Do the thing.

Less than 12 hours before I leave for the airport, and i’m still not packed, not prepared. Booked my hotel for a couple of days TODAY at 2 am, bought my tickets last week, and i’m flying by the seat of my pants (err.. leggings are pants right? ;P) Before I would have been totally prepared like a month ago, and on my third go of packing/unpacking/repacking.

Instead, I’m sitting on FB and playing candy crush, but it will be ok. It will work out, and I’m only going to have mild anxiety about it. I’m scared for this trip, and I’ve been running around like a headless chicken the last week. All those stupid thoughts running through my brain.

Why do you deserve to go? You’re just gonna take up space that someone else can use. Waste of space. Waste of space. Waste of fucking space. 

No one’s gonna like you. You don’t like you most of the time, how can anyone else like you? You’re going to clam up and not say anything of value. You’re just a fraud that no one likes. 

Why?

Like, seriously, WHY?

Stupid. Fucking. Brain. All the time. Never stops chattering. Never stops name calling, and being so rude. If I said half the things I say to myself to someone else, I would be smacked. Hard. So… why is it ok for me to say them to myself?

It’s not. I know that, but I do it anyway. I have a good life, filled with utterly amazing people, and better friends than I could ever have dreamed of. I get to do such cool things, and see awesome places, and do amazing things. So going into this week in Portland, I’m not going to pack that stuff. I can leave those thoughts, and those negative words and feelings back in my container in MN. They don’t have a ticket to go, I do.

Like my awesome friend Kaija says, “Fuck Fear, and do the thing.”

Fuck fear, and do the fucking thing.

This is what I’m gonna do about it

This is a writing prompt from an amazing writing retreat I went to over the weekend. The prompt was our response to “What are you gonna do about it?” Referring to the times when we receive compassion from friends or family, someone close to us who we seek counsel from when we feel sad or stuck. This was more in response to us feeling stuck, not being able to jump over some hurdle or open a door.

So, what are you gonna do about?

This the what the fuck I’m gonna do about it.

I’m gonna dig.

I pick the shovel up. It feels heavy in my blistered hands, years of digging and digging.

Dirt everywhere. Dirt in weird places, mixed with sweat, tears and a little blood. The digging hurts. But, not in a way I’m used to. It’s uncomfortable.

Shedding the skin.

Removing the hands from around my throat.

Using the voice that cracks to say, “You will not break me. I own you. Not the other way round. Fuck off, Depression!”

I can’t dig anymore.

The digging feels so painful. So uncomfortable. Like a claustrophobic panic attack. Stealing the breath from my lungs, sucking out the oxygen.

Holy shit, I can’t breathe.

Same shit, again and again and again. These vicious cycles of garbage getting recycled over and over in my head. The hurtful remarks from blood to blood only causing the cycle to shift and become smaller, threatening to kill us all. Sucking the goddamn oxygen out of us.

The digging helps. Removing myself from the cycles I get so fucking caught up in. Those words and actions, becoming toxic and crying out “I OWN YOU!” The cycles own us. They scream ownership over our blood.

But I dig. I escape like a thief in the night. I dig my escape tunnel to freedom. I do not want the chains the cycles put on me. I will not wear them. I will not drink the poison from the veins. I will not perpetuate those fucking cycles.

I am done.

Blood in not binding. Sharing genetic material is not a family make. The cycles have made us nothing more than a makeshift patchwork family, sewn together from once useable parts, now just pretending to be real. We are just pretenders, faking it until we make it.

I dig my way out. But the shovel feels too heavy, too burdensome. How can I support this change? It’s so uncomfortable. It’s too claustrophobic.

This is the goddamn fuck I’m gonna do about it. I pick the damn shovel up because it scares me. That fear is good. It makes you do things you normally could not. Dig! Be terrified!

Just fucking dig, Rachel!

Just fucking dig, and then keep on digging.

Dig and dig.

Dig and Dig.

Digging and Digging.

Harmony

Harmony is a word I don’t understand.

I have studied music on and off for years, the idea that you can place notes together to create a chord, that in turn goes on to create a larger piece of music is a concept I understand. But when it comes to application to life? Hell, if I know. Is it the same as music, where it’s little pieces put together that help create a larger more beautiful piece? Harmony in that concept feels like a puzzle then, finding the right pieces to place together at the right time.

Is harmony just a fancy word for balance? Maybe. But, maybe it’s just something we figure out for ourselves as we dig out our issues and face them, as we mature and grow, as we learn to filter out the bad from the good, as we see what we really need. Harmony is just the idea of finding out what works for us, what helps us be the best we can be, what pieces we need to be good, to finally feel happy or just calm, to help us get the gunk out of our souls. Harmony is the expression of us using little steps, little pieces to help the larger picture become clearer.

I would love for it to be done overnight. Wouldn’t that be amazing? My god, if we could just wake up with our pieces already in place, and just enjoy our lives? Fuck! I would be a happy camper. But it doesn’t work that way. We have to dig to find our pieces, for the internal ones we already have, that are just hidden, and for the external ones that come quietly into lives, and just begin to poke us, saying you need this. You need me!

