I’m not going to write today.

I’m not going to write today. I’m dog tired and bleary from a very busy few days, so no, I’m not going to write today.

You see, I’m really good at starting things, but it’s a challenge to cross the finish line. A typical firstborn, I like to make a great impression off the bat and so pour almost every ounce of myself into that first few moments of a project/friendship/etc.  

But sometimes something odd happens. It’s like someone or something unplugs me and my power drains out. I need recharging all the time – is this how other creatives feel? Or am I but one?

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So you see, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to write today.  I just don’t have it in me. My mind is slushy, not from alcohol but from sleep deprivation. Did you know that even if you’re getting sleep every night, you can still be deprived? I learned that a little while back. It makes sense now how some days I feel like I wander through, vaguely managing to get things done but having no sense of time or direction.

It’s just going to be too hard to write today. My arms are sore from working solidly yesterday and my body just wants to lie on the couch and absorb sound waves from the telly. But it’s funny you know, because we think that watching telly will help us relax, because that’s what we’ve been taught it does, but it’s a lie.

 

It saturates us, numbing us to the sensations we are otherwise surrounded by: birds, trees, rivers and seas.

 

We can watch them on the telly – even see ones that we will never see in our lifetime. That’s a good thing, right? And as we marvel at the rare insect from the Amazon crawling along our telly, we miss the wondrous marvel of the spider systematically weaving its web outside our back door.

So, I’m no going to write today. And I’m not going to watch telly. I may have to unplug the darn thing but I will resist. At least until dinner time, when me and my family gather around it to eat. We watch, we chat, we commentate on world events from our armchairs and scoff our food down. We catch up on our shows and crawl to bed after an evening of entertainment. We miss each other’s cues and go to sleep, blissfully unaware of each other’s worries.

 

But we’ve shared family time and can tick that off the list for today. That’s got to be worth something, doesn’t it?


Anyway, I just thought you had a right to know that I’m not in the mood to write today, so I’m not going to write. Thanks for understanding.

Miriam

Now why did I have to go and discover that for?

11:10pm. Way past my bed time, but I get so wired up after going to the drama class. But I had to put pen to paper, so to speak, to get some stuff out of my brain box. I find early morning and late night my mind is quieter and I can encapsulate what is going on.

So it’s no wonder that while driving to my drama workshop I inadvertently discovered something. I realised why I had been having trouble choosing a script that resonated with me. It’s always the way, that when I discover something wonderful, I often end up discovering something else that is potentially wonderful, that simultaneously has the potential to be terrifying. I’m often left thinking “if only I didn’t know that, I wouldn’t have to deal with the crossroads that I’m at now”.

What did happen during the week was that a) I forgot to find a script until last night and b) after looking through a couple dozen, I didn’t end up choosing one, and instead wrote two of my own. I’ve done this before, with other creative pursuits and what I realised in the car, was that I made a choice that was governed by my default position. I chose not to choose someone else’s script because that puts me in a vulnerable position.

I might not like the script and therefore not do it justice
I might do a bad job and be criticised
If I feel judged, I will probably feel like I’ve failed and won’t want to try again

So it seems that my choice has nothing to do with finding a good script and everything to do with feeling vulnerable to the fear of failure.

Great, now I have a choice. Damn. Now I am at the crossroads and am vulnerable to whichever direction I take.

On the one hand, if I choose to stay where I am, I let go of any opportunity to grow through my inhibitions and fears, and possibly even overcome them. On the other hand, if I just go with it, choose a script, even if it doesn’t immediately grab me, and just see what happens, I might just break free and release something extraorodnary hiding away.

If I’m to be totally honest with myself, I don’t have a choice. This is why I say that it’s a shame when I discover something of this nature, because once unearthed, I cannot ignore the new information. I’m an addict of sorts. An addict of self discovery and growth. I cannot help myself!

So, even though I am pretty sure it’s going to be uncomfortable and I’ll feel pretty vulnerable at times, I am going to open this chapter to find out what’s inside. Maybe it won’t be so bad this time! Maybe I’ll get through it more quickly and with greater success than I have in the past. Maybe I’ll stop judging my future attempts by my past ones. And maybe I’ll discover a new default position has taken the lead and not only my writing will benefit, but my inner being will too.

Time to open this chapter and get discovering. After I sleep :)

(C)2014 Miriam Miles. All rights reserved. http://www.miriammiles.wordpress.com

Don’t let me run…

I relish the thought that my words may someday resonate so deeply within a persons’ own core, that they become a part of that person.  That at the moments when they need them the most, my words vibrate their physical being and cause them to rise up to whatever demon or mountain they face.  

