Monday, September 22, 2014

The Unborn, Born-Again & Newborn: life goes on-

Whether "expecting" a life to begin, 

re-defining one's life purpose 

or pushing through the canal of existing pain, 

life is scary, life is ever-changing and 

life is a challenge worth the risk.

By: Erin McDougald 

Religiously, every month, I remember, as a child, accompanying my mother for her devoted visit to her dashingly good-looking (totally heterosexual) young hairdresser, Ron.  He was funny and entertaining and had the most beautiful hair-assistants and stylists working in his modest salon in Columbus, Ohio.  His wife, Cyndi, had supermodel good-looks and together they were considered a power-couple in the beauty industry... in Columbus, anyway.  I remember her being "very pregnant" and everyone very excited in anticipation for the birth of their first baby.  And I remember seeing my mother crying in the kitchen after she was told the news that Ron and Cyndi's un-born baby, one month from due-date, was dead in the womb.  According to Ohio law, the young couple, after going through an induced birth for a still-born child was legally obligated to name the baby and have a burial.  I remember I was specifically instructed as a little girl of 8 or 9, never to mention this loss to Ron or Cyndi as it would be too sad for them to discuss.  Years went on, for the couple to have yet another miscarriage.  This precipitated their divorce, according to Ron himself.  Their passion, trauma and love reunited them in marriage a few years later.  Eventually, their beautiful baby, Amanda, was born after nine months of strict bed-rest for the mother; the unbearable anxiety through the difficult pregnancy and birth was another topic we were forbidden to ask about out of thoughtfulness to the sensitive state they were in. Shortly thereafter the birth of their healthy baby girl, their marriage ended for the second time.  Bitterly.
Ron went on to re-marry a beautiful, very successful, fun-loving woman with two children of her own.  They brought a fourth child into their new family and lived happily for many years until that marriage dissolved after 15 years or so.  

I'm not sharing this story to gossip.  I'm interested in the unborn fears that never had the chance to breathe through trauma.  The guilt, anger, unaired pain... I wonder, were these emotions amoebas attached, feeding off of and growing uncontrollably in the womb of each couples' existence?  Was it more than the loss of what was expected, but, eventually, the loss of courage to keep hoping?  I never asked.  And the circle of silent onlookers that felt envious, hopeful, helpless, pained and awkward in the presence of a man that appeared to have everything, most all the time... until a massive loss overshadowed his gregarious chuckle or boyishly-sly grin, reminding us all "not to bring it up"...  For all he accomplished and went on to do, the life he led with newborns and new found love, the unborn reality still lived on his his heart, and how could it not?  

Expectation and the unexpected, interestingly enough, can have similar psychological impacts that blur the vision from the reality.  I lost two pregnancies this year.  Nowhere as devastatingly close to term as Cyndi and Ron experienced, but the loss of the unborn left me with the loss of self... the loss of something I neither knew to expect or how to grieve, per se.  The loss of two fetuses left me with the loss of understanding, reason, and perhaps even loss of purpose.  It left me in a loneliness that usurped the partnership I cherished but, ultimately disavowed through (unknowing) self-sabotage.  I was always told pregnancy was near impossible or implausible given the circumstances of my long-endured medical complications; I expected no pregnancy, let alone two lost pregnancies in one year.  Sometimes being given the knowledge of something you never had a chance to even revel in, before it is "taken" from you, is a loss that feels two-fold.  There is a sense of feeling "duped" by the universe, or, worse, betrayed by your own body, that leaves the "unborn" a constant but ghostly presence.  The haunting questions of "If I knew, could I have prevented this loss?" can be enough to drive one to edge of sanity in the quietest moments of unshared self-doubt.  But, life goes on. 

When the concept of god, some 17 years ago, became a fairytale I no longer subscribed to, people came out of the woodwork to oppose my discernment of religion, heaven, hell and most of all, that ridiculous book of hypocritical fables known as The Bible (insert Kabbalah etc... same difference).  My decision to stop pondering the magic of mythical characters conjured by imperfect men seemed to offend more than just my Irish-Catholic mother.  --People who had no true connection to my personal life had opinions and disapproval of my personal choice to believe (or not believe) in the ideas they chose to subscribe to.  I found this as amusing as I did aggravating.  And when the wonderful and loving legend of jazz, Ira Sullivan (a Born-Again Christian), whom I was very recently fortunate enough to spend a month with, every day,  insisted on inserting scripture into the most disconnected subjects, at first, I was perturbed.  But as life is, and life does, letting things flow beneath one's buoyancy instead of pushing against the tide can be a more tranquil transition from opinion to wisdom.  And as I with-held my opinions, and listened to Ira's perspective, I found great value in the wisdom in his heart, more than the legitimacy of his faith.  If anything, Ira reinforced the beauty in life by pointing out the beauty in every difficulty.  Annoying at first?  Yes.   But, quickly, his influence dissolved the sleep from eyes and urged me to see life in the technicolor of possibility, rather than the sepia of what might have been.

I found the lessons in temperance more pertinent than the source of his beliefs.  Ira is a spiritual guidepost for me, not a religious zealot; he is a person whose life exemplifies his words of wisdom.  His behavior, re-born from decades earlier when a very different life on the road as a jazzman surrounded by the temptations of substances over substance dictated his decisions.  He became Born-Again.  In more ways than the liturgical definition suggests; Ira, an octogenarian who has seen more of the world than most people in the world could imagine without their technology in-hand, is still infusing the ideals of re-birth with his concepts of healthy dieting, his interest in reading, mind-enhancement games of scrabble, political interests and of course musical excursions into the new, rather than the bebop era that helped make him an icon of the genre.  Ira inspired me to find a new dimension of existence-- not one pertaining to god, but, instead, one that elevates me as a human being above all other aspirations.  

In the recent fracture and separation of what I know as "ultimately the best relationship I ever had", in no small part, effected by the miscarriages and mishandled emotions on both of our parts, I have made the decision to pull the plug on the stagnating life-support system I relied on called codependency.  The intellectual in me always recognized the codependent nature of my "passionate existence", and yet, never digested the facets of defining behavior which worked against me in all my efforts to secure happiness, peacefulness and, essentially, consistency in life.  The machine of codependency prevented me from the death of my unrealistic expectations-- by that, I mean, it fed me enough misinformation to nebulize my heart into a false-state of stability, leading me into the arms of narcissistic men, addicts of all sorts (from alcohol to pot to passive-aggressive codependent personalities)... My oxygen tube was to be the life-source to heal, "fix" or assume responsibility for their (anyone's) feelings, problems and behaviors.  By pouring myself completely into another person's recurring dilemmas, emotional ineptitude or physical demands of my time, I could feel "needed" (read valid).  

The harm in such "compassionate thinking" is a tapeworm that feeds from the inside out-- a needful hunger that can never be satiated because no amount of self-sacrifice can create self-acceptance.  It has taken me [insert age] ... this long... to metabolize the defective thinking which poisoned the balance (if there was any to begin with-- many cases, not, as the codependent personality is intrinsically attracted/drawn to/addicted to the emotionally unavailable/addicted/with-holding/controlling personality) of any connection born from the hopeful place of "finally- real love".  That real love inevitably reared it's familiar, dysfunctional face that morphed the imagery of healthy-communication into toxic-discord.  The more the spiraled decline ensued, the stronger each personality clung to our crutches of defense against it.  There comes a time (usually rock-bottom is in-sight), when the ability to recognize a problem is no longer the issue; the WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE THE SOURCE of the problem (AKA: yourself, not the other person) is not born from your capacity to research the psychology of it all (though that helps tremendously-- to a point), but, instead, it lies in your tenacity to experience the pain of new birth.  I'm not suggesting labor pains.  New birth, to me, means, having the courage to push through the painful source of what existed long before the other person was in your life.  New birth, for me, is my idea of new thinking.  We cannot deal with our pain and our mistakes in thinking the same way as when we committed them.  I think Einstein said something to that effect, but I digress. The newborn brain must teach the ever-vulnerable heart how to implement healthy boundaries AND healthy vulnerability and how to in fact, expel the necrotic beliefs and diseased conditions --ever-shifting standards which no person will ever fully live up to. 

Like giving birth, this life-adjustment is a process of inner growth, maturation, dedication and yes, separation. Even a newborn is "cut" from the umbilical cord of it's mother in order to live outside of her and grow independently.  There is a difference between a nourishing connection and a smothering confinement.  We can be completely committed to each other without losing our autonomy.  In fact, it is only through separateness that we can in fact choose togetherness.  Space is not abandonment, it is breathing room.  A baby sleeps in it's crib so not to be smothered or accidentally crushed in the night by the nursing mother.  Partners in life can have different "emotional rooms" to retreat to and yet a home with one another exists just as strongly.   The separation anxiety a codependent feels is much like a toddler that misinterprets the parents' leaving him/her with the babysitter for a night the same as leaving... forever.  The toddler must learn the difference between abandonment and separation.  I, too, am learning this in a similar context-- the wounds of some unmet childhood need or misinterpreted behavior have tethered my anxieties to my sense of love.  And the caregiver I aimed to be (for anyone but myself) was the subconscious role-playing of my inner-child. 

The labor of "giving birth" to this newline of thinking --this re-programming of years of faulty security systems--  is painful.  There are no epidurals to self-soothe, because, in fact, it is the pain that lets us know we are alive.  The pain essentially is what saves us and delivers us.  I'm not suggesting life should be painful every minute or every day in order to be truly thriving!  What I'm getting at is, the pain of giving birth to not just new thoughts, but WAYS of thinking, will create a new life, a new heart and a new direction that leads one out of emotional contractions, and into the comfort we so deeply long to experience.  We cannot be held "enough" until we make it through this stage... on our own, only then will we be content in the love we give (and receive).  We can be pushed by the people that long to hold us (or get us OUT), but, ultimately, it is up to us to come into this new world of behaving with the trust and curiosity of a child and the wisdom and focus of the reincarnated spirit or born-again with sincere self-respect.  

The Unborn never go away-- that goes for childhood tragedies, lost opportunities or dreams deferred; they should be remembered and honored through self-healing --not used as an excuse to recede from potential loss.  The Born-Again choose to change direction; sometimes it's healthy, sometimes it's just another addiction replacing the last.  The Newborn, which can be a perpetual state, if the will to renew and rejuvenate oneself is always at the heart of evolution, is the resilience of life incarnate, in spite of pain, discomfort and risk.   Life goes on, but how we choose to live is inevitably how we will experience love, peace and true security.  Nothing worthwhile is free of growing pains.  

Yes... Life goes on... but only until it does not.  

Make the most out of it, not by avoiding what you fear, but by facing it, learning from it and conquering it.  

I'm still working (hard) on this, by the way.  :) 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Beauty": The Eye (and Envy) of The Beholder?

Professional women labeled the "B Word"(beautiful) struggle to be recognized for their ability beyond their physical allure

"She's such a good-hearted child" Sister Jacqueline of St. Mary's Grade School said to my young, devout-Catholic-Irish mother when I was all but 8 years old; "it's shocking how sweet she is-- you wouldn't think so to look at her", she finished as my mother felt the unintentional blow like a kick in the teeth.  Mom explained to me, some years later, that it took her a minute to realize the porcupine edge to the very masculinely unattractive Principle-Nun's "compliment" was her ineloquent way of stating she found me, at 8 years old, to be both pretty and nice, essentially… And, somehow, that was shocking… to a grown woman in her 60's… who taught Christianity as a life-profession.  Given her shock, with similar statements about my non-evil heart which resurfaced for years to come, Sister Jacqueline generally believed, apparently, that all sweet-hearted children were homely or all pretty little girls were assholes?  But I digress. 

When a former high-school friend (and political windbag) trekked from Los Angeles to Chicago to visit me and produce a music video for me in October of 2008, the air percolated with the new-energy Barack Obama was pouring into the Presidential race.  Adam (the arrogant windbag) and I were having lunch on his first day in town.  I mentioned something about my concern for Obama's ability with international relations versus Clinton's and Adam gave me this cartoonish phony as can be smile with the ever-patronizing retort "Awww, Erin, you are so cute-- pretending you know about politics and shit".  To which I almost stabbed his nearby hand resting on the restaurant table with my salad fork.  When I directly asked him what in the HELL would make him think I DON'T know about politics, or world affairs for that matter, he was surprised and apologetic (but, tellingly, not humiliated at his own display of pompousness), we began an in-depth political conversation.  Much like my worldly, historically savvy and liberal Iranian friend who asked me "How in the world do you know so much about world events?"… Or the club owner in Chicago who spent 16 years dismissing me as "a broad with great pins that looks too good to be a real jazz singer".  Or the octogenarian record label owner, just yesterday, who got on the phone with me by opening a conversation, not with "So who have you worked with?" but instead, "Listen, honey, let me tell you how the world works.  Real jazz artists…" and he went on to tell me all about the business I have been in for almost half of my existence.  (Real Jazz Artists?!?!  Meaning men, of course.)  

People who read my poems, hear my music, friends that seek my advice or read these blogs that I write… People who understand me to be articulate, educated, travelled, culturally enmeshed with friends and constituents from all over the world, intelligent and intuitive... somehow,  these same observers, still, find it necessary to remind me that I do not "look" like I would be "this smart" or "this nice of a person" or "so well read" or "so well written" or "such a serious artist" or "so good with kids".  

What. The. Hell.  

Yesterday, a globally recognized jazz legend and newer friend of mine whom I will be recording with this year, called to tell me he encountered some negative comments about me from musicians he knew.  When I asked in regards to what exactly, he explained a couple people told him they viewed me as more of a showgirl than a true jazz artist.  I asked if these people whom he kept nameless were people I knew and worked with and he said no- just people that "heard" about me.  He went on to tell me that one of them said I was a very provocative dresser.  Provocative, eh?

 Provocative compared to whom, exactly?

Mother Teresa? Martha Stewart? Jennifer Lopez? Diana Krall? Josephine Baker?  (I decided to research what other singers wore in their photo shoots-- singers of all ages and genres, from jazz to opera, from the swing era until now…)

And I looked at some of my photo shoots versus what I actually wear when I sing…

But does it REALLY matter?!  Does anyone ever bother to bring up what a photo-whore Kurt Elling is?

I mean are his images acceptable because he does not have breasts?  (Is he really wearing an ascot?)  Is his talent questioned by his peers because he loves getting his picture taken??? Doesn't seem to come up in conversation when a new bass player or pianist is called to do a gig with him.

