I’m kicking off the new year out here in the land of 10,000 shades of purple by announcing a new project — Crazy Amazing: The Year of Living Like a Prince. Yes, I will be living like Prince for a year. Yes, I do realize that I am a suburban mom and no, I will not be replicating EVERY aspect of Prince’s life.
While researching The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988 alongside my intrepid writing partner Alex Hahn, I couldn’t help but notice patterns in Prince’s behavior in his yearslong upward trajectory to overnight success (despite what many might think, Prince did not emerge out of nowhere in 1984 from a poof! of purple smoke, fully formed, wearing a studded jacket and singing “Purple Rain.”).
The habits I noticed were sometimes quirky and sometimes practical (quirky: see the Charlie Murphy skit about basketball and pancakes … practical: see Susan Rogers’ stories about working in the studio until a song was basically complete, however long that took). Sometimes the behaviors I noted were obvious no-brainers, and other times, they provided me with “aha” moments that would have thrilled even Oprah.
Knowing about Prince in far too much detail to be considered in the range of normal, combined with feeling an on-the-ground connection with “Prince the Real Guy” here in Minnesota, led me to wonder about the nature of success.
Here’s my operating theory: By definition, anyone who becomes a global superstar is doing something different from most. If you accept that, then it follows logically to ask: What does it take to achieve not just success, but EXTRAORDINARY success?
If any one of us were to replicate Prince’s habits, could we also be more successful in our chosen fields and endeavors? It’s a question that intrigued me. That’s why, on January 1, I began to volunteer myself in the interests of science. Call me a purple guinea pig. In 2019, I am going to live like Prince or die 4 U while trying. Each month, I will attempt to undertake one thing that I believe led to his extraordinary success. I will be doing brief daily posts to keep you up to date on my progress, or lack thereof.
January’s theme is “Life in the Fasting Lane.” Particularly when recording, Prince would go for long stretches without eating. I am experimenting with fasting, in an effort to see if it will boost my energy and stoke my creative fires the way it stoked his. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry for more on how my month is going!
June is my month of “no” and if ever I needed a wake-up call about how different my lifestyle is from that of a rock star like Prince, this is it. “Duh,” you might say, and rightfully so. Yet, while this isn’t headline news, I never expected that a month of saying no would throw me into an existential crisis, either.
My initial giddy enthusiasm over imagining how happy I would be refusing projects and turning down invitations has not materialized — far from it! I expected to be tossing out “no’s” like candy in a Fourth of July parade. Instead, it’s brought all of my people-pleaser tendencies to the surface and made me face just how much of my life I allow to be dictated by others. It’s like an episode of “Scared Straight,” only without the juvenile delinquents.
I do not label myself a people pleaser with pride. No! (There’s that word again). I don’t think being a people pleaser is a good trait, but I also think a lot of us are this way. This month has thrown into stark relief how much I allow my agenda to be dictated by other’s needs.
Let’s break down my day yesterday as a random sample of my life. I’m going to rate each event of my day on a scale of one to ten, with ten being a staunch, well-played, saying “no” event, and zero being a total people-pleaser move.
5:45 a.m. Wake Up
I woke up not because I chose to wake up. I woke up because the dog started whining, which was imminently going to turn into barking, which would have woken up the entire household. Essentially my day started being dictated by a canine. Way to set the tone!
Saying “no” rating: ZERO (I should give myself negative points but I’m afraid that I will never dig out of that hole if I do).
7:45 a.m. Get Two Boys Up and Go to Dentist
Here’s the thing: I need to see the dentist too, but I canceled my own appointment so my son could get to his ACT test prep class by 10 a.m. While my mothering score might be satisfactory, my self-preservation/dental hygiene score is a big zero.
Saying “no” rating: ZERO again. At least I’m consistent!
10:00 a.m. Work for 3.5 Hours
Rationale: I’m torn on this one, but I’m going to give myself a few points here. I wrote a blog post, but the blog post I wrote was not for my own blog but rather, for a paying client. I desperately needed to write for my own blog because I’m woefully behind in keeping up the pace, but I also need to make sure I’m putting in sufficient hours on my paying work, for which I have a contract. Still, among the things I did during this work time was talk to my media coach who’s helping me get publicity for “Living Like Prince,” so that moved the ball down the field.
Saying “no” rating: FIVE POINTS.
