Feeling Their Pain, Healing Their Energy

janice b feeling fine still editI was driving on the beltway making my way from my parents’ house to my job in Landover, Maryland like I did most days.   I was about 19 years old.  I was halfway to work when a sudden feeling took over my entire being.  I don’t know how to explain it other than to say it was a feeling of incredible sadness and heartache.  It was physical and heavy.  It overwhelmed me while I was driving and I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way.  Stranger still, at the moment I started feeling this immense sorrow the name of a boy I went to elementary school with came into my mind as clear as a bell.  Tommy Stevens*.  I hadn’t seen, talked to, or thought about Tommy in over a decade.  Although he was a nice kid, we were never close friends and I had no idea where he went after our few years together in elementary school.  The feeling passed as quickly as it came and I didn’t give it much more thought as I arrived at work.  About a half hour into my shift my mother called me and before we hung up she said “Oh by the way, I don’t know if you remember him from elementary school or not but I heard today that Tommy Stevens died.  They found his body in the Anacostia River.”

I’ve always been able to “feel” things from people.  I can sense when something isn’t right, when someone can’t be trusted, or if the person is carrying some unresolved pain or grief.   And  incidents like the one about Tommy Stevens have happened too many times in my life for it to be a coincidence.  Too many times I’ve been taken over by a dark emotion attached to a name or vision of someone, or their home or family only to find out later that someone died or was hurting or going through a significant loss or upheaval.  Someone I would have no reason to “feel” or think about.  I don’t talk about this much.  On the rare occasion that I recount these incidents I am often met with disbelief and doubt.  I understand that response because I myself have doubted if this is really happening.  Is there some logical explanation that could make sense as to why I am feeling something so real and painful from someone I don’t know?  In the case of Tommy’s death I’m not sure whose sadness I was feeling.  Was it his mother’s loss of her son?  Was it the emotions my mother felt upon hearing the news?  I won’t ever know.

Some people would call this intuition. That is the term that is tossed around most often but what I experience is much more intense.  I know my father was very intuitive.  He could keenly sense if someone wasn’t on the “up and up” as he would say.  He never discussed it deeper than that but he was always in tune with what he felt from people and he never doubted his feeling.

Later in life I understood myself to be an empath, a person who can sense/feel and sometimes take on the emotions and pain of others.  The list of empath traits sums me up quite well but I don’t usually hang on to what I am feeling.  I experience it very strongly and clearly and can now recognize when it’s not my own pain I am feeling.  However, looking back at my life it would explain a lot of things I experienced that seemed bizarre at the time.  I would have extreme anxiety over going to places with big crowds of people.  Panic attacks that upset my stomach and tightened my chest.  Empaths aren’t fond of large crowds because they can often feel everyone’s emotions.  I would sometimes feel sad and overwhelmed for no apparent reason.  I thought I was going through a depression or I was just over stressed from work.   Looking back I can guess that perhaps I was feeling someone else’s emotions but I just wasn’t aware of what was happening at the time.

The empath title fit me quite well until this June when I started my journey to become a reiki practitioner.  I explained some of my experiences to my teacher who said that I may be a clairsentient.  This was my first time hearing of this term.  I had of course heard of clairvoyant which is “clear sight”.  Clairsentience is translated as “clear feeling”.  The definitions of empath and clairsentient are very similar and I’m certain that both can apply to me.  Empaths take on the emotions of people around them.  They may feel the need to help or fix that person.  They are often sought out as the person to confide in or unload upon.  They get overwhelmed in large chaotic crowds.

Clairsentients are highly sensitive to their surroundings.  Not just the feelings of the people around them but also the location itself.  They can sense when something bad has happened somewhere and they can think of someone that isn’t around them and inexplicably know how they are feeling.  They can touch an object and feel the person who owned it.  I’m certain that I am a combination of both empath and clairsentient.  TV and movies have made these traits seem otherworldly and even “spooky” but the truth is, everyone has some level of these abilities.  We are all born with gut instincts and intuition.  But as we get older and more distracted we are conditioned to not pay attention to what we intuitively feel.  This is unfortunate because it could definitely assist us in making better decisions and even help keep us safe.