Desert

I don’t care for words that flatter or words that pump up a false sense of security.  ‘It’s going to be okay’ is probably one of the worst.  Maybe it’s not going to be okay?  Have you ever thought about it? Or how about this one ‘I’ll be thinking of you’.  That one is really saying ‘I am really uncomfortable with the situation you are in, and I don’t actually know how to help you, so rather than tell you I don’t have the answer, I’ll just placate you because that makes me feel better’.

Jaded much? Perhaps.  Words are powerful.  Some are like a grenade and some are like a cool glass of water on a stinking hot day.  I hate the words that tumble out of the mouth without reason the most. The ones that are uttered with no heart; no desire; no belief.   

It’s time that we stop saying things that we think make the situation better.  

Who do they make it better for? You? Or your friend who is drowning in the quicksand of depression?  What makes you think ‘It’s going to be okay’ is what they need to hear right now?  Stop talking and start helping.  HOLD THEM.  They’re drowning!  Grab their hand and cry with them.   

Sob into their shoulder as they let go because they’ve finally found someone who isn’t afraid of their pain.

You see depression and anxiety run together.  They feed off each other’s wins too.  You can be both depressed and anxious at the same time.  For me, this is sometimes the case and it’s genuinely exhausting.  On the one hand, you have depression swallowing your fight and on the other, anxiety is stirring you up, slapping your fear senses and throwing fuel on the fire of paranoia.  You’re caught in a vortex of sorts, being sucked in and frantically trying to get out.

Other times one takes the lead.  If it’s the darker beast, it grabs me and like a constrictor, slowly and systematically squeezing every ounce of fight out of me.  Sometimes I forget that I can fight, and I let it win.  It slows me to a coma, closing off my tenuous connections with society and support.

It’s these times that I need you to grab hold of me.  Pull me back.  Don’t tell me to help myself.  If I’m this far gone, I don’t remember how to.  I’ve lost my words.  I’ve forgotten my strength.  I no longer recognise me.  This is why I need you.

I don’t need you to be brave or have answers.  I need you to be real.  I need you to cry with me and walk alongside me.  I need you to stop trying to fix it and just be here…in the dust…I need you to be real.

And if it’s the razor rather than the snake, it cuts me into little pieces, and I am fractured and confused and full of paranoia and fear.  I can’t rationalise that this is going to go away.  I’m like a jack in the box being continually sprung with no respite.  I’m coiled up inside, mentally constipated, unable to formulate ideas that will release me from its’ grip.

So then, grab me for I shall run. I am in full flight. When I say I’m okay and you can see that I’m not, don’t listen to my lies! Grab me. Speak black and white words. Don’t wait it out and see. Slap my mind with your concern. Tell me you don’t know how to help but you want to anyway. Shout so that I hear your words because the noise inside my head is deafening. It drowns out all sense and reason.

 

Run, run, run! All I want to do is run. Don’t let me run!

 

Hold me until the shaking subsides.  I don’t mean emotionally.  I mean physically.  Waste your strength on me, for I am worth it.  Your solidity surrounding my fear tells me, somehow, that you believe I am worth it.  I need this right now, more than I need air.

This is what friendship is all about.  Being there when the boat is capsizing.  In the waters, waiting out the storm, arm in arm.

You may feel like you are doing all the work but please know that I am in this too. I’ve not disappeared – I am still here but I am trapped.  I am here, and your strength is rushing into me, flooding my senses, bringing me back to life.  You are my lifeboat right now.  You are humanity holding on to the one who needs you most right now.  You represent the core of being human when you refuse to let me go.

And as the storm subsides, you will feel it.  The release.  Your strength may be used up but what you must know is that it will be replenished.  For what you have given, you will receive ten fold.  Your sacrifice has brought me back from the brink of turning to stone.  Your hope has revealed new truth to my despair and my fractures will now begin to heal.

Will this happen again? Maybe.  Possibly.  I don’t know.  Maybe many times.  Maybe never again.  But know one thing.  You didn’t let me run.  Your aid delivered a strength that no drug can recreate.  Hope.  You gave me hope, though you may never have realised.

Someone cares. I don’t need you to have the answers.  I just need you to care.  To show me that I’m not alone.  To hold my hand when I am afraid.  To cry with me and hold me.

Your words count, yes.  But your actions scream louder than any perfectly scripted letter.  Use both in tandem, and know that you are part of why I chose not to run this time.

