WordPlay

Sasha Benoit

Welcome to My Wonderfully Eclectic World of General Interest Through the 👀 of a Believer❖ a Songwriter❖ a New Yorker❖ a World Traveler❖ a Fashionista❖ an Intellectual



WORDPLAY:  Is Creativity the Greatest Show On Earth?

In May 2017, after 146 years in operation, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus finally closed its tent doors. Its trademarked slogan, “The Greatest Show On Earth,” is iconic. Having attended their shows on several occasions, the slogan  was fitting as it was quite an amazing spectacle.  I wondered if there was another show that could make such a bold claim. I searched my mental database, reminiscing about concerts, theatrical plays, movies and magic shows.  I couldn’t come up with a suitable comparison, but magic stuck with me. As I considered the allure of a magician, somehow I went over the river and through the woods to begin exploring creativity. I cannot trace the steps that allowed me to begin at a circus, take a pit stop at magic show, then arrive at creativity, but just go with me.  I suppose this prospect intrigues me because, as a creative, bringing something into existence that did not previously exist is my playground.  I live in my imagination and I believe my influx of ideas are worth a king’s ransom. So the use of originality, artistry, inspiration and vision to bring into fruition random ideas that previously existed only in the mind, is quite fascinating.

Creativity is defined as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, and relationships, to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretations.  It is the ability to produce something of value from original ideas.  In thinking about the act of making a thing that didn’t previously exist, or using existing materials to make something completely different, I considered my own creative process. Everything that I do is informed by a creative lens because that is my nature. I am a writer of many different things, including these posts, which require creativity to formulate content that is hopefully interesting.  But just as I employ a process to write in the various mediums, I problem-solve and troubleshoot from a nonconventional perspective as well. My world is shaped by my creativity and it is as present as stripes are on a zebra. I haven’t taken a poll, but in observing creative people in my circle of friends and family, I suspect that many of their day-to-day decisions are informed by their creative lens too.  But I find that I can become so fixated on the finished product of a particular thing, that I often forget the magic of its genesis. By way of example, I began a song in September 2017 that I only recently finished this month. In listening to my various recordings of the melodic and lyrical ideas over the last almost year, the song went through many iterations.  On one of the recordings I lamented how this song would not allow me to abandon it, though it was causing me a great deal of trouble to finish.  In looking back on the process, I had been so focused on finishing the song that the genesis was completely lost on me.  There is absolute magic happening every time I sit down before a blank computer screen or piece of paper to write a song, poem, prose, letter or even this blog post. I am not saying that there is magic because of the brilliance of what is produced, but by virtue of having the ability to create something that previously did not exist.  Whether it is good or not is up for debate and interpretation, but there is still loud applause for the process of simply creating.  


So while Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus might have given the world a spectacular show, how many iterations of creativity did it take to get to the perfected end product that got all the glory?  Though it is the successful magic tricks that receives all the praise, how many ideas were birthed by the magicians in attempting to perfect their tricks? The amazing concerts and plays that we have attended have added to the tapestry of our lives.  But how many ideas went into the development of that production, from the genesis of a song idea to the blueprints and construction of the venues in which the shows were performed. Though it gets very little recognition, creativity is the very heartbeat of everything. The living within our imagination to bring original ideas back to reality is where the real magic happens.  The end results always gets the glory, but it is the creativity that is the real showstopper for every greatest show on earth.    

