I had grown tired of the "who" in "who I was".
The quiet moments, once filled with the creative swirls of what was possible had receded into the obscured background, the static filing my vision like a psychic blizzard; howling, unforgiving, and brutal. I found myself contemplating ending it all, often with the pleasant demeanor of one deciding where to go for lunch. Other times, the inner critic in me recorded voice notes to myself, explaining why my presence here was no longer a benefit to others.
But mostly, it wasn't about any great sorrow, regret, or depression. I was just tired. I was tired of the pursuit, of the battling my own inner monsters, of the never ending struggle to create things that mattered in a world so seemingly ferocious and apathetic to the point of hostility. I was tired of love, tired of heartbreak, tired of feeling numb and tired of not being numb enough.
The podcast had become a chore. It felt like (and still feels like) everyone now had their own podcast and that the party was getting a little too "popular". The rebel in me wanted to throw on my motorcycle jacket, grab a bottle of Jack Daniels and split through the window in the bathroom.
It felt like we were all expected to build a brand, to unceasingly create "content" and to "produce, damn it!" The chorus of voices unceasingly telling us to be the ultra productive "creators" in the assembly line of the internet, social media, etc.
And, of course, in the midst of this came COVID-19 and the global shut down. I would love to say that I used the time well, writing books, songs, and inventing a new cure for the thing that most needed curing. But I can't say that. I learned. I doubled down on education, taking courses, reading books, and being coached. I learned some things that mattered. However, if I'm honest, I was desperately looking for a reason to keep going.
I needed something more.
In the midst of a forest in August, I sat with my notebook on my lap, trudging my way through trying to write poetry for an already announced poetry book about the brutality of nature (when will I ever learn to stop announcing things before they're done?). I watched several violet-green swallows as they captured moths with ominous efficiency and realized that I needed therapy.
Fast forward through a stressful election season, coup attempt, and a masked in-person school year, I find myself in a different light. I'm still searching, but it's for inspiration that will, as the writers say, "get to 50,000 words".
My days at the moment are filled almost entirely with music and the business thereof with people that I truly enjoy and connect with. The blizzard has receded, due in a large part to a therapist who, like me, only believes in visiting the past when it can help move into the future with more strength and intentionality. He's taught me how to pull myself back from the edge of the self destructive precipice and to realign with my highest values.
Recently, I heard somebody talk about the process of creativity is to join "something" (a group, scene, etc) and then leave it, only to return and see it for the first time. Perhaps that's what I've been doing with podcasting and books, albeit unconsciously. I had to leave the medium to see what it is now. What does the world need now? Another talking head podcast? Another boring ass book? Another person ranting about whatever they want to rant about?
And, while I'm at it, does the world need another blog post like this?
I'm not convinced it does. At least if it's written by these hands.
Maybe at the moment, in a world of so much, silence is a wonderful thing to give back to it.
Maybe. I don't know.
Two nights ago, I was visited by a ghost.
That's the best way I can describe it.
One moment, all was still; nothing but the cold water in my water bottle, some incense, and the evening breeze drifting through the window of my study. The next moment, inspiration struck and a song flew out of me without hindrance. When it was done, the energy in the room dissipated. I was left enraptured and exhausted by the experience.
Researching various topics for the next "Rite Of Song" episode, I tend to cast a wide net, attempting to find new and interesting angles in which to approach subjects. On the night in question, I was looking into the concept of "futility", which I experienced in attempting to read about the concept. It turns out that people don't particularly feel called to talk about the subject of futility with much dedication at all, which is, I must say, frustratingly understandable.
The irony was not lost on me.
It was around then, in the most unlikely of ways, I came across the story of Mercedes de Acosta, the poet and playwright who is known for her romances with Hollywood starlets Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. While reading her story and the stories of her ill-fated loves, something strange started. My hands started forming chordal patterns against the keyboard, and a melody immediately came into my mind, like it had just been whispered by some invisible being standing beside me.
The first words came like a call. "Marlene...Marlene..."
I knew what I had to do. Abandoning my research, I sat at my piano and, within fifteen minutes, the complete song was born in a frenzy of lines and melody. I recorded it.
The lyrics recall letters from de Acosta & Garbo, with the obscuring effect of using a unfixed narrator. We're not exactly sure who is singing this song. But it's one of the three; de Acosta, Deitrich, or Garbo.
It's in the new "Rite Of Song" (8-25-19 edition), but I have also included the song here, recorded in the moments of it's inception.
It's called "Marlene (You Belong To Me)".
Is there any place more sacred, more soft toned, more delicate, sensual and spiritual than a dark house at sunrise? With the lights off and the windows wide, the light has a way of showing the truth and obscuring the details which distract. Our planet turns, and the sun reveals us where we are and as we are; utterly human. Utterly vulnerable and too short lived for this Universe.
It's a new birth each morning and each morning, I am reborn into this mysterious thing we call life.
This morning, the first light dripped through my windows while Debussy softly played. In that moment, alone in a room, all of the romance and passion and poetry and music and love was there with me. The spirits kept me company as I began to write and they reminded me that, while I often resist and remain elusive to idea of love, it will find me again someday.
For the first time in quite awhile, I felt at peace.
