I grew up feeling like Jan Brady. I was the middle child with 3 beautiful sisters and 3 handsome brothers. I had long blonde hair hanging to the middle of my back. I wore gray cat-eye glasses and was always saying or doing the wrong thing. I was also painfully shy, very introverted and always had my nose buried in a book. My dad called me stubborn and my mother called me “wild flower.” I never felt like I belonged to this family; for a while I was sure I was adopted and my siblings took full advantage of that fact and teased me mercilessly. After all, I had golden blonde hair (but not like my mother!) and all my siblings had lustrous dark hair. I was the alien outsider, always out of step with the rest of the family.
When the popular TV series The Brady Bunch was on TV in the early 70s, I watched it obsessively, looking for clues about how to relate. My mom was a first-generation American Sicilian vivacious stay at home mom, once in the theater, now acting the part of a lifetime as the matriarch of this clan of 7. My dad was an Austrian-born brilliant scientist who single-handedly saved the US brewing industry by developing hop varieties that produced more and were resistant to a strain of fungus that was destroying hop plants around the world.
I aspired to have a life like the Brady’s’ where my parents would take me aside and gently ask me what was wrong. I yearned for a mom like Carol Brady, who intuitively knew how to say the right thing, and help me sort through my feelings of anger, jealousy, and weirdness. But the reality was, with 7 kids, there was never any time to do that. You just have to hope your kids figure it out and find a way to make the best of whatever situation was tormenting them at the time.
Jan’s cry of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” in response to the attention her beautiful sister always got struck a matching chord of frustration so deep in my soul that even today, when I hear people chant that phrase, I laugh weakly and get chills all over my body. No one can understand how painful it is to feel invisible unless you’ve experienced it.
In one episode, Greg Brady became a rock star, and a light went on. Rock and roll was a way to stand out, be noticed and be cool. I started listening to my records all the time, wearing floppy hats and sunglasses and bell-bottom jeans that were flared out with shocking orange and purple paisley silky material. I felt hip, I was cool, and I looked like a rock star.
I learned to embrace my weirdness, my freakish otherness that the rest of my siblings never struggled with. I learned to make it a part of who I was, to enjoy standing out in a sea of conformity. Punk rock and the underground lowbrow world of hot rods, art and music became my family. It didn’t matter that I didn’t look like everyone else. That was the whole point. It was ok to be different. In fact the weirder you were, the cooler you were.
The passing of Florence Henderson, the actress who played Carol Brady, several weeks ago triggered a moment of mourning, as if my own parent had passed. I deeply love and respect my parents, but Carol Brady was the mom I longed for as a child. I see now that my own mother accepted me for who I was, and was happy to help me express myself. She sewed the clothes I wanted and supported my struggle to find my creative voice by signing me up for art and music lessons, no questions asked. I will always be grateful for that support.
When I was in college, a record by an all-girl band called The Lunachicks caught my attention. I played their hit Jan Brady every chance I got, an inner knowingness that I had found kindred spirits in this raggedy group of girls empowering me every time I played the song on my radio show. I longed to tell them how much that song inspired me, but was too shy to track them down and tell them. Maybe someday I’ll get that chance.
Jan eventually learned to love her “otherness” just as I did in real life. Embracing your uniqueness is what gives art, music and hot rods that special something no one else can; your own voice, your own perspective.
Live Fast and Be Weird! It’s the key to enjoying life.
It's the first day of the new year, 2017. I can't believe it came so fast but here it is. Thank you to all of you for your support during this last year. It has been quite a journey of renewal, rebirth, rebranding or, as some like to say, the Phoenix rising from the ashes. I truly look forward to where this journey takes us all during the upcoming year. Thank you for joining me on the ride. Now let's rock! Live Fast Be Weird!
Much love and peace,
xo Rev. Michelle
I am supposed to be working on my newsletter but my mind is in such turmoil, I can’t concentrate on anything. I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams as I anxiously flip from one news channel to another, then bound over to the computer to google online news sources and then back again to the TV.
