About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb

Note: Make no mistake. “About A Breakup” is a story of hope and overcoming adversity. In order to experience a breakthrough, you must experience a breakdown first. Don’t get all caught up in the tragedy. Understand that any descriptions of tragic events are written  for the purpose of illustrating the breakthroughs which will follow. Stay with me, friends.

Tyson QuoteI’m standing alone in the small parking lot of a local nature trail. I hear her peel out with a vengeance, that engine madly revving like a speed dragster that can’t get out of first gear, fading slowly until the only sound remaining is the wind moving through the trees. I start the first of a half dozen laps around the entire park.

I had a plan on this day, which turned into an expectation (bad idea). A solid plan with no holes. A plan that did not involve guilt-stricken explanations or crying or screaming tires punishing the black top. Or second thoughts.

A few hours before, we are wandering to the end of the trail, discussing light topics like the kids, and work, before moving on to deeper things, and the biggest shouting match we’d ever had. She apologizes for some of the things she’d said in anger recently. I apologize as well. I am positive she knows where this is going. I’m wrong. 

“I’m tired,” I say. “I’m tired of this tension. I’m tired of arguing. I’m tired of being in purgatory with our relationship.”

I watch as she comes to realize the conversation about to transpire. We’d had breakup conversations many times before, but this one is different. The threat feels imminent. I watch her go into shock and shut down. The details are fuzzy. I recall her telling me to go ahead and cut the cord.

“What’s there to talk about?” she scoffs. “If we’re breaking up, let’s break up.”

I find myself getting furious at the ball being in my court. Again. In retrospect, I see her need for closure, to leave no chance of getting sucked back in, of false hope. I get it. She would later admit that she’d felt the same way for a while, and would apologize for projecting her anger onto me.

“So I guess that’s it then.” She picks up her bag and begins the laborious trudge back to the entrance. I catch up and walk beside her. I feel like a traitor, and this will become one of the biggest personal challenges in the days to come: overcoming my mind’s compelling argument that I’m a bad person and a failure (I DID overcome; stay with me, don’t get caught up in the bad shit).

I watch her move from sadness to despondency, from despondency to fury; Irish-Italian Catholic fury. I’d witnessed this unique fury exactly three times in the six years I’d known her, twice toward another, once toward me. In each instance, I briefly feared for the life of the party on the receiving end.

When we finally reach the parking lot, she gets into her car and asks me if there’s anything else. I make a half-assed effort to have her see that we’ve exhausted every option. Didn’t we try everything? I realize I’m speaking as much to myself as I am to her. Regardless, she’s not listening. She mutters a goodbye under her breath before speeding away.

In the half dozen laps I make around the park afterward, I recall the futility of attaching oneself to an expectation, and the power of creating possibility. Expectations are static. You lose, you fail. You win, you realize it’s nothing special. Possibility, on the other hand, is different. You lose, you create a new possibility. You win, you create a new possibility.

Though I don’t believe it in that moment (remember, just because it sucks now doesn’t mean it will always suck), in the days to come, I will recover. And I will conquer. And so will she.

Somewhere in the distant past, I sold myself on the belief that there’s not a tragedy in this life that will make me give up. You have to decide that sort of thing BEFORE tragedy strikes. 11055343_10206828659705775_5582084695053198937_oI shared that belief with some of my closest peers and mentors, who true to their commitment to love and support their fellow human beings, incessantly and tirelessly reminded me that this is who I am. A survivor. A gladiator. Fearless. And the same applies to you who are reading this. Stand on me. It DOES get better. I swear.

Look for “About A Breakup, Part 4 of 5: The Fallout.”

Cheers.

About A Breakup, Part 2 of 5: Courage (The Cold War)

Note: Make no mistake. “About A Breakup” is a story of hope and overcoming adversity. In order to experience a breakthrough, you must experience a breakdown first. Don’t get all caught up in the tragedy. Understand that any descriptions of tragic events are written  for the purpose of illustrating the breakthroughs which will follow. Stay with me, friends.

Sometime in January of 2015, as I recall, I depart Alex’s (my fiancé’s) house as usual to start my week’s nursing work rotation. Moments before, I had hugged and kissed her as http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/alan-alda/images/26135914/title/alan-alda-photoshe left to begin HER nursing night shift. After her departure, as I’d done a hundred times before, I hugged Zeke, the sweetest dog ever, kissed his floppy ear, gave him a treat, locked Alex’s house, and departed.

Shortly after leaving her driveway, I’m struck with a trepidation, a panic. Call it a dark premonition. I have a momentarily vivid vision of life without Alex, of splitting up, of the relationship we’d built coming to an end.