After several days of playing second hand shop merchant (an unsuccessful one, at that) and a Sunday morning dedicated to the recording of the second episode of "The Rite Of Song", I happily find myself back here; in the early morning, with my coffee and words at my fingertips.
There are deadlines looming. A redesign of the workbook for JT Gunter and my upcoming course on how to create a podcast is due Wednesday afternoon and my last rewrite/design check for the book and workbook for the "Respark" series is due within two weeks. I've been holding a steady pace of about five thousand words a day, but when editing, things slow down a bit. You become cautious and careful, which for someone like myself, is quite draining. From experience, I have found that while tracking words and using various methods of productivity can have some effect, one eventually just has to settle in and tell the story, hoping that it will all come out well in the end.
Last week, while meeting JT for our weekly coffee chat and work session, I stood to go to the restroom. On my way there, I spotted a book called "Spark", which was a lovely and beautifully crafted journal, filled with prompts all directed toward helping other's rediscover their creative selves. As you can imagine, I was partially horrified and relieved that Draven Grey had talked me out of using the title "Spark" months ago, on account of it actually being the title of a book surrounding Cirque Du Soliel's creative process. While my book and either "Spark" are not the same, the territory around the name is feeling a little crowded. Therefore, I feel the need to change the name, although I don't have the faintest idea of what the new title might actually be. I stand waiting for inspiration. It will come soon, I hope.
A little later this morning, I will be taking my mother to breakfast with the now retired faculty of Notre Dame Catholic School where she taught for nine years and where I just completed my service this past June. Since it is the first day of school, all of us no longer there will connect, some possibly for the last time, and raise a toast (which might actually be toast) to all of those poor, unlucky bastards who have to start school today.
In other news, I'm happy not to be starting school today. But I do miss the children and my friends at Notre Dame already...
Today, I had a yard sale.
It was long planned, but quickly executed. Several events over the past few weekends had left my plans waylaid. Yet this time, I was determined that it was going to happen. It had to happen. And so it did...
I was selling old things. Things from a previous marriage, untouched since 2009 - 2010. It might as well have been another century. The sensation of feeling nothing for a thing, yet feeling all sorts of stirred up emotions simultaneously was strange. The memories were vaporous, but still real. Like opening a box of ghosts.
This morning, I woke up early and made coffee before setting up. Various neighbors came up through the day, some even bought things. My memories began to walk away, sold to someone who was going to make use of them, unaware of the turmoil that they might have witnessed. Books were carried away, the new owners unaware of the moments of inspiration and thought that had come from them.
I just sat on my front porch and said hello to people. Every now and then I would collect money and play my guitar. I kept telling myself to enjoy the weather and the moment; the feeling of letting go. But really, I couldn't wait until it was over. It was freeing to get rid of the stuff. Yet remembering was harder than I had hoped.
I hope that I'll have to remember less when it's over.
This last Sunday, I hesitantly relinquished the role as "daily podcaster". although I cannot in good faith refer to myself in such a way honestly. This year, I've missed some days. I missed some weeks. But mostly, I just missed communing with you. I missed the free flow of ideas traveling back and forth from wherever we happened to be in the world. It was like having a great group of friends that came with you wherever you wanted, but could be, ever so delicately, silenced and put away in a dark pocket somewhere when found inappropriate.
However, as I found myself nearing the five hundredth episode, a feeling of despair began to cloud the future of the podcast. I found myself unsure if I was repeating ideas and more often, concerned that I was becoming half baked or redundant to my friends on the other end of the line.
A few weeks ago, I sat in a small diner in Denver, drinking coffee and reading a long lost book that I had remembered being intrigued with a long time ago. This time, I found it tedious and difficult to get along with. Following a particularly exasperated sigh, I heard a muffled woman's voice, yelling in sotto voce at a rather dejected man sitting across from her.
She was recounting all of the stresses in her life; her job, her mother, Donald Trump, the environment, money, her weight, HIS job, and so. It occurred to me at that moment that she could have been any one of us. Our culture is very stressful if left unchecked and can wreck havoc on every aspect of our lives.
The idea appeared to me easily, like all of the best ones do. What we need is a place to heal. To reflect. We need a refuge, a place to grow, and a place where the beautiful things in life are waiting for us, wherever we might be. We need a place without any agenda, without any need to convert it's visitors. We needed a church "without the church part". For myself, and for many others, that comfort and connection comes from the arts; music, art, poetry, prose, and philosophy.
I envisioned a small house on the side of a hill in the midst of a midnight gale. Outside, the rain drenched the weary traveler, desperate for a place to stay. Yet, inside the cottage, a fire is going, the tea is on, and there is a comfortable place waiting for you.
There was something that felt sacred in this idea, something deeply meaningful. It was something that I wished existed, in some accessible form.
That moment was the birth of what was to become "The Rite Of Song", which has taken over "The Michael Amidei Show" as my main podcast project. It is longer form and includes such things as poetry and song, invocations to muses, playing cards, short stories about dragons and entrepreneurs, and that's just in the first episode.
To be honest, I don't really know what "The Rite Of Song" is yet. I've learned enough to know that you never can really tell what a project is for quite awhile, if at all. The cosmic twist to all of this creative stuff is that the artist is often the last person to really understand the work. But for now, I am trying to remain open in receptive to wherever the Muse is trying to direct my hand in the creation of this new thing.