Today marks the birthday of two of my music icons John Lennon and Jackson Browne. John would have been 76 years old if he had not been killed. Their songs have given me happiness and comfort throughout my life. When I first really discovered music during my prepubescent years, it was the music of Beatles that resonated with me. It woke me up and gave me a sense of belonging along with millions of others inflicted with Beatlemania. As time went by their music changed as they became more experimental and the world changed as well.
I recently saw Ron Howard’s film, “Eight Days of the Week” the other night. It was about the Beatle’s touring years. It was beautifully edited and the sound was superb and I looked at it with the eyes and the appreciation of a grown woman who was now a photographer and filmmaker. It gave me a new perspective about their early days than the one I had when I was a smitten preteen. Back then I was just another young girl who was overwhelmed by these lads from Liverpool.
I had attended both of the Beatles concerts when they played Shea Stadium in 1965 & ‘66. Even though I had been there it was the first time that I had actually heard what the Beatles played that night. My family had just moved from Rochester, NY to the NYC area and my dad had somehow obtained 4 tickets to the show in his company’s box seats at Shea. It will go on record as probably the best gift my father had ever given me. It was more of an event than a concert. It quickly became historic and an event I will always remember.
As I got older and had experienced a couple of real relationships with the opposite sex, I moved to California. It was the early ‘70’s, and it was a different time and a different culture. I became captivated by the early California sound of Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills and Nash, the Eagles and of course Jackson Browne. Their music defined an era and my young adult life. Jackson’s songs brought awareness of social issues and motivated the huge demographic of baby boomers to take action. To this day I remain a huge fan of Jackson Browne’s and try to see him in concert at least twice a year. In some ways his lyrics became my religion.
Music makes us happy, provokes us to take action and comforts us when we’re down. It’s universal. I think back to the 1960’s and how the Beatles and their music had gone viral. That was way before we had the Internet and social media platforms and I wonder, how did that happen? I suppose the stars were aligned and it was simply “the right time” to create one of the biggest phenomenons in music of all times. Of course it had a little help pushed by the emerging demographic of baby boomers who were ready to take the world by storm.
I wonder what John Lennon would have gone on to do in his life, if he hadn’t have been stopped by a bullet some 40 years ago. His music will live on and I will keep going to Jackson Browne shows as long as he keeps giving them. Their music is the sound track of my life.
Another year gets ticked off the books tonight. Personally, I’ll be happy to sign off on 2014. it’s been a year of extreme peaks and valleys but also a year of personal growth. Despite the challenges, I’ve come through this year a better person – certainly more humble.
I’ve never been a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions. If I’m going to commit to making a behavior change, I know that I have to want to make that change. If I’m not mentally ready and willing to commit on News Years Day, then I’m doomed to fail. But, I do like to look back at the old year, reflect on lessons learned and close the door on the unnecessary garbage in my life.
Lessons learned in 2014
It’s none of my business what others think of me. I cannot control what others think or say about me. But I can control how I let it affect me. This year was challenging but I found that when I didn’t allow the gossip and back talk to cloud my perspective, I became a better person. Let go of the petty drama that others try to suck you into.
Trust my gut – Whenever I am in a difficult situation and everything seems to be in chaos I take a moment, calm my mind and listen to my inner voice. It’s always there but it’s difficult to shut out the noise and clutter and tune into it. When I do, it never steers me wrong. I actually learned this lesson early in my life and it served me quite well in 2014.
Find hope – Finding a glimmer of hope saved me on some of my darkest days. I’m an optimist by nature but a few of life’s punches hit me hard this year. Finding that bit of hope got me through it.
Let go of the past – Sometimes, you have to let go. It could be a relationship, a job or a lifestyle pattern that just isn’t beneficial any longer. It’s tough to change especially when habits are so deeply entrenched they’ve become part of your identity. When you begin to see clearly the areas of resistance in your life, you need to decide whether you will stay on that path or take an alternative route and pursue something better.
Have gratitude – There are so many things I am grateful for in my life. It’s far better to focus on them than to dwell on what I don’t have. That’s tough to do in a consumer society but it leads to true happiness. We are all in charge of our own happiness.
I had an awesome night last night. My husband and I had tickets to a Jackson Browne concert. The seats were way up in the up most reaches of an old theater in New Brunswick, NJ. They weren’t great tickets, but nevertheless, they were tickets to a concert by Jackson Browne, my favorite singer/songwriter.
During intermission, a guy, who had climbed four extremely steep flights of steps, walked into the “gallery” and announced that he had one available ticket in the third row and asked “Does anybody want it?” After a minute of trying to comprehend what the man had said, I spoke up and said “I’ll take it” and then asked “Is it really in the third row?. He confirmed, and then I asked my husband “you don’t mind do you?, gave him a kiss and flew down to my “new” seat.
