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Following Breadcrumbs

FS yin yangI recently had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine about pursuing one’s passion.  I subscribe to the notion that everyone has an inner talent, an inner genius, a natural propensity for something in life that they are not only good at, but that feels good to them.  My friend was determined that the only thing he was passionate about was playing Basketball and the ship had sailed on doing that professionally so I was wrong. 

I’m not writing this article to prove I’m right but in hopes of inspiring a treasure hunt in those who are willing to read this.  If you have not yet discovered your passion, the only way you can absolutely not find it is by not looking, or by giving up.  I am not saying that we don’t have to work shitty jobs in the mean time.  If you only knew the number of jobs I have quit and been fired from in the last decade while hunting down my passions.  You likely will have to do something to pay the bills while you sort out what it is you truly love doing, what you’re great at, what you have to offer the world and how the fuck it can be marketable.  But the key is to not get comfortable.  Don’t allow that job you don’t love, no matter how well it pays or how content you are right now doing it, to become your life and distract you from trying new things.  The only way to fail at this is to give up trying.  This is a law of numbers, there is no way you can miss 100% of the time.  You win some and you lose some but you win some.  If you try things and they’re not quite right for you, you MUST try more things. 

fuck yes

I’m a very fortunate person.  I had a support system that allowed me to fuck up a lot of times and get back to ground zero over and over again while I explored the world and did things I enjoyed until I dowsed out what I was truly passionate about.  Not everyone has the time I did, or the backup plan… But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  It is only impossible when you decide it is.  Do the things that scare you, do the things that make you nervous and sweaty and that sound like another person’s life because everything is someone else’s until you make it yours, and become the person that it belongs to.

I could go into a rant about the law of attraction and the power of the mind in manifesting things and the incredible transformation I’ve experienced with nothing more than a simple daily gratitude list but I’ll save that for another day.  Right now all I’m asking is that you keep trying.  Keep testing the waters for something new you haven’t ruled out yet, because the more people who find out what it is they’re passionate about the better off this world will be.  Happiness breeds happiness.  Courage inspires courage in others.  Passion is contagious and it generates enthusiasm and engagement and productivity.  Be BOLD!  Figure out what you want and go get it.  E.E. Cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

Maybe the word ‘passion’ itself is a hangup for you, maybe you need to find something that simply engages you.  Find something that pulls on your insides and lights a little fire in there.  Something that you enjoy and that feels more like a hobby than work and do that, pursue that, trust it as simply a bread crumb leading you in the right direction because you can trust your heart, or your gut, or whatever part inside you that knows things before your brain talks you out of it.  That inner self or innate wisdom deep inside you knows and will help you make decisions along the way if you train yourself to listen.


I have put off writing this for a while because there are so many versions of this letter out there already, a fabulous one was written by my own mother, which you can read here, about achieving mastery and not giving up.  And another by one of my favorites, the infamous Cheryl Strayed, you can read here about allowing yourself to be where you are, and figure out what’s next.  This is not a new discussion, but I brought it up again because sometimes we need to be reminded.  We are the architects of our own lives, and we can pretend to be the victim of our circumstances or we can take responsibility and empower ourselves to craft it exactly as we see fit.


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A Note on Suffering:

Suffering is the human condition: an unavoidable aspect to the state of being alive.  Discomfort, disease, death, heartache, loss.  The lows.
For the past few months I’ve been called upon and written to, by more friends and family than ever before, calling out for support in times of emotional need.  Shit is hitting the fan.  Relatives are dying.  Solid loving relationships are crumbling, lots of them.  Many are being thrown into existential crises of sorts.  What am I doing?  What is wrong with this picture?  Why me?  When will it end?
There is light on the other side of this I promise you.  To those walking through the valley of suffering, I’m so very sorry that you are going through this right now.  I believe you are capable of coming through to the other side.  There is beauty and joy and light surrounding you constantly whether or not you have the clarity right now to see it.  It is not a cave, it is a tunnel.  Sometimes even a rite of passage.

