Saturday, August 16, 2014

my birthday blog for 2014!!!

It’s my birthday, and it’s become somewhat of a tradition that I write an annual birthday blog, sort of a taking stock of the past year and looking forward with intention to what’s in store in the coming year.

I don’t mind telling you that I began my celebrating a few hours shy of my actual birthday, with friends and food and a whole lotta love aimed in my direction.

So to begin with, I am grateful beyond words for the incredible people who bless my life by merely being it. And here’s a hint: if you’re reading this, that’s you, whether I’ve even met you or not.

This past year has supplied me with a lot of opportunities for growth. That’s a nice way of saying it’s been really, really hard. But I think that with challenges always come rewards, and sometimes the reward is realizing you’re made of tougher stuff than you realized. It is not Pollyanna to say there is beauty even in the darker moments. That’s a decision you make to look for it and to find it. And it is not for the faint of heart.

As I write this, I am nearing the completion of recording my new CD, In Color. This has been a dream of mine for many years, and so to see it coming to fruition, and to have the chance to work with people I respect and admire and just plain love, is a thrill beyond description.

For those of you who have been on this journey with me and supported it, I will never be able to tell you what it has meant to me to know that so many people stand with me in delivering a musical message of hope, and perseverance, of gratitude and following your dreams, listening to your heart, and taking a huge leap of faith. I don’t think there has ever been a time when those messages were more needed than right now.

As we get older, we start contemplating what our legacy is, what we’d like to be known and remembered for in the world. And no, I’m not planning on going anywhere any time soon, but I do think about the imprint left and in what ways, if any, I’ve made things better for having been here.

Some people think life is random and meaningless. I would be the opposite of that. I think it’s all meaningful, miraculous, and as God-driven as we allow it to be.

So as I begin this next year of my life, I want to express gratitude for every day I’ve lived. For all the people I’ve met and joy I’ve experienced. For those I’ve loved who are gone and for those who remain.

It is my hope, prayer, and intention that both my work and my life are an example of love, compassion, peace, joy, and forgiveness, and that the work I most love doing will abundantly provide for my every need. (I know all my artist friends out there share that last one with me!)

May I never miss an opportunity to be kind.
May I always remember to say “thank you.”
And may everyone reading this know that I love them.

Thank you for stopping by on my birthday.

Xo
Ilene

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

a final offering

It’s been 48 hours since I heard the news of Robin Williams’ death, and though that scarcely seems like enough time to wrap my head around referring to his life in the past tense, the entire world seems to have weighed in, whether using his end as a cautionary tale or in some way paying tribute to the man and his work.

Doctors and assorted other “experts” have tried to explain, to make sense of the unthinkable, while others have judged and condemned the act of suicide as one of selfishness.

Me, I feel raw, shaken, more fragile, and keenly aware that the world is a sadder place without his big, beautiful spirit.

To most, Robin Williams’ suicide was a shock of epic proportion. I do not know why it wasn’t that way for me. Instead, I felt an overwhelming sense of “Ah yes, Robin, I understand, though I wish it weren’t so.”

It would never have been a good time for him to go, even if he had lived to be a hundred and died of natural causes. Such was the enormity of his gift…and such was the hunger we possessed for what he had to offer.

That he left us a body of work that captured and encapsulated his greatness, is a present we should be grateful for. That he left before giving us more of it, says more about our own selfishness than his, really.

I know I go against the grain on this, but I believe he did what he came here to do, even in his passing, if by it we grow kinder toward one another and more compassionate and aware that every single one of us carries around a silent pain that the world likely knows nothing about.

People are astonished that success, fame, wealth, and accolades could not somehow temper the effects of an illness that existed before, during, and after the attainment of those things – as if any of that is really what makes even the healthiest among us happy. It doesn’t.

The truth is we all want to be known, heard, understood and loved in spite of and because of who we are. But none of that can truly exist without us first giving the gift of that knowing, hearing, understanding and loving to ourselves. You can’t be at war with yourself and at peace with the world around you.

