#metoo

I started writing a book a few months ago. It’s about my spiritual development journey, each chapter focusing on a different spiritual learning I’ve gained over the last couple of years.

One of the chapters centers around power and oppression. It’s definitely the most difficult chapter to write, and I often find myself closing my laptop, overwhelmed at having to revisit my past.

I’ve had no shortage of experiences with oppression over the course of my life.

It seems that simply coming into this world as I did, I was already set up to experience oppression on multiple levels — as a woman, as a visible minority (specifically, a person of Asian descent), and, for many years, as someone on the lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder.

Of course, with all of the #metoo posts being shared on social media, following the slew of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, it’s men’s oppression against women that is specifically weighing on my mind right now.

And while I’d like to close my laptop, overwhelmed, I feel compelled to write.

Deep breath. Okay, let’s dive in.

My #metoo’s

For those of you who don’t know, the recently gone-viral #metoo movement started on Sunday, October 15 with actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet:

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

(FYI – The #metoo movement actually originated with activist Tarana Burke.)

I have watched as several women I know have shared their #metoo’s on their Facebook pages over the past few days.

And I have thought back to my own experiences where men have sexually harassed me. Here’s the first three that I could immediately recall, off the top of my head:

  1. The time a man masturbated openly on the subway train while staring at me, and then got up — presumably to follow me — when I got up to exit at the next stop. (He left the train as I pretended to, but then I stayed on as the doors closed behind him.)
  2. The time a man who was in a position of authority over me made sexual advances, including touching and grabbing me without my consent, and continued to persist after I said that, no, I wasn’t going to have sex with him. (Because I had no choice but to still be in contact with him over the next several days, I had to ask some of my friends to make sure that I wasn’t left alone with him, since he clearly didn’t know the meaning of “no.”)
  3. The time when the guy who lived across the hall from me in a rooming house tried to push his way into my room after I declined to have a drink with him. (I had to throw my weight against the door to get it closed and locked, so that he couldn’t come in and do God knows what to me.)

What those men did (and what others have done) made me feel everything from shock to anxiety, to feeling like I had a lack of control and choices, to feeling anger, vulnerability, to just outright fear.

Furthermore, there was nothing in me that felt empowered to defend myself, to speak out, or to assert myself in the way that I actually wanted to.

What happened, instead, was that:

I hid. I avoided.

I called another man to come help me.

I removed myself from places I had every right to be in, and wanted to be in.

I disconnected from people around me when I was out in public. 

I became hyper-vigilant. (Even after I moved multiple times after leaving that rooming house, including to neighbourhoods where people would probably feel safe enough to leave their front doors unlocked, I still always kept some kind of weapon in my bedroom. Just in case.)

I relived traumatic memories in my mind, even if, physically, I wasn’t in danger at the moment.

(Tellingly, I had a vivid nightmare the morning after I started working on this post. The nightmare was about me being sexually assaulted, running away from someone, and trying to shut myself in my room with a door that barely locked. Go figure.)

The impacts of sexual harassment, of sexual assault, and of men’s oppression against women in general, aren’t just contained to that one specific experience a woman goes through.

Those impacts don’t go away when the man goes away, or after she’s able to leave the scene.

No, the impacts extend far past each violation. They accumulate, and carry on years later, and affect every part of of a woman’s being, and her sense of safety and self-worth.

This Piece is for Men

In some ways, I didn’t want to publicly share any of my experiences of sexual harassment.

I didn’t (and don’t) want other women to read those stories, only to have to shelve them into their already over-stuffed mental repository holding all of the other innumerable accounts of men’s oppression against women, simply to weigh those creaking shelves down just a little bit more.

I, myself, didn’t want to dig any further than those experiences, because I knew I’d find countless more, and those three alone still make my stomach churn, and my heart turn a little bit colder, to think about what they, and every other experienced or witnessed instance of men’s violations against women represent about humanity.

But this piece is only for other women insofar as letting them know that they — you — are not alone in your experiences.

And to let you — my dear sister — know: It’s not us. It’s not our fault. And no, we are not overreacting.

This piece is only for me insofar as addressing some urgent force inside me that chose this specific time to speak up. I had to listen.

In every other way, this piece is for men.

Men who may be noticing all the #metoo posts on social media, and actually want to know more about a woman’s perspective.

