Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm having a good day! The sun is shining, it's a beautiful, warm fall Saturday, I just got my laundry done, I'm going to see a movie later... Fucking awesome. One reason why I'm feeling so good is that things have been moving forward with the production of my album. It took me a while to get comfortable in the studio, to not get hostile, defensive or detached, (yes, unfortunately I've been all these all things at different times) but I think I've finally been able to move beyond my fears and go on to create some beautiful music with my producer Blake Morgan, on a consistent basis.

Working on my music has a lot of heavy baggage attached to it, because I used to make all my albums with a person who I was also married to. (This is no secret.) At first, I expected the current process to be similar to what it had been in the past, back when I was not encouraged to be a part of the process. I will give you an example of a studio-day during the recording of my Sony album in 1998: I would sit on the sofa at the studio, reading Cosmopolitan or sleeping all day and all night, until 4am in the morning when the recordings ended. At another session I would be playing Ms. Pacman all day. I was anything but behind the console and was very detached from the production itself. This, even though I am marked as the executive producer of my albums. It happens, people.

Being in the studio now is different like night and day from what it used to be. My producer Blake Morgan and I are very much a team, and I feel like I'm being listened to at every turn. I also wrote every tune from top to bottom, so the roots of all the songs are in me anyway--can't no one take them away. And by the way, no Cosmopolitans anywhere in the vicinity! Hehe. I feel free to express my ideas with Blake, whatever they may be, and know that I won't be ridiculed or ignored. I am constantly encouraged to do more, to play more myself and to follow my vision. It's all I've ever wanted: the encouragement, the empowerment. I'm gobbling it up.

It took some time to develop trust, as working in the studio is a very intimate process, but I think we're finally there. It can be challenging to see a new, healthy and fun situation for what it is, instead of hanging all my old "Christmas-ornaments" on it, but it's worth the effort. Looking forward to some fun and productive times in the studio!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I have now finished the first couple of days of a trial, after having been picked on Wednesday to be a juror in a court case. The whole concept is new to me and I'm learning so much from the experience, but alas I cannot share any information whatsoever about the proceedings, so as not to compromise the case, or get slapped with a penalty. I can say that I'm looking forward to being a part of the process and the deliberations, which may or may not be similar to what goes on in the movie "12 Angry Men." I eagerly anticipate watching it again after many years, now with some personal insight to the American judicial system. It'll be quite a different experience for me than when I read and saw it in school, at age 12 or 13.

This is one of those moments where I am extremely grateful for my bilingual education. I went to the English School in Helsinki for 11 years of my life, and I can honestly say that without those early years of consistent training in the English language, my life in New York these days would be quite different. I can thank those years for instilling in me my love of the English language and a great foundation in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. I still have an accent, but I feel quite confident in my communication skills these days. It is my Finnish skills that I really need to be working on right about now....

If it weren't for my history at the English School, I suspect it would be difficult for me to serve on an American jury today. And yet, at the same time, here I am--not even having finished high school! Who am I to talk about education? Well, the amount that I did receive, I received well. And I certainly want to study more and expand my horizons for the rest of my life. I have come to see very clearly that the adage about education being the silver bullet is no joke. I'm admittedly making up for lost time.

Here's one area where I am extremely grateful to my parents: for understanding that learning a second language at a very young age was important. There are many things that can be said about the school I attended as a child, and not all of it is positive. I certainly remember numerous traumatic experiences and injustices, and I'm sure I'm not alone with these recollections. But I've also put plenty of the lessons I learned to good use. And as with any experience, I can always take what I like and leave the rest; I am learning that now. I can finally apply that to my old school and heartily appreciate the gifts it has given me, "12 Angry Men" among them. I've now officially opened the wrappings.

"The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

This morning I gave a 15-minute speech about my experiences, strength and hope to a room of about 40-50 people. I spoke candidly about sensitive and quite personal subjects, but it felt empowering, and I received an unbelievable amount of love back from my listeners. I am coming to realize that being vulnerable is powerful!

Public speaking used to freak me out more than anything else. Even as I've been performing on and off for the last 20 years of my life as a singer, for a long time it scared the hell out of me to say anything between the songs. In the performing arts-high school I attended in Finland, us students were even offered a class in public speaking, and not in a million years would it have occurred to me to take it. I was too damn scared! I had always been terrified to speak up, probably because on many occasions I had been ridiculed or dismissed when doing so. This blog has given me an opportunity to finally begin to express my thoughts and who I am--a little at first, and more and more as I've gone on. Gradually I have summoned up the courage to physically open my mouth as well.

During my recent concerts I have started to communicate with my audience in a whole new way. My speeches, which used to be somewhat of a liability at my concerts, are becoming a way for me to connect with people in an ever deeper way. Dare I say it: my speaking has started to feel to me potentially as powerful as the music itself.

When I was 14 years old, and a big star in my home country Finland, I received a letter from a 12-year-old fan of mine named Riitta, who was in the hospital being treated for terminal cancer. Her wish was that I visit her at the hospital, and sure enough I went--I was honored to be asked. I was probably as shy as she was; I remember our encounter well. Had I not been as socially awkward as I was at that age, I would've liked to spend a lot more time talking to her. And I would have sung more than a mere verse and a chorus...hehe. Our meeting didn't last very long, and unfortunately neither did her life. I received a letter after her death from her mother saying that Riitta talked about me regularly until her passing. Sounds to me like my existence in this world had affected her life as much as hers did mine.

Ever since my encounter with Riitta, I still often think of her. I remember feeling a true sense of purpose after our brief meeting, and since then I have always had a calling to help others, in whatever simple way I can. Public speaking, quite surprisingly, is becoming one way to do that, and I see much more of it in my future. Sometimes the things you fear the most, eventually reward you like nothing else would. Like a dear friend of mine, Robin Morgan, says: "the wall (of fear) is paper mache, not brick." I think she might be right.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Reality vs. "Reality"

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Reality is reality. Like a friend of mine says: we can sit and debate about whether the concert was any good, but we can't debate the number of musicians on stage. And yet, I've grown up around many people who have told me, despite my full knowledge otherwise, that there were five musicians on stage, when there clearly were only three. It makes me angry to even write this. When there are enough people around you, telling you whatever lie feels useful to them on any given day, it makes you question your sanity.

And I have questioned my sanity. So many times. But I'm coming to a place in my life where my reality (=reality) is not up for grabs anymore. I see it, I'm in it, it exists. There are facts, there is gravity, there is clarity.  And I fucking love it! This is why I am so into science these days--why I'm into astronomy and physics and even math! For a girl who used to be afraid of being sucked up into the sky, even an elementary understanding of gravity is a powerful thing. And by the way, that's how fuzzy reality has been for me at some point.

There is pain in knowing that I can never again trust some people, who I have trusted unconditionally for much of my life. But there is also freedom. It is a heavy load, yes, but I carry it willingly and consciously.

“Last night I wept. I wept because the process by which I have become woman was painful. I wept because I was no longer a child with a child's blind faith. I wept because my eyes were opened to reality....I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence.”
― Anaïs Nin, Henry and June: From "A Journal of Love"--The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin