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Self-Forgiveness is Hard

Self-forgiveness is hard.  I think it has to do with how aware we are of ourselves.  Every thought, every deed.  We know about them.  The imperfection of being human is continuous in everything we do, think, say or feel.
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“I hate her.”
“Those people are stupid.”
“What if I smacked him?”
“What if I tripped her down the stairs?”
“What would happen to me if I did X,Y or Z?”
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Where the hell do those thoughts come from?
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“I didn’t do A, B, or C and that makes me a bad person.”
“I helped him and he didn’t say thank you. So ungrateful. That’s the last time I do that.”
“I yelled at her. I’m so horrible.”
“I ignored them.”
“I didn’t say hello.”
“That makes me a bad, self-centered person.  I don’t deserve anything positive to happen to me in my life, because I said, did or thought X, Y and Z.”
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It seems like a mathematical, logic problem.   If A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C.
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If I don’t say Hello that makes me a bad person and bad people are unworthy of love.  Then I am unworthy of love.
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Often times, when we judge ourselves unworthy or negative in some way, it is not we who are really doing the judging.  If we stop, close our eyes and look within us, we’ll find that the judge is a parent, teacher, friend or family member from our past.  It is with their voice we judge ourselves.  Not our own.
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When we first learned to feel shame and guilt, it was by the judgment of others.  A caregiver, most of the time.  Someone we trusted with our love.  Who we trusted loved us.  Then they go and make us feel badly about something we did.  But they love us.  They usually make us feel pretty good.  Now, we’re not feeling so good around them.  They made us feel pretty damn shitty.
Of course, we have to feel some kind of shame or guilt with things we do.  Especially, if those things will harm others or is not for the greater good of our tribe.  We can’t just do whatever we want to do.  There are consequences that must be suffered to keep the tribe members in their place.  Otherwise, it’s mass hysteria.
How that loved one introduces us to shame will determine how we deal with shame in the future.  Will we lie to avoid that pain?  Will we turn the shame into anger and rage against others to protect our fragile ego?  Will we avoid social contact and all conflict at every expense just so we don’t feel the pain of shame?
How we deal with the pain of shame shows up in our daily lives.  The decisions that we make are based on our thoughts and how we want to control what we say and do.  Avoidance of things is one way to deal.
“I can’t say that.”
“I won’t say that.”
“What I say won’t matter, anyway.”
“What I say won’t make a difference.”
“What I want doesn’t matter to others.”
All that equals C, “I am unworthy.”
If the person we trusted with our love and who we felt love for took a little bit of that love away from us because of something we did then love is neither constant nor continuous.  It is dependent on the other person. They have the control.  They can take and give.  And that love is based on my behavior meeting their expectations.   To avoid pain I must meet their demands.
The logic problem: If I do what he wants, he will be happy with me.  If he is happy with me, I will be loved.  So, If I do what he wants then I will be loved.
And the negative of that is true, too.  If I don’t do what he wants, he will be unhappy with me.  If he is unhappy with me, I will not be loved.  So, if I don’t do what he wants, then I will not be loved.
This logic runs deep in our brains and so we apply it to all of our relationships.  Even the relationship we have with ourselves.
That is what makes self-forgiveness so difficult.  We see all this negative about ourselves and find it difficult, if not impossible, to allow forgiveness of our negative thoughts, deeds or feelings.  We believe we shouldn’t forgiven. We continuously punish ourselves.  A punishment that if dealt by another person we would eventually tell them to screw off.  If we had a strong enough ego to do so.  A punishment that if we saw it being dealt out to a loved one, we would tell our loved one to get out of that relationship.  Run as far away from that other person as they could get.
We can’t run away from ourselves.  People try.  Maybe you have tried.  I have.  Alcohol.  Drugs. Gambling. Work.  Anything to escape the punishing negative thoughts.  Any way to get out of our heads.  Running doesn’t work. It never does.  The pain catches up.  The damage from running starts to show; mentally and physically.
The great thing is we can learn to stop running and to stand our ground.  There are hundreds of ways to learn.  And we can learn them all. We can learn what works best for us.  This isn’t a post on how or what to learn.  It is just me saying, I understand.  Our lives can feel like a mess.  It took time for life to end up this way. Due to our upbringing, we made decisions based on our experiences and used whatever means necessary to avoid pain.
It took us awhile to get here and it’s okay that we are here.  We can start by forgiving ourselves and saying one thing: “It’s okay that I am here.”  Then we can encourage ourselves to do one thing: “I can start to make a change.”
That’s it.  Don’t even start trying, yet.  It took you years to get here.  It will take years to be fully recovered.  But just like not smoking or drinking for that first day of sobriety, you are one day healthier.  Tell yourself each day, “It’s okay that I’m here.  I can start to make a change.”
Remember, this is only the start.  If you are looking for a tool, you can go back to my post on Don Miguel’s The Four Agreements.
In that post I wrote, “Miguel points out in his book that we can expect to slip up and not follow those new agreements at times, maybe a lot of times, but to not get discouraged because we can always start again. I don’t have to be perfect.  I don’t have to get it right every time.”
You don’t have to get it right every time or be perfect. It is okay that you are here. I welcome you.
Nate

Are You Willing to Fail

Are you? Are you willing to fail?
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You have to make the agreement with yourself to do things that are uncomfortable but have been proven to work.
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You have to make an agreement to take the time to do these things and withstand the time it takes before the change will happen.
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If the most successful people are doing these things and swear by them, but you disregard the techniques and then complain that you haven’t reached success or your life hasn’t changed for the better, then you don’t have a leg to stand on. Your claims are  null and void.
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I still complain, but the length of time I spend complaining is shorter. I don’t waste as much breath or mental power on the complaint. I know that unless I choose to do something to make a change then complaining is useless. Venting and letting it out feels good in the moment because it is like pulling out a splinter. But if I don’t do anything to keep the splinters from happening then I’ll have to keep pulling out splinters.
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Some of my recent fails:
  • Cold shower in the morning. Did it then stopped.
  • Got up to write in the morning. Did it for a month straight, then stopped.
  • Exercise in the morning. Did it then stopped.
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I was not being true to my word.  This is the first Agreement in Don Miguel’s Four Agreements.
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I lean toward doing what is comfortable in the moment but then pay the price later. That is a fail. It is a common thing we all do. It is a common fail.
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I failed before I even attempted a lot of things. I either didn’t make the attempt or I told myself going in I would only give so much effort because I could not count on myself to continue to follow through.
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I spoke to myself in failure speech. I accepted that I would fail.  I let that be the dialogue in my head.
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Now, I fight against that dialogue.  That fight has helped me get back up. I’m back to exercising in the morning and cold showers for the last 20-30 seconds. I’m not writing every morning, but I’m 2/3rds the way there.
I am still unsure about trying something knowing there is a high probability of failure. Though, failure is only 100% guaranteed if I don’t try. I’m still fighting the failure dialogue and it has me hesitant about setting goals and changing lifestyle habits. But, I’m willing to keep trying, because I also have positive dialogue in my head.
I get to choose which dialogue to listen to. That knowledge is pretty powerful.
Nate