Over the past two years first with the loss of my father in 2014 and the passing of my mother in hospice in my home this April, I seemed to have “opened up” more to this level of consciousness.  I am very aware of their energy around me and this has changed how I view many things in my life now.  As I mentioned before, in June I decided to pursue training to become a Reiki practitioner.  If you aren’t familiar, Reiki is an ancient Japanese laying-on of hands healing technique that uses the life force energy to heal, balancing the subtle energies within our bodies. Reiki addresses physical, emotional, mental and spiritual imbalances.  I felt that this was a natural practice for me.  If I’m going to have these metaphysical abilities I certainly want to use them to help people.  And after years of intuitively feeling the pain and emotional states of other people, I know I can also assist in making them feel better.  This is not a religion or medical practice.  It doesn’t require the client to “believe in” anything however being open and receptive will certainly help the flow of energy.   I also truly believe that many “physical” ailments that we suffer from are often caused by emotional stressors and things we are holding onto in our hearts and spirits.  I’m finding that my intuitive knowledge of a person’s well-being combined with Reiki can help people heal themselves.

After I received my Reiki attunement from my teacher in June, I felt an immediate surge of heat in my head, heart, and hands.  Since then I have found myself more in tune and aware.  People seem louder and more intense.  Best of all my life purpose is finally clear to me.  I’ve been connecting with people through music and song for over a decade now.  This is naturally the next step for me.  My teacher said she feels that I have the ability to be the bridge between dark and light.   That I have a great understanding of the pain and darkness but also the ability to guide people to healing and light.  This is my intention.  The journey begins….

 *names were changed for confidentiality

 

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“My Life” is done…..part one…

Wow this is too surreal for me.  MoRece stopped by my 9 to 5 and dropped off the master of my CD “My Life” hot off the Mobtown Studios machinery!  He’s done this a million times…. no biggie for him.  But for me it’s a monumental occasion.  I literally jumped up and down in front of my building.  MoRece laughed.  I don’t expect anyone to understand.  I hold a piece of my spirit and my soul in my hand….on this dinky little CD.  This is everything I have written, cried over, smiled about, and lived for the past 9 years.

I didn’t play it right away….waited till I got off work to listen in the car.  So many things running through my head.  Are people gonna listen to it and understand the depth of what created these songs?  Probably not.  I’ve been writing this volume of songs since I was with my band in 2003.  There are sooo many stories behind each track on this CD.  17 tracks.  17 pieces of me.  All the songs flow beautifully.  I didn’t feel the urge to skip a track.  All of the songs kept me wondering what was next….and duh….I picked the song order!

Anyway I’m going to slowly talk about each song.  Some of you will be like yawnnnn but I know a lot of you are with me.  Feel free to read on and I welcome your comments.

The first track on the “My Life” CD is entitled “To Grandma”

I’m dedicating this entire CD to my maternal grandmother Edna Engle.  She played piano and sang with a small ensemble of musicians waayyyyyy before it was ever accepted that a woman lead a band.  She was well liked in her small town but she had big talent.  She was offerred an opportunity to join a musical group that travelled the world but she turned it down to raise her daughters.  My mom and my aunt.  She was a performer.  She played to the crowd.  I don’t know if she ever had the ability to write songs.  She died when I was a dorky teenager before I even knew I could write songs.  But she loved to play.  And she loved to get others to listen in and sing along.  That’s what she did best.  She is the one who would play whatever I wanted to sing when I was a toddler.  And she could play anything.  Even a song she hadn’t heard before.  She is the one who took me out walking in the snow and singing Christmas carols up and down the street when I was 3 years old.

She sparked the flame that still burns within.  She is the reason I am a musician.  She is with me….she is in every song.  I am doing what she wasn’t able to do.

The first track of the CD “To Grandma” is a spoken intro…then an actual clip of her playing the old piano in her house in Frostburg and me singing along like a maniac.  LOL I think I was about 2 or 3 at the time.  The quality is bad.  This was originally recorded on an old reel to reel tape recorder..probably in 1968.  My father years later sat a cassette recorder up next to the reel to reel and pressed record.  Creating an old school…super bad quality recording of  numerous clips of me singing with Grandma playing piano on a cassette.

MoRece…..magician that he is…..was able to restore a lot of this clip.  After the clip there is an acapella intro into the next track “Shining Down”.  “Shining Down” was written for and about my grandma.  And for anyone who feels that someone they have lost is still with them…and guiding them.

This is the first part of the CD.  I hope you all will stick around for the stories behind all 17 tracks!!!

Until next time…..

Janice B.

** extra factoid……originally the intro contained a super clear clip of me singing “I Wonder” from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty at the age of 4 years old.  We cut it out because it is impossible to obtain a mechanical license from Disney and I certainly cannot afford to be sued by them!!!!  Bummer!

Keeping the Balance

Superwoman!! 

So many of us ladies try so hard to wear that big “S” on our chests.  We try to excel at the day job, raise the family and be a good mom, pursue our dreams, oh and don’t forget.. live up to everyone else’s expectations of what we should be doing and how we should be doing it.  Quite simply we have to be everyone’s everything.   Keeping the balance is vital but it’s also incredibly challenging.   