Posted: August 15, 2018, 9:58 pm


WORDPLAY:  Running With Horses

The more I submit to what I sincerely believe is God’s will, the more I recognize that I need Him 25 hours, 8 days a week. The more I endeavor to walk closely with Him, the more I learn about myself and how to manage disappointment. So it goes almost a week ago today. It was not my intention to write a post for this month because I had been utterly consumed with a gun violence awareness production the Lord laid on my heart in January. I have been living with the production for the better part of 6 months, but it began to take shape and form over these last two months when rehearsals started. From the inception I encountered hardship, but Jeremiah 12:5 immediately came to my remembrance when I complained to the Lord: 5 “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” I faced  challenge after challenge and put out fire after fire, but I never felt inclined to stop or give up. The resistance was great but I understood the assignment was greater, so I persisted through all the adversity. But the Sunday before last, as the finally week of practices was beginning, I was lead to read my journal entry from 9 months ago where I referenced, “For Every Mountain I’ve Ascended,” a previous blog post.  That post was about processing the devastation of disappointment and hardship when the wounds were still fresh. It had no particular relevance at the time I was lead to revisit it, but I nonetheless made a mental note as I have come to realize that things don’t occur by happenstance. Fast forward to last Wednesday, in a flurry of activity and calls coming in from various sources, all the wheels came off the train when I was informed, four days before the production was to occur, it would not take place as scheduled.  I was undone.

I recall several thoughts flooding my mind in the minutes and hours after receiving the bombshell news, but there was little time to process. I had a previously scheduled conference call with my production team occurring 20 minutes after I received the news. I sent a text saying that the production was shutdown and I would explain on the conference call. After that 90 minute conversation, I decided to send an email to the cast advising that the production would not occur at the appointed time but I would be at the venue the next day to address their questions and concerns. Thereafter, I completely unplugged from the world so that I could assess my injuries and lick my wounds in private.  My mind was fluttering with tools to self-soothe, but I didn’t want to be consoled. I wanted to legitimately and honestly be in my feelings and I was totally immersed in every single feeling that I could muster.  I awoke the next day wanting to remain unplugged but I felt an obligation to speak personally with the cast and those who had volunteered their time, treasure and talent to bring the vision to life. It wasn’t until yesterday that I thought that I should blog about this experience.  As I sat down to begin writing today, the previous post on disappointment came rushing back with great relevance.  I said in that post I was inspired to write the counterargument to disappointment as a means of encouraging another author who expressed his lament while dealing with the injury and hurt of disappointment.  I now find myself being likewise encouraged by my own insights. Much of the post resonated with me as my wounds are still new, but I found the following insight of particular note:  “… when we are freshly bruised and battered by devastating news, oftentimes we lose perspective.  In truth,  falling apart is a reasonable response to trauma, but we leave ourselves vulnerable to being ravaged even more severely. If disappointment is kryptonite then perspective is the antidote, the wonder drug.  Perspective allows us to respond in gratitude for the things that we still have instead of being swallowed whole by the things that appear to be lost or dreams seemingly deferred.”  


There is an awesome gift in having perspective in the immediacy of the calamity that gives such clarity. I was on the precipice of allowing my vision to be clouded by emotions, but instead I took a step back to experience the grief of the disappointment, while not allowing those feelings to consume me.  My responses, moves and motivations in the ensuing days have been tempered by understanding, revelation and purposeful intention, rather than tinged with anger and hurt feelings.  Today, six days removed from the injury, I see even more clearly that the setbacks I have experienced are preparing me to run with horses. Had I not used perspective as the antidote to begin healing my disappointment, the lessons I would have missed would have been innumerable. Every hardship has served to develop my character, build endurance and strengthen my relationship with God.  My faith and trust in God’s promises is my sustenance, so I will not stumble on safe terrain when I was meant to navigate the thickets of the Jordan. Every disappointment gets me closer to running with horses and as I grow, I am learning not to allow myself to be worn out in a foot race with men.

Posted: June 26, 2018, 11:45 pm


WORDPLAY:  When Your Purpose Calls

One morning in November 2014, I had an encounter with whom I am sure was God, that would change my trajectory forever. In those minutes, which seemed like an eternity, I was presented with the option to maintain the status quo of the life I had planned for myself, or do something radical like trust God’s plan. I was living safely, quietly and peacefully as a “good Christian.” By all accounts, my life was successful and productive in not only my eyes, but in the eyes of men. I am generally a happy person who smiles a lot, so even when I need to make lemonade out of lemons, I am positive and resilient. Nonetheless, I knew that though I was reasonably satisfied, there was a mournful discontent in the deepest recesses of my soul. There was something gnawing at my insides; begging me to walk away from the safe existence I had carefully curated.  It became clear on that fateful morning I was settling for something far less than what God intended for me.  

So in that moment, I answered the call to abandon the good life I planned, for the great life that God promised. That decision compelled me to completely, immediately totally, and permanently alter the direction of my life.  Some of the people, places and things that enabled me to live my good Plan B life were literally removed overnight. Others were excised with surgical precision, methodically purging everything that served as a hinderance to my calling.  My life was not my own anymore; I was not my own. As I embarked on this journey toward my purpose, I began to receive insight that my life was really never my own because I had always been God’s treasured possession though I didn’t recognize my value or power. I received understanding that my truest happiness was being stolen from underneath me by allowing well-intentioned people to dictate what success meant.  Even more egregious, I was fully complicit because my thoughts and fears were the biggest stumbling block to my happy ending. The difference between remaining unscathed in my good life and risking it all to reach the perfect fulfillment of my great life, depended on my ability to choose fearfully or fearlessly.

I chose to be fearless and  go all out for my Plan A with reckless abandon. I have persevered even in the face of my fears and I have been richly rewarded. My journey toward my purpose, which I am still navigating, has not been easy.  It has been filled with all sorts of pitfalls and valleys, trials and hardships.  Yet at the very same time I am more fulfilled and excited than I have ever been about my life’s work. I am full of passion, conviction, exuberance and genuine contentment. I am in a full blown love affair with my calling and there is light virtually bursting from my seams. More importantly, I have had the awesome privilege of knowing God on a much deeper and inexpressible level.  Amazingly, I have had perfect peace as I pursue my dreams, and align myself with God’s individual purpose for my life.  I never imagined that peace and contentment could exist in the midst of hardship and turmoil, but I am proof positive.  It is a blessing that no amount of money could purchase.  My only regret is that I didn’t answer the phone sooner when my purpose was calling… but God’s timing is divine.  

Posted: May 15, 2018, 2:00 pm


WORDPLAY: Don’t Let Lemons Ruin Plan A

I am an optimist. I like to describe myself as an optimistic realist, but an optimist nonetheless. As such, when life occasionally drops a bag of lemons on my doorstep, I am usually armed with sugar to make lemonade. This disposition has serve me well in life. However, unintended consequences have worked to my detriment a few times. In trying to view challenges from a position of gratitude, I have sometimes remained in difficult situations longer than necessary. In those instances, making lemonade caused me to lose focus on what was important to my overall happiness and peace of mind.  So it goes with my former profession. I was gainfully employed in a position with lots of status and great benefits. My salary and cushy assignment afforded me a nice lifestyle for which I was grateful, thankful even. I was comfortable at my job and knew what I was doing.  I was often asked about higher career aspirations within my field by peers and supervisors alike. On the surface, it appeared that everything was clicking on all cylinders. However, what was brewing in my spirit is the reason for this post. I felt totally unfulfilled with my career, yet I was grateful to have a good job. I would imagine that the passion I had for my job would be akin to the passion that one would have to muster in order to watch paint dry for 8 hours each day.  So every morning after I thanked the good Lord for opening my eyes, I prayed for the grace to manage the day effectively in order to overcome my indifference. To really drive the message home, I hated my job. Facts. However, as I look back in hindsight, the truth is it wasn’t the job but me.  

As tortuous as a huge portion of every work day had become, I attributed the good life I had to a successful career. So with my totally unsatisfying but successful career in tow, I made an unlimited supply of lemonade with the daily delivery of lemons. In order to mask this empty feeling gnawing at my insides, I filled my free time with shopping and traveling to find my happy place.  That worked wonders for a period until it didn’t.  As much as I loved, and still love shopping and traveling, the source of my discontentment was not my career but my career choices. I believe that I was supposed to work in my chosen profession for a short time, but I became comfortable and chose to remain longer than God intended. I’ve heard it said that good is the enemy of great, and good was my greatest foe.  The good life allowed me to settle for Plan B, when my best life was to live fully in Plan A.  I had become such an adept lemonade maker, I didn’t realize that I was letting the lemons ruin my best life.  By all accounts, Plan B was great from the outside looking in, but my happy was being stolen right from under me.  There was nothing wrong with my good life, except that it was a life designed for someone else, making it impossibly wrong for me.  I knew that I would never arrive at my best life living someone else’s Plan A.  I was truly out of options. Plan B and a mouth full of bitter lemonade was killing me slowly.  


