• Category Archives pondering
  • Just a normal post…

    “Normal” is such a loaded word. And, before I type up the conclusion-like thoughts I’ve been having about “normal” recently, I’ll first confess that I’ve had my own moments of both pursuing and rejecting “normal” based solely on the fact that it was normal. So I’m talking to you, but I’m also talking to myself. And, just in case you aren’t interested in reading all these words (none of which are likely funny because, wow, this appears to be a very serious topic to both normal and abnormal people and my thoughts have been formed over the whole of my life…and I’m not sure any of the ways I have a laugh over this topic will fit into this entry), I’ll state my bottom line at the top (as well as the bottom).

    “Normal” is not the problem. The thoughtless glorification or vilification of “normal” is the problem. The broad application of judgments to “normal,” based only on the fact something is or is not normal, is the problem.

    The argument some of you are going to make, because it’s the first I would have made in the past and the first a friend made the most recent time the topic arose, is that there’s no such thing as normal. To you, to past me, and to my friend, I must say that I strongly disagree. Forgive me as I start out really basically. I’m not trying to insult any of our intelligences. Rather, I’m reaching back to my experience in getting my degree in Philosophy, and I’m going to start by defining my terms. Or, rather, by defining my term.

    Here are some definitions (from assorted actual dictionaries, which I hope will make you less inclined to argue about what the word means) of normal:

    • conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.
    • approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment.
    • the average or mean.
    • the standard or type.
    • usual; regular; common; typical.
    • conforming to the conventions of one’s group.
    • the usual, average, or typical state, degree, form, etc.

    Whilst I will readily agree that it is unlikely anyone is normal in every aspect, and whilst I will acknowledge that the connotations of the word aren’t addressed here, I feel like the definitions make my argument. There is such a thing as normal. I particularly like the one that is “conforming to the convention’s of one’s group.” Because even with the ways in which I, for instance, am not normal in the context of society at large, I can attest that I am likely normal in some ways (many ways, in some cases) in the context of the groups of which I am part. Even if the norm of your group is something so small as “we all like this music,” that’s still a “normal.” So, when you like that music, you are, in that way, normal in the context of your group, however abnormal your group may be.

    For me, the next logical thing to consider is why some of us do (or did) put forth the “no such thing as normal” fallacy. I’ve heard it put forth and talked about with much support both by those who weren’t, for whatever reason, up for more than a “yeah, man!” response and by those who were ridiculously intelligent and could follow their agreement with all sorts of fancy words and concepts. I’ve seen it championed by those who were abnormal in dramatically obvious ways and those who seemed good candidates for being official representatives of normal. So the next obvious thing, to me, is to talk about why we want to believe “there’s no such thing as normal.” The reasons here are either reasons I’ve had, reasons I’ve been told, or things that would make sense to me. If you see yourself in there, as I’ve already said, I’m certainly in there and not judging you. And if you have another, especially if you can say it in a non-mean way, I’d love to read it in the comments.

    Those I’ve known who were, in general terms, normal but still making this claim have, when I pressed them, had one reason. It turns out that even many normal people have ways they don’t feel normal. And some of them even have ways they don’t want to be normal (and sometimes it’s as wee as just wanting to do something funky with their hair). Because there’s so much pressure, as is normal in societies, to conform to the norm, those who seem normal (and, I’m guessing, those who don’t) would rather have the pressure removed. That pressure can make one feel guilty when they don’t conform to some norm or other. I’ve even seen it happen to people in non-conformist/alternative groups when they realise they don’t totally conform to the norms of those groups.

    In general, as humans, we want to belong. If we don’t feel like we are normal (in the terms of whichever society we want to belong to, whether that’s the larger society or the small society of just one or two friends we love most), and we know that a lack of normality might get in the way of us feeling like we belong, we might disbelieve the thing that gets in the way of feeling we belong. If I’m sure I don’t fit the larger societal definition of normal enough, it makes me feel better if there’s no such thing as normal. If I’m part of a non-conformist group, disbelieving helps insulate me from the pressures of society at large and also helps me more easily feel the legitimacy of my non-conformist group.

    And those times we try to be normal and it seems we fail…Well, denying that there’s such a thing as normal is an easier way to cope with the disappointment or other negative feelings than to just learn to be okay with the ways we aren’t normal. In the immediacy of ugly emotions, it’s a lovely, quick bandage to apply to our wounds.

    And, when we apply that bandage enough times, whatever the reason, it just becomes one of our mantras or knee-jerk reactions. We don’t have to think about it. It’s just one of those things we treat as one of our truths. I have treated it as one of my truths, and I thought it was going to free me.

    Personal anecdote time. I was in a class once with a woman who pressed me to give her answers to homework just because she asked. (We weren’t friends, we’d only ever had small talk as we waited for class to start, I’d never given her or asked her for answers.) This was one of those cases that felt like cheating, so I refused. It just so happened to be an humanities class, and we just happened to be discussing the Romantics that day. When the instructor asked why the Romantics might have dressed and acted in outlandish or different ways, she glared at me as she rushed to respond that maybe they did it because they were incapable of even pretending to be normal or of fitting in with normal society. My fabulous teacher, who was himself a bit flamboyant, simply said, “Huh.” And then turned and asked what I thought of that. To be honest, I had often felt that I couldn’t fit in, that I couldn’t force myself to be normal. But, in that moment, I realised the ways in which I had managed to make myself fit into the greater societal norms when necessary (I’ve had jobs that required business wear, for instance). I processed the implications of my epiphany later, because I needed to confidently communicate it to all those eyes looking at me (judging me, I assumed). “I think that most people could fit in and appear normal if they exerted enough energy, but perhaps the rewards or results of appearing normal weren’t worth it or just weren’t attractive enough.”

    Having made that comment with every hope of making her feel small (I wasn’t always the most graceful and kind of people when I felt attacked), the fact is that I suddenly saw both that I could force myself to fit in and that “normal” has its daily uses and value. It’s normal, for instance, to follow traffic laws, which is handy in terms of me not getting into accidents. And when you go in for a job interview, the fact that there are normal ways of behaving and looking at whatever place you’re interviewing makes it easier for you to figure out what to wear and how to act with the interviewer. Without norms, there would be social chaos to a degree that would make even those who claim to hate all normality cringe. Not just social chaos, but norms in how people work, whilst not often norms of which I’m fond, allow companies to go on. Given that it takes companies to make electricity and computers and the internet function, I’m unable to buy into a complete lack of norms.

    And, in some situations, things too far outside the norms are dangerous. (For instance, whilst they might fall into the norms of their group, serial killers fall outside of at least some set of psychological norms.) And things falling outside certain norms can sometimes act as warning signs so that we know when it’s time to get away.

    I should also probably acknowledge that, when one is trying to find a way forward in the arts, knowing the norms can help you figure out what path to avoid if you don’t want to get lumped in with everyone else. (And, for me, as long as I’m still being true to my artistic instincts and creating with integrity, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.) So, yes, there is a use to both following and going against norms.

    Once you realise that norms have their uses, it might be a step toward letting go of the knee-jerk hatred of “normal” that some of us have (especially those of us who’ve been harassed for not being normal). As I moved away from my own knee-jerk judgments, I found my life opened up. I found less energy wasted.