I believe we are on a path.  We are here to learn and grow from each and every set of experiences that fall into our lap.  When we find ourselves in times of grief and suffering we have a conscious choice to either wallow in it and scream dirty things into the dark sky or decide to rise.  We can decide to get exactly what these circumstances are trying to give us.  Learn to let go.  Learn to move forward despite setbacks.  Learn to love in the face of heartbreak.
(A note on love:  There is no such thing as too much love.  There is no way you can miss out on the love of your life by loving everything that crosses your path today in this moment.  If you are worried about missing out on your next true one, don’t.  Think of them as a planet, coming into your orbit with a gravitational pull.  There is no mistaking that kind of attraction.  It’s simply a force of nature.  You cannot miss out on such an event because you were facing the other direction.  “Tackle the motherfucking shit out of love” -Cheryl Strayed)
Another reason people don’t get what they want in life, a source of suffering, is the factor of self worth.  A lot of people don’t believe they deserve to be happy, don’t deserve to be loved, don’t deserve to be treated well, paid well, or simply don’t have the courage to walk away from what society tells them is a good job in order to do whatever makes their heart soar.
It’s time to take a stand for yourself.
Whether it is substance abuse, unkind lovers, or jobs and towns that aren’t satisfying, decide for yourself to become the possibility of exactly what you indeed deserve, and make it fucking happen.
Find something that lights your heart up and do it.  THAT IS YOUR DUTY!
Play it, paint it, “write like a motherfucker” as Cheryl Strayed would put it.
Enough is enough.  It is time to take a good hard look at the suffering in your life and choose to step into the light. Accept no less than every inch of what you deserve and each and every one of you deserves the very hot-damn best in life.
Reach out to the people in your world, especially the ones that make you happy, those are the ones to move forward with and the ones to lean upon in times of need.  Shed as much light on this earth as you can for the brief moment that you are blessed to inhabit it.  Thank you for being in my life.  I am forever grateful to be a part of yours.


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The Rat Race

“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyone in New York is in such a hurry to get where they’re going but paying little to no attention to where they are.  I’ll cross the street when it’s clear and people waiting across from me will start walking too, not realizing that a Mack truck is now speeding towards them.  Or in a throng of people someone will stop dead in their tracks and force everyone around them to change course.  Like salmon traversing obstacles in a river. I’m sure part of it is due to the billion tourists but it seems to me that a very small percentage of people are aware of their surroundings at any moment on the street.  Maybe it’s different for me because I don’t have a job to think about, worry about, bitch about.  Maybe this is just what humans have become.  So wrapped up in their epic ego-centric dramas that they can’t even look left for the mack truck.

And eye contact is another story entirely.

On the rare occasion that you actually make eye contact with another person on the street, it is so uncommon that it feels like an invasion of privacy.  “I’m walking here, busy with my whole brain full of my whole world full of personal drama.  Who are you to try and connect?  To look me in the eye like you know me?”  Quick get the phone out or quick look away.  Look left, there might be a truck coming.

The poodle with the safety-cone-collar, and a purple bow pooping in the park. A little self conscious.  Lifting it’s feet up higher than necessary.

The mumbling hobo in the corner, a string of drool dripping from his mouth.

The neon BAR sign, the R flickering a secret message in Morse code.

The all black New Yorker ensembles, where one red line on a Burberry clutch stands out.

The bag lady practically swimming through the crowd.

The bald guy in a suit.  Sprinting through the park in his polished shoes.  Talk about a rat race.

The psychedelic rainbow warrior meditating on a bench. (benchitating?)

Wandering through Grand Central, taking pictures, the song “Bittersweet Symphony” comes on. There’s a dark note to New York.  Beautiful, full of art, music and endless inspiration but disconnected, blind, totally run by getting on the up and up.  I love it, but even the trees seem a little worn out and sad.  A heavy layer of schmutz climbing up every one.  It is a bittersweet symphony, but you don’t want to look away.


Hopped on a train, got off when it felt right, found a park to sit in and right next to me a Med Mob (meditation flash mob) sits down.  About 15 people sitting in meditation at five pm in Downtown Manhattan.  Everyone is staring and taking pictures as they walk by in a hurry but these 15 people seem to me to be the only ones getting somewhere.  So I sit and close my eyes with them and the honking and sirens and clicking heels fades and my breath comes into focus.  Right place, right time, as always.



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Sunshine Daydream

Utterly inspired.  Honestly I came to LA expecting superficiality, skinny jeans, indie rock and egocentric superiority complexes and somehow I found something beautiful.  Maybe I’m high on vitamin D.  Maybe I am uncharacteristically over-emotional at the moment.  Or maybe this bring-me-to-tears feeling of absolute creative inspiration is a legitimate reality.  Maybe So-Cal is actually onto something… at least in a few select locations.

I am constantly in awe of how often I find myself in the right place/right time.  Tonight has been no exception.  I’ve found myself a private guest to a private and very special gathering honoring a truly incredible musician and featuring a few of his equally talented peers.  An acoustic set in a living room overlooking the entirety of downtown Los Angeles.

California makes me high. It holds a place in my past, before a loss of innocence, before a confusing and stressful adolescence, before I ever experienced an actual winter.  A golden state.  Sunshine daydream, beaches, bicycles and poolside barbeques.  I get so giddy when the temp stops climbing at a sublime 70 degrees and the palm trees sway at each overpass.  The promise land. California.  Where dreams come true.  California.  If not for the traffic, earthquakes and droughts I’d surely still be a California girl.

