musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Author: julie (Page 1 of 105)

But for the grace of god

Dear Diary,

I had a ‘but for the grace of god goes I’ moment today.

For many months, I’ve been absorbed in my life, my self-doubts, my madness. And then I was forced off my little island, away from the comfort of my lair and into the big, bad world.

Julie, the spoiled; Julie, the privileged; Julie, she with her head up her ass
with her first world problems and neuroses.

I was in the Lynn Economic Opportunity office. I had no business being there, among the truly needy — single moms struggling with multiple jobs to keep their kids fed, clothed and relatively healthy; older folks trying to get by with meager, monthly social security payments.

Why was I there? I was trying to get income verified for a Barrier Mitigation Grant, a program administered by Mass Save and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources for middle-income homeowners so they could grab a chunk of money from the state to get rid of asbestos containing materials during a home improvement project.

As I sat down to wait my turn, it occured to me that many of those who came into this office were likely homeless or living in section 8 housing. There were WIC brochures and information about Head Start and fuel assistance programs in kiosks on the wall.

And here I was, with my canvas bag full of mortgage papers, account statements from my brokerage, a passport, a list of estate debts and an inheritance.

Julie, the non-hispanic white caucasion; Julie, the fortunate;
Julie, the loathsome.

When it came time, I took a seat at the woman’s desk and prefaced my financial story with a lame apology, something to the effect of “I’m a bit embarrassed to be here, as I’m much better off than many,” followed quickly by, “I just want to say, you’re doing very important work here. Thank you.”

It sounded ridiculous, and I felt like the pathetic, self-righteous, holier than thou white girl that she was no doubt sizing me up as. But she handled my awkwardness graciously and seemed pleased with the compliment.

I wonder now how those in the Lynn Economic Opportunities office feel about acting as a clearinghouse for what’s certainly a stream of middle-class folks trying to get those elusive cash grants. She was polite enough not to let on.

What was more embarrassing was that, taking just my income into consideration, she said it looked like I was in their low-income range. Surely not! I have substantial stock and IRA portfolios, my own house, and last year, before mom and dad passed away, they supplemented my income whenever I had trouble paying the bills. But because I was a freelance worker, they immediately knocked 40% off my wages for their calculations. That’s the rules. It seemed wrong somehow.

Dad would say, jokingly, “We never should have raised you to be so honest. That will be your undoing.” Perhaps. But they also raised me to be compassionate towards others, and to recognize injustices, however slight.

They both worked in the medical field, helping people in large and small ways. Mom was a registered nurse. Dad was a medical equipment researcher, with patents for light and sound scanning devices that could detect breast and prostate cancers. They both served in the Navy during World War II. After retirement, Mom volunteered at the local blood bank and cared for an elderly neighbor whose own family had abandoned. She became my adopted grandmother. When I was young, Mom brought me along to collect old clothing for the Revitalization Corp, a charity group in Hartford. Me? I’m a wannabe writer with a few clients and a half-baked notion to write novels “someday.”

Julie — the underachiever, the anxious, the unwashed.

Helping people afford asbestos abatement, whether they’re low income or middle income isn’t really a big deal. It’s expensive work, and many people earning even $45,000 a year, especially in the Boston area, won’t have $10,000 available for a home improvement project, even for one that could have health ramifications. Truth be told, a $7,000 abatement grant is nothing compared to the special treatment in place for the wealthy, from tax loopholes to offshore bank accounts, so that they can hold onto more of their money.

Do the wealthy also ponder the unfairness of it all?

Maybe I’ll get some assistance. Maybe I won’t. But one thing I do realize now is that I must find a way to give back, somehow, to those not as fortunate as I. This is the real reason I was in that office this morning.

Julie, the awakened; Julie, the humbled; Julie, the grateful.

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Seattle’s Becoming Bristol addresses suicide and promises brighter days

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Becoming Bristol gives us upbeat alternative pop songs that contain important messages. Their latest single, “Brighter Days,” was written by their singer/frontman Britt Espinosa, and is about an experience he had with a friend who was contemplating suicide (fortunately, they’re still with us). September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and the band will be donating 100% of all sales and streaming proceeds during the month to Anthem of Hope, a non-profit that’s “dedicated to illuminating hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide and addiction.”

