Approval of Self

All of your warm and thoughtful responses to my last blog has filled me with great love and even inspiration. You have all motivated me to write this…thank you. So many of you reached out and connected with me, sharing your stories of grief, offering a shoulder to cry on, offering me your time – for that you have made me feel blessed and so grateful. I can clearly see that I am not alone, that we are not alone. There are so many of us who also grieve, and who are looking for peace.

It is interesting that there is peace in knowing that you are not alone in suffering. It is not that I am glad others hurt as I do, but knowing that I am not alone helps me to lift my head a little higher. An old coworker of mine whose father had passed away told me that when it happened a friend of hers, who had also lost a parent, welcomed her to the Dead Parent Club. As blunt as that may sound it actually provided some light. It’s like finding a new community of people who know exactly what you are going through. They know that no amount of condolences will ever take away this sadness, and that the best condolence is the absolute truth – this just plain sucks, and there is nothing that will ever make it better.

For the rest of my life I have to live without the physical presence of my mother, and I need to learn how to function and navigate the world without her. There is so much more I want from this life and I have to be done letting grief stifle me. I have to learn how to pilot my own ship. The voice of my mother will always be there, but I can no longer seek her approval. Her approval was everything to me. I never did anything without running it by her first. It’s not that she would tell me what to do, it’s that she was incredible at making me feel right/good about whatever it was that I wanted/needed to do. Her words and approval always gave me the strength that I needed to act. Now, in order to move on I have to grant myself approval. I have to approve of myself. I have to approve of myself. I have to find the way to believe in me the way she always did – without fail.

When she was alive, I used to share my writings with her. She was the most supportive person of my life. Whenever I would approach her “hey mom, I just wrote something, would you like to hear it?” She would say “absolutely”, and stop whatever she was doing, no matter what it was, and sit down to listen to my latest thoughts. When she would say, “Jerrika, I think that is the best you have ever written. Will you read it to me again?” She would make me feel like I was riding the highest cloud in the sky. She made me believe in myself because she believed in me so powerfully. It is still strange to write anything without her being the first person I share it to.

One thing my mom would say to me, that rings in my mind and heart daily, and she would often say it to me after I would read a piece to her, she would say “you are a writer, Jerrika.” The surety and steadiness of her voice told me that I must believe her. This is why I write. Not because my mom told me to, but because she saw how much I loved doing it and gave me the approval I needed to keep at it. This is why I write today and probably will till my dying days. It is how I have chosen to use my voice.

My mom was my biggest supporter in life. Now it is time for me to learn how to support myself.

Again, thank you all for your gift of support. This journey of life has been really real. And I will continue to share with you for as long as you chose to tune in.

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In Search of Motivation

This is a calling out, a search for guidance, looking for offerings of wisdom from you and your life’s experience.

Where once my dreams drove me to aspire for greatness, sadness has become overwhelming and has stifled me. It has been months since my last blog post and that has not been because I didn’t want to. I thought about it weekly, sometimes daily, driving my brain mad with the wanting but lack of doing, driving myself mad for not having the will or energy to actually do it. Even right now, as I type this, I don’t know how I am actually doing it.

You see, I lost motivation. The ideas haven’t stopped rolling in. The thoughts are still pouring but I have dramatically lost the power to act…except, for some reason right now, seated at a dinner table as my brother in law finishes up dinner prep in front of me, my sister rocking her newborn to sleep behind me, and my three year old niece watching Sesame Street – for some reason I have chosen this moment, in the middle of a family’s daily routine, to write these recent thoughts.

For the past year, I have woven around this family’s daily routine. They have been extraordinary to say the least, and I am so lucky to be apart of their family. A year ago this week I moved out of the home I shared with my mother. After she died I was able to pay for it myself, but after she died everything changed, and changed drastically. I decided to quit my full-time job as a manager at a coffee shop to pursue a career in music. This meant I could no longer afford our home we spent five years in together. My sister and her husband offered for me to live with them up in the picturesque St. Croix Valley of Wisconsin. This also happens to be the place where my mother took her last breath and living here has helped me to continue to feel that closeness with her.