This piece is a reminder to men that contributing to our very prevalent culture of men sexually harassing and assaulting women isn’t just about whether you, yourself, force your body onto a woman or call her obviously lewd names to her face.

It’s also about what you, as a man, may be doing to keep that overall system of oppression against women — of which sexual harassment and assault are only one facet — alive. A system that is fed and satiated through everyday, often unmindful acts (or omissions to act).

  • Like when you talk to “your boys” about your female partner when she’s not around, or about women in general, in a disrespectful, demeaning way. Or when you stay silent, or laugh, when hearing other men speaking about women in that way. (I can’t even begin to tell you the things that I’ve heard over my time, hanging out with guys when there have been no other women present, that have shocked and saddened me, but ultimately, led me to believe that this was a normal way for women to be treated. Women are not objects. And they are not inferior to you. They are beautiful human beings who make your lives better.)
  • Like when you dismiss what a woman is trying to express to you, because, in your mind, she’s “just being hormonal” or “irrational.”
  • Like when you cut a woman off when she’s speaking to a group, or “explain” to everyone that “this is what she’s trying to say.”
  • Like when you ignore a woman who is asking you a question, until she gives up and leaves you alone. (I hate when I see this happen. I have seen many men do this to their partners and to their mothers. It’s like you are sending her the message that she is so unworthy of your response, that she is invisible.)
  • Like when you don’t let a woman just walk down the fricking street without making her feel like she’s an object to be called after, eye-raped, or followed. A woman should never have to walk in public with her head down, eyes averted, or feel forced to cross to the other side because of your disturbing presence. It’s her street, too.
  • Like when you are “handsy” with a woman who hasn’t invited you to touch her. (This happened to me recently where a man I barely knew — but who apparently thought that my general friendliness equated to an invitation to invade my personal space — placed his big paw on my shoulder and gripped it, leaving it there while he said whatever he wanted to say. I felt completely uncomfortable, but also paralyzed, as he crossed my personal boundaries with zero regard. I did not give you permission to touch me. And you just did, forcefully, as though you had some kind of right to my body. You don’t. So, fuck off.)
  • And so on.

It’s about being aware that some of the actions and words that you have normally taken for granted as acceptable — because they’ve never been questioned, because you’ve “always” seen other men behave in that way, or because women don’t explicitly tell you how much you’ve hurt them with your actions and words — can actually have a profoundly harmful impact on the way a woman perceives herself, and how she experiences every relationship that she’s a part of.

No doubt, that this has been the case for me.

All of my own personal experiences of gendered oppression, including sexual harassment — as well as witnessing those of other women — have had a tremendously negative impact on my life.

Because, as a result, what I have learned is that I often have to think twice about where I want to live, where and how I want to travel, what I want to wear, where I want to sit, what I want to say (oh, don’t want to give him “the wrong impression”), and who I want to talk to.

(And many times, the outcome of that thinking is that I don’t feel free to do what I want. Even though I have every right to. And even though I am in no way asking to be harassed or oppressed by doing any of those very basic things.)

What I have learned is that trusting a man to genuinely respect me is not the rule of thumb. It is the exception.

What I have learned is that my voice won’t be taken as seriously as a man’s. Even if I’m smart as fuck.

What I have learned is that I have to fight against the completely false, but insidiously internalized, message that my body is not mine to fully control and own.

What I have learned is that I will continuously have to think twice about the safety of my mind, my body, and my life, simply because I am a woman. I cannot expect that my safety is a given.

What I had learned was that I was not worthy enough to deserve better than men who cheated on me, sexually manipulated me, disrespected me, and emotionally and verbally abused me. (This has since changed, but only since my last relationship. And it took the first two years of being with him to believe that I was — and could — actually be with a genuinely good guy.)

Now, of course, we — women — are worthy enough to not have to endure any of this shit.

But believe me, no matter how strong, self-confident, and self-loving a woman is, she is always fighting — both internally and the world around her — to accept and own her inherent worthiness as a woman.

Always.

Why? Because she is always bombarded with, and internalizing, the messages from the people closest to her, media, social media, her workplace, and so on, that she is not worthy enough to be just exactly as she is.

And, as men time and time again, overstep their boundaries with her — and they will — she is always fighting to reassert those boundaries, and to reclaim her body and agency, oftentimes feeling powerless to do so because she has been taught, since day one, to “be nice,” that she’s “just overreacting,” that she might need to fear for her safety if she fights back, and that, even if she does try to fight back, there will likely be little to no repercussions against her perpetrator.