So I think Robin Williams’ final offering to us is who we become now that we know the magnitude of human suffering that exists among us. Can we be kinder? Can we judge less and love more? Can we be with each other, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when we don’t know what to say, even when it’s inconvenient? Will we take the time out of our busyness to realize time is so very fleeting? Will we do what we need to in order to be happy in our lives, knowing that we are not guaranteed even one more day?

Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” has always been one of my favorites. However, tonight, I feel like the point is really to be the love we wish to see in the world.

It is always the right time to be kind. It is never too soon to care. And laughter is a holy present, given freely to us to sweeten the journey that we’re on while we’re on it.

It is my prayer that the peace and relief he sought has found Robin Williams now, and that he can feel the love and appreciation that permeates those of us on both sides of the veil separating this world from the next.

Thank you for stopping by, and please know that you are loved.

Peace & Blessings,

Ilene

Friday, July 25, 2014

the right Facebook algorithm

Every time I go on Facebook these days, someone has posted a new quiz, promising to tell me everything from the color of my aura to which U.S. president I’d be.

I don’t take every single quiz, because, let’s face it, I’ve got things to do, but I have taken some of them and these are some of the things I’ve learned about myself from these hocus-pocus-fancy-shmancy-facebook-algorighms:

Shockingly, my occupation should be that of a writer, with a North Eastern accent. (Really glad I didn’t come up as a Pakistani chemical engineer, because that would’ve called into question pretty much all of my life choices.)

If I were a poet, I’d be Rainer Maria Rilke (a very nice assessment – once I googled what he’d written).

Which President? JFK, of course! And in my past life, I was a Greek philosopher. (That one completely bolstered my intellectual self esteem.)

If I were a state, I’d be California. (I’ll be taking up surfing immediately now that I know this.)

If I were a comedian, I’d be Chris Rock, which I take issue with, because I see myself as way more George Carlin or Tina Fey, only I can’t remember if either of them were even in the comedic survey as options. I suppose I should just be thankful I didn’t come up as Rodney Dangerfield and leave it at that.

My Sex and the City character - Carrie Bradshaw. While I don’t have proof of this, I think everyone comes up as Carrie Bradshaw. You can let me know if you came up as one of the other ladies, but I’m betting everyone’s Carrie. And now, I will be going shoe shopping. Total coincidence, I swear.

And keeping on the shoe theme, my nickname is Stiletto. Honest to God, that’s what it said. I really like this, because it seems very sexy to me. Note to self: stop wearing flats.

My aura is blue, which I actually knew already, thanks to my Shaman. Enough said.

And lastly, my old person name is Earl. Yes, Earl. I clicked on “female.” And yet, I still came up as Earl. If it didn’t make me laugh so much, I’d be mildly offended. (No disrespect intended to anyone named Earl out there.)

Be that as it may, I think many of my outcomes were surprisingly spot on. So I was kind of thinking of making up my own quiz and algorithm. But then I realized it would involve some sort of scientific math calculations and that, right there, made me think better of it. Besides, Carrie Bradshaw would never be messing with algorithms.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

a follow up blog to yesterday's conundrum...

I have learned from watching many Law & Order reruns, that you never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. (Thank you, fake cops and lawyers.)

When I posed the question yesterday about the Kickstarter conundrum, I already knew the answer. I just wasn't convinced that I already knew the answer. And so I asked you, my fine readers.

After receiving a maelstrom of private messages, emails, and phone calls from people weighing in on the subject, I decided to let you know my conclusion…

I bless everyone. I wish everyone well. I root for every person’s success. I know that we are all interconnected and of equal value, as are our dreams. And that is the message I wish to embody. Nothing and no one outside ourselves can stop our good from coming to us. We can choose to use our life experiences, particularly the more challenging ones, as lessons in being more compassionate...or not. It's up to us. But compassion seems like a pretty good idea to me, both towards ourselves as well as others.

So that’s it in a nutshell for me. Love and compassion...even if...no matter what. 

