One of my professional goals is to start expanding my psychological and performance services to individuals in the music industry. Obviously it can be tough to break into a new domain and start receiving referrals. So as one way to learn aspects of the music culture, the language, and some of the nuances I decided to enroll in a workshop on audio production at Groove U in Dublin, OH. I am three lessons in and it is highly apparent that mixing, much like many other things in life, is complicatedly simple. It’s simple in that every knob on a mixing board is a tool that will do something unique and specific to the sound being inputted. Essentially a tool box. The sound manipulation version of a screw that screws and a hammer that hammers. What becomes complicated is that to my un-trained ears most things sound pretty good, which makes it difficult to sort out knowing what to listen for, when to apply a particular tool, and to what extent. Tools that are well-applied create a great mix, and ultimately, a nice sounding song. Much like life. We are going to encounter things every day that need tweaked, turned, amplified, and muted. Fortunately, we have many tools to our disposal that can help us dial in to the type of life that we want to live. A gym for physical health. An accountant for financial health. A counselor for psychological health. Etc. The challenge is knowing when to apply these various tools and to what extent. Much like the sound board, every issue we have in life has a tool that, when applied correctly, can manage it. Are there things in your life that just aren’t sounding too good? Are things not vibing together…fitting together? What dials do you need to tweak or turn? What do you want to amplify? What do you need to mute? What tools do you need to apply? Is it time to mix it up?
Yesterday was a random busy day. Though I was off from work at Ohio State, I was running some errands, making some calls, and settling some things. As a result of this filled day, I also started thinking…a lot. Now, I am fortunate to have a busy mind. It helps with my creativity and promotes a dreamer / visionary type of mindset. Unfortunately this type of thinking is often at a rate that is much faster than my inner doer can keep up. Occasionally then, the mental engine starts to rev so high that I start to feel anxious and unsettled. For the most part, my awareness and practice of mindfulness helps me to just ride the wave of the turbulent, though temporary, mental tsunami. Though at other times I need a different method. Yesterday, in the middle of a Starbucks in Hilliard, I needed a different method. My mind was turning over at a rate that rendered useless any actual executive function. Essentially, I became a deer in my own headlights. I shorted out momentarily and needed to re-boot. How did I do this? I went to Spotify. Searched for “Guided Meditation.” Put my head down. And for the next 12 minutes, I focused on my breath, a calmer mind, and chilled the fuck down. It worked. I then had an online session with a client and I was good to go the rest of the evening. You see, I did this to myself. Worrying about upcoming presentations, answering emails promptly, and frantically performing a mental check-list about my future calendar. Essentially all stuff that the universe doesn’t care much about and things that I certainly won’t be too concerned with at age 80 when I’m sipping on ice awaiting my final breaths. But not in this moment. In this moment it was important and I had to think, worry, and over analyze about it. I got myself into it and I got myself out. I just had to have enough sense to take a moment to re-boot. Which I did. When I got too geared up, I put my head down, and I can always pick it back up in 12 minutes.
A few times after a strenuous surfing lesson in Puerto Escondido this past January, the instructors would make a pit-stop to a road side bungalow for one of these…a coco frio. Yes, a cold, freshly split open coconut with a straw to access it’s juicy, delicious insides. Now I am not typically a big fan of coconut water. The bottled coconut water that I get at gas stations to cure a hangover are usually too “coconutty.” Perhaps it is because they try to add too much that it takes away the authentic, true, and original taste of the water. Maybe it is the environment? Certainly sucking down a store bought bottle in an Ohio hangover haze is not quite the same as a slowly enjoyed freezing sip out of the coconut itself in 85 degree Mexico. Perhaps it is the company? Sharing in the coco trio with like-minded, cool, and often times attractive, people can also outweigh slurping down a bottle alone in your apartment (or van). So whether it was related to the purity, the place, or the people, the coco trio was absolutely real…real good. It served as a reminder that real goes a real long way. Remember that real is “without imitation or artificial.” So eating real food, drinking real drink, in a real place, with real people is bound to be a real incredible experience. Are we getting enough real? In a world of filters, synthetics, knock offs, additives, policies, and expectations real can get dimmed, dulled, altered, and erased. So much that life no longer “tastes” the way it should or could. Our task? To get more real. Eat real food. Drink real drink. Visit real places. Make real connections. Do real work. Feel real feelings. Be real you. Are we getting enough real?
