"Begin with hopelessness."
This sentence knocked me flat when I first read Pema Chodron's "When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times" a few months ago. Here I was, agitated and uneasy, seeking comfort in a well-known text by a popular Buddhist teacher, suddenly blindsided by the opposite of what I expected to find in its pages. In a sea of positive affirmations and exhortations to "keep hope alive" as tidal waves of hardship and suffering and grief pound us day in and day out, Chodron has the audacity to say that, actually, hopelessness is the answer? Really?
But then I read more:
"Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can't simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what's going on, but that there's something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world."
Damn straight something is lacking. Lots of things are lacking right now. Like jobs and money and security and friends and, well, you know... Or is it? Do I need to hope for more than I already have, right here, right now? I pondered this. In hoping for better times, better days, brighter prospects, am I really creating anxiety in myself by shifting my focus away from the present and placing it in some unknown future?
The author continues:
"If hope and fear are two sides of one coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we're willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation."
Certainly, our situation -- well, mine, specifically, since that's what I know -- seems groundless right now. Things are insecure. Things are painful. Things are uncertain. Things are frightening. Is it really more courageous, more confident, more relaxing to just give in and allow things to be as they are without hoping for change? Maybe. Maybe we spend so much energy hoping for the future because the present is uncomfortable and not to our liking. But hoping cannot change anything at all, really, even in the best of times.
The more I thought about this concept of hopelessness, the more it made sense to me. The present is all we have, really. It's all we ever have.
So now, I strive toward hopelessness. Not in the way I used to think about that word, but in a Pema Chodron sort of way. I hope for nothing. I do what I do to make the best of each day, each hour, each moment, and am grateful for all that comes my way. I notice small things. I am quieter. I am less anxious. I am sleeping better. And I am a little more present to myself every day.
Now, if you've read this far, I suppose you deserve to know what any of this has to do with music, which is why you're here, right? Well, I'm grateful for a few things that have come my way this week...
FIRST, on New Year's Eve, I found out my song "Lady in Waiting," released on the Chicks With Dip "Stomping on Eggshells" compilation, was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Songwriters Association of Washington's Mid-Atlantic Song Contest in the Folk/Acoustic category. You can pick up a digital copy of the track or the full album on the Chicks With Dip page at Bandcamp. All proceeds from the sale of "Stomping on Eggshells" benefit the ACLU.
SECOND, on New Year's Day, I discovered an unexpected and beautiful gift from our friends at Stage 33 Live in Bellows Falls, VT. Back in March 2019, Joe Iadanza and I gave a concert there, which was recorded before a live audience on multiple cameras and a few fancy microphones, then subsequently and tastefully edited by Stage 33 Live's terrific tech team. Since I can't offer you a live concert right now -- and boy, I wish I could -- click HERE to access the newly-posted YouTube playlist of all the songs Joe and I performed in our first set that night. I love these videos, and they are truly is the next best thing to being there.
THIRD, on Monday, January 4th, the third season of RealWomenRealSongs launches, and I'm pleased to once again be part of an amazing team of women who will be bringing you new and unvarnished songs EVERY SINGLE DAY for a whole year. My day is Saturday, so you can catch my first offering on Saturday, January 9th, then every single Saturday through the end of 2021. When I participated in the first season of Cary Cooper's remarkable project in 2012-2013, it was a positively exhilarating creative experience, and I'm hoping for the same this time around. Follow us on our yearlong journey via Facebook or YouTube.
FINALLY, though I've still not grown accustomed to actually scheduling online concerts -- too much pressure -- I do actually hop online every now and then to play an impromptu set of songs for whoever happens to be listening. Though I can't predict when these spontaneous concerts will occur, they're always fun and relaxed. If you haven't already, follow me on my Facebook page to be the first to know about happenings of that sort.
NOW, if you've read THIS far, I congratulate you, and more than that, I THANK you. I am grateful for YOU; for your support, for your listening ears, for your mind, your heart, your life, and your health and strength. I wish you a beautiful present, day after day, and the relaxation that comes with courageous hopelessness.