Sunday, September 10, 2017


What does it even mean to work for something?

I keep thinking about all my former high school classmates – so many of whom are living these incredible lives. Doing incredible things, having brilliant careers. Or raising kids. AND raising kids. Being significant.

And I’m every day wondering, what can I do in this hour to make my life worth it? How do I use my me-ness to make a dent in the world, a nice useful one, a bettering one?

It’s crazy, because I grew up with this idea, this great question of my own personal significance (“I must make the world a better place!...Somehow!”), and I still have no answers to it.

I’m rolling around ideas of activism, political, environmental, social. I’m wondering if the St. Mark’s job was my great chance. But no, I know it wasn’t. I do actually still feel quite confident that the future I envisioned there—a constant battle, a digging into the dirt and getting out only dirt—was not for me.

So what am I going to do? How am I going to dare?

I can do whatever I want. I can follow, in my free time, whatever pleases me. This is the gift of my current life. I’m not obligated in any of the ways I was previously obligated. I’m not tied to doing anything with music or art that I *must* do, or am getting paid to do.  

That is the choice I made walking away from St. Mark’s. And it’s not just Chris’ take on it – but being there, doing church music, would have confirmed my already strong tendency for doing music out of duty.

And I really want to get away from that. I’m still not sure I’m capable of getting away from that, but I have a clearer path out now than I’ve ever had in my life. I am gainfully employed, the diabetes is taken care of (while civilization lasts) and in my free time, I can do what I want.

So far, I’m finishing up the trumpet and soprano piece I wrote for the Ballet thing. For Jared.

I’ve signed up for a half marathon. Running is a great thing for me right now. It makes me happy and healthy and I like it.

I don’t actually need to have a great plan. I can do the running thing for now, and finish the trumpet thing. And then see what comes next. But the thing is, I do need an answer for the nagging anxiety about significance. Or maybe I don’t need an answer, maybe I need to shut it up. Maybe I need a charity to give to, to shut it up.

Ok, next up! Charities I’ve been researching:

International:    Child International


                Rescue MissionSL:
                                Sponsor a local person in meeting a specific obstacle to self-sufficiency

One thing that’s actually really great about music is that you are free to be completely personal.
I’ve been thinking about putting things on my blog that.. I don’t know – are too personal to ever make my blog public. I like the idea of making my blog public. Or at least sharing it with a slightly less limited audience than my current audience of one (Michael). But then I will feel very hampered, and like I can’t really say all the things I need to say. And I’ll say them anyway, and then walk around with serious complexes, thinking everyone will know all my issues. (ON THE OTHER HAND THERE ARE NUDE PICTURES OF ME ON THE INTERNET SO WHO REALLY FUCKING CARES, ACTUALLY.) And come to think of it, putting my nudies on the internet was liberating.

But my nude brain. I mean. It’s a little different, ok.

Well, my point was, with music, I can mean exactly all the things in my brain, and NO ONE WILL KNOW. But they will feel it. Possibly.              

Monday, September 4, 2017

fb-stalking myself

I just facebook-stalked myself.

I put on a very brave face for the fb world. I almost convinced my present self that past self really had all her shit together, was articulate and doing fine.

And --- I guess I was? 


But my over-whelming impression of past self was something like: why did I quit all my music jobs? I was doing great! 

But internally, I was all self-doubt and anxiety about money and insurance, and comparison with other musicians having better careers. 

Now, internally, I feel much better about money and insurance, but also a little like I gave up. But also, I didn't give up because I still have lots of ways that I'm doing music that I feel really good and excited about.

So my conclusion is, it would probably be fine if outside me was a little more true to inside me. 

And I really did seem to enjoy teaching. My brain is conditioned to remember the negative with much more clarity than the positive. I had some very fulfilling moments teaching. It really is quite sad that I can't have financial stability and health insurance as a music teacher.  

I surprised myself a little -- that is, past me surprised present me a little with how often I freely posted things indicating my very liberal beliefs. I'm all scared of doing that now. Or -- scared? maybe just hesitant because... Nah. Scared. Scared of facebook debates. Scared specifically of facebook debates with family members. But facebook stalking myself seems to indicate that family members don't really want to have debates with me.  

And I sort of think that I'm a little sick of hiding, and am ready to be more publicly who I am privately. I think that's a big prt of what people mean when they talk about "having a voice." It's feeling free to say what you actually think and be who you really are, perhaps especially in an artistic way. 

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.])