1:30 p.m. Take Dog to Park
Here I go again, doing something for someone else, in this case, a canine family member. Still, the walk was good for me too. I needed to get up from my laptop and move. Plus, the boys were playing soccer in the nearby fields and it was fun watching them.
Saying “no” rating: FIVE POINTS.
2:00 p.m. Dear Friend texts me with a request to write a story on someone from the Prince community.
True confession: Before my brain could intervene with a “no,” my fingers typed “Sure!” WTF? Do I have no presence of mind?
Saying “no” rating: ZERO POINTS
3:00 p.m. Take son to the orthodontist
No further commentary needed. This is mom life at its finest!
Saying “no” rating: ZERO POINTS.
5:00 p.m. Spend the evening with visiting family, make dinner, sit on the back porch and enjoy wine and conversation.
Saying “no” rating: TEN POINTS
The day ended on a huge up note, for which I am rewarding myself the full 10 points.
DAILY “SAYING NO” RATING: 20 points of a possible 70.
Twenty points out of seventy sounds pretty lame, but let’s consider the upside. I may not be scoring perfect 10’s, but I am taking baby steps outside my comfort zone and into a new way of life where I instinctively protect my energy and my time. And that, for a suburban mom like me, is a huge stride forward.
June 1st saw me clapping my hands with glee at the prospect of a month of “no.” I imagined myself turning down anything I didn’t feel like doing. No, no, NO!
But in practice, oy vey! Old habits, which have become ingrained over 16 years of motherhood are hard to break. I swear, since becoming a mom, I’ve started assuming it’s up to me to undertake any request — or worse, to offer to take on things that the person involved didn’t even request but that I think would be helpful to them.
My friend and media coach, Mary O’Donohue, recently shared that she was able to reach out to a literary agent on Twitter to request an interview for her students with no fear at all. If she had been asking for herself, she said, it would have been much more difficult to find the courage to do that on her own behalf. That got me thinking that I could create an imaginary personal assistant who would handle incoming requests. Being the gatekeeper for someone else is much easier than being the gatekeeper for yourself!
Thank God for Aurora, the alter ego I created last month. She would surely have no problem saying no to anything that even slightly rubs her the wrong way. And she certainly wouldn’t be volunteering to be her family’s full-time servant or to take on a task that no one had even requested of her.
Because I spent the month of May cultivating an alter ego, the experience of creating a distance between myself and the self I strive to be is fresh in my mind. As I struggled to say no at all, much less with glee, the thought occurred that I could refer to myself in the third person. Granted, referring to yourself in the third person can feel grandiose, making it hard to keep a straight face. But, given that a lot of my communications come via text, I found that I could hide behind an imaginary personal assistant who was acting as gatekeeper of my schedule and to-do list.
In 2017, the Today Show did a story about the power of talking to yourself in the third person as a tool for quelling anxiety. Mark Reinecke, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine told the Today Show, “When we put something in first person there’s a heavier [emotional] load that makes it more difficult to reason about a problem clearly,” Reinecke said. “If you put the problem into the third person, it allows you to keep perspective on it and have a calmer response.”
When our boys were toddlers, like all toddlers, they loved the word “no.” Looking back, I’m sure it’s the sense of power that “no” conveys upon the naysayer, especially when the naysayer is a small human who feels powerless in a world of grown-ups issuing orders. Somewhere along the path to adulthood, “no” goes from a thrilling power play that is guaranteed to get a rise from adults to a surefire way to provoke conflict. Conflict, for many of us, is something to be avoided.
A skill of adulthood is learning to use “no” with the same amount of joy that you feel when you say “yes.” One of the crappy parts of the writing life is hearing “no” a lot, from agents and publishers and readers who review you on Amazon. In the past, I’ve let those “no’s” shut me down. It’s only years later that I realize how far I could have gone if I had said, in the immortal words of Ariana Grande, “Thank you, next!” I think that being someone who hates saying “no” made me take the “no’s” I received far too seriously. I should have lightheartedly let those rejections roll off of me and continue on my merry way, writing the next thing that came to me. But a lot of the time, I let the no’s paralyze and silence me. To that, I now say NO.
