more helpful information

I'm receiving more helpful information in the form of a book recommended by a friend.

JJ has played in my band over the years, contributing on several of my albums, and has made excellent original music of his own, as well as playing in several, even many, other bands.  He has also kept a very solid and respected day job, and he is raising a wonderful son.

He reads my blog sometimes and I read his.

He recently sent me a message suggesting a book, "The Great Work Of Your Life" by Stephen Cope.

I started reading it in earnest yesterday because I had the whole day free. I'm on page 230 of 881.

It's a big book.

Nothing lightweight about it.

It's written in a fairly casual conversational style, very American sounding, but not too dreamy, not to "Cali" if you know what I mean.

I wasn't looking for a big new window to swing wide open, but it did for me, around page 100 maybe.

The author is discussing the nature of dharma, which is sort of your life's true path or true work.

He offers everything based on the famous Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu text that yogis study (oversimplification alert).

He says there are three important principles.

All of these kind of bum me out, truth be told.

I like them. I even love them. But they are so hard to be sure about, and maybe so hard to get right and hang on to, and if you don't the stakes are very high.

He says right in his book that if you don't get these right you will destroy yourself and if you get them right you will save yourself and others.

Here they are, verbatim:

          1. Trust the Gift 

          2. Think of the small as large 

          3. Listen for the call of the times


These are offered up on page 106. I became almost nauseated with anxiety as I dashed through the pages trying to uncover the meanings behind these, especially number two, for which I had a very real and probably well warranted sense of dread.

Here's what I have learned so far, and I am going along with all of it one hundred percent. It all rings true to me.

The Gift is your calling, and I have known for a long time that you are supposed to do the things you loved most when you were ten or eleven, before puberty, before the expectations of parents or society were superimposed over your own gut choices.

Okay, fine, I get that, I got that, I do that, I encourage that in my children and others, the man I love is that and always has done that. All good over here.

The second one I read with no understanding at all but on a deep level i had a sense of dread that this one was where I was going wrong, had gone wrong. And I may as well say right here that the author does not make this easy on an older reader. He talks about older people mourning their wasted years and foregone opportunities. (Shut up! Oh my God! Do not torment us like this!)

He says, and I do not doubt this at all, that staying small can give you the satisfying life's work you desire much more accurately than trying to go big.

I think of a million examples of this in my own life, but just this month, in January, I applied for two different opportunities. The big glamorous one was a solo showcase at SXSW in Austin, TX in March. The other not glamorous at all one was an artist in residence retreat award on a northern lake near where I lived when I ran away to the Northwoods as a young girl, in early September for a week.

I didn't get the first one.

I did get the second one, and only one artist is chosen per year.

The one award is big and flashy and could have helped me bypass the level at which I'm doing my performances right now but you don't get paid to do it, and the people there are generally disdainful of every unknown artist but possibly they are especially disdainful of older artists to the point of being biased in their agism. If I had been accepted I may have had a very unrewarding experience.

The second one takes me further inside of my specific Gift, a week alone in my own lakeside cabin, my own rowboat, my own canoe, all expenses covered, a concert for the public at the end of the week on the beautiful wooded grounds. This will be a chance to retrace my steps, contemplate my future, and write from the vantage point of all of the above.

I find it difficult to not think big and get grandiose. I find it difficult to not devalue the work I am doing, the work I have done, the difference I have made, the beauty of my life now as I live it.

My life and my life choices, left in a trail of songs and stories, is my Gift.

That's what I'm working with, that and an ability to channel God when I'm writing these pieces and when I'm recounting these songs and stories for others.

But number two says I don't get to jump ahead to a rich and famous outcome. Ever.

The last one, about listening for the call of the times, is also tricky as hell and makes me sick with nervousness because I hate to think how tragic it is to not get this part right and have your gift go unused.

I think Bob Dylan somehow did this part perfectly. Did he know? Was it calculated? Or was he drifting East from the Northwoods by divine inspiration and after finding Woody Guthrie, getting caught up in the Greenwich Village scene and then being swept off to the folk festivals and protest concerts by Joan Baez. Only to rise in a sudden flash of realization and defiance singing "I ain't Gonna Work On Maggie's Farm No More" with an electric guitar and a newly forged contempt for the folkies who had made him famous but a pawn in their politicized agenda.

All right, don't get me started about Bob Dylan, right? But he definitely had all of this right I think.

Everybody who has a cool life has all of this right.

I am not going to die with an uncool life left in ruins behind me goddamn it.

So, for today, I'm gonna teach some of the Holy Spirit to two of my excellent creative writing clients.

I'm gonna fill out the 1099 forms for people I paid last year.

I'm gonna shovel some serious snow.

Then I'm going to carry on with this great gift of a book.

Look at it this way, how old was Ebenezer Scrooge when he finally got it right that one fateful Christmas morning?

Dickens felt that it's never too late as long as you're still alive.

We can do this.

Thanks JJ!


Courtney Yasmineh January 29, 2019 @04:40 pm
Thank you again JJ for your excellent recommendations and for your encouragement. It's really great to have your input in these matters. You always have keen insights to add.
Jonathan Benson January 28, 2019 @11:39 am
Sorry about the dread and anxiety! From my outside-looking-in perspective, though, you're already getting a hell of a lot of it right.
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