Shameless plug

I can't believe I didn't think of this before, but: I need a job. Do you know anyone who is hiring?

I have experience in customer service (3 yrs), hospitality (1 yr), professional cleaning (2 yrs), media (4 yrs), administrative support (2 yrs), copywriting/ editing (1 yr), and various and sundry temp jobs. I'm in seminary, so social justice/ church-related work is ideal. I also read Tarot cards and do dream interpretation, and I do parties with this skill for $30/ hr. (I'm not psychic, just perceptive-- I can't tell your future, but you'll be surprised by what I can tell you.)

Email me, please, if you know of anyone who is looking to hire someone like me. Lots of work experience and energy, and I know how to behave professionally (I even have suits. Oh yes.).


Pulling the Cork Out of the Bottle

I recently went out on a really great first date (ish-- I insisted on mostly paying my own way, since we were trying to go really slowly). As we were getting more comfortable with each other, we started talking about how hard it is to change. I can't remember how we got there, but at one point my date said to me admiringly, "Yeah, but with your experiment, you're changing who you are. I mean, who DOES that?" I felt genuinely complimented (which is rare-- usually I dismiss compliments), but it stopped me in my tracks because it has never occurred to me to think about this in terms of changing who I am.

That's because I haven't, really. I've just made the real me more apparent on the outside, and maybe I've changed my perspective on some things. But who I am at my core-- someone who tries to live authentically-- is what allowed me to do this in the first place.

It's like singing. I sang opera professionally for a few years in high school; I had an amazing voice teacher up in Chicago, a woman who really knew her stuff. She got me to a really polished place, and I was only 15, her youngest student. But when I moved down to Florida, I got a new voice teacher who was male, and he didn't quite know what to do with my voice. His slogan was, "Singing is thinking"-- placement (where you resonate your sound), breath support, posture, etc. The emphasis was on thinking about the "right" technique, and if you were thinking right when you sang you'd sound good.

He was a really great guy, but gradually my technique worsened; the more strained my voice became, the more he leaned on the "singing is thinking" precept (not in a mean way-- he just didn't know how to coach me except to try the same things, only harder). Soon I lost my comfort with my upper register (and I was most comfortable between E and A above the staff), and my voice was tired after almost every time I sang. The harder I tried, the worse I sounded. I stopped even trying for the high notes in chorus. Instead of feeling talented, I felt like every time I opened my mouth I was doing the wrong thing.

Additionally, as someone who grew up with the notion that who I was and what I felt wasn't good enough, I developed a habit of trying to sound like other people. My teacher didn't notice it, and between trying to imitate technique and trying to imitate sound, my singing became almost difficult to listen to. It was so inorganic, and part of the reason that I didn't take my singing career very seriously was that I didn't connect to the music. The whole endeavor had become another exercise in trying to be someone else-- a shame, because I had a lot of talent.

I remember the first time I really fell in love with my own voice. I was home alone, maybe 11 or 12. There's that line that Tuptim's  (The King and I) lover sings, "Alone in our secret/ Together we sigh/ For one smiling day, to be free..." I sang that line over and over again because I liked how it sounded in my voice, and gradually I felt something shift on the "free." My placement changed because of the way that vowel resonates, and as I repeated the line I was shocked by the way I sounded-- like a Disney princess (before they were Disney Princesses). I sounded the way I had always wanted to sound, and for a little girl to sound like Ariel to herself... well, that was a big deal.

I climbed the stairs, which served as my favorite resonating chamber, and sang it over and over again. "Alone in our secret... together we sigh, for one smiling day, to be freeeeeeee..." I couldn't stop. It was so beautiful, and so much fun.

Years later, as I watched The King and I last week, I thought to myself, "Where did I lose that love of my own voice? Where did my voice become something detached from me, a way of pretending to be someone else?"

It was this thought that occupied me on Tuesday, when I walked around my apartment, assumed no one coud hear (though I'm sure they could-- when I sing out, it's loud), and sang an entire song while reminding myself, "This is just like speaking, in your own voice. This is YOUR voice, that YOU'RE communicating with. Don't think, just sing, just for the love of singing."

I sounded better than I have since I was 16.

I wandered around the apartment singing "Taylor, the Latte Boy." I had thought my voice had been ruined forever. As it turns out, it was there under all the layers of disguise I had learned to pile over it. I sang all evening, and my voice was never tired. I repeated lines that sounded and felt particularly good, relieved beyond description that my original instrument was still intact, even after all those years of poor conditioning. When I felt myself begin to tense up (in my throat, for all you non-singers), I bent over and petted the cats, or looked at my email, still singing. I had thought my voice was gone forever. Turns out, I never lost it-- I just forgot how to love using it.