I have some of my pieces in place, and I have to honestly say it’s scary. I think the idea of it is being unknown territory, well out of my comfort zone is definitely a big piece of it, but the even scarier part of it, is that I never thought I would be here. I am at a point in my life where I never thought I would live to see. It always seemed to be a mystical place I could never imagine, let alone reach. I’m good with my parents. I am not consumed by anger and hate. I am not allowing my depression to snap my neck like a twig. I still have bad days, where the depression comes and sits on my bedside not allowing me to move. I have grief and loss and pain still, but I am able to see the good that has come from knowing the love I have lost. I know that I need that love to go on. I know I need to be able to nurture and love something outside of myself. That is the main reason I miss my dog. She was that source for me. She supported and I loved her right back. I need to give that love to something that is mine. Completely mine. Maybe it’s selfish, but fuck, I’m allowed to be. That helps me find harmony. It helps me find my pieces. This is what I know I need. It’s not a want, it’s a need. I’m good with myself for the first time, probably ever. I  want to give this new found love to something else. Something that needs it. I know what that pain is like, and it sucks.

The scariest and bravest thing I have ever done was attend a writing retreat. Over the years, words have been my solitary solace. The quiet thing I do when I need to vent, and can do so without any judgment. There is no back and forth like in therapy, there is no question of why I feel that that, or why I chose to write about that topic. I can just allow the words to get vomited up, and splashed on the page. Seeing these things that my subconscious clearly thinks I need to talk about out. I don’t think it’s always some hidden issue or feeling that needs to get out. This is my way of using my voice in my way. I can stand up and say exactly what I want to when I write. I can use my backbone and not have to worry about pissing anyone off because I wrote about a topic that wasn’t ‘okay’ or worry about airing my dirty laundry to the world. The funny thing about airing that laundry is that you realize every one else has it too, and yours isn’t that dirty or that smelly.

Everyone’s family has their problems and their issues. Sometimes they get aired like that dirty laundry, but more often they get buried. Often to a deep level where no one will want to put in the effort to dig them out. I can’t express how irritating and frustrating it is to live in a family where the issues just get pushed down. No one talks about things, and if they do, there are so many levels is misunderstanding and miscommunication that it almost defeats the purpose of trying. What I do with my path is so different than the rest of the members of my family. We make our choices and we deal with it. I wanted nothing more than them to be there for me, especially when I felt like I was falling down a pit of pure darkness with no end in sight. I grew resentful and angry because they were not physically here. They had made their choices, and looking back I wouldn’t expect them to come back and help in the way I wanted them to. They got out before the shit hit the fan, and they were lucky in that way. They avoided the full front attack of it, but they still felt the aftershocks of the earthquakes. I know they have feeling regarding the issues we have, and while it would be so easy for me to get up on my soap box and say I know how to deal with this in a healthy way, from my 14 years of therapy, I don’t. I don’t talk to them unless necessary. Which for me, is the best thing I can do for myself. Maybe it’s sublimely selfish, but I’m the only one who will take care of me.

I can’t be angry like I was. That anger bubbles up from time to time, but it’s easier to push away now. I feel it bubble up around holidays, when I know family time will be coming. Any sense of harmony I feel just fucks off. It’s tension so thick you can cut it with a knife. I don’t know if we just don’t understand each other or if we are resentful of the ways we have been treated differently. The thing that I have come to accept with siblings and children is, that we will always be treated differently. There are ways in which it can be even and fair, but in all honesty, we all require such different things from our parents, because we are each unique. What works for X will not work for Y, same goes for Z. I feel like that has caused a rift in the family. Because we only see  the differences, we don’t the reasons behind it. We don’t try to see the reasons behind it. I used to think that maybe we could one day be a loving supportive family, and I’m beginning to truly see that it will not happen. I don’t believe it will happen, and if it ever does, not anytime soon. I just feel too much unspoken anger and unresolved issues for that to be reality. I’m probably being negative, but I think it’s pretty reasonable considering my feelings towards everything.  I can’t speak for everyone else. I can only use my voice, and that’s what my voice believes. We are connected because of blood and this idea that we ‘should’ be a family. Not the idea that we want to be one. The subtle snide remarks and the outbursts of emotions hurt. They truly cut deep. I know families all have those bad days, but these feel very calculated, and dis-attached. I have hurt myself enough for several lifetimes, and I have done nothing to deserve those remarks. I have committed no crime. Why do I feel like I have? I don’t know. But it’s so tiring. You make your choices and I make mine. Don’t presume to know where I am in my life. I don’t know where you are in yours.

Where do you find harmony in a situation like that?

I don’t know if you do. I know that if you want it with everyone involved it will take communication and everyone actively wanting it. But if that’s not the case, then you have it to find in YOU. It has to be a strong enough foundation that you will not sway with those winds of trouble come barreling back. It takes a lot of effort, work and strength to do it. Harmony is a life long process, it is never something that is achieved with the snap of your fingers. I wish it was that way, but it’s not.

Harmony is so worth it though.

The Archer and The Dog Star

When I was eight, I saved up my money and went to the Discovery Store at the Mall of America. I remember this very vividly, I had saved up for a telescope. I was so proud to pick one out and to go up and pay for it all myself. I don’t remember exactly why I was so obsessed with having one, but I spent that summer looking at the stars. Every single night, I was out there looking at the constellations, and the planets, I could tell you where the planets were and why you could see certain ones. I could pick out constellations, and tell you the story behind them. I loved it all.

Astronomy was my first great obsession of any substance. It was the summer of Hale-Bopp, and I watched that comet glide through our night sky. Dancing around the stars. It never seemed to move, it seemed stationary at some points, but little did I realize how fast it was traveling, how far away it was, and how big it was. This chunk of rock and ice is being flung at speeds I can’t even begin to comprehend, and yet to my eye it seems so still. It seems stuck in the sky, like an ornament on a christmas tree. This frozen memory serving as a reminder of what once was.

