Letting go of the need to have real downtime…

I was just thinking today, about how Bryan (my boyfriend) and I used to go to Family Video and get gummi candy and watch videos and fill time with nothing and everything and it was glorious and unformed and unnecessary and WONDERFUL.

Lately we’ve been so full to the brim that we don’t have time for more than the tenderest of passing moments – and they are tender and kind and full of love – but those breaks in the clouds where there’s infinite nothing, that’s been gone awhile. Since the 365 challenge I imagine. And for the month and a half sans challenge (Feb 12th to April 1st) I mostly was just dreading this year’s challenge…it’s so much work. And yet I wonder if the lack of any real motivation to finish work, and the love of the expanse of nothing, is exactly what makes my career feel so steady in its stillness.

So here I am, unfolding and doing and doing and doing…and I don’t feel still, and I don’t feel steady either. Tomorrow (Thursday) I’ll be on WYCE/GR Live (88.1 for locals, or streaming at grcmc.org at noon)…and this alone used to make me unable to function for a week. But in this case, I have a national touring artist coming to play a house show at our house the very next day…and today and yesterday I’ve been trying to get back into working on the album, plus we had cloudlight practice, I’ve been teaching all my lessons, we had a 3-hr bar music gig on Sunday that we prepped 20+ hours for the previous week, before that tons of work on this release, before that before that before that… it’s like scuba diving but not being sure what the source of air will be, or if you’ll need more sleep than usual, or like mountain climbing and the air is getting thinner and you didn’t take that into account (that you won’t have the same energy and breath support as usual). I lost my voice a bit from that bar gig and have to sing live on the radio tomorrow, and that alone would have had me in a panic a year ago…now it’s all just like water, washing over me, meaning everything and meaning very little at the same time.

If this sounds grandiose it’s cuz the shift to this new way of experiencing life has felt ridiculously significant to me…grandiose really. It’s not me. It IS me because I’m living it, and it’s WHY I’m doing this super-self-pushy challenge of releasing an album a month, but it’s not me as in it’s not a me I’ve ever been and I don’t know how to be it.

I promised myself that this year, since there’s no “Thoughts on Day whatever” videos to track time and progress like there were in 365…that I’d blog whenever I felt something bubble up like this. In this case it’s stress, stress and more stress. A kind of unresolveable stress because I’ve barely factored in time to come up for air.

My birthday is coming up soon, and I’m understanding rich people lately…how they work crazy hard and then go on lavish vacations. I’ve never gone on lavish vacations, or vacations at all really. Tours mixed with family visits mostly. Or the occasional weekend away, but almost never with a hotel. But this Saturday right after Johanna leaves we’re jettin outta town for a night…work hard, play hard? Even if “play” just means walking in a different downtown, eating somewhere else, swimming in a hotel pool or hot tub, or driving in nature, I need it. I feel it in my bones, they are aching for the pressure to let up a little.

Bryan wonders why I don’t just let up the pressure when I feel like that.

Okay…there it is. The sentence that made me cry. There’s always one. I never know when it will come when I start writing but invariably it’s always there, waiting to be discovered. It’s like gold to me, figuring out what it is that is causing stress or existential pain, unpacking it, taking it out, turning it around, looking at it until it’s not real or not the same…I’m always changed when I move through it instead of avoiding it. Changed in a good way 🙂

Okay so why don’t I let up the pressure if this is a self-imposed challenge?


I’m already embarrassed that I’ll be putting ANYTHING up on my Bandcamp that’s lo-fi. I personally LOVE lo-fi scrappy music (i.e. “Messy Jessie” was my nickname) I find it cute in a home movies way, in a quirky getting-to-know-an-artist way. I couldn’t love it more. But there is an obvious flaw to it, and it’s easy to attack or make fun of, for anyone who DOESN’T love that style/kind of music. i.e. why is it so “bad” (sloppy) or why is she releasing these? they’re not ready yet, or “if only she’d fix x, y, z, q, potato, sunset, etc, these songs would be great [okay][listenable]”….

So I may love lo-fi music.

But I know most people don’t. So I’m afraid of those people. I’m afraid how much it will hurt to hear these words, or sense them. AND I know what it’s like to be a A+ student, from my whole childhood, and part of me feels like lo-fi music is cheating. Or getting Cs.

But I tried to raise a couple thousand to release some of these, and I’ve tried to make extra $$ in the past, and it just doesn’t feel meant to be…I think I’m meant to face this silly fear. I mean I already “released” 365 lo-fi songs last year. There’s just something though about doing it so INTENTIONALLY.

It also brings me face-to-face with how average my “best” may be. Like I’ve worked and worked on these 7 tracks to release next week, but they are still sloppy in many ways…I dunno. All this. This. This is why I’m not letting myself relax. It’s like my favorite kids’ book – “The Monster at The End of This Book” – where Grover panics every time you turn a page. I feel days ticking down. I said I’d release this first one on my bday, and each day I relax in my downtime instead of work, is one less day to work, which is one day sloppier that this album will be…and I’m afraid of who I may NATURALLY want to be, and not trusting the flow of the universe, that maybe wouldn’t have allowed me to have this inspiration if it knew I’d kill myself stresswise trying to “make” it happen.

That’s what I want to do, and be.


ADDENDUM: I’m a super wordy person, and this is a grotesque and terrifying experiment, sharing my journally thought process so publicly.  “Why not just not do it then?”  I don’t know.  Feels like I should.  Feels like it is a necessary compliment to releasing so much more music than usual, having a shareable place to process what it’s feeling like.  Maybe it’s foolish or crazy, to share so much without a purpose or expectation for why I’m sharing this…but there you go.  I don’t know.  And yet I’m guessing this will break the stress a little and my motivation will surge and clarify…something about sharing or journalling or talking with my sis or other close loved ones about heavy thinky stuff always does that for me.  Hope you all find ways to navigate your tangly stuff too.  xo Jessica

p.s. for those who can’t help but worry about me when I share so much, this could all be show stress…a radio show followed by opening for freaking Johanna Warren the next day, knowing I have to clean the house, prep my set, manage 20 other details still, and teach my students, is probably flooding my veins with its too-much-ness.  So anyway, love to you all, who care about these moods of mine. xo again lol.

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