Letting Go

IMG_0855I’ve never been very good at letting go.

Five and some odd years ago, I put everything in storage and moved across the country, to continue my love affair with New York City.

I lived out of a suitcase for too long. I sublet an overly pink princess room in East Harlem and taught my roommate’s cat to play fetch. I rented a couch in my now-divorced friends’ constantly-dark living room. I lived on the road in a tour bus and hotel rooms.

And then, finally, I got an apartment. An amazing one. An affordable one.

“You can’t ever let this go!” they said.

I hired movers and got scammed out of $850.00. I hired movers again and this time, they were honest.

And, on March 16, 2014, my earthly belongings and I were firmly rooted again. I set up a comfortable home in my beloved New York City. I carefully designed and painted my walls. I bought candles, accent furniture, plush towels and really, really, really good pillows. I had my own bed to sleep in again, despite the steady stream of obnoxious noise on 5th Avenue.

I pounded the pavement, determined to pick up where I left off after my divorce. I had almost made it to Broadway in 2009. Surely there was no way I would fail this time!

But somewhere along the way, my dreams changed. Broadway no longer lures or intoxicates me. Besides the constant rejection, I don’t even like musicals anymore. I lost interest in playing someone else on stage.

I just want to be me.

Things at home became extremely tense when my seemingly perfect, married roommates split. I had lived through the hell of my own divorce; now I was living right in the middle of another one. After a while, however, things settled down. I was less trust and a close friend, but I still had my apartment. I still had my stuff. I still had New York City.

Oh, New York City. How I love this town. I could write about it, all day long. But the time is not now. I can’t see very well through my tears.

I am letting go. It is so fucking hard, but I am finally letting go.

I am leaving New York City.

I am selling everything.

I am going back to Los Angeles.

I am going home.

And I am grieving. I haven’t quite processed the brevity of it all, because I am knee-deep in selling everything. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. It’s like a full-time job. It’s also therapeutic. What was I doing, holding onto silverware, pots and pans and a hand mixer I got for my wedding nineteen years ago? I am now undoing, piece by piece, the life I built here.

I am letting go.

It is my nature to keep quiet when things get hard. I need help breaking up with my boyfriend, New York City. I need my stuff to sell. I need to say goodbye to my dear friends and good neighbors here, and I really don’t know how to do it. I don’t have a lot of time. My lease is up at the end of this month.

“You’re crazy to leave that apartment!” they say.

But an apartment is not a reason to stay anywhere. I’m quite good at painting walls and picking out accent furniture. My worth is not measured by my address. It’s time to move on. It’s time for a new chapter.

It is time to start over. Again.

It’s scary as hellfire and brimstone, but it is also wonderfully freeing.

I am letting go. And I am beyond excited for the next adventure.

18th Universary

Today is my 18th Universary.

I don’t feel anything. It just seems like an uneventful blip on the radar of life. A hiccup. A fart. Weird.

Last year on this date, I sang at my uncle’s memorial service. Just a few days prior, my boyfriend ended our almost two-and-a-half-year relationship over email.

You know the story: that event sent my heart and mind into a spiral of lyrics. I began to compose music in my head. And then I asked for help. And then I went to Nashville and wrote more songs. And then I raised funds to help pay for the cost of recording, and all that other stuff. And a week before my 40th birthday, I recorded my very first solo album. And it’s REALLY good.

Bucket list. Check.

In the back of my mind, I have been waiting for this week to happen. Not so much that today would have been my 18th wedding anniversary, but that I would make it to the year mark of my blindsided breakup.

“I think that dude’s actions have probably occupied your mind and heart long enough,” recently said my friend and fellow bandmate, Phil.

He is so very right. Perhaps it is hard for me to let people go. I don’t understand why they act so epically shitty without regard for other people’s feelings, or seeming consequence. And perhaps it’s a simple explanation: it actually has nothing to do with me.

“As you grow, you pick people who match you. You’ll choose better next time. It’s less a matter of finding someone up to your standards and more about gravitating towards a better match,” said my therapist back in December.

Hey, guess what? I’m growing. It hasn’t been easy, but right now it feels really damn good.

It’s necessary and good to grieve. I have done that. It is necessary and good to move forward. I am doing just that.

And as scary and wonderful and unexpected and unplanned as it has been, I am dating again.

Here we go.

Again.

Forty.