It was an amazing night, to sit so close and be able to see and feel the music. Jackson is one of the most intimate and real songwriters around and I got totally absorbed into his performance. I thought about my stroke of luck in getting that seat. I thought perhaps my luck was changing after a very “trying” month. It was like a karmic blessing.
As I watched and listened to Jackson, I saw an artist whose talents and music have endured the test of time. His topics and lyrics are just as relevant as they were when I first started following him, some 40 years ago. That’s because he writes about the human experience – the triumphs and the failures that we all have. He strikes a nerve with his truth and honesty. Some say his music defines a generation. Perhaps. But Jackson’s music certainly defines who he is. He’s about as authentic as you can be.
Jackson inspires me to create from my true self and do the work that I am meant to do. He also inspires me to be a better person. After his encore, he waved to the audience and said, “Be good to each other”. That said it all.
From The Pretender, by Jackson Browne
I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening
I’ve been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it’s the wink of an eye
And when the morning light comes streaming in
You’ll get up and do it again
I’ve gotten away from writing lately, maybe because I’ve been really busy, and maybe because I’ve felt uninspired. That’s a terrible feeling for me, it’s as if I’m void of any “feeling” at all. It tends to happen when I’m spending more time doing the things I don’t want to do instead of what I feel I’m here to be doing.
When I woke up this morning I thought, “anything can happen today”. That thought in it self makes me want to get out of bed. I start thinking about the endless possibilities that can happen on any given day. I grabbed a cup of coffee, checked my email and read Seth Godin’s blog and it was like it was written for me. It was called “The moment of highest leverage”. He was talking about moments when you’ve either lost something or won – when it feels hopeless or when it appears to be a lock. He said that these were the times you can choose to do what’s in your heart and bring your real work to the world, instead of the lesser version that you think the market wants.
I’ve been struggling with feelings of hopelessness after a slew of rejections and misses. I knew I needed two things: a change of scenery and some insightful conversation. I went to Hawaii on impulse and got both. One day, my good friend PF Bentley was showing me the “film” that he made for National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones. Dewitt has been shooting extraordinary images for the Natl. Geo for over 40 years and he had hired PF to create inspirational corporate training videos. The “film” segments were a combination of Dewitt speaking about his life and his career in an inspirational way and b-roll of him shooting in beautiful Hawaiian settings interwoven with his amazing still images. The piece was so touching; it brought tears to my eyes. When it was over I started crying and I apologized to PF. He said, “that’s ok, I know I’ve done my job right”. PF and Dewitt had done theirs jobs right and they had inspired me.
I’ve had two speaking engagements and a screening of Opening Our Eyes this past weekend and in each situation, I was feeling good and that I had something to say and to share. It must have come across because at each venue there was at least one person who I inspired – I could tell – I could feel it. There was one woman at the screening, who had found out about it through one of our subject’s blog, Maggie Doyne. After the movie was over and most people had gone, I talked to her for a long time and I could see that the film had inspired her greatly. I knew that I had done my job right and it was the best feeling in the world. It reminded me of what is most important to me in my life and that is to create awareness with my still images or movies and move people or inspire them.
I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook these days but I was looking at my news feed at the end of that long weekend and I noticed a photo that Ethan Browne (Jackson Browne’s son) had posted on his page. It was a photograph of Jackson with one of his fans and Ethan had commented underneath it “proud of my pops – he stokes people for a living”. I smiled and I thought, “That’s what I want to do”.
Today, October 9th is the birthday of two people who have been very inspirational to me over the years – Jackson Browne and John Lennon. Lennon would have turned 73 years old today if he had not been gunned down in NYC when he was only 40 years old. I admire both of these men, not only for their incredible skills in writing but also for their activism and courage to stand behind their beliefs.
I had the honor of meeting Jackson after one of his concerts last October. It was a memorable moment. Jackson had allowed me to use his song, “Alive in the World” in my film, Opening Our Eyes and it had been arranged for me to personally thank him after the show. He was warm and generous with his time and we talked a bit about the blues – a topic that continues to surface in my life.
The blues (music) seems to be the foundation of many of the musicians that inspire me. The blues is authentic and that authenticity comes through in the lyrics of both Jackson and John. Throughout their songs, we get a very clear idea of how they feel and think. They share their frailties and inner thoughts as we see them as real people just like us.
