Posts Tagged ‘journey’

CC CHRONICLES: Thick Skin & Lookin’ Within

Published by cctadmin on July 30th, 2015

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I was walking home along the boardwalk yesterday; enjoying the sun on my face and in particular, time to think about and reflect on what it means to have ‘thick skin’. I’ve heard it said that to have thick skin is a ‘gift from God’; that it takes time and learning to acquire it, and finally, that in order to face life’s rejections, haters and obstacles, it’s all but essential to have it. The very definition of ‘thick-skinned’ is “insensitive to criticism or insults“.

Why the contemplation? Well, I can identify things I want in my life; like strong family connections, a healthy relationship with my partner, financial security, education, a home and a fulfillment from music. The list goes on. I’ve never expected any one of those things to come easy; and in fact, they never have. I continue putting time and effort into my life’s ambitions with a quiet confidence that there’s worth in that patience and dedication.  Hopefully that worth is the joy experienced along the way.

On the other hand, within our passioned pursuits there is also much opportunity for disappointment; the ‘nothing comes easy’ part existing in the form of obstacles like a door-slam to the face, criticisms or the many hoops we often have to jump through in order to succeed in our goals. There’s always an opportunity to give up. Rationally, I understand that ‘nothing comes easy’; stumbling blocks are a given; and it’s with this I contemplate how to acquire a hardened sense of logic.

I recall how scary it was in my youth when I was just forging out on my own and having to establish security; similarly, going to University in my 20’s and facing all sorts of intellectual pressures. Being an independent artist without management or a band to my credit also beholds tests of my inner strength. Given this and more I can acknowledge the ‘thick skin’ I had to personally attain in the face of these things yet, on my walk home, I still couldn’t help but feel briefly overwhelmed at the realization that ‘thick skin’ is not only a goal in itself; it’s an on-going process.  There is no end.   I may have some of it, and I’ve strengthened over the years but I could use some toughening up even still.

It can be discouraging; I certainly began that walk feeling daunted about some of my musical pursuits in particular. In fact I felt downright deflated; but it only took some time and reflection on route home to consider that like anything else worth having, I was, and I am going to have to remain patient; I’m going to have to keep my head up and trust in the process of my future pursuits. Regardless of weather things in our lives turn out exactly as we want them to or not, I’d really rather keep trying, keep getting back up on the horse and giving it another go – than opting to fall to my knees in defeat. With that in mind I found a way to turn around my inner doubts and see them all as part of this process. It didn’t necessarily take away all my discouragement however it did just enough to have me feeling less defeated.

What do you guys think about the thickness of your own skin?

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CC CHRONICLES: Throwback Thursday / Camp Stephens 2001-2002

Published by cctadmin on June 25th, 2015

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Once upon a time I worked at a children’s camp.  Growing up in Flin Flon, there was no luxury of going off to a camp with programs quite like Camp Stephens; a YMCA/YCWA camp located in Lake of the Woods, Ontario. I did however, find myself working for and residing on the island over the summers of 2001 and 2002.

At the time I was working at a YMCA daycare center in downtown Winnipeg; seeking adventure and challenge. It became an opportunity I couldn’t resist and at 22 years of age I was a bit of a free spirit, in fact it was after these two summers that I landed myself permanently in Ottawa, where I then stayed for ten years.

It did not matter I had no summer camp experience nor did I come equipped with that sense of encampment history, much like the alumni and staff I eventually came to work with. It mattered not that it paid little and was located on a remote island where they had to boat staff/kids out. Experience was what I craved and I do believe I got it over those two summers. Beginning as a camp counsellor, I ended up working as the Head Cook for a period of time too. So many good memories of those dog days: all the children playing and laughing; youthful camp counselors who seemed to be hooking up with each other left and right; sleeping in cabins on bunks and waiting for letters to reach me from family or friends back home; and those weekends off where we’d all boat back into Kenora for the day and eat at Boston Pizza and stock up on luxuries for weekends of planned debauchery. That is, until the new batch of children came and it was time to get back to the grind in our respective roles.

There are a couple of stand-out memories even today: I recall crying by myself on the swim dock one sunny afternoon while everyone else gathered in the food hall for lunch, likely surrounded by laughter and camp cheer. It was my inherent loneliness.  In spite of any mission to live on the edge I felt out of place for not being a life-long ‘camp kid’; especially remote in the belief I was the only identifying gay on the island; an isle otherwise full of boys and girls bursting with hormones and sexuality. And that was just the other staff!! On the other hand, I call to mind many unique people, having a lot of conversations with peers and eventually feeling included and a part of the amazing tradition that is still Camp Stephens. I have reminisced about walking in the dark back to my cabin from the food hall, giving haircuts to new friends on cabin floors and soliciting free love advice; dancing to Destiny’s Child in the kitchen while we all slaved and prepared meals for over 120 kids and staff around the clock. I remember skinny-dipping at night with girlfriends in escape the hot hot heat; feeling liberated while treading water in the moonlight.. only to rush back to the cabin before the onslaught of mosquitos or sand flies. So many special people. THANK YOU to Camp Stephens and all of my past friends and the children whom I have long since lost touch with; the summers of 2001/2002 were the stuff youth is made of and I’ll gladly continue to cherish the memories.