Over this past year I have travelled all over Wisconsin and Minnesota, playing nearly 100 shows, and adding thousands of more miles to my car. All those hours in my car, heading to a gig, were therapy for me. Every moment I felt I was exactly where I belonged, but as the year has moved forward I see that performing music has not quite been enough; not enough money, not enough fulfillment, not enough money. I deeply lacked motivation to continue booking gigs, even though I love doing it. I love performing too, so much. When I am up on the stage there is nowhere else I would rather be at that moment; no matter if I have one listener or hundreds. I love sharing my heart from the stage. But that is not all I have to offer. There is more inside of me that needs to come out. I know this for a fact, and I know music is not my only outlet.

*Let me be clear, though – I am not done with music. I don’t think I ever will be. I still have so much more to share with you, and in January I have started recording a new record. Stay tuned for that.

This last month of February I had a bunch of shows and sang my voice out twice. This has been a clear sign to me that I have not been properly caring for my voice, and I am honestly not sure if it will fully recover. This worry has led me to think, “if I can’t sing I have to do something else that fulfills me’. And you know what, I already know what I want to do. I want to blog, podcast, maybe even create some videos – all in the spirit of empowering others. The interesting thing right now, is that I have lost my drive and power to do. I am in deep search of motivation.

One thing I want to write about is my own life and how I navigate it. I am totally aware that I can’t write about me without writing about my deep sadness in losing my best friend, my mother. This has been my life every day since 6 pm on Friday, July 1st, 2016, when I got the call from my sister Elizabeth that mom died. I can’t avoid it. Even when my mom was alive, I always found a way to write about her in everything, even my college papers. That is how much I loved and admired her.

Writing has been the best therapy throughout my life and I feel compelled to share my writings with you, in hopes to connect and heal. If any of you have experienced this kind of grief, you are welcome to take this journey with me. I have to be raw, and honest. How else does one connect with others? This is who I am. I am a sad human who is full of love and gifted with a beautiful, supportive, huge family, and a beautiful, giving girlfriend, but I am sad. I am sad and I don’t want this sadness to stifle me anymore. I want to rise up from it. There is so much inside of me that wants to come out and be heard. I have so much to offer you all. Like I said earlier, though I have lost motivation the ideas and thoughts have not stopped flowing. I am a ginormous balloon about to burst.

I know I am not in this alone. I have my family, friends, supportive girlfriend, and I know I have you. All of you. We are all in this world together, searching for peace and happiness and fulfillment in our lives. Let’s help each other. In my deep search for motivation, can you help me by sharing what motivates you to keep pushing to follow your heart? What gets you out of bed? Is it your beautiful children whom you want to set the best example for? Is if your dream that you had as a child and have fiercely fought to hold onto? What inspires you to keep moving?

For those of you who have followed and supported me on this journey I call living, thank you from the depths of my heart. I cannot wait to give back to those of you who have given me so much. For those of you who may be just starting to follow me, thank you. This isn’t easy, being vulnerable and raw, but I feel no real results will come any other way. Who knows what will happen next? I don’t, but I invite you to find out with me.

Waiting For You

A year has passed since my mom died, and I am still shaken from routine. I have yet to find a natural flow to the day. Nothing is the same anymore. This does not always carry a negative feeling, it just means I have yet to find my groove within all the changes. The only thing that lags and holds me back is I can’t shake the act of waiting for you to come home. I have yet to figure out how to breath the air without you by my side; without you as my confidant; without you.

A year has passed and I am still in shock. This locked mindset of waiting for you to come back again is not a chosen one. My brain naturally sits, waiting like a dog at the door for their owner to return and they can have purpose again.

What have I been doing with my life while stuck in this waiting?

I finished my album and have subtly begun the process of touring with it. I quit my full time job as a manager at a coffee shop; which has given me the time to focus on my deep love of music. The fact that I quit this job also meant that I could not afford living in a three bedroom house on my own, so I moved out and currently live in the basement of my generous sister in Northern-ish Wisconsin.

