Red Leigh Cooper

Red Leigh Cooper

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Why is this called Grabbing The Starfish?


The videos are here!  Since there may be people new to the blog, I went over why it's called "Grabbbing The Starfish" to catch newbies up!  If you need a refresher yourself, you can check out the first video here!

Happy Fishing!
-Red




Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Too Late to Apologize

"I'd take another chance, take a fall
Take a shot for you
And I need you like a heart needs a beat
But it's nothing new, yeah, yeah
I loved you with a fire red
Now it's turning blue, and you say
Sorry like the angel heaven let me think was you
But I'm afraid
It's too late to apologize, it's too late..."
- Ryan Tedder, One Republic

I know I said I was doing the whole video thing, and I will, but I had a quick bit of inspiration while listening to one the YouTube channels I follow that's based on personality disordered persons.This will become a very important topic as we continue on this journey together. I wanted to talk about one of the key factors that I think makes a relationship with someone toxic to your well being...
...It's the inability to apologize. Plain and simple. Stay with me here and let me tell you why it all boils down to this. Being able to apologize is so much more than saying "I'm sorry". The person speaking in the YouTube video said, "The only sincere apology is changed behavior. If it doesn't change long-term, then they are not truly remorseful."   
You might be thinking, "but Red, I mean, no one is perfect. They said sorry; forgive and forget, right?" Yes, no one is perfect, however abusive behavior is not okay. Stepping over your boundaries and committing the same trespasses over and over again after saying I'm sorry is just that.
Anything less than a proper apology with visible action behind it means they aren't willing to change and will repeat the offense. You are totally being manipulated. A proper apology by the way is "I'm sorry, that was my fault, I'll never do it again" or something of that variety.



A proper apology is not a string of excuses explaining their emotional state and why they did something to you. That's not taking responsibility for their actions, That's hoping you will just understand and let it go.You aren't in a relationship with a person. You are in a "manipulationship".
It's important that you know what your boundaries and standards for people that you let into your life are or this will happen to you over and over. Don't think that one day I just arbitrarily started cutting people I felt incapable of change out of my life.  I saw problematic behavior and gave many chances for change. I dismissed their behavior under the pretenses of "they've had a hard life" or "they are just going through a hard time" or "they just have some growing up to do". The problem with toxic people is that they aren't going to get past these circumstances, They are going to let hard lives, times, and lack of emotional growth rule their lives forever because doing what's necessary to change takes guts and commitment like nothing else, Doing the deep work required of change is very, very, very hard and most sadly just won't do it because of the difficulty level. You are essentially fighting yourself, the deep inner core of who you are, the way you are "wired", every day and that is possibly the most tiring and excruciating thing you can ever do. You are changing everything that has made you, you! The dedication to such an undertaking is enormous, So now you might understand why I'm more serious now about protecting my well-being and giving way fewer chances. I don't allow so much for "over and over". I need to see serious change and am well aware that that change probably isn't coming.


Well get more into this in the videos, but I really wanted to take a moment to explain this concept, The people in your life are going to be essential to your healing. Make sure they are ones that want to lift you up and help you be the best you can be, otherwise, you'll remain stuck in your hard life, hard times and ever reaching for an unattainable the emotional growth you so need to love yourself and life!

Happy Fishing!

--Red

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Time to Heal...

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
-The Byrds

My life the last year has been all about taking the time to heal.  There has been amazing discovery and agonizing recovery. One of the things I learned about being a survivor of emotional and psychological abuse is that one of the unfortunate side effects of such is the erosion of self...
...and it's now no wonder I started this blog confused about my purpose, and probably more so, who I was... 
I look back upon my writings and I came so close to figuring this out so many times. I just didn't put the pieces together in my very broken mind. I should have figured this out long ago and the relationships responsible for such a reduction of personality, but instead it took events of greater magnitude for me to finally say "something is really wrong here".
I have studied so much. I have figured out ugly truths about people once held dear to me.... 
...I have been likened to a warrior to others trying to survive themselves. If you don't know or love yourself, you don't know quite what to do with that....
I spent months identifying what made me  me down to favorite flavor a of ice cream because the deconstruction of self had been so cavernous. I had so much self-doubt to overcome that I still have to say "trust yourself" when walking out a door wondering if something was unplugged when I had just looked at it. 
I do not feel like much of a warrior in those times...but I also know I've come so far. 
I watch a lot of YouTube videos on emotional manipulators and how to heal from such abuse. Someone said "ask yourself how will you use what you've been through for the greater good". 
That's it, right? Could that be the sense of purpose and self I've spent years writing about only to find glimpses and pieces of it because I truly wasn't focused on the experiences that made me the person who I was and now that I am?

