:: 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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Get on off the porch, now. (Patresa)

I'm being nudged again. Call it what you want: God, the Universe, Spirit Guides. But I get them, sometimes: celestial nudges. They used to be unnerving. ("Unnerving" is the wrong word. A few of my nudges have been soul shaking and mind f'ing.) I thought I was crazy. But now I've gotten used to them, and I find them beautiful and comforting--like I really don't have to be overly vexed about making big decisions. "Just pay attention, Honey Pie, and go where I tell you." It's worked out remarkably well so far. This COFFEE project was a nudge, for example.

At any rate, I'm ready for new COFFEE projects--I have two.

But first, I want to reflect on Project #1:

Little P's Big COFFEE Project #1: Get on out the door, now, and play some music for people.

I am still playing at open mics. I just played again this last Thursday. That makes 4! I'm going to keep doing this. I am not the best guitar player or the best singer or the best lyricist or the best songwriter, and that bothers me infinitely less than it ever has in my entire life. In fact, this past Thursday, I had my first encounter with a condescending asshole after I played (Condescension is on my list of cardinal sins.). And I found it more... interesting... (Ah! So that's what that looks like!) than anything else--someone who lets Ego fly the plane. Although I logged it as irritating and rude behavior, it didn't unsettle me, and I'm not sure I can properly describe how liberating that is.

Although I will confess one thing slightly unsettling: Playing personal music in a bar. People go there to hang out with their friends and have fun. Which is a-double-okay, completely. 100%. Still, I was in the middle of a new piano number that's kind of intimate, and all I could hear was chatter chatter chatter ha ha ha ha tink tink tink chatter chatter chatter. I felt kind of... dumb. Embarrassed. A small impulse to just stop playing. I've heard Wendy talk about this phenomenon before, so I knew it wasn't an evaluation of me, per se. It was just sort of... I don't know. Weird. It felt bizarre.

Moving on...

COFFEE Project #2: Get on off the couch and make some stories, Sugar.
For a long while I've had an idea for a creative side endeavor. A year ago, I gave it a name (and then promptly stalled):

little bird big tree storybooks

Custom, commissioned "children's" stories (I say "children's" with quotes, because they probably appeal more to child-like grown-ups.). I've actually been doing this a long time, in one form or another, starting with middle school story trades with Tanya, T-Bop. We wrote short stories for each other featuring ourselves with boys we liked. I still have every story Big T wrote for me. All of them! I have them! 10-page epistles, big flowery 12-year-old girl handwriting, folded up in 2 large tins in the basement. When I moved away from Kansas to Iowa, we continued to write them for each other, between the two of us, keeping the US Postal Service in business, as each tome required several stamps.

In high school, I wrote them for my friends as gifts (including one with Wendy ejecting Madonna from the stage for encroaching on her Grammy rehearsal time). I've written them for my nieces and nephew using photos from family vacations and get-togethers. Most recently, I wrote one for a friend's new baby, and I used finger puppets as the characters, conducting elaborate photo shoots in my backyard.

I see a more professional version of this in my head: treating each book like a piece of art. I've known instinctively that this project will align a lot of things that I feel led to do. But I've resisted, and I don't know why exactly. It will be a lot of self-starting work: I fear my lazy tendencies. I fear having to fight with my own expectations constantly (so exhausting). I fear losing my joy for story making. I fear being bad at it. I fear having to learn new technology (more advanced photo editing). I fear resenting my day job when I don't have time to work on my creative life (already happening, if I'm being honest).

Because of the elbow-bumping of...

a) instinctively knowing this is a good design for me;
b) resist resist resist; and
c) a recent nudge...

...I know I'm supposed to do it. One of my very favorite lines of any book any time, is from Beloved by Toni Morrisson. It comes toward the end, when *I think* Sethe, a former slave, is speaking to Beloved, the ghost of her dead daughter, and says, "Get on off the porch, now." (I would double check that, but Beloved is a book I loaned to someone and never got back. "What the crap?" I say indignantly as I take a quick mental inventory of the loaner books on my shelf that I have not yet returned.) At any rate, there is something about that line that burned into my brain all those years ago, and it is one of the mama voices I hear in my head, especially when I'm resisting forward motion.