So I changed.  I answered the call on my life and abandoned the good life for the great life that God promised me.  Let me be the first to say that I have made pitchers of lemonade with the lemon farm that I have acquired in the pursuit of my best life.  But without question, this lemonade is the sweetest I have ever tasted. I am fulfilled and excited about my life’s work.  My passion is so turned on that I believe I can illuminate Times Square with the light bursting from me. I am full of life and vigor, teeming with wonderment and married to a happiness that I only flirted with in the past.  I was allowing lemons to steal this genuine contentment I am now experiencing, by settling for Plan B ’s good life.  I am all in and going all out for my Plan A with reckless abandon.  I will not let lemons ruin it for me one more second.  If life is going to toss lemons on my doorstep, the lemonade that I make will be the absolute best that life has to offer me and not an ounce less.

Posted: April 15, 2018, 1:53 pm


WORDPLAY:  Black Panther Girl Power

Unless you are a new born or have been in  a medically induced coma since the year began, you most assuredly know about the juggernaut known as Black Panther.  Premiering in Los Angeles on January 29, 2018, and released theatrically in the United States on February 16, 2018, this critically acclaimed film has grossed over $1.1 billion worldwide, literally smashing records in its wake. In less than a month, it has become the seventh highest-grossing film domestically and the 18th highest-grossing film of all time. Let’s put that in perspective: Avatar, released in 2009; Titanic, released in 1997; and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, released in 2015, are the top three grossing films of all time respectively, each grossing over $2 billion worldwide.  Black Panther has held the top weekly box office spot since its release and is poised to continue breaking records for many years to come. Despite the box office stranglehold and well-deserved accolades that the movie has garnered, Black Panther is also groundbreaking in a multitude of other ways. The 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a shared universe centered on a series of superhero films with common plot elements, settings and characters, it is the first to showcase a predominantly black cast. Directed by Ryan Coogler, an African-American director and screenwriter, Black Panther is not only showcasing what a more culturally diverse superhero movie can accomplish, but changing the landscape of the superhero role. T’Challa, the film’s namesake and king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, offers a refreshing view of a protagonist with depth and quiet reserve. But even more striking, is the savoir faire and strength of the leading  ladies of Wakanda.


The Queen Mother, Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett, represents a grace, sophistication, wisdom and royalty rarely seen in this genre. King T’Challa is guarded by a battalion of women warriors called the Dora Milaje, a special forces outfit commanded by his fiercely protective female general, Okoye.  His effervescent and spirited baby genius little sister, Shuri, is the big brain behind the technology of Wakanda and the Black Panther gadgets. Lastly, Nakia, T'Challa’s love interest and an undercover spy for Wakanda, is formidable in her own right. Each of these female characters have a depth and range that not only rival their male counterparts, but can easily outshine them.  I would pay good money to see Okoye and the Dora Milaje hand out beatings under the leadership of Ramonda, the technological weaponry of Shuri and the diplomacy of Nakia.  These leading ladies are not only beautiful and unashamedly feminine, but equally heroic, strong and awe-inspiring.  Black Panther has been lauded in several areas, from its screenplay and direction, to the scene stealing performances, action, and costume design.  But it is without question that every well-deserved accolade it has received, is due in no small part to the tremendous amount of Girl Power infused through the fabric of the movie.  Well done indeed.  Wakanda forever!    