It didn’t take long to find myself lost in these dramatic changes, including knowing how to properly utilize all the new found free time given to me. Instead of only filling it with music and booking shows I decided to help my sisters for the summer and watch their children. So on Mondays I watch Maddy in Osceola then the rest of the week I go down south of Eau Claire to watch Jesseca’s kids. Halfway through the summer this is a decision that I still feel solid about. Not only am I reliving my childhood summer (and even doing it better), but I am passing the wisdoms my mom gave me to her grandchildren. This summer has had rough moments but I continue to push my love and positivity into them and we have been (mostly) having a magical summer. I am trying to make the moments special and magical in the same way mom did for us.

Another great change in my life since mom’s death is that I fell in love. Maddi is her name and I treasure her. I met her about a month and a half after mom passed. The fact that they never met and never will is very sad, but also makes Maddi special in a whole new light.

This whole summer I have been living in three different places. On the road almost every day. I have fallen in love with driving with my windows down through the captivating countryside of Western Wisconsin; the luscious green, rolling hills, old farmlands and the stories they must hold. If I never had to drive on the interstate again I wouldn’t.

I also needed a break from performing because I was beginning to develop strong anxiety before my solo shows, feeling that I was going to stand in front of the audience and forget everything I have ever created. Before all these shows it became increasingly difficult to trust that I wouldn’t have an emotional breakdown on the stage. You see, singing is the closest I feel to my mom and this makes me completely vulnerable on stage. To do this in front of mostly strangers takes great strength and courage that I am never sure I can pull through. So far I have only almost puked on stage once.

I have taken some time to book a few shows coming up, starting this week. My nerves for these shows right now mostly come from the less than satisfactory condition of my car. The muffler is rumbling and the wheels have poor tread. I need to book shows in order to pay to fix my car, but some of these shows are far away, like in Madison, Sheboygan, and Chicago. I need to get my car in the shop before these shows and need to figure out how to pay for the repairs. Being a musician doesn’t mean you are only creative with writing songs but you also have to be creative with money and how to live in a world that requires us to have steady paychecks. I feel I have sidestepped this perceived given way of living and am beginning to find my place off to the side of this norm. So long as I continue to have people around me who help support this choice and whom I give back to in ways that I can support them back (ie watching their children) I think I can make this work…for a bit anyway. Do this while my music finds its place into people’s lives, and while I discover where music will take me next.

All I know to do right now is to keep following my heart and intuition, trusting the whole time that this will continue to lead me through this path of freedom I have found, freedom from society’s norms while having the space to spread my love to all of society, all the people that I meet. The space to pause and learn about them. I am not interrupted by the rush of time and money and work. I have realized that I move with the flow of something else, something more connected to nature and life. I can’t quite define it yet or give it a name. I just know that it brings a great sense of freedom and I feel that I have connected with a flow that brings strength in my knowing that I am on the right path. I think i am beginning to really feel what Krishnamurti meant when he said, “When you choose life, life chooses you.” I feel that most strongly when I am in my car, windows down, riding through the countryside, riding with the earth as it rotates around the sun. I love it. Writing it out is making me realize how good my life is for me right now. I think mom would agree, I am in a good place right now. Even though I don’t have a home in the physical sense. I feel like I am finding a home in a more lasting sense, a spiritual place within myself that allows me to be home wherever I am. Perhaps I can realize that I don’t need to be in this locked state of waiting for mom to come back. It is not mom who comes home to me, it is me finding home in my own spirit, it is me coming home to her…

….

….

….

I am not waiting anymore.


Catch me play here:

Thursday, July 27th – Singer/Songwriter Showcase – Eds (No Name) Bar – Winona, MN – w/Jake Ilika and Jacob Grippen – 7pm – $5

Saturday, July 29th – Chalkfest – UWEC Campus Mall – Eau Claire, WI – 1 pm – Free

Plain and Simple Life

A year ago today my mom unexpectedly died. I choose to honor this day and her life by sharing one of her many writings on life and how to live…

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Live within your means with an attitude of gratitude, appreciation, and love. Be ever thankful for what you have and not grudgingly sorry for what you have not. Have a willingness to share with a generous heart and spirit.