So the fact that I have recorded four albums of my own, written songs for films that won awards (two), sing in renowned venues everywhere, collaborated with some of the most revered jazz artists alive today and push myself to learn Charlie Parker solos, Cannonball Adderly solos and write lyrics to Bud Powell tunes while other "jazz singers" who dress dowdily or unfashionably or who have poor physiques, unattractive faces etc… They can be taken seriously because they don't hold the same penchant for style that I do?  Trust me, there are plenty of talented and better looking singers out there than I and I know several singers who know how to rock high heels and a sexy look without losing an ounce of dignity or class.  I always thought I was one of them.  But I guess I stand out as "provocative" in my style.  Hmmmm… What I wouldn't give to find out who the saint is that deems me so shallow… based on my looks...

If I allowed myself the time to recall every presumptuous condescension, based merely on my looks and casually tossed my way since girlhood, I would probably be an unproductive, angry and isolated adult.  Err uh… Wait.  Anyway…

"The anatomy that brought her daughter a constant stream of awkward and unwanted attention, judgments and exclusions from things she wanted most as life would turn out…" 

My mother often whispered to me "Your beauty is your curse" to which I would say rolling eyes and all, "MOM, just because YOU think your daughter is beautiful doesn't mean I actually am!".  She found it to be a double edged sword for her daughter who grew to be a talented ballet dancer… with large breasts that would propel her into half a lifetime of eating disorders, trying to "cure" or change the condition of her natural anatomy.  The anatomy that brought her daughter a constant stream of awkward and unwanted attention, judgments and exclusions from things she wanted most as life would turn out… The body that endured sexual battery and rape before reaching her twenties… The body that was mocked by other ballet dancers, operated on by endometrial specialists for a debilitating incurable disease… The body that was too short and "round" for serious modeling, not tall enough to be a Broadway singer-dancer or a Rockett, and too slight for an opera singer (before the trend for opera singers to slim down came about).  The body that got noticed first --before or instead of the sometimes lonely or sad eyes weary of misperceptions and the body that took precedence over the remarkably mature singing voice and was reduced to playing sex pot roles in school musicals instead of leading lady roles.  The body that endured and survives over 15 operations, a pituitary tumor and a blood clot disease and a very serious car accident in 2006 that caused all kinds of physical problems.  The body that has been hit, kicked and physically thrown around by men who claimed to love the person inside that body… The body that lost three pregnancies after a decade of being told pregnancy was not an option in the first place.  The body that undergoes excruciating biopsies only to appear on stage 24 hours later in one of those "provocative" Banana Republic dresses in a corner stage of some jazz cafe.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Art is a Pain"

I've been thinking… about our need for pain.  Shall I explain?

The expression of pain through musical or visual or literary art is a great example of how misery loves company.  Relating to the minor cadences of a haunting piece of music, or the prose of a suicidal poem which cascades through every veiny patch of memories we can't stanch but masochistically tap into on repeat-- these things are created to elicit an emotional, visceral reaction, and likely, they are only successful in doing so because they were created by a wounded vessel.  It's strange to look at it so analytically… so devoid of passion… but, I am stimulated by the fact that human beings, in their most desolate states have the succinct capacity to generate empathy for hundreds of years past their momentary expression of need.  

Art is a need before it is a comfort.  It is an obsession before it is a solution.  One artist's pain is the medicine or the lesson for a human being oceans away, decades to come.  Art therapy has been implemented in child psychology for decades and has entered rehabilitation centers such as prisons and hospitals-- as a useful step toward healing.  Music has long been found to activate babies' brains, Alzheimer patients' memories and assisted in mental illness studies.  

The human experience in every way begins with pain and survives pain and often relinquishes to pain in the end of our lives.  And we can be united or divided because of pain… But the art of pain is something that hypnotizes us into a state of collective understanding.  As much as we need affection, love, nurturing and forgiveness in life, we, also, need pain.  Pain protects us, informs us and delivers us from bad situations as we self-preserve in both healthy and unhealthy adaptive manners.  The music we turn to is an equalizer in feeling, at least in part, that we are not alone.  Books are life-savers in that regard many times.  Poems are meditations for us.  Photographs are inspirations… Art is the mirror of life when it is authentic.  It is also our glimpse of fantasy and escape.  Art is necessary.  And so is the pain that it comes from.

That's all for now.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Desperado, Come to Your Senses.

"A whale wounded (as we afterwards learned)... had broken away from the boat, carrying along with him half of the harpoon line; and in the extraordinary agony of the wound, he was now dashing among the revolving circles like the lone, mounted desperado Arnold, at the Battle of Saratoga, carrying dismay wherever he went." -Moby Dick (Herman Melville)

