The Coddled Class

The big to-do this week over an article in the New York Times about locker room privacy and “millennial body shame”reinforced something I have believed for a long time:  We are turning into a supremely coddled and entitled culture. Of course, the fact that we in the U.S. enjoy so many freedoms and a bounty of luxuries compared to even many other developed areas of the world is not news to anyone, and we all get sick of hearing about our privilege when we’re having problems that are very real to us. Our struggles are so relative, and no one’s experience should be dismissed with the equivalent of the ’70s and ’80s ism, “There are starving children in China. Get over yourself and finish your peas.” In today’s lingo (minus the sarcasm),”the struggle is real.”

 

This response on the Slate site summed up the issue simply:  “If you are not comfortable being naked around other people, you are not a real adult.” True, yes, but I think it’s about much more than that. And to be fair, that blogger admits he might be oversimplifying/not taking into account all the complex sociological reasons for this modern no-nudity-none-of-the-time attitude.

 

This phenomenon is also about more than body negativity/feeling shameful over your own naked form. (And I certainly have my own deep insecurities about certain aspects of my physique, but if I had truly ever been uncomfortable, I would not have done so much streaking and general being-nude-in-public in college. I would also probably not have a child. But I digress.)

 

Most articles you read about anything that involves a sense of entitlement and the need to be politically correct are quick to blame Millennials. Cue the relatively new conversation about the need to be respectful of “triggers” in the college classroom and beyond, often at the expense of the rich and beautiful higher education. With that in mind, I’ll say something harsh that might make some uncomfortable:  Blaming one group for anything is lazy and marginalizes that group. (Think of what has happened in the past when we have blamed one group of people for a problem. Have we learned nothing?) This fear of offending and need to be respected, even when it infringes on someone else’s or one’s own need for respect is not good for anyone, yet we have all adopted it. And it is pervasive, whether we want to admit it or not.

 

I received a wonderful higher education at Carleton College  and then Roosevelt University. I had some wonderful professors who encouraged us to engage in real, honest conversations about social mores, sexuality and everything beyond and in between. They didn’t insult us at the beginning of every class by patting us on the head and asking us if we could handle what was on the syllabus for that day:  “Now, before we get started … was anyone involved in an inappropriate relationship with a parent? We’re about to discuss Hamlet’s relationship with his mother, and I just want to make sure no it’s not going to dredge up any painful memories or send you into a regressed state.” Counselors were not standing by. We knew we were responsible for ourselves. We were invited to debate with wide-open minds and eyes and respect others’ opinions, but not at the dangerous expense of self-censorship. And we didn’t need to receive extensive “training” on how to stay civil and think of other people’s feelings. Our professors and our peers assumed we were normal, intelligent humans who understood we were sharing the planet with other humans with opinions that might be different from ours. They assumed we had the common sense to know that even when we didn’t agree with someone else’s opinions, we still had to respect them. And we could share a meal with someone who didn’t like every single book we liked or agree that Star Wars was the best franchise ever to exist (even though Episode I almost ruined it all).

 

In fact, we were grateful that not everyone shared the same opinion about everything. We sought out people who would challenge us, because the many colors of life and humanity keep us energized and alive. As an artist, it is these clashing colors that keeps my work flowing and keeps me excited and interested in going on. It is not something to complain about, even though responsibility is hard.

 

I know what you’re thinking:  All this over locker room nudity? Yes! Absolutely! Our need to not be naked around others is just another symptom of a larger problem that continues to get worse. I would argue it is even why we continue to be outraged over something like gun violence or police brutality or racism or [insert incredibly incendiary social topic here] … or even how much sugar is in our soda (wait … now I’m expected to take responsibility for my own health? Who will I blame for eating too much if the government doesn’t regulate my caloric intake?), yet never really do anything about it.