So, this piece is for men.

It’s an awareness call to men that it is the cumulative effect of each and every single instance of cat-calling, unwanted touching, objectifying women, talking shit about women, humiliating women, dismissing women, pressuring a woman to give more than she is comfortable with, and disrespecting your female partner, that then enable (some) men to feel that they have the power to jerk off in front of a woman when she clearly did not ask for it, or to force their body onto a woman when she said “no.”

Because all of it, at the end of the day, is one and the same: It’s about throwing up your hand and saluting a culture where men devalue women.

It’s about reinforcing a culture where men can expect to overstep a woman’s boundaries unchecked, because the control and ownership of women are so ingrained in the psyche of male privilege.

It’s about perpetuating a culture where men continue to hold privilege and power that dictates how women should behave, think and feel — even when that is not how a woman wants to behave, think or feel.

If you still can’t make the connection, here it is once more:

… sexism, male dominance and male privilege lay the foundation for all forms of violence against women. (source)

There is nothing inherently correct about men devaluing, controlling, and violating women. Nothing.

As a woman, my body is mine. I say who gets to touch it. And I choose who to share it with.

As a woman, I have a brain just the same as a man’s. And depending on the man, my brain might even work a little better. (Just sayin’.) I am contributing my intellect and talents to the world much more than I am contributing my pretty smile. Recognize that.

As a woman, I may embody the stereotypical feminine traits of being emotional, intuitive, empathic and nurturing. Those are gifts. Not signs of weakness. I bring healing, empathy, compassion and love into this world. Honour that. Value that. Imagine a world without women like that. What a shitty world that would be.

As a woman, I am also just a human being, the same as any person of any other gender. And as a human being, I have a right to feel safe doing everyday, basic things like walking down the street or living in my own home.

As a woman, I am fucking pissed off. And I will not do what is expected of me and keep fucking quiet.

I am saying my piece.

So, Now What?

Women reading this, at this point, may be thinking: “Yup. I already know this. I’ve lived this. I am living this.”

Maybe, like me, you’re feeling drained, too. I almost didn’t want to write this, because I knew what it would take out of me. And indeed, after three days of writing, I am depleted.

If you’re feeling the pain, too, I’m so sorry.

I know all of you have gone through your own experiences — some similar, and some much more egregious violations of your bodies, minds and souls.

My heart is aching for you, me, and the rest of our sisters.

Diving into this topic, as a woman — whether you’re sharing or reading — is difficult, and I’m actively seeking some self-care to counter the serious energy drain I’ve been going through.

(I’ll share at the bottom about my self-care practices, in case they might also help you).

Men reading this, at this point, may be feeling overwhelmed, motivated, ashamed, indifferent, and/or confused about what to do.

Maybe you’re even feeling upset or angry, as you read post after post about “how awful” men are. If that’s you, my friend, leave your ego at the door and keep reading. I know you don’t recognize it yet, but your reaction is a direct result of holding male privilege.

I believe that there are a lot of men out there who have been following the #metoo movement, and are wanting to do something towards positive change. I truly believe that.

If you don’t know where to start, just start with yourself.

Start with the women in your own life.

Your wife. Your girlfriend. Your mother. Your sister. Your daughter. Your female friends. Your female co-workers. Your female employees. Your female students. And so on.

Ask yourself what you might be doing in your everyday interactions with these women that might make them feel inferior, objectified, devalued, demeaned, humiliated, ashamed, violated, unsafe.

Think past those initial thoughts of, “Well, I don’t think that’s so bad …” or, “But I don’t mean anything harmful by that.”

It’s not about what you think.

It’s about the impact that your actions or words may be having on her.

Dig deep.

If you really listen to what she’s saying (and not saying), you’ll probably pick up some clues.

Keep educating yourself on this issue, if you really care to make a difference, because a large part of this is about changing deeply ingrained perspectives — your deeply ingrained perspectives.

And if you don’t make a real effort to learn about, and open your eyes to, different perspectives, then your acceptance and expression of male privilege will remain intact.

And so, the epidemic of men’s sexual harassment and assault against women will live on.

It’s up to you to fix this. You, as a man, need to:

Accept and own our responsibility that violence against women will not end until men become part of the solution to end it. We must take an active role in creating a cultural and social shift that no longer tolerates violence against women. (source)

For Men:

These resources are only a start. Questions will probably pop up for you. Do your own research. Ask Google. Whatever you’re wondering has already been asked and written about. Trust me.