A lot of survivors take their stories to YouTube and blogs hoping to arm those who are, shall we say, emotionally disadvantaged due to what they have been through. It's time for me to do the same...

If you are a long time reader or friend, you may see or hear things that make you uncomfortable. Please try, if possible, to not be. This is my story. Survivors need to tell and live our tales out loud in the hopes that the shame that keeps others in the dark and abusers roaming free unfettered is lifted.  We'll also still explore finding your purpose in life, but I've come to know that this only happens when you are the best you that you can be,

If you are new to this blog, and the coming YouTube channel, welcome! I hope you can take a bit of peace and healing with you from someone saying "me, too."

Time to jump back into the ocean...and the fire...

Happy Fishing!

--Red

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ch-ch-ch-changes


"I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me"

- "Changes", David Bowie, 1971




I went into therapy in the fall of 2015. I was finally ready to deal with some of the issues from my childhood that I felt were keeping me from being a healthy adult. It's my admittedly unsubstantiated, but fully experienced, belief that many creative types have emotional issues of some kind. There is something cathartic about creating that helps us, but spend enough time around a mess of them (and I think in particular that a group of musicians should be called a "mess") and you might realize it's time to clear some things out of your subconscious catalog. Possibly well past time, even. 

This was good timing because, of course, Marc leaving, and for the second time, exacerbated past issues I had experienced. While I have done a lot of work to realize that this band wasn't my identity and that there was more to being me, there seemed to be some things that maybe I hadn't fully dealt with. 

I'll admit it; I expected to go in and hear "fear of abandonment", maybe "low self-esteem", or even "depression". What I did hear would change, if not completely alter, my world:

"Stockholm Syndrome" (also called "Trauma Bonding"), "C-PTSD", and something with some of the worst connotations and misinformation surrounding it... 

..."Codependency".

Wait, what? I'm pretty independent! I'm not necessarily needy...what the hell, lady?

Like most people I thought this meant someone who is needy but it's not that and in fact it's more than that. Let's visit Wikipedia, shall we?

"Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person's addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement." 

Oh yeah...okay...that's it...

My therapist and I figured out that my biological mother fit the profile of someone with a "Cluster B" Personality Disorder. My unresolved codependent tendencies derived from being her child have had me chasing those kind of relationships all my life. As I look back I realize that I have had many toxic boyfriends, supervisors, and close friends throughout my life. I've had more toxic close relationships on average than healthy ones. 

I'm a serial "fixer". I always try to see the good in people and I want to help them achieve the best they can be. I know what it feels like to grow up with no one supporting you emotionally and cheering you on. I don't want people to feel that way. The thing is, I just don't know when to stop, and that's what gets me into trouble. I've been so conditioned to walking on eggshells and avoiding conflict as much as possible, even if the person I'm trying to help is behaving irrationally and eventually disrespecting me.  I help at the detriment to myself and that has to stop. I always think, "they will get better I just know it. With enough love and support they will stop doing what they are doing. We do have some good days..."

Eventually no matter how hard you try to help, the rage you were trying to avoid from that person happens. You can't believe that they couldn't be helped and that they would behave that way towards you after all you've done, but this is why they are labeled as "toxic" and why you have to know when to walk away. These are the types of people I just can't have in my life if I'm going to break this cycle. I will have to have healthier boundaries and develop a healthier self-esteem, or I'm going to continue having "holes" blown in my life. 

It's really hard at first. You feel guilty. You are used to letting people treat you however they want to because somewhere you learned that was the only way to get people to like you. You feel guilty because those types in your life don't like your new way of thinking and then deem you the monster because they've stopped being able to have their way in every situation. 



I was on the phone recently with someone trying to be clear about why I had to remove someone close to them from my life. It was causing issues for us, and since we had been friends a long time, I felt it appropriate to have the conversation. 

"It's not that I'm different..." I said trying to explain that I'm still the loving person I was and that that hadn't changed. 

He interrupted me, "No, Dana, actually you are different now..."