From the haunting and perplexing novel, Moby Dick, there is a thread of coincidence that hooks into my Pisces' sense of direction which came to me like a minuet of dreams and questions in my relentless insomnia last night:  The overtly, complexly symbolic characters in the novel epitomize the personalities of a modern society for which we blithely sail above empathy. We dive into dichotomies of our own doing; such as the orphan-like, alienated outcast (Ishmael) and the obsessively punitive Captain (Ahab), who lives only to destroy what he deems as "evil" (the whale)... One could infer the whale is the cosmic energy we breed and destroy ourselves with.  I am struck with the paradox that Ishmael is considered "orphaned by the world" but the domineering Ahab is actually an orphan in the story.  And it is here that I begin my point (as you mumble "FINALLY, Jeeeeezus!").  Ahab is brought into the cold abyss of the sea, to his death by being literally entangled by the weapon he uses to hunt down his object of resentment.  It is of my perception, that Ishmael is the only one spared by the determined whale who returns ten-fold to the crew the merciless harm they have inflicted, to paraphrase (albeit poorly) the author's sentiment.  But both men suffer a loneliness that drives them to isolation: Ishmael lives and survives contained by himself, while the reader suspects he wants an inclusive existence.  Ahab foregoes life to pursue death as his motivation, and it becomes his identity-- death.  He dies in the bottom of the lonely vast sea of oblivion. As the opening quote suggests, we carry with us the pain inflicted by others, but it is ultimately up to us to create our own fate.

Everyone has a struggle to survive.  Everyone has to defend the skin of their being, in one way or another.  Sometimes though, I wonder if we exist as orphans plagued by the fear or anger we choose to embrace in order to deflect the  illumination of who we really are beneath the scars and medals and niceties and compulsions.  

If fate is the whale that comes back to sink or amaze us, and the ocean is the tide upon which we conduct ourselves, then can we evolve enough to be neither hunter nor prey? Can we not learn to coexist with the demons within us while remembering to respect the frailty around us? Each of us, I believe, is a vessel, no less sinkable than a ship, but has the mechanics to float and touch upon new horizons if we allow ourselves the courage to accept our limitations and strengthen our skills for progress, not destruction.  Unity.  Everything is united, in some way.  In that sense, no one is alone.  And those that wish to scour the earth for absolutes and ultimate victory, like "desperadoes", eventually learn that the answers and the riches are never things that can be taken but only learned and given.  

It's romantic to love an outcast, a captain or a whale.  But the sustenance of greatness and longevity are acquired in the beliefs we choose to nurture about the world around us-- fear, rage or power will never protect you, only make you a greater target in the end.  Love is always more powerful than hate.  I've decided, this week, there is no such thing as a victim of love or the disease of compassion; you can navigate yourself away from danger without losing your compassion for the wounded beast that thrashes against you.  You can love without drowning in the hallows of a siren-song.  Some of us are in dire need of belonging; some of us are compelled to conquer.  The journey to healthy love is long and challenging, but richly rewarding if we do not confuse safety and complacency, confidence and indecision... trust and self-respect.    

"It seems to me some fine things have been laid upon your table.  But you only want the things you can't get...Your prison is walking through this world all alone." ~Desperado (Don Henley/The Eagles)


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Love is Unconditional, Boundaries Are Not

Some of you know that I was sucked back into a very abusive relationship, by obsessive vows that he had changed and saw the error of all his vicious ways of the past. Well, he threatened my life in another psychotic rage this weekend. He degraded me and said he would kill me and then himself. And I believe this to come to fruition one day. He is highly obsessive-compulsive and once he starts fixating on an idea, a rageful thought, a suspicion... there is NO talking him down from it. I've been through this for years with him. It is utterly draining.

...I thought I was doing everything "right" this time; I did not yell or curse or even try to stop him from leaving or calm him down from his pacing and sadistic rants. I was quiet and asked if he thought his vile name-calling and screaming was an appropriate or respectful response to his feelings of anger. I asked him to quietly and calmly stay still and tell me exactly what it is that bothered him (as it was random rage after a really beautiful evening together) WITHOUT insulting me or threatening me. This made him more incensed.

His anger is not something that can be easily tracked or predicted or understood. I ended up hiding in a closet until he finally left in the middle of the night. I could not move, speak, cry, or ask anyone for help --fear, shame, disbelief, pain... they are great inhibitors.
Abusers, specifically narcissistic ones, count on silence and they insure it by threats, intimidation and despicable shame-tactics. He has painted me out to be the instigator, the liar or the source of blame for "all" he has said and done over the years. I believe he needs psychiatric help and serious medication for mood stabilization and I have at least one psychiatric professional whose evaluated him that is in full agreement.

Are you or have you ever been abused? Ask yourself if this sounds familiar:

He habitually deflects the issue of his disproportionate rage and cruel behavior, words or mistreatment of me by bringing up my past traumas as "evidence" that I am the common denominator and therefore "without credibility". He apologizes -and only rarely- but never completely or with full accountability attached; he always leaves a loop hole that either suggests or outright accuses me to be somehow responsible for HIS behavior. He likes to state that since I have had abuse in my past and he has "never been accused" of abuse, it is clear that I am either crazy or vindictive and he has never been anything but "patient" with me. Lies.

Abusers' primary tactic is to make their victims feel responsible, if not "confused" regarding the mistreatment endured. Often, an abuser is not someone others might suspect-- and that is a great advantage to them.