Privilege 101: A Quick and Dirty Guide

Some people confuse “privilege” as meaning “special advantages.” This guide explains what “privilege” actually means in the context of the #metoo conversation.

160+ Examples of Male Privilege in All Areas of Life 

No one is asking you to feel guilty for having your privilege. “But once you understand that these often invisible perks aren’t available to everyone, you can see why addressing privilege means recognizing that people of all genders deserve equal access to basic respect for our humanity.”

How Men Can Better Recognize and Interrupt Everyday Sexual Harassment 

A comic that visualizes examples of sexual harassment and how you, as a man, can help to change the script.

The Rock Test: A Hack for Men Who Don’t Want To Be Accused of Sexual Harassment

“Are you a man confused on how to treat the women you work with? … This life hack will have you treating women like people in no time.” Humorous, but it makes the point.

To The Men on the Other Side of #MeToo

Why it’s on you guys to fix this. In case I wasn’t clear.

Again, this is just a start. If anyone — men or women — come across any other resources you think should be shared, please let me know in the comments. Thank you.

For Women:

Working on this post, which has included reading numerous soul-draining articles and #metoo experiences, has triggered something fierce in me.

I have been feeling annoyed, angry, frustrated, drained, saddened, and apathetic, all at the same time.

I do want to mention that, at this point in my life, I thankfully do know more than just a handful of men who have shown me that they are capable of genuinely respecting women.

As I said earlier, the last partner I was with was the first true example that I could, indeed, be respected by a man in a romantic relationship. Thank goodness for him. I had learned to have very low standards before him. But. Never. Again.

There are other men who are currently in my life who make me feel safe, valued and accepted for who I am, and for that, I am deeply grateful. It’s still not enough, but they give me some hope in this tiresome battle that we endure.

On sharing our stories

At the end of the first day of writing this post, I listened to an episode on The Priestess Podcast with guest Layla Saad of Wild Mystic Woman

(As an aside, Layla wrote an amazing piece called “I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy (Part One)” that calls out a different type of continuance of oppression. You can find Part Two here.)

Although the podcast episode was geared towards female spiritual leaders, and I certainly do not consider myself a spiritual leader in any way (in fact, I am a spiritual learner in every way), it gave me some peace of mind for both writing and sharing this post.

As Layla said:

… you don’t have to wait for it to be perfect, or for you to have it perfectly figured out or understood, before you say something or do something.

I am not an “expert” feminist. I cannot speak for every other woman I know and don’t know. I’m not even sure if what I wrote here truly encapsulates everything I want to say on this topic (probably not).

But I felt the need to speak. And so, I am speaking.

That being said, if you don’t share your own story — even if you want to — that is entirely (and obviously) your choice, and yours alone.

As I commented recently on a friend’s Facebook post where she stated that maybe she wasn’t brave enough to share her own #metoo story:

“… not sharing doesn’t make you not brave. It just might mean that sharing could trigger something that you don’t want to experience (and shouldn’t have to experience). It could mean that you only want to share in private, to specific people. It could mean that you just don’t fucking feel like it. It’s an individual decision and nobody can fault you for the one you make for yourself.”

I have read from some women’s posts that women shouldn’t have to out ourselves, explain ourselves, or tell men how to fix this problem.

No, we shouldn’t have to.

But at the end of the day, sister, do whatever the hell your soul tells you to do. The people who love you will be there to support you and catch you, if you need it.

On self-care

Writing this piece, and reading about other women’s experiences, has triggered a lot of memories, negative emotions, and unresolved wounds. The need for self-care has been a given.

Some of the things I’ve done to reground myself have included:

  • Journaling about the nightmare I had. Putting it on paper helped me to get it out, and let it go.
  • Making sure I’ve been eating well.
  • Spending time with our farm dog, Olive. Animals are better than therapy sometimes.
  • Taking a few minutes during the busyness of the day to chat with someone who I knew would make me smile. 🙂
  • Going for a run.
  • Only returning to writing this post when I felt ready to again. There is nothing but 100% of my conviction and intention behind this piece.
  • Debriefing with my amazingly supportive coach, Ivy, about the impact that delving into this topic has had on my wellbeing.
  • While I’ve been writing this piece, I have physically been around a lot of male energy. I have been giving myself the space I need from that energy as much as possible. And without apology.

