Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Making a connection.

Connecting with people is what we’re all about.  I believe it’s an essential part of being alive.  Many people search for that ‘one’ connection, while others are happy to connect with many.  I think very few people are happy with solitude, at least not for very long.

I’ve heard it said recently that we’re in touch with people much more often than ever before – it’s ‘too much’, apparently.  And I often hear how tools such as Facebook and Twitter are generating false connections, or the appearance of relationship without the depth or benefits of ‘traditional’ methods of knowing people.

I disagree with most of that.  I think the more ways there are of connecting with people, the better, and, as someone who lives alone, I’m constantly pleased to have so many different ways of keeping in touch.  I love text messages, emails, Facebook-chats, and the odd phone call. 

If we all want to connect with other human beings, how can it be a bad thing to have so many ways of doing it?  I accept that many of the people I have as ‘friends’ on Facebook don’t really know me, and vice versa.  But they know me more than they would if we weren’t on there, especially those who live some distance away. 

Of course, the people I see in ‘real life’ probably know me better still, and I feel immensely privileged to have made at least one fantastic, deep connection recently that I hope will only grow stronger still and last throughout the years.  Such connections can affirm who we are; they can bring light into otherwise mundane days; they can foster joy in unlikely moments. 

Those ‘kindred spirits’ (as one of my friend’s terms them) are one of life’s true delights, and who’s to say where we might meet them?  Perhaps they’re on your Facebook right now, or maybe waiting for a text message, or, sure, they might be heading down the pub for the evening, ready to bump into you over the quiz machine.

However and wherever, reaching out to another person can rarely be a bad thing.  So why not make a connection right now?  You never know where it might lead...

Monday, 28 May 2012

You owe it to the world simply to be you.

There is beauty everywhere - especially in you.

No-one else in the world, or in history, can ever, nor will ever, be you.  The things you do, the things you create, could never be done by anyone else in the same way.

I was talking to my Dad about this, specifically to do with the music I create.  I play around with recording, mostly because I enjoy it rather than harbour any hope of being a paid artist some day.  But in the course of my ‘playing’, I create something.  I put out into the world something that would never have existed if it wasn’t for me.

I get an enormous kick out of that.

Often we find ourselves envious of other people and the talents they have.  We wish we could do things others can, or as well as they can.  There have been moments I’ve seen or heard a musician and wondered why I even bother trying when there are such people doing it so much better.  (Martyn Joseph had this affect on me a few years ago.)

But that’s not the point.  Sure, they may be doing it very well indeed, but they’re not doing it the same as I do.  My songs are not theirs.  

I believe we all have something to offer this world: something new, something unique.  We have been created/evolved/both (delete as appropriate to you) with abilities, perspectives, loves and passions that are ours, and ours alone. 

Don’t deprive the world of what you have to offer by trying to be like someone else, or because you don’t feel you’re good enough.  Never believe that lie. 

You are the only one who can be you.  And you are beautiful.

'You are the world and you're remarkable.' -
Jason Mraz.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Being who we want to be.

Me some amount of time ago
before all 'this'.

A couple of years ago I decided to make it my aim that everywhere I go, each relationship I have, any connection I make, every moment I’m around would be better, simply because I’m there.  (It’s the ‘ambition to change the world, one moment at a time’ at the top right up there!)

I don’t mean it egotistically – I don’t think, Right, I’m here, so everything’s obviously great now! I just mean I want to be a breath of fresh air, to help people, or give them something to smile about.  Whether it’s a witticism, or a song I might play, or buying them a drink, or giving them a hug...or just being around when they need someone.   Sometimes it’s just about being available.

There’s a song I really like at the moment which contains the line: ‘I like to be the light that’s missing and remind you every minute of the future isn’t written...not yet’ –  I love that line, and I shared this song with someone today, quoting it in particular.

They replied: ‘Those words stood out to me – sounds like something you would write.’

I don’t think they realise how much of a compliment that was to me.  Not because they think I could write as well as Mr Mraz (if only!), but because for them to believe I might have written it means they recognise the quality in me – of trying to ‘be the light that’s missing’ in people’s lives.  I felt I must be succeeding in my aim.

