:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

The only way out is through, Sugar. (Patresa)

Welcome back to COFFEE. At the start of a new year, it seems fitting to return to a project like COFFEE, which is all about pushing past perceived limits without being a giant pansy about it. This is a pansy-free zone.

Which is too bad, because I had a major pansy episode yesterday, which I will get to shortly. First… my goals for the last 19 days and my progress toward each:

1. Create a more complete version of The Messenger.

Done. I now have a full song.

Extra Credit A
I have a 2nd full song, "Everything to Me" … about the tendency for us (me) to expect our (my) partner to be everything we (I) want them to be at the exact moment we (I) want them to be that (and then be something entirely different in a split second). It seems kind of foolish to think happiness and fulfillment is something someone else gives you. Ultimately, it seems like a way to shirk responsibility for taking care of ourselves and a recipe for a lifetime of unsatisfying relationships. (For that matter, my current working theory on relationships is that a good partner supports and encourages the other's efforts to self-elevate.)

It's also about kittens and bunnies and puppies.

Extra Credit B
I have a 3rd partial song that has 2 verses and no name. It's in Drop D tuning. It's about a world of despair and death and destruction. (Just kidding.)

2. Figure out at least the verse for No One is to Blame

Done. I don't have it memorized, but I can play most of it. Now I just have to practice it. [Eye roll.]

Extra Credit C
I learned The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. The Gambler! I like the idea of playing kind of corny cover songs that everyone knows and no one expects. I grew up listening to a lot of Kenny Rogers and Alabama, and The Gambler was one of my very favorites as a kid. The chords are super crazy easy (G C D). I can't pick them the way he does, but I slowed them down and made the verses into a waltz, and I think once I polish it, it will be kind of cool.

3. Make a list of all the positive things to be gained from this experience. 

I forgot to do this again. Seems like it would be easy enough, right? Ah well. 

4. 10 hours of practice.

Done. At least 10 hours. I've actually been playing a ton the past two weeks. I haven't logged my practice time, but I'm 100% positive I've put in well over 10 hours; and I have the calluses to prove it. I haven't been doing the drills from Professor Chris, but I'm okay with that.

5. Attend an open mic.

I didn't do this. I waited too long to look for open mic schedules, and by the time I found them, clubs were taking breaks for holidays, and the earliest was January 6. So: Des Moines sistas, I'm looking at the Des Moines Social Club (every Thursday) and Ritual Cafe (2nd Thursday of the month). Wanna come? Again: NOT PLAYING! Just observing.

Now then...

My Giant Pansy Episode
by Patresa Hartman

Yesterday I had a giant pansy episode. I told Chris I'd learned The Gambler. He got excited and asked me to play it for him. Since starting the COFFEE project, I've gotten a lot better about playing for Chris. This has felt like progress.

[This is where I take a time-out to emphasize the degree of my fear. Chris's unconditional support is on-par with my parents'. There is absolutely nothing in the world I could do or say or f**k up enough for him to insult me or be embarrassed about or for me. And yet… I get panicked and anxious even to play in front of him. Just him. Alone. In our house. In the living room.]

So, although the same little twitchy ball rolled into my belly, I told myself not to be stupid, and I said, "Sure." So I picked up my guitar and started to play, and for whatever reason, I couldn't hear the song anymore. I couldn't quite remember what I'd done the night before. And the old caged animal returned.

I call it a caged animal, because when it happens, I feel like that's what I become -- like I've been cornered and must ESCAPE! Get out! Get out! I panicked, got wild-eyed, barked "No no no. I can't." Abruptly put the guitar down, shooed him out of the room, and closed the door. I sat down in my red chair and said these exact words: "I quit. This is stupid."

Just like that. Start to finish, it took about 20 seconds.

Chris has seen this 500 times, so it doesn't really affect him anymore, other than he thinks I'm insane and wishes I would get over it.

So after I proclaimed my failure and decided to quit, I picked up my laptop and started to distract myself with mindless activity. But then, my self-mothering voice kicked in. She said, "Now wait a minute. Just take a second. Put that down. Here, give that to me, Dear." 

I closed the laptop.

"Let's think about this," she said.