Thank You: Music Post 010

In a previous music posts I wrote about how process is art. A term I borrowed from podcast host James Altucher who borrowed it from another artist.
I believe in that post I wrote that I would start posting the process I go through when learning a new song. (I also said I was going to learn a song per week but we see how that panned out.)
However, here it is my first process in learning a new song to post.
I am learning Thank You by Led Zeppelin. That choice was decided after I heard Chris Cornell’s version while listening to the Chris Cornell station on Pandora.
I really liked his version, so applied it to how I learned to play the song. Cornell sings the verse containing “Little drops of rain” twice. In the original it is only sung once. It is a great verse and I guess Cornell thought it was worth putting it in there twice.
Also, Cornell’s version is acoustic, so there was no background filler with melodic keyboards or guitar solo. In order for the song to not be over so quickly adding that verse twice extends the song nicely.
I broke down my process here. You’ll hear how I screwed up as I attempted to get the fingering right with hammer on’s and pull off’s and unfamiliar chord changes.
Listen below to the opening guitar part. I don’t think I play it exactly as it should sound but I think I pull it off just enough so you know what song I am starting to play.
I think people at a party listening from the next room might say, “Hey, is someone playing Led Zeppelin?”
This next part was easier. A familiar place on the fretboard for mostguitar players. Chords D, C and G. These are usually the first chords a person learns. Many songs are played using these chords in different progressions. Given this song came out on Led Zeppelin II in 1969, Jimmy probably knew these chords very well.  The band was still fairly young; though, they were in other bands prior.
I don’t know if you want to call this a verse or chorus but “If the sun refused to shine” it will still be the same song, either way.
That musical section was supposed to go here but apparently I didn’t record that for upload. So, moving on.
The next verse “Kind woman I give you my all” took me to a new place on the fret board: B minor chord with a progression to E minor and A minor. I continue to struggle with it, as you will hear. I love how terrible it sounds. If only you could have seen and heard my frustration as I was recording this.
Then we go back to familiar ground with C, G and D. See?  Same three chords as before, just in a different order.  Chris Cornell and I liked this “Little drops of rain” verse and strumming pattern so much, we play it twice in our renditions.
Ok, I took it from his rendition of the song. And I can’t truly say how much he liked that strumming pattern.
The process was happening and I was getting better. Somewhat. But it still wasn’t sounding like I wanted it to. Something was missing other than the lack of skill from my playing.
I hit the Flanger pedal (I use Boss), strummed and smiled.  There was the missing ingredient.  Such a melodic sound that ups the ante on any chord progression.
I stomped my distortion pedal (my newly purchased ) and played around.  The mix of flanger and distortion transported me to what my version of this song would be.
See what I’m taking about?  I knew right then and there this was going to be my rendition. However, since I decided I reached the deadline for this post, I laid down a rough cut of the guitar so I could add vocals.
There were a few lyrical faux pas’s. I may go back to clean it up later and add drums. Process is art.
So, here is my rough cut of Thank You, rock rendition.
Nate

Unheard Songs Below the Iceberg

After listening to James Altucher’s podcast #340 where he interviewed Don McLean, I got to thinking about music. Don McLean is the guy who wrote and sang American Pie. Of course, he’s had other hits but that is the one everybody knows.
Don is 72 years old and still touring. That is something that should give hope to those of us old, budding artists. However, he made a statement that a person who wants to make it in the music biz needs to do it by age 25 or they “ain’t making it”. He said “young people want a hero”.  They need heroes. They want to see people like them close to their age who are making it in the world.
Don said, “Older people don’t need that stuff. Way older people really don’t need that stuff.”
Is that true?
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I don’t think so. I don’t think we stop listening to new music as we get older because we stop looking for heroes. We stop listening because new music from new artists is really just the same old stuff covered with shiny new packaging.
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Pop music is like the pointed comment Matthew Mcconaughey said in the movie Dazed and Confusedabout high school girls, “I get older, but they stay the same age.”
Pop music has the standard topics to cover for each new generation: Love, loss and sex.
Pop music is disposable and remanufactured for mass consumption. That’s what makes it popular. Unfortunately,  it obscures our ability to find new, and old, music out there that could be the new anthem of our age. Whatever age we may be at the time.
I believe there are many unknown songs and artists just as deserving of being listened to as much as what we are force fed by popular media. We might be able to find those gems in the disposable media landscape of YouTube and Facebook, but those mediums are geared towards quick, viral videos of fluff. Entertaining, they are. Fulfilling creatively, they are not.
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I don’t blame the pop artists. They all have talent and are trying to make a living doing what they love. It is the money machine of the industry that drives the production of the music we hear on the radio. Mass production of cake music. Sweet. Delicious. Made from a musical recipe just like everything that came before it.
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I have aged and I don’t have the same issues as when I was in my teens and twenties. I listen to music from my youth because it triggers within me thoughts and feelings of those times. Some good. Some shitty. I feel younger again for a moment. But I am not that age anymore.
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Is there creative stuff out there that would appeal to me at my age? If so, does it have a chance to reach me through the mire of pop culture?
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My tastes have matured passed the songs that are about love, loss, and sex in the young adult phase of life. If I was exposed to more songs about what it is like to be forty, separated and struggling with parenthood and a new self-identity, then I would totally be listening to that album or radio station.
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I may not be looking for heroes like my younger versions but I still need them. I still want them. And I wouldn’t necessarily call them heroes. Maybe, mentors. Or even more precisely, peers.
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Some bands from my youth from back in the  90’s are still around making new music and touring, perhaps, more so than they were at the height of their popularity back then. Foo Fighters and Green Day to name two. And who I didn’t see in concert until within the past three years.
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The fact they are still producing good music at ages close to 50 years old is a testament that age doesn’t matter for relevancy. It is substance.
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Don stated that if we wanted to see how good songs were made we would have to look back and listen to music before the 1980’s. I don’t think that is accurate. Plenty of good and great songs have been written since then.
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I will agree that good music will stand the test of time and if you to go back to music before the 80’s, you will see that every band and artist after that were influenced by the blues and rock gods of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
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Over the years, I have thought about how much music has been made over the decades that has gone unlistened to.  We know the hits but that is only the tip of the musical iceberg. Due to the push for the next person to be heard and the next hit song to be played on the airwaves, we miss out on so much.
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And we all have a chance to be heard now.  Our voice and art can be put out there much more easily. There are so many of us creatives that want to be heard. I want to be heard; otherwise, I’d write all this in a private journal.
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Hell, I even wrote a post a while back all but asking for people to start a dialogue on my site.
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We scream this through the Internet using social media venues, “Pay attention to me. Listen to me so I can believe that my ideas and voice mean something. Comment below. Give a Like. Copy is link to post on another site you visit.”
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So many of us have things to say and we want someone to listen to and acknowledge our work, so that we feel self-worth.
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Don had a great comment that if we put beautiful stuff in us, we’ll get beautiful stuff out.  I believe that goes for a lot of things in life. Good art. Good music. Good thoughts. We reap what we sow. There is a reason for that saying.
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I make my art under the iceberg. There is a lot of art made under here by a lot of people and it is worth checking out.  Maybe I’ll check out some of Don McLean’s other songs located under here.
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And here you are. Thanks for stopping by under the iceberg.
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Nate