    I was always being, or trying to be, genuinely me. But, like (maybe) everyone, I can’t guarantee I’ve always known exactly what it meant to be genuinely me. I think it takes time to figure out who you are. I think that you evolve and change naturally due to your brain changing and your life experiences and such. I think that there are so many filters, that we can’t fully escape all our filters ever, so that who you genuinely are can be obscured even to you by filters. And I think that the deep inner craving to belong, whether to one person or to a group (whether a specific group or in a general sense), can impact you without you consciously realising it. And the “normal” thing figures into to most people’s pursuits of genuine self and belonging.

    I think that a lot of time and energy can be spent evaluating whether or not a thing is normal (or maybe you’re thinking more in terms of hip, trendy, cool), so that you can decide whether or not you’ll do it, feel it, wear it, want it. This goes both for those who are trying to conform to some set of norms and to those trying to avoid a set of norms. If you can figure out where that’s really necessary (for instance, to keep a job you really want or need), and let go of it other places, I think that’s the healthier path.

    Another personal anecdote. After seeing photos of me at a gig, one of my sisters hesitantly said, “I don’t want you to get upset, but you look really hip in those pictures. In a good way. I don’t want to offend you…” She was lucky, because this conversation happened after I’d stopped avoiding all things normal just because they were normal. By that time, I’d decided that my actual criteria for clothing and entertainment and food and most other things were, “Do I like it? Does it suit me?” And this means that there are normal things in my wardrobe and in my music collection. But I’ve not yet been accused of being normal. In fact, whilst there are still some groups of which I’m part in which I’m quite abnormal, I don’t hear much about my normality or lack thereof. Maybe I was just hyper-sensitive to it before, or maybe I acted in a defensive way back when I was both avoiding normality and constantly feeling I was under attack for that, so maybe nothing has changed or maybe it’s because I finally live somewhere less judgmental…But these days, when people talk about me, to my face or where they don’t think I’ll hear, my genuineness seems to be one of my defining characteristics. Given that, when I was opposed to the greater societal concepts of normality, it was because I just wanted to be myself, that seems like mission accomplished.

    (I won’t say much about this, but I definitely see that many of us who didn’t want to be normal were, by trying not to be normal, letting the norm determine our choices. Again, no judgment. I did it as part of trying to be my true self and not let society tell me who to be…In a discussion of “normal” and us not-normal kids, I feel like this needs to be noted.)

    As I’ve changed my approach, I have at least tried or given a chance to more that is normal. And I can tell you that “normal” is everywhere. And some of it is, to my tastes and ethics and such, not good. And some of it is quite good. And some of it is neutral. As with most things (and groups and people) in this world, it’s not so straight-forward, not so black and white, as might be comfortable and easy for most people.

    I’ve also been able to look at those around me who are or appear to be much more normal with, I think, a clearer eye. I’ve been able to see that, in fact, there are people who truly do enjoy and fit mainly normal-seeming lives and ways of living and looking. And to see that everyone has some little quirk or other, at the least, that isn’t normal and that they don’t hate. Even if they just secretly love it. I’ve seen the relief in anti-normal friends’ eyes when I don’t take the piss over some normal thing they confess to liking (or, even better, when I like it as well). Or seen them be clearly relieved when, in the midst of some kind of dramatic reaction to pain (like a breakup), I can assure them that their response is quite normal. Just as I’ve had more than one normal person who seemed to see me as a safe confessional, who confided in me (sometimes cautiously and sometimes giddily) something non-normal about them. And seen plenty of normal people (most, really) who were proud of the things that made them special. (And special, by definition, isn’t normal.) We’re all more mixed than most realise, but our judgments about normality keep most of us hiding facets.

    Now that I’ve written The Longest Blog Ever, and not been at all funny, here’s my thesis again: “Normal” is not the problem. The thoughtless glorification or vilification of “normal” is the problem. The broad application of judgments to “normal,” based only on the fact something is or is not normal, is the problem.

    Also, here’s a picture of me and the cat. Bet now you feel like this read (or the scrolling down past all the reading) was worth it. Ha!

    Me and the cat

    Now, go out and be you, whatever norms that might or might not fit.

    xxx


  • Trousers vs Skirts (aka A Pants Blog)

    I’m going to be kind of ambiguous here, but those who might care will know the context of what I’m talking about. And, as this has been on my mind all week, I think it best I just say it “out loud” for those who might care 😉

    And only because those who might care haven’t been thinking of it in terms of trousers: I’m talking about pants, Americans. But I’m going to call them trousers. Because words like “pants” and “fanny” mean other things to the rest the English-speaking world. And, for what it’s worth, whether or not I wear pants isn’t something that would normally be visible to other people in that context. Ha! That clarified:

    I wear trousers when I want to wear trousers, only considering whether or not the style of trouser I’m wearing (or skirt, for that matter) is formal/informal enough for the situation. I don’t love when a decision as wee as that becomes complicated…

    Why I have considered trousers for this Sunday:

    • Because it is chilly outside (and inside, sadly) right now, which means trousers would be lovely in a warmer sort of way.
    • Because I will be teaching children, and last time I did that there were no adult-sized chairs. This is a thing more easily dealt with in trousers.
    • Because I have only this week realised that it is a big deal that I live somewhere where I can wear those trousers and not have any issue made of it, and it seems like a nice solidarity thing to do for those who, due to non-doctrinal cultural (pop cultural, as my dad and I might say…folk cultural as those with degrees in such things might say) reasons, don’t feel they can do that.
    • Along the same lines, because it would be a celebration of my ability to do that (both due to where I am and due to my own nature).
    • Because, as some people have noted, their nicest clothes actually are nice trousers. Some of my trousers are at least in the top niceness tier…(Note that I wouldn’t wear my “Blur trousers” because I am well aware that I always feel a sense of silly cheekiness as I sit in meetings with those on and think about how no one there knows that I am actually Alex from Blur undercover…haha!)

    Transitional anecdote: I once had a friend who, surprisingly, said he’d like to come along on Sunday. (To be a bit confident in my own awesomeness, it probably had to do with the fact that I was speaking and I am rather good at that.) As I always do in such situations (well, I didn’t once, but that was since I was here and so it didn’t matter that the pretty girl showed up in jeans and a t-shirt), I just noted that most the men would probably be wearing nice slacks and button-up shirts…probably ties as well. He was shocked. Based on what he’d seen me wear out the door on Sundays (almost always skirts and dresses, but definitely in my own style), he assumed it was a more casual affair.

    Why I have considered a skirt for this Sunday:

    • Because I don’t see my trousers as a political statement and don’t necessarily want them to be taken as such.
    • Because I don’t want to disrupt someone’s desire for a fulfilling spiritual experience by joining in with those making a statement.
    • Along the same lines, because I don’t feel like this is an appropriate venue for political statements. I’m not allowed to be upset at the veiled political statements others slip into their comments or talks and then think it’s okay for me to do the same. (If, however, you’d like to wear trousers for some other reason, go for it! Do it any Sunday! If you’re feeling a bit shy about it, ask me to wear them as well that week like some kind of cultural training wheels and I probably will.)
    • Because, as noted, my personal sense of style might already be seen as too off-culture for some. Maybe, in my own way, I’m already accidentally making a statement every time I walk in those doors.
    • Because it seems like those who are trying to make statements with trousers aren’t all making the same statement(s), and I don’t care to be seen as saying something that I’m not.