 

We spend a majority of our days outraged that our opinions are different, trying to speak louder than everyone else until we are satisfied that we have been fairly heard, until we find ourselves surrounded by a majority that supports our beliefs fully. We feel satisfied when we find people who think just like we do.We delete friends on Facebook who express divergent opinions. (We even delete friends who post too many photos of their children, because, why should we be responsible for just not looking at what we don’t want to see when we could eliminate making that choice by just deleting it entirely?) If we can’t hear the voices of our dissenters, we feel our discomfort over differences melting away. We are tricked into believing the real conflict has been eliminated.  And then we fall down in exhaustion without doing anything further. We are comfortable around our own kind, and we begin to believe that being around our own kind is the only way of life. We feel safe when we are not forced to deeply consider differences and analyze our place in the world.

 

Another uncomfortable truth:  If you engage in this self-sheltering on the regular, you are not doing enough; you must revel in being uncomfortable. The best art, the best work is done by people who think differently and manage to incorporate their full spectrum of differences and create something gorgeous and meaningful. We blame other people for our shortcomings and our problems, and we devote our lives to making sure everyone always knows when we are blue or hurting and who was to blame for these feelings. We are so focused on this that we don’t stop to look around at what others’ are feeling. We often don’t even make time to soak in our surroundings. You don’t need to endure great hardship to be a great artist or struggle endlessly in order to be valid, but you do need to know what conflict is. You need to have put yourself out there in some way and felt yourself butting against a force that rocked you to your core and forced you to have to find a new way of being, to see a new perspective, if even for a minute.

 

Have you looked up from your phone lately? Have you taken yourself out to dinner, alone, without a book or your iPhone to keep you company? What did your food taste like? Who was at the restaurant? What did your dessert look like in the secret of your own memory, without the glowy warmth of an Instagram filter?

 

(Even now as I sit here with a sleeping baby on my lap, who will never be this size or age or shape again, I am aware that I am not fully soaking in all the “feels” of this moment. Instead, I am staring at a screen and typing this out for you to see.)

 

We  willingly put our lives on display, then are outraged when we don’t get total privacy. Just look at any post you see on Facebook where someone is beside themselves about the fact that the “laws” of Facebook dictate we don’t get total control over all our own content and then threatens to leave the platform over it, and you will see what I mean. We live in a buttoned-up culture where everything is shameful, yet we are encouraged to over-share in order to join the masses of other over-sharers who are obsessed with controlling how they and their lives look to others peeking in their windows. We feel entitled to our own space and our own privacy even when we are in public. Then we blame other people for our shortcomings and our insecurities, and we devote our lives to making sure everyone always knows when we are blue or hurting and who was to blame for it.

 

Isn’t it exhausting to try to maintain this endless dichotomy of shame, outrage and blame? Do you even know what you are missing anymore?

 

 

I will admit I don’t know how to boil down everything I have said above to a neat conclusion, and I don’t know how to fix the overarching and ever-growing problem of disconnectedness. However, since I am an artist who also works with artists, I will say that as artists, I believe we cannot get complacent about deeply connecting and getting outside our comfort zone. Historically, we have been responsible for reminding people that they feel. And we cannot allow ourselves to feel shame over who we are; who we are is the soul of our work. We need to keep challenging ourselves to take new roads and shake off our own over-self-awareness so we can give something to the world that will be meaningful and remembered.

 

Here’s my challenge to you:  Bask in your discomfort. Let it flow over you and through you. Seek out people who grate on your nerves and befriend them. Do not “unfriend” that person who refuses to stop posting about his/her lunches/children/dogs/job on Facebook. Let the differences drive you and inspire you. Refuse to shut down.

 

What if you could feel like you did when you first started creating — that you would never run out of ideas, and a fear and lovely sadness that life is too short to actually create everything that is inside you?

New Directions, Updates

At the beginning of this Thanksgiving week, I just want to break the silence and say, I have been considering some new directions for this blog, aside from just professional updates and occasional quotes that strike my fancy. I need to regroup, get into the habit of practicing what I preach in my day-to-day work with clients and begin to exercise my own imagination muscles and share my creative process (and some creative projects). I am still working on determining that direction, but fear not:  I am still here!