You know what? He's right. Different isn't bad. It can be good...very good. I will own this. I am different.

...so I turned myself to face me....

I'm not just on a journey to find me and my purpose...I'm on a journey to love and take care of  myself as well. That's the only way I can be found.



Happy Fishing!

--Red

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Force Awakens

     Hopefully by now everyone has seen Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. If not, I apologize for the following spoiler. You can stop reading here, but I'll try not to give too much away...

     Who didn't catch their breath when Han Solo and General Leia saw each other again after so many years apart? The audience is then given a glimpse into what happened, why it had been so long since they were together, and ultimately, in his despair, how Han went back to "the only thing I knew". That moment really resonated with me because at a time of great confusion, I found myself returning to the only thing I knew...

 
   
     So it's been awhile since I've blogged, yes?  I've had an amazing and busy year of grabbing the starfish! StoneKracker released a CD this last year, we played a lot of shows, and Marc, my lead guitarist as you might remember, and I even started a recording business together. I really felt like I was out living my purpose. I knew where I was going with my life. I mean, sure, bands aren't forever, and the business was something we could do creatively for some time to come.

     ...until the day it all came crashing down around me...

     Towards the end of last September, Marc announced that he was leaving the band because he would be spending all of his time working at another recording studio and would not have the time to devote to a musical project. He also let me know that I would not be continuing on with him in the business because in order to take this opportunity, he felt that he needed to work freelance.  Our band and business partnership was over. Just that quickly, it was all done. Although we had several resultant conversations due to his decision, he had already firmly made up his mind and was adamant that this was what he wanted, The band supported his decision and then, a little over a month and a half later, he was gone. He was no longer performing with the band and he had had his last recording session in the studio we built in my home,

     Upon hearing the news, I felt that big hole in my heart returning. The future, as I thought it was going to be, had been pulled out from under me. Like I said, I know that StoneKracker won't be around forever, but I love this band and had surrounded myself with people I consider to be family. There were many opportunities to take advantage of and projects to pursue now that we had music recorded. I really loved the business that I had put a lot of time, hard work, and money into it. It was all such a whirlwind of emotions and that fear of loss that I had been carrying around previously for a decade or so was creeping in.  I just wasn't sure where I was going from here and how I would go forward.

     The next three days were heartbreaking. I cried so much no one was buying my "I have allergies" excuse. You could see the pain on my face from the bags and dark circles under my eyes and the redness contained therein. The reality of the situation was playing over and over in my mind along with a handful of questions. What do I do know? What does my future look like? What about the band; how does that continue? Wait a minute...

     Remember when my friend Amy asked me, "Yeah, but what's YOUR dream?" We had been talking about why I went into business with Marc that day at her house. That was the one question that has haunted me on and off since then. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I was living Marc's dream and not mine. Amy's was the only question I had to answer to make all of the rest of the answers fall into place. That's why the "hole" was coming back.  I forgot about who I am. Think about this:  I have made a whole blog about finding out what I was supposed to do with my life only to find myself living someone else's. Where did I go wrong here? I would have that answer too as long as I dug deep to remember, to actually know and be sure of, who I was and what I wanted. Only then would I be able to accept this major life change and others to come in my life and move forward no matter what happens,,,       

      So, here I am. Just like Han Solo I'm going back to the only thing I know, because deep down that's who I am. That has to be my starting point. I'm back on the beach unable to grab the starfish bobbing in water because my hands are full of shells...


     Hello, my name is Dana "Red" Leigh Cooper and I'm a writer...

     Welcome back to the ocean everyone...to be continued...


Happy Fishing!

--Red



   

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Monkey Cage




     "Look, Dana, it's like this:  If a monkey dies at the zoo, the zoo doesn't shut down.  They get another monkey..."


    My friend, Ben, saying this looked earnestly at me over the table where we and our spouses were having dinner. His extremely patient wife, Lisa, rolled her eyes as the conversation had turned once again to band issues.  See, Ben, at any given time, may be in any where from 2 to 4 bands and has extensive experience when dealing with issues that arise from the dynamic of putting three or more possibly dysfunctional people in a room together. (Note to my friends in bands:  Don't you fight that last statement.  There is a reason we are musicians...c'mon now...)


     What Ben was trying to say to me, and what he would say later in no uncertain terms, was "You have options."  I thought he was just talking about replacement monkeys to keep the zoo exhibit open, but I found it was ultimately something more than that...


