Friday, July 28, 2017

Church thoughts

Like, actual thoughts I actually wrote down during a recent sermon. I always argue with the sermon, probably because I'm negative and contrary and neurotic and shit.


The Humanist Version 

Transformation, she [Caryl Marsh] says (Paul seems to say) requires something more than our own will power. Is it Jesus? Well, maybe*. But more likely (I imagine) it's grace -- in the form of some outside experience or influence or person or grief or loss or illness -- some boost or push, even if it's against us, and especially if it is. Gives us a thing to overcome, and what does a human do better than survive and overcome? And then stronger, thrive.

*I guess I was feeling generous because I was at church. But on the re-write, I remembered that I don't really believe in Jesus. Not in anything enough like the traditional way to give any meaning to "believe" or Jesus". Or "in."

Sunday, July 2, 2017


What to do about this church job.

It needs to be decided and stuck with, one last time -- before fall, that is.

Most of me, most of the time, desperately wants out. But let's break it all down again, with numbers and logic, as well as of course the soul-searching shit.

If I stick it out, I've most recently agreed to conducting three Sundays a month, organizing at least one Evensong, and the ever-looming Lessons and Carols and Advent and Christmas season. I didn't commit to anything past Christmas, thinking I'd probably quit after that.

What I need to make sure NOT to do is tell myself things like "I'm a terrible person if I quit." I'm not. I can quit a job and not be a terrible person. I can also choose to not allow other people's opinions and perspectives and neuroses to be a part of my decision.

What am I losing if I quit? Clearly things like "people's respect and/or friendship" are not things I can quantify or calculate. It is entirely likely that I can retain the friendship of various choir members whose friendship I am interested in, while those for whom I could care less will fall away, effecting neither of us negatively.

So: the money. That would be July through December, around $1000/month. $6000. Not a small sum, by any means. Since starting work at ARUP, my personal combined income (and of course the reduction in diabetes expenses) has allowed us to somewhat aggressively pay off my school loan debt, and at the same time save money much faster. This has been great. Losing this would mean paying off debt and saving money more slowly. I would still be making about $1200/month at ARUP, plus all the lovely benefits. All would most certainly not be lost.

I would also lose the title of choral conductor. How do I feel about that? I feel pretty fine. I'm pretty sure that retaining it only benefits my ego and sense of justification for my master's degree. I'm actually fine with the idea that my master's degree launched my composition career. Still in process of launch, really. Other things I lose, related to the title: doing music regularly; learning (and really knowing) more sacred music; depth of understanding of the liturgical traditions; something about networking with other choral conductors... maybe? That last is only really if I had the time for it. Which I wouldn't, because of being stretched completely to the max.

So what I lose is roughly $6000 and and the various scholarly and networking benefits of being an employed church choir conductor.

All right, what do I gain by quitting? Sanity in my schedule, and regular sleeping. This is kind of a big one for me. I have adjusted fairly well to graveyards, and there's certainly the opportunity to switch to daytime or swing-shift hours. Even if I do that, though, I don't think it would make a huge difference in how strung out I would feel working at both ARUP and the cathedral. I would still never have enough time to adequately plan, and on top of that nagging feeling of doing an inadequate job, I also wouldn't be getting enough or regular sleep. I know this already because of March-May of this year, in which I did both jobs and always felt inadequate and didn't get enough or regular sleep.

So that's really two things; sleep, and meeting my own standards of quality. Sleep is paramount to all other aspects of my health, and I do think my overall quality of life would really start to suffer, which of course would mean inadequate performance at both jobs. And that's something that would grate on me and undercut my already fragile sense of worth. My chronic conditions of diabetes, depression and shoulder pain/headache would all get worse. And as to the standards of quality issue: even if I had all my time for the cathedral job, there's a really good chance I would always be disappointed in the quality, simply because of the limits of job--the limits of our singers, resources, funds, etc.  

Quitting the cathedral, I would gain a simpler schedule, health, and the opportunity to set and meet my own standards of excellence.

I would gain some freedom in how I spent my time. I haven't been to a sacred harp singing since starting at ARUP. I miss that. I miss seeing those people, and having those connections in common with my husband. I miss the music, and the strong inspiration it gives me as a composer. If I had more freedom to choose how I spend my time, I imagine I would some weeks go to scared harp, and some weeks, actually go and sing in the St. Mark's choir, as a choir member. And if the cathedral wasn't a job, I would be free to go or not.

Freedom could also mean months where I use all my free time to compose. This is also huge because composing takes me a long time, and I love it and am ever so possibly good at it, and I feel a sense of mission for it. Funneling more time in that direction will be fulfilling.

Freedom with my time will mean keeping on running. Preparing for some higher mileage races. I like that shit.

This line of thought brings me to one possible last objection to quitting right now: why couldn't I stick it out for six more months, fulfill my previous obligation (which is only a spoken one, to Chris, so far---I haven't signed the "contract"), and start on my new freedom and new life after Christmas?

I guess the answer is: because of my health and sanity. Because I'd rather not start to resent the people, the volunteers, I work with. (Haha! Too late!) Also because if I'm going to quit soon anyway, does it really benefit my employer to put off the inevitable task of finding a different arrangement? Won't it be better for them to start on that right away, especially before the start of the program year? Very possibly, yes.

My counselor once, early on, talked to me about emotional valence--people with mental illness like depression and anxiety tend to have an overall more negative emotional valence. For various reasons. It can be changed. But because mine has been net negative for a good portion of my life, I tend to be influenced by negative feelings, fears, more than positive ones, motivations. When I focus on all the good that would come after quitting the cathedral job, I like this and feel excited and relieved and happy. But I think I've hesitated for this long because the fear of quitting, and fear of the possible negative consequences, and of disappointing people, has more of a hold on me than the motivation for the positive outcomes.

And of the possible people who would be disappointed, it's Chris who is foremost in my mind. I feel responsible for him, a little. Katrina did ask me, the last time I saw her, "Why are you responsible for making his life better? For his salary, for his career?" Well, I'm not. His life is his business. But the more I've seen of his life, how he is barely scraping by, the more I feel he's been wronged, and want to help right the wrongs. I want to help him at the cathedral, so he can finish his dissertation. I want to help him keep getting raises, so he can afford his rent. But the real truth of the matter is--none of that is my fucking business. And were I to shape my own decisions around helping him, inevitably I would resent it all. He most certainly hasn't asked me to help him.

And maybe that's what's happening now. It's now time for me to do what's right for me. Last summer, who knew: maybe the cathedral job was just the thing for me. This summer, with a year of it behind me, it's pretty clearly not the right thing for me.  

It's pretty clearly not the right thing for me.

All that remains is to write a good resignation letter and hope people will still be my friend. If they won't, though... that will be fine.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Things I collect:

People to protect myself from.

I like the idea of having friends, and I do think there's an unconscious sort of biological need for them. But inevitably I have to start protecting myself from their invitations and intrusions. It's hard to say no, still. I do so many things in life out of obligation -- still, after all this time, it's a primary driver, and I'm not proud of that. And when someone invites, there's an immediate obligation to be dealt with

It's partially about having time to be an artist, to compose. I wish that was all. But it's also about not subjecting myself to comparisons -- I take full responsibility -- nobody is making me compare myself to my (More Successful) friends. I am doing it myself. But I don't know how to stop, other than to see less of them.  

Lately, submersing myself in the singular world of correspondence between Emily Dickinson and Susan Gilbert Dickinson, plus limiting my exposure to People, has created space for being Monica. Someday there may be a way to be Monica and also have friends.

But if not, then let this be one record -- a record of one step in the making of a recluse.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Why I like composing:

Because I get to make the world however I fucking feel like. Partially there's some ocd-ing about form and my audience and what's going to be accepted; except then (after a gin and coke) I'm like: I'm doing it thus and such a way because that's what I like. Fuck it. Thusly fucking it over here.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Protecting the context

Maybe we have art to encode the depth of our feelings, particularly our love for others. You don’t want to expose it to the cold public air, but you do, also, want to shout it out. Art helps us crystallize and protect it. Come to think, it also protects our anger. Man, that 3rd movement of the Barber piano concerto...

I finally get Emily Dickinson, after reading her letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson. She is one of my peeps – although, honestly we would probably have repelled each other had we ever met. (Either that, or got sucked into the gravitational pull of one another's drama and intensity and exploded into a million bits.) I couldn’t understand her poems as stand–alones, but now that I hear what she says to her beloved, I completely resonate. Context is everything, really.       

(Does making art sometimes make it *more* difficult to understand others' art? Because one has to close off, in some ways, in order to dig to one's depths...? Is there a gendered component? [Of course there fucking is.])

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mostly rambling about carbs and food.

I facebooked yesterday, i.e. posted something there (as opposed to scrolling endlessly, which I suppose could also be called facebooking). And the fallout has been too stressful. Too many people looking at my post and commenting on it and making judgments. I just don't really like putting my thoughts on display to 500+ people anymore.

So today, I had a thought and wanted to share it, considered facebook, immediately shuddered with aversion, and then opened up this blog post instead.

It's about carbs. I do so love them. And they make me feel so good. I was so hungry this morning when I got home from work, and I just went for it with perogies (potato-filled pasta) and Ritz crakers. I feel so good and full. I don't feel gross or over-stuffed.

But carbs do make life difficult for a diabetic. And I can never fully leave behind the nagging voice that tells me the best would be if I ate low-carb -- best for my numbers, best for my weight, best for my health overall.

BUT -- yesterday I watched another video about the meat industry and climate change. It was called COWSPIRACY. Which is a little bit funny and ridiculous. And it had some moments where I kind of rolled my eyes. But the points were all very solid. With 7+billion people in the world, and  a large percentage of us eating a LOT of meat and animal products, the farmed meat population (ugh, what's the correct term for that ... can't remember. EDIT: Animal agriculture. Finally remembered.) is absolutely out of control. The idea of cow farts causing climate change is so often satirized that it hides a reality about actual animal waste and it's effect on oceans, for instance. The fact that a huge number of acres of natural forest are cleared daily for animal agriculture, and the loss of biomass and the effect on our air....

On and on. So Chris Wootton has convinced me, and I've even succeeded, most of the time, in eating way less meat. Once or less per week. Which really does mean eating more carbs to get and stay full. I haven't gained weight like I feared I might. I've felt healthier. My body feels better and lighter and nicer when I hardly eat meat.

But what about dairy? And eggs? I mean: yogurt. Sour cream. Cheese. Imagine: no quesadillas. I would truly be hard pressed to get my protein without dairy. I hear what people say about it, how cow's milk is for young calves to gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months, so, obviously it's not really meant for human consumption. I hear that and I nod. I've also learned that white people are in the minority as far as the world's population in being lactose tolerant. We have a weird mutation. So I can agree that it's possible I'd be better off without dairy. But I don't know how I would get full.

BUTTER. You know??


I guess for now I will do what I can. I could probably get away with eating less dairy. For instance, more olive oil, more... aw shit. No keffir!! Fuck. no greek yogurt adn that means no tzatziki. No chip dip whatever. Yeah, I'm gonna need to do some research.

Next up thing to write about: becoming a person who believes in the power of my actions to influence the world. This is a recent realization -- that I don't thusly believe. Oh fuck you blogger, thusly is SO a word.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Just trying to figure out my shit again.

When I’m thinking about the big decisions (they never fucking quit, the big decisions – no matter how many you make, there are always more, looming), there always seems to be the option that I really want to do, my heart’s desire, and then the seemingly responsible option – what I should do, or even what I should want.

In my present big decision, my heart’s desire seems to be to quit all the music jobs. Lately, as I’ve been working at my entry level factory job (which keeps my feet and hands busy, but leaves my mind some time to wander), I can’t think of a better life than one where I get to earn some money, have some benefits (like I have now at current factory job), and do music on my own terms. It feels like such a relief. I might even sometimes not do any music.

But also – how dare I not work in music, with TWO (2) music degrees, and the debt to prove it? Also, my gift for music also gives me a responsibility or some shit. To use it to bless people or some shit.

But also – I don’t want to anymore.

I’m a little disgusted with my flakiness on these matters. It took me forever to decide to even apply for the church music job. And I don’t know, maybe that’s some kind of sign. Yeah. Because, when I first learned G was retiring, of course I thought about applying, but immediately equivocated on account of so many red flags. The church’s possibly insane CEO, for example. C’s persistent poverty, despite working there for many years, for example.  At one point, I was telling people in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t going to apply. One of the reasons I gave was because I didn’t want to compete with C, especially now that he had an opportunity for the full job (as opposed to organist only), and the increased pay. That of course changed when he told me he had no plans to do the full director job because he wanted to finish his dissertation.

There’s a feminist aspect to all of this. Many of the women who have graduated from my choral program haven’t become choral professionals. Well – that might be changing. Mariah, Christina, the Tabernacle Chorale chick, all seem to be working in the field, or at least on their way. So having a choral job justified me to my professors. Even though I am of course no longer in touch with them, and they most likely couldn't care less about me. Ok, having a choral job justified me to myself. Quitting all the music jobs is kind of giving up, in a way.

But the thing is, all feminism aside, having a music job – is kind of terrible. I hate being a public figure. To be successful in music, you have to have some amount of public persona. You have to be known, have a reputation, be unafraid of putting yourself out there.  I don’t want to be known. I want to be anonymous. I want to write my music and send it to people for them to sing, without having to stand in front of them, all vulnerable and shit, and teach it to them. And watch them in real time decide whether or not to like it. PPPffffft. Fuck no. Also – dealing with other people’s incompetence in general.

So I guess the question I have to answer is: do I dare quit the church job after only one year? Risking my reputation with the church community? And giving up the income. It’s not nothing. But is it worth it? Also, there is an aspect of sharing music with people that is fulfilling to me. I do enjoy some amount of teaching. I just haven’t figured out the proportion. How to do it in a way that doesn’t make me frustrated and mildly crazy. I might just be a terrible, impatient person. Am I looking for something, a kind of perfect balance, that doesn’t exist?      

All I’ve got for now.