Below is a photo from back when, of myself and my kitchen ‘girls’.  I still hear them laughing and talking.

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CC CHRONICLES: Nature is my healer

Published by cctadmin on October 7th, 2014

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Where is your go-to quiet space?

With the many things we try doing within our days, like work, school, family responsibilities – it makes sense that at any given time we can feel overwhelmed, perhaps even a little lost. I know there are times when personally, the stimulation of the people, places and things around me can do the opposite of fuel me; in fact it can drain me of all energy.  If I’m not careful that overwhelmed-ness kicks in and before I know it I am confused and tired.  Spirit, mind and body just become bombarded with stress. Sound familiar?

When I was a younger (even up until the past 2 years or so) I seemed to respond to these things well enough, as I’m still standing on my own two feet today – however, I recall believing the solution to these dilemmas somehow involved a lot of talking to other people. A stressful situation bothered me and I would immediately call, text, write or open up a conversation with the belief that there would be some sort of relief in talking it out. Being heard. Sometimes it did – sometimes it can.

Lately I feel different.  It’s clear that life will always hold some sort of dilemma or opportunity to rise or fall; and I do have a stronger sense that regardless of whatever the situation, everything will turn out for the best. Perhaps it’s because of this inner-working that I feel less and less inclined to REACH OUTWARDLY; i.e., send those knee-jerk texts, calls, what have you.

With that inclination to reach outward lessening, I feel the push to search inward more. It’s not a black or white issue; I’ll never say I do this because I can’t trust or rely on an outside source to provide me a shoulder or wisdom of some kind. I continue to value friendships and their given shoulders for which they allow me to lean when I need. For me, it’s more about embracing the journey and turning thoughts like “I’m upset, I need to vent my anger and hurt to someone…” or “I’m hurting and I need someone to nurture me…” into thoughts like “I’m upset and I am hurting right now… I’m going to find my own resolve.” Or “I’m in need of nurturing right now. I’m gonna nurture myself. I know the answers. The answers are always in me.”

For example, there was a sunny day last month when I was hit with overwhelming stress. I recognized feeling angry, agitated, over-emotional even. It was kind of paralyzing because I still had to function at work, I still had family responsibilities and a relationship and home to take care of. I had music obligations, you name it! That old knee-jerk response kicked in and I felt myself going over the rolodex of people in my mind who I could perhaps call for guidance or seek refuge in. Nothing felt ‘right’; folks seemed busy in their own life obligations, and I couldn’t trust 100% that venting was even going to be enough.  Was I going to be heard?  Would I find resolve?

On my lunch break I found myself walking to the boardwalk in the bright sun; and with each step I took on that trail I turned those questions and those feelings inward. I wasn’t conscious of this thought process, but I did feel a pull to find that alone-ness and embrace it.  I faced my own numbness; I even surrendered to the confusion and the fatigue, and all the guilt and shame I was struggling with. I walked until I found a spot calling to me; and of course it was a beautiful spot by water – because it dawned on me that it’s in nature I feel best. It’s in the sun and near the water, with the breeze on my skin – where I feel nurtured and heard perhaps even more so than by any living person.

I found a quiet space to go – and I’m telling you, the answers were there; and I affirmed myself in the way I used to search outward. I was able to regain a sense of self-composure and even self-compassion and understanding… and with that simple affirmation of remembering that Nature is my healer.  It may not always be this way; and I will in fact be a mess for all of my live-long days, but maybe, just maybe I’ll do good to remember the above.

I share this because perhaps others can identify with this concept of seeking out vs. seeking in. I would love to hear additional thoughts!!

 

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QUESTiON : WHAT SONG LYRiCS iNSPiRE YOU? / SERENDiPiTY & THE POWER OF LYRiC iN MUSiC : A CC CONFESSiONAL

Published by cctadmin on April 1st, 2012

The other day I was in conversation with a friend,  specifically sharing song lyrics that iNSPiRE us in some way.  The conversation had started out light enough – did we love the new MADONNA song GiRL GONE WiLD or … not so much?  Our views on MADONNA aside the conversation steered away from her and more towards the direction of citing lyrics that  have left an impression or were/remain significant on some level (often in a healing or comforting way).  Music can hold all kinds of meaning to people, and to each of us a song will stand out for whatever reason we a drawn to – rhythm, voice, what have you – in this instance we were referring to the meaning of a good lyric.  Song writing can be a powerful art/tool.