So, I just want anyone to know, who is reading this, it does not matter what your past is about or how great a guy people think your abuser is-- or even how great a guy he USUALLY IS. What matters is how someone TREATS you. Even if that person has never (yeah right) mistreated anyone else in their life but you-- YOU COUNT. Even if he only degrades a couple times a month or has only hit you a few times over the course of a few years. The issue is not really the severity of the marks left on your body, but, rather, the depth of the damage done to your self esteem, your ability to concentrate, your ability to be treated as an equal and with respect and boundaries in place... When someone diminishes your voice by silencing it or telling you that you are "crazy" for saying your feelings were hurt or your arm was hurt by his aggression or your confidence has been shaken by his constant denials of what happened... That is abuse.

I started recording his behavior on my phone when possible (if I was near my phone and able to do so without him seeing). I have his manic voicemails which go from soft-toned urging that I must be mistaken about his "intentions" to his out and out SCREAMING that I am unlovable--- in the SAME 5 1/2 minute voicemail. I have pictures of what he has done to my face, my ribs, my arms... I have hundreds of text messages where he oscillates from adulation to degradation. Sometimes within minutes of each other. When he is presented with such evidence, which he smugly accuses me of never having, he immediately pivots and tells me, quote "A normal person does not record other people, only someone who is up to no good." Brilliant, eh? He threatens my life, but because I have the clarity of mind to record his 45 minute diatribe against me, I must be the one who is mentally unstable. It is called DEFLECTION.

When you are made to feel like someone might hurt you (emotionally or physically) at any given moment, that is abuse. When you start asking yourself how you can accommodate his mood swings to the point where you are a walking wreck trying to dodge stray bullets of verbal attack, you are being abused. When you are stonewalled (aka "the silent treatment" or being shut out from communication or affection in your relationship) because you stand up for yourself, that is abuse. People think abuse means a woman covered in bruises on welfare. The worst abuse is being systematically convinced you are the cause for ANY mistreatment. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion-- everyone feels it from time to time. Everyone. Rage is the inability to control your behavior or to see any other side of things. I grappled with my own rage for years as a result of traumatic experiences. I addressed it by taking responsibility for my actions, not excusing them. I started taking zoloft. I have no shame in it and plan to be on it for my lifetime. It has helped quiet the emotional noise while coping with painful experiences. And it has a very obvious, POSITIVE effect on me. My abuser likes to use this as ammunition to attack my sanity or "credibility". Case and point of deflection. Guess what: I'm here to tell you, it does not matter if you are a judge or a prostitute, NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO ABUSE YOU. It does not matter if you are a nun or a heroin addict, NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO ABUSE YOU. It does not matter if you are an ex con or an art student, NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO ABUSE YOU. This means, degrade, devalue, dismiss or undermine your need for respect or your feelings about being disrespected.

You can disagree with someone without fighting them. You can have an argument without name calling. You can be upset and still control how you react to your feelings. But to threaten or intimidate or stonewall or humiliate or degrade someone else is an act of abuse, period. You can abuse someone in a whisper or a scream. Abuse is categorized by the intent and severity and pattern of maltreatment of another person. Everyone loses they temper and says things they shouldn't say. The difference is how you resolve it: by acknowledging you were wrong in doing so -WITHOUT DISCLAIMER- and vowing to never repeat it by taking actual steps towards changing your approach to communicating is the healthy, non-abusive tactic. Flying off the handle continuously and blaming others is not acceptable. Or mature.

I have done abusive things. I have said things and behaved violently in the past myself. I openly admit this as I have years ago CHANGED this behavior forever and understand the repercussions such behavior has on others and, ultimately, me as well. I am ashamed that I behaved that way, ever once, let alone several times in my past. I'm not here to state I am an angel or without vices. I am here to say, no one is perfect, but there is a bold line between abuse and discord between two people. Abuse results in long term damage to the psyche and never has a resolution without the abuser's courage to address and admit FULL culpability. No one makes you hit them. No one makes you say cruel things. No one makes you lie. No one makes you cheat. We are each, individuals responsible for our own words and behaviors and if there is a chemical imbalance that causes one to lack control or cognizance of their actions, it is STILL up to that person to CONSIDER such a thing and seek treatment immediately. If a schizophrenic can take medication responsibly, anyone can. Narcissists' main obstacle is their innate inability to recognize ANYTHING is wrong with THEIR BEHAVIOR.

If someone you love that loves you is telling you that you are repeatedly battering their emotional existence, it is worth the investigation into real, psychological help. That does not mean remaining defiant that the victim somehow shares blame. Take responsibility for yourself REGARDLESS of the other person and you will often find, therein lies the solution to wiping out the conflict at hand. Abuse is not something to be be dealt with in couple's therapy, I learned, because that implies shared responsibility. The point of couples' therapy is to address the future by endeavoring better communication in the present. It's impossible to communicate with someone who abuses you if you allow him to convince you that you are at all to blame. Abusers would like to think that if only their spouse/partner didn't do "----" than they would not be tempted to do "---". No. The minute you DECIDE to cross the line by degrading and threatening and hurting someone, you are responsible. Nothing else matters.