Posted: March 15, 2018, 11:56 pm


WORDPLAY:  Smell the Roses

I am a bit of a strange bird with many interesting facets to my personality.  I can definitely be verbose but other times, though much less frequently, I am as quiet as a church mouse. This is particularly so when I am in a new or unfamiliar environment. Though I am present and fully engaged with my surroundings, when this side makes an appearance, I have very little to say at all.  This generally causes some discomfort in those who know me to be gregarious and affable because they think something is wrong.  In actuality, I am enjoying the thrill of observation, taking a second to appreciate my surroundings, and slowing the world down so that I can pay attention to the details. I like to call it, “Smelling the Roses.” In this highly charged, fast-paced society, where we communicate in characters and emojis, and ingest information and content voraciously, it seems virtually impossible to peel ourselves away from the never-ending pinging of social media notifications.  It’s almost as if breathing is some kind of lost art because we barely have time to catch our breath, no less take time to live in the moment and savor the here and now.  I get it.  We’re busy.  There are only 24 hours in any given day and the demands on our time are great. Who has time to stop and smell roses, when we are too busy buzzing around to notice that the roses are there in the first place. That is exactly the point.  We all need time to decompress, recharge and take in our surroundings without the hurry of the world. That requires a purposeful decision to create pockets of peace and solitude.  

By way of example, during this past Christmas season I took an evening ride to Pennsylvania with one of my good girlfriends to visit her parents. I was a dutiful front seat passenger, adhering to the responsibility and rules of engagement associated with co-piloting. There was witty banter and hilarious chit chat, as friends normally share. But, like me, she also enjoys the sanctity of solitude so inevitably, there was a lull in the conversation. After making sure she, as the driver, had what she needed, I fully understood I was free to go off and roam with one final instruction… keep a look out for deer. Though I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, I happily made myself busy looking out the window to observe the scenery.  I asked an occasional question about the locale but for the most part I was totally engrossed in my observations. At some point, however, my friend broke the silence with a playfully scolding remark because I was so busy taking in the environment and reading street signs, that I failed to alert her to the orange eyes staring at us on the passenger’s side of the road.  Thank goodness she noticed the deer and took measures to avoid an accident if it darted into our path, but I did get a hand slap. Danger averted, I honed back into my co-piloting responsibility for the next 30 minutes until we arrived safely.  In that pocket of time, I made a decision to smell the roses, appreciating nature and experiencing new surroundings rather than plugging back into the matrix.

So fast forward to this past week, I have been smelling the roses everyday since February 9, by watching the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics Games. I am super busy but I am making the time to see all these awe-inspiring athletes compete at the highest level.  I witnessed American snowboarding domination with gold medal wins by Red Gerard, Jamie Anderson, Chloe Kim and  Shaun White.  White, having had a horrific accident in New Zeland while training for the Olympic Games just 4 months earlier,   made a remarkable comeback at the age of 31. His 11 competitors averaged 21.9 years of age, with the silver medalist, Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, being just 19. I fell asleep on the final run of American sensation Mikaela Shiffrin’s gold medal effort in the Giant Slalom, but my heart was with her!  I did, however, witness pairs ice skater, Aliona Savchenko, who has skated in five Olympic Games for two different countries and with three different partners, finally win gold for Germany with new partner, Bruno Massot. I know they weren’t skating for the United States, but you have to love a feel good story about never giving up, ever. It took Savchenko 16 years, from 2002 to 2018, to realize her dream of Olympic gold. Just thinking about that level of tenacity and commitment is worth every second of the time I am investing to draw inspiration for the pursuit of my own hopes and aspirations.   I am committed to PyeongChang for another 10 days and I am enjoying every second that I can keep my eyes open!  With all these remarkable accomplishments and dreams realized after years and years of dedication, hard work and determination, I certainly hope that each of these Olympians are taking time to slow the world down around them. Let me put this into perspective. There are 2952 athletes competing in 102 events from 92 different countries. That means than less than 15% of those competing will walk away with a medal of any color and less than 5% will obtain that elusive gold medal. Nonetheless, I t is a true honor to achieve a level of mastery at a discipline to be able to represent your country in front of the world, knowing that almost everyone will leave empty-handed. If this is not the best testament to the reason why we should stop and smell the roses, appreciate the here and now, and value the magnitude of the moment.  I will be right there in PyeongChang in spirit, smelling the roses from the comfort of my bedroom.  Go USA!

Posted: February 15, 2018, 8:25 pm


WORDPLAY: The Great Restart Works 365 Days

It’s that time of the year when people are resolving to do everything under the sun. Millions of resolutions are made with the best intentions, and hope springs eternal that this year, unlike the previous ones, our selfie-promises will not be broken.    Oftentimes the focal point of the resolution is establishing a good habit or breaking an undesirable one. Either way, it’s two sides of the same coin, as the gauntlet is thrown down every January 1 and we are challenged to maintain the change in behavior. Success or failure begins and ends in the mind, where we fight an ongoing battle against good and evil. Good says to throw out that emergency pack of cigarettes but evil says that would be a waste of money.  Good says to put down that jelly doughnut and take the stairs, but evil says carrots will turn our skin orange and we’re not wearing the proper shoes to walk anywhere.  Our perseverance, or lack there of,  is determined by how badly we desire to change the things resolved, and how tired we are of remaining the same.  

Apparently resolutions are made to be broken because statistics are bleak when it comes to their success rate.  Research seems to indicate that only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are successful.  Indeed, some have resolved not to resolve because it has been futile in the past.  When our best intentions fall apart, we are often left feeling defeated, deflated and maybe a bit disillusioned. If we mess up our new eating regime or skip a workout, we sometimes just abandon the entire project, discounting any success we had before the foible. We assign tremendous significance to one date on the calendar as the benchmark to judge whether our daily behavior should receive a stamp of self-approval.  If we fail to live up to that standard set by the January 1 Mystique, we sometimes feel like…well…failures. It’s my humble opinion that the pressure associated with this date creates an illusion of perfection leading to a lower likelihood of success  and a higher degree of stress to maintain the resolution. In effect, we are chasing an unattainable goal.  Try as we might, perfection is God’s domain and out of the reach of humans.  

So this year, I resolved to drink a gallon of water daily. I had hit my goal for 14 consecutive days but my streak was in jeopardy Sunday night.  I was out of the house all day and had only managed to drink 32 ounces by 9pm.  I have an 11pm cutoff to ensure that I’m not floating to the bathroom all night. My first inclination was to apply logic, reasoning that I would miss my goal because I didn’t have enough time left to gulp down 96 more ounces.  However, the optimist in me also made a  rational appeal, saying who cares about the January 1 Mystique. Tomorrow is another day to begin fresh, so accomplish what I could in two hours and forget about what streak I might break. My logical side made me feel like I had failed to achieve the goal, whereas the optimistic side completely freed me from that self-imposed pressures inherent in resolutions. I was able to remind myself that I was free to begin again tomorrow and establish a new streak. With that freedom, I persevered last night and drank the remaining three quarts of water in 90 minutes!  


I suppose the freedom to fail and try again is the beauty of the Great Restart.  January 1 comes once annually, but the Great Restart works 365 days without judgment or pressure.  Had I felt pressured to maintain the streak, I would have allowed logic to rule my behavior with feelings of failure, and not made the attempt at all.  But because I was free to start again another day, I was able to meet my daily water intake goal.  As long as there is breath in our lungs, we have another opportunity to begin anew and get it right, so failure or success is dictated by our mindsets. Though each New Year’s Day seems to bring with it a feeling of newness and a smell of eternal hope in the air, the pressure to be perfect may make our resolve fade when the luster wears off. I have decided that I will not be held hostage by my resolutions.  If they fall apart despite my best intentions, I know that all hope is not lost. Each day brings the promise of newness and an opportunity for the Great Restart to work its magic better than the allure of January 1.  There are 350 days left to try again.  What are you waiting for?  

Posted: January 15, 2018, 9:01 pm


WORDPLAY: Empathy- The Beauty of the Grays


The journey of entrepreneurship has been a thrilling one with many ups and downs, peaks and valleys.  As I travail this long and winding road, I have traveled to places and had experiences that I never imagined.  While I have felt like I stumbled into a bear trap a time or two, I am absolutely in love with this road less traveled. While answering the call on my life and leaving the creature comforts of a traditional workplace has exceeded my expectations professionally, it has also had many unintended personal benefits. The theme that resonates is expansion, as my thoughts, ideas, perceptions, judgments and emotions have been stretched to levels previously unknown.  My capacity to do just about everything has been increased and strengthened in ways I never fathomed. I have more drive, perseverance and intestinal fortitude. I am more patient, resilient and have an increased level of sensitivity that honestly makes me uncomfortable at times. Prior to this journey, which has been just as much spiritual, as it has been professional,  I was a bit of a monster.  I would like to think a lovable cookie monster, but a monster nonetheless. I am honest, perhaps to a fault, and very much a straight shooter.  My mentality was more “suck it up,” than “you need a hug.” For much of my life I embraced the black and white of life, avoiding the murky abyss of the grayish, whitish, blackish unclear areas. I preferred to write a check for a cause than to personally invest my emotions. But as my experiences are broadening, I find myself in the unchartered waters of the grays of empathy.  

