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Interview: Maranda Pleasant

Maranda Pleasant: Tell us about yourself.

Jewel: Jewel is my real name. These are my real teeth. I look like my grandmother Ruth. I have a two-year-old boy. Being his mom feels like I have a present I get to spend the rest of my life opening. I make a living with a song, and I feel honored to do something I love and believe in.

MP: What makes you come alive?

Jewel: Being engaged with life. One has to develop a poet’s eye for perfect moments, moments that most people pass by. Life is seductive, yet so few allow themselves to be seduced. I love to be alone with life. I love to study simple things: the light as it filters in a window; the music of a room full of people chatting; a horizon. I am most alive when I let myself be touched by the fingers of life.

MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?

Jewel: I love vulnerability. It’s what keeps me soft and from becoming emotionally calcified. My life has been full of struggles—coming from a troubled home, moving out when I was fifteen, ending up homeless by eighteen. The one thing I always knew was being jaded and bitter was equal to letting life win. The best antidote for loneliness, hopelessness, and fear is vulnerability: sharing your secrets and talking about what shames you, what you fear.

I personally feel the most vulnerable when I write. That’s where I learned to tell the truth when I was young. Telling the truth to yourself and someone you can trust are great ways to help elevate your whole emotional quality. Sharing lets us feel less isolated and puts us on a path of being connected. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want.

MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?

jewel_quoteJewel: I guess I wrote it in a song, so forgive me, but I’d like to use an excerpt and paraphrase my song, “Hands”: If I could tell the world just one thing, it would be that we are all ok. And not to worry because worry is wasteful and useless in times like these. Don’t be made useless or idle with despair. Gather yourself around your strength for light does the darkness most fear. Our hands are small but they are our own and are never broken. In the end, only kindness matters.

MP: How do you handle emotional pain?

Jewel: I try not to avoid it. I grew up bar-singing and saw all kinds of ways people tried to outrun their emotional pain. It doesn’t work. You end up with the original pain, as well as new pain added on top of it from the tactics you used trying to avoid it in the first place. It’s best to take a deep breath, bolster yourself, and walk through it.

I have a process I have learned works for me. First, practice being gentle with yourself. You have to be an ally in a difficult time and not turn on yourself with self-shaming thoughts, which makes facing pain intolerable. I cut myself some slack and make sure I am in a kind space to experience a feeling. Then I write about it. Writing with privacy is paramount. You must feel free to admit to yourself your deepest, darkest secrets and true feelings. Seeing it in black and white and getting it out feels better, and you gain clarity. Third, I find a loved one I can share it with. They have to be genuinely unconditionally loving, and I have to know they will hold what I am saying in sacred regard. If you don’t have someone in your life to do that for you (as I did not for many years and trials) you can do it for yourself. Lastly, I give it time. I say to myself, sometimes the tide is just out. But it always comes back in again. In times of severe distress, we tend to get tunnel vision and think this feeling will last forever. It will not. It’s important to cultivate a tolerance and patience with uncomfortable feelings. It’s best to feel them. To shut down the ability to feel pain means you shut down all emotions, joy included. It makes our hearts feel small, it robs us of our joy, and really keeps us no safer.

MP: Tell us about your latest project.

Jewel: I just released my second children’s book, Sweet Dreams, which I wrote for my son, Kase. I think it’s a sentiment every parent will enjoy sharing with their child before bedtime. I also have my second Christmas album, Let It Snow, coming out in November. Folks can find out about my charity, Project Cleanwater, on my website, jeweljk.com.

MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos?

Jewel: My intention for my life is to stay centered, and from that intention come my priorities: my son, my family, my job, my self. That then informs what kind of work I can take on. It’s a balancing act, but a fun one. It’s a work-in-progress that I am continually tinkering with. I try to give myself permission to be a work-in-progress and not have everything figured out at once. It’s more manageable and takes some of the pressure off of feeling like I have to have everything right all the time.

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MP: What’s been one of the biggest lessons in your life so far?

Jewel: There are so many. Self love is a great recurring theme, the headwaters that feed my ability to be the best version of myself in every other aspect of my life. Self worth sets the standard that life meets.

MP: What truth do you know for sure?

Jewel: All things change. Cultivate flexibility rather than perfection.


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