Non Navel-Gazing Friday

Earlier today I was writing some intense, navel-gazing foolishness about me, and all my complex inner workings, and how I had been feeling sad recently. (A lot of the reason why I haven’t been writing here much.)

A whole bunch of journal-appropriate venting about how I might seem one way, and be feeling another.

The drama.

That kind of writing never really works for me.  Every time I try to explain about my own mental health, I just sort of graze over it. Fluff it up. Work around it.  Never depressed.  Maybe just “blue.”  “Anxious,” not, “suffering from relentless anxiety.”  Obviously, there are reasons for that, (who likes to admit to what is often perceived as weakness?) but I think that I’m ready to skip all of that crap for today.

Hence I’m scrapping most of what I wrote.  Even some of the pretty words.  No need to dance around how I feel or who I am.  There’s also need for me to make myself out to be some kind of victim, or to feel sorry for myself because I am this extra-sensitive, squishy person on the inside.  No need to play myself a tiny sonata on a teensy-tiny violin.

I’m not actually “crazy.”  I may like to dance and sing and dye my hair green, and I may spontaneously decide that I ABSOLUTELY MUST LEARN HOW TO YODEL, but I’m not now, nor have I ever been “crazy” in the negative sense of that loaded word.  I am firmly in this reality.  I am not dangerous.  I am non-violent.  I am intelligent and  loving and do not intend to do harm to myself or to anyone else.

But yeah, in case I haven’t made it clear, I know a little about anxiety and depression.

The world we live in, how our lives our designed, and the pace of life mean there are so many others like me; regular people who happen to be no stranger to inner darkness and self-doubt, or seem to have an over-active panic-button.  If you don’t deal with those things, well, congratulations, because I hardly think they make me special.  (Watch an all-news station for a while and try to keep yourself in a good mood! Attempt to attain a laundry list of societal check-boxes deemed necessary to make one ‘successful’ and stay relaxed!)

But it’s FRIDAY, and I really do feel fine, after all.  I don’t really want to wallow, or sing a song about the darkness.

(Although I’d be happy to listen to something BY The Darkness…)

If you’re like me, I don’t think you should either.  Plan to do something this weekend that gets your blood flowing and makes you happy.  Don’t get lost in your own head.  Find a reason to be grateful.  Hug your cat.  Phone a friend.  Get distracted!

Let’s look up from our navels for a while.

-Jennnq

Green Smoothies, Getting a Job, and that Terrible Budget…

I’m going to go ahead and call this past week an all-round interesting one.  I will say that, although I STILL do not have any set-in-stone plans for my future, and things are still feeling very up in the air right now.  (The excitement!) I believe that things will work out for the best, and I am very curious about the opportunities the Universe is currently presenting me with.

As of right now, I actually DO have a part-time, and fairly unexpected job. (!)  My ex-boss from 4 years ago, back when I was writing commercials, is…now my boss again.  I met with her earlier this week, and I have been invited back on a part-time basis.  Very cool.  It actually felt amazing to be back in the building after 4 years away.  (It was terrifyingly also a little like ‘coming home’!)  I am excited to use my writing skills once more, and I am thrilled to see some folks I haven’t talked to in a while, as well as to meet some of the new-to-me faces around the building.  I’m pleased to at least see where this thing leads.

I also managed to do a little soul-searching and to revamp my diet.  I think feeling a little blue kind of derailed my regular eating.  When you start eating crappy food, it can be really hard to stop, and I had definitely noticed that I sorta fell off the wagon.  I also know how good I COULD feel with the right food, so I am deep into raw food again. I say “again,” because I have experimented with raw veganism in the past.  

I want to reassure those of my friends who may worry about me, however.  This time, I am NOT doing things with an iron-clad strict approach.  I am also NOT even eating entirely vegan (just a lot of vegan-friendly food), and I have every intention of sitting down to a decent, cooked supper most nights.  (Jason would have it no other way!)  I am not aiming to be perfect, only to put what I know about proper diet into action.  Hey, who doesn’t like to feel good?

Right now, I am ramping up the amount of fruits and veggies I eat during the bulk of the day, and, again, I aim to have a heavier meal with my family in the evenings.  This sort of approach (based on SOME of the thinking in the highly-popular “Raw ‘til 4” movement) works really well for me, and makes me feel very alive.  Again, for anyone who knows me, I want to stress that this is so that I can feel/perform my best.  I am NOT restricting calories, just crappy food.  I always find that a couple of days with a LOT more greens and fruit-packed smoothies will make me feel like wonderwoman.  :)

In the realm of positive change, I really think I’ve eased up on myself  more recently, and that’s a good thing.  I’m 33, I’m 5’5”, and I guess now I’ll never be a teen model.😉  I still love experimenting with fashion, and I love makeup, but yes, there are times when I know I may be using it out of insecurity.  Like, when I worry about my uneven complexion, and wind up using corrector, tinted moisturizer, bronzer, blush and highlighter all at once.  

I want to stress that there is NOTHING wrong with any of that stuff, and I am NOT about to give up my bronzer or anything, but when you feel like you NEED it…that’s a bit of a warning sign.  

