Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lost Moments

Two scenarios keep running through my mind. Two kinds of moments actually, in which something is lost, something I would like to find a way to get back. On the one hand, there are lost moments that feel like opportunities unfulfilled. If only I had said this, if only I had done that. We all have those, don’t we? I want to be the person who does not hold on to these lost moments, circling back around as if I might find a way to actually do something this time, or redo, or undo. Unlike the piles of things that gather dust in the corners of closets and backyard sheds, lost moments will never experience the joy of being picked up and finally put to use. Lost moments that are not released, wait, and remind, niggling and nagging, until they collect enough matter to stand on their own, forming shapes like regret, remorse, a pang of guilt, shame, whatever compunction floats your boat.

I don’t expend too much energy on the darker shadows of guilt and shame - enough, a little, but not too much. But the others, the ones that remind me of the limits constructed of my own fears, they nag at me something awful every now and then. What I wonder is, on that day more than 25 years ago, when I walked out of dance class and saw him standing there, a reminder of what I had longed for most in my high school days – how could things have been different? He was taller, and more intense than I remembered. Would his skin still feel the same? If I had not learned so well to toe the line and bite my tongue, what would I have said, how could things have gone? If I had it to do over again, would I find the courage to reach out and take a chance? Could he in his soccer jersey, and I in my leotard, recapture the opportunity we were destined to lose, and maybe go have coffee instead? Would we want to? I will never know, but I will bother myself plenty about it for a while, think of it as a loss, and look for ways to turn that thought around.

The other lost moments on my mind are more than just errant bits of time and opportunity. They are also lost energy, energy that I want to have back. These moments come from the days that change everything. Not the ones that come as a surprise, but the ones we know are coming, the ones we prepare for – getting thoughts in order, girding our loins (a rather graphic sounding Biblical phrase), spinning dreams of how wonderful it will be, or how awful, or something in between. The wedding, the medical test, the interview, the first day with something new – you know what I mean. We live these things all the time, and expend energy in planning what we will do, and how it might go. What gets my goat, sticks in my craw, whatever other annoying string of words that may come to mind, are the days when the anticipated event fails to happen. So you plan, strategize, worry and dream, extend your focus over a range of possible outcomes, all for naught. Zip. Nothing. Reschedule. Maybe later. No thanks.

All that unfulfilled energy, planning for what turns out to be a big steaming pile of lost moments – that feels like a waste, and I want it back. I have lots to do, and I need all the energy I can get. Last month, when we got ready for the big day, reviewed all the recent successes, evaluated once more the potential for long term negative outcomes, only to have the test scrubbed – yeah, that day – I want that energy back. It’s not like I’m looking for trouble. I’m not out there, with my hand out, looking for drama so that I can feel useful - and I assure you, I am very useful when it comes time for drama. But there is a sense deflation in these lost moments, a lack of satisfaction - all dressed up and no celebration, superhero suit on and no bad guy to fight.

I want a way to recapture the wasted energy, from the lost opportunity moments, and the unfulfilled expectation moments. Let’s call it “personal energy recycling” - a very “green” notion, so it must be good and necessary. When I figure out how to go back in time and gather up all my lost power, I’ll write out the instructions, and share it with others, so we can all benefit. I’ve heard a couple of paths that may lead to the amazing discovery I seek. My quest could lead me to reconsider the very nature of time and energy, but not likely - delving deep is not one of my frequent inclinations. One solution could lie in a simple concept I learned in acting class, right around the time of that ill-fated moment outside the college dance studio – that of living in the here and now. Another answer could be found in the newly discovered secrets of good old positive thinking. In short, you are what you think. Think about good, and you attract good; think about crap, and you get that, too. Of course, one key to making positive thinking really work is trust, and this is where I think I may find some solace. Trusting that the potential for good exists in every moment, and that every moment is as it is meant to be, rich with meaning and intent, is surely the foundation for positive living. I could go on a good bit about any one of these approaches, but will leave that for another time. I’ll give my quest for personal energy recycling a try for a while, see if I can rediscover some of my lost moments, and power I’ve given away, and let you know how it goes.

(Cheryl is the author of Seven Steps to Positive Living, a self-help collection of short and easy meditations for those seeking quiet in the midst of hectic lives. For more information, go to

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Benefit Concert May 23rd

Hello Friends -

I’m writing to let you know about a special event coming up this weekend. There are many wonderful things about the month of May, and one of them is that May is national Brain Tumor Awareness Month. In honor of this event, the Richmond Brain Tumor Support Group is presenting a Benefit Concert. Here’s what you need to know:

What: Benefit Concert celebrating Brain Tumor Awareness Month
When: Saturday, May 23, 3:00-6:00pm
Where: Ashland Coffee & Tea, 101 N. Railroad Avenue, Ashland VA, 23005
Admission: a “Pay as You Can” Donation of $5 or more, at the door, no advance sales.

