Updating the Inner Jukebox

As many charity shops will testify, lockdown was a perfect chance to sort and de-clutter, seeing many of us rummaging through the top-heavy totem-poles of our possessions with mild stupefaction over what we’d previously thought to need, keep or want.

So it is too with the clutter of the subconscious. For the first time in years, life beckoned me a few weeks back to grab its torch and grub about my basement for one very particular storage box – that strange container of peculiarities we call The Job Interview. Ah, there it was, firmly wedged on the ‘Things to be Dreaded’ shelf, languishing rather timidly beneath six years worth of dust! Full of odds and ends I have scant memory of owning, and a rather shabby collection of 1980’s records I’d never replaced.

And that’s when it hit me: I’ve been living life like an old jukebox on legs. For every blank-canvas of possibility life’s kindly waved my way, I’ve tossed in the coins of my true currency to play a familiarly-outdated track instead. How long have I hummed blithely along – without pause, question or thought – to a perennial playlist I’ve barely noticed anymore?

Oh bloody hell, I’ve had ‘Man Has to Struggle’ on repeat all these years!

How empowering it is to check these inner indexes, to take a peek at what we’ve unwittingly tucked away; to see the libraries of belief curated under each-and-every category. Songs about risk, songs about strife; songs about effort and danger and the sharp edge of life.

So many of us sail through the world on these tightly-lashed rafts of belief, built so hastily for survival when we first arrived. From the plastic and driftwood of all those who came before, we gather and cling to whatever washes up on our childhood shore. We bind and fasten, weatherproof and seal, then launch into the great ocean of adulthood on our salvaged dais of ideals. But it’s our desperation to stay afloat that fills the patchwork of our sails, and the great winds of fear that determine where we steer.

For so long I’ve navigated job-interviews like shark-infested waters, swimming only in the safety of a metal cage. Controlled my outer display-unit like a presentation stand of artfully-branded free gifts, pulling my mask-strings ever tighter to hide the grimace underneath.

Why oh why do we buy into this strange idea? That our true self is too risky, too dangerous to let free? That we should suffer instead beneath the weight of disguise, eternally longing to scratch the itch of our false-beards, while clutching so grimly to our socially-acceptable fig leaves to hide the poor, shriveled genitalia of our glorious inner-beings?

Tear them off, tear them off – let our truth dangle forth!

Ah, what a moment it is when we stand before the whole quantum-shop of music; toss the old records aside, and pick afresh. Strut down our stairs with Freddie-Mercury audacity in whatever pink-twinset, mustache and PVC-combo we choose! Mix up the ingredients of life’s kitchen in fresh bursts of floury glee, and realise – at last – that we can see things differently.

It’s time, for this interview, to try a new recipe. Not a trial or a test, nothing to fear or resist, just a synergy of sharing in the bright blender of authenticity.

And so with a cloud of flour and an apron tossed aside, I clicked on the ‘Join zoom meeting’ and opened my heart. And almost three hours later, after a dialogue of connection and laughter, the meeting ended and two new tracks began to play:

What a wonderful world’ by Louis Armstrong,

And good ole’ Frank Sinatra;

I did it my way’.

Photo: Simon Carter Photography

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Trusting the Flow: The Art of Turning Up

A week and a half ago, between the opening and closing curtains of a wedding and a funeral, I did my very first podcast; another leap into trusting the flow.

And I notice, as I begin to let go of the old, the new and unseen doors that start to shimmer and glow, subtly lifting out of two-dimensionality like magic-eye art. By softening our gaze on the very same page, reality shifts and coalesces into a new and breathtakingly multidimensional stage.

Magic, and yet nothing of the sort…   just possibilities and pathways that were there all along, obscured by the shutters of mind and its fearful fastenings and locks. And so it was with this, as Julia Chi Taylor – the extraordinary soul I’ve been voyaging with through my internal seas – invited me to take part in her new Podcast series, ‘Conversations with a Bodhisattva’.

But how fascinating to watch the inner protesters rally so fast – a surging horde of banners and shouts, all chaining themselves to the shutters with unequivocal handcuffs of doubt!

‘Danger!’ they shriek, ‘Don’t do it! Don’t risk! You’ll be vulnerable before strangers, self-manacled in the village stocks!’

If the only way I can speak now is from the epicentre of my truth – from the tenderest spots still healing from their loosening thorns – then to trust to the free-flow of an interview feels like launching my leaky vessel into the torrents of Niagara falls.

I’ve already leapt with my blog, so why does this dive feel even higher? Because speech is such an instant and irretrievable creature, so different to the small woodland mammal of the written word that forages so quietly beneath life’s delicate leaf-litter. While writing can curl up and hibernate for as long as it needs, nesting unseen in the roots and thickets of daily success and strife, the spoken word shrieks with immediacy – a discharged bullet whose trajectory can’t be changed.

Am I ready to fledge, to learn on the wing, without the time to perfect and to tweak? To be a mayfly of expression, a momentary flutter in life’s skies, preserved in amber though so briefly conceived?

Of course the cinema of my mind screens me bumbling haphazardly, a clumsily-blundering daddy-long-legs of orality! Prattling hither-and-thither, shedding legs along the way, tangled in endless webs of ghastly ‘what if’s’…

What if I can’t express what I mean? What if my fluency startles and falters? What if it dries-up like roadkill under the truck-lights of immediacy?

What if I say it all wrong?

There is, of course, no such thing. Nothing to be done but release the comfort-blanket of ‘right’, and surrender instead to the simplicity of is. To turn up as I am, as raw and unadorned as a Christmas tree in February; no baubles, no lights. And trust, as Jonny once wrote, ‘Ah… but you’re decked with fairy lights all year round lady, don’t you see? How lucky I am that you let your needles drop for me’.

Something that applies to us all if we can only trust our inner lights to guide the way, instead of grasping at those B&Q aisles of decoration and display. To be who we are, bare branches and all, and trust the anchor of our roots as the winds shift and sway.

And so I watched those inner protesters march the streets of my psyche, and thanked them politely for their loudspeakers of doubt. Then took the inner projectionist aside to suggest we change the music, brighten the lights…

Time to banish this dis-empowering delusion that to be worthy of being heard we must be finished and complete, reclining in our armchair of success and basking in achievement’s firelight;

To tie a bandana on my true-self, don the 80’s crop-top of spirituality, and thrill at the speedball while shouting ‘bring it on!’ to the Rocky theme-tune!

Sylvester Stallone knew what’s what, all those years ago.

It’s not about ‘winning’; it’s the art of showing up.

And so I did.

The beginning…

Photo by Jared Erondu on Unsplash

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You can listen to my podcast with Julia Chi Taylor by clicking on the green play button below: