New Songs, Autumn, Fires

First snow this morning. Just a dusting, on the first of November. I turned 44 last week. And there are three people I’m holding in prayer right now – something I wouldn’t have believed I’d ever say again only a few years ago.

Also I started doing #songaweek2019 in September, and have skipped one week since then – a radical departure from the all-or-nothing way I previously approached it.

In other words, change. Impermanence. Flow. Autumn. I noticed the light is lower in my kitchen this week. I raked a million leaves yesterday. I have little brown spots creeping into the backs of my hands, new wrinkles on my neck.

The song I wrote this week was partially inspired by the California wildfires, and then I read this article today and felt it could have almost inspired the song if time moved differently. Plus it references one of my all-time favorite reading experiences, The Tale of Genji:

We cherish things, Japan has always known, precisely because they cannot last; it’s their frailty that adds sweetness to their beauty. In the central literary text of the land, The Tale of Genji, the word for “impermanence” is used more than a thousand times, and bright, amorous Prince Genji is said to be “a handsomer man in sorrow than in happiness.” Beauty, the foremost Jungian in Japan has observed, “is completed only if we accept the fact of death.” Autumn poses the question we all have to live with: How to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying. How to see the world as it is, yet find light within that truth.

Here’s where I’ve been posting new songs recently – And here I’ll feature one of them, also about impermanence:



In the course of writing Week 7’s #songaweek2018 song, I learned a little something about e-cigs. You just never know what might happen when you decide to write a song! The theme/prompt was “change” and I decided to go with it. (We don’t see the themes in advance of the week; otherwise I might have saved last week’s “I Could Be Wrong” for this week, but then – well, we wouldn’t have had so much fun making this song!)

I came up with a little bluesy piano part and melody, and then I put the call out on Facebook for any suggestions of things you change (batteries, a twenty, your mind . . .). I got a ton of suggestions including a persistent one, “change your underwear,” and even though lots of things rhyme with that and I could feel its popular appeal with my friends, I just couldn’t make it work this time around. But hey, maybe someone can take this song and change it!

I wanted to mention changing the oil, so I needed something to rhyme with that. I googled “change the coil,” hoping that maybe there is some sort of coil-y car part that needs occasional changing. Maybe there is, but the most common coil that needs changing, Google told me, is the one in your e-cigarette. I’m not a fan of smoking, so I snuck in a little note of disapproval to ease my conscience and make it feel more like a PSA.

Nathan heard me playing the song on the piano and he got pretty excited about all he could do with it! I gave him the basic canvas of piano and vocal, and he took it from there, throwing multiple guitars and drums and bass and synth and a teeny Dylan impression into the changing mix. I am awestruck that he managed to keep one of my longest songs (five and a half minutes!) so interesting right to the end.

I might change the address where I live
Might change the reasons that I give
Might change my modus operandi
But I’m never gonna change
The way I keep on changing
Time has changed my voice, and changed my face
It’s changed my plans, and changed my pace
Changed me to silver-brown from blondie
But it’s never gonna change
The way I keep on changing

I’ve changed my locker combination
Changed my major, changed occupations
I’ve changed my name and changed my babies
But I’m never gonna change
The way I keep on changing
You might change direction, change position
Change the person that you’re kissin’
Change your definites to maybes
But don’t you ever try to change
The way you keep on changing

Bob said the times they are a-changing
Sheryl said a change would do you good
David said ch ch ch ch changes

Change the litter box, the fish bowl
change the toilet paper roll
change your password change your settings
change the sheets and all the bedding
change a tire change the oil
if you must vape change the coil
change the batteries, the thermostat
change your shoes and change your hat
change the game, change the score
change the team you’re cheering for
change the channel, change the station
change to metric my stubborn nation
change your mind, your attitude,
change your heart, your tone, your tune
change the key and change the locks
change the calendar and clocks

See the leaves turn, feel the wind blow
know the ocean’s ebb and flow
observe chameleons and cocoons
But don’t let’s ever try to change
the way we keep on changing

Resetting Your Life

Do you ever wish your life had a reset button, like an iPhone? Ever left the house door unlocked on your way out with a secret hope that someone will break in and take all your stuff while you’re gone? Or subconsciously wished for a layoff or a house fire so you could start with a clean slate?