For Every Up, There Is A Down. Get Back Up.

At the end of February, I convinced myself to get out of the house and go for a walk. The sun was shining and the weather was at normal temperatures.

It was a healthy choice. So, I lead myself to believe. I’m not sure how healthy it was.

My choice was to walk on the sidewalk next to a busy road. The main thoroughfare of my town. So, first off, car fumes were plentiful. Next, I almost got mowed down by a Cadillac while in a crosswalk. The white light man had indicated I had the right of way. Then, on my return route, a number of horns beeped due to drivers frustrations with each other. That interrupting my thought flow, triggering the nature human fear response within me.

I hate car horns. I rarely use mine. The horn isn’t supposed to be used to let others know your level of anger with them. The longer the horn sound the higher the level of anger. And what is accomplished? Nothing.

Beep your horn to let others know you are present if they are merging or stepping out in front of you when you are in their blind spot or not paying attention. Or a gentle “toot” to someone sitting too long at a stop light because they were on their phone and didn’t notice it changed to green. We all have lapses in judgement. No need to take it personally.

I did have a short stint through a wooded area and that was the better part of the walk. However, due to the snow melt the trail was flooded layered with large mud puddles. I don’t have the shoes to trudge through mud soaked trails, so that was a bit nerve racking negotiating my way long the path.

I did feel better physically for having taken the walk, but mentally I was reeling from almost being mowed down, fear triggered by two horn blowers and the soggy toes from water logged trails.

I haven’t taken a walk since.

PTSD?

Perhaps, my next walk should be along the quiet back roads of my neighborhood. Or the quiet Wissahickon Trails that are a five minute drive from my place.

I think I can tag on picture taking along that walk to make it an artist’s date.

Nate

I Was So Busy. In My Head.

How busy is busy?

Busy is a word we use when we don’t know what else to use. So is it the word we mean to use?

Busy can mean doing things around the house, running errands, parental duties, or other domesticated life chores.

Busy can mean your job/career has you doing things all day; phone calls, managing people, spreadsheets, customer care, driving all around, or other job related tasks.