 

For all those with whom I’ve worked in the past (recent or distant) or whom I know in my personal life but do not check in with often enough who gaze upon this blog from time to time, I will share my  biggest update, which is a life (and life-changing) update:  I gave birth to a son on October 1. [Pause for joining in on my own feelings of shock and awe.] Any other current excitements somewhat pale in comparison to that big one, though I am working on continuing to make my life full of new and ever-escalating excitements, so I’m hoping to continue to have a bounty of juicy morsels to share.

 

When I’ve slept (a somewhat rare moment, so far), I am over the moon about the aforementioned baby and find him adorable; when I haven’t, I just want to sleep and have 25 more hours every day to snatch up exciting projects and work with inspiring people. I have to be a bit selective about my work projects these days, as I am doing the work-at-home and mom-at-home thing simultaneously, but I am still here, and I still want to work with you (if the “you” reading is someone who is curious about working with me). Keep sending me inquiries! I love seeing your life’s work and feel honored that you’re sharing it with me.

 

Stay tuned for posts with (hopefully) renewed structure, organization and inspiration, coming soon.

 

 

Happy Monday Quotes #39: Winter Wonderland

I’ve been away from quoting for far too long again, so I’m choosing this Groundhog’s Day to get back to business.

 

In honor of the “holiday,” the fact that our buddy Punxsutawney Phil (who is of course an official, licensed meteorologist) saw his shadow and all the “false alarm” snow and ice storms that have graced my city (and others) in the past couple weeks, I bring you some quotes about temperate-zone winter in all its frigid glory.

 

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'” — Lewis Carroll (from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass)

 

“I love to watch the fine mist of the night come on,/The windows and the stars illumined, one by one,/The rivers of dark smoke pour upward lazily,/And the moon rise and turn them silver. I shall see/The springs, the summers, and the autumns slowly pass;/And when old Winter puts his blank face to the glass,/I shall close all my shutters, pull the curtains tight,/And build me stately palaces by candlelight.” — Charles Baudelaire (from Les Fleurs du Mal)

 

“March came in that winter like the meekest and mildest of lambs, bringing days that were crisp and golden and tingling, each followed by a frosty pink twilight which gradually lost itself in an elfland of moonshine.” — L.M. Montgomery (from Anne of the Island)

Happy Monday Quotes #38: Thankfulness

This week, I’m going for the obvious theme with Monday’s quotes. Last year for Thanksgiving week, I offered up some quotes about gratitude, so I suppose this post isn’t really that much different. This past year has been beyond challenging for me, full of all sorts of difficult, heartbreaking events, negativity and battles (and even some wars) of all varieties. But it has also been brimming with moments of absolute love, surprises and delight.

 

I don’t necessarily see January 1 as the true “new year.” For me, the year turns over the week of Thanksgiving, when I always take a few minutes to take stock and appreciate the love, joy and hope that is always in my life, even if I can’t always actively feel it. I really do feel so grateful, especially for those few, rare favorite kindreds that help keep me standing. (So, if I have been remiss and have not said thank you in a while, this one’s for you.)

 

“Gratitude is an overflow of the pleasure filling your soul.” — Raheel Farooq

 

“And thank you for saying all of that, and for loving me, for you haven’t gone unloved, or unadmired, yourself.” — V.C. Andrews (from Flowers in the Attic)

 

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” — Marcel Proust 

 

“Rest and be thankful.” — William Wordsworth

Happy Monday Quotes #37: Animals

Like anyone else that is worth knowing on the planet, I am a huge animal lover. Ever since getting my first goldfish, Goldie pre-five-years old, I have known I never wanted to be without dogs, hermit crabs, turtles, guinea pigs, bearded dragons, school of tropical fish or the myriad other animals that have since been pets of mine, nor do I ever want the world to lose any of its wilder, undomesticated creatures. Goldie eventually mysteriously turned black and became known as Midnight, and a string of dogs and other pets wandered into our lives and nestled into our hearts. (And as I think of the miraculous Goldie transformation with my adult brain now, I sort of wonder if Goldie was flushed to heaven, and my parents just pretended she had undergone a freak-of-nature-style metamorphosis.)