    There are already at least a couple women who wear trousers most the time…Maybe all the time, but I really don’t consider it a big enough deal to pay attention to (unless the outfit overall is really killer and I’m trying to figure out what elements of it I want to incorporate into my own style). In fact, there are people there who don’t seem to be dressed any more formally than I’d dress on a “sit around the flat in jeans and a t-shirt to play video games all day” sort of day.

    There’s every possibility I’ll wear trousers with a dress or skirt. I’m wont to do that as well, you know. Hopefully, as I usually do when dressing, I’ll just look at my clothes and be in the mood for one thing or another and go with it. Because, honestly, after having spent much of my life with there being some issue or other with my appearance, I really do enjoy that (barring days like this Sunday) I just get up and get dressed and don’t think much about what anyone but me will think of what I’m wearing and/or whether it’s going to be comfortable for the day’s activities.

    If you choose to wear trousers, I hope you’ll do so in an appropriate spirit. If you choose not to wear trousers, I hope that you won’t bring in a bad spirit by being nasty/judgemental about it. Either way, I hope you feel accepted, I hope you feel truly good about yourself (really!), and I hope that you have a fulfilling Sunday. Remember that, whatever others might do, having a spiritual experience is greatly up to us. (I can find a quote from a GA given in a recent conference for that if you don’t believe me.)

    Now, to wrap up my night. I’ve still got band business and bills to sort. And, oh my stars, I would probably enjoy the conversation more if it were about pants, not trousers. Ahahaha!

    xxx


  • Tablature for an Argument

    Earlier in the week, as I was pondering some things in my life, the Universe chimed in via my web browser.

    There were two tabs open in my browser, side by side, and their subject matters appeared to be having an argument. I’ve recreated it for you in the picture that follows. I’d read the text in the graphic, and then look up to the other tab (which was for an essay titled “But will it be worth it when you get there?“)

    Graphic says, "It's hard to wait around for something you know might never happen; but it's even harder to give up when you know it's everything you want."
    (I doubt it’s “author unknown” so much as “angsty person online.”)

     

    These tabs were both open for most the day, and I kept seeming to rediscover them as I came back to my desk or back to my browser between other tasks.

    What makes it even more tangled a question is that I’m not just waiting on the topics in question. As much as possible, I’m working for the things I want. I’m putting time, money, effort, heart, soul, blood/sweat/tears, and all that into these things.

    So, really, the question is even more important. Because I’m giving more than just waiting, so what I find when I get “there” is going to have to be even more. And, if I never get to the “there” I’m pursuing so that the “was it worth it” question is a deathbed sort of thing…At that point, do I say, “It wasn’t worth it,” or will I be more inclined to say, “At least I gave it my all so that I can’t wonder ‘what if?’ on that one.”? (Wow, the punctuation at the end strained even my editorial brain…And I’m still not sure I got it right…) The latter possibility, along with the fact that it’s likely less effort would lead to even lesser results, means that the middle path doesn’t seem like the right answer just now.

    As you can guess, my pondering continues. I can’t actually predict where my efforts will lead or what I’ll think on my deathbed. I can’t even know what I’ll think tomorrow when it comes to some things…Heh. Usually, I’d just advise myself (or someone in the same situation) to follow my heart. I really believe in using intuition as a compass. But my compass seems broken on this at the moment. At most, I’m struck by the advice in the essay to find joy along the way. I’m paraphrasing, but it basically says that. And, in particular, I feel like I need to find good feelings specifically attached to the topics in question. More good feelings, fewer bad feelings. And, hopefully, somewhere in there, my compass starts to work.

    Me looking disappointed with the compass in my phone's tricorder app
    (And given my compass is part of my tricorder, you’d think someone from Engineering could get it fixed for me stat!)

     

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic or your anecdotes where you were in situations that might have warranted this question. And, of course, those that pertain to creative endeavours get bonus points. (Don’t worry, people with whom I’m working, I’m not pondering ending any of our projects. If I were, I wouldn’t have written new things for each project in the days since the browser tabs entered the conversation. Heh.)

    Hope that your life is full of efforts that will feel entirely worth it when you get to wherever “there” is!

    xxx

    ps I suspect that one thing that will feed into my decisions is having a clear grasp of what matters, what my priorities are. That’s important. So, so important. Loads of things going on have pointed me toward that truth the last couple weeks. Including the tough choice that Amanda Palmer made to cancel her tour so she could stay home with her best friend who’s got cancer. In my world, that’s the right choice, and surely one aided by understanding that there are some things more important than music and career. But, before this postscript turns into a blog of its own, my priority is sleep! Sweet dreams, lovelies.


  • Not That Kind of Conservative

    I’ve been thinking a lot about when to be generous and when to be conservative in my life. And here’s some of what I’ve sorted about where I either currently stand or where I think I ought to stand.

    Be generous when:
    Tipping my server
    Seasoning my food
    Showing love to those who matter to me
    Shining out what light I have

    Bright eye shadow and loads of it
    I also apparently believe in generous amounts of bright makeup sometimes…

     

    Be conservative when:
    Deciding whom and what to give my time to
    Giving my trust
    Giving up my privacy

    On a similar track, I believe in:
    Dreaming big whilst not losing track of reality.
    Giving everything I can to the people and things I believe in whilst not bankrupting myself (in any way).
    Letting myself fully relish my loves and joys without neglecting my responsibilities.
    Giving frequent, sincere compliments/praise and being thoughtful about offering criticism.

    When do you dive in and when do you walk away? Cos I think that says a lot about a person…

    (Because I know I’ll be busy all weekend getting ready for the show, I’m getting this ready Thursday night and telling the app to publish it for me early Saturday. Hopefully, you’re reading this at that time…Otherwise, I swear that’s what happened and I’m sorry it’s late…)


  • It’s a Trap!

    In the discussion of Nature vs Nurture (are humans shaped by the nature they’re born with or the nurture of what happens in their lives?), I’ve always figured it was a mix of both things. The analogy I always use is that each of us is like a gem stone. Our nature is that chunk of stone. Our nurture is the chisel that determines our cut or the tweezers that put us in a setting. In good news, there are a couple of key ways we aren’t like those gems.

    First, we’re conscious (even if some of us sometimes feel dumb as rocks…haha). This means that we are not just passive victims to the chisel and tweezers. We can wield those tools ourselves; we can choose how we’re cut and where we’re placed to some degree. Sometimes to huge degrees. Don’t like what you’ve become due to the circumstances of your life or where that’s led you? You can do something about it. And that’s not just because you’re conscious…

    Second, we can regenerate bits that got chiselled off. When we don’t like our cut and want to change it, we don’t just have to keep whittling ourselves down to nothing and to tiny gems that can barely be seen. Life beat you down and you feel like you lost some trait you like? Chances are good you can act to get it back, to change which facets of yourself are shining out there.

