Monday, March 9, 2015

Freedom of expression

I'm not a big fan of "rules" when it comes to life, love and art.

You don't have to go to college. You don't have to get a "real job." You don't have to get married, have children, or buy a house. You don't have to love someone with the same age, religion, sex or ethnicity as you. And you don't have to sacrifice the authenticity and value of your art to please someone who doesn't understand the importance of self-expression.

That last one is huge. And it's the one I want to focus on today.

I think a lot of people don't truly respect and appreciate art—or the people who have the guts to create and share it with the world in the first place. And although that shouldn't bother me because no one should give a shit what anyone else thinks about their art, it still bothers me. It's something I really want to address to all the raw, brave and creative souls of the world. These people are my friends, my family, my brothers, my sisters, and my soul mates. I am very protective of them, and I want them to succeed just as badly as I want to succeed myself. 

It bothers me when children are told that their drawings and pieces of artwork are stupid or wrong because they colored outside the lines or painted their dog pink instead of brown.

It bothers me when young dancers are taught to focus more on stamina, poise and perfection than freedom, emotion and humanity.

It bothers me when writers are told to keep their work squeaky clean and not include sex, profanity, or weighty issues that every single one of us has to deal with at some point in our lives.

It bothers me when actors are criticized for acting out realistic events, regardless of whether they play the good guy or the bad guy. Playing a rapist doesn't mean you advocate rape. If anything, it raises awareness about it. 

It bothers me when singers are taught to focus more on pitch and vocal range instead of telling the stories behind their songs with real emotion and conviction.

It bothers me when an artist of any kind feels deterred from creating the kind of work that feels right to them just because their peers or family members decide to be judgmental and critical instead of understanding and supportive.

Art is not always going to be pretty, clean and shiny. In my opinion, the best art is anything but. I like songs that make me cry. I like movies that unsettle me. I like books that make me cry and unsettle me. I want people to swear because swearing means you feel strongly about something and aren't afraid to emphasize it. I want people to be selfish and make mistakes and hurt others and themselves because we all do those things. I like weird stuff. I like deep stuff. I like disturbing stuff. I like messy stuff. If you're willing to travel into the weird, deep, disturbing and messy parts of yourself and turn all of it into art that can heal, entertain and inspire others, you have a wonderful and irreplaceable gift. And I will never chastise you for it.

My hope for you is that you will try to ignore unsolicited, hypercritical, or passive aggressive remarks about your art form, whatever it may be. By choosing to please others instead of yourself and allow the emptiness that comes with that to widen and fester, you are doing a massive disservice to yourself and to the people who will buy your books, albums, movies and photographs someday—the people who will cherish them, wear them out, and salvage them in the event of a fire.

You have something to say, so you must say it fearlessly.

And maybe, just maybe, one person will stand out from the crowd and say, "I couldn't have said it better myself."   

<3 Madison  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fear and limitations

This blog title sounds like something that would usually either scare or bore me away. There are countless books and articles about fear and how to conquer it, but none of that will truly resonate with you until you conquer your fear on your own. It's kind of like reading about a hair care method with rave reviews and thinking to yourself, "Wow, that sounds pretty revolutionary...I think I'll try it." And then not trying it. You will never know how revolutionary something can be for you if you ultimately fail to give it a try.

So maybe I'm wasting my time writing about fear and limitations. (And maybe there are very few of you out there who are still willing to read along or listen to me anyway, considering my serious abandonment of this blog lately.) But I'm not here to lecture or preach about things you've already heard a million times. I'm simply here to share my own unique experiences and hope that maybe, just maybe you can take something positive away from them.

I realized an unfortunate, yet empowering truth the other day: Fear never goes away. There is no cure. When you face one fear, there are a million more ahead of you. No one ever becomes completely immune to it. This realization was quite distressing until I realized another truth: One the other side of fear, there is growth.

I know, I know. It's been said a million times, but like I said above, you can't grasp the truth of something until you try it for yourself. I've been doing a lot of scary things lately---things I never thought I could do and things I didn't know I had in me. And I'm still alive. I am also still distressed by the fact that so much fear and newness still lies ahead of me (especially this year), but I know that I will only get closer to who I really am by walking directly towards it and not letting it paralyze me anymore. I've been more or less paralyzed for 5 years, and fear is beating my legs with a baseball bat and teaching me to walk at the same time.

I have no idea what I'm doing, and I know that there are certain things that will take a lot of time and courage, but I feel like I'm slowly learning about what I'm capable of and who I can be. And all of it lies behind that giant wall of fear.

So that's my two cents for today. Sorry I haven't contributed in awhile.