When friend Clara texted me to ask if I would buy her a plane ticket to Italy, you can read my initial avoidance of “no” in an effort to make sure Clara doesn’t get upset with me. Instead, I tried to make a joke out of her question by saying “OMG not again!!.” Only when Clara prods me do I manage to spit out a “no.” And even though I knew I was supposed to say no, I still felt bad doing it!
As one of the most critically acclaimed musicians of the 1980s, Prince was at the top of the list of musicians that producer Quincy Jones wanted for the recording of “We Are the World,” a single recorded on Jan. 28, 1985, the night of the American Music Awards, for a charitable relief effort called USA for Africa.
Jones would not get his wish. He would, however, get more than 40 other voices, including Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and Jones’ co-writer on the song, Michael Jackson.
“I was with Prince one day at his home studio, just the two of us,” says Susan Rogers, an audio engineer who recorded many of Prince’s early albums, “and he got a call from Quincy Jones asking him to come be part of ‘We Are the World.’ I only hear Prince’s side of the conversation—I was in the control room waiting—but he declined it. It was a long conversation, and Prince said, ‘Can I play guitar on it?’ And they said no, and he ultimately said, ‘Okay, well, can I send Sheila?’ And he sent Sheila. Then he said, ‘If there’s going to be an album, can I do a song for the album?’ And evidently, they said yes.”
Prince’s “no” took an unfortunate turn when, after the AMAs, he decided to take a limousine to the restaurant and nightclub Carlos & Charlie’s on Sunset Boulevard with Jill Jones and several bodyguards.
“As Prince and his entourage exited the restaurant at about 2 a.m., several paparazzi descended on him, and one audacious photographer jumped into his limousine,” writes Alex Hahn in The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988. Prince and his friends were frightened and outraged and bodyguards Lawrence Gibson and Wally Safford seized the photographer’s camera and ejected him from the limo. The police were called and Gibson was arrested for battery and Safford for robbery.
“Predictably, the confluence of these back-to-back events — Prince’s no-show at a high-profile charitable event, and a violent incident involving his security staff — brought down a hail of negative publicity,” Hahn writes. “Any nuances in either story were blurred, and Prince came off as self-centered, security-obsessed, and, most damningly, unwilling to drop his rock star pretenses for a charitable cause.”
The public relations debacle was compounded by the fact that Prince wasn’t speaking to the media at the time; it would be months before he would break his silence in the September 1985 interview with Neal Karlen for Rolling Stone. Prince recorded his side of the story in the song “Hello,” the B-side to “Pop Life,” and “4 The Tears In Your Eyes” was released as the sixth track on the compilation album We Are The World. But the public relations damage was done.
In his 2014 biography Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain, author Alan Light spoke with Wendy Melvoin, guitarist for The Revolution.
“I wasn’t allowed to say the real reason” Prince didn’t show up, Melvoin says. “Because he thinks he’s a badass and he wanted to look cool, and he felt like the song for ‘We Are the World’ was horrible and he didn’t want to be around ‘all those muthafuckas.’”
Was there ever a bigger “no” than the “no” Prince relayed to Warner Bros. by writing “SLAVE” across his cheek?
I’m giddy with delight over June’s theme. Unlike the rather challenging months — January’s month of fasting and April’s changing my name to a symbol come to mind — this one feels like a piece of cake. For an entire month, I am saying yes to “no.” What could be easier than uttering a tiny, two-letter word? In the month of June, I am vowing to say “no” to anything that I don’t want to do. My goal is that June will see me saying “no” to all sorts of requests, and in the process, I will make sure that the things that I eventually say “yes” to the right things for the right reasons.
As I contemplated the tremendous excitement of a month of finally doing only what I wanted (and wondering if some sort of mommy police will come and apprehend me if I don’t adhere to the millions of unwritten rules about what moms can and can’t do), I couldn’t help but reflect on Shonda Rimes’ fabulous book, “Year of Yes.” Unlike me, Rimes doesn’t seem to have much problem saying no. Maybe that’s the difference between having an entire night of network television devoted to your shows, and … well, being an average person like me. Rimes, an introvert, spent a year forcing herself to say yes to speaking at graduations and attending glamorous parties. (I, on the other hand, would have been dressed up and out the door as fast as you can say “Little Red Corvette.”).