     I mentioned in my last post that this last year had not been easy.  Not only had my band Stonekracker been "out of the game" essentially for well over a decade, but repairing the prior emotional battery that had taken place leading to our ultimate demise, would take it's toll on me several times throughout the year even after this conversation.


     My response to this ultimate wisdom from Ben regarding monkeys and their keepers? "But I just got them back..."


     This is pivotal and may be where I started losing sight of dream and purpose. I wanted so badly to keep them all; to have this second chance that I just started putting away parts of myself piece by piece in order to never loose any of them ever again from my life.


   To be fair, this actually was a time where other pieces of myself started coming to life.  My lyric writing had become more vulnerable and I started playing guitar. I think that's how I was dealing with what was happening to me internally. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it made for great music, but what was causing it wasn't necessarily healthy. I oftentimes kept hidden what I would feel about certain situations that would arise within the band.  I would feel paralyzed to say something when I didn't like what was going on or disagreed with something.  In an effort not to come off as the control freak I had been years earlier, I went completely the other direction and just would smile like I meant it, no matter what was going on..  I didn't want to be the person I was, but am really having trouble being the person I am.  So, while I may have been churning out the greatest lyrics and music I had ever written, it was slowly killing me and my desires to even have a dream or live out any prior notions of purpose.

     The reason I struggle so hard is this:  I love these guys.  I'm finding out that may be unusual for a band dynamic these days.  I don't know if it's because I'm a girl or how long we've known each other, but I love them.  Sometimes that makes figuring out how to handle confrontation difficult because you have to prepare yourself for the possibility that something you say might hurt that person you love and you so don't want it to...

    ...but sometimes you just might not have that choice...because you are the monkey dying at the zoo...


     I don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past and at the same time, this should be fun.  At this stage in life that's all it should be and that's for everyone.  I just want that option to be happy and have that help take that dream of mine where I want it to go...
 
     ...oh...wait a minute...

    Having options doesn't mean you throw the baby, or the "monkey" out with the bath water, but what it does mean is you can't compromise your own happiness for the happiness of others.  Doing that will ultimately kill your dream.  It won't be fun anymore no matter how great the process seems to be going.  You have to communicate your needs if working with others, because let's face it; it's not about them, it's about you. You just have to hope you and your monkeys are on the same page.  If a monkey isn't happy with the conditions at the zoo, and they have to be transferred, it is and ultimately will be okay. That goes for all of you. This is because you know what does and what doesn't make you happy, and there is no more secure position than that. This is because for the first time you realize you are not trying to be a control freak in voicing opinions, but that you want happiness for all of the primates involved precisely because you love them...

     ...You have "options"...


Happy Fishing!

--Red


P.S - This week Ben put this on my Facebook page wall.  Maybe not totally related...but maybe so!  Thank you Ben for all of your time...I'll expect the bill in the mail!
















Sunday, March 1, 2015

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been



     How cool is that?  That's me...see? Really tiny on that stage in the middle...the one with the red hair?  It's been an incredible year...

     I recently realized I hadn't touched this blog in a year.  A whole year.  I thought this might happen.  I mean, once you "grab the starfish" you have to go out there and live the dream, right?  Wait...did I just refer to my purpose as the dream?  I guess when I started this blog it was about finding out what my purpose on this planet was, and I suppose the vehicle by which it was delivered too, but, really, is that necessarily the "dream"?  Before we get to that, let me explain what's been going on from where we left off with each other.

     My band got back together. It's part of the purpose I had discovered for my life ("No Diving in the Shallow End"). The very same band that caused me to question who I was and whether I should be  able to be happy after what happened ("What Doesn't Kill You" ).  Yup. Them. Stonekracker. At first I was excited that we could all exist in the proverbial "water under the bridge" space and felt like that hole in my heart was going away ("The Donut Hole").  It's been one of the best band experiences I've ever had really.  We have greater freedom to create, ego's aren't the problem they were when we were younger, and some of the pressure to "make it" that comes with being a younger person is gone. I play guitar now and I didn't before. People come and see us play and we have so much fun. We are all much older and wiser now.  Piece of cake, right?

    Yeah...no....