Sometimes the long and weary road seems daunting and sometimes it looks you right in the face and says, “You are on the right path, journey on.  Now is the time, the time is now.”


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Phish @ the Gorge 2011

Limited Edition Phish Print!

Made for the Gorge shows on August 5th and 6th, 2011.

$5 on lot, $15 on the interweb after the shows…


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Winter Carnival 2011

11″x17″ colored pencil and ink on paper… who says you cant be productive while on the road.


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The Mandelberg Equation

Once upon a time, March 7th, 1983 to be exact, a boy named Nicholas David Mandelberg was born to two loving parents named Cynthia Susanne Whitcomb and Irving Arnold Mandelberg.

Many things happened after that day but one of the most noteworthy was exactly 24 years later on Nick’s birthday when by some stroke of luck or fate or perhaps destiny  a friend of Nick’s roommate brought a girl named Sarah over for his birthday dinner.  Sarah boldly went for the hug upon introduction and the two have rarely found themselves apart ever since.

Sarah Elizabeth Strickland, a firecracker reared in the Lone Star State knew at once that Nick was the spark of life she was missing.  Now realize friends, not even the fairytales go down without a hitch but these two have found a way to make life and love function in a manner few others have managed.

A delicate chemistry of sassiness, camaraderie, and never going to bed angry has proved a perfect equilibrium for this legendary couple.  So when rumors surfaced that they may be tying the proverbial knot, no objection was heard, nor a family surprised.

December 25th, 2009: In the hustle and bustle of Christmas morning at the Whitcomb residence in Wilsonville, Oregon Sarah opened a box that was empty.  Supposing this was a family joke she wasn’t savvy to, or perhaps someone truly forgot to put the gift in the box she quietly said, “It’s empty,” and smiled bashfully.  At this Nicholas took a knee, opened a box chalk full of sparkles, and silently started to cry… and Sarah started crying, and then of course Nick’s mother, aunt and sister, the only others present (no pun intended), began to cry as well.  And she said yes, obviously, which brings us to our final date:

October 21st, 2010 AD: An occasion of Mandelberg proportions.  So perhaps the name shall live on.  The day the magnificent and life-filled creature that is Sarah Elizabeth was wed to the kind and knightly merk called Nicholas David.  All glasses were raised to Happily Ever After.

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Stealy Cleu

10"x10" acrylic on canvas

For more info on the Cleu click here.


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The Creative Cycle

I was recently fortunate enough to take my mother’s writing class on a cruise through the Mediterranean.  I think one of the concepts she talked about could be helpful if more humans knew about it.  This is my synopsis of her view of the three stages of the creative cycle:

  • The first stage is Brahma.  The lightning strike of creativity.  This is a stage of inspiration and excitement.  Where you are totally high on some great new idea/concept/vision.  The crazy fun stage.
  • The second is Vishnu: The actual work; the nose to the grindstone.  No longer inspired but plodding towards an end goal.  Continuing to do the work that you were inspired about before.
  • Last is Shiva:  Shiva is the destroyer.  It means to stop.  It’s a dissolve into chaos and nothingness.  This is the part of the cycle that our culture does not honor.  Which is why we feel it’s wrong to do nothing all day, or why we get yelled at in school for daydreaming.  BUT Shiva is an integral and mandatory part of the cycle of creativity.  It’s the reset button between things “happening”.  We expect people to work 50 weeks a year with two weeks off, but to live a creative life we have to honor the natural cycle.

Some people go through the whole cycle in a month.  Some take a year or more.  While some people go through all three stages in a single day, but that’s rare.  What many of us don’t realize is that Brahma ONLY comes out of Shiva.  We work and work, waiting for the next bout of inspiration to come, not realizing that it is only out of the destruction, chaos and nearly vegetative nothingness of Shiva that we can once again reach Brahma. Conversely some of us wallow in Shiva, fearing that we will never again do anything of worth.  That we are tapped out, void of inspiration and a virtual waste of space on the planet.
No matter how dark things might seem in life it’s important to remember that light will follow. When things seem terrible, empty and meaningless sometimes the only thing to do is hold fast and wait for the light.

It is pretty interesting once you are aware of this cycle you can almost feel the shift back into Brahma.  A whirlwind of projects and activities fall into your lap and you find yourself trying to do five things at once when just yesterday you could barely be bothered to get out of bed.  It is exhilarating, especially when you have the money to finally buy some paint.

I took these ideas from my infinitely wise and intelligent mother, Cynthia Whitcomb.  For more info on her check out her site:


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String Cheese Incident Print 2010

my most recent print… just finished

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