“Brighter Days” is available for streaming and purchase. The song has a snappy beat that’s definitely danceable, and even more importantly, its lyrics are comforting and hopeful in times of great difficulty.

We all know what the poets say
Pain only ends when your dead
I don’t think it’s got to be that way
I think there’s brighter days ahead
I know life’s not okay
It aches beyond any words
But my friend this will only make it worse

It’s easy to throw away
A life riddled with cuts and scars
There’s something still left to save
It’s at the core of who you are
So push on to the brighter days
You don’t know what you’re worth
Oh my friend, you don’t know what you’re worth
– “Brighter Days”

The single was produced and mixed by Brooks Paschal at Mockingbird Studios.

Formerly known as The Exchange, Becoming Bristol is a pair of brothers (Britt and Jack), along with Tyler Mays and Manny Gounder. They began touring when Britt was 16, and the band is completely self-booked and self-managed. They’ve performed at more than 500 shows, with 8+ national tours.

Previous singles include “Sort Myself Out” (with producer AKA Wolves, released in June) and “Liars and Thieves” (released in July). The former is about taking responsibility for where you end up in life, rather than blaming someone or something else, and the latter addresses the idea that good and evil exists within all of us, and the need for empathy.Important messages for these perilous times.

The line between right and wrong cuts through all of us… the face of god is hiding inside

For the rest of 2018, the band will be releasing a new song each month.

web | facebook | twitter | instagram | bandcamp | soundcloud

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The Campaign Begins Now: Bees Deluxe and Flippin’ for the Blues

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Here’s a wonderfully cool idea. Boston-based acid-blues band Bees Deluxe is taking their deep bluesy groove on the road to get out the vote and support Democratic (blue) candidates in their attempt to flip political districts from red to blue. They’re calling this noble cause Flippin’ for the Blues (get it?).

These guys are extremely soulful and accomplished musicians. Check them out.

First up is an event for NH-1 candidate for congress, Maura Sullivan. She’s a former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs and senior Pentagon official in the Obama Administration, Marine Corps Veteran, and candidate for Congress in New Hampshire’s First District. This event takes place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Friday, August 31 at Cisco Brewery. From there, it’s Syracuse NY, Allentown PA, Harrisburg PA, Cleveland OH, Columbus OH and Albany NY for various local candidates. For more information and advance reservations, see the official website.

BeesDeluxe

Help support this great cause — Donate To Their Kickstarter Campaign!

At the Portsmouth event, Bees Deluxe will be supported by the Jugghead Band, and after a few words from the candidate, the band will perform. Their set will include original songs from their new CD, Voice of Dog, along with their own interpretations of the music of B.B. King, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, the Meters and other world class musicians. The band features Conrad Warre (lead guitar, vocals), Carol Band (keyboard), Allyn Dorr (bass) and Paul Giovine (drums).

If you like what you hear of Bees Deluxe, you can stream the new album on Spotify or purchase it from Amazon.

Flippin’ for the Blues: web | twitter | facebook | instagram
Bees Deluxe: web | facebook | twitter | soundcloud | youtube

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The Greying’s Cognitive Dissonance: Bipolar Disorder Meets its Match

TheGreying

While metal/hardcore isn’t usually my preferred musical genre, I honestly can’t think of a more apt way to address (stalk, do battle with, and eviscerate) the horrors and confusion of bipolar disorder. Listening to The Greying, a Cape Cod/South Shore-based metal/hardcore band (imagine that), is a visceral experience. But these guys are no literary slouches. They just know their subject matter, and this isn’t the kind of shit that can be properly expressed in a polite pop song. And that is why they’ve blessed us with their Cognitive Dissonance EP. It was written by singer/songwriter Ryan Meehan, as a way to cope with his bipolar diagnosis.

Each of the five tracks focuses on a particular aspect of this bone-crippling, soul-destroying illness. The desperate rantings of singer Ryan Meehan’s exquisite suffering is driven hard by a raucous racket courtesy of Robert Carlson (guitars), Derrick Darmody (bass) and Noah deVeer (drums).

“Panic” starts out slow and menacing, snarling and grinding its teeth.