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. Oh, and my next blog is gonna be much lighter fare, though it is going to have the word “algorithms” in it, so you’re not gonna want to miss that!

Peace and blessings to you all…

Monday, July 21, 2014

Equal Value and My Kickstarter Conundrum

My friend Alisa introduced me to a concept that changed my outlook on life. It’s called equal value. It goes something like this: Me and you…equal value. The pebble and the boulder…equal value. The billionaire and the pauper…equal value. So therefore, my dreams and your dreams…equal value.

This brings me to my Kickstarter conundrum, because I’ve really been making a concerted effort to adopt this state of consciousness. I think that the first step in changing the ever-widening disparities in our world is to realize this truth – that we are all of equal value. Rich or poor, successful or down-on-your-luck. Doesn’t matter. Equal value.

…Which brings me to…three people I know have a Kickstarter campaign going right now. (For anyone unfamiliar with what that is, it is also called crowd funding, where a whole bunch of people put in whatever amount of money they can to fund a project of some sort, usually an artistic endeavor.)

This campaign of theirs will most likely succeed whether I participate or not. So the money isn’t really the issue here. So what is? Well, about a year ago, I had my own crowd funding campaign and not one of them contributed to it.

I am sure most of you are thinking there is no big dilemma here. If they didn’t contribute, I don’t need to. End of story. No guilt necessary.

But there are so many bigger questions here involved for me – like do you treat people the way they've treated you (an eye for an eye), or do you show up as the example of what you want to see in the world?

What does it say to the universe if you treat people better than they treated you? Are you a doormat or the living embodiment of unconditional love? And what is it saying to those three people? Is it sending a message that their dreams or their project are more valuable than mine? Or is it making a stand for the equal value of all of our dreams by supporting anyone’s dream, even those that didn’t find it in their hearts to support mine?

I believe that how we show up in the world matters. But I am human, and my feelings get hurt no matter how much I would always like to take the high road. So I am at a loss to know what to do that would send the message that I honor both my own dreams as well as those of these three other people as being of equal value.


What would you do? What are your thoughts? I’m listening…

Thursday, July 17, 2014

what are you chasing?

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I write this now on the last day of my stint in California, where I’ve had a surprising number of glorious opportunities to perform some of my new songs for people.

I’ve undergone a shift in my life over the past few years, and it’s not one everyone has fully understood. I got tired of chasing, and I decided to embrace instead.

When you are chasing something, you are in a perpetual state of wanting what you do not have, of coming from a place of desperation and fear and not enough. For me, “chasing the cut” (trying to get well known singers to record my songs) left me feeling like I was always falling short. But there was this strange dichotomy taking place, because when I would perform the songs I loved the most and that most expressed who I am, heart and soul, the response would be phenomenal. And I kept thinking, if people are responding this much and this often, surely there must be a place for what I do.

For years, I lived with this internal contradiction, until I woke up one day and realized that I had sold myself incredibly short. And so began a journey that started with the question, “What is standing in the way of me living the life I was put here to live?” And in that asking, was the beginning of transition and transformation that is not, by any means, for the faint of heart.

Most of us don’t afford ourselves the luxury of asking the question, “What is it I truly want?” We get tangled up in expectations, our own or those of the people around us, until we couldn’t even answer that question if we wanted to. But once you start getting quiet and allowing yourself to sit with the question, then the answer eventually bubbles up to the surface.

Let’s face it, before life happened, we all had dreams, things we aspired to. There was a moment when we knew who we were, and there is no road to peace and/or happiness without reclaiming that in whatever fashion we can.

I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best singers on the planet – no joke. And I have pitched my songs to some great artists. But little Ilene, who was nine when she started writing songs, wanted to play and sing them herself (the one exception being if Barbra Streisand wanted to sing them). So what did Ilene do instead? Had everyone else record them, try to get everyone else deals, pitch to anyone she could, big and small. This is not the behavior of someone who embraces who they are and knows what they have to offer.