I had a good think earlier the week, and I am proud to say that other than moisturizer and sunscreen (my poor nose always burns!) I have been leaving my skin goop-free.  You know what else guys?  I look totally fine.

So I guess that’s it.  Some distinctly interesting possibilities in my life right now, a lot of bananas and dates, and learning to live with my natural self.

Oh, and the Newfoundland budget is flaming terrifying, so I made this:Library

5 Cool Tunes I’m Listening to

Every morning when I get up, I turn on the radio.  My car is full of CD’s.  I will sing at the drop of a hat, and usually for much less than that.  I prefer to shower only when the mini Bose speaker we have is hooked up to my phone via Bluetooth, and it’s playing one of my awesome YouTube playlists.  Did I mention my YouTube playlists???  I have one for everything, of course!  Workouts, summers on the deck, late at night, parties, and several for Hallowe’en.😉

Then there are the records Jason and I listen to, and the occasional concerts and live shows we love to get out for (how we actually met).  I also couldn’t forget all of those hours logged listening to my favourite jams as I run across the city, or lift weights, or, well, basically do anything.  (I even had a birthing playlist, for when I was in hospital with my daughter.  At one point, I scrapped it entirely in favour of Rob Zombie, but that’s a whole other story!)  

The obvious truth is, I simply can’t imagine my life without music.  It’s part of almost everything I do, and it still holds the power to make me excited every day.

So, I’m passing on a few audio goodies.  Just 5 songs I love.  I am aiming to be quite varied here, so if you hate one of these, chances are there might still be a surprise here you will appreciate!      

 

  • “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”  A well-known classic, but this version is extra-special.  This one is the performance at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions.  EVERY artist here is a heavy-hitter, but if you HAVEN’T seen this cut (yes, I know it’s been going around), you simply must watch it and wait.  You will probably think it is quite good.  And THEN PRINCE will show up, and he will MELT YOUR FACE OFF.  I’m not kidding.  His guitar solo at the end is enough to leave the finest guitarists gaping in his wake. Get ready to chant “we’re not worthy!!!”

 

  • “Frenzy”  It’s awesome to go way back musically sometimes.  This song is from 1957, and it is…well, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins doesn’t really have any equal, so it’s hard to describe.  I have never heard another voice like this.  It might just put a smile on your face!🙂

 

  • “Mr. Midnight”  We play The Devil Makes Three a LOT around the house, but I realize they aren’t that well-known.  This is not the type of music high school me would have approved of, as it is bluegrass, but I absolutely LOVE IT now.  I can thank Jason for this one. It’s fun, the musicians are talented, and it might just win you over to the twangy side too.  Check it out!

 

  • “She’s a Bad Mama Jama”  I had no idea that I wanted to be a “bad mama jama” before I heard this totally sweet old-school disco track.  It turns out that I do!  I do want be a “bad mama jama,” Carl Carlton.  I do!  Shake it!

 

  • “Are You Satisfied”  I like boppy dance music, but I dislike a lot of pop music.  I’m not a fan of sub-par singers who are relying on auto-tune to give them vocal power.  Let’s face it, a lot of modern pop certainly feels that way!  It was actually my daughter who turned me on to Marina and the Diamonds.  I haven’t loved a singer this instantly since Florence + the Machine came along!  She is TOTALLY a pop singer, but this gal has a gloriously dramatic voice.  She is capable of really nice live high notes many singers wouldn’t touch, and some truly resounding lows that a lot of female vocalists simply do not have.  It’s pop music, but it’s GOOD pop music.  Try it.  Ya might just bop around the house!

I hope all of the sounds that greet your ears this weekend are a blessing to your soul!  Have a great one! 

-Jennnq

Happiness Tips for the Unemployed (and Underemployed)

Society is pretty relentless in showing us what “success” looks like.  We know it well from television shows, music videos and social media.  It is a sun-drenched life of privilege and freedom.  It is a life where money is no object, and where everyone is almost effortlessly beautiful and popular.  It is, of course, what many of us want for ourselves.

Unfortunately, lots of us must grow up to face a life that looks very different from the life of our hopes and dreams. No one’s goal is to be unemployed, or to feel underemployed and underutilized at work.  The child within us, the one with the big ideas, cannot help but become dissatisfied.  Where are those awards?  The accolades?  Where is the totally sweet company car?  Where is all the money that the media tells us over and over again that if we just work really really hard for, we will certainly get?  (Not to mention the big house, the beautiful, adoring partner, the luxurious vacations and, these days, the thousands of online followers!)

It can seem like we want to collectively sweep anyone who isn’t at the top of their game under the rug.  Like we would rather ignore them until they get their eyebrows on fleek and some dolla dolla bills in their bank account.  That’s hell on the ego, and with the current Newfoundland budget, it could also turn into a lot of sweeping.  

So, what do you do if you’re the one facing tough times?  How do you keep up your happy if your life isn’t quite the vision of success you were hoping to achieve by now?  

Without further ado, here are my top ten tips for keeping your sanity, and your good mojo going when you are out of work, frustrated with your work situation or otherwise under financial strain.