And after I publish this piece, I will be celebrating — yes, celebrating — with a burning ritual: I’ll be doing a bonfire at the farm where I burn a printed copy of this post, as a release to make room for healing. (Thanks, Ivy, for the suggestion. I love it!)

If you’re in need of some self-care, too, but don’t know where to start, here’s a couple of articles that you can check out for more ideas:

Ultimately, do what speaks to you, and what makes you feel comforted, grounded and safe. ❤

Thank you for reading. And if you want to share any of your own thoughts here, please feel free and safe to do so in the comments below.

Lots of love and healing,
Janice xo

Take a Moment

The call of work is always, well, calling.

Clanging its bell to remind you that the time is always ripe to make a few bucks.

After a couple of days of feeding farm animals, doing my online freelancing job, feeding farm animals again, going back to the online freelancing job, then going to bed exhausted but wired, only to have to wake up to do it all over again, I just couldn’t bring myself to experience life like this a third day in a row.

Even though I had told myself that I would grind it out — “just for now” — because, well, I really “should.”

The thing is that I know very well that it will always feel like making money is an imperative.

And that maybe if we just focus on that “for now”, it’ll give us the freedom later to live our lives the way we really want to.

But it never ends, my friends.

There will always be something more that you think you want or need. There will always be “bigger” and “better” waving their flashy arms at you from a distance, insisting that you don’t look too happy standing where you are.

Where they are though? Trust them, life is banging over there.

I experienced those feelings both when I was really struggling financially back in the day, and when I had a well-paying job and was living a fairly comfortable life.

It’s really not about how much you have or don’t have. It’s about that mindset we’re all conditioned to adopt that more is better, or that life is not complete without x, y, and z (variables which typically require — you guessed it — more money).

I don’t mind working hard at all. In fact, I wouldn’t not want to work.

But where I butt heads with the need to make money is when the other, ultimately more important things in my life begin to suffer.

Like singing.

Like doing my daily spiritual practice of journalling and reflection.

Like writing creatively for my website or book.

Like reading something inspiring.

Like taking care of my health by eating well.

Somehow, when I’m in the grind, I’m either too tired, too uninspired, or too distracted to think about those things, much less do any of them.

So, this morning, feeling tired and dazed, I decided to take care of myself.

I sang.

I took a long time to cook something nice and warm for this cold, rainy day.

I read some writings by Elisa Romeo, an author on the topic of spirituality (among other things) who I just stumbled upon.

And, well, I guess writing this post was me pausing, reflecting, and realigning myself.

What about you?

Do you need to take a pause, too?

Don’t worry, the work will always be there, waiting for you.

That moment you need to take, though? That will pass you by. Take it. 😉

~ Janice xo

Creative Space (Days 25-26 & 32 of #100daysofmusic)

My #100daysofmusic project (for the #100DayProject movement) has been progressing in waves — you know, up and down.

I think I always knew this, but it’s certainly been reinforced over the last few weeks that my physical space has a huge effect on my creativity, as well as my singing voice.

As someone who is super sensitive to her external environment (the weather, allergens, noise, other people), I have found it challenging to consistently feel comfortable enough to practice my music while moving around over and over again in Vancouver.

Long story as to why the nomadic life. But the important thing is learning how to work around it, because I suspect that I’ll be wandering around the world for a while 😉

“Cups” (Anna Kendrick cover)

I finally got a little music video up on my Instagram (@janicehoimages) a few days ago. I’m typically drawn to singing slow, moody songs with lots of minor-key action. But I had fun learning the more upbeat “Cups” by Anna Kendrick (from Pitch Perfect).

I was inspired to share what actually goes on during a practice session by another Instagrammer @patrick.hyatte, who is also taking part in #The100DayProject. He posts regularly on practicing the violin and explains the techniques he’s working on, etc.

For some reason, what I wrote disappeared from my Insta post! But here’s what it said:

I’m all about variation and dynamics, so once I know the melody, I like to play around with it so that (for example) Verse 2 sounds a bit different from Verse 1. You can hear me experimenting with this in the vid!

[*Hmm, why aren’t the videos showing up on this post?! While I figure this out, if you click on the box below, you will be taken to the video on Instagram!]

 

“Falling” (The Civil Wars cover) – with Tobias

One cool living space I ended up in was an Airbnb with four other guests who all played the guitar at one one level or another!