Here's the song: 

Often it’s a challenge – I don’t always feel like being the light; some days I feel like curling up in a corner crying!  And on those days, I occasionally wonder who is there for me.  But I try not to think like that too much, because it’s outside of what I’m aiming to do.  And besides, I do have some great friends who often have to listen to me going on about whatever is troubling me!

The point is, I decided I wanted to be like this, and so started acting like it.  At first it didn’t come naturally, but I think that’s true of many things we do in life.  And now, according to one person at least, it seems it has become ‘me’, and I am delighted about that.

If we want to be something, whether it’s an optimist, more outgoing, more confident, a better listener ... whatever, then the best thing to do is to start acting like it.  Eventually, with practice that thing starts to become who we really are.  And it's worth it.

So, how do we be who we want to be?  We just ... be it.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

All you need is love.

I’m reading a book about love at the moment.  It’s not a dating book, or a romance novel, but it is about loving people.

I don’t believe in half-hearted love; I don’t think there can be such a thing.  Love is many things, but it is not apathetic.  I had a beautiful conversation the other day (you know – the kind when you talk about everything, get a little deep, pull back the curtains of small talk and connect with another person for real) and it came up that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.  (Wikiquote tells me Elie Wiesel said it first, whoever that is...)

I also don’t believe we can love everyone; the heart wants what it wants*.  I sometimes wonder if there is a wilder beast in the world than the heart.  Soldier is a song by Ingrid Michaelson and she says: ‘The battle with the heart isn’t easily won ... but it can be won.’

Love is not rational.  That is something I truly believe.  Love should be ridiculous, pointless, whimsical, without thought of consequence, or of getting anything in return.  We should love without reason, even without hope sometimes, wildly, recklessly, passionately. 

I reckon loving in this way is a magnificent, exciting adventure.  It’s a rollercoaster, with ups, downs, crazy loops and almost unbearable forces at times.  And yeah, it's scary sometimes, but I think when you look back, even if you weren’t loved in return, you’ll know you truly lived.

Interesting that those two words are only one letter different, don’t you think?

*I do think we can be loving towards everyone but, in this context, that’s not the same as loving them...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Two weeks can change everything.

'What a difference ... (two weeks) ... makes...'

One of the things I’ve thought for a while is that a lot can change in just two weeks.

Life is like that: things are constantly moving; nothing stays the way it is for long.  I’ve been in some pretty low places at times, and some pretty high, only to find everything is different two weeks later.  What mattered then, doesn’t matter now.

It’s a real comfort to me to know this in low times.  I often tell myself: ‘It’s shit, yes, but just wait two weeks.  See how things are then.’  And the best thing is, even if things don’t change, there’s another two weeks right after it to try again!

Someone said to me yesterday: ‘You seem to have turned it around (in Nottingham) in no time.’  And it’s true: from not knowing anyone, having little to do, and being pretty fed up with the whole ‘move’ thing, I now know lots of people and rarely have a night in if I don’t want!  It’s how I like it.  And, it happened pretty much in the space of two weeks.  I don’t mean to flaunt it, I’m just saying it can happen.

Of course there are BIG things in life that take far longer to resolve; things like serious illness, marital breakdown or other such catastrophes.  I don’t want to belittle their impact here, although I do think there is still great hope in remembering ‘This too shall pass.’  

I wrote a song once called Tomorrow (You Never Know)Its point was that you just never know what tomorrow might bring.  So even in the dark times it’s worth carrying on because something good might be just around the corner.

There is one important caveat to all this, though: very rarely do things change without us doing something.  As Don Miller put it the other day: ‘If nothing in your life changes, what will life look like a year from now?  Five years?  Make some changes today.’

So go.  Now.  The next two weeks starts here with whatever you choose.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

You're as old as the person you feel...? (Cue puerile laughter)

Someone posted this earlier today.  Apt?

I have been troubled by something recently.  I follow my friends on Facebook and many of my age are ‘settling down’: they’re buying houses, moving in with girlfriends/boyfriends ... some are having kids.

Let me say at the outset, I don’t think there is anything wrong with settling down; I’d probably do it too if it was an option.  But at the moment I rent a house, spend my time dreaming of ‘what I want to be’, and go out often, whether it’s a ‘school night’ or otherwise.  Basically, I live like a student.  Which is no bad thing – I’m not unhappy with my life – I just wonder how long I can keep doing it.  I’m not blessed with Dorian Gray-esque eternal youth, after all. 