  1. Pull yourself together!  The temptation exists to let yourself slide when your prospects take a downturn.  Fight this urge.  Get dressed and put on your face, if that’s what you need to do to make yourself feel great. (Eyeliner makes me feel better every time!)  Wear decent clothes.  Eat a sensible meal.  Make sure your household mess is tamed to a dull-roar.  It’s cheesy, but when you make your world look and feel better, it’s hard not to be at least a little happier.
  2. Honestly assess your situation.  It’s more convenient to play ostrich, but it’s way better for you to get this entire bummer situation out into the open first.  This could mean that you sit down alone with an open computer and an open mind, and/or this might be a conversation you have with your partner.  Either way, get out that budgeting app and look up your bank accounts too.  It’s time for a thorough examination of where you are, so that you can get a handle on what it will take to get to where you need to be.  Are your expenses basically covered?  Can you afford to save anything? Do you have a cushion in case things get worse?  Is there any spending you could conceivably cut back on?
  3. Take the best financial care of yourself possible.  Once you’ve taken stock, you can make a goal-oriented plan. Seeing a way to move forward the best way to fight the blues!  You might not get a job (or a raise) today, but you can at least be informed enough to know where you’re headed.  (It may be highly beneficial to read up on finances, or seek out a financial adviser.)
    Also, if you need to submit time-sensitive forms, (for EI purposes for example), make sure you do so early.  Write those due dates down, or put reminders in your technology!  It is depressing to have to ask for money, sure.  It is more depressing to have NO MONEY because you didn’t take the time to do some basic steps.
  4. GO OUTSIDE.  It turns out that staying inside worrying and staring at a computer screen isn’t very happiness-inducing.  Don’t do this to yourself.  You DO have permission to go outside.  Even if it’s just for a little while, and especially if it’s sunny out.  I never come back home and think, ah damn, I shouldn’t have taken that half hour walk in the sunshine.  
  5. Plan your days.  If you go to bed knowing that you have no definite plans tomorrow, it can really drag you down.  But wait…why don’t you have any plans?  You may not be working, but, are you allocating some specific amount of your time to looking for a job?  Do you still practice your hobbies? Do you make time for that walk we just talked about?  A full, planned day when you are not working will keep your spirits up, and help you be more productive.
  6. Maintain a BUDGET.   I mentioned a budgeting app earlier.  It doesn’t have to be an app, but that’s certainly one convenient way to go.  I am surprised by the number of adults I know who don’t keep track of personal finances somehow.  It is so worthwhile!  If you don’t want to use app and you like excel, or some other method, use that, but do something.  Simply ‘hoping for the best’ money-wise is rarely a prudent approach. Track your budget, and actually log what you spend your money on. You could be very surprised!  
  7. Don’t fixate.  If you are taking good financial care of yourself, you are allocating time in your day for your job hunt, and you are trying your best to be on top of your budget, give yourself a break.  You can worry about money when you do budget stuff, or when you actually sit down to pay the bills, but not for the rest of the day.  If you have to, you could even write down your money worries to address later when you find them cropping up in your mind.  You are allowed to use your mind for other things.  (Yes, you are even allowed to be happy!)
  8. Hobbies.  You have to do the things that make you “you,” even if you feel down. Whether it’s singing, or lawn darts, or Filipino stick fighting, or putting together giant puzzles in the basement, include some time in your plan for things that bring you genuine joy.  These small pockets of activity will brighten your mood, and that tends to spill over into the rest of your life.  
  9. Treat yourself.  Ok, if money is tight and/or you’re between jobs, this might not amount to a weekend at a fancy resort.  How about a new lipstick?  A cool t-shirt?  A haircut or a book to read?  Even if your resources are limited, you can usually afford the occasional something that puts a smile on your face.  Plan to make those small indulgences semi-regularly.  
    If even a few dollars seems impossible, make a list of non-monetary treats you can rotate through.  You and your partner could exchange 15-minute massages.  You could make a date with a friend for a walk in the park.  You could make a trip to your local library. You could take a long, leisurely hour of yoga.  The most important thing is that this be a brief celebration of you!  We are all human after all, and  we all need some excitement…just like how every calorie-counter needs a cheat meal!
  10. Maintain Your Contacts and Stay Professional.  It is important to not let any simmering resentment cloud your judgement on what constitutes “professional” behaviour.  Do not burn bridges.  Do not spurn former colleagues.  Do not simply disappear either.  Instead, challenge yourself to keep on top of your industry.  Study up.  Periodically email people whom you admire in your field.  Check out forums surrounding whatever it is you do.  You will feel much better if you are a part of the conversation.
    As well, remember that employers typically waste no time in checking whatever publicly available information there is to be had on prospective employees.  This underscores the need for an impeccable online profile.  Make sure you represent yourself well in general.  Are you someone YOU would hire?   

    All in all, good luck, keep that smile on your face, and keep trying. I really do know it’s tough out there!
    -Jennnq

    Manatee

Singin’ Songs on the Internet

For a blog that’s supposed to be all about happiness, so far it’s been pretty heavy.  Maybe it’s time I lightened up a little!  