Tobias was one of them. One day, he knocked on my door as I was playing in my room and said: “Thanks for the music!”

We ended up playing some songs together and he learned the guitar part for a song I’ve been working on called “Falling” by The Civil Wars.

It was SO awesome and freeing to just be able to sing while someone played the guitar for me!

 

“Phoenix Rising” (Original) – with Chris

Yesterday, I met up with a fellow singer-songwriter friend, Chris, at a rehearsal studio in Vancouver.

We spent a couple of hours jamming to each others’ chosen tunes, both on guitar for the first hour and Chris on the drums the second.

We were both feeling slightly under the weather and hadn’t heard ourselves sing for a few days, but the rule was: “No judgment, this is a safe space.” 🙂

It’s great to have these creative spaces available to musicians who might want to wail away, but maybe doing so at home isn’t the greatest idea!

 

Do you have a preferred space for working on your creative projects? Is it a specific physical place? Or does it also involve people (or alone time!)?

The Siren’s Song (Day 15 of #100DaysofMusic)

Recently, I’ve been working on crafting a lyric entitled The Siren’s Song. I thought I had somehow lost my ability to write emo lyrics, but I guess not!

Across all songwriters, you’ll find different processes for songwriting. I have always found it incredibly difficult to start with the music or melody first. I feel like I have to then force myself to make a lyric fit within that.

I guess I’m about the story — making sure I’m saying what I want to say, then finding a melody and chords that bring that story to life.

I’m not saying that it’s the best method. In fact, I find it pretty inspiring when I see songwriters doing it the other way!

Well, here’s what I’ve got so far for The Siren’s Song. Whether or not it turns into an actual song that I’ll record is secondary at the moment.

I’ve had songwriter’s block for months now that it’s simply about getting words onto paper!

The Siren’s Song (work in progress)

Crawling down your back
That sense of shadowed things
Around the darkened bend
Where the siren’s sing

But step by step you find
Your feet keep moving on
Beckoned by the call
Of the siren’s song

And you know what
Curiosity will do to you
Shake you, break you
Take you down to your knees
But what’s on the other side
>>(What’s the hook?!)

Now you’re rolling in the sea
Pulled under by her spell
Deeper, darker, down you go
Into the wishing well

A siren knows what myths you’ve told
To enter the abyss
She’s seen them cheat, lie, deceive
Their way to feel her kiss

Tips for Singing at an Open Mic (Day 3 of #100DaysofMusic)

Last night, I attended a great open mic at Trees Organic Cafe in downtown Vancouver.

Although the venue was new to me, I immediately felt that comfort of entering a familiar environment that I’ve experienced at other open mics back home in Toronto.

There were the musicians entering the cafe with their guitars, getting their names down on the sign-up sheet, the host coming up to the mic, introducing each performer, the kind of nervous, excited anticipation buzzing around the room.

I’ve unfortunately been battling some fierce allergies that have been getting progressively worse since I got to Vancouver. My voice is unhappy and I’m not able to breathe properly.

So, while I really wanted to play at the open mic, I knew I needed to sit this one out!

Just watching the performers with no intention of singing myself was actually really nice. It gave me a chance to simply observe and not be distracted by nerves or thinking about the songs I was going to perform.

After watching several people get up on stage, here are some tips I thought I’d share for performing at an open mic:

1. Sing with some expression and emotion.

Wow, there were some people who did this brilliantly. One woman just bared her entire soul to us, it was amazingly intense and uplifting. But others had the exact same look on their face throughout all of their songs.

Think about the story and feeling you want to communicate, then push past the fear of vulnerability and give it to us!

2. Make eye contact with the audience.

There were many performers who did a great job expressing themselves. But many of them also barely made eye contact with the audience when they sang.

Even if they had a stunning voice, the lack of connection with the audience created this block between us and the performer.

You don’t have to stare everyone in the eyeball the entire time you’re singing, but definitely try looking around the room more frequently if you always find yourself singing with your eyes shut.

3. (Re)Consider the length of your songs. 

A few of the songs that were performed ran on for what felt like 6, 7, 8 minutes (typically, they were original songs).

Usually, it would have felt perfect to have ended the song a bit earlier (like two minutes earlier). Some people even started clapping at that point, because it really felt like the song was done. But then, it would continue. And continue.