Life gets busy, our stuff weighs us down, our routines become tiresome ruts and we bore ourselves. Sometimes we (or at least some of us) start dreaming about a whole-life reset in these cases, and sometimes that can be just the thing.

But making smaller changes can bring surprising depths of refreshment and energy to our lives as well. Choosing one facet of life to tweak or experiment with can bring great joy and creativity to a complete life.

Here are some things I’ve learned in my own experiences of life-tweaking:

It’s okay to change your mind. Going into any new venture with this attitude can greatly relieve the pressure you feel to make it work, and thereby, ironically, help you succeed. Or, if you get going and find out it’s just not your thing, this mindset gives you permission to stop and move on to something else, guilt-free. Politicians are always accusing one another of “waffling,” changing their minds, as if thinking and doing the same thing all your life is a measure of good character. I say that’s a measure of obstinacy and stagnation. People who are alive and growing will certainly change their minds. (Of course not everything is entered into this lightly. Commitments you make to people – especially family relationships such as marriage and parenting – are made on a deeper level than “life-tweaking,” and aren’t part of this discussion. You may decide on other non/less-negotiables for yourself as well.)

Give it some time. This balances the above point. Most new things feel strange and ill-fitting at first. Starting something new requires a certain level of commitment and discipline to attain some level of skill or comfort with it. Maybe you will make different demands of yourself for different activities. But it helps sometimes to look back at past accomplishments or adventures that felt “all wrong” when you started, which after you acquired some skills and familiarity became favorite activities. A certain degree of stoicism, “just do it” mentality is needed for any new venture in life.

Accept loss forever.” (Jack Kerouac) Some things simply will not be for you. Certain dreams, romantic attachments, friendships, business ideas, career paths, and loved ones have died in each of our lives. We can cherish memories from these treasures we have lost, but we can’t remake them. Resurrection always takes a new form. The end of the caterpillar is the start of the butterfly; the burial of the seed is the birth of the flower. Your particular losses are the rich soil of the new creation of your life. Don’t hold on to the wispy ghosts of dead things. Let them die so new life can begin.

Start small. Nathan and I once dreamed of selling our house and living on a sailboat. I, the impulsive extremist, wanted to jump in and do it right away. Nathan, the careful adventurer, advised that we buy a small sailboat, learn to sail, take some weekend trips, and see what we thought. We did this, and I learned that I got seasick easily, realized that I loved gardening and would miss it, and then found out we were pregnant with our first child. We made some great memories with our small sailboat, and when the time seemed right, we sold it. Maybe living aboard is still in our future, but it was good to test the waters rather than diving right in.

Or dive right in! Evaluate your situation, the people potentially affected by the change you want to make (are you single or married? do you have young children? are your parents aging and needing more support from you? are you in debt?), and dive accordingly. I do think every person can benefit from at least one impulsive leap in life. “Impulsive” may mean different things for different people though.

Ask yourself, “what’s the worst that could happen?” When you honestly face that question, the potential risk often doesn’t seem so scary. Remember that risk has two sides – something can be lost, but something can also be gained. Are you willing to lose the one thing in order to potentially gain the other? Or are you committed to keeping the one thing and therefore erasing any chance of gaining the other?

Re-evaluate from time to time. Just because you rejected an idea at age twenty doesn’t mean it still can’t work at age forty. So much about us changes over the years, regardless of the external changes we make to our lives. Career positions, stages of family life, physical health, interests, abilities, worldview, daily habits – all of these and plenty more can change multiple times throughout our lives, and can affect our openness to new opportunities.

What life-tweaks and experiments have you made, or what are you considering trying? What would you add to or change about the advice above?