 

Animals have also been on my mind as I’ve been co-working a bit on a new business venture this week. (Stay tuned for that cat to be let out of the bag in the coming months). While it was actually inspired by an inside joke, the fact that the name of the company is animal themed is not at all surprising. So, as I think about animals, here are some quotes about them that I particularly enjoy.

 

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx (from The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx)

 

“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” — Mark Twain

 

“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.” — Charles M. Schulz

 

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” — James Herriot (from All Creatures Great and Small)

Happy Monday Quotes #36: Gambling

In trying to think of a quotes topic for this week, I turned to some little getaway plans that have been in the works for a few months now. Because life has been more than a little busy for a while now, I haven’t had a great deal of time to take a proper vacation. In fact, I haven’t left this fair city for anything but family functions, weddings, work events, etc. since 2002, and I decided recently that this horrible practice needs to stop, so I have my heart set on a little mini break in Atlantic City.

 

While I am not much of a gambler in the literal casino sense, I have been known to gamble pretty big in my life and take some uncomfortable and ultimately rewarding risks. Of course, there have been some not-so-successful risks taken as well, but we shall not speak of those! The one time I gambled away my “fortune” (which was at the time $20) in Atlantic City was about ten years ago. A lucky pull of a slot machine arm netted me all-new furniture for my apartment. (Don’t get too excited though:  It was courtesy of IKEA and thus had to be thrown away only a couple years later.) And this time, I have resolved to play games geared towards responsible adults … like poker. (I need a new couch and some better bookshelves!)

 

With that said, I bring you some fine quotes about gambling.

 

“Bond didn’t defend the practice. He simply maintained that the more effort and ingenuity you put into gambling, the more you took out.” — Ian Fleming (from Casino Royale)

 

“Live as a poker gambler, read others of their eyes, don’t make your life out of reading people’s faces, give others a false sense of you. Always trust your sense and take your risk.” — Ayman Rahhal

 

“Don’t listen to the malicious comments of those friends who, never taking any risks themselves, can only see other people’s failures.” — Paulo Coelho (from Eleven Minutes)

 

“That’s the good part of dying; when you’ve nothing to lose, you run any risk you want.” — Ray Bradbury (from Fahrenheit 451)

 

Happy Monday Quotes #35: Let Us Eat Cake

I’m keeping this edition of Happy Monday Quotes pretty light, mostly in the interest of getting back on track with these. Also, I have been thinking about cake and looking up cake recipes a lot lately, because there are some special birthday goings-on afoot and also, because I just like cake.  Who doesn’t?

 

Now that I have that out in the open, here are some quotes about cake, delicious cake.

 

“Cake for later, cake as a way of life.” — Laini Taylor (from Dreams of Gods & Monsters)

 

“But how will I eat cake if my head is over there, and my hands are over here?” — Marie Antoinette

 

“Out of love I made you a cake. Also out of milk, eggs, flour, sugar, and vanilla.” — Jarod Kintz (from The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up When They’re Over)

 

“Love is the cake under the icing. The immature lick it clean and throw the rest away; adults scrape off the top and eat it dry.” — Bauvard (from Some Inspiration for the Overenthusiastic)

Exciting Updates!

I just realized today that I’ve been away for a while, so I thought some updates were in order. After a challenging (but ultimately rewarding) year so far, as we approach the season of thanks, I realize there are a lot of happenings I should announce. I am truly grateful!