The armed occupation that’s been going on at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for most of January and now part of February is very personal to me. Having spent several years there in the early 80s working as a cook at the field station, feeding various groups of bird watchers, biology and botany students and elder hostel groups, the desert area of South Eastern Oregon bubbles deep in my blood, having infected my soul with the wide open spaces, the spicy-sweet smell of sage brush, and the wailing call of coyotes at night. In this remote, almost isolated location, you learn how to rely on yourself for entertainment, which often involves lots of alcohol and listening to all sorts of music.
The take-over has ended in death, federal agents arresting some of the militants and those remaining at the field station vowing to fight on, although more arrests are imminent. Even though the occupiers are mostly dissipated, toxic emotions from those who feel they are speaking for all Americans continue to infect the small surrounding communities, leaving locals hiding in their houses for fear of getting caught up with the lunatic fringe of individuals who think everyone should think and act like they do.
What does any of this have to do with Gearhead? My business is an extension of myself and what goes on in my personal life directly affects my business, and by extension, you the customer. The events going on at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge matter to me and to pretend like nothing is happening except working on my business would be lying to myself and lying to Gearhead fans. Maybe I’m too open about the changing emotions that run through my mind and body as I try to run my company. Maybe I’m too earnest for my own good. But this is who I am and this is how I choose to run my company. I like people to know what goes on behind the scenes. I like people to feel like they know Gearhead.
A former business associate once told me that you should never let your customers see what’s really going on behind the scenes of your business, that you should keep up a false front that everything is great, even if it’s not. Even though Gearhead is a very small company, it has the reputation of being a huge corporation, with many employees. It has always had that larger than life footprint. It makes me laugh to think it’s just me, wearing many different hats through out the day, but I was warned never to destroy that illusion by revealing too much personal stuff. Apparently, that’s good business. Hmmmm….
The high I felt when I brought the new issue of Gearhead home was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. A mix of pride, and a stunned sense of accomplishment washed through my body, and continues to every time I pack a new order. This magazine is very personal to me. It is an extension of myself; all the stories mean something to me. To me, the more you know what goes into a project, the more you know about the people working on something, the more you know the stories, the more something matters to you, and the more personal it becomes. You become part of the community, you develop a relationship, and by extension, you become part of that thing too. What happens to it matters to you because you are now personally involved.
Everything we create and put out there is an extension of ourselves: the car you hobble together from scraps you pull from a junkyard, the song you labor over, getting the chorus just right, the garden you plant, the silly painting or doodle you make for your kids…. It’s all a part of who you are. When you say “I Made This”, it’s like saying look, this is a part of me!
Despite the fact that subscribers live around the world, if you see someone reading Gearhead, or commenting on it in their social media, you knowingly nod your head. They’re part of the club. They’re someone you could relate to. Back in the day (I sound like an old grandma, ha ha ha!) when you saw someone standing across the street with spiked purple hair, a leather jacket, and combat boots on, you knew they were part of the club. You knew you would have something in common with that person. They were punk, and you shared a common language expressed by how you looked. Not so much any more, now that “punk” is part of the mainstream Justin Beeber look. So you have to look for other clues, other signals.
Gearhead is more than a magazine. It is a lifestyle, a brand, a mindset, a community. It’s a place where we find like-minded “others” who we can relate to, with all our past experiences leading us to who we are now, in the present. Sharing what matters to us. It’s personal.
These last few months I have lived as if in a dream. The single minded determination to accomplish my goal of getting my magazine out and getting my business back on track has absorbed and confined my mind and my heart as no other task has done.
Once I decided to really go for it at the beginning of 2015, my world became tunnel-visioned with the single purpose of creating goals, and meeting them. First getting the clothing line going again, then the record label and finally the magazine. Each little goal glittered high up in the branches of my business and I climbed and reached.
Celebrating and marking each achievement and answered goal with a small acknowledgment, I did it! Joy of accomplishment ringing through my heart and my soul yet never fully savored. I didn’t have time to linger; I had more goals to accomplish. But finally I had my anniversary party and the planning and organizing that went into communicating that I had met this unendurable goal filled my heart and I got to share it and celebrate it, and I did. It was delicious, watching partygoers enjoying themselves, enjoying each other and what I had created. I tasted and savored each moment of the evening.