Maybe it’s to do with relative life-age.  I said to a friend the other day that I didn’t really start living until my late twenties and, if we assume most people start doing what I do in their late teens, then I guess that makes me the equivalent of about ... 23? (I think mostly I’m worried about my appearance: I’m young at heart, but not in body.  If I really was 23, everything would be fine!)

There are of course people I know, both younger and older than me, living as I am.  And it’s these people I get closer to, while my other friends have faded into a hazy blur at the edges of my life where they presumably snuggle up on the sofa of a weekend in front of TV shows/DVDs.  

In the end though, I think comparing ourselves to others never really gets us anywhere.  There will always be some better off than us; there will always be some worse.  All we can do is live the life we have.  I can do nothing about growing older, but I can stay young in my mind.  I want to have a fun life, laugh often (and make others laugh too!), love passionately and deeply, smile secretly at the memories, and reach old age having lived.

And the important thing anyway is to be happy with who we are and what we’re doing, no matter how ‘old’ we are.  That’s something everyone can aspire to, whether on your couch, or in a random bar, dancing to some ridiculous pop song from yester-year at 2am.

For now at least, I’ll probably see you there...

Saturday, 12 May 2012

‘Come and get your heart broken...and mended...and...ermmmmm...broken again...’ – Andi Wolf.

Wolf and Lockerby's Vanity Circus
I’m sitting here listening to a new EP from my best mate.  The title of this post was his tagline on Facebook for the recording.  He has a way with words, right?!

I hope he doesn’t mind me using his line, because it got me thinking: it’s what happens, isn’t it?  You fall in love, get your heart broken, patch it up with whatever bits of sticky tape and string you can find, before doing it all again. 

I’ve no idea what Andi thinks of my writing, so I hope he’s okay with me commenting on his work!  But every now and again some tunes come along that capture a moment, a feeling, and are so appropriate to the situation we find ourselves in. 

It’s something about being human: we all share the same experiences.  Which is why a song written so personally, with maybe only one person in mind, can apply to ... well ... everyone sometimes. 

Martin Clayton, writing about The Beatles’ song Hey Jude, said:

‘It is possible for almost any listener to relate to it personally.  For John (Lennon) and for Paul (McCartney) it may have resonated with the difficult circumstances of their own personal relationships, but which of us has not been through the break-up of a close relationship, or some other comparable trauma?  Paradoxically, this intimacy – the singer apparently speaking directly to each listener – helps create a mass appeal.’ (Clayton, 2007, in Words and Song, The Open University, p. 11.)

Wolf and Lockerby have achieved that here. 

Check out the new EP For When It Hurts...  from Wolf and Lockerby’s Vanity Circus.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Hidden talents: more on Comfort Zones.

Ever think you might be missing out?

Recently I’ve made a bit of a catchphrase of: ‘Constantly defying assumptions.’  No-one expected me to be a half-decent singer/songwriter; no-one expected me to be learning Modern Jive dancing (aka Ceroc).

But I am.  (There’s some other stuff about people imagining I’m a clean-cut sweetie, and I’m making damn sure to blow those opinions apart too...)

To be honest, I never expected myself to be some of those things either.  I was never one for dancing and, as a kid, I was the shyest little thing around.  If you’d told my parents or teachers I’d be standing at the front of a pub singing songs, they wouldn’t have believed it.

But I tried it and found I could do it.  Perhaps not as well as some, but well enough to enjoy it, and that’s all that matters.  You don’t have to be the best in the world at something to have fun with it.

Something about a Comfort Zone is, if you don’t expand it, it shrinks.  We might be happy with our little friendship group, going to the local pub, but what happens when those friends are not available?  We might feel we have to stay in.  And then we might think those friends don’t want to see us and, before we know it, that settled place in our Local is not so comfortable any more.

Yet, if we try something new, perhaps a new place or, horror of horrors, a dance class, we might suddenly discover something we thought was way out of our Comfort Zone is now right in the middle of it.  We’ve pushed the boundary and our operating space is much larger for it.

So go on...what’s to lose?  Who knows – you might find yourself on Strictly in a few years.  You never know...