Can you truly love someone that hurts you so deeply? I think so. I think the existence of compassion is the proof of unconditional love. But there needs to be conditions with boundaries, not love. Boundaries include never permitting anyone to convince you that you do not deserve respect or physical or emotional safety. It is your RIGHT to feel safe and respected. Abusers are not shadowy figures that creep out from nightmares. Sometimes, they are gentle-faced, gregarious, intelligent and family-oriented people. If I had a dollar for every person that ever said to me "Really? He did that? But he looks so normal", I would have almost 70 bucks. ;D Abuse is insidious by nature. And I can personally assure you that loving a man who rapidly swings back and forth from the polarity of adoration to dehumanization in terms of his belief system of me, has been the most lonely, nerve-wrecking and soul-crushing experience of my entire life. Do I still have a glimmer of hope that he can be treated? Of course. I would be a liar if I said no. Do I think that he will ever fully admit to himself, or his family and friends and co-workers what he has actually done to me (and his ex wife)? No. He has told me he thinks as long as he admits it to me, it should be enough.

But that is the abuser's way. They retract their vows and deny their abuse so nothing they say or do has any real currency until they step forward to acknowledge the truth. You carry their secrets like a heavy vault dumped into the bottom of the ocean. People will side with his snide jeers and off-hand comments about his crazy-ex and you, weighted down with the memories and the shame and the scars of his words, actions and hands, are violated again and again and again in that way.

And while family members and even my abuser like to think my openness about this subject is inappropriate; I respectfully disagree. I'm not crazy. I'm not vindictive. I'm not looking for attention or sympathy. I am reclaiming my voice and my empowerment of self-sufficiency and esteem. I wanted very much to believe things could work out with him this time, but I always secretly knew he is incapable of change-- at least without psychiatric assistance. I do not love him any less, strangely. And I do not even regret going back to him because I do love him so much and did have such incredible happiness with him before the attacks crept back. I guess I am just choosing to show him I deserve better instead of telling him this. The best way to do this is to treat myself with the respect he has failed to give me, and get away from his abusive cycle. It is not as easy as you might think. Our need to believe the best in others can be a very dangerous quality when it starts to impair your judgment. He deserves love, like anyone else. And I don't think I will ever turn my back on him. Ever. And I will always hold out hope that he recognizes the issue lies inside him and only he can unlock the door to change and genuine happiness. I still think maybe if he gets medicated things could improve. But it's a long shot. And the fear I have of him is real and protective... unfortunately, it may never go away though. He hurt me, but I am still here. So far. He has threatened to kill me once again, but I am taking steps towards safety.

Thanks for reading this; feel free to share it with anyone you think it might help.

Again, please read this link by Divine Caroline. It is very informative.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Home" is where the HEART is; Chicago headliners, Miss McDougald & Ms Jordan Tackle NYC

"I'm going to be making records anyway, even if I have to sell 'em out of the trunk of my car.  I'm that kind of a musician" ~Dolly Parton

The first time I met Diva Lynne Jordan was 2005 at Green Dolphin Street.  She perched herself at the corner of the bar, in front of the "substitute stage" where my little trio was positioned.  The room, thankfully, was packed; unfortunately, the main stage and large room was occupied for a private event, so I was forced to sing in the bar area where the club's shrill doorbell diiiiiiiiiiiiing noise would pierce through every few bars of acoustic music as the front door opened with new patrons, looking for a seat.   This wore on my nerves like a fly buzzing in the ear of an insomniac.  The deftly out of tune upright piano literally had FORKS inside of it-- I'm not kidding, lost silverware was heaped inside a wooden piano!  I still shutter.  But people clamored to hear us, many nights (some, it was a graveyard, truth be known)... People stayed until the last set, if not the last note.  Ms. Jordan did not.  If memory serves, I think she was there to pick up money owed to her from a previous engagement as she too was a regular performer in the notorious, seedy-run, well-attended, over-the-top nightclub-- the owners had a habit of "forgetting" to pay the musicians now and then.  When I introduced myself to her and thanked her for coming, she was pleasant but her demeanor conveyed she was not at all impressed by me. I became immediately that much more insecure.  Singers.  [Sigh]. I had known who she was for years, but it was apparent she had only heard of me through the staff at the club. I smile as I write this because she is a very dear, inspiring friend now.  

Fast forward to 2009.  I am the esteemed headliner at the famous Allerton on Michigan Avenue 

and I look out into the audience on a Wednesday night (not well attended, but a great night musically, that showcased the wonderful Kimberly Gordon as my featured guest), and I see THE Lynne Jordan, in a sexy booth, by herself, sipping a Manhattan, if I'm not mistaken, and smiling with this look of... well... approval?!  On my break, I go to her and in the absence of self-restraint, I throw my arms around her and say "I cannot believe it's you!  Thank you SO MUCH for being here to hear me!".  She was immediately amused by this.  Perhaps it was the fact that I snuggled into her booth and up against her like I was her long lost baby sister and just... stayed there... as I asked how she was... as if we were... well, sisters.  She had never heard of our sister-singer Kimberly Gordon.  I was shocked.  She enjoyed her.  I was thrilled.  From that day forward, a friendship and a sisterhood of song forged between Ms Jordan and this Flapper Girl.  She may or may not recall these details.  She has many admirers. I am but  one of them.