We tend to think of busy as things we do. And sometimes we do a lot of things during our days. These things can physically exhaust us.

“How have you been?” A friend will ask.
“Busy,” we’ll respond, not listing the five things we had to multitask in the last hour and the million and a half things we still have to do.

Besides that, busy isn’t a feeling. “How have you been” and “What have you been doing” receive the same response, “Busy.” And don’t even get me started on “Fine” as an answer.

The truth for me is that I do a lot at work and home. Tasks are not happening all the time, yet, I feel like I’m so busy. And I am. In my head. I am thinking all the time about what I’ve accomplished but mostly about what I still have to accomplish.

I’m busy most of my days thinking, not necessarily doing. During my down time my mind is going over things past, present and future. Rarely is my mind not pouring over something I did or didn’t do. Or should do.

I think I am busy not doing things most days, but I think so much about doing things that I’ve tricked my brain into believing I’m am continuously on the move. Our brains don’t know the difference between what is actually happening and what is only happening in our head.

This isn’t always a negative thing. Some of the best athetes will practice visualization for running plays, golf and tennis swings or throwing a ball. Writers visualize whole stories before even writing a single word. Musicians will visualize playing their instrument while sitting in traffic or standing in the grocery line. Fingers moving along an imaginary fret or keyboard.

Those are meditative practices that have been studied and proven to enhance a person’s performance. Watch the movie The Pianist to see what I’m talking about.

Our minds are always working, either for us or against us. We can choose to feed it with all kinds of things. Otherwise, it will feed on itself and the result is usually bad. Negative thinking will creep in and set up a home and then slowly eat away at everything until you are racked with despair, crippling anxiety and no self-worth.

I’ve been there. Many times.

Our minds are busy every second of every day. That’s why we will tell people we’re busy but not be able to give those internal examples about why we are exhausted from doing so much. We have convinced our brains and our brains in return have convinced us that we have been doing so many things.

I haven’t written a post in over a month. The past two weeks I’ve been busy thinking about how I haven’t posted in a long time. I didn’t realize just how long it had been until I looked it up this morning.

I’ve had doing tasks and thinking tasks over this past month. I’ve also had down time where I could have written something.

I was busy not writing. I was busy telling my brain reasons why I couldn’t write. I told my brain I was doing so much and had some much more to do. So my brain believed it and in return convinced me to believe it. What a lovely team of procrastinating liars we are, my brain and I. The perfect pair to never get anything done.

So, here is a post. When is the next post?

That will depend on what my brain and I decide to convince each other.

Nate

 

Music Post 009: Package Thief

Music Post 009

Finally, my rough cut of Superchunk’s Package Thief. It was a long time in the making. Well over the week time limit I’m supposed to give myself.

I used YouTube (song video), iTunes (song download), and Songsterr (song chords) as my research references.

Superchunk is such an obscure band from the 90’s that I was surprised to find their song on Songsterr. It was a huge help with finding out the chord progression.

If you are unfamiliar with Songsterr, just Google it and you’ll see that it is a site that helps you learn a song by showing you the chords as the song plays.

I texted a copy of my finished product to my friend who is a Superchunk fan and he dug it. Probably because he’s my friend. He said he sounded darker than the original. It may be that the guitar has a deeper distorted sound from the original.

My plan is to make the songs my renditions, so I guess I accomplished that.

This is a rough cut with many warts. It is complete and I’m moving on to my next song.

Enjoy.

Nate

What’s My Age Again?

My mom came up to visit this weekend, since this is my weekend with the kids. My kids love their mom mom. I have been fortunate that my mom has such a great relationship with my kids. Due to my two younger brothers living in Florida and our mom living in New Jersey, she doesn’t get to have a close relationship with her other grandchildren.

I live the closest in Pennsylvania. My kids have been able to benefit from living so close to their mom mom. I am truly thankful for this.

I’m, also, thankful for her visit today because we all got to get out of my cramped two-bedroom apartment and go to an indoor trampoline park called Get Air. It was her treat.

The last time I went to one of those parks (Sky Zone), I stressed a muscle in my lower back and ended up sit out for the majority of our stay. So, I was apprehensive to engage this time. But my son and daughter wanted me to join in so I said yes.

