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Disencumber; a time to let go

“I should have….” There’s such a weight attached to words like that, when you let them sit in your mind.

How much of our busy-ness is what we create to distract us from having time to think of the negative thoughts, doubts, guilt, or regret we may carry with us? But if that’s the case, then a life-disruption – like a significant injury or illness, or loss of steady employment, can lead to a devastating term of confronting all the negative issues that we’ve tried to avoid by scheduling our time full. At least, that can be a danger for me.

There comes a time to give ourselves at least the same grace, the same opportunity to rest and/or move forward, as we are prepared to offer others. There is no burden so great as one that people of conscience place on themselves.

If there’s something that a person has done wrong, then – if the person learns from it – that’s experience. You can castigate yourself for an error, but if it’s an error you could then avoid on another occasion – that might put you ahead of a new person without that experience. Anyone can make a mistake. Everyone can grow. So we need to give ourselves permission to let go of past errors and let ourselves continue to grow and thrive through whatever changes are ahead.

Here are the lyrics to my song ‘Disencumber’.


No one can judge me more harshly
than I already judge myself.
The bar of my own expectation is higher
than anything others expect.

I need to leave that big box of deficiency
right up there on that high shelf.
The daily rocks that I add to my pack
accumulate so I’ll get wrecked.

There’s a time
to disencumber…
a time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

There’s a time
to disencumber,
to put aside how we self-reject.
Don’t look for bad news
you can do nothing about,
and find some good tunes to select.

I’m not saying to walk around blindly,
but it don’t help to stare at the light
in the interrogation room inside your mind
because it won’t leave you feeling so bright.

There’s a time to disencumber,
a time to walk around free,
among people who maybe I know nothing about
but at least they also don’t know me.

Disencumber – we are human,
equally valuable, all of us flawed.

Disencumber – it’s okay.
None of us can claim to be God.

There’s a time to disencumber…
time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

We need some news of release.

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Healing Power of the Blues

Even very early in life, spirituals and blues music spoke to me on a very deep level. But why? I was from a middle class family of non-African descent, and most of my family memories involve games and laughter. What was it about blues music in particular that has always resonated with me?

Despite the family joyfulness and comfortable life I remember having, there was also always a deep unspoken sorrow that rarely surfaced. As the youngest in the family, born when my parents were older, quite a few years after the rest of my siblings, I was insulated from much of it.

My dad was born in 1918 in the Crimea, and as a result of the political instability that came along with the Russian Revolution he would lose his father when he was barely a year old to bandits who were aligned with the Bolsheviks. The family ran a store, and later when the store burned down all of the records of their debtors burned with it. The creditors, however, managed to remember the debt the family owed, and they lost the store not long after losing their dad. They were among a group of German-speaking pacifists who had been invited to farm in Russia in 1763 by Catherine the Great.

Robbed of their dad by bandits, and left without financial support partly by the machinations of their own community, my father and his 5 brothers and sister and mother were soon displaced and began their long journey as refugees. Eventually they came to Canada, and were granted land to farm (another story) by the Canadian government – just prior to the Great Depression.

They survived near-starvation and ultimately most of them moved off the farm and found work in cities. A fresh wound would be opened for the family in 1956, however.

I knew my dad’s brothers growing up, but never met his sister. One day when I was quite young and we were visiting with the uncles, I asked about where she was. Nobody answered. Everyone just turned ashen and looked away. It would be quite some time before I would find out that my Dad’s sister, her husband, and daughter were murdered in Vancouver. David and Helen Pauls and their daughter Dorothy were brutally killed and the identity of their killer was never discovered. Helen had worked at the docks, and her bosses were Russian, so one source of family suspicion was that Russian spies had been behind the killing when they discovered that Helen understood something of the Russian language conversations they had. Another source of suspicion was a member of their faith community, who had demonstrated violent tendencies and emotional instability but had escaped consequences due to a somewhat misplaced notion of ‘forgiveness’.