Moved to NYC, swung an off-Broadway hit show, toured and recorded with a Grammy-award-winning band, got cheated on, got divorced, sold my house, discovered I had a sister wife, wrote a blog, got a book deal, realized the truth of grace, fell in love, got held up at gunpoint, exercised my potty mouth (and kept my purse!), moved back to NYC, recorded at Capitol Records, toured with yet another amazing band, played the Hollywood Bowl (and a few other iconic places!), fell in love REALLY hard, got dumped over email (AGAIN), wrote songs, raised money, solidified great friendships, made a record…

…and have therapy at 3:00 pm.

Goodbye, 30s. You were defining. But tomorrow starts a whole new chapter.

And I absolutely cannot wait.

Dear Daniel

Dear Daniel,

You drove me home yesterday, after the end of five days straight of 12-hour catering shifts. I could barely walk, looked like hell and probably smelled worse, but you were kind to me. (You smelled GREAT, by the way.) You engaged me in conversation, even though you confessed your English wasn’t that great. You were even kinder when I attempted Spanish and told you I loved you instead of what my name was.

I didn’t hide my attraction to you in the slightest. You see, Daniel, after getting my heart broken enough times, I’ve realized it is much more resilient than I ever dreamed it could be. Last night it fluttered, flirted, flip-flopped and fumbled for words, especially when you smiled at me and spoke honestly and openly about life. I appreciated your directness.

I was happy your GPS system malfunctioned, causing our time together to be extended. (Hence me tossing my hair and declaring, “I’m in NO hurry to get anywhere!”) I’m not sure if you noticed how I draped myself over the armrest, just to be that much closer to you. Yes, Daniel. I confess I have no shame. (You also have amazing arms.)

When you pulled up to the green awning in front of my apartment building, I didn’t want to get out of the vehicle. I don’t care that you’re making extra money driving people around. It’s hard to live in this city. Hell, I work catering jobs to pay the bills so I, too, can keep living my dream.

I’m so glad I met you, Daniel. Perhaps selfishly. But I’m just so damn tired of grieving the loss of my last relationship. It’s time to move on. There is no set time frame on grief, but at some point you realize you’re the only one crying. And life keeps moving on.

Daniel, thank you for taking my hand as I struggled to get out of the vehicle. And thank you for asking for my phone number. Did you notice how quickly I gave it to you? I hope you use it. If not, that’s okay, too. I have no expectations. Just hope. And a renewed spring in my step.

Life keeps moving on, indeed.

~Leslie

Just Keep Pedaling

I sat on a bench in Central Park this breezy afternoon, allowing the sun to soak into my skin. At one point, I looked to my left to notice a fat squirrel sitting right next to me. We locked eyes for a moment, then he scurried away.
“Typical male,” I muttered.
I closed my eyes and listened to the ducks, geese and red robins.
A few minutes later, I heard a child’s consistent crying. I squinted through the bright sunlight to get a better look at the situation.
A little boy on a tricycle slowly pedaled across my path. He pedaled and cried, loudly. The oversized helmet he wore seemed too heavy for his head, yet he managed to keep pedaling.
And crying.
He teetered and tottered; making jagged, sometimes dangerous sharp turns all over the pavement. He wasn’t in complete control of his tricycle, but managed to stay upright. And in motion.
Pedaling and crying.
Next to the little boy towered his father, who walked slowly, steadfastly and silently beside him. He kept an eye on his son, who kept pedaling and crying.
“I know how that feels,” I thought, and smiled.
I recalled a recent conversation I had with my dear friend A.D. Adams :
“Sometimes moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean in a straight line. And your Father, his wisdom, compassion and love, will always walk silently beside you in the very same way. Just as he knows — and anyone else who knows you — you’ll keep pedaling!”

Five Days Left

Hopped in a Via and started chatting with my driver, Bakary.
 
We chatted about life, heartbreak, surviving in/the city; our dreams and fears.
 
I told him how I was attempting to raise funds so I can record an album. I told him how, when I first launched the project on Kickstarter, I don’t think I actually believed it would happen.
 
And now, with five days left, I’m so very close. I’m so close I can smell the vocal booth in the studio; I can hear horn parts on the bridge of one of my songs. I am close to tears thinking about all of the people who have pledged so far — a majority of you childhood classmates; friends.
 
It is an amazing thing to be so loved. Even if this project doesn’t fully fund (and I’m praying it will!) I have learned something absolutely invaluable:
 
You all believe in me.
You have supported me without question; without hearing one note of my music.
I am astounded.
And it pushes me even further: to get this project funded, recorded, mixed, mastered and delivered.
 