I’m living this to the extreme right now and I know I’m not alone.  In the last year and a half I have become an independent solo artist releasing an EP of original songs entitled “Watch Me Fly”.  As all independent artists know it is a neverending challenge to get heard, get noticed, and get money to make your dreams a reality.  And if you work another full time job along with that you are really stretching the hours in the day.  

In addition to pursuing my musical dreams I spent several years also trying to start a family.  As many of you know this came to be in September 2009 when our 10 month old son arrived in our arms from Korea!!  (coincidentally this was the same month my EP was released!! )

Sheer joy mixed with complete exhaustion!!  Parents know what I’m saying!!  Many people assumed that when my child arrived I would quit my musical/artistic pursuits.  Along with the overwhelming love and support I received as a new mom I also got my share of disapproving looks and flat out judgements on the decisions I was making.  In order to keep the musical wheels moving and keep myself in the “spotlight” (LOL) there is a certain amount of face time I have to put into being a musician.  Whether it’s being out and about at events, open mics, etc. or working in the studio, or even maintaining a presence with online groups and creating a  fanbase, this all requires that I often spend time away from my son and husband.  And since my husband doesn’t work a “regular” 9 to 5 job there are limited hours in which I can make these things happen.  We are blessed to have a lot of love and emotional support with our child but at the end of the day it’s just the two of us making this happen.  We don’t have a lot of family nearby stopping through to help or babysit while daddy is at work and mommy is singing.  We are often two ships that pass at dinnertime.  LOL  Believe me I know there are single parents out there making this happen on the regular.  I bow to you!  I don’t know how you all do it!!  But at some point as a musician, something will be sacrificed.  Whether I am worn out and falling asleep at my day job from being up all night in the studio or writing, or leaving my sick baby with my husband while I hit a venue, or I can’t make that open mic because my husband is working and I have to be home with the sick baby…at some point I have to let go of something.  At some point I simply cannot do it all without one of these things suffering. 

And I have found that some folks are quick to judge you on that.  Hey, I’m a woman.  Women know we spend our entire lives being judged.  Are we pretty enough, smart enough, too smart, too fat, too skinny.  Are we working so much that we are bad mothers neglecting our children and families or are we “go getters” and acheivers because we are busting our asses with our careers?  Are we saints because we choose to be a stay at home mom and give up our corporate careers or are we old fashioned in doing so?  You know how it is ladies….sometimes we just can’t win.  And to be quite honest I stopped trying to explain myself to most folks.  It’s a waste of energy.   I try to move past these judgements and do what is right for me and my family knowing that we all have a set of circumstances or challenges put in front of us that we have to work through and find balance with.  

In 2010 my ability to balance was again tested as I was presented with a few more challenging situations.  My husband was hospitalized for congestive heart failure.  My day job was relocated from 1 minute away from my son’s daycare to almost an hour away through city traffic.  I also found out we’ll be laid off in 6 months.  My father was diagnosed with lymphoma and bone marrow cancer.  It has been quite a ride in 2010.  Most of the time I don’t talk much about super personal things with just anyone.  We can all list a million things that happen to us in our lives that rock your world and pull the rug out from under you.  My situations aren’t any more special or devastating.  We’re all going through something.  It’s hard to feel at peace while you are balancing on that tightrope though.  Sometimes you feel really alone.   We draw from friends and family, we draw from faith, and we rely on sheer inner strength.   And no matter how strong you are, when someone comes along and criticizes your parenting or judges your “grind” or dedication as an artist and a musician it can sting.  No matter how tough you are….words hurt. 

I could abandon music and dedicate every moment to my child but I would be miserable with no music in my world.  I can’t imagine that would be good for my son either.  I can leave my child every night and hit the streets trying to gain more popularity and sell more CDs.   But again that isn’t the right decision for us while my son is adjusting to what is now his third and final home.   I don’t expect everyone to understand that.  I didn’t know I had to prove my dedication to my music or my love for my son to anyone.  But the judgements continue.  Unfortunately I can’t change that.  It’s life right?  When you are making moves and doing something, people talk. 

I’m blogging about this today because it’s been on my mind for a while.  I know that I’m not the only one struggling to maintain a balance in life between the artistic side and the family side.  I know I’m not the first to be criticized and judged for whatever choices I make.  So if you are a woman out there making everything happen for everyone and going after your dreams while dodging the judgements…this blog is to say I’m with you honey!!  🙂   If you think I’m insane for trying to do the things that I do….this blog will probably prove you are correct!  I never claimed I was sane.  And if you are in judgement of me or other women trying to keep the balance…well I’m sure this blog will be just one more thing for you to judge.  Do what you do!!  But remember that you never know the whole story.  You never know what someone is really going through.  Try asking instead of judging.  If you feel you have all the answers to balancing someone elses life then try helping them with that instead of pointing fingers and criticizing.  Just a thought. 