    Why is this on my mind right now? Not just because, as some of you have noticed, I’m big on taking control of and responsibility for your own choices and life and never just letting yourself be a victim. Big on always working to be your best self, even though we’re all going to fail at that sometimes.

    Nope. I’m thinking about this right this moment cos I was asked an interesting question in email. The context was the ways in which our natures and how we’ve been nurtured can make it hard for us to rise to opportunities we’re given or to do some good that we’re asked to do. The question asked was this:

    “Do you ever feel trapped in your own personality?”

     

    Akbar: It's a Trap!
    Yeah, about that personality of yours…

     

    In context, I find it a fascinating question. Are there ever times I don’t feel like I can re-cut my facets to do all I want to do? But pulling it out of context, there are more questions, including another way to understand this question. So, here’s a list of questions I’m pondering that came out of this…I’m not going to give you my full answers (or even answer all of them) because I feel like the answers would be long and maybe a bit too inside my privacy zone. But I think the direction my brain goes says something about me. And it gives you a little something for your own pondering…I don’t know about you, but I love good, meaty questions to ponder!

    Do you ever feel trapped in your own personality?

    Are there ever times you don’t feel like you can re-cut your facets to do all you want to do? (This doesn’t include the ways that money or time or opportunities limit you. One thing I will say here is that, when I feel anything like this might be holding me back, I try to evaluate what it is that makes me think I can’t do something. Is it really some bit of character I lack or can I take actions that, whilst difficult and outside my comfort zone, will let me do the thing? A lot of times, the answer to “I’m not the kind of person who does/says Thing,” is as simple as doing or saying Thing. Both good and bad. And when I just do the Good Thing, even if it doesn’t feel comfortable or it scares me or something, I get to live with the pleasure of knowing I did/tried to do it. Just like I’ve had to live with shame the times I just did the Bad Thing even if I wasn’t that kind of person…And then I try not to do that again. There are plenty of actions that aren’t limited by my personality, only by whether I allow myself to be held back the discomfort my personality causes me to feel about such actions. That cuts down on the time I feel trapped by my personality in this kind of context.)

    Are there ever times that the personality you’ve built as your public face (or even as something to hold to in private because that can be easier than true self sharing and/or assessment) holds you back or makes you feel trapped…as if it’s making the choices for you or as if you’ll lose friends, family, supporters, respect, etc if you change it or set it aside? (Fortunately, I haven’t really done this since I was a teenager…)

    Do you ever feel trapped by the person you are trying to be (even if that person is a positive thing)?

    Do you ever feel trapped by who others expect you to be?

    Do you ever feel trapped by who others think you are? (This can include both times they’re just plain wrong about who they decided to believe you are and the times that they think you’re still someone that you used to be but no longer are. It seems like the latter is more likely to happen the longer you know someone.)

    Are you ever trapped by who you incorrectly think others are or by not being willing to see if you’re incorrect in who you think they are?

    Do you ever feel trapped by who it is you think you’re supposed to be?

    Do you ever feel trapped by the demeanour you think you’re supposed to have?

    Do you ever feel trapped because your personality is at odds with what’s considered normal?

    Do you ever feel trapped because one of the facets of your personality is something strong that inclines you toward making choices or taking actions that are harmful to you and/or those around you? (To be clear, if this sort of thing is going on, I never believe it’s okay just to stop fighting it and just accept it. I believe in working to make sure the other, better facets are the ones in charge. I believe in working to be conscious of the unwanted facets and resisting them. We all have flaws, demons, struggles. And fighting against them is, in itself, revealing a better facet of ourselves.)

    As I ponder and journal and let this batch of questions squirm around in my brain, I’m sure more questions will occur to me. Cos this brain never spools down…But I reckon this is enough for most people who want to get all ponder-y. So, happy pondering! And best of luck staying out of the traps and being a pretty, shiny gem stone.

    xxx


  • I Owe Who?

    The topic of what people owe or are owed seems to come up regularly in my life. And the last couple of months have been chock full of the topic.

    I wasn’t raised with a sense of entitlement in general. I have always known that I needed to work hard and do my part to get the things I want and maintain the things that matter. And, even then, there weren’t always guarantees. Sometimes, you can work really hard and not get (keep) what you were trying to get (keep). That sucks, but it’s rarely actually unfair (unless some other human actually withholds something they promised you would earn).

    In general, what I believe people are entitled to is the consequences (good or ill) of their choices and actions. That they are entitled to being treated with dignity and respect (unless they make choices that remove those rights). There are other things I believe we ought to be entitled to, but I’m pretty sure those things are even less realistic than expecting the whole dignity and respect thing.

    But I’ve run across a few things that are close to home lately, and, because this is my blog, I’m going to talk about them. Even if both are potential minefields. (Hurrah! Explosions! We’ll pretend it’s an action film…)

    Before I dive in, might I ask that you, should you feel inclined to respond, remember the whole dignity and respect thing? I’ve managed not to delete any comments on any of my blogs thus far, and I’m living with the magical dream that I’ll never have to. Disagreement or debate are fine (hey, I got my degree in Philosophy…I am down with a logical, civil debate), just be your better self when you choose your words. Heh.

    First, the non-musical one. The one I can do without worrying about naming names. The one where I can link to someone else’s story as an example and you can decide if you’re guilty of this sort of assumption without me pointing the finger right at you. Excellent.

    I’ll say right up front that there are pluses and minuses to all ways of being, that I certainly enjoy the pluses of things about me, and that I’m as wont as anyone to assert that the grass is greener on the other side when dealing with the minuses. I’m also acutely aware that, for those who think my grass is greener, talking about the minuses of the things one might consider generally favourable can seem really frustrating. People rush in to point out the pluses or reassure me that there are pluses if they even suspect my lack of complete enchantment with something I have that they want. So, to be clear, I acknowledge that there are some perks to being a pretty girl. (I also want to note that there are loads of ways to be attractive. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. And what I find attractive only defines what I find attractive.) I’m glad I’m a pretty girl, but…

    It ain’t all perks. And the problem is that the non-perks are about other people behaving poorly. I’ve been having multiple instances of that to deal with lately and been mostly keeping my mouth shut…And then a girl posted a blog about her experiences (most are the same as some of mine, but my own “extreme” experience is a different one…equally ugly and scary though) and I think it was my last straw. It would be great if you’d read her post (you know I really want you to cos that’s two links to the same post in one paragraph). I’m not even sure how I came across it, cos it’s not a blog I usually read. But, just in case you choose not to read it…

    Basically, in her experience (and mine and others’), being a pretty girl means that there are people most days who feel that it is their right to have my attention. That, by being pretty, a girl creates a situation wherein boys are helpless slaves to their attraction and, thus, the pretty girl owes the boys whatever attention they seek. On a good day, this just means boys aggressively ignore rings on ring fingers, headphones, books, statements of unavailability or disinterest. On a bad day, they can get scary pushy. In her blog post, the scary guy tells her it’s not his fault she’s pretty. As she points out, it’s not her fault either.