I also want to leave you with this: It's okay to seek help in dealing with your own fears. A lot of the time, we simply cannot do it on our own. We need counselors, teachers, friends and colleagues. Seeking help does not make you weak. It does not make you weak. 

Additional reading that I can relate to right now:

<3 Madison

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New year, new me

Hello friends!

I hope you're all having a happy new year so far. I didn't exactly make any resolutions this year (I never keep them), but I've been doing some thinking about who I am vs. who I want to be vs. who I don't want to be.

A lot of us have ingrained habits and personality traits that we don't really think about or pay attention to. Whether or not people can change has been up for debate for years, but I do think people can change if they really want to...If they're truly willing to do the work of paying attention to themselves and reprogramming their minds. It's obviously much easier said than done, but I think all of us change no matter what. It's up to you if you want to change for better or worse.

So over the last few days, I have been trying to simply pay more attention to myself. Not make any drastic changes. Not epically plot to re-invent myself. Not tear myself apart over the things I don't like as much. Just listening and paying attention and seeing what I discover.

Here are the parts of myself I'd like to see less of...

- The part of me that tries to resentfully will others into changing, even though the only behavior I can control is my own

- The part of me that stays quiet about the things I believe in

- The part of me that avoids eye contact with strangers instead of smiling at them

- The part of me that chooses money over passion

- The part of me that spends more time thinking than doing

- The part of me that assumes defeat before I've even tried

- The part of me that questions my needs

- The part of me that runs away from fear

And here are the parts of myself I'd like to see more of... 

- The part of me that asks for help when I need it

- The part of me that laughs more and doesn't take everything so seriously

- The part of me that encourages others, even when I have a hard enough time encouraging myself

- The part of me that says "yes" more often

- The part of me that says "no" more often

- The part of me that stays dedicated to the people and things I love

- The part of me that faces my problems instead of avoiding them

- The part of me that uses my scars and demons to help others overcome their own

- The part of me that works to make myself proud instead of making others proud

- The part of me that gets out of my head and into the world

Cheers to a new year and a new better you.

<3 Madison

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Miscellaneous thoughts (Part 12)

~ Forgiveness is easy when love is strong.

~ The only way to continue finding yourself is to continue losing yourself.

~ The people who truly love and care about you won't see you any differently when you have a meltdown, pitch a fit, say things you don't mean, or otherwise behave imperfectly. You don't have to apologize for or justify your need to vent and express your feelings, no matter how crazy or dramatic you sound in the heat of the moment. It's better to rant and rave and make an ass of yourself than sit in a room by yourself and let everything build up until you explode and do something stupid.

~ You deserve to receive, feel and experience genuine love, no matter how you go about getting it.

~ There is always a reason to stay alive.

~ I like to know where I stand with people. I don't have time for up and down, push and pull, or give and take relationships. If I constantly have to question how someone feels about me or whether or not they want me in their life, I'm better off without them.

~ When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.

~ A breakdown can be a breakthrough, depending on how you choose to look at it.

~ When you're lacking strength, all you have to do is ask for it. From God. From your best friend. From your dog. From your grandmother. From your significant other. It's okay to say, "Today is not a good day. I feel weak. I don't feel like enough." Strength can be provided through a hug, some encouraging words, or simply a walk in the park. You don't need to leap over obstacles fearlessly and effortlessly. You just need to have the initiative to put one foot in front of the other.

~ If you're doing it for the money, you're doing it wrong. Yes, money is important. No, money is not everything.

~ If you can only find one thing worth living for, keep looking.

~ Never stop setting goals, even if the best goal you can come up with is, "Get out of bed."

<3 Madison  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Puzzle pieces of the human heart

Hello friends.

As I'm sure you've noticed, I've been super MIA lately. I know I always start off posts like that when I've been away for awhile and I know several of you tell me each time that it's okay and that creativity needs room to breathe, but I still feel weird and sort of empty about not posting as regularly as I used to. I used to update this blog 3-4 times per month, and now I'm lucky if I post half that much.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm one of those people who notices when a blogger I like stops posting as often or stops posting altogether. Although I understand, it doesn't change the fact that I feel disappointed and maybe even a little abandoned. The thought of making any of you feel that way really bothers me. I even tried writing a new post this week, but the words never came out quite right and I ended up deleting the whole thing.