I am Laura, and I have a “yes” problem. I can’t not say yes. How’s that for a double negative? Worse, I have a dreadful habit of turning myself into a veritable pretzel in an effort to accommodate everyone in my vicinity, and then inwardly seething in knotted-up, pretzel-like anger. The fact that I am an introvert means that my proclivity for people-pleasing and yes-saying burns me out. I need down time and quiet to hang out alone in my mind, which is my happy place. But yet, I can’t seem to stop myself from accepting invitations — even if they mess up my schedule — and taking on unnecessary amounts of responsibility and work — even if it messes with my own ability to achieve my goals.
The picture I paint of myself is not a flattering one, I fear, but it’s June, it’s month six of living like Prince, and you all have seen so much of me that I figure, if you haven’t run away screaming yet, this true confession won’t scare you off, either.
The prospect of saying “no” to something had me giddy with delight on June 1. And on June 2. Then, June 3 rolled around and I actually had to say “no” to something, and I very nearly blew the entire month with one three-letter word beginning with “y-e” and ending with “s.”
Robin, one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, asked me if I would like her to set up an interview with Ingrid Chavez so that I could write a story about Chavez for the PRN Alumni Foundation website as part of their series, “Stories from the Park.” Now, merely weeks ago, I had specifically asked to be connected with Chavez, as I would love to tell her story. But in the meantime, I had submitted two other stories for publication by PRN Alumni. Coupled with Living Like Prince, it was a lot, and I needed a short breather to focus on this project and my paying job and oh yes, my family, before taking on another story. I had overpromised.
I needed to say no.
My stomach felt tight and all sorts of unhealthy thoughts rushed through my mind, as I gripped my cell phone and formulated a response. I mentally berated myself for having suggested that I would like to do the interview and was now reneging. What kind of flaky person selfishly causes this kind of inconvenience? What if I hurt Robin’s feelings? I was stuffed in the middle of a shame and guilt sandwich, and what I wanted to do more than anything was stuff my face with giant handfuls of kettle corn from the Costco-sized bag I had purchased the day before (another bad decision, more shame, and guilt). Robin texted a perfectly kind and reasoned response of “I can assign it to someone else if you prefer,” and I texted her that I would appreciate that, and then felt enormous waves of FOMO coming over me. Now I wouldn’t get to interview Ingrid Chavez! What kind of fool am I!
Living in my head is not a walk in the park.
But then Robin texted something that brought the death spiral of thoughts in my brain to a screeching halt: “I understand! Thanks for sharing your talent with us.”
Relief washed over me like the proverbial purple rain. Robin had been gracious and kind, and I had managed my first “no.” I felt a joyful confidence! Like a stubborn two-year-old, I couldn’t wait to try my next “no”!
The other day, I sat down to chat with Eloy Lasanta for his excellent “Prince’s Friend” YouTube channel. Eloy is a gifted interviewer and all-around great guy, and I especially loved how he called me an “experimentalist”! Do watch it, and share your thoughts in the comments.
This past weekend, friends of ours visited from Chicago. We have been in Minnesota for three years now, and although we are separated by distance, the bonds of friendship have grown stronger with many of our Chicago friends. That’s been an unexpected blessing of this move.
My visiting friend Clara and I went exploring at Minnehaha Falls, a place of great natural beauty along the edge of the Mississippi River. In addition to being fun to say, Minnehaha Regional Park is gloriously beautiful. The grounds are shaded by a canopy of gorgeous towering trees and the park features a massive shelter with an eatery and ice cream shop. It’s like a miniature Niagara Falls in the middle of the city. Clara and I followed the long staircase alongside the falls down to the creek and followed it until we reached to a beach (flooded) at the point where Minnehaha Creek meets the mighty Mississippi.
As we walked, we talked. Clara, a filmmaker and painter, is one of few visual artist friends I have. Because I’ve never thought of myself as an artist, I struggle with the competing demands of making a living through paying work and my art. (See, it feels odd or even pretentious to write “my art”). Because while I am creative, I also like being paid. It’s important for your self-esteem to be paid for your work. I am proud that throughout my life, I have been able to make a living by writing, whether that was as a journalist or in public relations, or as a freelance writer and author. But I’ve always sought a balance between paying work and creative work, in some phases of my life more successfully than in others. I currently work as a consultant doing content for a financial services company and I love it. My colleagues are top-notch and it’s a really great place to work. I value that and am hugely grateful for the opportunity. Because I get grouchy and out of sorts if I don’t balance that paying work with work on my own writing, I always feel like I’m walking a tightrope to who knows where. I was sharing that ongoing inner balancing act with Clara. Doing this Prince project makes no sense, really. Any logical person would tell me to put all of my energy into my paying work. Don’t we want to pay off our cars and mortgage? Don’t we want to sock away more money for retirement? Well then, I should be putting all my energy into paying work while I can.