I had declared that summer that I wanted to be an Astronomer when I grew up. Other little girls were still in their princess phases, and wanted to be mommies and wives when they grew up. I just wanted to stare at the night sky forever. I can’t explain why I was so transfixed on the stars. The light traveling so far from stars that have probably been long gone. Serving as frozen memories, just like that comet. Serving as reminders that we are not the only planet in this vast universe. That amongst the billions and billions of others stars and galaxies, we are utterly tiny. Maybe that’s what I was trying to understand as I stared through that telescope. Trying to understand what the universe was telling me. That I am tiny. Not just literally, I have always been on the tiny side, but figuratively too. That everything I will experience will feel so big and so overwhelming to me, but to the universe, it’s barely a blip on the radar.

The dichotomy of being big and small at the same time. It’s something that I still have trouble understanding. Especially when you slip into the darkness, you feel things on a larger scale. The sadness makes you feel tiny, and large at the same time. But in a very different way from staring at the night sky. Those humid nights with the telescope never made me feel sad. I felt free. Like there was some unspoken knowledge being pumped into my brain, that things will be fine, and I can let go of those things that will bog me down in later years. The darkness is the thing that keeps you chained to the earth. Not even fully to the earth, it chains you down in a hole underground. Unable to feel the breeze, the humidity from the summer, unable to see the stars, you lose you sense of place. You go stir crazy. There are days where you feel like you will crawl out of you skin, where I can see the layers of epidermis being peeled away like an onion, only to reveal things that reduce me to tears. It doesn’t emit an odor like an onion, but it emits the pain I keep bottled up. It emits the feelings I shove down. That feeling of wanting to peel your own skin off is nothing compared to what it feels like to have that pain come out. It’s uncomfortable and leaves you feeling so vulnerable that you might as well be running down the side of the highway butt-ass naked as the day you were born. The darkness taught me that those feelings are bad. They are a weakness. The sadness will keep me strong. If I bottle it all up, I will be able to endure. I will persevere. Which in a twisted sense, is true. I survived, but not as I thought I would. I have come to love the sadness too much. To rely on it on a level that is unhealthy. It has become such a part of my identity that the idea of losing it scares me as much as having a limb cut off. I have these moments of clarity where I can see what it has done to me, how it has poisoned me, how it has betrayed me, and I can truly see it for the monster that it is. But eventually it becomes seductive again. The idea of being in bed, having the pity party, making the excuses, just seems too natural for me to turn my back on it. I grasp to it like child does for it’s mother. Sometimes it feels like that. It felt like a parent for me. When you’re a teenager, you’re already in a very vulnerable place, undergoing drastic changes in a short amount of time is enough to make anyone desperate for some kind of control. But when you’re not just a teenager, you’re a teenager who’s already been exposed to the seduction of the darkness, and who undergoes massive life changes in a extremely short amount of time, you latch onto whatever you can to keep you afloat. I latched onto the depression, to the darkness, because it told me that it would let me survive. That through giving myself to it, I could endure the hardships that were to follow. I never realized that I was selling my soul to the darkness. The stars in my sky began to disappear, one by one they vanished. Lights going out until I was left alone with the dark. That’s how I remained for years. In this hole I had dug for myself, with the dark, only the darkness.

As the summer humidity faded, and turned into the chill of autumn, the telescope was little by little moved back towards the house. Then as it got too cold to stay out in the night for long, it eventually was placed in the basement, where it would go on to collect dust. The dreams of being an Astronomer were shattered, as soon as I learned how much math it required, it was replaced with dreams of begin a history professor. I traded the night sky for Elizabeth the First. Eventually Elizabeth got left behind. She collected just as much dust as the telescope. These frozen memories of the life I had wanted so young. After that, nothing really fit. No careers jumped out at me. I tried a little of this and a little of that. Half-assing these choices that seemed to come so easily to my peers. I just wanted to remain in my darkness. I knew I was safe there. My vision got fuzzy and all I could see was my pain in my tunnel vision, surrounded by pure black. Nothing mattered but that pain. I think feeling that from time to time was the only way I knew I was still alive. I certainly didn’t feel alive. I felt like a shell of a person. Just functional enough to get by, do the bare minimum so that people leave you alone. I learned how to do just that. The absolute bare minimum. I slipped through cracks, and didn’t apply myself. I look back and wish I had applied myself. I knew I was capable of so much more than I was doing. I know that now. I know I am capable of so much more than this bare minimum crap I put out. Do I change it? Do I bother to do anything to change it? Just enough to get by. The darkness has me by the throat, and in those especially dark times, it threatens to snap me like a twig.

This is why I measure my life by my losses. By the pain. By the things I don’t have. The things I won’t have. The things I couldn’t have. Never the things I do have. The things I have been taking for granted for so long. I measure my life by my pain. Those big losses are milestones in my life. Like dysfunctional birthdays, that serve of reminders of what was lost. Everyone has losses in their lives. What makes mine so special that I feel the need to mark my life by them? Because it’s mine and mine alone. That pain is solely my property. No one else will ever feel it or see it or touch it. I find myself getting mad at people who share those losses with me, that they have pain that stems from those losses as well, and they share how it hurts them. I get mad at them for having the same the loss. I feel the anger bubble up, and the “fuck off” on the tip of tongue, but I bite it back. I get selfish with it. I want it just for myself. What kind of person does that? They get mad at someone for sharing their pain, for allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to share that. Not a happy one.