 

First and foremost, I have a huge announcement. After many months, two business partners of mine — Rick Goetz and Marty Maidenberg — and I have teamed up to re-launch the site formerly known as MusicianCoaching.com as a new boutique marketing services company called Music Consultant. I am so happy to be working with these two excellent, experienced fellas, and glad we are able to bring our strengths together in a way that I believe will really help artists and creative companies build more sustainable careers and continue to make a living doing what they love. Plus, I get to do more of what I love for others and connect with even more outstanding music! We went live a couple weeks ago and are now in full swing. If you are in need of any of the many services we have to offer, please do reach out!

 

Logo with Company Name

 

I am also doing some really rewarding work with my clients right now. In the past few months alone, I’ve had the pleasure of being the editor on two helpful guides/proper self-help books about finding success in music and the Arts, one of which has already been published (check it out on Amazon), the other which is coming out soon. I’ve also watched several artists I work with release a smorgasbord of delightful albums and music videos. I’m thrilled to be a part of so many different projects!

 

For a little taste, here’s a lovely retro video of a classic song released by my very-talented client, Oya (“Spirit of Oya”), who also directed and produced it herself. “Accentuate the Positive” indeed!

 

 

I’m also hoping to run another “press pack special” for the holidays for artists and musicians looking to update bios and photos. I’ll let you know!

 

And on a personal note, I am putting major effort into finishing a book of essays, which I hope will be all together by year’s end.  (I don’t want to make that sound like too much of an afterthought — I’m actually really excited about it!) Writing and playing more music is also on the docket, with a new musical project in the works.

 

More updates coming soon! Please take the above as just highlights jotted down by a person who is joyfully busy!

 

(Happy Monday Quotes will return this Monday!)

 

JuliaFall2014

Happy Monday Quotes #34: Flavor

I have been thinking a lot about the concept of flavor lately — not just in terms of taste, but in terms of how  the world can ignite all the senses, often simultaneously. We would miss so much poignant feeling if we only had experiences with our eyes, ears, tongue, nose or fingertips. Those electrified experiences that engage our entire beings at once are the very sweetest.

 

Here are a few quotes about flavor and its many colors.

 

“My love is meatloaf flavored. I just wish my meatloaf was also meatloaf flavored.
” — Dora J. Arod (from Love quotes for the ageless. And the ageless sages.)

 

“So he tasted the deep pain that is reserved only for the strong, just as he had tasted for a little while the deep happiness.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald (from All the Sad Young Men)

 

“I’m hungry for a juicy life. I lean out my window at night and I can taste it out there, just waiting for me.” — Brigid Lowry (from Guitar Highway Rose)

 

“But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, on the ruin of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory.” — Marcel Proust (from Swann’s Way)

Happy Monday Quotes #33: Rain

It was a pretty gorgeous weekend weather wise (albeit a bit balmy), which led to plenty of outdoor grilling, walking and lounging. Today, we’re experiencing ark-building levels of precipitation, a reminder that it is still spring. Because summer’s prequel is close to its closing credits, I figured I might honor one of its signature qualities:  glorious yet melancholy, life-giving, fresh-start-creating rain.

 

“Love like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots keeping itself alive.” — Paulo Coelho (from By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept)

 

“I went to bed and woke in the middle of the night thinking I heard someone cry, thinking I myself was weeping, and I felt my face and it was dry.

Then I looked at the window and thought: Why, yes, it’s just the rain, the rain, always the rain, and turned over, sadder still, and fumbled about for my dripping sleep and tried to slip it back on.” — Ray Bradbury (from Green Shadows, White Whale: A Novel of Ray Bradbury’s Adventures Making Moby Dick with John Huston in Ireland)

 

“Are the days of winter sunshine just as sad for you, too? When it is misty, in the evenings, and I am out walking by myself, it seems to me that the rain is falling through my heart and causing it to crumble into ruins.” — Gustave Flaubert

 

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.” — Dr. Seuss (from The Cat in the Hat)

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