I don’t want to sound like the songwriting nazi, because I am no expert, but at least for a performance, reconsider the length of a song for the sake of your audience. Keep them engaged and don’t lose the impact of your song by repeating the same line or chorus a million times.

4. Move on if you mess up or forget a line. A few people did this, but laughed it off and moved on. If they really couldn’t remember, they switched to a different song. It happens! No one will mind! Forgive yourself and smile about it. 🙂

5. Practice your songs well. I was really impressed by how seriously each singer seemed to take their performances. I don’t mean serious in an uptight way. I mean that you could tell they had taken the time to rehearse to get their vocals and guitar playing on point.

You never know who’s watching or what an open mic performance can lead to (my first open mic led to my first gig)! So, practice well and put your best foot forward!

By the way, these are ALL things that I also need to continuously work on as a performer. They are also good reminders for myself and also, just my one opinion. 😉

What say you? Do you have any advice for singing at an open mic? Please share!

#The100DayProject

I’ve been meaning to participate in #The100DayProject for a while now, though I knew I would likely have to wait until I got to Vancouver to begin.

Now that all of my time is my own, I have no excuses but to refocus on something that’s been drifting in and out of my life like fleeting waves with the tide. (Sorry for the dramatic prose).

What’s #The100DayProject, you ask? It’s all explained here, but in a nutshell, it’s “a free, global art project that anyone can participate in.”

You choose what you want to pursue for 100 days, give it a unique hashtag on Instagram (#100daysof___), then just go for it!

Each day, do something towards your project and post it for the world to see! So, what’ll my project be about?

#100DaysofMusic

Of course, what else? 🙂

As I mentioned, it’s been tough for me to keep up with singing, and especially songwriting, over the last several months.

I just haven’t been able to get into the right groove and creative space to “do” music consistently. Creating music and expressing myself through singing is something I need for my soul to feel balanced and fulfilled.

I’m definitely a person who gets motivated by working towards something that involves other people. That’s why I did my Facebook Live show, and that’s why I’m now taking on #The100DayProject … starting today!

There’s no other better time than now, right?

My posts won’t necessarily be just about singing (although I definitely plan to put up some music vids!). It could be about anything that contributes toward bringing music back into my life in a meaningful way. ❤

What’s Your 100 Day Project?

So, are you in with me? Your project can be about music, photography, visual art, writing, or really anything else that you’re passionate about or want to work towards.

One person’s project was about working out to get more fit. Another person’s project was to write a card every day for someone.

Although the “official” 2017 start date for #The100DayProject was April 4th, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t start right now!

Let me know if you decide to join, your Instagram handle, and what your 100 Day Project will be all about! I’m at @janicehoimages — hope you’ll join me on my 100 day journey of music. 🙂

Freedom

A few days ago, there was an event at the farm that ended in a group of us around a bonfire at night, and me singing a couple of songs with my guitar.

After hearing me sing, one of the people there — Kelly, a sweet woman with amazingly positive vibes — ended up giving me the nickname (or stage name) Freedom.

Wow. I just felt something so strong resonate within me when she said that. Freedom is, after all, what enables me to share my music, as well as what I want it to evoke in others — particularly the freedom of feeling and expressing.

It’s also what has been dictating my life in general these days.

I never thought about actually taking on a stage name. On one hand, there is something so — no pun intended — freeing about it!

On the other hand, would you rather keep your real name to represent your art?

Hm, I’m undecided. What say you?

Summer Solstice Facebook Live Show! (Wed, June 21, 8PM EST)

UPDATE: What an amazing time I had doing this show! I felt nothing but positive vibes and love from those who watched live and later. Thank you to everyone for being part of this! ❤

***You can watch the full Summer Solstice Facebook Live Show here.***

Hey friends!

Tomorrow is an exciting day for two reasons.

One, it’s the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and a time for celebration.

Second, I’ll be performing a few songs in a Facebook Live show here: http://bit.ly/2rMPovk

The set will be a mix of jazz, r&b, folk and pop covers that will be all about love, hope and inspiration. ❤

Join me tomorrow, Wednesday, June 21 at 8PM EST, for some music and good vibes! 🎵🎤😊

Unveiled

I don’t listen to many podcasts — I find most of the ones I’ve heard pretty difficult to listen to, to be honest! — but when I do get in the mood for some good talks, I like tuning in to Motivational Millennial’s podcast.

I find that I always leave with some newfound wisdom or encouragement to do better for myself — whether that’s related to work life or my personal development.