Let me share a personal story.  The year was 1992, so this was 20 years ago now.  I was 13 years old and struggling very much at school, from a social perspective.  You know the story:  delicate gay boy conflicted by life  in a small mining community up north of what seemed nowhere.  I was a decent student, certainly not at the top of the class but I did well enough.  Not involved in sports, I  didn’t have the confidence to participate in real interests like band, choir or drama classes.  Incredibly shy and insecure as well as unabashedly gay – there was no hiding what came natural to me, making me susceptible to being on the receiving end of enough ridicule.  Those were and are arguably still the times but that was my reality, along with many others everywhere around the world, although I would only grow to  really grasp this in future years.

Bullying was a regular part of life, as was music.  I could spend the day at school, invisible or ostracized, yet I could always rely on coming home to where it felt safe.  This was usually in my room, listening to music, writing, playing and singing.  I was not sharing these difficulties with adults around me – for this is what fear and shame can do to a young and developing mind.  I did however turn to music. I found that lyrics were as important to me as any beautiful melody;   my natural affinity was to gravitate towards music that lent itself to story-telling, confessions – and I had no shortage of music to listen to; NEiL YOUNG, JONi, JAMES TAYLOR  and of course, MiSS DOLLY PARTON.  I could always find peace or calm with music.  At the very least, sweet escape.

If any of you can remember the movie STRAiGHT TALK (which came out in 1992 and there is NO shame if you do remember!) you must recall the song at the opening credits of the film, you know where SHiRLEY KENYON (DOLLY) ditches her small town life for CHiCAGO in search of her big dreams.  The song that opens STRAiGHT TALK is called LiGHT OF A CLEAR BLUE MORNING.  Here are some lyrics:

Its been a long dark night
And Ive been a waitin for the morning
Its been a long hard fight
But I see a brand new day a dawning
I’ve been looking for the sunshine
Cause I aint seen it in so long
But everythings gonna work out just fine
Everythings gonna be all right
That’s been all wrong

Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of a brand new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
And everythings gonna be all right
Its gonna be okay

When I picture my 13 year old self watching this film & enjoying it for the escapism it provided – these lyrics did not register.  I knew little of hope – I didn’t know what it meant to SEE THE LiGHT OF A CLEAR BLUE MORNiNG, much less what it meant to feel like EVERYTHiNGS GONNA BE ALL RiGHT.  This was not my state of mind at the time; I was in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety, hopeless  and holding all said fears inside due to the intense  apprehension of judgment.  Like so many stories of gay boys and girls, or just any youth struggling with depression and isolation the only thing on my mind was escaping the pain – the iMMEDiATE pain of which I could not see my way out of.

At 13 years of age I attempted suicide as the summer of 1992 wrapped up and it became time to re-enter school for grade 8.  The fear of the unknown and the anticipation that life was always going to be surrounded in this kind of energy and treatment became too much, and no song or lyric could reach me or help me escape that reality.  I have no shame in telling this story, in fact I know that having come out on the winning end of it all (unlike so many unfortunate stories) it gave me the keys to my freedom and it eventually liberated me.  The details of the story are less important but what is important is that I received that help, and although it took those serious actions from me, adults in my life (including family and the school board) had no choice to to hear this cry for help from a youth in severe crisis.  Fortunately I did receive support and slowly but surely began my healing path.  Of course I will always remain grateful for those who rallied around this former self – to help build a stronger foundation.

To bring it back to music and the power of lyric, many years later I found myself randomly listening to LiGHT of a CLEAR BLUE MORNING somehow, and just like that <CLiCK> – something about the familiarity of the song in context to that former place and time went on like a light switch and I realized the essence of the song;  EVEN WHEN THE SKY IS GREY AND FULL OF CLOUDS – THE SUN IS BEHIND THOSE CLOUDS – JUST WAITING TO COME OUT made more sense to me than ever before.  Though the memories had long since been buried of that time and place, like the Universe sort of nudging me along my path I found myself finding a certain resolve and appreciation for the pasts effect on my being in the present.  To me this defines finding meaning in lyric – hence the healing power of art.

The power of these specific lyrics hit me and I found it serendipitous back then and even today.   It was impossible for that 13year old boy to see what treasures life could behold – and although life as an adult has its own pressures and challenges, one always has to hold on to that hope for a better tomorrow.  Typing the words I know they look and sound cliche but that’s just the real way it is.  The message was there for me although it did take me some time to make a connection.

Today this is why I find myself curious and interested in hearing from other people.  Is there a song or a lyric out there that holds for you great power and meaning?  If so - TELL ME YOUR STORY!! – share it in any way you can, as you can rest assured that the meaning it holds for you has the capacity to impact another person as well, and for the better.  I’d love to hear what you have to say!