Category Archives: Moving Forward

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!”

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

Worth The Risk, Part Deux

For the last ten years, I have been on the road at Thanksgiving and Christmastime. It was hard, at first, because I was married. I didn’t want to be away from my husband or family. But then I found myself going through a divorce. The road was a soft place to land during a confusing, difficult and traumatizing time.

And then there were a few years where I was single. Transitioning. Moving across the country. Still, the road was good to me. Then I was pursued. Treated as I have always dreamed. I fell in love again and was finally in a good relationship. I had it all.

Two months ago, my relationship miscarried. I never saw it coming.

And what can I say? Nothing. If anything I have learned through my divorce, it is to let people go. I am done fighting for a relationship that only I want. People choose to leave, for whatever valid or huge-pile-of-horse-shit reason. It is the worst, most familiar feeling in the world. So much so you start to befriend the ache in your heart and pit in your stomach. You keep telling yourself that someday, someone will actually choose you and be all in, no matter what. You have to believe it, because otherwise, you sincerely will become jaded and succumb to anger and all of its accompanying pain and grief. You’ve been in this place before. You can certainly do it again. It is an old friend.

And the grief. Oh, the fucking grief. It is an unexpected, rude and sometimes cruel visitor. An unwelcome one, too. A memory, song or a familiar smell triggers the wave that pulsates through your entire body, sending your heart all the way to your wobbly knees. It’s like a bowling ball that’s constantly hitting the gutter, unable to knock over any pin with precision because it was tossed with the sloppiest, most unplanned aim.

“You’ll find someone better,” people say, seemingly flippantly. But it isn’t helpful.

A good male friend recently said, “Leslie, you’re a smart lady. You know pain and I’m not in any way going to talk you out of it. Welcome to disorientation and all of the accompanying shitty, self-loathing and self-questioning feelings that come with it. I don’t know the journey ahead but I know this, too, shall pass and you will come out the other side and know more about you; deepen yourself and find your true relationships and community in the midst.

It’s one of those things. When you hit rock bottom, what do you do? You kinda just sit there and play with the rocks for a bit. You know this is not about you or anything you’re lacking. It sucks and is hard that you’ve come this far to lose this much. I know you feel duped and like you shouldn’t have given so much, but you had no other choice. You had to give yourself.”

He’s right: I did have to give myself. And I was happy to. My relationship was good. The best of my life, so far. I haven’t anything terrible to say about it, except for the way it ended. Or just that it ended, at all.

I told myself I wasn’t going to write about any of this. Who wants to hear about yet another breakup? But here I am. Back in the land of writing as catharsis.

“I don’t know why you fight it,” my dear friend Meredith smiled, knowingly.

I am not looking for attention or sympathy. I am also not looking to censor myself or my feelings. This is who I am. I write to process. I’ve even begun writing songs. If my lot in life is to love and lose, then I might as well capitalize upon the real, raw and vulnerable place in which the pain repeatedly shoves me.

So as I type this from my stale hotel room in Newport News, Virginia, I am yet again thankful for the road. It does not allow me to fully get lost in an ocean of self-pity or grief. My friends out here listen and let me laugh and cry, without any judgment. They’re even helping me create music. It’s as if I have thirty overprotective big brothers. And I am very loved and cared for by them.

I long for the day when I cease crying over this loss. My heart doesn’t believe it, but my head knows it will come in time. And it is what I do with that time that will help shape my immediate future. I am already grateful for the opportunity to have succeeded in relationship where the odds were probably stacked against us, from the start. But when you choose to love; when you choose to make it work, it does. And well. It isn’t that hard.

Perhaps I’m the biggest fool on the planet, but I’ll keep getting back up, dusting myself off and jumping back in the ring. Because I was made for, and to, love. And, again, the risk of loving is always worth taking.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was harder than I thought it would be.

After ten years on the road I am no stranger to lonely hotel rooms during the holidays. I’m thankful for my good friends — my family, really — out here.

We had a lovely dinner and I went to bed early but was wide awake at 3:30 am, lyrics screaming in my head. I didn’t stop writing until 6:00 am. Who knows if they’re any good? That’s not for me to judge right now. I’m not throwing anything away.

Last heartache, I wrote a book. This heartbreak, I am writing lyrics.

Maybe I’m just meant to suffer. But I will not be silenced. And I will never give up hope.

I Am Worthy

I am worthy of love. I am worthy of belonging.

I am worthy of someone shouting from the rooftops and even stupid fucking social media that he is my partner.

I am worthy of respect.

I am worthy of someone not running from me in fear.

I am worthy of commitment and fidelity.

I am worthy of being held when I am crying in the dark, even if it’s because I spilled all the Q-tips on the floor, or I am having period cramps, or my uncle is dying.

I am worthy of someone loving me for ME – for exactly who I am, this very exact moment. Even if I’m not 115 lbs or have conquered an extreme sport; even if I have grey chin hairs and a fleshy tummy.

I am worthy of love because I am already loved: wholly, completely.

I am worthy of being in relationship because I am a really good partner. I am a good friend.

I am a good girlfriend. I have the desire and potential to be a good wife.
And I will hold out for someone who wants the same things I do.
Who wants me for me.

And that is that.

16th UNiversary

Moments before I walked down the aisle, sixteen years ago.

Sixteen years ago today, I got married.

My dad walked his 22-year-old daughter down the aisle to a majestic organ in a beautiful sanctuary on a hot afternoon. I carefully recited my vows and promised my fresh-faced groom I would love and honor him until death did us part.

I meant it.

The reception was small: held in a petite garden area next to the church parking lot. We served sparkling apple cider and charcuterie from Costco. A jazz band comprised of fellow college students played quietly and a budding filmmaker captured moments on Hi8 tape. Due to the unseasonable warmth of the day, the homemade wedding cake melted before my new husband and I could ceremoniously cut it. He proceeded to smash a piece all over my face, anyway.

There was some confusion over the remaining few hundred dollars of the wedding bill, which caused the last of my makeup to be cried off. We left for our honeymoon in my 1997 Toyota pickup truck; the remnants of the fallen cake streaked all over the vehicle. The back window jokingly read, “Mr. and Mrs. Spencer”.

It wasn’t the wedding I wanted, but it was the best I could do.

We were so young.

Today, the sanctuary has been torn down and made new. The garden has been replaced with church offices, where I spent almost five solid months in marriage counseling after discovering my husband’s infidelity.

The organist recently received a heart transplant, the musicians all have steady, successful careers and the videographer became a widely recognized director and won a million dollar Superbowl commercial contest.

And I am happily divorced.

*****

“It’s not the wedding, but the marriage that counts,” they say. If my wedding was any indication of the sort of marriage that followed, I should have bolted the opposite direction down the aisle at the very first note of the processional.

But I believe in marriage. I think it’s amazing, difficult and utterly courageous to make that kind of commitment to another person. Certainly, I was young. Perhaps too young. But I wasn’t afraid. And when my marriage went to complete shit, I held on and fought for the concept – and the person – as long as I could.

I admire that girl. I’m proud of her.

The person and the girl are now gone. But I do not regret the commitment, if only for the role it played in giving birth to the woman I have become.

So today, on my 16th Universary, I do not mourn the loss of a marriage, but cheer for forgiveness and the freedom that accompanies it. I honor growth, wisdom, vulnerability and true, selfless, mature love.

I celebrate the gift of a second chance.

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Thirty-Eight.

I did it. I had another birthday.

With each passing year, I have become more aware of how precious and fragile life truly is. We make mistakes. We fall. We get hurt. We recover. Shit happens to us. We feel a loss of control over our circumstances. We beat ourselves up over not being perfect: size, shape, friend, lover, parent, role, career. We want to turn back the clock and have a do-over — sometimes at entire decades.

Yet we wouldn’t be who we are today without those mistakes; circumstances; wounds; scars.

A good friend recently told me, “The etymology of character comes from the Greek word for ‘scar’. That’s what gives us character.”

I very much believe in living life to its fullest. This means falling at times. What is more: learning how to fall. It also means being brave. Living in the moment. Accepting grace. It means loving and being loved.

I have been overwhelmed this birthday by how loved I truly am. On Saturday night I was surrounded by family and close friends who purposely sang “Happy Birthday” as loud and off-key as possible. (They know me so well!) Yesterday I floated in the ocean, rode my bicycle, savored homemade cuisine and rocked an impromptu living room karaoke party with the neighbors.

It has been the best birthday, ever.

I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I am ever grateful for my life and the amazing love I have in it.