This show will feature the Susan Greenbaum Band, well known to Richmond audiences, and well loved for “masterful songwriting and performance”. Susan, as many of you know, gave up a successful career at a Fortune 500 company to pursue life as a musician. As many of you may not know, Susan lost an older brother to a brain tumor, so she is eager to see a lot of folks come out and support this worthy cause.

Susan and I met through the Richmond Brain Tumor Support Group. Those who have known me a long time are aware that I set aside a career in professional theatre when my now 15-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1999. In between trips back and forth to the hospital for successful treatments, I’ve been developing my skills as a songwriter, and am excited to be opening this benefit concert with my band, The Solid Band - featuring Beth Harvey on piano and Jim Coles on percussion. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to play with these fine musicians, and share music from my new CD, Springfield.

This benefit concert is presented by and benefiting the Richmond Brain Tumor Support Group (a 501( c) 3 non-profit), an organization that works to provide support for brain tumor survivors and their loved ones, promote awareness for brain tumor issues, and advocate for brain tumor research in Central Virginia. Other local organizations that assist families with brain tumors will take part in the event, and there will be opportunities to support local families as well. In particular, friends of one Ashland family in need have organized a 50/50 raffle to raise money to pay hospital bills for little Charlotte Reynolds, 3 years old, and currently in treatment.

So, ease on into the your holiday weekend! Come on out for a good cause, stay to listen to some great music, and refresh yourself with great food and drink from the new owners at Ashland Coffee & Tea.


Cheryl Fare
facebook - cheryl fare

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Let's Talk About Smoking

In the state of Virginia, a new law banning smoking in public places will go into place some time in December. Without getting into the details, and I rarely get into details on “issues”, it sounds as if over the next several months, restaurants and bars will have a choice to make about how they will address the new smoking ban. I, for one, am looking forward to being able to go out without having to breathe in someone else’s smoke in the process. Now don’t get me wrong here - I am not an anti-smoking-dangers-of-second-hand-smoke crusader – quite the opposite.

I love smoking. I started smoking some time around when I was sixteen. I have quit smoking five or six different times. I have not smoked in nine years. I wouldn’t mind lighting up right now, if it weren’t a supremely stupid move to make. So, why am I looking forward to the smoking ban? Maybe so that I can be spared the envy of watching others enjoy and inhale; maybe so that I can observe others doing things I did for years, such as standing outside in all manner of weather to get their fix of choice; maybe so I can go to the open mic night at the local bar, and be able to sing without feeling like my throat has been scrubbed with Comet – maybe all of the above.

I love smoking because it’s a little bit naughty. Having been raised by a father with a powerful personality and controlling manner, I was well trained to be a “good girl” and try to earn the elusive carrot of paternal approval. I won’t go one step further into that discussion, except to say that this dynamic left me with a never-ending desire to rebel, and be just a little bit naughty. I like to wear black because it makes people wonder, I like men who are less than clean-cut and slightly dangerous, and I like cigarettes because they are a little bit naughty. I have never had any interest in alcohol or anything that might be illegal, but I do likes me some smokes, and “good girls” are not supposed to smoke.

So, let’s talk pros and cons of smoking. The contrary side of the issue goes without saying. For more than the first half of the 20th century, many adults were enticed into smoking by ads claiming the health benefits of tobacco use. My grandmother never went without her after-dinner cigarette, as a way of stimulating the process of digestion and elimination. (Let me just say, snitching a cigarette from her stale stash was an unsavory experience in more ways than one.) But theses days, anyone middle-aged or younger knows that smoking is destructive. Yes, it’s a choice, but nothing short of a reckless and destructive choice for you and all your loved ones. We know that. ‘Nuff said.

Then, there are the benefits of smoking. Aside from the personal benefits noted above, the biggest pro I can recall from my days of lighting up is having a quiet moment on my own to step outside, breathe deeply, and take a break. Oh, how I miss those quiet moments! Without “the pause that refreshes” (ad slogan for Coca-Cola circa 1929, thank you Google), I can get so consumed by my daily activities, that I barely take a moment for a focused breath in an entire day. Now, how many of us could say the same? So, there is something to be said for taking a breather, and lucky for us, we can do that without taking a smoke.

On any normal day where I live, as I drive out to go to some kind of work thing or do errands, it is likely that I will see a particular woman out in front of an older office building down the street from my house. She is out at all times of the day, in all seasons, smartly dressed, coffee mug in one hand, and cigarette in another. My husband has seen her many times as well, and made note, since she is beautiful, tall, long auburn hair, exuding an air of relaxed confidence. I don’t know her, but I could see us being friends, if I could get past being envious of her ever-present smoldering cigarette. I hope that she knows about the dangers of skin cancer, because it looks like she’s been tanning. I wonder if she knows that smoking will give her lots of wrinkles. Most of all, I’m curious – who does she work for? And do they know how much time she spends outside smoking? Must be a nice job.

Quitting smoking is bitch - plain and simple. Nicotine is a most pernicious beast, and does not want to let go, once it has found a likely host. The last time I quit, and it will remain the last time, I managed to do it by replicating the conditions mentioned above. So, I would step outside, (away from the daily grind, and away from my usual smoking place), take deep breaths, stretch, take along a toy of some kind to give my idle hands something to play with, and honor myself with a few quiet moments. Slowly but surely, with a few stops and starts, and some nicotine gum, I was able to let go of my attachment to cigarettes for the last time. And in those times when I find myself yearning for a puff, it is no doubt also a time when I really need to give myself a break, take that “pause that refreshes”, and breathe with intention.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Songwriting Journal - History

I grew up writing songs. Secretly. In my head, in the bath, singing myself to sleep. Quietly, so no one would hear, make snarky comments, tell me I was doing it wrong, or what I should be doing instead. The first fully formed song I recall creating was when I was 11, and had a crush on my best friend’s big brother. It’s a blues song, although I have no idea where or when I may have heard the blues as a child. The only music I remember growing up with, other than Top 40 radio, is soundtracks from Disney movies. I played and played Mary Poppins and Cinderella, until I wore the grooves off the old LP. Even today, I can sing most of Mary Poppins from memory, and know for sure that a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, and shaking hands with a chimney sweep will bring you good luck.

Anyway, back to the blues, and still not sure how I knew anything of blues music. But, the song is still there, in the memory banks, waiting to be brought into the light and made relevant. It’s a pretty decent song actually, complete with the deep moan of the unrequited, and heartfelt declarations of love for a man who, at the time, must have been nothing more than an awkward pimple-faced teen. One day soon, I’ll pull that song out of my pocket, roll it around some, give it some polish, and a chance to breathe the air in the here and now.

The next phase of songwriting was in my late teens and early twenties. College life gave me the chance to meet new people, and gain some exposure to music other than what came out of the car radio. A friend came along who helped me buy my first guitar (still the one I practice and write with today), and the songs started rolling out. I recall writing songs in a variety of dorms and common rooms, pages and pages of songs exploring love of many kinds, searching, heartbreak, yearning, you name it. Most of these songs have been lost along the years - not a great loss, really. A few of the musical progressions live on; one of those has actually made it into a professionally recorded product. Perhaps more will do the same.

In 1982 I started working in theatre, found the collaborative meld of many different art forms to be endlessly fascinating, and followed that path for many years. One thing about theatre - it is all-consuming, there is little room for anything else between the hours of creation and preparation, rehearsal, performance. Things slowed down a bit when my children came along, and more still in January of 1999, when for a reason I had yet to know, I just didn’t want to do theatre any more. I still wanted to communicate with an audience, but in a different way. What I wanted to do was go back to music. So, I started working in that direction, took a guitar class, started playing with melodies and words, found a partner to work with.

I was preparing, or the universe was preparing me, but for something vastly different than what I anticipated. On a Saturday morning in August of 1999, I played my first show as a singer-songwriter. On the following Monday, I found out my daughter had a brain tumor. (Let me just cut to the chase here and say that she is doing well. Its complicated and still challenging, but no complaints here.) Through the subsequent years of challenge and reward, music kept me going. Playing music and writing songs was flexible enough to maintain in between trips to the hospital, and the level of energy needed to guide a family through this sort of thing. On a more personal level, writing songs gave me the emotional and creative release necessary to keep an even keel when things got really tough.

It has taken me 10 years to go from that first show as a singer-songwriter, to where I am now, with my first album of original songs making its way into the world. My progress has been slow, but steady nonetheless. I have learned to keep paper and pencil on hand at all times, on the bed stand, in the car, a stack of index cards tucked into my pocket to catch strings of words as they capture my attention. I have discovered the thrill of taking small moments, spinning them out this way and that to study the strong parts and weak, and pulling them in again into a song. The music composition piece is a bit harder for me, since I really need quiet time for this to happen, and quiet time is hard to come by. Nevertheless, I keep plugging along. Songwriting is a piece of what I do, along with other writing, continued work in the theatre, and most importantly, keeping things going as a wife and mom. From time to time I’ll take a minute to write about the evolution of a particular piece I have written. Perhaps from time to time you will return to read.