I suppose a lot of us think it’s too risky to be so open with our thoughts and our hearts and choose instead to bury our dreams, desires and fears inside the deepest recesses of our minds. A lot of angst can come sometimes from remembering things that have happened in our past – things we did or wished we had done – things we said and wished we hadn’t said – you know all those fleeting thoughts that seem to haunt us at times. None of us can change the past – it has already happened. But we all can choose how we let our past affect our present and our future.
Some of us try to “block out” the painful things that have happened in our lives. I have found that I can’t really succeed in doing that because there will always be something that will trigger a memory. In fact when I try to “close myself” off like that, it actually just continues the pain, because I’m expending negative energy, trying to “block” it out . Instead, I try to channel those thoughts when they come, into more positive energy by reminding myself who I am, not how someone or something made me feel.
Everyone has ups and downs in their lives – it comes with being human. That’s why the music and lyrics of Lennon and Browne resonate with their fans – they can relate- as humans. I think as creative people we can learn from these two musicians – how to take chances and how to be true to ourselves and follow our own path – regardless of how unconventional it may seem to others . When we are true to ourselves, we will find that our future direction will unfold as it should – we just need to get out of our own way.
“You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are!” John Lennon
Have you had any lately? Expectations that you may have had – pinned your hopes on and had to abandon? I have had to let go of more than a few hopes, dreams, and desires over this past month alone. My struggles seem to always come in cycles and there are some days when it seems like I’d be better off not having any hopes and dreams at all. Those dark days are tough and tax everything I have and am, but I try to remind myself of one very important thing – and that is – that all this “bad stuff” has to happen in order for me to grow and be the person I am meant to be.
If you are like me (and many creative people are) the passions inside of you can act like a double-edged sword. They can move you up and down on a roller coaster of emotions and wreak havoc inside your head. But rather than succumb and be a victim to those emotions, I try to channel them into something more positive and productive. Writing helps me a lot. Just trying to articulate how I’m feeling, seems to move me through whatever it is I’m struggling with.
I imagine that most people who may be reading this are creatives, and have had their share of “strawberry days” and “onion days”. Strawberry days that are so sweet and onion days where you just want to break down and cry. But maybe that’s just how it should be – because that means that you are “feeling” and “trying” – both essential ingredients for personal growth. I know that my onion days make my strawberry days that much sweeter. I also know that every successful person has had more failures than triumphs along the way. Its just part of the process.
So, here are a few things that I do when I hit a string of onion days:
I remind myself that those days will pass and there will be better days because of them.
I reach out to my friends. Your true friends will be the ones who are listening.
I tell myself that everything happens for a reason in order to get me to where I need to be.
I think about everything I have that I’m grateful for.
I think about others and I try to help them with their own challenges.
I find something to love about who I am.
I seek to understand others.
I carry on and do the dance I was meant to do.
And I listen to music.
With that said I’ll leave you with some wise words (lyrics) from Jackson Browne:
From For a Dancer:
Keep a fire for the human race.
Let your prayers go drifting into space.
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear.
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainly turn you around
(the world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound
Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know
How often are we really moved in our lives by something we see or hear? Whether it be a printed photograph, a film, a song or a book, I’m sure there are times we all recall seeing or hearing something that has really moved us. Sometimes we’ve been moved to take action on something that’s been stirring inside us because those lyrics or visuals just won’t leave our heads.
These days we are so bombarded by “content” from every direction we turn that it’s hard to let anything sink in. The message gets lost amongst the clutter of mediocrity. We get blinded by all the packaging and fizz and just don’t see or hear what people are trying to say – if they are saying anything at all. The human connections don’t seem to be made.
Last night I went to see Jackson Browne in concert. I knew it would be an intimate experience because it was just Jackson playing an acoustic set – no band – just Jackson and the audience. As I took my seat in the theater I saw the simple set on stage – one chair – one small table with a cup of tea on it – one amplifier, a keyboard and his guitars. Granted there were 16 guitars for Jackson to choose from throughout the night – but ultimately it was about as simple and as basic as it gets.
I have been following Jackson Browne since his early days when I was living in California. I grew up with his music and lyrics over the years as it changed with the times and his own life’s experiences. I fell in love with his music and to his music. I’ve been amazed and inspired by his incredible gift to connect with people on a very intimate and personal level.
As I looked around at the faces in the theater last night as he played in such a pure and simple way, I could see that I wasn’t the only one that had been taken to another place. The women in the audience were in love with him and the men were in awe. We were with him the entire evening listening to every word and note.
As his music lingers in my head today, I can’t help but think about all the stories that are in my head that are dying to get out. I remind myself to pay attention to those stirrings because in my heart I know that those are the very thoughts that I need to listen to. The one thing that I’ve learned over the years is that the ideas that are closest to my heart are the very ones I need to act on because ultimately they will rise above the clutter and resonate with others.