Let’s be airy fairy for a change!

fairy

Here’s something airy: music!  Singing is ONE THING that helps my happiness level tremendously.  It is only one small thing, but remember that adding just ‘one thing’ to your day or week can often be the tweak that helps you tremendously, or gets you over the hump, or just adds something you didn’t know you needed to your day.  I can’t remember a time when I regretted spending a few minutes singing.  It usually just makes things better!

 

I cannot guarantee that it will be YOUR thing.  I can only urge you to do it more if you like it too, and/or to do other thing(s) that help you in a similar way.  (Is it drawing?  Embroidery? Filipino stick-fighting?  I DON’T KNOW.  I’M NOT YOU.)  

I do know that I love to sing!  I sing when I am happy.  I sing when I am excited.  I sing when I am frustrated, but I usually do NOT sing when I am truly sad, or mad, and I think that says a lot about its significance in my life.

But yeah, it’s a great outlet, and until now one I could only engage in at karaoke, during late-night parties or around the house while cleaning or irritating my family.

NOW, however, there is Smule.

I will blame my clear-voiced bestest pal Stacey for this one.  She suggested Smule Sing, and I installed it on my phone.  Then I forgot all about it.  But LATER in an idle moment I opened it up and was…

INSTANTLY HOOKED!!

You just upload a profile, (mine’s: Jennnq, I have ceased to be creative), select your musical preferences (don’t worry, you can still search later anyway) and start with the ability to unlock one song.

Choose carefully, record that song, get used to playing with the controls (my first one sucked, it wound up vocally overcorrected, but I left it up anyway) and YOU decide whether to post publicly or privately.  

After that first song, I think you have to do collaborations to rack up points and unlock more songs you can sing solo. I’m not sure though, because I kind of knew I was in love with the app right away and forked over the couple of bucks it takes to go VIP.  Now I have my pick of songs, and can sing whatever I want!  Huzzah!

Here’s me singing.  

Not to knock the opportunity to collaborate at all though.  In fact, I LOVE the collaborations I have done because you are working with a singer who is typically from somewhere else entirely, and singing with another person is extra motivation!  I think I sound better on some of those because I really don’t want to let the other person down.  Kind of an additional kick in the pants!

Here’s a fun collaboration. (I’m the 2nd voice.)

None of this is to say that I think I’m the greatest singer or anything.  In fact, hearing my own voice played back has served to help me see more clearly what I can’t sing. (And also made me more aware of certain habits.)  I tried a Britney Spears song.  I was quickly reminded that I am not a pop star.  I can also hear that I do tend to sound a little theatrical and ‘trained’ which does NOT suit everything!  

It is a challenge to recognize and make peace with the fact that there are limitations depending on how you’re recording too.  I am using my Android phone which means, sadly, that I do not have video on my recordings.  (May actually be a good thing. I do some odd stuff while singing!) I am also singing into headphones with a mic built in, and I know I am really too loud for it to handle sometimes.  I don’t have a full, pro studio, so when I hit a high note, or a really loud one, it doesn’t translate perfectly.  Still though.  The miracle of technology!  Karaoke with friends whenever you like!

Despite the fact that I sometimes mess up, and my phone/microphone don’t always cooperate with me, I am going to KEEP recording, and keep leaving my recordings public.  I have had people tell me that they wouldn’t do the same, and I completely understand, but I have figured out some basic truths about myself in relation to singing.  The biggest one: MY voice makes ME happy.  

Singing has brought me joy in the past, and I have performed some things really well.  No singular song’s performance defines what I can/can’t do, and even if EVERYONE ELSE hates it when I open my mouth, I don’t.  Plus, what is the absolute worst thing that could happen if I post publicly?  Some troll could tell me that I suck and they don’t like my singing?  I hardly think that should matter, or serve to change my opinion.

A happy Jennnq is one who sings.  Yes, this may just be a silly app, but I am my most authentic self when I use it, because I am doing something I genuinely love.  I would sing without it, of course, but perhaps not as often.  Using it regularly reminds me generally of what music means to me.  Plus, yeah, getting any listens at all brings me a great deal of joy!

Ain’t that the name of the game?

Brightest blessings,

-Jennnq

The Happiness Battle Plan

Practically as soon as I get gung-ho enough about pursuing my own happiness to build a whole blog about it, life gets all up in my face like…

“Yo, you sure about that bro?”

bodybuilder_cartoon
“I’m not so sure you are…”

I feel like I’m being tested lately.  You guys already know about the not-so-great job stuff from last time.  Since then, a few other things have gone wrong.  Most of them have been small irritations, but not all.  I could get into them here, but the point of this is not to bring you, or myself down.  Suffice it to say that all in all, lately I’ve been feeling more blue than my hair.

2016-03-14 23.28.45

That’s not my style.  At my core, I believe I’m a happy person.  I practice writing down my gratitudes.  I often find myself deeply moved by art or music.  I receive and give many hugs.  I am such a loved and lucky lady!  