She calls a little while later to make sure I’d left on time to get ample sleep. I mention the premonition to her, the fear still lingering, my voice unsteady. We chat about it briefly, and she assures me (as I’d grown accustomed to assuring so many friends and mentees), that no matter what, it will all work out.

About a year prior, we had begun to carry on some deep discussions with regard to the future of our relationship, having become engaged to be married. I know, I know. Work your shit out BEFORE popping the question. I think we’d found a peace with moving forward, even if every single minute detail wasn’t hammered out. Nonetheless, we found ourselves ebbing and flowing through some challenging conversations, and my heart was uneasy.

We would discuss, create a plan for how to generate new possibilities within the relationship, work the plan, and return to security and comfort. But we’d always somehow find ourselves back to being distanced, with lingering tension. So we’d discuss again. Make a plan again. Experience security and comfort for a time, and the distance would return. Again.

I had a few more of those random dark premonitions, each as vivid as the last. But I became well-versed in burying those gut feelings. It was too painful to think about. Envisioning all we’d worked for, and all the shit we’d have to deal with if we actually DID break up: relocating, the kids, the emotional aftermath, discussions with family, etc. I don’t recall how long I buried what my gut was saying, but it was a number of months at least. I went to great lengths to avoid what my gut was telling me. I feared the pain of change, despite the ultimate potential for happiness.

So I repeatedly resisted the urge to explore what was creating this unrest between us. I suppressed my intuition. If any feeling crept up that I couldn’t explain and centered around the future of our relationship, I avoided it like a drug seeker avoids Tylenol and NSAIDS. Again. And again. And again. In retrospect, though our relationship wasn’t what I would consider whole or complete (because WE weren’t whole and complete with ourselves, as I would discover), there was plenty about it that worked, we were comfortable, and neither of us was willing to challenge that. 

Somewhere around July 2015, the tension rose. We had a few heated arguments. I was angry at her for always putting the ball in my court to make a decision about where we stood. Of course, I should have been equally as angry at myself for doing the same damned thing. It’s like neither of us wanted to be the one to pull the trigger.

There was a ton of inner conflict and anxiety Waiting For The Wordwhile considering this choice. It’s like tapping into more courage than you can ever remember, in order to move on your gut instinct in pursuit of happiness, all the while praying that your gut instinct is wrong. 

I didn’t have it all worked out. I didn’t have it all tied down. But in late July 2015, with no particular reason other than I wasn’t happy (hell, can anyone explain gut instinct?), I made plans to break off the engagement with Alex. I think I reached a point where I just couldn’t ignore what my intuition was telling me any longer. It would be a lesson in dealing with failed expectations and navigating angry reactions (that make you briefly consider whether you’ll be getting out of the conversation alive, or as a ghost whose murder will be the topic of discussion for years to come). It DOES get better. I swear.

Look for “About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb” next.

Cheers.

A Quick And Dirty Guide To Happiness

WARNING: Explicit language may or may not exist in this post. If that sort of thing offends you, well, choose for it not to. I find that a little colorful language is liberating, helps drive the point home at times, and also expresses the nature of being human.

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Of all the people I’ve coached and mentored, of all the human behavior that I’ve observed, of all my experiences and reflections, from all the psych and sociology I’ve studied, from all the choices I’ve made (both powerful and shitty), and from the various self-improvement courses I’ve undergone, there’s a central question that makes itself known pretty regularly to me, and it usually goes something  like this:

What’s the key to personal happiness?

And if it’s addressed directly to me, it’s usually followed by

Make it quick. I have things to do. You’ve got five minutes.

So in the spirit of quick and dirty, here goes:

Step 1 – Define what you want. 

Step 2 – Do it.

The end.

OK, for those of you who might be interested in a slightly extended version of the above steps:

Step 1 – Define what you want. As Tim Ferriss states in The 4-Hour Workweek:

For all their bitching about what’s holding them back, most people have a lot of trouble coming up with the defined dreams they’re being held from.

I  happen to believe that it’s purely fear that paralyzes human beings from declaring what they want. As long as it’s floating around within the confines of your own mind, you have nothing to risk and nothing to gain. You can simply daydream about it without any accountability to step outside of your comfort zone. It’s happiness purgatory if you ask me. It’s warm and fuzzy and logical. But once you declare it, oh shit. It’s on. Are you shaking in your boots, yet? You should be.

Tell me something. How the royal hell can you skydive, or travel to Tahiti, or get a black belt, or learn a foreign language, or sell all that useless shit that clutters your garage, or leave your deadbeat job, when you can’t even SAY where you want to dine out on a Sunday afternoon, for God’s sake?