Bakary pulled over at my destination, got out of the vehicle and carefully placed my luggage on the curb. He smiled at me from at least a foot above.
 
“You have a good heart, Leslie,” he said. “You are a very special person. Don’t let anything or anyone change you. Even this city.”
 
I opened my arms to this stranger — my new friend.
 
“Let’s hug it out, Bakary!”
 
“I love you!”
 
“I love you, too!”
 
 Click HERE to pledge to my project. There’s just five days left!

Heartbreak is a Gift

I’ve 20 days left to raise funds to make my album happen.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty terrible at self-promotion. I can’t be anything other than myself. I do my work and hope it speaks for itself.

But sometimes you have to see yourself as others see you.

My friend Chelsea — an exceptional writer whom I met several years ago when she interviewed me for an assignment about Christians who exercise curse words — offered to write yet another.

Leslie-Intelligentsia-2-copy

And it’s just perfect. Here’s an excerpt:

“That’s what I’m looking forward to, when Leslie’s record comes out. Knowing her and her work, I know it will be sour, bitter and sweet in perfect proportion, like an old-fashioned made right. It will be sharp enough to make the heartbreak culprit bleed, while being gentle enough to bind up your own wounds. It’ll stroke your hair with reflective insight and slap your ass with humor.

Best of all, Leslie’s record will give you more than words. Hers is the big, bad, ‘you can’t ignore me now’ voice of the woman who really tried to do it all the nice way, and is finally going to speak her mind.”

Read the article here.

*****

As of today, I am 40% funded. That is amazing! But I still have more to go. Click to make a pledge here. Don’t be afraid to pledge now; the funds will not be deducted unless the project is entirely funded on March 29, 2017.

And, as always, sincere thanks.

 

Hi, I’m Leslie Spencer.

Please support me in following my dreams. My goal this year – my fortieth on this planet!! – is to have my book published and this album recorded, produced, mixed, mastered and distributed.

There is no guarantee as an artist, but if anything I have written over the past several years has resonated with you, my hope is that my music will speak to you, as well. Every single contribution certainly helps, no matter what amount.

Thank you.

From the bottom of my heart.

~Leslie

¡¡¡¡ CLICK TO DONATE !!!!

 

 

Sunday In The Park With Candace

I was out the door at 7:15 am yesterday, bound for a new church gig in Sheepshead Bay. Exhausted from the day before (brief video shoot in Central Park to promote fundraising for my album and co-hosting a baby shower in my home for a woman I had never met), I wasn’t sure I would be able to get through the morning.

But work is scarce right now, and any day I’m hired to sing is a good one.

The church gathered at an old-timey yacht club, right on the water. Originally established in 1908, it was built as a family summer home for Rheingold Beer. Upon arrival, my grumpiness over the 90-minute subway commute dissolved. The creaky dining hall overlooked the peaceful bay, which was well stocked with neatly parked sailboats. Seagulls, pigeons, geese and swans fluttered about, happily. After all, the forecast predicted an unseasonably warm day.

Song leading went as well as it could. The congregation was small yet familial; they embraced me with open arms and hearts.

Almost immediately after the service ended, an older gentleman appeared behind the bar and began polishing glasses.

“Excuse me,” I said, as I zipped my black leather jacket up over my spring dress. “Do you happen to know if anyone here offers sailing lessons? Last fall I took a course out in California but I won’t be going back there because — “

I stopped myself. This guy did not have time for a breakup story. It wasn’t pertinent, anyway. Furthermore, he had a bar to open.

I cleared my throat and began again.

“I took sailing lessons a few months ago and would like to keep up my chops.”

“You gonna be around this summer?” I could almost taste his Brooklyn accent.

“Yes,” I smiled.

He extended his hand.

“I’m Bob. Nice to meet you. Next time you come back, ask for George Johnson. He’ll throw you on a boat. He’s always looking for crew.”

“Great! Oh, wow! That’s great! Thank you!” I chirped, and skipped out the door.

I navigated my way back to Manhattan on the Q train, which recently has been extended up to 96th Street and 2nd Avenue. It isn’t my normal route home, but I was up for adventure. Especially since the temperature was steadfast at a perfect 65 degrees.

I exited the train, took off my jacket and slung it over my shoulder. The sun was bright and warm. A gentle breeze flirted with my hair. I felt good. Confident. Cool. New York is my boyfriend and he was treating me to a glorious day out. And, in a few months, I would be sailing again.