Life, however, has a funny way of getting us where we need to be in spite of ourselves. So I wound up here, unable to take one more step forward that did not honor both my original dream and what I genuinely bring to the table. I realized that songwriting was a spiritual mission for me, and while I’ve gotten good enough at the craft to whittle frivolous ditties and pop confections, too, those things will never be the bulk of my work or the intent of my time spent on earth. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them or respect those whose main gifts those types of songs are, or that I wouldn’t cash the check if one became a hit. Believe me, I would.

But like the movie Field of Dreams, I’ve decided that if I build it, you will come. So I’m building an album that exemplifies not only who I am, but the message I’d like to put out in the world – that each of us matters, that gratitude begets more to be grateful for, that not only are we each enough, but we are magnificent and worthy and so very much needed in this time and place.

Every time I sing one of the new songs that will be part of the new record, I am keenly aware of all of you who said “Yes!” to this message and to me bringing it to the world in this way. I know that I carry your hopes and dreams for your lives along with my own. It is my hope that we will all embrace our own greatness and stop chasing after what we never really wanted in the first place.

Thank you so much for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Peace and Blessings to you,

Ilene

Thursday, June 19, 2014

...a mission statement

First things first – the blog moved!!! …and then it moved back!!!! If you missed the whole moving saga and teary farewell in my last post, feel free to catch up on your reading, but suffice it to say that there was one technical issue in moving my blog to be part of the new website that could not be resolved so that I didn’t lose readers. And I love you, my readers, so very much, that I decided to keep the blog where it is so you will always be able to find me. (I know, I’m unbelievably thoughtful like that.)

As for the new website, please stop by for a visit, and keep coming by from time to time. Things are just starting to get exciting and as time progresses, there will be more music, pictures, and tour dates! www.ileneangel.com

Now to the matter at hand – today’s blog offering…

I suppose it’s a sign of the times we live in that companies and industries all have mission statements. I’ve even seen them at the top of resumes, a summation, if you will, of what the desired end result is. I don’t think this is bad idea. In fact, I think it would be a good idea for every person to have one for their lives as well as their careers and to revisit it from time to time. Maybe then we’d have a focus, a direction, a road not to veer too far off of in life.

I’ve had a mental mission statement for my songwriting for at least the past eighteen years that I can recall – “to uplift, comfort, motivate and inspire.” It’s funny to me now that “to entertain” never really entered into the equation. But truthfully, nice as entertaining is, I always felt like humanity had too much at stake for me to be screwing around writing trite ditties. And because I was adamant about that, God, who by the way, clearly revels in both irony and humor, made my biggest commercial hits to date catchy ditties. I know - that God is such a kidder.

Only recently have I started thinking about my life’s mission statement and not just my music’s. I didn’t really think about it, actually. It just came to me one day and I typed it in my iPhone, where all profound ideas must be kept.

My mission? To be an expansion of love’s presence on the planet. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But you try it when someone cuts you off on the road, or when you feel slighted, hurt, angry, or brokenhearted. Often, the simplest ideas are the hardest to achieve. But I like clear-cut goals. I like being able to ask myself at any given moment, “Does this support my ultimate desire? Is this what being an expansion of love really looks like?”

What’s your mission? Why do you think you are here? What does the world at large need right now that only you have to offer? If someone were to write a history book in the future about this time period, and you were to be a chapter in it, what would they say your contribution was? What are you an example of? What is your life an example of?

I think we only teach or lead by example. There’s nothing you can tell someone else to do or be effectively, without first embodying that quality yourself. And no great thing accomplished is ever truly accomplished alone. There may be many solitary endeavors, but our interconnectedness is ever-present and eternal.

So today I invite you to come up with your own mission statement. Write it down. Say it aloud. Let it sink into your bones. Words have power. Once uttered, we are held accountable for them, whether by our own conscience or by others. What we say and do matters. We may not like to acknowledge that, but it’s true nonetheless. So I say we make our “mission” clear, our dreams bold, and our time spent here one for the books.


Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.