    Okay, yes, pretty girls could cease to take care of themselves and could choose unattractive clothing and…I mean, really? That seems a more reasonable answer than people just being polite? Just realising that, unless you are specifically paying for someone’s attention (not a date, but an escort service, for instance) or paying to see their body (like at a strip club…or in a movie–though the “owing” ends on the movie screen and doesn’t extend to when you see the person in the real world), none of us are owed the attention. Outside those scenarios, no one owes anyone showing off their body. Etc…

    So, if you’ve been made to feel you owe it to others (outside of specific contexts) or that others owe it to you, you’re wrong. If you are in the first group, I hope you’ll find the self-compassion and the courage to reclaim yourself in the situation. If you’re in the latter, maybe you just needed someone to tell you the world doesn’t work that way. This is me, telling you that. And as you return to my whole dignity and respect thing and stop assuming you’re owed, I’ll bet you’ll get better attention, genuine good attention, when someone feels you’ve earned it. A lovely win-win situation.

    Still with me? Next, the musical thing that relates. Which is, of course, two pieces. Cos, apparently, I do go on and on…

    There’s this strange dynamic between fans and bands (and actors and some others, but my main experience is with bands). It’s so easy, on either side, to feel as if one is owed something by the other. You read or hear stories of fans who aggressively pursue the attention of artists they love because they think their love and their purchases of albums, film tickets, t-shirts, etc entitle them to a return of as much attention as they want. Of course, you also hear about artists who feel like their hard work (or, in sad cases, their pretty faces or just the time they’ve put in whether or not they’re talented) entitles them to success and fame and the adoration of fans.

    As much as, in self-serving ways, I’d like both to be true, I’m afraid that’s just more of the unrealistic entitlement nonsense.

    Yes, I’d love the hours and dollars and love I put toward artists to magically make them love me back. We could go out for meals and have great conversations…It would be brilliant. Really. But the fact is, I already got what I paid for. I got the album, saw the concert or film, wore the shirt, that sort of thing. And, yes, I do believe (as an artist) that I ought to show appreciation to those who support me (which is why I constantly mention in Varnish things how much I appreciate our fans and why, since we aren’t selling out stadiums yet and it’s logistically reasonable, I try to at least give a sincere “thanks for coming out” to those who come to shows). But there’s a line. And once someone gets bigger, I understand when they don’t hang out at the venue after to talk to me, even if I queued for hours and know every word and think they’re brilliant. Did they play the best show they could? Then I got what I paid for. I don’t even assume, those times they do come out to greet fans, that they’re up for pictures or, if they are, that they want every fan hanging on them. In that situation, I wait. I stand near enough for the photo, but they get to make the move. Arms around me or kisses in pictures? Yeah, they initiated that. (And, for the record, I totally support people like Wil Wheaton who generally don’t do hugs or even handshakes cos they’d rather not get sick. Or people like Nathan Fillion who pre-print cards for cons–a super cool move–because they know they can’t possibly give all the interaction fans hope.)

    Pics with artists I dig
    A sampling of what they initiated…yes, I’m bragging a wee bit 😉

     

    From the artist’s side, of course I’d love if the hours and dollars and efforts I put in magically translated to huge success. “Just achieve this many hours or these things, and you level up. You gain stardom and adoration!” But I understand that there are no guarantees in the arts. I hope that people hear me and love what we do and support us. I work hard because I believe I’m building a great thing. And, yeah, I get disappointed when turn out or response isn’t what I’d hoped. And there are days I wish that my passion was for law or medicine or running a daycare, cos I can point to the steps to get there and you can really get yourself most or all the way to the goal with hard work and perseverance. But those of us who love an art? We have no guarantees. We have fewer guarantees than our fans. (You buy a ticket and get a show…We can pay for services to help promote us and it doesn’t mean more than that someone else is now trying to help us get what we want. Not a sob story; just a fact of what we’ve chosen.)

    Now, I’m going to go fulfill some obligations, because I feel like the commitments I’ve made mean that, yes, I do owe certain things to certain people. And then I’m going to work hard on trying to get the things I want. Cos, like I said, I don’t reckon I’m entitled to anything more than respect and dignity and the consequences (good or ill) of my actions.

    xxx
    Amber

    ps Thanks for reading this. It was nice to put it outside my head, and I just hope it didn’t seem too ranty. Maybe it can, instead, inspire us all to be a little less entitled and a little more respectful, you think? I really believe people’s lives can be full of goodness if they spend more time using their assets and working hard and less time feeling entitled and fussing about things that don’t fit their entitled dreams. If this seemed too ranty, though, well…good thing I mostly keep politics out of blogs these days, cos…wow…can I be opinionated and ranty there!

    (You can feel free to drop me a line, but I need to turn off comments on this because my captcha suddenly isn’t working on this post for some reason. Lame.)


  • No Happy Songs

    This last week, one of the incredible bloggers I follow online (The Bloggess) let us all know she’s been struggling with depression. In fact, it’s something that she struggles with regularly and is really open about. What she’s learned, writing her blog that’s a great mix of socially inappropriate and bizarre humour along with some inspiring and very open writing on mental health struggles, is that being open helps people. She’s even built an online community full of people who are supportive…If you’re feeling down and want a laugh, go read. If you’re feeling down and need to reach out, go read and comment. I watched the comments save a life this last week.

    And that’s probably why this particular topic (on my list of possible topics…cos I do keep a list…) jumped out at me as I pondered what to write for my blog this week. It’s this little mass of things all around music that isn’t happy. And it will answer a question I never answered before.

    Really, there are two questions I’m answering here. Let’s start with the one I never answered. And because I feel like this is important, I’m going to break some of my own privacy rules. Hopefully, someday some way this helps somebody. Because if I can shine some light out, my life has been worth it 🙂

    “Why don’t you listen to happy music?”

    When I was less on top of my depression, because I’m one of the many who has some depression issues (I’m not going to elaborate here…some other time, maybe…), many well-intentioned people asked that question in some way or another.

    “Isn’t the music you listen to making it worse?” was another way it was phrased.

    I was always inclined toward the unhappy stuff…the sad, the angry, the heartbroken, the frustrated, the lost, the pining…And, surely, I ought to counteract that by listening to happy music, right?

    Some of you are saying, “Right!” Maybe cos you never struggled with depression or maybe cos, for you, that actually worked.

    But some of you are shaking your heads, backing away from that advice slowly…carefully…aware of the danger it holds.

    You see, when I listened to happy music (I tried…I really did), it made things worse. Sometimes, it was just too jarring. Sometimes, it felt like it was pushing me toward mania. Sometimes, it just made me feel like I was the only pathetic loser who couldn’t be happy like everyone else. That happy music was just nasty razor claws slashing at my little heart and brain as it pushed me closer to the ugly feelings that were already attacking me. It was screaming, scrabbling ants in my brain or the mockery of every popular person at school who was making themselves feel better by putting me down.

    In short, really, really not good. (Plus, honestly, music vs physiological factors causing depression doesn’t seem like a fight music can win…So a bit of a misguided bit of advice for a girl whose issues weren’t all in her mind, if you will.)