Last December I went to one of the greatest cities, New York, with one of my greatest friends, Brian, to see one of the greatest entertainers, Billy Joel. Now I know I am a tourist and I don’t have to deal with the day-to-day experience of living in New York City, but I love it. There is an energy there like none other, fueled by the thousands of honks, millions of footsteps, and billions of capital. NYC is a place to be. We know this and for New York to keep up, it has to stay up. It has been coined the “City That Never Sleeps,” having to remain awake to fulfill and elicit the responsibilities of being the Big Apple. But I contend that this is a lie. Yes…a LIE! I contend that New York City does rest. That it is does sleep. Much like our human bodies, New York City never completely shuts off, but it does break as necessary. Late in the evening there is a quiet in the city. The honks cease. The footsteps quiet. Businesses close. There are shift changes, subway closures, and empty terminals. Yes, even this manic beast of a city closes her eyes and takes a breath. We are a lot like New York City. Constantly going, stoping, doing, being, arriving, departing, honking, walking, waiting, and spending. Yet, have we effectively evolved to keep up? I don’t think so. But we push it don’t we? Going to this class, that conference, another practice, some other meeting. Swiping left, claiming right, pushing forward, pressing like. Busy…as…fuck! And what’s at stake? Us. Me AND you! Our well-being. Our health. And the health and well-being of our important others. We are all as full and as land locked as Manhattan. Jockeying for the territory of our time, mental, physical, emotional, and monetary resources. It’s cut throat…high stakes…big business. The way out lies in the truth that the city that never sleeps, actually does. It rests, it breaks, it closes her eyes and she takes a breath…and we should too.
There has been this movement on social media exhibiting the difference between what is posted and what is. It outs the reality that sometimes what we see on one’s feed isn’t exactly the full story. Instead, it’s a snap shot of something good, something perfect, something admirable. Meanwhile, the messy, the taboo, the forbidden, and the conflict is hidden well behind the phone or lap top. Far away from the eyes of those who might judge, avoid, disconnect, or escape. Hey don’t get me wrong. I love to see the good just as much as the rest, but what often happens is that we begin to integrate a false sense of reality into our schema of life. Constantly comparing ourselves to a level of consistent perfection that is impossible. Yes, I said it, IMPOSSIBLE. What emerges instead is jealousy, resentment, low confidence, anxiety, and depression. I can be just as guilty. Posting the picture of me up riding the wave on my personal account indicates that I easily hopped up on a surf board and road my little beach bum heart out. FALSE! IMPOSSIBLE! The reality, instead, consisted of a whole lot of falling. A whole lot of water up the nose and sand up my ass. A whole lot of frustration, struggle, conflict, and four-letter words. But, I didn’t post the fall picture originally because I wanted to prove that I got up. To who though?? Is anyone out there really losing sleep because I happened to struggle surfing in Mexico? Anyone? Doubt it. So who did I need to prove this to? Female followers that might find me a bit more attractive because of my increased athletic prowess? My athletic male friends who become impressed with my physical versatility? Does my family love me more because I tried surfing? Probably none of the above. Nope, instead I tried surfing for me and I wanted to share it with you. Not to prove to you. But to update you. To connect with those like-minded “yous”. Perhaps maybe even to inspire you to stretch your own boundaries and wide your own waves. But let’s not be fooled. That life that you see flowing through my feed is far from perfect. That is instagram. I actually live in real life…where the water is choppy as fuck and I have sand in my ass.
I was stuck in traffic the other day and I was behind this Jeep. First off, I love Jeeps. Even though I am driving, sleeping, and living in a mini-van right now, a Jeep will always have a soft top spot in my heart. Second, I adore this bumper sticker and I spent the next 30 minutes or so contemplating it’s meaning to me. To grasp it, I had to start with wrestling with the definition of “Wander.” According to Webster, it is to walk or move leisurely, casual, or aimless way. “Forever” of course, is for all future time, for always. Wander elicits a sense of curiosity, openness, and adventure. Forever elicits a sense of possibility, expansiveness, and certainty. In my earlier years, I wouldn’t say “Wander Forever” was my mantra. I had my plan of attack. A+B = C if you will. Graduate high school. Go to college. Go to grad school. Finish grad school. Job. Etc. Etc. A pretty well marked trail. Far from a wandering type of space. Yet, now, as I find myself as a 36-year old, single, gainfully employed professional, with a man bun, a conversion van, and insatiable thirst for travel, music, food/beverage, dancing, and connecting with friends and family, I think a little more wander might be just what the doctor ordered. I’ve found that A+B doesn’t always equal C. Yet, we are often so dogmatic about getting to C. Accomplishing C. Marrying C. Achieving C. Having C in the bank account. That all the richness, beauty, and enjoyment of A and B is lost. Perhaps instead of sprinting to C, we can walk along, dance around, play with, and soak up A and B. Perhaps we can spread them out, make them last, breath them in a little bit more deeply. Perhaps we can wander around them…even if it takes forever.