Singing isn't thinking. It's NOT thinking. My first voice teacher used to make her students do all kinds of crazy choreograpy if they were singing a difficult piece, and I never understood why. Now I do: if you're not thinking about singing, then you're free to actually sing. A Facebook friend called it, "Pulling the cork out of the bottle."

Isn't it funny that we need lessons to learn how to do what comes naturally?

That's all I'm doing here: pulling the cork out of the bottle. How I think about myself has changed because of this experiment, but it's just a process of learning how to do what comes naturally to me. I'm becoming more my original self, clearing away all the notions about who I should look like ("not me") and what will make me likeable ("if I become more like everyone else").

I hear this is what happens as one grows older. If so, thank God for aging!



I cannot WAIT until I can wear short skirts and tank tops again, because I swear I have never been so friggin hot in my life. The headscarves make it worse.

Covered women... you have my respect for somehow not smelling like a goat all the time, and not being famous for heat-induced rage, and... functioning. In all this covering.


Communal Identity and Acquisition

After five months of this, I still hang on to my clothes as though they're a part of me.

Remember the clothes I put in bags near the beginning of TME? (It Begins... Gradually.) I haven't missed those clothes, and when I have, I've gone through the bags and found whatever I was looking for. So in the recent move (from one part of Decatur, GA to another) I decided that no matter what, I was going to give those clothes away. I had originally planned to just deposit the bags at Goodwill or wherever, so I didn't have to see what I was giving away. I didn't trust myself not to keep pieces if I actually had to look at them.

I got to the drop box, and the damn bags wouldn't fit.

So I had to take out the clothes, a few pieces at a time, and cram them in the slot. I actually had to look away to stop myself from keeping stuff, even though I hadn't worn these clothes in over five months, and some items hadn't fit me since I was in undergrad. I was shocked by how sad I felt. I was afraid that at any moment, I was going to burst into tears.

Part of it is that I hang onto clothes that are too tight while telling myself that as soon as I lose weight, I'll wear them. Yeah, the only time in all my memory that I've lost weight was six months after I was laid off in NYC and was forced to move back to Tampa. Before I moved, I had to stretch all my food, so I ate a lot less. In fact, I didn't even realize I had lost weight until Mom commented. I didn't get to actually enjoy the weight loss either because to me, I looked the same-- and it had been achieved because I was in a really difficult place.

Gawd, I always made light of how sad and lonely it is when you realize that some clothes are never going to fit you again, to have to give up on the way you used to look. I didn't realize it would be this hard, and I feel terrible now for acting as though letting go of how easy it used to be to look... well... young... was a small thing that people should just get over. No wonder the weight loss industry makes so much money.

Giving stuff away is tremendously lonely. Shopping feels like building community, but stepping away from all that feels like I'm totally alone (even though I absolutely know I'm not, and I have the support of you all, too). I still need to give away a lot of items, because I don't actually want to have all this crap cluttering up my little apartment; I've tried to do it alone and I can't, so I'm going to call someone and have her come over to support me.

I don't think it's a coincidence that we find something we need-- community-- in acquisition. I'm not just talking about shopping, but about the way we identify with our possessions. I mean, we're conditioned day in and day out to equate our very souls and personalities with the things we buy and own (do you have an iPhone? Why? Is it because it works better than other phones, or because of how it makes you feel about yourself?). And sometimes making the decision to give these things away feels like seeing pieces of myself slide into a huge metal box, and I can barely watch. Again, Shane Claiborne:

"I know plenty of people, both rich and poor, who find themselves heavily burdened by the lifeless toil and consumption we put upon ourselves." - Irresistible Revolution

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

It's also important to remember that these changes are not made in a spirit of, "Having stuff is evil because the world is a bad place," or "Wanting to look nice is selfish and wrong." The issue I have with the market economy is the ways in which true human needs are connected with things that are not only unnecessary, but actually hurt people, and the planet itself, in ways that just aren't worth the cost anymore.

In other words, I could go shopping with my girls to feel like I'm part of a cultural community (easy to spend money); I could go online and buy clothes that make me feel like I'm part of a trend (even easier); or, I could have my friends over for coffee, or make dinner with them. All of these fulfill a very real and irreducible need, but one costs me more, and the universe less. Do you know what I mean?

If after five months of self-denial in the service of letting go of my attachment to the way I look I still have trouble giving clothes away, what does that tell us about the strength of the forces I'm trying to free myself from?

Cause it really shouldn't have cost me that much just to give away a bunch of friggin clothing.