They just wrapped up Season 1, and I wanted to share their finale episode, “Strength Through Vulnerability”, HERE.

It’s actually in a different format than their usual interview-style episodes, where co-hosts Blake and Ivy access the minds some seriously inspirational guests. (Some of my fave episodes are here, here, and here).

But I did want to reflect on this particular episode’s topic: Vulnerability.

As Blake and Ivy mention, we typically regard vulnerability as an unfavourable state to be in.

Indeed, when I looked up the word “vulnerability” in the thesaurus, I got back a lot of negative synonyms, like unsafe, weak, threatened.

But then, one other word caught my eye: Unveiled.

When we think of an “unveiling”, we think of an uncovering of something special hidden underneath the shroud that has been masking it.

For example, an exquisite piece of art may be unveiled at the grand opening of an exhibit. The cloth that had been draped over the art work was but a sheath to hide the beautiful masterpiece underneath.

In many ways, we live covered up under layers of our own mask — a mask stitched together with elements of fear, insecurity, shame, and guilt.

The longer our magnificent artwork remains hidden, the more we forget what it looks like.

What were those exquisite shades of colour that brought our creation to life? What were the details in the drawing — the lines here, the curves there, the bold strokes, the faded etches — that made our picture whole?

The more layers we pile on top of our masterpiece, the heavier the shroud becomes and the more work it takes to strip it away.

But there’s good news, if you take this analogy one step further. It also means that you — the authentic You — is completely separate from the mask you wear on top of it.

In other words, the mask — all of the negative self-perceptions you hold close to you — is actually not a part of who you truly are.

And like a physical mask, if you remove it from yourself, it doesn’t take anything away from you as person. If anything, You shine brighter. You have the freedom to finally be seen, unveiled.

You can listen to the podcast episode on Vulnerability to gain more insights into how making yourself vulnerable actually strengthens you.

In the meantime, have the courage to at least take a peek at what’s under the veil. Reconnect with the masterpiece that you are. Remind yourself of the colours and details that make you whole.

And if you’re feeling extra brave, fling that veil off altogether and celebrate the freedom of sharing your authentic self with the rest of the world!

Super New Moon

Last night, I came across an article about today’s Super New Moon. You can hop over there to learn more about what a super new moon means physically, but what I wanted to focus on was what it means spiritually. The article says:

A New Moon signifies new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s the perfect time to turn a new leaf, set your intentions, acknowledge goals, and commit to your vision for the next 28 days.

Leading up to today’s Super New Moon, we may have been experiencing some turbulent emotions, given that this particular super new moon is happening within The Hyades star cluster.

According to the article, these stars give off a “stormy and bitter” energy that will affect the Super New Moon and, in turn, our emotional experience.

Admittedly, if anyone had been telling me about how the cosmos affect humans on such a personal and spiritual level a few years ago, I may have felt skeptical about it.

Since I’ve been at the farm, I have learned about the importance of the moon cycle and how it helps to inform us about when to plant, weed, harvest, and so on.

My farmer friend who I work with has observed the shifts in energy within plants when, say, the full moon is approaching. He also notices an energy spike within himself around the full moon. As for me, I probably notice more of an emotional shift during that time.

If the moon does have such power to affect the physical energy of other beings — including its effect on the earth’s tides — then, it’s not so far off to believe that it could affect our emotional energy as well.

We often separate the physical and emotional (or mental), perceiving them as two distinct spheres within ourselves. But the more you learn about the connection between mental health and physical health, the more you realize that they are very much intertwined.

Deep emotions might come up to surface in those of you who need to let go and cleanse old outdated belief systems.

This Super New Moon will also be encouraging us to review and assess the state of our mental activity and our thought processes.

I have definitely felt some seriously deep emotions this week, leading up the Super New Moon today.

I had a good cry when I was in the city earlier this week, while I was in the process of working through some long-standing core beliefs (or core wounds) that I know I must let go of.

I also found myself, for the first time, really contemplating another long-standing issue that I thought I was okay not confronting head on. But the more I delved into it, the more I realized that not doing so may actually be hurting my forward progress.

As for setting my intentions for the next month, I’ll be journalling more about that later today. But what I do know is that with six weeks left at the farm, I feel as though my recent return here from the city contains a new sense of energy with it.

What intentions and goals do you want to set for the upcoming 28 days? What do you need to work on letting go of so that you can start anew?