Sometimes depression comes calling. It’s time to stop answering.

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Sometimes depression comes calling. Sometimes it’s hard to ignore, because it creeps, quietly, slowly, taking it’s time. One door at a time, you enter in, initially unaware of the game, until eventually it sucks you in and you’re lost to the labyrinth within.

Feel familiar? Hm, I know this beast too. In fact, as I write this today, I sense it’s pull.

It’s a lethargy. A senselessness. A numbness that tries to take over the senses. The body wearies and the eyes become laden. The mind, sodden with claggy, muddy half-born concepts. The heart grows colder, isolating itself from the pulse of the mind, eventually taking you down and over the edge.

I write these things, not to scare, or to torture the psyche, but to reveal the occasional inward workings of my mind. I write these things to remain transparent.

I too suffer.

Sometimes for just a short while, a few hours perhaps. Other times I am not so fortunate and days go by before I realise how long I’ve been wandering around the labyrinth.

I write these things for you who know this place.

Rolling down the hill into a depressed state is not something easily understood. It’s not something that can really be categorised. It’s not even something that you can truly recognise each time, as it wears so many faces.

It is a chageling, a chameleon, morphing itself to suit your current circumstances.

It is wily, and therefore we must be wily too. On guard, day to day, minute by minute, we must stand against the assault.

Aware, awakened and alert.

R.I.P. R.W.

Unravel My Skin

 

I don’t know much

About genre, or form

All I really know

Are the colours I’ve worn:

Metre, rhyme,

Rhythm and style

Awaken the words

Like a song in the night.

 

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I thought I wrote songs,

Turns out I sing prose.

Turns out all those sounds

Would eventually come ‘round.

This new life that I’ve got?

It’s one that I chose,

Carefully shrouded,

It finally arose.

 

For there was a time

Where I hid behind lines:

Stave, key and melody,

Hidden behind time.

And there I remained,

Nearly wasting away,

Until I let go,

On that glorious day.

 

Wasn’t till I released

This magical beast;

Not until I said yes

To syntactical bliss,

That once again yoked

With my words, now we’re one,

That now I can sing

My words yet unsung.

 

So, sing well dear sentence

For in you there’s no pretence.

You’ve been born this day

Now say what you’ll say.

Unravel my skin

Release what’s been held:

The words that spring forth from

This deep hidden well.

 

(c)2014 Miriam Miles. All Rights Reserved.

 

Perhaps what we need is less sound and more silence? Part 1

Perhaps what we need is less sound and more silence?

As I was preparing my morning coffee, I came across a new blog I’d like to read. The phrase that really caught my attention today was ‘spiritual white space’ and it got me thinking. The blog author, Bonnie Gray, writes about having white space in our daily lives, like on a canvas, and how important it is to have that in order to balance the colour.

perhaps what we need is less sound and more silence

That then got me thinking about the concept of white space in a musical context and how when one hears a song or melody that reaches in to the very core of your being, it is often one that has a balance between the sound and the silence. There is ‘white space’ on the musical canvas, giving the listener places to rest in.

As this has turned out to be a significantly in-depth topic, I’ve split the posts up so that we can ponder it bit by bit. So stay tuned for part 2 of the conversation over the next week or so.

One of the significant lessons I’ve learned over the years has been about enjoying silence and actually incorporating an amount of silence into my day. Somehow it seems to help me breathe. It’s an odd thing, to write about silence as a musician, as many would assume I would want to speak on how to make a piece of music beautiful and full of vibrant colours but for me, the silence in between the notes is becoming the integral components of a great piece.

However I do meet musicians who don’t like silence at all. In fact, they fidget and squirm at the thought of intentionally incorporating it into a set of songs or even into a piece of music that stands alone.  I find this to be particularly evident in musicians who primarily work in church congregational music.

This leads me then to consider, why it is hard to incorporate silence between the notes?

My personal opinion comes from 28 years of being involved in musical groups, school bands and ensembles, choirs and church worship bands and mostly at an intermediate to semi-professional level, playing and performing in front of groups of 3 to over 1000 people.

From what I’ve observed, musicians want to create sounds. We live for them. The low notes, the high notes, the rhythm and pulse that drives the beat. Constantly pressing in to the emotional component that musical combinations produce.

One thing that really stands out to me, that perhaps is taught as a matter of course in professional surroundings (such as orchestras and mainstream musical circles), is that there is a lack of white space. A lack of capacity to not only enjoy silence, but to incorporate it intentionally. And this seems especially true in church worship music.

Now please don’t get your pitchforks out. I am a huge fan of church worship music. I’ve written a reasonable collection of congregational songs and having led choirs and bands for the past 15 years, but I really believe that in order for this kind of music to take on a new level of spiritual growth, we need to incorporate even more white space in our music.

You may wonder where I am going with this and that’s okay. Let’s journey together and see where this train of thought takes us, shall we?

Church music has been dominated by the rock band style group for well over 10 years. In Australia, the rise of Hillsong in the early 90’s saw a massive tipping point in the culture of congregational music that was accompanied by a significant increase of semi and professional musicians joining bands, inspired by the example set before them by the likes of Geoff Bullock, Darlene Zschech and Reuben Morgan.

Their music rose above the somewhat gray scale attempts to bring congregational music in line with the contemporary mainstream and caught the hearts of multiple generations of frustrated and disillusioned musicians wanting to find their place in church worship and serve with their gifts and talents. It was a magical time to be a teenager and I too was swept up in wanting to be my best as a musician, singer and believer. Finally, I had a sense of purpose and direction to set my musical gifts toward.

Since then we’ve seen a plethora of incredible talent rise, all across the globe and Christian music is now even entering the mainstream flow in many countries. It’s really something that makes me proud because the standard was raised and many stood up and answered the call with incredible results.

However, there is something that bothers me. And please hear my heart. I am not speaking against Hillsong or any other band who are creating professional and beautiful environments for us to worship in. I’m not against modern congregational worship.

But I am against performance in this setting.

Performance? But aren’t we giving God glory by using our talents to the best of our ability? Shouldn’t we be creating an environment that helps usher people into his presence?

Yes and yes. Yes we should be using our talents. Yes we have a responsibility to usher in the presence of God. No we should not allow performance to enter in.

So how does the need for white space and the issue of performance connect together?

Musicians are a special breed of human. There is a continual struggle, especially for musicians using their talent in a church setting, to ensure that they are not performing and seeking personal glory and gratification when leading the congregation in corporate worship. I’ve personally faced this challenge and it can be a fine line!

Sometimes, I’ve experienced a time of corporate worship that has left me confused, irritated and disappointed because all I’ve participated in is a rock concert. It’s the setting as well as the lack of spiritual listening on the part of the band that contributes to this. It’s the lighting and the dry ice. It’s the perfectly timed instrumentals and revving the congregation up into frenzied sound, all in the name of worshipping God.  I’ve both been on the platform and as a congregational participant in these scenarios and so feel I can contribute a perspective from both sides of the coin.

silence as an act of worship

Sometimes this extreme scenario creeps in to regular church settings and it makes my skin crawl. I genuinely believe that for the most part, we as musicians want to worship God and feel that we are doing so, to the best of our ability. And I also believe that God sees our intentions and loves us regardless.

What I do see though, in this kind of setting, is the potential for a congregation to end up watching what’s happening up the front and a worship team lost in their own interludes and musical prowess. I’m sorry to be so blunt but this is what I see.

The congregation then become observers for the most part, rather than participants and this makes my heart break.  They’ve come to collectively worship their God and they’re often left confused and disappointed.

It’s time to go beyond this. It’s time to step further in to what worship is really about. Worship isn’t even about music in the first place! It’s about connecting with God and communing with his Spirit. About acknowledging his majesty, authority and love. About bringing our brokenness to his feet, like Mary did, when she cracked open the most expensive and precious gift she could, pouring out perfume to honour Jesus.

contemplative worship that includes silence and reflection

This is where I feel that white space needs to come back into the conversation.  But before we do, I want to bring in one last element of thought.  This is where some reading may feel very differently to me, and that’s okay.  I respect your opinion and hope that you can afford me the same.

I believe that there is opportunity for us to respond to an environment of worship fully believing that we are engaging with God and encountering his presence, regardless of skill sets, lights, dry ice or great vocals or all the latest gear.  I don’t think it’s the stuff that’s an issue.

However, I also believe that we could potentially find ourselves in the same environment, fully believing that we are worshipping God, but are in fact worshipping music itself.

 

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I discuss the validity of taking some time to incorporate silence into our worship times.

 

In love and honour,

Miriam Miles

If you’re interested in reading more about what inspired my train of thought today, why not visit Bonnie Gray’s website and check it out.

If you’d like to check out other things that I write about, you can visit me at my blog on WordPress.

What’s been your experience of congregational worship?

What have you personally discovered in those quiet moments?

Please share your thoughts and remember that we are a community of like minded folk, so church bashing is not on, okay? Okay :)