Don’t let anything that happens to you, or anything you go through, define who/what you are. Be ever open to answers in resolving or rising above whatever threatens to bring you down. Turn challenges and oppositions into opportunities for learning…suffer your hardships, difficulties, annoyances, inconveniences, and enduring pain with appreciation, without complaint, with grace. Resisting, avoiding, fighting, giving in to these challenges can be denying opportunities of turning potential weaknesses into strengths into friends, providing us with very sweet opportunities for personal growth and development.

We need to preserve a sense of self and a sense of what truly is important…thus we can maintain a sense of balance and well-being, thus grow and develop and evolve.

We would be wise to live life one day at a time…with our focus on the present moment…where life is! Living a deliberate life with meaningfulness, purpose, intention and interest in only that which is conducive to good health, happiness and well-being. Resolve yourself to positive thinking/thoughts. As you do, all other thinking/thoughts fall away when given no attention by not entertaining them. Only that which you want shall stay in the mind and support you in creating a life of surety, clarity, peace, comfort and joy. Positive thinking/thoughts uplift, encourage, strengthen and stimulate us to positive action and rise above.

The alternative, which is the opposite – negative thinking/thoughts which are heavy, weigh us down and serve to keep us there. These are thoughts that rob us of our strength, courage, health, happiness and well-being…and the wherewithal to be moved to make any good use of our circumstances/situations. Negative thinking/thoughts keeps us from rising above our dilemma and keeps us in the doldrums of the consequences of negativity. The results are depression, a feeling of sinking deeper and deeper into helplessness to resignation…unresisting acceptance of something thought of as inescapable. This is when energy is at a low and you can become disinclined to exert any effort to free your mind of such a lowly state. A place we do not have to stay at.

Ultimately, in reality, we are the creator of our own lives or we are our own destroyers. No matter who we are born to with all of the predisposed genes, no matter where we were born, no matter how we were raised, no matter what our experiences, we truly have the capacity and the ability within us to choose our own definition and live a life according to that.

How we take to, treat, and employ (use and apply) our experiences makes all the difference.

How do we do it…really.

With patience…being calm, still, don’t let our mind get all befuddled by that which we do not understand in the beginning. Using patience we can learn to understand and trust what something really is about…not just what it seems at first. With patience and trust you may come to know that you were just offered/allowed another opportunity for some needed growth.

With love…not just loving those who are obvious such as family and friends etc…that is a given kind of love…easy! To love, especially, those who despise you, want to hurt you and use you…this is where the true test of love is. Where forgiveness is present. This loving-ness can reach, touch and change lives.

Charity – to be generous in kindness, tolerance, consideration, compassion…even in the face of anger, resentment and other confusing challenges.

Basically, live the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Know that what you do to another/others…you’ve already done to yourself. So it would be good to remember that you are the one drinking the poison and expecting the other person to die, when in reality…you are only poisoning yourself.

In living the Golden Rule we can begin to see ourselves in others and rejoice in our simple lives together as well as independently.

Be of good cheer. Applaud life with all of its surprises. They are for us to use wisely and empower us. Be resistant to giving up the fight of growth, and development of that which is essential for our evolving and becoming all that we can be in health happiness and well-being. It is all really rather simple and you catch on and commit yourself to a life of useful meaning…Plain (easy to perceive and understand) and Simple (straightforward, effortless comprehensible, unpretentious).

Plain and Simple =

Honest and True

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This Message is for My Mom

This message is for my mom; what I want to say if there is a possibility she may hear me…in some capacity. I speak this directly to you mom.

First of all, I love you so much. My love for you has not faltered but only grown. The other day Jesseca said that you are still the most magical person she has ever known. Your magic still resonates deep in the fibers of us, in the creatures you delicately nurtured. Your magic is still as real today as it was when we were running free in the summer grass of our childhood country home.