I have a dodgy lower back. Damaged it in high school lifting weights back in the 90’s, many years of chiropractic adjustments and finally had back surgery in 2016. Jumping on trampolines seemed like a distant, never to do again memory.

I changed up my approach to this issue over the past four to five months and did one of the best things for my lower back: I started to engage the core.

Sitting, standing, bending over and squating down, I engage my core. I put the focus on my stomach muscles and the prolonged lower back pain has become short-lived.

My back still aches at times but not for days or weeks like it used to. It has been amazing. Better than any pain med has ever helped.

So, I said yes to my kids and we jumped. Whenever my back started to feel like I was over doing it, I would sit down to take a break. I didn’t stretch my back when I felt the pain. I learned that would just aggravate my back muscles and make thinks worse.

So, why the title, “What’s My Age Again?” That is a phrase that gets thrown around too readily. Age doesn’t matter as much as fitness.

There was a grandfather there with his granddaughter dunkin’ balls through one of the basketball hoops. He was much older than me and was a damn inspiration. I want to be that grandparent to my grandkids.

Of course, given the ages of my kids, 11 and 7, by the time I’m a grandfather there will be jetpack parks called Screw Gravity. I hope I can keep up as a 70 year old grandparent.

I’m grateful for being able to keep up now.

Age doesn’t matter when I look at my kids’ faces and they are totally excited that I am out there on the trampolines with them.

I have made it an expectation that I will be on the trampoline, on the floor with the LEGOs or creating some art project from the recyclables bin.

There is no age limit for doing those things.

Though, sometimes I just want to sit and do nothing, but today was not one of those times.

Nate

Music Post 008

Music Post 008

The upcoming post of the Superchunk cover song is close at hand. But I decided to take a listen to some other music avenues I had ventured down last summer.

I had been thinking about the morning recordings I used to do with my unplugged electric guitar and my iPhone Voice Memos recording app. It was a thing I did. Another form of music doodles. I came across this little three minute ditty. It is a rough recording of a very melodic tune. Long enough to be a full song if lyrics were put to it, but I think it stands well on its own as a musical number.

I just wish I could remember the chords I played. There is a part in the song that could be considered the chorus that sounds like two guitars: rhythm and lead. I am impressed. It sounds pretty awesome. I almost can’t believe it’s me playing. If not for the small imperfections I would say it was someone else.

However, I need to shut that part of my thinking down and claim this crafted project that is mine. This is my song. This is me playing. I can get it right sometimes.

Enjoy

Nate

Progress in Steps

In my last post I mentioned I would post my process as art when working on recording my weekly song. Though, I have made progress on my next music post I am not able to post a snippet yet. Recording in GarageBand on my iPad 3 makes posting a snippet of music cumbersome.

However, I post this as a way to keep myself concurrent with previous posts, so as not to come across as some who posts on a whim then moves on to the next irrelevant post with no consistency among my writings.

How could I chart my progress in self-fulfillment if I’m posting whatever whenever?

I don’t even know if self-fulfillment is such a thing. How could a self be fulfilled? If I were ever to be full then why would I continue to do anything? I want to continue to learn. So if that is the case, I guess I will never be fulfilled.

So, with that said: In my never ending quest to fill myself, I was able to figure out the timing for the rhythm guitar on that pesky Superchunk song “Package Thief”. I recorded the rhythm guitar and the basic drum beat.

Next, I will add more drums to fit with the song changes and then figure in the lead guitar.

Many times today, and in the weeks past, I would tell myself, “I’ll never get this. It’s impossible for me. I need to move on to a new song.”

I was even going to get my kids to help me, but I didn’t. They stayed out of my way, which allowed me the alone time I needed to fight through this process.

Something in my mind kept telling me I could figure this timing out. Just keep going.

So, I kept going.

I am so happy I was able to record what I did and I am so close to getting this song done. I know it will have warts all over it. I’ll wear them with pride.

This song has been kicking my ass for over a month and I kept fighting. I feel better for sticking with it. I have seen and heard the progress.

One step closer to completion.

Nate