Monday, August 23, 2010

Surviving Nena

I am on a plane, high above tiny trees and houses, sailing through indifferent clouds…

I was meant to be on this same plane to California a week from now for a sabbatical to write my second book. Until yesterday evening, when I learned that my Aunt Nena was starting to fade.

Oh, Nena… there are none and too many words to describe her. When I lived in Los Angeles, we'd have our weekly lunches, smacking our lips and humming at the delicious food we never thought twice about treating ourselves to, talking for hours over ungodly amounts of coffee until waiters inevitably would ask us to close our tabs for the ends of their shifts. My travels and eventual move to New York turned weeks into months, still we never missed a beat, cherishing and sharing adventures through phone calls, post cards, and letters until we'd meet again.

And now… if only to sit by her side and stroke her hair…

They say that the hearing is the last thing that goes, and so I'll sing to her all of the hymns that years ago she insisted I sing at her funeral. How I dreaded that type of talk, though she'd roll her eyes and laugh at my discomfort: "Why would anyone fear death who has really lived life?"

And live life, she did. I will learn the lessons her death will bring as those from her life and our conversations still ring in my ears:

life is short
risk everything
waste nothing, particularly moments
honor your word; it's all you have
be humble and brave
cherish family
create community
never stop learning
honor age but remember its illusions
create rather than react to life
have no regrets
Forgive, and Love.

Were I to show her this list, she'd certainly roll her eyes, coffee cup shaking gently in her hand that betrayed a steadiness of mind and wit that never flinched. She might have said, "Jeeeenny (emphasis and long pause for dramatic, comedic effect), why reflect on the obvious? There's no need to talk about things that are better done than said!"

Oh, how she'd suffer my ignorance! With an unconditional but firm and almost impatient love that seemed to say "get ON with it!" she taught me perspective. Dwelling on the past and fearing the future were never judged as wrong, but simply revealed themselves to be ridiculous in the returned gaze of a woman whose life was so well lived that anything less than my moment to moment best seemed like an insult.

I'm smiling now as I consider how ironic, how beautiful, that self-expression is the subject of my second book, given that I am on my way to celebrate the woman whose love, life, and wisdom helped me to become the woman I am today. The constant voice in my head that helped me find my own…

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field. I'll meet you there" -Rumi

I love you, Nena. And no matter what, I'll see you soon...

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Law of Life

There's a time in virtually everyone's life when legal advice becomes necessary. And virtually every time, the experience is less than pleasant. Thus, the plethora of lawyer jokes going around.

Before you pull up your best gem, let's take a moment to consider why these encounters are less than ideal.

In the music business, lawyers generally have the distinction of being ruiners of relationships, trashers of trust and quelchers of the creative process. Organic musical bonds and incredible professional relationships all but vanish when the big, bad lawyers step in and screw it all up. What choice do the innocent and good hearted have but to stop thinking as a team and start looking out for number one?

If you're not already laughing, or blushing, allow me to explain.

Just as your best friend can't talk you into or out of a decision that's certain, neither can a lawyer sway your opinion on issues you hold dear. If your band is committed to creative and economic equality, even the greediest lawyer in the world won't be able to shake your agreement. He might try, but he won’t succeed. Similarly, if your record label insists that they want to give you a fair deal but that the legal team won't allow it, look beyond the excuse into the eyes of the person who hired them.

Contracts aren't the reflection of the vision and desires of those who draw them up, but of those who sign them. And that reflection is crystal clear. All the emotional and economic stinginess we've been hiding behind our best foot forward becomes plain as day in the writing of a contract that- like dressing room mirrors- hides nothing.

It is these hidden aspects of ourselves, not the lawyers, that make legal negotiations so ugly. Seemingly great relationships are merely enduring a test of integrity- often the first one- that reveals whether the house we're building together rests on a solid foundation or one of sand.

If your foundational principles involve transparency and everyone getting a fair deal, legal negotiations will be a breeze. If not, the source of stagnation is only a glance in the mirror away.