    The one exception, which only worked out sometimes, was if I could dance to it. If I was in a place where I could put all that energy and scrabbling into the physical act of dancing. Even then, it wasn’t joyful, happy, depression-free dancing. It was frenetic and desperate. It was like trying to exorcise my demons. And since a girl can’t literally spend her whole life dancing…And since there’s little release in that sort of dancing (lucky if the release of the dancing balanced out the horrible feelings the music created)…Yeah, not a case for the happy music.

    On the other hand, there was the music I was listening to…the sad, the angry, etc etc etc…

    To be fair, yes, it did move me to tears or to violence (though, to my credit, I didn’t go out hitting other people or even putting holes in the walls of my room…but I did enjoy mosh pits and I kicked a lot of empty boxes into bits, among other things). But the actions that music pushed me toward actually did feel like a release. At the end of a desperate night sobbing, for instance, I did feel lighter for just a moment. A blessed, blessed moment. (Though, just because it’s one of my little pet peeves about when depression is misunderstood, the fact I was crying does not mean that depression is the same thing as just feeling sad. Very much not the case…)

    Younger me moping
    See? I couldn’t even take happy pictures :p

     

    There was more to it, though. And here’s where I transition…Finishing up answering the first question whilst answering part of the second question.

    “If you believe in light…if you’re a positive person now…if you’re the sweetheart you seem to be…if you’re on top of your depression…why is your music not happy music?”

    These days, I can listen to happy songs. I mean, I will probably go mad if it goes all silly and chipper for long bits of time…but I have days where the song stuck in my head is exultant…hopeful…happy.

    But I’ve only written a couple of songs that are happy songs. The rest are sad, angry, heartbroken, frustrated, lost, pining…

    And here’s my two-part answer. Part one is the second part of my answer to the first question.

    When I listened (still listen) to the songs that aren’t happy, they help(ed) me. I knew that someone else had felt something like what I was feeling. That many of them felt it and survived it. That they could even turn it into something beautiful. I wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t the only pathetic loser who couldn’t be happy like everyone else. There were others, which meant we…we weren’t pathetic losers. We were just one other kind of human experience. And we could survive it. Sure, some of those who made the songs I love(d) ended their lives. But most didn’t. Most kept surviving. And, oh, they made music. Music!

    That music, even when it pushed me to tears or violent actions, made me feel better. It didn’t heal me, but it also helped pull me just enough back from the edge…To quote one of those songs:

    “But don’t forget the songs
    That made you cry
    And the songs that saved your life”

    -The Smiths, Rubber Ring

    So, one reason I write that sort of song is in the sincere hope that someone (you or someone you love maybe) will find that one of my songs does for you what all those not-happy songs did for me. Cos you’re not alone. You’re not the only one. And, like me, you can find a way to make it through. And maybe, just maybe, there’s music or art in you. You won’t just make it through, but you’ll turn the horrible things you’re feeling into art. There are few greater things one can do…(And even if you can’t do that, you can allow yourself to learn compassion from what you’ve felt…to reach out to someone else, so that we create a chain of people who have helped keep each other from falling into the pit.)

    The second part of my answer is a bit more selfish.

    Yes, I now consider myself a positive and optimistic person. But that doesn’t mean my depression is gone. It doesn’t mean my sadness, anger, heartbreak, etc etc etc are gone. They aren’t; I doubt they will ever entirely go. I doubt, even if I didn’t have physiological things that tend me toward them, that life on this planet ever lets anyone be entirely free of those emotions.

    But I learned, from the songs I love and from all those therapists who suggest art for therapy, that I can turn them into songs, and that helps. It’s like siphoning out some of my poison and turning it (I hope) into the antivenin. Even the belief that getting it out of me and putting it into the world is helpful is, in itself, helpful.

    There are other reasons, but those are the important ones. Those are the ones that matter for this post.

    What I always found strange was that the right sort of encouraging songs were okay. They weren’t happy and telling me I was broken…They were acknowledging that things were broken but it was worth it to keep fighting…That maybe, just maybe, I was warrior enough. Turns out, I was never allergic to hope, even when I trash-talked it. Maybe that’s why, without meaning to, I left little seeds of hope in most of my songs. May they grow up to big, beautiful trees in your soul. May they bear the fruit that feeds you and keeps you fighting through all the ugly things inside of you and outside of you. Let me put down roots in your heart…

    xxx


  • Be Still!

    As a hyperactive kid, I was often told to be still. I was extra-fidgety and energetic then…And loud, what with the hearing issues. Stillness and quiet were not exactly what I loved. Somehow, I read voraciously and still managed to be non-stop. The worst was “quiet time,” which was what replaced nap time when we got old enough that naps didn’t really happen. My poor mum surely needed the peace…And, even though I was, as noted, a serious reader my whole life, the enforced quiet meant I was dying to go-go-go!

    These days, whilst no longer that hyperactive kid, I still tend to be go-go-going. There’s always something I should be doing, and then the list of leisure/social things that I “should” do if not doing one of the “serious” things. (Mind you, I believe that there’s power and good in leisure and in social connections. But that’s not the topic here.) At this particular moment, I am going through one of those extra-busy times. Even if I gave up sleep, it would be hard to take care of all I have committed to (not so much a case of mindlessly over-committing so much as a lot of timelines shifting in an insane way) and all I should do.

    But this weekend has found me (and will do so for one more day), not doing any of those things. Doing a lot of sitting where I can’t do the loads of things on my computer, can’t really do any of the non-computer things. And the friend who’s the reason even gave me the option of backing out. But I didn’t.

    What?

    I had actually gotten through a draft of another entry for this blog (about lessons I learned when I took up a challenge from one of my brothers to try running), and I wasn’t thrilled with it but I was going to post it anyway because it would take the least time to do in this crazy little life of mine…

    So, I’ve got this friend who’s a cool artist. Months ago, she asked if I could help her with her booth at a neighbourhood fair. I love to help my friends, and she’s one of those locally I consider family, so of course I was game. That I hate to break commitments, especially to family, would have been reason enough to follow through. But as I sat in the chair, in the quiet of waiting for the next customer, I realised that this was a rare truly still moment for me.

    There are other times where I’m still, kind of. But I’m always doing something, aimed toward a goal. I know that I’ll be done with whatever task is at the root of that still-ish moment and moving on in a fairly short time. Or my mind is specifically focused in that time instead of free to wander…It’s still, but it’s not quite the sort of magical still I’ve come to appreciate.

    Why do I see stillness as magical?

    First, I really do believe that a stillness where you are free (if even for minutes) of other obligations, where your mind can just go wherever and your body is either also pretty still or involved in some sort of truly mindless task, opens you to hear. You can call it whatever you like, but I’ll think of it as hearing my heart or hearing God or hearing the Universe or just hearing (seeing) myself more clearly. Giving my intuition or whatever it may be a more open place to be heard has often led to more clearly seeing a situation or a path I should take, or even just to a more substantial sense of my capability to make it through, of the goodness in my life or the world, or of my own worth.

    Second, and equally important, I keep reading essays about the need for stillness or boredom time in order to access your own creativity (whether that’s artistic creativity or your mind’s ability to untangle a problem). As a geek, I always agreed with Buckaroo Banzai that the best insights tend to come in the bed, in the bath, or on the bus. Those times when we are probably as close to still and not actively doing as most of us get.