At the end of the day you have to live your life with as few regrets as possible doing what YOU feel is the right thing and what works for you and your family.   Bask in the blessings, accept and learn from the challenges and disappointments, and continue on your journey. 

Much love and light,

Janice B.

**special thanks to the many people holding me up while I try to keep the balance..teetering!

Happy Birthday to meeeee!

Okay yeah so I know I haven’t blogged in a while.  Figured I’d give it a whirl tonight. 

October 24th… I turn 45 years old.  Nothing too spectacular about that.  But it was surprising to me to be told by a few that I shouldn’t tell how old I am.  “You don’t look 45 so you don’t even have to tell people…no one would ever know.” 

I know that there are a lot of people, mostly women, in the entertainment field who try very hard to appear younger than they really are.  I find this very sad.  It is true that the industry is tough.  Hard for women over 30 to “compete” with new, much younger artists.  Actresses lose leading parts to younger women.  Silicone, Restylane, botox, collagen lips prevail in the over 35 crowd in Hollywood.  Even younger artists are going to extreme measures to look “better”.  (for the record..Lil Kim, Mariah, Meg Ryan, Cher..all of you looked better with your real noses, lips, and cheeks..IMHO) 

But this isn’t a blog about plastic surgery.  I’m not trying to judge because people need to do what they feel is right for them.  But as for me, right now at age 45 I am comfortable in my skin..wrinkles and all.  The lines on my face are from decades of  smiling, laughing my ass off (actually my ass is still there!) and loving life.  I have scars on my body that map out all the crazy tomboy stuff I have done (and still do).  On my 18th birthday I walked away from a car crash that should have killed me and I have some physical reminders of that.  But those pains and scars remind me that I’m blessed to be walking at all.  Yeah I’m not as “perky” as I once was perhaps but I am a whole hell of a lot smarter and more confident than I was at 25.  Quite frankly at 25 I was an idiot.  LOL  They say youth is wasted on the young.  There couldn’t be a truer statement!

Okay so I have a little advantage.  I have genetics on my side.  I come from a long line of women who do not look their age.  But I also come from a long line of women who became more amazing as they got older.  I have yet to see a female as badassed as my grandma on the piano!!  🙂 

Even at 45 I am constantly evolving and growing as a person and as an artist.  At 35 I hadn’t even thought about recording a song.  I would say that I’ve done more in 10 years than a lot of folks do their entire lives. 

So that’s enough rambling.  Ladies the greatest birthday gift you can give yourself is to be able to look in the mirror and love what you see.  I won’t say I’m 100% there yet.  We all have things we want to improve upon.  But I’m proud of who I am.  I’ve earned every wrinkle.  Be the best you can be and make no excuses for it.  And like I’ve said before….if the people in your life don’t appreciate you for who you are…if they don’t think you are beautiful….please don’t change YOU…change the people in your life! 

Much love….

Janice B.

Artist vs. Musician…my former life in a cover band.

Hello,

I know I am late on what I originally intended to be a weekly blog posting from me.  Sorry!  I told you I was bad with blogging!

Anyway let me start this blog with a disclaimer: This blog is in no way putting down musicians who are out there in wedding bands, cover bands, doing cruise ship gigs, etc.  I have mad respect for musicians who do their own material, are out there hustling and trying to promote their CDs… all while also gigging with a cover band doing corporate gigs and weddings to bring in money and make a living.  It’s hard work.  Personally I have made the decision to hang on to my 9 to 5 job while doing my own material, writing, and performing.  I respect the artists and musicians who will take any wedding or corporate gig to make a living …I’m just not one of them.   

Okay back to the business at hand.  Artist vs. Musician. 

When I was in the band Intuition from 2003-2008 (btw the pic above is the band in 2005) we did a lot of cover songs.  You pretty much have to when you are playing in bars, etc. because unless you are doing a small feature set, people don’t want to hear 2 hours of your originals unless you already have a big fan base and even then not so much.  LOL   And let’s face it..most new bands don’t have 2 hours of originals.  But we initially formed the band as a vehicle to perform some of our original songs and throw in some neo-soul covers too.  That was the original plan.  And the good thing was that WE chose the cover songs that WE wanted to do.  So if you came to see Intuition it was a show.  We weren’t a dance band.  We weren’t going to have everyone up doing the electric slide (unless they were really drunk!).  You came to see us because you liked our sets..you liked our style and diversity.   This was going pretty well for a while until the conversation came up about us doing weddings and private gigs to make money. 