In fact, I’m intensely aware of my good fortune in being born and raised here.  I can explore my rights and freedoms in ways that some, in other parts of the world, simply cannot.  My feeling “blue” comes with its own compounded burden of guilt, since I realize I am in such a good situation.  I am a woman living in Canada.  I am educated.  I choose my own friends.  I am free to discuss my politcal opinions with them.  I could shave my head and show it off in public if I felt like it.  I can drive a car (or a mail truck).  I speak two languages.  My teenager STILL thinks I’m cool.

Yet, who among us is immune to sadness?  Not this happiness-seeker.  I know this cloud; the one that just sort of shows up from time to time, making all of the great stuff that much harder to see, and turning “happiness” into something that takes real work, attention, and a critical mind.  

I mean, as greedy as my Western privileged white-girl blues can seem, if you feel sad, the choice is always there to give into it.  I could wake up tomorrow, and once the offspring is off the school, I could just wander back into the house, sit my arse down, and cease making progress at all.  No one will yell at me if I don’t tidy up.  No one will weep if I do not write a word.  Not a soul would notice right away if I abandoned my personal schedule in favour of a little Jerry Springer, or Netflix, or YouTube, or just endlessly scrolling my Twitter feed.

jerry springer
Is this show even still a thing???

But you know what happens when you quit.  Giving up only feeds the blues.  When you stop fighting for positive momentum, and it gets harder and harder to start again.  When you allow yourself to fall further behind, your mood sinks even lower.  It’s made worse when you wake up the next day to a mountain that’s a little higher.  Worse when you become that much further from where you ought to be.    

I won’t quit.  I can’t quit.  I have goals that I’m after, and too many promises I’ve made to myself.  

I console myself by thinking that maybe I’m a late bloomer.   That’s not so bad.  So, I didn’t become a “success” in my early twenties or anything.  So what?  I’m certainly not alone there.  Maybe I just don’t “make it” until I’m older than average.  Maybe that’s ok.  I want to think it is.  It’s hard to not feel a pang of jealousy when I know so many smart, successful people, and here I am, Jenn Martin, still curious about EVERYTHING, but not much further ahead than I was 10 years ago.  I’m just plugging along, hanging my hopes on a star.  

I’m taking steps to improve.  The “behind” feeling was definitely worse at the beginning of last week.  In fact, it was so big, inundating, and kinda scary that I had to do something about it.  

I made myself a battle plan.

THE HAPPINESS BATTLE PLAN

I sat down with a pencil and a clean, unlined sheet of paper. (I don’t like to be confined. Even by those dastardly lines!  Ha ha.)  Alone and with NO distractions, I got introspective.  I wrote notes on the attributes that would make up my ideal self.  Physically, mentally, spiritually, career-wise, socially…everything!  I went crazy with it.  No limits.  (This had the almost immediate effect of helping me feel better.  Purpose is everything!)  I made notes on the most awesome person I could want to be: well-read, informed, friendly, funny, fit, living in accordance with my morals/ideals, spending time with loved ones and making a difference…all of it.  (I tried to be as specific as possible.)

While that was fun, and a pretty illuminating exercise, a pipe dream version of myself isn’t anything, unless I can make those ideas functional.  (Sort of like how saying you want to “get fit” doesn’t get you any closer to a six-pack or make you better at prepping meals!)  I took that sheet of ideals and I extrapolated it into goals on a new sheet.  For everything I had said I wanted, I carefully considered how someone would actually get there.  

For example, yes, I do want to be more well-read.  I have an English degree, and I love books, but for the past few years, I genuinely haven’t read much.  (Life gets busy!)  A goal?  How about I read a book a month, plus I actually keep track of them for myself? I could even do a little review!  (Bring back the book report, yeah!)  That’s a real goal, and it’s a lot better than continuing to feel self-concious that I read too little.

THEN I took this new list of goals, and started scheduling things into my planner.  I slotted in gym time, reading time, ukulele time…all of the fun things I actually want in my life, in a proper space.

It’s worth noting here that my planning style used to be way more chaotic.  I used to just have one list for to-do’s AND my schedule.  It was all in one place, mangled together.  It was ugly, and a mess, and I NEVER wound up getting everything finished.  

As of last week, my schedule is now JUST a schedule, and my to-do list is separate.  In fact, I actually sub-divided those “to-do” tasks: one list for ‘urgent’ things and one for everything else.  My schedule pages look a LOT less stressful now, and there is NO excuse for not attacking the “urgent” list first!

I  also want to highlight here the fact that I once used to have this crazy idea about fitting everything into a single day.  Like, my ideal day would involve cooking, cleaning, working, writing, singing, personal projects, research, working out, playing an instrument, spending time with my child and partner and everything else.  Of course, it’s impossible!  My solution?  A schedule that leaves lots spaces, so I don’t go crazy, and that spans the whole week.  

I know I’m neurotic, but you guys, whatever it takes, right?  

A lot of folks believe in more of a “go with the flow” approach, but I find a lack of planning stressful.  If you want to get things done, this is one system that takes into account your vision for the future.  You will at least know that you are doing things in accordance with your higher self!