    My cat, sleeping
    (My cat should be a prophet and the next Pablo Picasso)

    My problem is that, because there’s so much I need to sort out lately, my brain is constantly processing in a very specific way. I’m beating my head against the same lines of argument or reasoning over and over, because that’s the path I see. It’s so ingrained now that even my non-fantastical dreams appear to have fallen into step. And I never just sit long enough for my brain to just stop with that…

    So, I found myself sitting in a chair. All I had was a phone with a low battery, a notebook (the paper kind; not a computer), and bits of conversation with my friend (who was also painting and helping customers). There really was no way I was going to accomplish any of my pending tasks. And it clearly wouldn’t even do any good to stress over that or prep myself to do them, cos I had hours ahead of me. I didn’t get bored (I don’t tend to get bored, really), but my brain suddenly found itself in this very open situation…And I realised that this was finally stillness. Finally that “boredom” time the essays had advocated.

    I’d like to say I solved all my problems, wrote our next album, and cured cancer in that time. Really, I’d even be happy to say that I solved just one of my problems and wrote a verse. I didn’t. And, you know, that’s okay.

    It was enough for me to have a very pointed and conscious realisation of this thing I already knew, now that I’m no longer a hyperactive kid. Being still is useful and invigorating and crucial for me. (Plus I got a few general ideas for band flyers…Which seems to be one of those things that I is less easy for me than a lot of the rest of the band things I do. So, I’m pretty pleased.)

    That was day one. Day two, in spite of the fact that the clock is ticking and running out swiftly on a handful of huge things, I found myself just feeling calm, peaceful. It wasn’t until we were closing the booth that I even started to think of all that I needed to accomplish tonight before I was allowed to sleep. And, let me tell you, my dears, that is odd. Seriously, it’s a struggle not to spend any of my usual “still” time just going over what my task list for the rest the day is.

    Maybe tomorrow, day three, I’ll solve my problems, write an album, and cure cancer before we close the booth. Or maybe my brain will just enjoy the stillness. It has plenty of sights and sounds and smells that it doesn’t run into daily to sort of poke it and keep it awake, but it doesn’t have to do or solve or accomplish anything. And maybe, as happens with many things in our lives or our bodies, taking this break will let it do better in the few ridiculous weeks that are ahead of it. And, you know, that’s enough for me.

    Be still, lovelies.

    xxx


  • Beyond Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

    Yeah, you read that right. I’m going to talk about bacon cinnamon rolls. But what’s really going on is beyond that.

    Before we go on, however, a quick note. From things some of you have said, there are at least a handful of folks reading all the words on here, getting all caught up on what I’ve been saying. If you’re one of those and you’ve already scoured the whole site, you might want to know that I’ve updated Where I Stand after an impactful conversation. (The old text is there, but with a strikethrough, so it’s easy to find if you’re so inclined.)

    Alrighty, bacon cinnamon rolls. Or, as noted, beyond bacon cinnamon rolls.

    Whilst I can be a tenacious girly (and I do doggedly pursue the things I love and desire), there’s this old pattern that plagued me in previous years. I’d enjoy something or want something, and then I’d have a nasty, demoralising experience, and I’d convince myself quite thoroughly that I’d never wanted to do or have it. I suspect a lot of this was tied in with the same ugly voices in my head that had me deep in self-hatred when I was 15.

    For instance, I used to quite like to bake and cook. And then I shared a kitchen with someone who was really quite good with the whole cooking thing. That alone wasn’t a problem for me. Hey, I got fed some tasty food and, initially, assumed I’d pick up some tricks. Instead, it was made clear that my skills were laughable and I wasn’t to be trusted in the kitchen. Ouch. (And, so we’re clear, it’s not that I made anything that didn’t taste good…I just didn’t make fancy things or chop vegetables with ease.)

    Fast forward, and there I was, content in knowing that I really didn’t care for the kitchen. I’d somehow forgotten the hours spent making all manner of goodness. And I’d have stayed there, except that I have the coolest best friend…Someone who just let me do what I did without criticising and who reminded me of the joy of cooking, as it were. Someone who gave me opportunities to experiment. Oh…that was probably the…what’s the opposite of straws breaking camels’ backs? The splint that mended the camel’s back? Heh.

    In the last handful of years, I’ve had the opportunity to discover, confront, and overcome a number of things like that. I love to break through, to reclaim, to blast ahead as a me who is…more a whole me. And, man, how can I not love the best friend and other good people in my life who allow me to be me? Seriously, we should all be surrounding ourselves with good people like that.

    Okay, bacon cinnamon rolls, since some of you actually came here to read about that. (Though I fear all you’ll learn is that I am not a seasoned food blogger…)

    See, last Sunday, out of the blue, I kept thinking “bacon cinnamon rolls.” I hadn’t read about anyone doing that at that point. It was just suddenly knew it must be a good thing. And, though I planned to do a quick look online to see what I could learn from others, I was going to make tastiness one way or the other. I’d already sorted out the cinnamon rolls. (Another story, but first I sorted out my mum’s cinnamon rolls, and then I sorted how to modify them to be made with sourdough…I’m an experimental girl!) I knew I could make bacon on the stove or in the oven. Yeah, I could do this.

    And I did. And I took pictures. Because I’m jealous of all the polished and fabulous food blogs. I won’t give a recipe here, cos it would vary based on your sourdough starter. And cos I did what my mum used to do and made some things up as I went. But I tried three different ways, and maybe it will inspire the bakers among you. Or at least inspire you to sort out what thing you used to want that you let yourself be pulled off track from and you’ll go for it again. Or at least make sure that the people you keep close now are the sort who lift you and let you be you instead of stealing joys.

    xxx

    Mostly pictures from here, with some text and some reviews of the finished products. I reckon you could just use one of the methods below with your preferred cinnamon roll recipe (even if your “recipe” starts with buying tubes of pre-made cinnamon rolls you’ll bake yourself).

    sourdough starter
    It all starts with this goo in a jar.

    basic ingredients
    And then you mix in some basic ingredients…

    bacon
    Bacon for variant #1.

    baking bacon
    Bacon for variant #2 and #3 getting crispier.
    (Yeah, I oven bake. With good reason. Please save arguments against that method for when I’m so famous that I’m bored with regular interview topics…haha)

    filling ingredients
    These would be the normal filling ingredients…

    bacon crumbles
    And these would be the hand-crumbled bacon bits to take these beyond normal!

    variant 1
    Variant #1, which was what I found online, just involves laying less crispy bacon on the filling and rolling it up so each roll has a piece of bacon. I was dubious…

    variant #2
    Forgot to snap variant #2 until I was rolling…You don’t unroll once you get going! This variant involved sprinkling a ridiculous quantity of bacon crumbles on after I sprinkled on the normal filling and before I rolled.

    variant #3
    This is the version I don’t think got a fair chance. So I’ll have to make bacon cinnamon rolls again just to try a different method for incorporating the bacon into the dough. Oh, the tragedy…(Variant #3 involved me mashing bacon crumbles into the dough itself before I put on the normal filling and rolled it.)