I’m sorry..I’m just not a wedding singer.  I got into songwriting with the idea of performing my own songs and possibly writing for other artists as well.  Not once did the idea of singing Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” because it’s some groom’s Uncle Charlie’s favorite song cross my mind, ya know?  I’m not singing “Celebrate” or “The Macarena” either.  (and you don’t want to know about the Hokie Pokie, okay?)

Let me say that most wedding singers have AMAZING voices.  They can cover a wide range of artists and that is very hard to do.  I on the other hand do not have an AMAZING voice.  Okay I’m not putting myself down…I just know that I don’t have that clear as a bell beautiful big range broadway bound voice.  My voice is different and yes that is a good thing.  It’s smokey (so I’m told), raspy, low in register….so unless you want a whole wedding set of Sade, Diana Krall, and Cassandra Wilson songs….I’m not the singer for you. 

I also do music because I want to do it.  So the idea of singing songs I hate for money is not something I desire to ever do.  Here’s where the band started to move apart.  One member got mad and said “you mean to tell me you wouldn’t sing “Celebrate” for $1000?”  That’s EXACTLY what I’m saying.  Now don’t get me wrong, I will sing it right now if you hand me $1000.00 (LOL) but I mean I am not going to spend time rehearsing, loading equipment, unloading it, setting it up, sound check, being the super happy excited wedding announcer (which is what the band usually ends up being) AND singing songs I hate for $1000.00.  Got it?  I have NO desire to do that. 

I said “I’m an artist.  I want to create songs and perform them.”  Well since some band members just wanted to perform and get paid, some considered it a weekend hobby (unless wifey had other plans), and some were of my mindset, needless to say….the band didn’t work out.  After a year of rehearsing for gigs that we had to end up cancelling, we were done.  I was done for sure..but part of me was still holding on.  I put all of myself into it so when it disintegrated after 5 years I had a hard time with it.  And writing songs for real was new to me.  This band was the only musical outlet I had.  These musicians were the only ones I really knew.  So what was I gonna do now?  It was a dark time.  But it was eye-opening.  I didn’t know how to achieve what I wanted….but I knew what I didn’t want.  And I knew I was an artist first.   

There are people who have played music their whole lives.  All they want to do is be up in front of a crowd singing or playing anything just basking in the joy of music and adulation from the crowd and getting paid for it.  Doing what they love for a living!  You can’t beat that.  Some of these musicians aren’t songwriters.  They just want to play.  That was my grandmother and she loved making folks happy playing their favorite songs and she was really good at it.    

There are others who write their own material and also make a living playing in cover bands doing weddings, corporate events, etc. and still manage to do their own shows to promote their material.  These folks really HUSTLE.   

Then there’s me.  Not sure how I fit in all of this.  I love performing…love the interaction with a live band…love it when people feel what you do and the audience comes out just to see YOU or hear your new songs.  That’s a blessing.  But the creative process is equally as important to me and without it I couldn’t survive.  I don’t mind throwing some cover songs in a show but the focus of the show needs to be the songs that I have created.  That is what brings me the most joy.  Crafting a song from an idea is something that I have to do.  It’s a part of who I am.  And singing in a wedding band would kill that for me.  It’s just not me.  And I find myself having to explain this to people a lot. 

“You like to sing why don’t you go audition for a dinner theater?”  Ummm because I don’t want to sing show tunes, don’t want to wear costumes and do dance steps, don’t want to do the same material every night for months, AND wait tables.  No thanks.  That’s not me.  “Well why don’t you get some musicians together and see if you can get some gigs for parties and weddings and make some money?”  Uhh because I am trying to do my own material and promote my CD and get my name out there as a songwriter.  I don’t want my name out there as the girl in cousin Betty’s wedding band who sounded just like Sade!!  What’s her name again?? 

I had a recent conversation with a friend on Facebook, a fellow musician who does his own material.  He had an epiphany onstage one night and realized that he hated what he was doing.  He hated playing these songs that weren’t his.  He decided to quit right that evening and focus on his own material.  That’s a huge decision.  It’s scary as hell to walk away from that income….but it’s also liberating.   And I understand completely.  I was blessed in the fact that letting go of the band opened up more possibilities for me.  People were put in my path that I might never have met or noticed had I not let go of the band.  And I look around me now and can’t believe that I’m working with these amazing artists and I can’t imagine being any place else.

Okay I’ve blabbed enough….until next time..

JB