The whole process, start to finish, took me about 2 hours.  I now have ideals and goals that I can review periodically, and I can always check to see that they’re infoming my schedule. The new plan isn’t perfect.  I still need to play with it, but I already think it is VERY helpful. I can at least see a path toward progress, instead of dealing with the awful feeling of treading water.  

Plus, while I’m not at my very best now, I think that happiness is cumulative.  This is a good way of making sure I am actually doing those smaller, happiness-inducing things that wind up meaning so much.  (I’m even planning on seeing my friends more, as I don’t very often, and I crave those deep, thought-provoking conversations!)

So no, I’m not where I want to be.  Yes, I want to wash these blues right outta my head. (Perhaps literally…I’m plotting a new dye job to boost my spirits too!)  I am willing to work for it, and if you’re like me, you might just be well-advised to go back to the drawing board and do the same.

Happy Monday everyone!  

Now get out there and shoot for the stars!🙂
-Jennnq

Taking My Artist Vitamins

Months and months ago, I auditioned for a local movie.  They were looking for “punk” characters, and they were also looking for people in my age group.  It seems rare when projects are looking for either, so I got excited.

I signed up, got the sides (excerpts from the script), and got into it.  I printed them out and marked them up.  I repeated them aloud and mentally.  I memorized them.  I spoke them more than once to my cat.  Got to know them backwards and forwards.  Knew the exact intonations I wanted to use in certain places.  At home, I had this down.

Then, I got to the audition, and as SOON as I was there, I was whisked into this room that was dark, except for one bright light and the camera in my face, and it was “action” right away, with no chance to breath.

It did.

Not.

Go.

Well.

I managed to get through the first part of it, and then I just…kinda froze?  Not my finest hour, and definitely not what I would consider typical!

Anyway, I asked to start the scene over again (because OMG), and the lady said to me, and I shit you not, “No, that’s ok, we’ve seen enough.”

Ouch.  Mortifying to say the least.  Probably my worst audition ever.  Especially for something that had seemed so easy peasy in my bedroom

Some time later, I spoke to my producer/director/actor friend Alix about it.  I was still embarrassed, but she laughed it off, and said that everyone needs to take their “actor vitamins” once in a while.  

Well, guess I was due again today.  Holy Flip though.  Do these vitamins ever suck.  Only, I guess I can’t really call them “actor vitamins”  since this time they’re not acting, but writing-related.  Maybe just “artist vitamins”?

That kind of works.  There could be a whole slew of “artist vitamins”!  In my mind, those vitamins would include things like outright rejections, rejections that suck more because they take endless weeks, and of course the undying expectation that you can and will work for free, because you love your art, and you need ALL OF THE EXPOSURE.

Ugh.  It’s hard to be bouncy.  Rejection sucks.

A part of me feels like I am not even supposed to write that, or say that.  Like it’s sacrilegious.  Like I just get to carry on, pretending that nothing weird happened today, and that I am tough, and remind myself quietly that even if I DIDN’T get the job I wanted,  the Universe has bigger plans for me, and everything else.

Blah blah blah whatever.  I know all of those stories.  But I didn’t get a job that I wanted today.  Boo.  At the end of the day, I understand that, and it’s ok, but guess what?  It still blows, and it’s a bitter pill to swallow, and I don’t have to like it.  Damn it.

So give me my time to sulk, and to be a jerk, and to let the vitamins work their magic.

Ha.  As silly as it sounds, thinking of rejection in this way is helpful.  Just knowing that these “artist-vitamins” are so very, very common makes it all a little better to think about.  It worked on my brain after that God-awful audition, and it’ll help me now.  A reminder of the universality of suck.  Really, who HASN’T blown an audition?  Mucked up a job interview?  Who HASN’T been turned down for some cool thing?  I bet even great actors, great writers, and great producers, people involved in the very best projects, have “artist-vitamin” stories that could make us all shudder and anxiety-vomit.  Those people are still A-ok.   

I’m still ok today too.  I just get to take some more vitamins.  Hell, given my love of supplements and choking down weird concoctions, this should be easy.  Pop in those rejection-filled “artist-vitamins” between the probiotic protein smoothie and the vitamin B.

😦

-Jenn

20160303_162657
Crappy day. Snapped this though.

 

P.S. I swear I’m alright.  I have other projects to work on.❤

 

 

 

 

 

Courting the Muse

Honestly, today I’ll be happy just to think of something to write about.  Nothing is forthcoming, and that is so odd for me.  Usually, I have something at the tip of my tongue (fingertips?).  Something to say.  Something to rant about.  Some great cause.  Well, not today.  Not really sure what’s up with today.  Am I sad?  Nostalgic?  What is this mood anyway?  Is it the blues?  I don’t think so, although the damp gray sky outside could certainly convince me otherwise.

Ah, there.  Just turned on the light above my desk. Hopefully its warm glow will help me out.  Help illuminate a path for my writing.  I can’t actually write nothing today, and I can’t stay in this funky mood, right?  I mean, here I am with a snack and talking to you all, and… oh, just flaming great.  I’ve no coffee.  Hmm.  Maybe that’s my problem.