I casually strolled up 96th towards the park and noticed a very petite, blonde woman being walked by her three dogs. The male pit-mix puppy whined with excitement and anticipation.

“I know, Mac,” she blared. “We’re almost there. Just two more blocks. But you have to be patient.”

Mac shot her a look, barked, and kept tugging towards the park.

I giggled, audibly.

“Isn’t it wonderful to be wearing a dress in February?” the woman said to me.

I looked down at my clothing, then back at her. I had briefly forgotten it was February.

“Yes!” I shrieked. “I’m originally from California and I quickly realized that, although snow is fun and cute, it’s not necessarily welcome in my daily routine. I much prefer this.” I gestured with open hands to the clear, blue sky.

She laughed. “I went to college in California!” The five of us kept heading in the direction of the park.

Eventually we sat down on the same bench. She let her dogs off the leash.

“I’m sure I’ll get a ticket, but who cares? MAC! GET BACK HERE!” She bellowed, then bolted off the bench to retrieve him.

I turned my face towards the sun, closed my eyes and smiled.

“What’s your name?” I asked, when she returned with her exuberant, wayward puppy.

“I’m Candace,” she extended her hand.

“Leslie,” I said, and shook it. Her firm grip pleasantly accompanied her kind eyes.

Out of nowhere, a park ranger appeared and inched towards us in her golf cart.

“Here we go,” Candace rolled her eyes. She gathered up the dogs and held them close.

But the park ranger didn’t budge. Mac started impatiently whining again.

“Oh, fuck it. I’m just going to go ask if my damn dogs can have a little joy off their leashes today.”

I watched her as she marched towards the golf cart. Three minutes later, the dogs were released. The park ranger continued to sit still.

“Wow! That was impressive!” I called, as I shielded my eyes from the sun.

“Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want,” Candace smiled. “Life’s too short to be timid and follow the rules. Don’t let them take you by the balls! Take risks! Be confident! Believe in yourself!”

I began to feel like I had been to church twice that day, and the sun was still high in the sky.

“So, what do you do?” Candace asked, as Sadie the Weimaraner dropped a muddy ball into her lap.

“I’m a singer and a writer,” I replied. “In fact, I just got back from Nashville where I wrote an album.”

“Wow! That’s great!” Candace exclaimed. “MAC! MAC! STOP DIGGING OVER THERE!”

She turned back to me.

“What kind of music is it? What genre? What led you to writing it?”

I took a deep breath in.

“Well, it’s a culmination of a lot of things,” I answered, a little too eagerly. “It might sound like a cliché, but it all began with a bunch of lyrics in my head over my latest breakup.”

I paused, then laughed.

“I guess you could say I publicly process my heartbreak. With my divorce, I wrote a blog that is becoming a book. And now? An album.”

“I totally get that!” she chimed in. “I’m divorced, too. And I recently had to end a promising relationship, myself. But more on that later. What happened to you?”

We settled into our park bench. I told her the story of my divorce and she listened intently, sometimes nodding and humming in agreement; sometimes with occasional outbursts of disbelief.

“WHAAAAT?!!? Who does that?! How is that even legal?”

We howled with laughter. I silently took note of how easy it was to talk about my divorce; to actually laugh about it. I am relieved it is behind me. Certainly, time lessens the severity of the wounds, but it is what you do with that time that matters most.

I moved on to the story of my latest relationship endeavor.

“I guess the best way of putting it is to quote my therapist,” I concluded. “Right guy, wrong time.”

“Yeah, but you have no closure! I mean, GOD.” She threw her head back. “I swear, men are missing a sensitivity chip.”

I laughed, then twisted my lips, swallowing to keep a surge of pain from becoming too overwhelming.

“Very true. But, to be honest, if all of this hadn’t happened, I may not have gone to Nashville and written these songs. I’m not going full-on Adele or Taylor Swift here, but I believe writing – creating, really! – is cathartic. And in turn, healing.”

“It certainly is,” Candace agreed. “Hey, listen – ”

She pulled a card from her doggie diaper bag and gave it to me.

“I’m a CEO and produce a lot of high-end events. I think you should come to them and meet people. Network, et cetera. Aaaand,” she winked, “You never know whom you might meet!”

I beamed. I certainly wasn’t about to tell her I normally work high-end events as a Captain or bartender for extra money.

“I know you probably need some more time to heal, but you should definitely dress up, come out and have some fun. MAC! MAC! WHERE ARE YOU?”