Then I had to move onto the next goal, putting together the Kickstarter campaign to raise money. That in and of itself was another huge project that single-mindedly absorbed my attention and when I too reached and passed that goal, I didn’t stop to savor and celebrate, but moved right into my biggest goal, my deepest challenge, the one that would put a nail in the coffin of my past, the magazine.
And I did that too. I reached that goal and then exhaustion set in. I couldn’t do anything but lay still and breath it in and savor it. I felt deep pride and deep contentment. But I also felt a deep pulsing grief in my heart. This final action once and for all time closed a door on my past and shined a light on my future. Why am I feeling such grief when I’ve managed to meet a goal I never thought I had any desire to reach and then found myself so deeply in need of accomplishing?
Simply, I never thought I could do this. My relationship with my former partner was one of assigned roles—he was the writer, I was the one who made it happen. And to become both parts of this process has deeply triggered a grief in the center of my being that I cannot fully express. This business is now about a solitary self; envisioning, creating, achieving. It is very much like giving birth. You conceive in partnership but you ultimately experience it alone. This thing that lives inside you then moves out into the world. To be looked at and shared with others.
One needs to grieve endings but there is also grief in beginnings. It means navigating a whole new path now, finding the new pitfalls, the stepping stones, the support and the cavernous bottoms that will pepper this new part of my life.
The sheer exhaustion I am feeling after accomplishing so much forces me to turn inward to heal. And so today as the rain lashes the trees out the window beyond my computer, I allow the tears to roll down my face, tenderly touching this deep sadness with shaking fingertips and grieving what was and what will never be again. These tears are shed for myself, for my old life, for my future, and for the fear of the unknown as I create new challenges for myself on this journey of self-discovery through entrepreneurship.
Today, I let my inner heart weep and the vehicle of my body shed tears of weariness. The winter is a time for going within, a time of endings and a time to dream about new beginnings. The excruciating raw emotion of months of labor finally lifting has thawed a frozen part of my very being, which now gently shines as the tears roll down my cheeks. I did it. Farewell my old life. Hello, new me.
The force of will is a very powerful thing. It can lead you to do accomplish things you never thought possible.
Despite the lack of templates, styles sheets or indeed, knowledge of publishing a magazine, I have put my focus and full force of will on getting a new issue of GEARHEAD out by the end of the year. Everything I thought I knew about myself has changed as I move towards my goal.
I feel as is if I am suspended between what was, and what is coming, like I'm on a suspension bridge stretched over a wide canyon, too far from the ledge to turn back, but too far from the ledge I'm walking towards to trust that I'm going to make it there safely. So all I can do is keep moving towards that distant ledge and keep praying and trusting I'll make it.
When I was a kid, I remember tuning in to watch Evel Knievel and his famous motorcycle jumps: buses, fountains and even the Snake River Canyon. I can't help wondering now if this is what Evel Knievel felt like? What was inside his mind? Was he scared and uncertain, wishing he had never boasted he could jump that damned Snake River Canyon? Was he wishing he worked at Costco instead, or some safe job where he knew that no matter what, he would bring home a paycheck and get health insurance and two weeks paid vacation? That however mundane that might feel to him, at least he was safe?
What went through his head as he was revving his engine, ready to let off the brake and step on the gas and power his way to that far ledge? Was his tummy filled with fear, wondering that if death came would he feel that agonizing impact of every bone shattering or would he have left his body long before he hit the ground and not feel a thing?
I know that what I am doing is nothing like the risks Evel Knievel took, at least not on a physical level. But on a spiritual and emotional level, it is the same. If this magazine that I am pouring my heart and soul into crashes and burns, then what? Will I crawl up in a ball and hide my head in shame? Close up the business and go get a job at Walmart? Will I stop trying to express my authentic self and share my unique creative take on life?
I don't know. All I know is I have to keep driving forward. I cannot turn back now. Whatever will be will be.
Rock 'n' Roll/Automotive Journalist, Influencer, Editor and Publisher of Gearhead Magazine,