Mom, thank you for all those hours you spent listening to me play the guitar while you cooked our dinner, or while you sat on the rocking chair fanning yourself to dry off the sweat of the cleaning you were always doing. You were always – and remain – my best, most patient listener; always filled with such thoughtful sentiment for my songs and singing, leaving me to feel that I may have something people may connect with.

Mom, my album is done. Remember listening to all the raw tracks Evan sent over as we recorded them? Well, they have been mastered. The day you died, and the days that followed, this thought kept pulsing through my being, “I need to honor your life by being the person you believed I could be”. So that weekend, I emailed Evan and said, “let’s do this. Let’s finish this album”.

I don’t know if you are aware of this mom, but my album release is coming up. It is time for me to share this music that you were my first audience for. You don’t know this, but I called the album “Like the Sea” because I knew how much the sea meant to us. Blue and grey and green, like in Sarah Plain and Tall, the movie we watched with you so many times growing up. You made me love films too.

I am dearly going to miss your presence at my show Friday night. I am going to miss seeing your hand tap the table to the beat of my rhythm. I am going to miss seeing your long, silver hair. I am going to miss pointing you out in the crowd and embarrassing you.  But most of all, I am going to miss that smile you would give Jerissa, Elizabeth, and me as we sang our hearts out openly on the stage; that smile that said “my daughters are exactly where they belong”.

Mom, I know I don’t talk to you much, and when I do lately it is more through tears, calling out your name and asking “Mom, why”. But sometimes I silence everything and listen more deeply than I have ever listened. I am listening for you, profoundly wanting to feel some piece of you…alive. Nothing comes of this. Perhaps I should stop waiting for you to send me a sign but instead I send them to you.  Jerissa and Elizabeth will be joining me on stage for the release show. Mom, whenever we sing our harmonies know we are reaching for you. I hope you feel it.

I love you…always.

Beyond time, existence, and gravity.

Life is Forever Changed

This summer is all but gone and I have experienced none faster in my life. My heart was pulled from my chest in an instant and I have been searching deeply for reason and purpose ever since.

After a long day at work on Friday, July 1st I was in the frozen pizza aisle in Woodman’s grocery store. Mom was coming home for the weekend and I was buying her some treats. She had been spending the past two weeks in Osseola taking care of her youngest grandchild and I was looking forward to her coming home.

I hadn’t looked at my phone in a while and saw that my sisters Jerissa and Elizabeth had been trying to call and text me for about 30 minutes. Their persistence worried me. Elizabeth’s text said I should call her right away, that something had happened to mom. So, I did. I called her right away. She didn’t answer. I tried Jerissa but she didn’t answer either. I completely forgot where I was and cared only about what might be wrong with mom.

Minutes went by that felt like an hour. Then Elizabeth called me back. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Jerrika, it’s really bad. Mom’s in the hospital. She didn’t make it. Mom is dead.”

Nothing existed at that moment except the words “Mom is dead” sharply echoing in my mind, searching for a way out. My breath deepened and quickened. I left my cart with groceries in it and ran out the door, running past moving cars. I jumped in my car and headed towards Elizabeth’s house. Shock and confusion overcame me. Tears clouded my vision. My life forever changed. Mom is dead.

Halfway through my college career my mom and I moved into a house together. In the three years we lived together she spent many hours a week creating and maintaining a home for us, doing so with utmost love and gratitude. At least once a week she would profess “I love our home”.  Our home – now my house – remains untouched. Everything is as she left it last.

No matter how much the world around me has remained the same everything is different. Garbage still needs to be put out every Tuesday morning. Her plants still need to be watered. The lawn still needs to be mowed. Work is still there, but my heart isn’t. Nothing is the same.

As Elizabeth and I drove up to Osseola the day mom passed we talked a great deal, trying to process a reality I was nowhere near prepared for. I said “I want to honor mom’s life in EVERYTHING that I do”. Throughout my entire life my mom deeply and lovingly instilled these three words, “Follow your heart”. I know that if I am to honor my mother’s life it means that I must do just that – follow my heart. This statement returns to me daily as the depth of its truth requires great change to my current existence and I am challenged with equally great resistance.

We did not write Mom an obituary for the public to read. She will never have a gravestone for others to pass by. These are things she did not want. She wished for privacy just as she lived her life. But she will not be lost in the sea of forgottens. That is impossible. Her existence was full of heart and truth. Anyone who ever met her knows this. Her presence was undoubtedly profound.

Her dream and hearts wish was to be a mother, and she was an amazing one. She was the most beautiful, loving being I have ever experienced. Her love was enormous and comforting. It gave me confidence that I probably never deserved, but I have it and I have her love. I am so deeply saddened that she won’t meet and know the love of my life (I hope I meet the love of my life – I hope I have a love of my life). If I have a love of my life I do have peace in knowing that they will know my mom through my love.

Another thought that entered me on that drive to Osseola, I shared with Elizabeth, “I don’t feel that Mom’s role in our lives is done. I think it has just changed”. Ever since Mom passed incredible moments have happened to me and I know she has something to do with it. I believe that mom is able to do things for us now that she never could in life. The magic that is happening around me daily is evidence of all of this. I must continue to trust this if I am to follow my heart. If I am to honor her existence, I must continue to trust in her – in all the good and love she placed in me, and all the good and love I continue to receive from her.

There is so much more I have to say and share about my mom. She still has so much to teach me and all of us. More thoughts and words are coming, so prepare yourselves.

Wow, how incredibly lucky I have been to have had her in my life at all.

 

Busy! Busy! Busy!

Breath Jerrika, just breath.  Alright, so life is moving at a new pace these days.  My new job has already taken a new turn…for the better, and my music career is picking up unexpectedly.  Let me explain…

Winter was a quiet time for playing shows.  Most of my energy was spent working on getting my songs ready for every recording session.  I had about one a month starting in December.  So, if you are counting that is four session thus far.  I thought the fourth one (March’s session) would be the last but alas, I have learned the hard way not to say ‘just one more’.  Jerissa, Elizabeth, and I are heading into the studio once again to redo one last song for the album.  We will be going in this coming Saturday (April 23rd) to lay it down one more time.  Will it be the last one for this album? I hope so, but I am certainly not going to say definitively.

At some point in March people started reaching out to me to play shows and the bookings have not stopped since.  Winter’s quiet has left and Spring has entered with full force.  I played two house shows this month and have fallen in love with this venue style.  If ever you get invited to a house show please strongly consider it.  You will never be closer to a musician and the intimacy they create.

Below I will give you a list of my upcoming shows.  I am thinking about creating a graphic that I can use to promote all these shows – maybe using one my nephew Avery took and putting text of my gig dates over it.  Just thinking out loud here.  Let’s move on to why else I am busy…

In the first paragraph above I wrote a teaser about a change in my new job.  If you have only read this far into the blog because you are dying to know what that change is, congratulations! You need not wait any longer.  Those of you who are keeping up with me already know this but for the rest of you…about a month ago I was hired as a Barista for the new coffee shop opening inside downtown Eau Claire’s newest addition The Lismore  (a fancy hotel opening soon!).  Well, I would like to officially announce here on this blog that I have been promoted to Manager of ECDC aka Eau Claire Downtown Coffee (go ahead and like us on Facebook!)

This new role as manager, on top of keeping up with my music and shows, has brought my life to a whole. ‘nother. level yo!  This new career move is exactly what I have been holding out for over this past year and a half.  The fact that I was offered this position reminds me that I am right to always trust my heart, even when this trust takes me down a road of struggle.  A struggle that was necessary and has made this moment so beautiful.

Alright, here is the part where I post my upcoming shows.  I look forward to seeing you at one or a few of them.  Peace and lots of love.

Upcoming Shows:

Wed., April 27th – Eau Claire, WI @ The Plus kNOw More – 5:30 pm

Sat., April 30th – Menomonie, WI @ The Raw Deal Midnight Oil Release Party – 9 pm

Sun., May 1st – Durand, WI Beatles on the Chippewa – 2 pm *QuinnElizabeth set

Stay tuned, because there are more to announce!  Thank you for reading!