While I have always been sympathetic to the concerns of others, I have realized that my empathetic meter needed some adjusting. Though empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably, I am understanding that the emotional factors are very different. Both have components of concern for another’s well-being, but empathy requires the investment of a shared emotional connection as if that experience is your own. It is the act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeking to understand their emotional response to a particular situation. Clearly, there is not much room for a “suck it up” mentality when you are truly desiring to do more than feel sorry for someone else’s plight, but share the experience with them.  This pursuit of music, with its twists and turns, has definitely increased my capacity for understanding and relating to the plight of others. In fact, I recently took an empathy quiz and scored a 97 out of 110. The results said that my score suggested that I have a strong ability to sense other people’s emotions—the dimension of empathy known as “affective empathy.” If others seem happy, I feel their happiness and if they are suffering, I feel their pain. My ability to sense others’ emotional states make me feel more concerned about their welfare, and more likely to want to help them when they are distressed. The results further indicated that I can easily put myself in others’ shoes and imagine what they might be thinking or feeling—the dimension of empathy known as “cognitive empathy.” The ability to take other people’s perspectives helps me communicate and negotiate more effectively in my personal and professional relationships, and may also make me less likely to rely on stereotypes when trying to understand others’ behavior.  This assessment is spot on with the newer, softer, “you need a hug,” me.  I look at people in pain now and my eyes well up.  It’s almost ridiculous but I am appreciative of this more enlightened way of interacting with the human experience.  The deeper I foray on this spiritual and professional journey of becoming me, I am learning that the black and white of life is ripe for judgment, condemnation and punishment, but compassion, grace and empathy are found in the beauty of the grays.

Posted: December 15, 2017, 10:28 pm


WORDPLAY:  Don’t Let Edgy Editor Crash the Party

In my most recent post, I mentioned how awesome it is to have music on a continuous playlist in my mind, being a songwriter and all.  Lady Muse shows up whenever she desires to sprinkle her sparkling fuchsia pixie dust all over the place.  But all too often, her cantankerous counterpart, Edgy Editor, is an uninvited guest. He is an absolute monster whose unmitigated nerve knows no bounds.  He is constantly scrapping lyrics and melodies, ready to snuff out the brightest of ideas and rewrite songs playing on the radio. Savage. Edgy’s weapon of choice is his lightning fast, sharp red pen, a lethal but necessary evil.  As essential as Lady Muse is to the creative process, Edgy Editor, in my humble opinion, is actually more critical.  His primary job is to vet an idea to ensure there is actually a worthwhile song to be written from Lady Muse’s flurries of inspiration. If the idea survives the initial red pen onslaught, then Edgy makes sure the song remains on task and conveys the intended message. In other words, he keeps the pixie dust out of our ears and eyes so that the song is not drowned by all that pretty glitter. He is essential, but timing is everything.  

There is a thin line between inspiration and expiration. While Lady Muse can float in and out, freely moving about the sacred creative space, Edgy Editor needs to be kept in his place and invited to the process in due course.  When he’s allowed to barge in like a party crasher, he often kills the feel good vibes of inspiration that Lady Muse is creating, with all his critical thinking, early editing and “that’s a silly idea” banter.  In a cowriting situation, his red pen is one of the leading causes of death, killing the inspiration and likely putting an expiration date on that creative partnership.  As I am learning and growing as a songwriter, I definitely see the beauty in allowing the lyric and melodies to flow in a continuous process so as to give the song some shape and form. Edgy is always chomping at the bit to jump in and massacre everything, but I resist him. He’s invited to do his initial job of vetting the idea to make sure there is a viable song, and then I send him to sit quietly in the corner. Once the song begins to take shape and I have a clear idea of the message I desire to convey, I allow Edgy to hover over my shoulder but his red pen must remain in his pocket protector.  Though he doesn’t get a seat at the creative table, he has carte blanche in the editing room to do what he does best. That is his playground and Lady Muse is sent to the corner of the room to sulk. Sometimes his cuts are deep and unyielding, but the end product is always better having undergone Edgy’s red pen. His editing and rewriting is just as important, if not more important, than writing the initial song.  I would even dare to say that though Lady Muse gets all the credit, Edgy Editor’s red pen is where the real magic happens.