As I vocalized this in a rambling, stream-of-consciousness way to Clara, she stopped me.
“Art doesn’t make sense,” Clara said in a matter-of-fact way, adding, “that’s not its purpose.”
Art doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t. Art is a gift, like the encaustic painting that Clara gifted me this weekend. It means more to me than anything because it’s a recognition that she sees me. And she sees Living Like Prince as a worthy endeavor, simply because it is an expression of an idea of how humanity can live in a way that’s more expansive. The artist in Clara recognizes the artist in me. The artist in me recognizes the artist in Prince. And the chain goes on and on and on, creating more beauty and touching more souls as it grows.
The June/July issue of Guideposts Magazine includes a story on Prince, something that might surprise readers of this Christian magazine of hope and inspiration. I get that! The thought of Prince in Guideposts feels like a juxtaposition in terms. But as it turns out, Prince had a deep appreciation for Guideposts. More on Prince’s connection with Guideposts in a moment. First, here’s the article in the print magazine, on the back page. To read the online version, click here.
Guideposts is a nonprofit magazine was founded in 1945 by Norman Vincent Peale, author of the international bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking. According to a Publisher’s Weekly story, the magazine reports a circulation of two million. Guideposts’ purpose is to inspire readers to believe that anything is possible through faith, hope and prayer. The organization is not attached to a certain denomination, although it is Christian.
The article was more than a year in the making. In early 2018, I spoke with women’s group in Chanhassen about the book that Alex Hahn and I co-authored, The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988. I got off track and talked at length about Prince’s spirituality and how that was reflected in his songs. I recall playing “Diamonds and Pearls” and sharing how one could interpret the chorus as God speaking to Prince.
The next day, Marilyn Corrigan, who had heard my presentation, met with then-Guideposts development executive Bill Morin, who was visiting Minneapolis to meet with donors (Guideposts is a nonprofit organization and thus fundraising is necessary). When Bill mentioned that he planned to visit Paisley Park after the meeting, Marilyn told him about me.
Bill is an effervescent individual who is full of energy and positivity and he contacted me. A few weeks later, we wound up having a long conversation about our mutual love of Prince. Bill was a fan of “Purple Rain” and his wife Virginie was a fan of Prince’s work in the 90s, and together we struck up a friendship that included long email discussions punctuated with mentions of the color purple. “Purple thanks,” “purple greetings” and “purple good news” were all part of our lexicon.
During one conversation, Bill mentioned that he thought Prince had been a Guideposts subscriber. He asked his colleague who manages subscriptions to look in the subscription records, and sure enough, one “Roger Nelson” of 7801 Audubon Road in Chanhassen had indeed been a subscriber since 1997 (notably, Prince and first wife Mayte Garcia had suffered a devastating loss in October 1996 when their infant son died). There was a short gap during the 2010s before Prince became a subscriber again in the last years of his life.
News that Prince was a subscriber surprised me. And then I thought: Of course he was. Prince was a spiritual seeker who needed hope and inspiration as much as any of us.
In October 2018, I attended the Guideposts national cabinet meeting in Huntington Beach, California, and met editor-in-chief Rick Hamlin and executive editor Edward Grinnan. Guideposts wanted to find a way to get Prince into the magazine, and this article is the result. Because Prince’s image in the mind of the general public is largely linked to “Purple Rain” and provocative lyrics and stage performances, I’m glad to be able to share a lesser-known side of Prince with readers of the magazine that he clearly valued so much.
This is the house where I imagine that my alter ego Aurora lives. Isn’t it sheer Gothic Revival perfection?
You could come over and Aurora would serve you an absinthe cocktail on the front porch.
Knowing Aurora, she might even slide down the banister on her way to greet you.
Come into my parlor. You look so handsome in that sweater; is it cashmere? Since there’s a spring chill in the air, when twilight descends, you can make a fire, and I’ll light the candles on the candelabra.