The darkness has been ever-present in my life. The shades of it vary from time to time. It has been especially dark since September of this year. Ironically I think that’s when the constellation Orion started to present himself. My brain is telling me that, and I’m choosing to remember that, whether or not it’s the truth. The Scottish variant of my last name is Bowman, or Archer. Which I thought was kind of ironic that my favorite constellation has a connection with my last name. Purely coincidental, but still pretty freaking cool if you ask me. Depending on which mythology you want to subscribe to, Orion is the hunter or the archer, who stalks the night sky with his dogs. The Archer and the Dog. I think the reason my brain is telling that Orion presented himself in September was some kind of sign. I had a hard loss with Fala, the Jack Russell I got for my 14th birthday. We weren’t Orion and his dog, but she was the dog and the hunter in one. Always looking out for her prey.

I got back home in early September, and from the start, she had been acting different. Very unlike herself. She kept checking to make sure I was here, and wouldn’t leave me alone. This was after several days of giving me the stink eye for being gone for a few weeks. Two weeks go by, and you can tell by the way she’s carrying herself she felt like crap. She was always a tough dog, but this was uncomfortable on a level I had never seen her behave. After a few days, we take her to the vet, completely unsure of what is wrong. They do an ultrasound on her belly that had bloated up to a scary level, and discovered that it wasn’t just fluid retention. It was blood. She had a rupture in her spleen, and had been amassing blood in her belly as a result. We were given options regarding her health, and they could have done surgery to see what had caused the rupture, and if had been cancerous they could have done chemo. Which the vet suggested could have given her 6 to 8 more months. She’s 12 at this point. She’s had a good long stretch of life. The vet had also suggested that it might just be her time. I thought about it and decided it wasn’t fair to Fala to keep her around for my selfish needs. It wasn’t fair to have her be opened up and have her body possibly dumped full of chemicals for chemo. It wasn’t something I could do for her. I wasn’t ready for her to go, and I wanted to keep her forever. Despite that, I told the vet that it was her time. That maybe the hardest choice I’ve made this far in my life. Even now I still feel like I killed her. In the darkness, I tell myself that I killed the one source of unconditional love I will ever have in my life. I held her while they gave her shot, and when she took her last breath. I was holding her when her heart stopped, and she looked so peaceful. I’m sure everyone in the pet hospital heard the howling of the cries coming from that exam room. I have never cried that hard. It has never been that gut wrenching and painful. I felt like someone ripped my heart out of my chest and held it up for me to see. They forced me to watch it still beating in their hand. My heart was that dog. It might sound silly to some people, but when you find a source of unconditional love, and you witness the physical death of the source, it hurts. A lot.

All the stars in my night sky vanished in that moment. The darkness descended, and I bottled up my grief. I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. I’m still not prepared to deal with it. I still spend time looking around the house for her. Expecting to hear her nails tap dance on the wood floor. Anticipating her collar jangling as she runs around the house in this bundle of energy. All I have left of her is that collar. All those years with her are only tangible in a collar we bought from target, with her dog tags on it. That is the frozen memory I have of her. A collar that she hated to wear. I had it on my bookshelf the first two weeks after she died. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at it. The pain would bubble up and I wasn’t prepared for it. You’re never prepared for it. Loss is something we think we can harden ourselves against in preparation, but we can’t. You never are prepared for it. Maybe that’s why I measure my life in losses. Those are the moments I was caught off guard. Those are memories of when I didn’t feel in control, I slipped out of the numbing indifference that serves as a protection for moments of unadulterated loss. The grief so thick you could cut it with a knife.

I go for walks at weird times in the night. I’ve always had a hard time sleeping. I see more of the night sky than I do of the sun. The stars have been a comfort. Always a comfort when I see Orion in the sky. It feels like a silent guardian protecting those balls of light that can be such a source of relief for me. Seeing Sirius the bright star in the dog just to the lower left of Orion is a comfort now. The Dog Star shines brightly in the sky. I always think of Fala when I see it. The pain bubbles up, and it hurts, but I let it hurt. Because of what she gave, it’s worth the pain. The love of all those years, and the companionship I knew would always be there. The warmth she was so picky with, was given to me, and I feel lucky for being able to have received it. She was a fickle dog with her affection, not just the attention, but the true affection she gave. The non judgmental looks she’d give you. The unconditional love she gave to only a few of us. We were made better for it. I know I was. Even through the darkness, She was a light for me. She was the one star I had in my night sky. I had my Dog Star, and I knew I could endure. I could survive because of her. She saved me. Without either of us realizing it, she saved me from collapsing completely into that darkness. She died, and her star went out. Now I feel left with no stars in the sky. Complete black surrounding me, and it’s something that is too overwhelming to describe.

The milestone of her death is the biggest one I have so far. The Dog Star shines the brightest for me now. I wish I still had that telescope so I could see it a little bit better.

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Fala

sirius-orion-haydes

The Archer and The Dog Star.

A Girl You Should Date

stagnum memoriae

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

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Digging To Find Myself.

The Manifest-Station

Digging To Find Myself. By Rachel Bolin.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. ~Seamus Heaney

I have never really been very into poetry. I have phases where I have found solace in the words of poets. Robert Frost when I was at the ripe old age of 13, and I had a fleeting love affair in my teenage years of angst with Charles Bukowski. But I never understood it. I could relate to some of the passages and with bits and pieces of them, but as a whole it was completely outside my realm of comprehension. Then I discovered this man from the green hills of Northern Ireland. Where, even to this day, I would swear part of my heart lies, even though I have never stepped foot onto its soil.

I have always, and I mean always, been obsessed with the…

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You are enough.