"Get on off the porch, now."


Project #2 First benchmark: Build a portfolio with at least 3 completed storybooks. (Worry about the business aspect later. Right now, I just need product.)

Goal for the next 14 days: Draft the story for 1. (I bought the puppets months ago. And haven't done a thing.)

COFFEE Project #3: Get on off your tush and grow some coffee, Sweetie Cake.
A project about the project. COFFEE wants to grow. She's taking big belly breaths and poking at her confines. I have ideas. Over the next 14 days, I'll put together at least 1 of them for your review (privately. I won't post it in detail here.). Step one however, is the addition of two new and very welcome and spectacular COFFEE-Mates:

Welcome, Jenna! 
Welcome, Angie!

I think Jenna is set to launch this Friday. Angie launches in another two weeks.


Wendy said...

P, I'm actually jealous that you have such tangible projects to work towards. These pjcts rock and I'm so proud of you for what you've done and continue to do with this COFFEE thing.

Also, that's stinkin' impressive that you didn't let that snooty guy's comments derail you at the open mic.

Children's (kinda) books! YAY! I was so excited to hear originally about this idea and I think this is going to be amazing. I myself am working on something similar to go along with one of my new songs. You are really such a creative writer and I've always believed you were destined to be an acclaimed writer like Anne Lammott - these books are gonna be unique and awesome. Can't wait!

And finally, I'm so excited to meet our new COFFEE member Jenna! Anyone who played Annie has to be awesome (and holla! I was Tessie in our community theatre production ;-), AND goes way back with Tanya and P has to be a seriously cool cat.

And as for Angie, well, she was one of my very best friends growing up. From TeePeeing our way across C.R. to skinnydipping in her pool, some of my very best memories include Angie. Ya'll are in for a serious treat!! I'm suuuuper excited about this.

John said...

I love the way your posts motivate me to do the following...
#1) Get off my own porch and chase down some of those ideas I have in my head.
#2) Want to comment on your post and convince you that you've got more talent in a pea sized portion of your brain than most anybody I know. And to encourage you not to let that fear stop you. We've all got it!

Also - I wish the Coffee project allowed guys, 'cause I'd totally join. As it is, I'll just go it alone and continue to draw inspiration from you and the rest of the Coffee Mavens!

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Patresa, P-Diddy, Pfriend,

I loved each and every story, and I too have ALL of your letters loaded with lovely stories in a safe filing container in my basement. It is one of those things I have moved with me to a million different homes, and believe me, I've learned to get rid of a lot. I have learned, it's not the material items that stay with us forever, it's the memory of every amazing person and moment that sticks. But writings are different. They are.

Get off the porch is wonderful, and you will leap off, no doubt. No, actually, you will sway off. ;)

You remind me of a movie preview I saw this weekend. I will disclaim now that I wasn't paying much attention so don't expect a title or who the characters are or anything specific about the plot (something that happens a lot with the tv on), but the movie was about "have you ever wanted to be able to use your entire brain?" Intriguing how much brain goes to waste, ya know. But Wonder P, you inspire me to use more of my noggin. You have fantastico thoughts way ahead of the parade, and I am forever your dedicated and sincerely humbled fan traveling in your footsteps (and stumbling A LOT).

You rock.


Katie said...

P, P, P, and P! Oooooo, I am so excited about this new adventure and this nudgie. This feels wholly right and good. I remember you showing me some of the stories you did for your neices and nephew, and I know, I KNOW that this is a porch worth sashaying yourself off of. LEAP off that porch Ms. P, because exciting things are at the bottom of the stairs. Oh my. My my my. I am as excited for you as if I were there watching over your shoulder. But that would be creepy. So I'll just clap like a mainiac from Missouri.