I pulled my legs up and sat pretzel-legged in my chair.

"Slow it down. String it out. What just happened? And why did it happen?"

I thought about a lot of things, but finally, I called up my old skills as a school psychologist. I analyzed the function of my behavior; that is to say, we learn behavior through a series of either intended or un-intended reinforcements. The function of my behavior was escape. And I was rewarded with escape every time I freaked out, which reinforced the freak outs. So if what I wanted was escape from the task, and every time I freaked out, I got to escape (what I wanted), then… I was teaching myself over and over again to be a freak.

My former school psychologist self said, "You extinguish escape behavior by removing the escape and granting it only when the desired behavior has been performed."

My self-mothering voice said, "The only way out is through, Sugar."

So I picked up my guitar. Plucked through The Gambler once. Retrieved Chris (who, having moved on from my freak out, was very innocently brushing his teeth), said, "Don't let me get away with that crap," and played it for him.

The end. 
(I really do feel like a freak about it. And I really do think someone should give my husband a medal. I must be very strange to live with.)

So my goals for the next 14 days:

1. Practice 10 hours.
2. Practice The Gambler and No One is to Blame until they are fluid and memorized.
3. Pick a 3rd cover song.
4. Attend an open mic.
5. Scratch out vocals and lyrics to a 4th and naked guitar line I made up a long time ago.
6. Set a due date. I can't drag this thing out forever. Maybe February?


Katie said...

Hullo P! I think it's great how you have buckled down and let your self-mothering voice be heard. In my head it IS my mother's voice, which is a voice that always makes sense, so I listen. And I love that you had a little caged animal episode with Chris, because I have plenty of those with Axel, who always behaves like an adult. It is nice to know there are other caged animals out there. I feel like a freak sometimes too - it's a weird panicky response that almost always makes me look like a 9 year old who didn't get a pony for her birthday. But, you powered through like She-Ra and took the bull by the guitar strings and let 'er rip. That is a very controlled animal thing to do. I am impressed.

And, I think it's just cool that you lined up what you want to accomplish in such a linear and logical fashion. Very nice and grown-upy. And they don't look so threatening when they are laid out like a grocery list. Mostly :)

Yer pretty awesome P. Shake it like a polaroid picture.

amy said...

Dear P,

I'm very familiar with The Gambler, and Kenny Rogers. My mother had the hugest (HUGEST) crush on him throughout my entire childhood and tormented me and my brother on long summer vacation car rides with his songs. Of all the corny Kenny Rogers songs I've had to listen to, The Gambler was my favorite. Whenever I hear this song, it brings back happy summer vacation memories. Good choice! (I say this as somewhat of a Kenny Rogers connoisseur.)

I love your inner mothering voice. I wish I had one. Also, I agree with your current partnership theory about supporting the other partner through self-elevation periods/projects. I think 9.9 out 10 couples therapy experts would too. (I say this as somewhat of a couples therapy connoisseur.)

I freak out all the time, too. Except I think I let myself escape and get away far too often. You are like Xena, Warrior Princess, in that you do not do this. And that tells me you will rock the pants off of people in February, or whenever you perform.

This was a cool melodic song, and Melissa really liked your purple striped shirt, too. Hurrah!

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Amazing. What you say about expecting from our partners is very profound, and when you sing it, it's simply beautiful life.

Thanks for being so raw P. I really am feeling so blessed to know you, and I really think you are something. Just awesome.

"The only way out is through, Sugar." Well, yup. You got it. But a little break is okay too. Distraction is ok, and a little room to breathe is a-ok. So...... rock on with your goals, your super awesome talented self that I don't really have the words to describe, and with your distraction when you need it.

:) I had to add that because I am smiling at you.

blj said...

P- you are funny, insightful and talented, and it's very healthy when you hear voices. I, too, have fond memories of The Gambler, I had the 45! And, Yes! I want to observe open mics with you on Thursdays. Thanks for another awesome post, Patresa. You truly amaze me, again.

Steph said...