“Enough” 

adjective

1.

adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire: enough water; noise enough to wake the dead.

pronoun

2.

an adequate quantity or number; sufficiency.

adverb

3.

in a quantity or degree that answers a purpose or satisfies a need or desire; sufficiently.

4.

fully or quite: ready enough.

interjection

5.

(used to express impatience or exasperation): Enough! I heard you the first time.

 

 

 

I have it in my head that I will never be enough. That who I am is not enough. That what I give is not enough. That what I give is never enough. I never do or say enough. That I will never ever EVER love enough. That never was, is, or will be GOOD enough. There is a war in my mind raging on both sides of this. That yes you are enough and you are GOOD enough. That no you are not enough, you are BAD. I sometimes feel like each side is almost a different brain that both fight for dominance over my head. That this is a bitter war that will never end, that each battle will just suck more and more out of me. I can feel it going on while I write this. That the not side is telling me to not even bother writing because I don’t deserve to be heard, because I am just a worthless, broken pile pretending to be a functioning human. Then there is the other side that is telling me to write it because I need to write for myself. That I need to make this tangible. That I deserve to be heard because I have a voice. I showed up, and I will always be worth something because I exist. Purely because I was born and I live each day. I breathe the air and I am here. 

 

There was a little bit from The King’s Speech that I always remember when I’m having days like this. Where I am struggling with these opposing sides. Where King George VI is talking to Lionel Logue, his speech therapist about how England will stuck with a voiceless King during a War in which everything is at stake, and they need the strength and voice of a King. King George VI is visibly irritated with how he feels betrayed and disappointed with how Lionel Logue has presented himself and how he is blaming Lionel for “saddling England with a voiceless king.” Lionel pushes King George to remember that he is so much more capable than he believes he is. King George is struggling with believing in himself, he allows himself to fall into those dark thoughts that so many of us struggle with. That I am struggling with today. 

 

“Listen to you? By what right?”

“By divine right if you must.”

“Divine right? You told me yourself you don’t want it. Why should I waste my time listening to you?”

“Because I have a right to be heard. BECAUSE I HAVE A VOICE!”

“Yes, you do.”

 

If only we all could have that moment with someone, to have someone push us to remember that we do indeed have a voice and that we deserve to be heard. Many times we will seek that reassurance from people, to have others validate that for us. I know I do this, and it is a tricky thing, because while we do possibly require some of that from others, the important one is for us to validate it ourselves. We need to tell ourselves that we deserve to be heard. That we have a voice. I’m working on this part myself. It’s easy for me to say I am trying to do it. There’s more to it than trying, you have to do it. Even when you feel like you can’t, and you don’t want to. This is a moment where I have to kick myself in the butt and say, “You do it because you have to. Because what I have to say is important.”

 

I have a voice that deserves to be heard. Not because I’m original or because I’m always interesting, but because I exist. We are born and we live. That is enough to deserve to be heard. 

 

Here’s my manta for those moments, and I will take it directly from that scene. “BECAUSE I HAVE A VOICE!”

 

 

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Interview with Troy Stewart of The Windsor Player (Part 2)

 

RB: When and how did you first become interested in music? How long have you been playing music?
TS: I was drawn to music at a very early age due to my Mothers record collection. Loads of 45′s and LP’s which I would hover around and play over and over. Seeing my interest, she purchase me a guitar when I was 6. I took lessons for a couple years in grade school from a hippie type teacher who taught me Bob Dylan and Beatles songs but I am mostly self taught. I immediately started writing my own songs, obviously not brilliant, but it was something I loved to do. I would spend hours in my room (still do) putting simple chords, melodies and lyrics together.
RB: What are your musical influences?
TS: My Mother took my sister and myself to see Johnny Cash and the Carter Cash Family with Sammy Davis Jr. opening the show when I was 6 or 7, this was my first ever concert experience. I still remember vividly, the theatre going completely dark then a big, deep voice saying, “Hello, my name is Johnny Cash”. That show and music had a major impact on my life for sure. Other early influences, also due to the records I was exposed to at home, were Burt Bacharach, Elton John, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Neil Diamond and John Denver.
RB: What musicians do you admire, and why?
TS: Elton John for his great piano playing, song writing and use of instruments which brought a country flavor to a lot of his earlier work. Jeff Lynne of ELO for his use of organic strings with the combination of rock and Tom Petty because of his simplistic approach to writing and lyrical story telling. These are just a few of my favorites.
RB: What instruments do you play?
TS: My main instruments are guitar and piano but I also play drums, bass and whatever else I can get a noise out of.
RB: How did you get your start as a musician?
TS: At 14 years of age I was living in a very conservative, religious and depressed part of the country. My family was part of a extreme evangelistic church, this is also where I went to high school. There were a total of 35 kids in the high school and 7 in my graduation class. We were very limited in options or activities through school but music was something that was free and always available, all you needed was an instrument, so that is what I focused on. I had started playing drums at this point and put a band together with a friend who played guitar. We would play together every chance we had, writing rock songs and doing the guitar/drum duo thing. Eventually a whole band was formed, writing, rehearsing and playing shows was my entire existence.
RB: What made you decide to make music your career? How did you make your transition to making music a full time gig?
TS: By the age of 16 I new that making music my career was what I wanted to do. At this point it was something that I had to do because it was what I did day in and day out. Music was what made me happy and still does.
After high school, I hung out playing in bands for a couple years then one day I decided I was going to focus on playing guitar full time so I traded my drums for a guitar, an old 60′s Orange Matamp and matching 4×12 cabs (which I still have), put them in the back of my truck and drove 2,000 miles to the west coast. I played in bands around San Francisco for a couple years then headed to Los Angeles. I played in bands up and down the sunset strip and worked really bad temp jobs. One of my roommates at the time was a sound engineer and had just picked up a gig touring with a band across the U.S. He told me they were looking for a guitar tech for the tour and asked if I would be interested. I didn’t even know what a guitar tech was and after it being explained to me I thought, what…I can get paid for doing that? I did the tour and it turned out that I was pretty good at it (with help from some very cool veterans on the tour who took me under there wings and showed me the ropes). After that tour the phone just kept ringing with offers from other bands. I would tour as a tech, save money then come back to L.A. and play in bands. I always let it be know that I was not just a tech but also a player, eventually I was playing in bands I was touring with. I was then able to work as a tech as well as a session player. It’s been a strange and long path but everyones path is different.
RB: How did The Windsor Player start?
TS: The Windsor Player started while on Snow Patrol’s “A Hundred Million Suns” tour. I was sitting in a hotel room with Marc Carolan who was Snow Patrol’s F.O.H. engineer for the tour. We were playing music and I played a few of my demo’s for him, he loved the song “Big Texas Sky”. Marc had a studio in Dublin and we were going to have a couple days off there so he asked if I wanted to come in and record the track. Richard Colburn of Belle & Sebastian was on that tour playing percussion with Snow Patrol so I asked him if he would be up for playing drums on the session, he said yes, Marc rang a friend of his who played bass, we recorded the song and that is what kicked it all off.
RB: Where did the band name come from?
TS: The Windsor Player name came from a Windsor Player piano which is in Gregg Williams studio, ‘The Trench’, in Portland, Oregon where we recorded the rest of the record. It is a player piano which has been in Gregg’s family since the early 1900′s. His grandparents ordered it out of a catalogue from a company in Chicago and it showed up from the train station in Eastern Oregon to their farm via wagon. We used this piano on almost every track of the record, it is a beautiful instrument and the center piece of the studio and the record. As Gregg and myself were trying to think of a name for the band, Gregg told me the story and history behind the piano, it’s journey west felt somewhat synonymous with mine….destiny?
RB: How did all the members come together for the project?
TS: The members for The Windsor Player came together via a “Build it and they will come” mentality. I was extremely fortunate and blessed with all the musicians who gave their talents and time for this record. Years of touring, meeting musicians, making friends and just asking all came together at the right time.
RB: What was the writing and recording process like?
TS: All the writing for the record was done by myself. Half of the record are songs I picked from over the years and the other half were written while recording. As the recording process developed, I would be more and more inspired. I would leave a 10 hour session, go home and write a new song inspired from the previous session.
None of the musicians were allowed to hear any of the songs before doing a session, except for Jote Osahn who was flying over from London for 10 days to record. Jote, who plays for Elbow, wrote all the string arrangements for the record and played violin, viola and cello as well. She obviously needed the songs prior to the sessions but everyone else came into the sessions blind. No two musicians played together at one time during the recording process, I wanted to tap into every musicians natural playing and instinct. Everyone had only about 3 passes for their parts on every song and Gregg Williams and myself would comp and edit each session. I think this approach gave the songs a feel that it was a live band playing together.
RB: Where did you find the inspiration for the record?
TS: The main inspiration to actually record The Windsor Player came from recording the first Tired Pony record, ‘The Place We Ran From’. We only had 8 days to make that record and Jacknife Lee’s approach was very eye opening and inspiring. It showed me first hand that catching musicians natural instinct is very important. Musically and lyrically, inspiration for The Windsor Player was pulled from musical styles I love, lyrics based on my life story and more selfishly, making a record that I would want to listen to.
RB: How would you describe the sound of the band?
TS: I would describe The Windsor Player sound as American, Alt Country and Rock.
RB: What pulled you to the Americana/Country inspired genre?