And Condescending Assholes are SO interesting - they make me want to find just the right pin to puncture the bubble and watch the distress fall out. Good for you that he didn't fluster you, and that you were able to observe the CA instead of perseverating on his assholiness. So! Many! Good! Things!!

And COFFEE growth! She's stretching her little arms and legs, we're on our way any minute now! Welcome to Jenna and Angie!!!

Woot Woot!!!

Holly said...

Peace mac, I want a story written by you about me and my man crush! Please???? I promise I'll keep it forever! No matter where I move, it will come along with other special momentos (including my Jimmy Carter letter).In your spare time...oh, alright, now I'm being juvenile. No, changed my mind...please/???
I'm very excited about your new project. Get on off the porch now. Hmmmm...did you know that my last mix CD was called "Went to the Porch" and is actually code for smokin' up? Hahaha! Modest Mouse says, Went to the porch to have a thought, got to the door and then couldn't stop. I don't know what it means or what the connection is, but I bet there is one:)
And, feel so blessed that I get to come and listen to open mics. You have such a beautiful voice and energy. Listening to you helps me feel more creative.
Peace out Peace Mac! Love ya!

amy said...

Dear, dear P. Condescension is on my list of cardinal sins, too, right up there with self-absorption, intolerance, and being ignorant on purpose. Man, I wish I could have been there to give that a-hole some really seething glares, and talked nasty about him in an overly loud voice in a really passive aggressive way! I'm glad you didn't let him get to you--you in the top 10 on my list of People to Look Up To now.

I love this little bird big tree books idea! Deeply love it. I wish someone would write stories about me and Gerard Butler, or me and Gerard Butler and Javier Bardem. With a special guest appearance by Clive Owen. I would save those stories forever and ever as well.

In addition, I wish I had your creative bent when it comes to cool gifts. I just head for Target. But elaborate photo shoots with finger puppets and family vacation/get together photo storylines. Revelations like this about you are when I go: that chick is going to be well-known some day.

In addition (part 2), I feel the same about work: I love what I do. I love getting a paycheck for what I do. I love my coworkers, and, mostly, the kids I work with. But some days, going to work is so inconvenient--it just really messes up my style. That's when I start daydreaming about the lottery (that I never play).

I'm excited about hearing more about your Big Plans for COFFEE. This has been a butt kicker, get on off the porch, fun, soul food project for me to hone some of my energies into since October. Life enrichment, is what this is. AND I've gotten to know some incredibly cool new people. So happy I get to be a part of it.

blj said...

yes! chatter chatter tink tink laugh laugh, I was annoyed at those people having fun in that bar because it made it difficult to hear you! And I wanted to hang on your every note! I've been in lots of bars where the patrons were disrespectful to the performers before, but I never got how very disrespectful it is until Thursday night. I was embarassed for the crowd. You shouldn't be the one who was embarassed, it's not like it's just a bar with some background entertainment, after all... it's OPEN MIC! People should know better. I apologize for the chatterboxes at DMSC and I apologize to all cool musicians for my many moments of bad behavior over the years. I get it now.

And ditto to what everyone else said about how cool and creative and fabulous you are. I so admire your ability to feel nudges and act on them. yes, I do. Thanks for including me in this project, in a small way it makes me feel just a little teeny tiny bit as cool as you :)

blj said...

and oh yeah, WELCOME Jenna and Angie!! Welcome Welcome!

Steph said...