I’ve returned!  With coffee!  (I also stopped to pet the cat for a bit, and to irritate Jason.)  Back to business.  Yup, any minute now.  I will soon startle you with some grand insight and brilliance into some…great topic.

Liz
“Creativity to me is just like…it’s like a bird, like a friendly bird that embraces all…ideas, and just like shoots…out of its eyes all kinds of beauty.”

Ha.  Or maybe not.  Here I sit without a lesson, or advice, or anything to grab your attention at all.  I pause, breathing in and out and watching my cursor.  It looks as if it’s breathing back at me.  Waiting.  Have you got any ideas old friend?  No?  Didn’t think so.  Heh. Post number two and the well has already run dry!  How can I possibly hope to make it?  Looks like I shouldn’t be writing at all.  I’m just wasting all of this time.  

Now everyone will know I’m secretly just a hack!  

Why am I doing this to myself?

Why am I doing this to you?

 

Writers are a curious breed.  We dance with a partner who may or may not show up.  How frustrating to be all dressed up and ready to go, only to be left hanging.  The muse is fickle, and if you write, or create in some other way, you know this well.

I wish that all of my writing would emerge in a great torrent of inspiration.  I wish the words would consistently fall into place effortlessly, and transform themselves into the pretty sentences, rife with meaning that I dream of writing.

Sometimes, every once in a while, it feels like they do.  Those times are beautiful.  They are of the ‘time-stands-still’ variety, and they are a part of what makes writing wonderful.  When it goes well, the experience is joyful and liberating.  The brain is engaged and firing on all cylinders.  The heart seems to beat a little faster.  The flow state is possible, and everything hums along for a little while. (Yay!)

Then there are the other times.  Times with no humming.  Times of false starts.  Times with five or six chucked opening paragraphs.  Times of aimlessly checking the internet in idle frustration.  Or, I might simply find that I consistently hate the tone of everything I produce.  There are moments when I read back what I’ve written and find it to be too whiny.  Too aggressive.  Too superficial.  Too deep in the weeds.  Too personal.  Too ethereal.  Too abrupt.  Too verbose.  Too something.  Too anything.  Those are the times when creativity is challenging, and I feel entirely grateful I’m not stuck whiting things out like in the old days.  I know well those trying moments when I must battle for my words, and when they only show up incrementally; one at a molasses-slow time.

So how do you do it?  How do you gracefully dance with so unpredictable a partner?  The easiest answer is, you just keep doing it.

Sounds simplistic, but it’s the truth.  All that you can ever do is invite the muse and show up.  You cannot force or cajole her.  You just do your job!

Your ‘job’ as a writer or artist, even if you are not currently being PAID to be a writer or artist, is to create.  If you are an artist on your own time, and doing it out of love, your time is limited.  You must create when the opportunity presents itself, or not at all.  You must keep writing even if you don’t like what you’re writing.  You must allow yourself bad days at your self-imposed “job,” just as you would expect of anyone else in another job.  Don’t think there’s any shame in struggling through a messy hour of disjointed writing.  Your job is to show up, ready to dance, with outside distractions kept to a minimum.

 She still may not come.  It’s worse if you become resentful or full of expectation. Don’t take it out on yourself if you fail to meet your ideals as a writer.  (Don’t go into a downward spiral, like I did, up above!) Don’t waste time beating yourself up, especially when the internet is full of trolls aching to do that for you.  If no one has told you this today, YOU are AWESOME, and you need to know that, because believing in any other nonsense is going to make the “job” we just talked about that much harder.   An instance of “bad” writing does not a bad writer make.  It’s ok!  It’s very important to generate words, even if they’re terrible, because it always seems like if you keep hacking at it, you will eventually find some less terrible words underneath.  (Plus, it’s better to force yourself to write for 15 minutes straight, and then have to edit the ever-loving crap out of it, than to have never written at all!)

If you’re still stuck, you may need a break.  A real one.  A creative one. Not a TV-watching or internet-surfing one.  A brief 20 minutes at a skill or hobby, (e.g. origami, chasing the dog around the backyard) can help your brain get into a better state for creative flow.

Or, you could always do something that often works for me.  Take a shower!  Not just recommended for hygiene purposes, I find that almost every time I get under the water and my mind gets idle, I start writing things in my head.  It just happens, and a LOT of those shower-inspiration moments have become blog posts, or letters to the editor, or even just the right wording for an email I needed to send.  (Bonus: you usually smell better afterward, and everyone loves that.)

So you get a wash, you bother to show up, you promise to write no matter what (might wanna turn off that wi-fi!) and you’re truthfully STILL getting nowhere?  You need to start thinking of things you care very deeply about.  Make a list.  Get an old-school pencil and paper if it helps.  Why?  Because passion makes for damn good writing, that’s why!

Need help?  Well, the way I see it, you can go a couple of different directions.  Try this:  What was the last thing that made you really angry?  When was it?  Who were you with?  Where were you? Really get back there, and get pissed off all over again, but this time on paper.  Find the wrong in that situation, and write to fix it.  