Why am I taking you down memory lane?  Over the years, I have found solace in the support --REAL SUPPORT-- I have received from the artist I am writing about.  She has shown me kindness and loving compassion during times of personal crisis, and she has made me feel lucky to be alive any time I have attended one of her shows.  She sings with her WHOLE heart.  She gives her WHOLE entity.  She reveals her vulnerability and her -I'm sorry- HYSTERICAL awkwardness as in the time at City Winery Chicago in April of this year when a full house is screaming as she enters the stage in a 1920's feathered hat, and her first words were "Thank fucking god you people showed up".  I love her for her honesty, her bravery and her ruby voice of fire.  I love the way she looks out for her band members, before herself-- always... as if she almost thinks she is lucky they work with her, when the truth is, as talented as they are, she has afforded them unique, musically (and monetarily) rewarding opportunities for which they should be forever grateful.  I love the way  she understands people-- her audience, her employers and herself.  She knows how to promote herself without sacrificing her character.  She knows how to sing a Rolling Stones song ("Sympathy for the Devil"-- her version gives me chills!) without apprehension.  She is an entertainer.  But she is also a very complete, sincere and aphoristic individual that can both dominate and captivate an interaction from the stage or in conversation.  She has talents beyond her admission.  And I am so grateful she is my friend and proud she is someone that believes in me and my dreams to be a singer of "substance" to the world.  

The first week of July, two Chicago name-singers are appearing in Manhattan as headliners.  Tuesday July 2nd, Lynne Jordan will be unveiling her Chicago-praised Nina Simone concert at City Winery of NYC and four nights later, yours truly will be headlining the well-known Metropolitan Room of NYC on Saturday, July 6th at 9:30pm.  Our shows, though very divergent in material and style, have something of a commonality: it is Independence Day between both of our debuts at these venues... Lynne Jordan, gloriously interpreting the music of a HIGHLY independent American icon (I saw her show in Chicago- it is FABULOUS), Nina Simone, and Erin McDougald, the once-ballerina-turned-serious-jazz-artist, performing original jazz compositions and -challenging- obscure songs by jazz greats with some of New York City's most respected luminaries in a show called DON'T WAIT UP FOR ME... has bridged the gap of dreamer-divas and song-sisters and carried the thoroughfare of Chicago's talent into an east coast niche.  We are both independent women who live our lives through and for music.  We have both sacrificed a lot to be able to live this life of low-acknowledgment, dodgy pay, and self-doubt.  But we belong to no one.  We sing what we love and we say why we love it and we garnish the songs an audience may or may not know with our individuality-- an ingredient so many in the commercialized world of entertainment have forsaken.  We pay our own way across country and persuade musicians to be gracious with what we can afford to pay them while we work for the door, and we feel... lucky... that we have people who will pay $10, $15, $20, $30... $100 for a show to see us for 70 minutes while, all the while, we intrinsically think "I hope I am making them happy".  Whereas artists have crystalized the definition of narcissism in some ways, we paradoxically define the ultimate desire to make others happy.  It's sick, I know.  And I am constantly shamed by understanding this about myself -ha- but... no great artist ever existed without (secretly or not), vying for the approval, if not desire to alleviate the sadness of others through his or her art.  I realize the porn industry brings instant gratification and the music industry brings long lines of waiting (if we are lucky!) for clothed "entertainment", but nonetheless, there is a basic human connection that music engenders between strangers.

Here is my proposal [Bribe]:  If 70 people -anywhere- rsvp tickets to both LYNNE JORDAN AT CITY WINERY IN NYC JULY 2nd and ERIN MCDOUGALD AT METROPOLITAN ROOM NYC JULY 6th and send THIS BLOG your confirmation info before July 1st, you will be invited to a -highly secret- VIP party in CHICAGO with high-end catered food, champagne, wine, spirits galore and award-winning R&B and grammy-winning jazz with both Lynne and Erin singing for 3 hours before 2013 ends.  

This will be a VERY posh, very envious event.  So, if you are a music lover, a Lynne plus Erin supporter and an adventurous spirit [in the name of live music, that is] kind of a person, I think this offer is for YOU.  Come to NYC.  See two great, divergent shows of exquisite live entertainment.  Get rewarded for your loving support by attending a KICK ASS private party, 

later, in Chicago, that will include... well... a lot of awesomeness, 

least of which is two of your favorite Chicago singers performing a relatively private concert of your

 requests while you are wined and dined in spitting distance with complimentary press photos of the night.  Just sayin'.