With A Woman On Each Arm – or maybe it’s in each ear.

I negotiate my life with a woman on each arm. They walk with me every day and certainly tickle my ears. Lucinda Williams and Melissa Ferrick have carried me through some rough and exhilerating times.

I tend to think people visit blogs to learn of our common humanity, one another’s struggles and success. Struggles for whatever reason being more interesting to most of us. And that said it has been hard for me to type out introspective confessionals – primarily because they feel very, very self indulgent.

After all I am not a young girl growing up in a brothel in India, a woman trying to avoid being raped in the Congo or huddled in a ditch in Baghdad. How dare I say I think of my life as hard? It’s not something I could say to any of them.

The last five+ years have been difficult though. And music has carried me through much of it. Music has always been important but became increasingly important when I struggled (and succeeded) in kicking a 20 + year, over a pack a day smoking habit. Puff, puff, puff. During that time I could not sit still with myself — I had fallen in love with a woman a few years before who was not interested in me beyond a friendship, I had come out and was wrestling with many things, mostly how to stop obsessing over her.

A little invention called an iPod pumped the music of these amazing musicians, mostly women, into my head as I walked, and walked, and ran, and walked. Not really sure if I was moving towards something or away from something but I knew I could not sit still
with myself. So when things became too much I would put on my running shoes, grab the iPod and leave the house. Sometimes out for two or three hours and ended up miles away from home.

Music saved me. That’s too dramatic – music helped save me. I think Lucinda Williams more than anyone else in those years carried me along (or I carried her along).

Recently I have been immersed in the music of Melissa Ferrick purchasing far more than I can really afford, then finding myself downloaded just a little bit more. I also admire the lives these woman lead, or the ones I imagine they lead, after all I don’t know them. But I admire the independent artists, like Melissa – when after being dropped my her major label Atlantic, went out on her own with no budget and started her own label. Doing over 150 shows a year for the last decade. Putting out so much great, great music on no budget. A woman, a guitar, a truck – wicked determination and talent.

On my own level I have now had my own decade long career with big ups and downs. Ten years ago I left a very lucrative job as a creative director/merchandiser when my boss, mentor and best friend died after a long battle with breast cancer. I stayed in that job for about another year but then resigned as it was too painful for me to continue.

I left knowing I had to work for myself ( I was exhausted and a mess, certainly in no shape for a traditional career) and I left deciding I would train dogs professionally. It was difficult and initially a financial disaster. Somehow with help from family, cashing in my IRA and so on I made it through those years making 10,000 or 15,000 a year. Kept my house, my car and so on. Eventually my business became one of the largest in the area seeing over 500 students a year in classes and working with another 100 or more on a private consultant basis.

At about that time – the time the business was really taking off, I was offered a job with a Humane Society as their Behavior Program Manager. Having volunteered in animal welfare and feeling like a social advocate by nature I took it. I walked into animal sheltering and handed them my business and mailing list. Instantly the shelter had a good behavior program/class program and had a program that actually worked below it’s allocated budget and made money. Each year experienced, despite a horrible Michigan economy double digit growth.

And I worked my ass off – literally – stressful, difficult work. For many reasons that I am not going to go into in this post (but will eventually). I have done almost every difficult job in sheltering.

In any event at some point in my career, the structure of the organization was changing. Management staff was leaving due to the E.D. Positions were changing. And in that process I recommended my position expand to one of Director of Behavior and Humane Education Programs.

It was during that process that I enjoyed learning (oh my tongue is way lost in my cheek) that I was not considered a candidate for humane education as I am “unmarried and childless” i.e. “gay” (left unsaid) “How would the parents of the children relate to me”, was a concern of my E.D, as well as the V.P. of Operations.

We are after all perverts ready to convert children to the homosexual agenda and sleep with goats (or did I just want to marry my dogs)? Oops, oops angry digression but I am over all of that, really I am.

Needless to say after some soul searching, thinking, much crying, no plan and a day spent literally clutching my chest due to the pains I had in it – I quit. I resigned end of story. Not really but enough of the story for one day.

And I went back to private training but now of course I was competing with my former employer, in a struggling economy, with more trainers in the area then ever before. A few ugly rounds there. It has been three longish years — I think I will see over 500 students this year (that is the goal, that’s how it’s looking), I can’t take anymore walking clients, and get probably 6-10 calls a day and a similiar number of e-mails. Not out of the woods but each day it seems to be improving. In an area with one of the worst, if not the worst economy in the nation.

But it’s been a struggle and when I feel sorry for myself I think about how a middle aged woman should not be just finding her sexuality, establishing a whole new social life, establishing herself in a career all over again and la, la, la. Having lost parents, becoming estranged from siblings, and friends and careers.

But that’s my life, and that’s todays confessional and reflective dribble…these woman carry me through their art. Art carries me, courage, integrity, compassion, authenticity. That is what I feel when Lucinda Williams or Melissa Ferrick stream through my head – and I feel more authentic, braver, more compassionate.

I feel their strength, I feel my own – I feel like we talk and walk together from the darkside of the heart. Where we learn all of life’s most precious and beautiful lessons. And we walk into the sunlight together.

Or at least with the break of spring finally here, I walk around in the sun with them all fucking glorious day long. Taller, stronger…turning the corner on what are and will be the best damn years of my life.

Thanks for reading.

Love-
Janet

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9 Responses to “With A Woman On Each Arm – or maybe it’s in each ear.”

  1. I had to read that post a few times to take it all in. Music, is a very powerful tool. I know for me, my iPod has become a necessity, a non-negotiable item.

    Like you, I have spent many years up and back down again financially. I moved from the SF Bay area where things cost 4 times the norm, to Montana, where people were lucky to make 10 dollars an hour.

    I think, that in hitting our 40’s, we hit some sort of weird stride where we know ourselves better, and at the same time become kinder to ourselves.

  2. Just a side note, I am absolfreakinglutely in love with Chris Pureka…I can’t quit listening. So far, out of all the new stuff, I’m just digging her the most…I so relate to your music obsession, I feel it myself all the time, and there is nothing wrong with it. It defines me.

  3. The way you feel about music is the way that I feel about books. I don’t know how I would get over the hills without my books…

    And hey…I’m curious…how did you get interested in training dogs? Were you a dog lover as a child? Found that you excelled at it or what?

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Janet, I happened on to your page while googling Melissa Ferrick. You are soooooo funny and I totally relate with you. Ha! I am a 51 year old Ferrickhead and just learned of Melissa earlier this year. I too have been buying her CD’s and try very hard to learn all that I can about her because I just love her personality and her story. She is the hope for all of us and I just share her with everyone I meet because she needs absolutely more recognition – her talent is incredible and she is such a heart. Please go to You Tube and look at my recent downloads of Melissa Ferrick in concert at Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland OH 4-4-08. I think you’ll enjoy them. I am also under My Space – if you look at Melissa’s My Space page you’ll see a picture of her with me, my partner and our two kids. Please connect with me there and ad me as a friend if you’d like. I’d love to hear back from you but cannot truly correspond from this e-mail as it’s my work….hoping to hear from ya!

    Your Melissa Ferrick lovin’ pal

    Mindy “Schmaussen” (My Name on You Tube)

  5. Mindy – thank you so much for visiting my blog. Melissa is a great musical talent…as you are already partnered up next time you see Melissa would you tell her I’d like to have her children? Or her toenail trimmings whatever she is most comfortable with. I’m a really kind, smart and interesting person – she could do much worse.

    And I am very, very funny sometimes when I am not even trying.

    Thanks-
    Janet
    …and thanks for reading please come back again! I just linked up with you on My Space.

  6. OC – thanks again. I am not sure I am being easy on myself…I have done some very hard work in the last half a decade or so.

    I feel i have control over my destiny now, finally at 45 I feel almost grown up about my life — I work all the time but I work for myself when I want to, when I need to…and I make art, write to make a life.

    Delighted you like Chris Pureka, she’s great — I am going to see her in a little coffee house that barely holds 30 people later this month. Looking forward to it.

    janet

  7. Maria – I am going to put something up about dog training (I owe you). I am self taught and determined. A dog from hell got me started, in classes, more classes – got a second dog. A friendship led to a mentorship with the trainer and la, la, la.

    That is the short version but you know I always have a long version.

    Later – a biting Min Pin calls. A dear friend refers to me as Dr. Doolitle which I find amusing it was one of my favorite movies as a child. Inside that pink shell – yummy.

    j.

  8. first time reader here… hopped over from hahn at home. nice mid-life perspective. now i’m off to i-tunes to load up.

  9. Hello Lynt-
    thanks for stopping by and do it again. Let me know what you think about the music – it’s all about the music, it’s all about art.

    Well it’s a place I enjoy being lost in and inspired by.

    -janet

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