Not interested in starting your own revolution?  Well, go to the other end of the spectrum.  When was the last time you felt truly blessed?  You know, actually filled with wonder and gratitude.  Maybe it was an experience that left you happy to be alive.  Maybe just something that made you smile for the rest of the day.  Maybe you fell in love over the weekend!  Whatever it was, go for something that practically fills your eyes with tears of gratitude.  Look at moments when your heart is full, and write to extract meaning.  

Not that this is easy. These big things that touch your soul are usually both the hardest and most revealing to write about.  Naturally, they are also the most rewarding.  Talented impassioned writers, angered over injustices can generate pieces that make you want to stand and take action.  Writers who celebrate life, and all of its winning moments can uplift their audience, and build a personal connection that takes the reader along for the ride.

Nearly all writing can be seriously upgraded through merciless editing.  This is extremely good news if it didn’t go well the first time around!  Thankfully, YOU are smart enough to know what reads well and what doesn’t.  Trust yourself.  Even if what you first write is hideous, you CAN fix it. (Tip: read things aloud to find the ugly bits quickly!)

Most of the time, once you’ve generated a piece and gone back to edit it a few times (the 4th edit is my secret weapon), you really won’t be able to see a difference between the words written in a fit of inspiration and those that took way more effort.  :)

So no more excuses!  If the muse doesn’t deign to dance with you today, you’d better just get used to doing the funky chicken alone!

Yours in occasionally awful writing,

-Jennnq

 

Critical Happiness

Hello, and welcome to my brand-spankin’-new blog!  :)

If you’ve been following me for a while, or if you’ve ever read a “garden variety punk” post, then THANK YOU.   (If we’re completely new to each other, that’s awesome too…no presuppositions!)

If you want to know more about me, you can read what’s in the craftily-titled “About Me” section above.  Really though, I’m just another carbon-based life-form riding along on this tiny blue-green marble, hurtling through space at ridiculous speed, trying not to trip over my own shoelaces.  I’m no super-athlete.  Or super-genius.  Honestly, I’m not even that great in the kitchen either.  What I AM is someone who isn’t afraid to work hard, and who is driven by natural curiousity.

This leads me to my goals.  What am I hoping to accomplish here?  What’s the purpose of “Critical Happiness”?  Why is this site called that?  Why do l have to be so critical of happiness anyway?  I mean geez, what is my actual problem?  Why am I continuing to write these rhetorical questions to myself?  Will Tom marry Sue, or finally leave her for Rachel??  WHAT IS ANY OF THIS EVEN ABOUT???

*Ahem*  I do have a couple of ends in mind when writing to you, actually.  Firstly, I am a huge nerd, and I miss the work of blogging.  It’s good practice.  It’s fun.  It’s personal.  (It’s amazing how much better it looks by the third edit.)   I also know that I’m a sucker for genuine feedback, and that’s part of what makes blogging more exciting than writing in your diary.

Secondly, I need a way to represent myself that allows me the freedom to write as I please.  Here, I can create writing reflective of my ideals and visions.  Who doesn’t prefer their own rules to someone else’s agenda?  I get to be as rant-y as I want and that’s cool because it’s my blog.  In fact, I can talk about all the baddies if I feel like it; religion, politics, even about how funny pictures of Donald Duck with Donald Trump’s face are.  (Hint: very)

donald-trump-duck

Thirdly, and most importantly, I am back, writing in this new blog because I want to share this crazy happiness-chasing life-journey thing with you!  As cheesy as it sounds, it really is a journey, and I don’t have all the answers, but I am at least open to sharing, and to connecting with other happiness-seekers.  You know who you are.

Critical Happiness

Now that you know a bit about why I’m here, what’s the deal with the name anyway?

On the most basic level, it means what it says.  Happiness is critical.  Life kinda sucks without it.  This blog is part of my belief that working to create and preserve happiness is absolutely vital.  It’s arguably the most important pursuit of your life.  If you don’t have happiness, you don’t have much.  If you live in a giant mansion but you’re miserable, you may as well be in any old hut.  Simple enough.

To get deeper into the “critical” thing, I also believe that thinking critically is a path to better understanding. Understanding leads to increased control over personal circumstances, and that personal autonomy leads to a better chance at happiness.  If you have at least some control over your life, you have a shot of feeling good about it.  That’s why a part of my concept behind this blog is an element of deconstruction.  Blind acceptance is dangerous.  Don’t assume the prescribed recipes for happiness are the right ones for you.  I believe in the validity of questioning them, testing them, and observing what some of the greats do. The better we become at taking in and evaluating information, the better we can be at unpacking real habits, ideas and ways of living that promote lasting happiness.

Lastly, I am keen to link the concept of happiness to the idea of critical mass.  Simply put, if you manage to do the right stuff, in the right order (e.g. good food, adequate sleep, reasonable exercise) you might just find that you wake up happy.  I love this idea of being able to push yourself, bit by bit, and piece by piece into happiness.  Like, if you lead the best life you can, you eventually just won’t be able to help it!

It’ll happen, like some kind of a happiness…

EXPLOSION!!

 

download (1)

(Honestly though, I hope it’s somewhat less violent than this.)

Let’s have some fun,

-Jennnq