Panic comes in droves and circles ’round the carrion
memories that fester in the background.
Suffocate on words I should have spoken.
Sadness turns to rage.
I am broken.

“Regenerate” speaks (screams) of the difficult process of working through the pain in search of healing, and choosing life, however excruciating, over suicide.

Shed your skin
Destroy what’s underneath
Regenerate
Kill what you can’t create
Separate reality from fate
I must learn to settle for myself

“I must learn to settle for myself.” Amazing. It’s all about self-acceptance, which seems like such an easy, straightforward thing, but lordy, it’s not.

“Demons Run” is a charming little ditty about confronting the devil within and the demons without, while one questions/confronts God. Nathan Calcagno of Regime lends his bone-chilling growl for multi-dimensional effect.

No promises of damnation
Wretched hearts go screaming toward the void regardless
Watch the world fall through the hour glass
Demons run when you relinquish hell

Lord forgive me. I’ve done nothing.
Lived a life in fear your hand would come to strike me down.
Felt the fault break with shepards spewing hate
Left the herd before the sickness caught me.

There’s something in there as well about our current political climate, but I won’t go there. Nope.

“Dissociate” is about running away from reality and not confronting your fears, while “Paranoia” is about how one tries to cope with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. One is left wondering if, at times, the “cure” might be just as bad as the illness. “Dissociate” closes with a harrowing scream that ends in a sardonic chuckle. If that isn’t the perfect metaphor for living with bipolar disorder, whether it’s your own or a loved one’s, I don’t know what is.

facebook | instagram | bandcamp | youtube | iTunes

Learn more about bipolar disorder, and if you’re struggling, check out the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

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The Making of a Malignant Narcissist: Danny Ross’s “The Son”

DannyRoss

As Donald Trump protest songs go (surprisingly, there really aren’t that many of them), Danny Ross’s “The Son” is in a class by itself. It tells the childhood story of our 45th President in a manner that turns Dickens’ Oliver Twist on its head. Instead of the formative years of a band of poor street urchins, this dark tale is about a young boy born into privilege. It attempts to explain the grown man’s depraved ways by examining his upbringing and his relationship with his domineering father — all in charming musical theater style with clever animation by Elvie Mae Parian.

The stories are true, inspired by a 2016 Washington Post article, “Confident. Incorrigible. Bully: Little Donny was a lot like candidate Donald Trump.” Written more than 4 months before the election, it’s likely that if more people had read this article, they might have been sufficiently concerned enough not to vote for him. Even as a teenager, he refused to acknowledge mistakes, threatened his classmates, frequently lashed out in violent actions and was widely known as “a loudmouth bully.” He spent his young life trying to prove himself to an elusive and disapproving father.

Ross makes a powerful statement about Trump’s presidency merely by sharing these anecdotes from his childhood. Presented as it is, you could almost feel sorry for the guy. I did say ALMOST. Suffice it to say, this deceptively cheery little ditty and its accompanying video is eerie as hell.

Danny Ross is one interesting guy. His CV reads like a strange ‘mash-up’ — songwriter and producer, music columnist at Forbes, husband at Babetown (it’s a surf-rock duo with his wife), press secretary at the New York State Senate, chief of staff at the New York State Assembly and scheduler for the U.S. Congress. Ross and his wife are currently based in Brooklyn.

In his Forbes article, “3 Modern Protest Songs in the Trump Era,” Ross marvels at the dearth of Trump protest songs and discusses the difficulty of creating satire about Trump without sinking to his level. He discovered an elegant and effective way to do it, through delving into Donald’s past.

While you’re perusing Ross’s other Forbes articles about music and entertainment, be sure to read his latest piece about the Music Modernization Act (MMA), which seeks to bring antiquated and wildly unfair songwriter royalties into the 21st century.

forbes articles | facebook | twitter | instagram | bandcamp | babetown

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David Bowie’s Never Let Me Down album is reborn as part of the upcoming Loving The Alien (1983-1988) box set

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David Bowie’s Never Let Me Down album, while frequently panned, then and now, by the musical elite (and by some fans) for not being his best work, holds a special place in my heart. It was at the time of this record’s release and subsequent world tour that I was most deeply immersed in my Bowie fandom. I had just begun publishing a David Bowie newsletter with legendary fan Rose Winters called ‘Bowie Bits’ (her name, not mine! It would soon be changed to ‘Sound & Vision’), and I followed the European and U.S. legs of that tour, reporting on the highly ambitious and wildly extravagant Glass Spider Tour shows. So now, 31 years later (egads!), the much-maligned Never Let Me Down album has been not just re-recorded but remade by former Bowie collaborators Reeves Gabrels, Mario McNulty and others, as part of an eye-popping 11-CD, 15-record box set called Loving The Alien (Warner Music/Parlophone), which will see its release on October 12.