P, you absolutely, totally, completely, and in all ways ROCK!
Kudos on all the extra credit work! How 'bout that?!?!? I'm super duper impressed. Can't wait to hear all your tunes, and I, quite impatiently mind you, so look forward to hearing you strum & sing The Gambler... I will purchase a lighter just for this occasion, and you will see it swaying as you play. YEAH, buddy! Cannot wait!
I think that your theory about couple-hood is solid. It IS about supporting and encouraging and being supported and encouraged. What's better or more necessary in life? Huh? You got it RIGHT, girl - CHURCH.
And as for pansy-ness... well, I think we all have that. Difference is that you listened to your inner Mom and you kicked pansy A$$! And I so love that you told Chris not to let you get away with it... THAT's when you know you have a good partner, when he calls you on your crap and doesn't let you get away with it. Good stuff.
I'm stealing your mothering-voice quote. It's now in ink on three notecards - 1 for my bathroom mirror, 1 taped to my desk at work, and 1 in my planner that I see multiple times a day. "The only way out is THROUGH, Sugar." Thank you for that. For real.
As always, you gave me stuff to think about and made me smile. I heart you, P.

Wendy said...

Patresa, When I first read your blog title, I missed the comma and read "the only way out is through sugar" and I thought this might possibly be about your fondness for cookies.
I love a good baked goods-inspired narrative, but this was even better. :-)

As soon as I read that you learned The Gambler, all I kept thinking was "..you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run..." and then when your story got to the part about the freak out and the escapism of that, those lyrics became louder. I don't know what my point is, but I think there's a connection. I think you are more in tune, increasingly in tune, with seeking out those pieces of yourself that you want to improve, so much so that you're maybe even counseling yourself thru the lyrics of Kenny Rogers. You're so good that you're counseling yourself on a subconscious level!
Okay, maybe not, but regardless, I think that's pretty cool. Because sometimes I think my own self-counseling always stays on the philosophical level - that it never even makes contact with my tangible existence -- so you sitting down with your mothering voice and talking yourself thru the episode and then walking thru it to it's resolve is inspiring. I'm gonna try to be more like that. And have a cookie along the way.

Holly said...

Ya know, I really have to ponder whether you actually had a pansy incident or not. I think it was a little bit the opposite of a pansy incident. What a non pansy thing to do! Immediately notice a repeated behavior/reaction and then Immediately address it! That is strength and fortitude in action, sugar!
I'm excited about hearing the Gambler too! I have visions of going on long road trips with my mom and step-dad in the 70's in a conversion van listening to that song on the radio. That and I've been through the dessert on a horse with no name it felt good to get out of the rain. Can you do that one next? Please???
I can't wait to hear The Messenger. Really VERY excited. I feel uber uber special that it was a sparked a bit from out conversation in a cubicle. Who says a 1950's soviet style office building has to be cold and sterile and lacking in creativity? Not me and P! No sirree bob!
Open mic Thursdays! Woot! I need to get a sitter though, so we must plan ahead.
Way to kick the crap out of your goals! Gotta roll when ya feel like rolling and you did it! SUWEET!

T-Free said...

"And I really do think someone should give my husband a medal. I must be very strange to live with."

HA. I laughed out loud for about two minutes at this sentence. Because I think the exact same thing about my poor, patient husband nearly every day.

Wow. The way you handled your freak out was phenomenal. Way to go! I do the same thing, by the way. Except I don't even get to the "attempting to play for friends or family" phase. I just refuse from the get-go. There is something so much scarier about playing for people I love and care about. I can rock a crowd of one hundred strangers with no nerves at all, but if my family wants to hear a song at a family gathering, I get shy and clam up immediately. It's so silly, really. They love us, these people. They will be our kindest, gentlest critics. We should want to practice songs with them. I am so in awe of you for struggling your inner pansy to the ground and playing The Gambler for Chris. Amazing.

I love The Gambler. It makes me cry every time when he breaks even at the end of the song. I'm serious.

I can't wait to hear the finished Patresa songs, The Messenger, and Everything to Me, as well as the new one you're working on. I hope it is about kittens and bunnies and puppies too! Wait... is this a trick? :)

Congratulations on all of your progress, P. You ROCK. xoxo.

patresa said...

thanks for all the nice words, good people! some day i will stop feeling so blasted insecure, and i will post videos and leave them without hastily deleting them.

woo hooo!