Okay, so I've written and re-written brilliant comments to leave for you... unfortunately, I'm battling a computer issue, and... LOSING. POOP!!!!!!!
I have so much to say about this post, but I will plan on sharing most of it in person because it's just that big.
First, welcome Jenna! Welcome Angie! As someone privileged to grow up with Jenna, I'm so stoked to have her on board! And if the likes of P and Holly, et all, vouch for Angie, woo-hoo! So looking forward to sharing a cup w/both of you!
Second, I <3 you, P. You are amazing. TRULY amazing... Condescending A-holes suck, but I think your response to that was absolutely perfect - let him be an a-hole. No water off your back. You do your thing with grace and class and energy, and he doesn't affect you. That is big, friend. I'd have crawled off the stage, mid-song and in tears. I couldn't have handled that. Too fragile. You, however, are one cool, confident, rico-suave cat! Good for you, friend. Seriously.
(and on this note, we all got your back.... next time Capt. Condescending shows up & any of us are there, his tires are SLASHED, baby, S-L-A-S-H-E-D! Okay, so I'm kidding... might just buy him a "special" drink, tho! Flattery will get you everywhere! LOL!!!!!)
Third, I want books for my kids from you. What a special and incredible endeavor. You will turn this "nudge" into such a raging success, the state of Iowa will rue the day they shoved you in a cubicle and didn't just crown you Queen. Suckers. I seriously think this is so exciting... don't walk, don't run, JUMP off that porch, P, and don't stop there! Yes.
Fourth, I hope you understand how much your obedience to the nudge has impacted all of us... it's BIG. HUGE, actually. The nudge you got about COFFEE has turned strangers into cheerleaders, accountability partners, FRIENDS. I'm not sure that's as big a deal for some COFFEE chicks, but it's ginormous to me. So, simply (and so underwhelming, I realize), THANK YOU. You are a serious rock star, m'dear!

T-Free said...

Wow. Way to grab the ball, run with it, and win the game, P! Seriously. I am blown away by your moxie, lady. You have really inspired me. I'm staring down the barrel at a surgery next week and a 6-8 week recovery period, and all I can think after reading your latest update is, "I want to get on off the porch, now! I want to write and write and write and WRITE SOME MORE while I am recovering." Thank you so much for being such a motivating voice for us all.

I am so excited that you are still playing the open mic nights. And oh, the condescending thing has always annoyed me. Usually frustrated musicians themselves, those guys swarm around after shows, overcompensating for their insecurities with condescension, like irritating, pathetic little GNATS. I wrote a song about one of them (sarcastically called "Impressed") when I was younger, because something about playing in an all-girl band seemed to bring them out en masse. They liked to come up to us after shows and critique our performances unkindly, complete with a mention that they too play music, and *this* is how they would have done what we just did differently. Except that nobody ASKED.

I got really good at putting on my best innocent babe face, and passive-aggressively, very sweetly asking them if they had a band, and oh, so when was their next show so I could see them play too? 100% of the time they were people who were too afraid to put themselves out there to play live like we just had, and it shut them up very quickly. Sorry you had to deal with that. And I love that you didn't let it get under your skin. Awesome. Go P!

I feel the same way as you and Wendy about the bar chatter while you play acoustically. It is unsettling. (When you play electric, it still happens, but you drown them out! Yeah! I will ROCK YOUR MOUTHS SHUT.) I mean my songs from the bottom of my heart, and am sharing something private and sincere when I play them. So when people are ignoring me to hoot, holler, and talk loudly, it makes me feel crummy and stupid for sharing. The good news is that if you noticed that phenomenon this time, it means you are getting more comfortable with being onstage, because rather than being in that fearful state where you are just trying to get through it, you are now calm enough to be noticing your audience and surroundings as you play, rather than only your inner turmoil. So there's that, right?

I love the children's stories ideas. I want to read your stories! My little sister writes great children's stories too. She has multiple completed ideas and manuscripts. She is also an amazing artist/illustrator who specializes in animals. When you have amassed your millions by turning little bird big tree storybooks into a huge publishing powerhouse, may I send her your way? Pretty please? :)

Thank you again for writing an update about/for me on the day I forgot to post last time. I was stressed out of my head waiting for the "benign or oh shit?" verdict all week, and had completely forgotten about my COFFEE deadline. It meant so much to me that you did that, you very thoughtful, sweet friend-o-mine. I'm planning on writing a post ahead of time this week, and setting it up to post on the 10th (is that still my day to post next?), since my surgery is on the 9th. I'm going to try to stay positive in my writing. Negativity is pretty pointless at the end of the day, isn't it?

Can't wait to read about your latest adventures in getting on off the porch next time.