    You will never know what you are made of until you are faced to be in contact day after day with the one person in your life who did the most emotional damage to you. Navigating the waters with my lead guitarist, Marc, has been...well...I've described it as a yo-yo.  It just hasn't been easy, and that's for both of us. The old conversations, the way everything went down, the feelings of betrayal between two people who had trusted each other completely at one point; these things come back just by looking at the other one.  Sometimes that's really all it takes. You can't stop the movie from playing.  It just switches on...except it's a horror movie instead of a John Hughes coming of age type movie.

    He apologized over Facebook a few months before we started playing together and I readily accepted that apology, but as you all know, for me, forgive doesn't mean forget. Somewhere around February last year, I was starting to think that we were never going to be on the same page ever again and that there would always be this "thing" that would always be between us.  Some days I still feel that way, but it was at that moment, almost out of the blue, almost as if I was being given a gift from God, he handed me this leather bound book.  It had music stanzas on the front, tied closed with a tiny ribbon, and bore his name at the top.  He told me it was a collection of song lyrics he had written. I felt like this would be a breakthrough for us.  An olive branch to maybe stop the emotional bleeding and start rebuilding the trust.  These were his personal thoughts...and he wanted me to read them.  He wanted to let me back into his life on some level.



     I read it ravenously.  It was all I thought it would be.  It confirmed much for me about him and about us. Then I left him something inside it upon its return...

     Months before he gave me the book, I wrote my apology to him for what had happened between us, but I didn't do it on Facebook.  I had written a song entitled "Fight".  I tucked the lyrics inside his book and was honestly not prepared for the reaction when he found them days later.  Marc was so moved he stayed up for days writing the music, trying to capture the desperation, loneliness, and regret that I had spelled out on the page... 

     ...and he did...and it was amazing.  The song, however, didn't see the light of day until the band recorded it in October for an acoustic compilation we were going to be on. The song, although absolutely remarkable, was too painful, but we agreed that it was finally time to release it.  Over the last year we also killed our entire back catalog of old songs and wrote all new ones so it's been a busy time.  I've been working on repairing my relationship with Marc, writing new music, trying to keep my head above water playing the guitar...I also did start a new job that has taken me a little off of the accounting trail as I thought should happen. I've really been working at all of those things I found out about myself and what I'm supposed to be doing with my life...or have I?

     Marc and I during this time had also decided to start a business together.  He's an audio engineer and wanted to get back into recording and producing bands.   I was over at my friends Jeremy and Amy's house last weekend picking up some business cards that Jeremy has made for our business.   Jeremy is an amazing graphic artist and has his own small business, Punk, Rock, Love - Illustration and Design.  We were sitting around talking when Amy asked me why I went into business with Marc.

    "It's Marc's dream to do this and I want to help him do that," I explained.

    "Yeah, but what's YOUR dream?" Amy asked.

    ...Wait...What?

     When the Greatful Dead wrote "Truckin'", a song about their misfortunes on the road as a metaphor for getting though life culminating in the refrain "what a long strange trip it's been", I think they were on to something.  I have found myself so sidetracked lately with the band business as it's gotten bigger and the new business, that maybe I'm starting to forget about the purpose.  Maybe I am forgetting about my dreams in all of this, because when Amy said that, I had nothing. I've been just running ragged; completely on "what do I have to accomplish next" mode without ever asking why, is it necessary, and am I happy.  With all of the work to get all the songs ready, the work to promote all of the shows we did, the emotional upheaval I've experienced being back in this situation, the details of learning a new job...with the "long strange trip it's been"...I may have lost me a little bit along the way.

     It's time to dial back and return to the writer I am in the core center of my being to figure all of this out. I know the purpose, but what's the dream, and do those things compliment each other and with the rush that is life, how do I hold on to them?

    As I sip, my coffee, and stare out my office window at a cold and dreary winter day, I'm listening to "These Dreams" by Heart... 


"These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside
Every moment I'm awake the further I'm away
There's something out there I can't resist"

       
     ...welcome back... and here we go again...


Happy Fishing

--Red


PS - If you'd like to hear me expound upon the story of  "Fight", and hear the first time it was played on the radio, you can do so right here!  Many thanks to Loris Lowe and KLBJ FM 93.7 in Austin, TX for having me in the studio! Loris is an amazing person and supports the local music scene in Austin with her show Local Licks Live.  https://soundcloud.com/klbj937/local-licks-podcast-january-20-2015