    Note: The bacon cinnamon roll version of “licking the bowl” is “eating unused bacon crumbles.” Yah!

    ready to rise
    And here they are, my various attempts, ready to rise before baking. (I made a few plain rolls as a “control” group. Because that makes it sound like science!)

    glaze ingredients
    Good thing I took a picture of frosting ingredients….

    finished glaze
    And of the finished frosting, because it makes up for the photos that should come next (at least in terms of quantity of photos…)

    There should be a picture of the pan coming out of the oven.
    And then there should be a picture of the pan, frosted but undefiled.
    And possibly a single shot of a yummy cinnamon roll fresh from that hot pan.

    But by the time they were done baking, the smell alone had removed all thought of what “should be.”
    The camera sat idly by as we frosted and consumed…And I came to my senses at this point. (Okay, the awesome conversation didn’t hurt in distracting me either.)

    the carnage
    Yeah, so there were only 6 of 16 rolls left at this point…Oops…

    And how did they do? (I mean, aside from clearly being so yummy that the pictures were neglected…)

    Fresh from the pan, here’s where people landed (at least those who thought to comment beyond grabbing another roll):

    Of the one with the crumbles rolled in with the cinnamon sugar (variant #2), Taster 1 said, “It tastes like Christmas morning.” In short, magically delicious (but not Lucky Charms, which would be what my Christmas mornings often tasted like…).

    Taster 2 had a bit more to say…Absolute winner for Taster 2 was the one with the crumbles in the dough. The other two were about equal. And we reckon the only way to have crispy bacon would be to add crumbles on top after baking. (Taster 2 was really hoping for crispy bacon…but did love these enough to consume multiple in one sitting and take some for later.)

    I liked them all, but agree with Taster 2 that the best flavour came from the one with the crumbles in the dough (funny, since you may recall it was the one I didn’t feel got a fair shake due to technique). Though I’d only done the version with the single slice rolled in because the other blogs all loved it and I thought it would be the worst, I think it was my second favourite. As with the others, it all had to do with flavour balance. Least favourite was crumbles in the filling. Still tasty, but found the bacon taste was inconsistent for some reason.

    Now, to tuck the leftovers away and see what one more mouth thinks of them in the morning!

    (I did try one of variant #1 when it wasn’t piping hot. Still tasty, but not as tasty. I suspect variant #3, the winning variant, would fare better, but I had already promised it to someone else so I can’t tell you. For now, I can simply recommend devouring them whilst warm…)

    Feedback from one last mouth. At this point, we’re dealing with reheated rolls. Taster 3 enjoyed them all, but found variant #2 the tastiest. So, the votes for best (from those who voted instead of just eating with gusto) are split between variant #2 and variant #3, but no one would turn down variant #1 if offered (and that’s the one that is easiest and found on multiple other blogs).

    You know what that means? Aside from the fact it means you’re probably good to make whichever variant you want, it also means you might need to make and try them all. You know, just to be sure…

    Someone who heard me drooling over the idea of bacon cinnamon rolls last Sunday suggested rendering the bacon grease and using it in place of butter in the rolls. I didn’t have time to play with that idea this time. I guess that means I “have” to make more bacon cinnamon rolls. Local friends, perhaps you will be subjected to the next batch of science. Nom nom nom!


  • Authentically Not Yours

    2012-05-12

    (Welcome back, lovelies. Here’s something I started on even before I had committed to a return to blogging. I’ve got a list of other topics, but feel free to ask if there’s something you want me to write about. And do visit the Varnish site for more band-centric news. Cheers!)

    I was talking recently with another artist who was hesitant to release her newest song. She knew that people would assume it was about a particular person, and that assumption could lead to significant repercussions. I empathised as we talked about her options for response.

    Option One: Deny all allegations. Personally, I’ve written some things that even those closest to me got wrong when they guessed the topic. (The subject of authorial/artistic intent is a chunky one, worthy of its own post, mind you. In this case, I’m talking about something more specific, involving an “audience” with inside information who still get it wrong.) It happens to the best of us, and I’m happy when I can deny allegations without having to lie. Honesty is ridiculously important to me, so getting to keep my integrity and avoid drama is awesome.

    Which led me to suggest to her (without asking whether or not the song actually was about the person in question), that there was another option to consider if the song was about them and she didn’t want to lie.

    Option Two: Explain an emotional dilemma of the artist. And, yes, I’m going to tell you what I mean, because I’ve been thinking about it loads since the conversation. (And, yes, I’m generalising. I know there are some artists who never have this dilemma. But I also know plenty who do. This is for us…)

    Imagine, in a moment of extreme emotion, you got a tattoo of a partner’s name…And then you sobered up or broke up, and there it was, still emblazoned on your flesh…

    I had a friend who said, “Men feel, women Feel, and artists FEEL.” Fortunately, I don’t FEEL non-stop. But when I create, it’s likely motivated by a FEELING beyond my usual sort of pleasant neutral state. And maybe it lasts for seconds or maybe for hours (or some long hurts stretch over days or more), but it doesn’t last forever. However, the lyrics that FEELING pushed out of me? Yeah, those last. And they get made into songs. And those songs get sung and recorded and played live with as much emotional authenticity as I can muster. A tattoo of that FEELING on display years after it’s over.

    Me, with Varnish in my mouth
    Oh, man, what are the FEELINGS pushing out of my mouth *this* time?

    Those FEELINGS, whilst very real in the moment (whether it was seconds or years), don’t likely represent where I am right now. Maybe the only time I think about the person or events that caused them is when I’m singing them. Maybe the songs have gained a more general emotional sense to me. To complicate it more, whether due to the intensity of the FEELING in that moment or the sense of poetic rightness using certain words, the lyrics might be hyperbolic when compared with reality. (Once, in the middle of a rotten relationship, a tuna can was left on the counter and stunk up the kitchen. Just a lousy tuna can, but the really awful “poem” I wrote about it in a heated moment would have made you think that said can was singlehandedly murdering kittens and crushing all my dreams.)

    Cat and tuna tin
    I shall avenge my brothers, and it shall be tasty!

    So whilst I sit here, not bearing any grudges or nursing any hurts…Whilst some situation I wrote about only felt like non-stop Hell in the moment I was writing (and, if that’s what I wrote, I promise the emotions you’re hearing are authentic)…You’re just now hearing it. You’re thinking you recognise the subject. You’re upset or concerned. You wonder if it was really such a horrible thing that happened to me or between us. You’re wondering if I really want to tie you to a chair and hurt you…And knowing you’ll think that might cause me, like this girl I was talking with, to hesitate. Do I dare risk it? And that, my lovelies, is a typical emotional dilemma for an artist.

    Fortunately for me, I know that it’s worth the risk. I know that I can keep my general integrity (if you do correctly guess the specific topic of a song) when I tell you there’s no need to be upset or worried. I know that I can both claim emotional integrity in my writing and tell you that I’m good now, that you and I (or whoever and I) are no longer an issue in my head and heart. I’m optimistic, grudge-free, doing okay. And that lets me put aside the fear and make (and perform) the song.

    I didn’t keep in touch, but I like to hope that the girl I was talking to released fear so she could release her song. Live on love, not fear, my pretties. And be gentle with people’s feelings, Feelings, and FEELINGS. Heh.

    xxx