At first glance, I felt a kind of revulsion at this house (the fact that there are more deer heads and a bearskin rug complete with the bear’s head had something to do with that). Like the Addams Family house, there’s an atmosphere that feels slightly imposing and yes, even sinister. The architecture is in stark contrast to the light airiness of the house where my family currently lives, which features a 1980s design of soaring ceilings and two-story windows. This home feels equal parts strange and beautiful. I couldn’t stop looking at the photos.
In 1872, the year the house was built, Mark Twain was writing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (the book would be published in 1876). The horrific and bloody Civil War had come to a close in 1865. The city of Chicago had been destroyed by fire a year earlier, in 1871. It seems that the owner, James Castle, was ballsy enough to want to build a gigantic wooden house despite the threat of fire. I think Aurora and James Castle would have gotten along swimmingly.
If you were born in 1872, your life expectancy was 38 years. Life was short, and full of sorrow. Some one-third to one-half of infants didn’t live to age five. If you managed to survive to see age 10, your life expectancy rose to 48 years — that’s how perilous infancy and young childhood was.
Overcrowding, harsh climate, extreme poverty and diseases from measles to whooping cough all took their toll. The design of this house acknowledges that this was a hard world. I love that it embraces the shadow side of life, because the shadow side will be heard.
I’m fascinated by the portraits with heavy frames and the ornate, carved Victorian furniture. It’s as if this owner decided to zig when everyone else is zagging. This house could serve as an antidote to the “open concept” home layout that every single person looking for a house on HGTV seems to request without fail. By inhabiting a house that expresses the shadow side so eloquently, I can imagine that it would be easier to be light ourselves. We’ve lost something important when we surround ourselves exclusively with the light and bright. In our age, positivity is praised and darkness is banished. “Don’t be so negative!” is something I myself have said on too many occasions. But if you shoo negativity away, it doesn’t disappear. It simply moves to a dark corner.
I think I’ll clean out some of the dark corners this weekend by watching a Stephen King movie … or two, for good measure.
When I announced this month’s theme of cultivating my alter ego, my friend Chamber Stevens messaged me, saying “good luck with your shadow self.”
Huh? My shadow side, what’s that? That’s how non-shadowy I can be. The symbol that I adopted as my name in April wasn’t sunshine surrounding a heart for nothing.
But then I reflected on the photo shoot I did as part of this month’s challenge, and how a sort of “evil twin” had emerged — although “evil” isn’t fair. My alter ego was fierce, confident and mischievous. Perhaps calling her my psychic twin would be more accurate. What my psychic twin brought to the table was power. Giving the camera those sexy stares was a little intoxicating, I won’t lie. Maybe Chambers had a point. He warned that I must be careful lest the shadow side of me knock me down.
I got scared. Maybe I want too much out of life, I thought. Did I want to open this particular Pandora’s box? Because even thought I know that my fear is keeping me away from some of the things I desire, I’m afraid of messing up the order of my life.
My shadow self had fun coming out to play, and in the weeks since then, she’s wanted to come out and play again, and again. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to play at my age and station in life.
You see, I’m a suburban mom. My husband and I have kids, we pay bills, we have responsibilities. Like many women, after marrying and becoming a mom some 16 years ago, I had divided my life into parcels. I had shoved what I had deemed unacceptable characteristics into a dark corner and went about my life.
The problem is, like water rushing down a hill during a rainstorm, the shadow self will find an outlet. The dark side will seep out in unexpected ways. And best that you be ahead of that rushing water and give it a outlet. If you don’t, it’s very possible that you might wind up dumping that dark energy on others in the form of anger or other negative emotions. Look at the news: It’s war and chaos. That’s the shadow side run amuck. That’s people projecting their darkness on whoever they deem “the enemy” to be. Men project their shadow on women, who then have that burden to bear. White people project their shadow on black people.
According to Robert A. Johnson, author of Owning Your Own Shadow (Harper SanFrancisco, 1994), “No one can escape the dark side of life, but we can pay out that dark side intelligently.”
Paying out the dark side in an intelligent way seems to be a key to satisfaction. Could my alter ego Aurora be a way to pay out that dark side intelligently?
I think she could be. I love Aurora. She’s necessary.
No one can be reduced to one side — dark or light — and it’s a mistake to try to ignore one in favor of the other. The universe requires balance. Or, as Johnson writes, “This is one of (psychologist Carl) Jung’s greatest insights: that the ego and the shadow come from the same source and exactly balance each other.”