Before I launch into all the info., which is head-spinning, have a listen to “Zeroes,” the first single from the collection.

Gone is the overbearing, leaden ’80s production, and in its place, a sleek, clean acoustic guitar centered mix that puts Bowie’s vocals up front and center, where they belong. From the original, they kept the best parts — David’s acoustic guitar and vocals, and Peter Frampton’s classy sitar lines, which come along like a delicate string of pearls to beautifully offset the otherwise sparse and understated instrumentation. The old version now sounds quite dated, but this sparkles brightly and sounds timeless. It’s exquisite.

As Reeves reveals in a recent BBC Radio 6 interview, David was not happy with the NLMD album. The year after it came out in 1987, he was already voicing his disappointment with the production. In 2008, he remixed “Time Will Crawl” with McNulty, recording new strings and new drums (courtesy of Bowie’s drummer from 1991-2004, Sterling Campbell, who is also on this upcoming release). In the album notes, Bowie wrote, “Oh, to redo the rest of the album.” He has now gotten his wish.

Other musicians featured on the reimagined Never Let Me Down album include David Torn on guitar and Tim Lefebvre on bass, who played on ★ (Blackstar). Also part of Never Let Me Down (2018) is a string quartet with arrangements by Nico Muhly and a special guest cameo by Laurie Anderson on Shining Star (Makin’ My Love).

The set includes newly remastered versions of Let’s Dance, Tonight and Never Let Me Down (original and 2018 versions), Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87), the previously unreleased Serious Moonlight live album, Dance (a collection of original remixes) and Re:Call 4, a non-album, alternate version, b-sides and soundtrack music compilation.

Loving the Alien (1983 – 1988) was clearly designed with the fan in mind. NLMD’s new artwork features previously unpublished images from Greg Gorman’s original cover photo session. The 128-page booklet has rare images from many Bowie photographers of the time, including Gorman, Herb Ritts and Denis O’Regan; historical press reviews and album technical notes from producers/engineers Nile Rodgers, Hugh Padgham, Mario McNulty and Justin Shirley-Smith.

Read all the details and see the full track listing for the Loving the Alien (1983 – 1988) box set — and Pre-Order It On Amazon!

This is Parlophone Records’ fourth box set in a series of special releases that pays tribute to Bowie’s career from 1969. The other critically acclaimed sets include Five Years (1969 – 1973), Who Can I Be Now? (1974 – 1976) and A New Career in a New Town (1977 – 1982).

For Gabrels, the re-recording of Never Let Me Down was an emotional undertaking. As he explains in the BBC Radio 6 interview,

The first song I worked on was Zeroes… One of the things that we used to do all the time was David and I would often record the acoustic guitars facing each other, both of us playing at the same time. It gave it a little more of a natural feel. So, we would record together. I had my headphones on, and I had my guitar that I was playing in my right ear, and David was in the left ear, and his vocal was in the center in the headphones. I had my eyes closed while I was tracking. And in my mind’s eye, I saw David sitting across from me, and the way his body language was, and the way his eyes would look while he was playing. Because he would get this faraway look, but he was looking at you at the same time. I recorded a pass of me playing acoustic guitar with David, and when I stopped, I opened my eyes, and I expected to see David sitting there. I got that feeling out of the way early, because I knew at some point I was going to hear his vocal or something was going to happen that would bring tears to my eyes… In my mind, he was there.

david bowie official site | reeves gabrels official site | BBC Radio 6 interview (starts 45:00 in) | David Bowie – Loving The Alien (1983 – 1988) press release

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Kevin Blake Goodwin’s Dissonance Sheds Light (and Hope) on Addiction

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If this was just about a couple of amazing guitarists or a mind-melting sand animation artist, that would be enough inspiration for me. Add to the mix a mission to bring attention to the often taboo subject of drug and alcohol addiction, and it’s an unbeatable combination. Kevin Blake Goodwin (a.k.a. Blake Goodwin) is a “hybrid electric and acoustic guitar player” with fingerstyle and technical mad guitar skills. He performs what is known as Djent metal guitar, a rhythmic, progressive and technically complex style of playing. He is also a recovering addict, so this is personal. What he has done is to embark on a wildly ambitious project with some of the best musicians, artists and technical people in the business for an album, tour and 30-minute cinematic short film, raising $15,000+ (and counting) through his Kickstarter campaign.

It’s hard to know where to begin in describing this massive undertaking. Here’s a bit of an explanation, with a delicious taste of some of the musical delights in store.

After beating his addiction in 2014, Goodwin won the 2015 Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Competition, which brings together the best international acoustic guitar players. He’s gone on to advocate for worthy causes such as disabled veterans, addiction recovery and expanded opportunities for musicians. In 2016, he founded FRETMONKEY Records, an independent guitar record label that now boasts a roster of 23 guitar players from 10 different countries. But he isn’t just an outstanding guitar player who has a label — he’s also the audio engineer, videographer and producer.

Here’s a little more of his playing — a sneak peak at the Dissonance album.

And the world renowned sand animation artist, Joe Costello? You can see some of his previous work, for PlayStation’s “God of War”:

Costello’s incredible work will be featured in the Dissonance film as well as an art animation retelling of the story. This short film, with its accompanying soundtrack, addresses the “spiritual warfare of addiction” as well as offering hope for recovery. It chronicles Goodwin’s own harrowing journey through a dark and nightmarish setting, and he admits it’s not easy viewing. However, as he explains, it ends “with a strong message of hope, help, and redemption.”

The album features 8 highly complex guitar compositions, with collaborations from world-renowned guitarists Adrian Bellue, Jason Richardson and Felix Martin, plus metal vocalist Shayley Bourget and saxophonist Jameson Burton. The album is mixed and mastered by Arch Echo guitarist and engineer, Adam Bentley.

There are also plans to take this important message (and the music) on the road, with all sorts of special electronics, lighting, film and sound to be added as their budget allows. He has reached his initial goal of $15,000, but the more money they can raise, the more impressive the live show can be. So, donate to his Kickstarter campaign now! There are many great incentives, from MP4 digital copies and CD/DVD packages all the way up to private house concerts and high-end production of your own EP or music video.

web | facebook | twitter | instagram | soundcloud | youtube | fretmonkey records

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Lars Eriksson Conjures the Vitaliebröderna Pirate Gang of Gotland

photo by Adam Hultberg

photo by Adam Hultberg

To listen to the lush music of Lars Eriksson is to allow yourself to be transported to a distant shore. Recently released is the first single from his forthcoming 6-track EP. “I Love You Now” is a beautifully fluid piece that flows around a gypsy violin and Eriksson’s softly sensuous vocals.

Lars Eriksson is a Swedish-born musician who first came to public attention following appearances on the Swedish Idol TV show in 2008. By that time, in his late 20s, he had already written 200 songs. He played piano at age 5 and started writing music when he was 9, performing at his school. He took up guitar at 16 and played with friends under the band name “The Jisreels” at local shows and on tour.

His previous recordings, which can be listened to on Spotify, include Dictions and Contradictions (2012), Rust and Golden Dust (2011), two demo albums titled As It Were and If You Will, plus EPs Inconsequencia and Lonely Jim. Eriksson collaborated with Elin Sigvardsson on the single “Love,” which reached #5 on the Swedish singles chart, and also worked with Anders Bagge and Birger Pettersson (High Gear Music label).

The songs on the new EP were written on the Swedish island of Gotland, during a three-year period when Erikkson lived there. The mood of this special places infuses the songs, some of which incorporate mystic elements that conjure ancient times. The title, Guds vän och allas fiende (“Friend of God and enemy of all”), was the battle cry of the Vitaliebröderna pirate gang, who lived on the island of Gotland in the Middle Ages.

On the EP, Eriksson (who performs on acoustic guitar, vocals and pump organ), is joined by David Åhlén (studio technician Gotland, violin), Magnus Olsson (drums), Carl Ekerstam (electric guitar), Jonas Nilsson (double bass) and Elin Ivarsson (background vocals).

Artwork for the EP and singles are by the Spanish artist Lucía Espinós Bermejo The digital-only release of the EP is on September 15, preceded by the second single, “Breadcrumbs” (August 15).

facebook | soundcloud | spotify | patreon | wikipedia

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Erin Pellnat reminds us to pick up those pennies

Erin Pellnat

Erin Pellnat

There’s something delightfully nostalgic and soothing about Erin Pellnat’s vocals on her new song, “Pennies” that can calm even the most troubled mind that has been caught up in the rough tides of these disturbing times. I don’t know if it’s the gentle accordion and soft percussive shuffle or her 1950s Patsy Cline vibe, but this song takes me back to simpler days. As she and her band sweep us away into a more carefree life (or at least the wistful illusion of such a life), she reminds us that, despite the craziness encircling us, we can still find joy in our lives.

I know, I know that sometimes it seems
this nightmare is swallowing our dreams
But there is never ever a doubt
we’re gonna turn this nightmare inside out.

And I still bend down to pick up pennies
reasons to smile, you don’t need many
and I still skip stones,
still balance on the guardrail on that long walk home.

Pellnat is a singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to her solo work, she sings in the band Caretaker. “Pennies” was written by Christopher Pellnat, a fellow singer-songwriter and guitarist in The Warp/The Weft. He has a recent song of his own, titled “Ode to Olivia Rhodes,” inspired by a fictional character whom he “met” in the virtual reality game, Lone Echo. Erin sings backing vocals.

You can listen to “Pennies” on Spotify. “Ode to Olivia Rhodes” can be found on bandcamp.

Don’t forget to pick up those pennies — we need all the luck we can get!

Erin Pellnat: twitter | instagram | bandcamp | soundcloud | youtube

Caretaker: web | facebook

Christopher Pellnat: soundcloud | bandcamp

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Choose Wisely

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In the dream, I was at some sort of gathering. At one point, the hostess brought me to a low, large table, on which many beautiful and interesting items displayed. I was told to pick out an item from each of three or four sections that I especially resonated with.

I went to work on doing this. There were large, elaborate sculptures and smaller precious pieces that appeared to be quite valuable. It was all quite overwhelming, and I felt like I was taking a very long time to choose.

Some time had passed, and it was later on, after this exercise, which felt like I was being given gifts of my own choosing — what I wanted or wished to be.

I looked at what I had chosen, and at first was very disappointed. Before me was a set of plain leather pocketbooks in various color shades of suede or leather. Practical, perhaps, but not terribly exciting. My initial thought was that I had chosen poorly — that out of all these exotic, beautiful things, I had selected a boring set of bags.

Did I only see myself as capable of just basic things in life, and nothing extraordinary? Had I lost my high ideals and visions?

The hostess told me that it showed how I wanted to be seen by others, but she saw my disappointment. So she said she would bring back just a small selection of items and I could make another choice.

She explained how they selected many, many items as part of a class assignment, so they could do this exercise for various different people. Now it began to feel like a special gift, a sort of divination.

She set before me several sets of postcards or little pictures. I looked through them. One or two sets depicted Native Americans; perhaps some were engaged in tasks. I set aside these two sets of cards which somehow merged into one larger set.

It was after I did this that I realized what this exercise had been about. It had to do with my recent inquiry and struggle to find who I really was.

My spirit guides were helping me in my search for self and my quest for purpose.

During these excruciating months, while I have been reviewing every single possession, both at my house and my parents’, unbeknownst to me (I thought I was just being over-materialistic), I had been unsure of my true nature and unclear in my direction. What in my life held the most meaning for me? What was most important now, going forward?

It was less about reinventing who I was to be after the death of my parents, to whom I had been extremely devoted, and more a re-discovery of my true nature. I had felt lost, adrift, and now I was in the process of being found, with the help of some friends in the spiritual realm.

Waking up, I wasn’t disappointed in my lack of vision, but instead, was extremely grateful.

I had been led through a very long, dark corridor, back to myself.

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