In any case, this was the subsurface emotional reality in my household, and I wonder if I sensed it. When my mother died of cancer when I was 12, I experienced a personal loss as well. The only grandparent I had ever known, her mom, had died about a year or so prior. So maybe that has something to do with why I always loved the blues. The blues, unlike other music, recognizes the reality of loss and injustice and wrong, but true blues music doesn’t glorify any of that. It’s like a recognition of realities that many of us prefer not to see, and bringing that reality into ‘the light’ allows for a feeling of relief and of peace.

Here are my lyrics;

Healing Power of the Blues

Your words exposed a wound
that I’d denied was there.
At first I thought the pain
was more than I could bear.
But when, what I’d been hiding,
was in the open air –
it finally started healing.
I got back some feeling.
The power of the blues was everywhere.

The blues, they have a power
to purify a soul-
like an old-time gospel hour
or like losing all your gold.
When you know a kind of peace
in the middle of bad news,
you know the healing power of the blues.

The analyst may say I need some sessions-
that my nature needs some nurture,
or my soul requires confession.
Bruised ego may be what behind my trauma,
or unconscious childhood forces may be causing inner drama –

But when I’m in the darkness,
clouds hanging ’round my head-
I’m drowning in my misery
while lying there in bed-
I’ll put aside the bottle,
take up the blues instead.
There I’ll find a peace,
like a prisoner released
from the chains those faithful blues helped me to shed.

When times were good, I could fool myself
that everything was fine-
while I was dying a bit at a time.
Then suddenly, the ground broke away,
and I was falling through-
when I was saved by the power of the blues.

The blues, they have a power
to purify a soul-
like an old-time gospel hour
or like losing all your gold.
When you know a kind of peace
in the middle of bad news,
you know the healing power of the blues.

When you know a kind of peace
in the middle of bad news,
you know the healing power of…
the blues.

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The Writing of Get Back Up (Resilience)

I wrote the song ‘Get Back Up (Resilience)’ partly in response to a friend going through a difficult life transition which was not under her control. I wanted to write a song which could be encouraging. One thing I have in common with this friend, is that we are both parents. I’m not sure the song provided the necessary encouragement, actually – her situation is way beyond anything I have ever experienced, and I really hope it doesn’t come across as a ‘pull up your socks’ message, because it isn’t intended that way at all.

Kids are incredibly resilient. Aided by a very short memory, little children try to walk, and they may wham into some furniture and bruise themselves something awful, but before you know it they are up and trying again. Their determination to walk seems to be far beyond their experience of the pain of trying. So, watching little kids trying to learn is inspiring to me, because they don’t know quit. My hope is that others are also inspired.

The lyrics go…

When you see a little baby learning how to walk
at first she fall a hundred time a day.
She will not say maybe this wasn’t meant for me –
she get back up until she learn the way.

She got dirt on her hands, bruises on her face,
but she know deep down that she has got the power.
She don’t know quit, she stay with it
until she find her pace,
and then she go at 50 miles an hour.

She get back up. Don’t you see she’ll never stay down –
she get back up every time she fall.
She may be half the size of anyone else around,
but she get back up and she show ’em all.

Been quite a while now since I was a baby,
but I still stumble, sometime I still fall.
I don’t always know how (I’m) gonna make it through the day,
and I just lean my head against the wall.

I got dirt on my hands, bruises on my face,
but I know deep down that I have got the power.
If someone offers help, okay, but I am gonna find a way,
and then I’ll go at 50 miles an hour.

I’ll get back up. Don’t you see I’ll never stay down?
I’ll get back up every time I fall.
I may not reach the mind of everyone else around,
but I’ll get back up and I’ll show ’em all.

We’ll get back up. Don’t you see we’ll never stay down?
We get back up every time we fall.
We may not reach the mind of everyone else around,
but we’ll get back up and we’ll show ’em,
we’ll get back up and we’ll show ’em,
we’ll get back up and we’ll show ’em all.

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