This is a picture of my windshield one morning heading up to Cleveland for a conference. Bordering on dangerous, my windshield wiper fluid hose must have been a bit frozen because it was not dispensing its glorious cleansing goodness. As such, I had to squint, tilt, and guess my way up 77 North. But I made it! Despite not seeing perfectly. Despite not having a clear view. Despite not having a way to wash away the mess. Despite it, I made it. Sometimes our mental windshields are dirty aren’t they? We have a destination in mind even though we don’t see it perfectly. We don’t see it clearly. And we sometimes have difficulty with identifying methods of cleaning or clearing it up. Yet despite that, we can still progress. We can still make movement towards our location of interest. Towards our goals. Though it might be messy, it might not be perfectly clear, somewhere out there is your destination. And to that destination runs a path. And between you and that path is, possibly, a dirty windshield. Yet go forth…even if it requires a tilt, a squint, and some guessing…because you can still get there.
The other day I went to Thai’s Asian bistro for some egg rolls and pad thai. One of my favorite restaurants in Columbus and a go to for Asian deliciousness and huge portions. Accompanying the meals are a fortune cookie. Though I have written about a particular fortune I received in a previous blog, this cookie was special in that there was no fortune inside. Nope, I was fortune-less. I could have been disappointed. Left in frantic wonderment of “what does this all mean!?” Instead, I got out my phone and took a picture. Why? Because this was an important lesson. So often we look to things external from us for wisdom. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for consultation and advice…I am a psychologist after all. However, let us be reminded that we have a never ending reservoir of wisdom within each one of us. So much, in fact, that as long as we open up to ourselves and our internal potential, we will never be without a strip of fortune. We just have to look inside and listen. There is fortune in us.
Here we go again! It’s been awhile since my last post so I here I am back at the laptop hoping to return to my pre-december frequency. Though the break from writing was nice and perhaps needed, it feels good to be back at it. I’m not an overly disciplined person, so sticking to a writing schedule kind of exercises that disciplined part of my self. The blog also offers an opportunity to be both verbally and visually creative. To think through aspects of life and see their representation in the world through a picture. Though I never really get many (i.e., any) clients as a result of the blog, it does offer a tad of marketing for my private practice. People, at least a few, know a Steve Graef exists and is here to help should they or their friends need some mind-related support. To this point, I think I was often more focused on writing TO other people than FOR other people. To combat this tendency I am going to become less concerned about followers or likes (though please follow or like if you like), and instead I am going to focus on writing…for me. My thoughts, my feelings, my strategies. In doing so, I actually think more people will resonate because I know there are a lot of people out there like me. The disorganized. The messy. The vibrant. The eccentric. The timid. The stressed. The van dwelling. The plane catching. The music listening. The friend hanging. The family loving. The sport playing. The road tripping. The arts appreciating. The smiling. The life enjoying. All of us that can benefit from little reminders on how to stay connected to that which is most important…ourselves, others, and life. The blog will be short. A quick read that even my most ADHD friends can digest. The blog will return to its frequency, at least until it doesn’t. But most important, the blog, i.e., the writing, will continue. Welcome back blog.
Sometimes you have to sacrifice. A couple months ago I decided to pop on a concert ticket to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. While I was in New York, I was also hoping that I would be able to win a ticket lottery to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway or pay out the ass on Stub Hub. Since the Springsteen ticket is unlikely through lottery, I was pleased to find out that more show dates were announced and that tickets would be going on sale December 19th at 10:00am! Keep in mind that this is one of the hottest tickets on Broadway with resale values soaring over $1500. So being able to grab a ticket at face value is VERY important. One problem. At 10:00am on December the 19th, I will be in the air flying to New York to see Billy Joel. Shit! What’s a fan to do? Well, needless to say, I canceled the conflicting leg of my flight and bought a later route so that I could access wifi effectively and without ANY potential interruption. Sometimes we have to sacrifice to get what we want. Would I have rather already been in New York? Yes. Would I have preferred to save the $100 changed flight money? You bet. But, if this goes well, I will land my Springsteen ticket and still land in New York by this afternoon. Worth the sacrifice? I think so. Just like the many people, places, things, goals, we desire in life. It all comes with some sacrifice. What do you sacrifice for? What are you willing to risk? Time? Money? A broken heart? Health? Sleep? We all carry a ratio of risk/reward into any situation, event, relationship we enter into. What is yours? Does it vary? Why? How? Yes, there is always sacrificial price tag. But when it is worth it, frankly, it’s worth it…especially when you get front row.