Posted: November 15, 2017, 9:37 pm


WORDPLAY: When Lady Muse Whispers

Music is playing on a constant loop in my head. I suppose as a songwriter that’s a pretty good problem to have, but admittedly, Lady Muse does show up whenever she desires. I remember a few years ago a video showed Beyonce sitting courtside at a Nets game swaying while there was no music being played in the arena. The accompanying article surmised that she was an alien from outer space and felt her behavior was extremely bizarre. I, on the other hand, recognized that spaced out, disconnected gaze instantly. I totally understood that she was a million miles from the Barclay Center creating a masterpiece in her head, while trying to  be present at the basketball game with her husband.  I will take it a step further and say she probably wished she could run to a studio to get that melody out of her head! Lady Muse is no respecter of persons and she will indeed have you out here in these streets looking crazy. Unfortunately for Beyonce, everything is newsworthy when you’re famous. Speaking of famous, her amazingly talented other half named his latest and highly acclaimed album 4:44 because he was snatched out of his sleep at 4:44am by Lady Muse to write the title track.  

Though I am neither rich nor famous, I am humbled to be in the excellent company of talents like Jay-Z and Beyonce, where Lady Muse is concerned. I can attest that she randomly makes her appearances at many inopportune times.  I too have looked like a space cadet on the streets of New York as I sway and replay melodies and lyrics in my head.  I have had countless “way too late night and way too early morning” encounters where I was snatched out of my sleep. I use to try to ignore the interruption but Lady Muse is unrelenting. The music, melody or lyrics would just continue to play and gradually increase in volume until I grabbed my iPhone and recorded a quick voice memo. Usually that was sufficient, but sometimes I actually had to wake up and get out of bed to empty out all the inspiration she had for me in the moment.  I have been in the middle of church service where she has made several uninvited appearances. In those instances, I had to keep letting the melody replay until I could get to my phone immediately after service. I have also been in places where I could only whisper the inspiration into my phone and pray that it was not inaudible when I played it back. I could barely hear some of the recording more times than I care to share, but thank goodness voice memos have replaced relying our memory.  In fact, Lady Muse comes through so frequently and unexpectedly that my voice memos are almost at the double digit gigabyte mark.

I read a quote last year by Robert McKee, who said, “if the Muse exists, she doesn’t whisper to the untalented.”  Though that seems a bit harsh, I believe there is truth to that statement.  When Lady Muse whispers, I believe that she does, in fact, whisper to the talented, but only the ones who are not lazy. So that sounds just as harsh, but in my own experiences, I am clear that I was not roused out of sleep at 4:44am or looking crazy on a public street until there was a higher level of dedication and discipline to my creative process.  I have always been a writer since I was a child, but I have not always actively engaged my creative center. When I was playing around and dabbling with music, prose and poems whenever the inspiration struck, the striking was fairly infrequent.  But when I began to show up and develop a higher level of skill only achievable through dedication, it was like Lady Muse took notice.  I would like to think that I invited her over for tea the first few times, but now she has made herself a key and moved in.  I don’t really know how it all happened but despite the inconvenient and often obtrusive manner in which she functions, I think she’s super dope.  I am grateful that she has decided that I am a good vessel in which to pour her multitudinous inspirations.   I have to tell you, when Lady Muse whispers, it’s always something that I am excited to hear.

Posted: October 15, 2017, 6:00 pm
© SpeakLife Music All Rights Reserved