Interestingly, to bring Prince into this discussion (and how can we not), Johnson touches on the nature of artists, positing that the more you build up the light side of the equation, the stronger your shadow will grow to match it. As an artist, when you create, you build up the light side of the equation. That is the right side of the scale. To balance it, on the left side of the scale, is destruction.
“To make a work of art, to say something kind to help others, to beautify the house, to protect the family — all these acts will have an equal weight on the opposite side of the scale and can lead us into sin,” Johnson writes.
When Prince died, his shadow side was exposed. His dark side was manifested in womanizing and addiction. Johnson attributes this imbalance in darkness and light to the difficulty that many artists experience in their private lives. All that dark has to go somewhere. However, he adds, “Broader talents call up a greater portion of the dark” thus using it in their creation. That, he posits, is the definition of genius.
Prince certainly could call up the dark, to the point that he once frightened himself, at least in the case of the Black Album, which he abandoned in favor of Lovesexy.
Excuse me while I go and listen to Prince’s “Dark.”
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You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter! Now you deserve your exclusive bonus: SEVEN TIPS FOR LIVING LIKE A PRINCE 1. Fast for Clarity In January, I fasted for clarity, inspired by the fact that Prince famously would fast to stay trim. Whether or not Prince fasted because he was caught up in making music and forgot to eat or fasted intentionally isn’t clear, but during the month of January, I declared that my theme was “Life in the Fasting Lane.” I found that fasting gave me a lot of energy and mental clarity. The method of fasting I used was called Alternate Day Fasting. I would fast for one day (I was allowed to eat up to 500 calories), followed by a day when I could eat anything. 2. Dress Up and Show Up In February, I dressed up daily – no excuses! Prince famously dressed up for everything and turns out, there’s a method behind his madness. “Enclothed cognition” is a scientific phenomenon that explains why dressing the part makes you perform at a higher level, whether in sports, career or being a world-class musician. Despite the fact that February was the snowiest month in Minnesota history, I dressed up each day – hair done, makeup on, heels, dresses. I didn’t wear jeans for an entire month, because Prince didn’t either! I felt more productive and professional because of what I was wearing, even though I was often working from home in the middle of a snowstorm. 3. Adopt a Symbol In April, I made my biggest leap of faith to date when I changed my name to a symbol that I drew in art class. My symbol is unpronounceable, just like the Love Symbol that Prince changed his name to in 1993. I created a heart surrounded by rays, and I drew it in gold. To me, the symbol meant love and sunshine, which is what I aspire to be in the world, but you could say it’s a radiant heart or a symbol radiating love and positivity. Like Prince’s Love Symbol, my symbol is open to interpretation! I even had it printed on t-shirts, and at a couple of public events, wrote it on a nametag and introduced myself as my new identity. 4. Support Live Music One of Prince’s favorite sayings was “real music by real musicians” and he not only represented that in his own music and his bands but by doing it himself! He had a table at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis, and over the years, was known to show up at Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue and local hangout Bunker’s Music Bar and Grill. 5. Be a Good Neighbor Prince was a loyal Minnesotan who did much to elevate the profile of his home state, not least by being one of the originators of the Minneapolis Sound. In the last few years of his life, Prince offered fans an unprecedented level of access to a star of his stature by opening the doors of his sprawling recording and studio complex Paisley Park for spontaneous performances and DJ dance parties. Lucky fans who responded to a last-minute invitation on social media might find themselves in an exclusive group of 40 or 50, listening enrapt as Prince played a marathon set of live music. 6. Don’t Be Quick to Judge Getting to know more about the man behind the outrageous costumes and provocative lyrics taught me not to judge. Now, when I meet someone, I make an effort to hear their story. The world needs a whole lot more people who don’t rush to judgment or avoid making contact because someone looks different or acts different. 7. If God Gave You a Gift, Share It Yes, Prince was a musical genius who heard music in his head, but here’s the truth: He had a choice about what to do with that music. He could have ignored it or procrastinated until the melody slipped his mind. He could have decided he was too shy to be a performer. Instead, when inspiration struck, he threw himself into his work, often composing and recording for 20 hours a day in a flurry of nonstop creativity. He learned how to be a performer despite his initial shyness because he wanted to share his music.
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