Step 2 – Do it. Oh shit. You’ve opened your big mouth and declared what you want. People think you’re weird. You’ve been ostracized. All for choosing the restaurant for Sunday lunch, and now everyone else in your lunch party thinks you’re a complete selfish asshole because you were the only who didn’t say “I don’t care where we eat.”

Here’s a tip about taking action after you’ve declared your intentions: MOVE YOUR ASS, DESPITE WHAT YOUR BRAIN IS TELLING YOU. By this point it is completely full of shit and screaming all the reasons why you shouldn’t be proceeding, like a safety rep in the emergency medical department, explaining to the nurses why they should wait to pump lactated ringers into the bleeding patient who is ten minutes from death, because it’s safest to chart everything beforehand.

A few weeks ago, I made a declaration on a personal goal. My action plan requires harsh workouts, and ingesting so many calories per day that food has completely lost its pleasure, and I occasionally have to suppress the urge to vomit. The same urge to vomit is usually present after workouts, too. And do you know what my brain says every single day?

Stay put. This is way too hard. Have a day off. You deserve it.

And do you know what I tell my brain every single day? STFU. That’s what. I’m not in the business of declaring something with no intent to deliver. During last week’s vacation, after a night of extreme good times and fantastical memories, I dragged my sleep-deprived aching carcass to the gym on workout day with a mild hangover. Do you know what my brain was screaming the whole time? You get the picture.

To pull a quote from a previous post about the current pursuit of a music career:

True, passionate, amazing life isn’t for the polished, the refined, the flawless. It’s for getting dirty, making mistakes, and loving yourself and those around you all the more for it. 

Define what you want in life, my friends. And go after it like death is on your heels. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hurt, you’ll fall flat on your face, and you’ll climb the highest mountains, and you’ll LIVE. To the arena, my fellow gladiators. Don’t tell me what you’re capable of. Show me. Cheers.

First Album Release and the Quest For Perfection (Which Is BS, By The Way)

Superglue NightmareI’m thrilled to have just rereleased the Superglue Nightmare Demos, number one of my first three albums released from 2002 to 2009. These albums are raw and far from perfect, and after enough internal conflict and angst to fill three psych wards and still have enough left over for both sides of the Caitlyn Jenner debate, I’ve yet again found myself fumbling (and occasionally just walking) down the path of self discovery. Current life lesson: Peace with imperfection. Let’s discuss this elusive bitch, er, beast that is “perfection.” It’s a pandemic that has infected every human mind in history at some point or another.

We humans have this obsession with flawlessness, with the way things SHOULD be, but aren’t. Then at some point, we have this big revelation and decide that being flawless is crap, and we’re not going to give a shit about our flaws anymore! What you see is what you get! Then we have a meltdown because we realize we’re not flawless at being cool with our flaws. So then we do some yoga or meditate or pray or stab our spouse or something, after which we arrive at a peace with our newfound discovery: that everything ALREADY IS flawless, for better or for worse! Perfection! We just didn’t see it before! And that makes us better than you, because you haven’t made that particular discovery yet. But it’s OK, young Grasshopper. Here, you can bask in our flawless glow. 

In December 2014, you may have read my post about splitting with a promising record label. In January 2015, after dealing with some frustration, I picked myself up again and started making plans for a Kickstarter campaign to fund the remainder of my half-finished Tripp Powell & Co. debut album, Vintage Revival. I also began working on a publicity album entitled The Shotgun Sampler. The premise of The Shotgun Sampler was to put a few original songs from each of my first three albums onto one compilation for distribution. The album was so named for the manner in which I intended to release the compilation: quickly, without worrying about over polishing it, just to give fans a sense of my original sound. I’ll give you three guesses to see where this is going.

So four months later, I’m still working on the finer points of this “quick” album release, finding myself averaging 4-5 hours of crappy sleep per night, sucking down one to two energy shots per day, juggling my paying job (nursing) and my non-paying job (music), in the middle of my worst ulcerative colitis flare ever, frail and sickly. It took me that damned long to admit to myself and to everyone else that I was stressed out of my mind. After all, I’m the positivity guru, right? I’m beyond stress . . . cough, cough, BS!, cough, cough. And the ultimate stressor? DELUSIONAL SEARCH FOR PERFECTION. I found myself completely sold on the notion that this musical venture should be flawless, perfect and without mistakes. Are you starting to smell what I’m stepping in?