The truth is, inspiration has been coming to me in different forms these days. I don't always feel the need to write an 8-paragraph post about how I'm feeling or what I'm thinking. Sometimes it's more of a fleeting thought or a picture in my head or a subtle moment of hope and clarity. While thinking of ways to share this type of inspiration without writing one-sentence blog posts, I came up with a new project idea. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to my new side blog, Puzzle Pieces of the Human Heart. Yes, I am aware of the fact that I started a different side blog once and haven't posted to it in a year. (Hello More to Share, More to Learn.) However, that blog was pretty separate from this one in terms of the subject matter. I want Puzzle Pieces of the Human Heart to be something of an extension for this blog. I want it to have more of a community feel. I want it to be a place where I can share the things that inspire me and give me hope in bite-sized pieces. I want it to be the creative and emotional outlet I've been desperately seeking for over a year. 

I'm not looking for a huge following, but I hope some of you are still out there and decide to be a part of this project. I don't just want this to be my creative space. I want it to be yours too. I want to give you a voice, post your creations and ideas, share the things that inspire and heal you, and generally help you release the thoughts, feelings and stories that have been clogging up your soul.

With that said, I encourage you to take a look around. Read the about page and the submission guidelines. See if it all sounds like something you would like to get involved in.

Thank you endlessly for your support, and I hope to hear from you soon.

<3 Madison    

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Things you should not feel guilty about/apologize for

I have a bad habit of putting everyone else's feelings/desires before my own, which has led to a lot of unnecessary resentment, unhappiness, guilt and anxiety. We spend so much of our time caring about what other people think and how other people feel about our decisions, and I think it's time for a reality check: You have to live YOUR life, make YOUR decisions, and meet YOUR needs if you want to be content. Period. Failure to do so leads to depression, inner rage, and excessive worry---when instead, you could be out in the world doing whatever the hell you want, creating whatever the hell you want, and being whoever the hell you want. That's not to say you shouldn't be a good, generous person who helps and cares about others. It's simply to say that if you abandon yourself, you rob the world and the people in it of the person you really are. You become fake, robotic and bitter...And that is NOT who you really are.

Here are some things you need to stop feeling guilty about and apologizing for:

~ Saying no when the answer is truly no

~ Not doing something for the simple reason of not wanting to do it (This is slightly subjective; don't be an asshole)

~ Dreaming big and setting goals, no matter how scattered or unconventional

~ Taking a break

~ Not working while on vacation or spending time with loved ones

~ Ignoring a text or email when you don't feel inclined to write something worthwhile and meaningful in return

~ Asking for help

~ Being slightly socially inept and/or being an introvert

~ Treating your pets like children

~ Expressing an annoying and incoherent amount of joy (Example: Texting the phrase "ASDFGHJKL" to someone when they tell you something exciting)

~ Your feelings

~ Loving who and what you love

<3 Madison  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Instead of quitting...

To quit or to get so angry at yourself for wanting to quit that you decide to work your ass off instead? That is the question.

Now that I have that cliche Hamlet reference out of the way, I quite literally asked myself that question in the middle of the night recently before finding myself on my laptop. Writing instead of sleeping. Taking notes instead of counting sheep. Reconsidering my entire path in life instead of relaxing and waiting for tomorrow.

I am bursting with ideas and potential that I rarely use. I am getting buried under apathy and a lack of self-confidence. And most of all, I am getting angry. I'm angry at the employers and potential employers who keep blowing me off. I'm angry at the friends, family members and peers who expect the world of me only to be let down time after time after time. I'm angry at the stereotypes and expectations surrounding writers---how if you haven't written a best-selling book or don't have a blog that gets millions of page views, you ain't shit. But underneath it all, I realize that I'm angry at myself. I'm angry at myself for not giving my talent room to breathe, for settling for less than what I'm worth, and for wanting to quit 5 million times per week. And I never do because I never can. 

So instead of quitting, I'm turning my entire life into one big writing assignment. Every situation I go through and every emotion I feel is going to be turned into an article or story. To hell with not having a specific person or publication to send it to. I'm going to re-read "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. I'm going to get up in the middle of the night when I have a new idea, even when I'm tired or have to get up early the next morning. I'm going to say no whenever I want to say no and yes whenever I want to say yes. I'm going to stop selling my soul for pennies and dollar bills. I'm not going to be afraid of doing a shitty job the first time, and I'm going to realize that "perfect" doesn't exist. I'm going to let my passion and enthusiasm be greater than my level of experience or expertise.

I will always have days where all I want to do is stay on the couch all day. I'm certainly not immune to discouragement, which is a big fat "DUH" if you read this blog regularly. But the fact that I've felt like quitting so many times has ignited a fear in me that one day I really will---and then be subjected to a lifetime of unhappiness and failure because of it. I'm going to get so mad at myself for even wanting to quit that I fight back with every ounce of motivation I still have standing.

And I promise you I will get somewhere.  

<3 Madison