I dug in my purse, fished out my own card and handed it to her.

“I would love that, Candace. I really would.”

She smiled, then glanced at her phone. She had two missed calls.

“Well, I should probably head back home to the kids,” she stood up. “Let’s be in touch! And until we meet again – keep writing. Don’t be afraid to get that album funded. You can do it!”

We hugged. Then she was gone. I sat still on the bench and allowed my pale, bare legs to be saturated with a little more sunlight.

Did I just meet an angel? I thought. A small, feisty, strong, independent, successful, very genuine and caring angel who, yesterday, celebrated her 47th birthday with just her kids. 

I allowed my mind to wander into fantasy. I imagined attending one of Candace’s events, smartly and sexily dressed, swirling a gin martini in my hand and entertaining droves of astonishingly attractive, extremely wealthy, outlandishly smart and genuinely good men. They would all clamor for my attention. I would casually yet humbly inform them how my book just hit the New York Times bestseller list, then hum a few choruses of the songs of the songs I had just co-written. A well-known producer would hear me from across the room, cease his trivial conversation with a couple of over-processed, under-intelligent, too-skinny women and approach me.

“That’s brilliant! Sing it again!”

My entire album would reach funding in two minutes, plus a little extra to help me pay my taxes and buy another dress for the following evening’s event.

Everything happens for a reason. Glad I took a different route home that one Sunday. Thanks, Candace!

But as the sun started to sink a little lower in the sky and the gentle breeze turned just a few degrees cooler, I shook it out of my mind.

Reality: I don’t need a man – or fantasy – to accomplish one single thing I am meant to do. Certainly, at some point, I would like to share my life with a partner. I am a relationship person. I have a huge heart. I may be a fool, but I am not afraid to love, and boldly.

But when I am hurt – when someone breaks my heart – I scream from the rooftops, cry in public, scrawl furiously on the page and fervently compose, because that is how I cope. I share my heart. That is how I heal.

And it’s okay. It’s okay to be human.

My pain has been turned into art. That can only ever be a good thing.

I will love again, I am sure of that. I’m hoping I have at least forty years left on this planet. There’s got to be a “right guy, right time” in there, somewhere. But I’m not worried about that right now. There are far more important things ahead. My job is to to keep riding the momentum that’s just been created.

Candace is right: Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want. Life’s too short to be timid and follow the rules. I’m certainly not going to let anyone take me by the balls. I’m confident. I’m taking risks. And I do believe in myself. More and more, each day.

I’m following my dreams. I can’t wait to see where it all leads me. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s already a success.

*****

Please support me in following my dreams. My goal this year – my fortieth on this planet!! – is to have my book published and have this album recorded, produced, mixed, mastered and distributed. There is no guarantee as an artist, but if anything I have written over the past several years has resonated with you, my hope is that my music will speak to you, as well. Every single contribution certainly helps, no matter what amount.

Thank you.

From the bottom of my heart.

~Leslie

A Single Star

In the wee small hours of this Christmas Eve morning, we were stalled in a snowstorm over Donner Pass. The delay was distressing to our drivers because we needed chains. Morale was low.

Yet, around 1:30 am — after a snowball fight with the crew — we carried on.
We are all exhausted, but for some reason I was the last man standing on my bus. I sat and watched all the snow-covered evergreens go by.

Then I realized something.

In ten years I really haven’t had Christmas. And, as a native Southern Californian, I certainly haven’t ever experienced a white Christmas.

This morning, I got to enjoy thousands of Christmas trees in my home state, as I breathed in the crisp, fresh air of the glorious Sierra Nevada mountains. The trees were beautifully decorated in glorious, white, frosty powder.

I wept alone as I gazed out the window. Each tree was uniquely ornamented, designed by the force of nature. I wanted to share it with everyone, but dared not wake my dear friends who were cozy; fast asleep in their bunks.

It’s been a lovely and difficult holiday season. I’ve probably felt sorry for myself more than I should, yet sometimes in suffering, I wonder where God is. I know I’m not alone in this.
But early this morning, when the storm cleared, there appeared a single star.

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” ~Matthew 2:10

I am overjoyed, because I choose joy! I choose to rejoice in the things I have, instead what I don’t. God is real. He is kind and good. Maybe shitty things happen, but they are never far from His reach. He is love.

And, too, may you all choose joy this season. No matter what you are facing. You are so loved!

Merry Christmas, my friends.