So once again, I picked myself up (side note: NEVER GIVE UP; thank you John Eliopolo), checked myself into the ER for a jump start to wellness, started therapy with a great new GI doc, picked up the kettlebell once again and started putting on the muscle with an old trusty (and absolutely brutal) weight gain regimen (thank you, Time Ferriss and Pavel Tsatsouline), and took the following detours:

  1. The Shotgun Sampler can go to hell, or at least collect dust on an earthly shelf for a while.
  2. All three of my first albums will be hitting online stores, starting with the Superglue Nightmare Demos. Look for the next two in the coming months. They each have imperfections, and dammit, I’m cool with that.
  3. Vintage Revival will be postponed, but is still very much alive. I’m leaning toward giving Kickstarter another shot later this year for funding.
  4. In the words of my good friend and mentor Javier Silva: “Get your shit out there and start playing live! Get messy! Make some mistakes!”

My friends, we human beings have the misconception that there is a way life SHOULD be, which causes us to resent and to resist the way life IS. Consider my notion that this musical venture SHOULD BE flawless, perfect and without mistakes. See where it got me? A pretty fair shot at taste testing different soil types and contributing to flower growth, if you catch what I’m saying. Have a look into where you expect perfection, or where you try your best to portray it. True, passionate, amazing life isn’t for the polished, the refined, the flawless. It’s for getting dirty, making mistakes, and loving yourself and those around you all the more for it. 

“I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking of making some more.” -Cheryl Cole

Tripp Powell & Co. are rehearsing and gearing up for live shows in the near future. If you’re itching to get your hands on a copy of the Superglue Nightmare Demos pronto (and you should be!), you can find it here. Expect it on iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Amazon and all other major music outlets soon. Cheers.

Losing My Record Deal: Pressing On

Back Porch PhotographyMy friends, this is a story of triumph, success, inspiration, passion and the ultimate life. And it hasn’t been written yet. Join me on a journey, for I am going to show you how to get anything you want out of life. Well, now that the lofty promises are out of the way, I have no choice but to deliver on what I’ve declared, because I’m not in the business of blowing smoke up your proverbial arses. (Also, FYI, I’m officially scared shitless).

Here’s the back story: On August 24, 2014, I publicly announced that after a several-year music hiatus, I was approached by a local record label and had accepted an offer to sign on for a record and performance deal. A week before, I’d told the label CEO that I wouldn’t say “yes” unless I was prepared to go all out. I took a week to mull it over, to sift through my fears, and then I pulled the trigger. I hit the ground running at full speed. In a matter of a few months, I auditioned many musicians, put together a band, found a recording engineer, lined up a photo shoot, created a Facebook page, started an account on Reverb Nation, set up a recording session and more, all while maintaining my full time job as an ER nurse.

The day before the recording session began, my manager notified me that one of their other artists had filed a legal dispute against the record label. I ended up unexpectedly borrowing money to fund the first session out of pocket. Several weeks later, the label CEO regretfully informed me that the legal dispute had dealt a crushing blow, and they would likely be shutting down. We made the unfortunate mutual decision to abolish contracts and part ways with business. I wish my ex-manager well, and he continues to serve as a consultant.

Alas, my friends, I cannot count the number of times I’ve faced adversity in this life and thrown in the towel. With music, with jobs, with school, with start-up businesses, with relationships, I have a history of giving up at the first sign of challenge. My historic motto has always been,

When the going gets tough, look for the nearest exit.

Ultimately, I accepted that this is who I am, and I’m OK with that. I took all this as a sign that despite my passion for writing, for touching souls with music, for inspiring people with my songs, for creating electric unity through live performances, I just wasn’t meant to be a full-time musician. It was worth a shot. And then I politely thanked that particular train of thought for sharing its useless opinion and invited it to go to hell. I’m Tripp (enter preferred expletive) Powell. See this post for how I discovered fearlessness.

My friends, we are not weak, frail beings, despite what the press and the world relentlessly try to convince you, and despite what you may tell yourself. We are powerful people who are completely capable of creating lives that we love. Losing a record deal presents a PERFECT opportunity for me to represent that. I’ve told so many of you about what transformations I’ve experienced over the last few years. I am transformed, and I’m inviting you to experience creating a dream as it unfolds in real time, label or no label, and not for my sake alone. I aim to inspire you to do the same for your dream.

Don’t just be a spectator. Jump in. Get tenacious and unreasonable. Be done with dreaming for dreaming’s sake. Be done with getting by, surviving. Be done with getting out of bed every day for the simple reason that you didn’t die during the night. With that mentality, you may as well be dead. Shall we die as bystanders, playing it safe in this game of life? Or shall we die dirty, bruised, battered, bleeding, winded, AND ALIVE!

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
And cut him ’til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving,” but the fighter still remains.    -Paul Simon

Dream big. Live bigger. (And stay tuned).

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