writer's block: bio edition

writers block.jpg

Easily the most difficult part of rebuilding my website has been rewriting my bio. I am really quite tired of reading formulaic lists of schools attended, prizes, teachers, fancy concerts, etc. that say nothing of substance about the artist you are about to hear, their priorities, what they feel is important in the world, what they want to contribute, etc. I've joked many times about making a "MadLibs" style bio ("_______ (name) studied with ________ (teacher) at _________ (school). (He/She) has appeared at _______ (venue) and ________ (festival); upcoming concerts include _________ (concerto) with __________ (orchestra) and recitals in _________ (state), _________ (state), and _________ (far-away exotic or prestigious sounding country)). Why can't we get real, people???

Out of frustration and writer's block, I devised the following opening sentences for my bio, but none of them made it past my editing team.  These are mostly tongue-in-cheek... Mostly. Enjoy!

Liana Berube was raised by wolves and her behavior reflects her upbringing.

Liana Berube never really learned to talk, or think clearly. She did learn to ignore her emotions for the comfort of others.

As a fledgling sometimes-Buddhist, Liana Berube finds this exercise of defining herself rather tedious and counterproductive.

A habitual self-flagellator, Liana Berube finds it hard to believe that anything she has done is really of interest. The things that she finds interesting she has a hard time believing are of importance. The vicious cycle continues.

Liana Berube is very good at telling you what she isn’t, but pinpointing exactly what she is is a whole other story. Fleeting, ephemeral… ninja.

A musician and thinker, Liana Berube hopes that all musicians are also thinkers.

Violinist Liana Berube has spent the first twenty-nine years with her instrument learning how to have a bad relationship. She is currently working on a project (her life) that will hopefully yield more positive results, but the jury is still out.

Liana Berube sometimes does interesting and strange things. Sometimes she does not, but only thinks about them. She usually regrets refraining from taking action in these instances, feeling that the world is made better by habitual nonconformity, and comes down on herself unnecessarily hard for these failures of courage.

The relationship between the self and one’s art is Liana Bérubé’s passion. Having infinite material from her own experience demonstrating how to live a complicated and difficult artistic existence, she often feels compelled to expound on her issues in the hopes that other people have the same problems. Misery loves company.

Liana Berube comes from a long line of pessimists and cynics. She has followed in the family business of self-defeat for many years but has recently been considering a career change.

Strongly worded diatribes are one of Liana Bérubé’s strongest points, as long as she doesn’t have to talk to anyone in person.

Passionate about art, truth, honesty, love, vitality, and life, Liana Berube frequently feels defeated by the priorities of mainstream Western culture.

Liana Berube has spent most of her performing career trying to be better than others in the hopes that she will then somehow feel like she has worth and value to the world. The sad punchline of the joke, however, is that we are all stuck being human, no matter how hard we try to escape or surmount ourselves.

Liana Berube has done some stuff, but feels like she missed the boat on the path she could have had by not practicing more when she was a child. She embraces this twisted standard in the classical music industry wholeheartedly and now can’t prepare for anything without feeling like she already failed in her pursuits over twenty years ago.

As a master procrastinator, Liana Berube has been known to clean her house, file her taxes, assemble IKEA furniture, and build websites while avoiding practicing (and writing bios).

Praised for her “searching mastery,” Liana Berube indeed spends her entire life searching for what she hopes is mastery. Unfortunately the concept of mastery in art is somewhat of a myth, and she would be better served by searching without an end goal.

As a middle child, Liana Berube learned to be a peacemaker at a young age. She often serves as referee in the spats between her two sassy cats. However, this compulsive need to smooth things over between others and also within herself often results in eruptions of her suppressed angry emotions. Don’t worry, she is in therapy.

on emotional safety and compassion


True emotional safety comes from inside yourself. No one can actually touch you but you - and, you are not your emotions. So - perhaps counterintuitively, the way to feel safe is then to offer love to everyone, like a child. Approach with the assumption that they will love you too. And if they aren't able to, then the reason for that lies with them, not with you. It's still okay to love them even if they can't allow themselves to love you back. Offering our innocence and wonder to the world at large is a position from which we cannot be hurt - we are invincible in it, because in giving love we do not ask for anything back, and there is no expectation from others. It is a one way street. Others can choose to receive the love we give with open arms or not, but their decision doesn't affect our ability, willingness, or spirit of offering this love.

True damage comes when we stop ourselves from being what we need to be - exuberant, joyful, childlike in our innocence and trust and love. We learn through life that it's not safe to bring these to the world because we will not be accepted with them; they will be thrown back in our faces, stepped on, laughed at. Or at least, that's the lesson we think we learn. The actual lesson is that we don't FEEL like it's safe to offer these things because we are AFRAID that we won't be accepted with them. The so-called "second arrow" in Buddhism - the first is the injury, the second is the injury we do when we come down on ourselves. This is a difficult concept to embrace because it requires the acknowledgement that we have been (in some ways, willingly) injuring ourselves over and over and over again for our entire lives.

The truth is, the people who don't accept these qualities in us are those who are in the most pain, those who suffer because they are hiding the farthest in the hole. They lack acceptance and compassion because they know that secretly, they want those open, excitable, joyful, loving things for themselves and they don't feel that they are allowed to. It's a vicious and self-perpetuating cycle. We spend our childhoods rushing to become adults, and then our entire adulthood trying to recover our child selves, or in the worst cases, hide them. The idea that we can actually live as our Truths, that we can be our child selves as adults, and that perhaps we have spent much of our lives seeking safety through dead-end means (money, power, sex, etc) can be extremely threatening if not absolutely devastating; we try to protect ourselves from seeing this failure by judging instead of accepting, sticking to close-mindedness instead of allowing curiosity, clinging to hardness and rigidity instead of inviting love and compassion.

We don't need acceptance in order to offer ourselves fully. The inner Self is a fact, an unchangeable, a Truth. It is not up for negotiation, it is not moldable, it is only exactly as it is. Behavior is not the Self, nor are emotions or thoughts. The Self is a Source. But many of us are afraid of it. How can we face this unchangeable Truth that we have lived with our whole lives, how can we acknowledge its constant existence when that acknowledgement also forces us to see how we continually turn from it, reject it, stomp on it, run from it, despise it?

Safety comes from this understanding and from compassion, the ability to understand the pain of others. By no means do we need to take on this pain, but when we are able to see it in others and see how they bring it to their interactions with the world and with us, how it brings intimidation and fear and instigates self-hatred and self-violence - then it loses its power to spread suffering to us, to find a hold in us and keep us from living our own Truths. 

Lesson: it's much easier to do what is intuitively right and be what we are than to struggle against such things, despite the fact that it frequently feels actually impossible to go with said Truth. The struggle against our selves only causes suffering and pain, where the following of Truth brings ease.