TS: The lean into the Americana/Country inspired genre is something that happened very organically, stemming from the natural way I like to write. All of my songs start with acoustic guitar, a melody then lyrics. Just myself and guitar in my room, playing and writing what comes out naturally, what gives me feelings of melancholy, hope or happiness. Another part of the process is the instrumentation which I like hear and use. I’m a huge fan of piano, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and strings, classical and fiddle style violin.
RB: Did you have any idea what the record was going to sound like before you started?
TS: The finished sound of the record was a very big and pleasant surprise. It was much more than I could have envisioned or hoped for. This is due to the brilliant musicians who played on the record, Gregg Williams incredible engineering skills and Dave Friedlander doing an amazing job mixing.
RB: The album is very diverse with sounds on each song, was this something you had planned or did it come from the collaboration with your other band members?
TS: I think the diverse sound of the record comes from my love of many different styles of music and very much from collaborating with the other band members, letting them do what they do. Melting heavier electric guitars with acoustic instruments and using effects and unconventional methods to create and twist the sounds was something we very much embraced. This is something I also learned from Jacknife Lee while working on the recording ‘A Hundred Million Suns’. He taught me that there are no limits when recording, if you can think or come up with it…you can record it!
RB: Where did the inspiration for the songs come from?
TS: As I said before, these songs are based around my life. These are stories, journeys and passed experiences which start with the first track ‘Release’ to finality with ‘Big Texas Sky’. Some literally and others in more of an abstract sense.
RB: What can we expect from the next album?
TS: It’s hard to know what to expect from the next album. There will probably be some of the same styles from this record but there are so many other styles which I would like to explore. It’s fun to go into a studio environment and be surprised by what comes out creatively. This is what I would like The Windsor Player to be, constant surprise.
RB: Are there any plans for more Windsor Player shows? Would you like to take it out on the road?
TS: I would love to put The Windsor Player on the road but nothing in the works now. Being an unsigned act, touring is quite and endeavor and my hat is definitely tipped to the bands that do it. We have played a handful of shows in Portland, which were a great experience, and would love to do more, time will tell.
RB: Do you think collaboration with other musicians is an important thing to do?
TS: Collaboration with other musicians is a very important thing to do. It provides learning of other styles and leads to improvement on your own style of writing or playing.
RB: Would you say that having different bands and different creative outlets is vital for a musician?
TS: Yes, very much so. Expanding ones creative style by playing with different bands and musicians is key to become a good songwriter and musician. As a wise old man once said, “You never stop learning”.
RB: Do you write songs on your own or do you like to write with other musicians? Which do you prefer?
TS: I generally like to write on my own but also enjoy writing with other musicians. While writing with other musicians, I focus on parts for whatever instrument I am playing while letting the key songwriter focus on progressions and arrangements.
RB: What kind of a role do you play in the group songwriting process?
TS: This varies depending on the group I am working with. In Tired Pony, I mainly play piano so I focus on piano parts that will round out the sound of the song and try to create counter melodies that will not step on any of the other instruments or parts. With Little Matador I play electric guitar and work with Dave Magee (guitarist) on creating a fat bed or wall of sound. I also focus on lead and odd noise parts, sometimes from the approach of what might be created if I were playing a synth or keyboard.
RB: Do you think writing and working with the members of your bands has helped you become a better musician? Or songwriter?
TS: Absolutely it has. I am very fortunate and continually humbled from the playing and creative experiences that I have had and continue to be a part of. Once again, you can always learn something new…it’s a perk of the process which is to be embraced and sought after.
RB: What do you enjoy about the process of collaborating?
TS: The biggest thrill I get from collaborating is the excitement when the recorded song is played back through the speakers and the music, melodies and parts all work together in ways you could not have imagined or done on your own. When the emotion is turned into sound, it’s very magical and satisfying.
RB: Do you prefer to be in the creative environment of a studio or touring and playing live shows?
TS: Studio and live are such completely different beasts and I enjoy them both. The searching and experimentation in the studio can also bring a little madness but I very much enjoy it. I also love playing live, rehearsing for hours and obsessing on playing every part perfect as well as with feeing and emotion. Delivering those combinations live is very satisfying.
RB: Do you have any projects you would love to do? Any future goals?
TS: Yes, there are some amazing musicians around Portland I would love to write with. One is Jerry Joseph who is in my opinion one of the most honest songwriters and human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The only future goal I have is to do my best at living life on my terms, being an artist and to never stop being creative.
RB: Would you ever do a solo project?
TS: It’s wise to never say never but it’s not really something I have thought of.
RB: With all your projects keeping you busy, how do you spend your downtime?
TS: One day at a time.
RB: How do you balance your professional and personal lives?
TS: That’s a very, very, very good question. I believe the jury is still out on that one but if I ever come up with the answer, I will then write a book on the subject.
RB: What music have you been listening to lately? Current favorite artists or albums?
TS: I don’t listen to albums very much, strangely enough, I listen to radio. My favorite artist at the moment and the past many years is a brilliant band out of Portland, Oregon called ‘Blitzen Trapper’. Their records, songwriting and live shows are amazing. They can go anywhere with their music, are always evolving, have worked extremely hard to get where they are at, are good and decent people and I am a huge fan.
RB: How have you seen the industry change since you started?
TS: When I started, the industry was all giant labels, big machines. In my L.A. days, everyone was focused on getting a deal or chasing a scene to get a deal. This was always very disheartening to me and never felt quite right. Not that I didn’t want a record deal, it just seemed that the drive to ‘get a deal’ took precedence over making music because that’s what I loved to do. Over the years I have seen the start up of indie labels and now independent artist able to put out their music on a very large scale though avenues such as CD Baby and others. I think think companies such as CD Baby give musicians the chance to be creative by making the music they want to make and allow the artist to send his or her art out to the world…and let the fan decide what they like.
RB: What have your experiences in music taught you about the industry?
TS: That’s a question with some very dark answers. In lieu of sounding dark, I will say find YOUR way, YOUR path and persevere on the high road.
RB: Where do you see things going for the industry? (Especially with everything being available digitally. Do you think this can be a good thing for musicians?)
TS: If I had a working crystal ball…I would write a second book.
RB: If you had a new artist coming to you for advice, what would you say?
TS: Make music and write songs for the love of making music and writing songs. Discover your own unique style through exploring your favorite artist’s styles. Be true to yourself and your art but most of all…play, play, play and never stop playing.
– See more at: http://news.eshac.com/?p=1319#sthash.Q5Sxh5mR.dpuf

