’re going ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson