Listen to Jason:

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Neil Gaiman, Panic Attacks and Project Natalie

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

neil gaiman, jason poole, accidental hawaiian crooner, molokai, panic attacks, halawa valley, writer's block

Last Friday, I read some of Neil Gaiman’s novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, while I was on the subway. I love his writing.  I love being able to “hear” his voice on the page.  (I’m familiar with his voice from interviews I’ve watched.  And on those rare occasions when I can’t “hear” it in my mind, I substitute the voice of British actor, Alan Rickman.)

Gaiman’s writing style is something I’ve been studying.  It’s slow, not rushed.  It’s like settling it with a good friend who wants to share a story with you, a friend who happens to be one of the world’s best storytellers.  You know you’re in good hands when you read one of his books.

For about thirty minutes, I was immersed in the world he created on the page. When I arrived at my stop on the train, I got up from my seat and realized that I was having a full-blown panic attack.  My muscles were tense, fight or flight mode; my breathing shallow and fast.  At first I couldn’t figure out what had triggered it and then it dawned on me–Gaiman’s narrator in the novel is a young boy who faces fantastic-and-yet-very-real monsters.  Something in the novel had touched a place deep inside me.  Something terrified me.

I recognized the panic attack and I reminded myself it would eventually pass. It did. Eventually.  I made it back to the apartment, sat on the couch and SHUT DOWN.  When I experience a panic attack, that’s all I can do, shut down.

The following day I sat in front of my notebook, poised to work on the BIG PROJECT but frozen.  It was an all-too-familiar scenario. For months I’ve found myself sitting at my desk, excited to write, and then after a few minutes of scratching at the page, I freeze.

Part of Project Natalie includes a massive writing component.  When this project began, I was excited to be working on this piece, something I’m passionate about!  But while the passion has remained intact, I’ve been extremely frustrated with my own lack of progress.  I started out strong and then hit a wall.

In therapy this week (“What? A New Yorker in therapy?”), I had one of those a-ha! moments that I’ve come to love: I was able to see that in my writing life, I’ve been experiencing panic attacks, complete with racing pulse and short, quick breaths.  And just like I saw it happen on Friday, when I’m faced with one of ‘em, I shut down.

So the pen has been frozen with Project Natalie.  For months.

I’ve still managed to squeeze out some writing, but not with Project Natalie.  Actually, I’ve been writing a lot lately.  Or maybe I should say that I’ve started a lot of new pieces lately, new songs, new poems, new essays.  More output than ever in all sorts of directions. And each of them show great promise. I’m the proud owner of a notebook full of strong starts, but no finished pieces except for the song I wrote as a Christmas gift for my parents.  (And that song was cobbled together at the last minute.  Thank goodness for unforgiving deadlines.)

I’m extremely grateful for my notebook full of starts.  It shows me that I’m not completely frozen.  It shows me that I’m able to continue a writing practice–especially when it comes to letting go of any outcome.  I write those mini-pieces. those hopeful beginnings, as a way to keep moving.  A practice of showing up to the page.  A practice that guides my day.  I’d feel lost without it, this anchor made of paper.

When it comes to Project Natalie, I am trying to be gentle with myself.  I recognize that something inside me panics.  There is a part of me that digs in his heels and doesn’t want to budge. A part of me senses danger ahead and freezes.  And I’m trying to be ok with that, trying to be compassionate. (Self-compassion is not one of my strongest suits.)  I

There’s also a part of me that recognizes there’s work to be done.  A story that needs to be written.  So I allow myself to stop for a moment.  And instead of pushing or pulling, I nudge.  Shorter writing assignments.  ”Just a few words.”  ”Just write for 15 minutes.” And I’m seeing that by turning on the heat gradually, the iceberg is beginning to melt.  V-e-r-y slowly.  (Slow and steady… Right, Neil?)

Panic attacks are not fun.  Being frozen is not fun.

But everything changes.

Sometimes, just being able to see what you’re dealing with helps.  The lights are on.  I can see the monsters. And yes, seeing them makes them a little less terrifying.

I mua.  Onward.

Right on.

How’s YOUR week going? 

 

4 Comments

Aloha Paris

Friday, January 9, 2015

Jason Poole, Aloha, Aloha Paris, aloha i kekahi i kekahi, accidental hawaiian crooner, Molokai, Halawa Valley, Paris, eiffel tower

Aloha i kekahi i kekahi.

Love one another.

May we all share Aloha with each other today.

Right on.

1 Comment

A NEW Christmas Song

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mele Kalikimaka!   Merry Christmas to you and your ‘ohana!

I wrote a new Christmas song, a gift for my parents.  It came from a remark I made to a friend when we discussed the holidays with our families:  It’s  just our family, not a Norman Rockwell painting.

I’d grown up loving the art of Norman Rockwell, especially his paintings of families at holiday gatherings.  I loved the details he included.  And I was also a little jealous of the characters.  They always seemed to be so perfect.

This year, I revisited all of those familiar paintings.  And you know what?  My memory of “perfect families” was wrong.  Rockwell’s genuis comes from the life he managed to infuse on the canvas.  The perfection of the imperfection.  And I fell in love with those scenes all over again.  Check out his artwork to see what I’m talking about.  A lip tight with stress.  A tear in an eye.  Awesome.

I sang the song for my family last night, Christmas Eve, when we exchange gifts.  I was excited to share it and wanted everything to be perfect for the performance.  The family all sat near the tree.  James was primed to record the song in a video to share it here on the blog with all of you.

And, of course, nothing is perfect.  Or maybe it’s perfectly imperfect.

Because the “perfect scene” I had imagined went right out the window.  The dog walked in and out of the frame continually.  A glass of wine was spilled right at a crucial (and sentimental) moment in the song.  The lights on the tree refused to behave.  My ‘ukulele refused to stay in tune.  The camera didn’t record it.

And it WAS perfect.

I’ve included the lyrics below.  Maybe you’ll see your own family in them, too.

Sending you all warm Aloha.

Right on.

‘TIS THE SEASON

JASON POOLE (CHRISTMAS 2014)

 

WE ALL KNOW THOSE CLASSIC SCENES

FROM CHRISTMAS CARDS AND MAGAZINES

FALLING SNOW AND A HORSE-DRAWN SLEIGH

ARE SIGNS THAT FAMILY IS ON THEIR WAY

 

BUT MODERN LIFE MEANS A TRAFFIC JAM

AND SLEETING RAIN ON OUR MINIVAN

AFTER ARGUING AND STICKING OUT TONGUES

THE KIDS SING CAROLS AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS

 

TIS THE SEASON, ‘TIS REALITY

IT’S NOT A NORMAN ROCKWELL PAINTING

IT’S BETTER

 

GREEN WREATHS HANG FROM WINDOW PANES

CHOCOLATE FUDGE AND CANDY CANES

IT JUST LIKE ENTERING SANTA’S WORKSHOP

WHEN THE KIDS VISIT GRAMMY AND POP-POP

 

BUT OUR FAMILY IS A NOISY CROWD

MAKING CHRISTMAS TOWN PRETTY LOUD

CHAOS FROM FLOOR TO CEILING

WELL, AIN’T THAT THE CHRISTMAS FEELING

 

TIS THE SEASON, ‘TIS REALITY

IT’S NOT A NORMAN ROCKWELL PAINTING

IT’S BETTER

 

PRESENTS PILED BENEATH THE TREE

THE KIDS ARE WAITING EXPECTANTLY

FOR THE START OF ALL THE FUN

AS THEY OPEN THEM ONE BY ONE

 

BUT THE TOY CASTLE IS MISSING A PART

MUST’VE FALLEN FROM THE SHOPPING CART

THE TALKING DOLL WON’T SAY “PRETTY PLEASE”

SO WE’RE SCRAMBLING FOR BATTERIES

 

TIS THE SEASON, ‘TIS REALITY

IT’S NOT A NORMAN ROCKWELL PAINTING

IT’S BETTER

 

AFTER SAYING A CHRISTMAS PRAYER

THE KIDS LINE UP FOR HUGS AT POP-POP’S CHAIR

AND GRAMMY KISSES THEM EACH ON THEIR HEADS

AND WE SEND THEM OFF TO BED

 

NOW COMES OUR GROWN UP TIME

SOME CHEESE AND CRACKERS, A GLASS OF WINE

AFTER WEEKS OF RUNNING ‘ROUND LIKE MANIACS

WE PUT OUR FEET UP AND RELAX

 

AND WE SIGH ‘CAUSE IT ALL GOES SO FAST

EACH SEEMS QUICKER THAN THE LAST

WE DRINK A TOAST TO THOSE NO LONGER HERE

AND START PLANNING AGAIN FOR NEXT YEAR

 

TIS THE SEASON, ‘TIS REALITY

IT’S NOT A NORMAN ROCKWELL PAINTING

IT’S BETTER

© Jason Poole 2014.  All rights reserved.

0 Comments

A playlist to get you moving this week (12/1)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Aloha, gang! Need some help when it comes to getting motivated?  Me, too. Here is a playlist (courtesy of my computer) to help keep you musically inspired while you work out, make your way around town, commute to work or just surround yourself in mele Aloha. Nanina – Kuana Torres Kahele Analani E – Na … Click here to read more…

2 Comments

A Thanksgiving limerick

Thursday, November 27, 2014

In New York lives the Accidental Hawaiian Crooner Who travels the world with his ‘ukulele and his tuner Grateful for hula tunes to sing And all the smiles that they bring He is most thankful for all of you-ner Happy Thanksgiving, gang. Share the Aloha. Right on.

2 Comments

I want you to build a goat house.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I want you to build a goat house. What? I look at him, study his face. Is he joking? I ask him to repeat it, surely I’ve misunderstood.

6 Comments