Interview with Troy Stewart of The Windsor Player (Part 1)

This was originally posted on a site geared towards new and unsigned musicians. Eshac has seemed to have gone defunct since this was originally posted in July 2013.

Imagine yourself as a six year old kid, sitting in a theater and suddenly the lights dim. In the darkened room, you can feel the anticipation buzzing, and the electric excitement crackling through the room like bolts lighting shooting from the sky. Without warning you hear a big, deep booming voice echo, “Hello, my name is Johnny Cash.” His voice resonating through the whole room. The spotlight comes on to show Mr. Cash on stage, and the music begins. This was Troy Stewart’s first musical experience, and one he says has vividly stayed with him throughout his life.

After his exposure to Johnny Cash and the Carter Cash family, his interest in music began to grow. Troy’s mom purchased his first guitar, and gave him free rein to rummage through her records. After playing those records over and over, he began to spend hours in his room exploring songwriting, figuring out his own way of putting lyrics, chords, and melodies together like a jigsaw puzz
It wasn’t until he was in his teens that he began to play in bands, that he really got his start in music. He recalled his start at the age of 14, and how he got his start in the Music Industry, “At 14 years of age I was living in a very conservative, religious and depressed part of the country. My family was part of a extreme evangelistic church, this is also where I went to high school. There were a total of 35 kids in the high school and 7 in my graduation class. We were very limited in options or activities through school but music was something that was free and always available, all you needed was an instrument, so that is what I focused on. I had started playing drums at this point and put a band together with a friend who played guitar. We would play together every chance we had, writing rock songs and doing the guitar/drum duo thing. Eventually a whole band was formed, writing, rehearsing and playing shows was my entire existence.
By the age of 16, I knew that making music my career was what I wanted to do. At this point it was something that I had to do because it was what I did day in and day out. Music was what made me happy and still does.
After high school, I hung out playing in bands for a couple years then one day I decided I was going to focus on playing guitar full time so I traded my drums for a guitar, an old 60′s Orange Matamp and matching 4×12 cabs (which I still have), put them in the back of my truck and drove 2,000 miles to the west coast. I played in bands around San Francisco for a couple years then headed to Los Angeles. I played in bands up and down the sunset strip and worked really bad temp jobs. One of my roommates at the time was a sound engineer and had just picked up a gig touring with a band across the U.S. He told me they were looking for a guitar tech for the tour and asked if I would be interested. I didn’t even know what a guitar tech was and after it being explained to me I thought, what…I can get paid for doing that? I did the tour and it turned out that I was pretty good at it (with help from some very cool veterans on the tour who took me under their wings and showed me the ropes). After that tour the phone just kept ringing with offers from other bands. I would tour as a tech, save money then come back to L.A. and play in bands. I always let it be know that I was not just a tech but also a player, eventually I was playing in bands I was touring with. I was then able to work as a tech as well as a session player. It’s been a strange and long path but everyones path is different.”
After being hired as a Guitar Tech for the U.K. based band Snow Patrol, his side project The Windsor Player would begin it’s infancy on the tour in support of their 2008 album “A Hundred Million Suns.” Troy played some of his demos for Snow Patrol’s Front of House Engineer, Marc Carolan. Marc immediately loved them, and asked Troy if he wanted to come and do some recording at his studio in Dublin on a mini break during the tour. The song “Big Texas Sky” would come out of those days. Richard Colburn of Belle & Sebastian provided his services for drums, since he was playing percussion on the tour, and Marc enlisted the services of a friend on bass. Troy would continue to tour with the band, and write his songs along the way.
In early 2010, Troy joined the collaboration that would end up becoming Tired Pony. Made up of extremely talented musicians and skilled writers, the environment was a creative stronghold that would inspire Troy to create the The Windsor Player. It is made up of members from the Tired Pony sessions, and other musicians who Troy had met and worked with over his years as a Session Player and Guitar Tech. “The members for The Windsor Player came together via a “Build it and they will come” mentality. I was extremely fortunate and blessed with all the musicians who gave their talents and time for this record. Years of touring, meeting musicians, making friends and just asking all came together at the right time.”
The inspiration for his band came from the 8 days of recording for Tired Pony, and seeing how Tired Pony Member and Producer, Garret “Jacknife” Lee, approached his work. That catching the first instinct of a musician is very important. This would come in handy when Troy would begin to flesh out the songs he had written and collected over the years. When it came to recording and collaborating with other musicians he had this to say, “None of the musicians were allowed to hear any of the songs before doing a session, except for Jote Osahn who was flying over from London for 10 days to record. Jote, who plays for Elbow, wrote all the string arrangements for the record and played violin, viola and cello as well. She obviously needed the songs prior to the sessions but everyone else came into the sessions blind. No two musicians played together at one time during the recording process, I wanted to tap into every musicians natural playing and instinct. Everyone had only about 3 passes for their parts on every song and Gregg Williams and myself would comp and edit each session. I think this approach gave the songs a feel that it was a live band playing together.”
As the recording process continued to develop, Troy would find himself more and more inspired. Often leaving long sessions, only to go home and write new songs. He would find inspiration from the sessions, musical styles he loved, his own life, and from a desire to create a record he would want to listen to. He found himself leaning towards a more Americana/Country tinged album, as it was just organically what would stem from his way of writing. The other portion of that is the instrumentation that he likes to hear and then use. He is a huge fan of piano, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and strings, classical and fiddle style violin. These instruments would help fatten up the Americana tinges on the record. The album plays around with the lines of different genres.
“I think the diverse sound of the record comes from my love of many different styles of music and very much from collaborating with the other band members, letting them do what they do. Melting heavier electric guitars with acoustic instruments and using effects and unconventional methods to create and twist the sounds was something we very much embraced. This is something I also learned from Jacknife Lee while working on the recording ‘A Hundred Million Suns’. He taught me that there are no limits when recording, if you can think or come up with it…you can record it!”
After the recording was finished it came time to mix and master the record. Troy was unsure as of how the record would sound when it was all completed. He had this to say about it, “The finished sound of the record was a very big and pleasant surprise. It was much more than I could have envisioned or hoped for. This is due to the brilliant musicians who played on the record, Gregg Williams incredible engineering skills and Dave Friedlander doing an amazing job mixing.”
– See more at: http://news.eshac.com/?p=1315#sthash.zi7KbuGU.dpuf