Tag Archives: listen

Day 35: Soulsong: Music that Moves Us

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Music has the power to transcend a murky soul or damn it further into submission. It takes us to a place where heartache heals, love prevails, passion ignites – where pain has a repeat button, and snotty tears break a shaking voice. And it’s so intimate in that way. We wallow with our favorite singer/songwriter when we need someone to understand that we haven’t moved on yet, but are too afraid to say it out loud, to admit to ourselves. We scream the lyrics to an empty room, wishing we had the courage to say those words aloud to someone… wishing those words were our own. We bob our heads at our steering wheels. We turn the volume up when we get ready on a Friday night, soaking in the energy of every pop!beat!ye-ah! We sing happily and freely with our friends at the bar, words uniting us, subtle reminders how similar we are. We cha cha slide, we macarena, we show how low we can go.

We associate songs to our experiences; those cries of pain to our own, or a distant joy that fuels us. We relate them to people; when we are in love, when we stop loving. They make us sick to our stomach – a reminder of a life you thought was yours, now mocking. And even though we shouldn’t listen to those songs – the ones that make us remember a time that now seems a million miles away – sometimes we do. And sometimes our hearts are broken all over again for it. But we are able to find another, and speak through a voice that’s not our own. We find strength through a streaming courage.

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Every time I hear the Spin Doctors I am reminded of driving to my brother’s t-ball practice in my mom’s minivan. Whenever my Format album is playing, I am transported to my 16-year-old self, the back seat of an old Civic, windows down, a car full of giggling girls. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s We Ain’t Much Different will remind me of my father until the end of time. I Want it that Way was my first couple-skate song in the fifth grade. I belted Lady Gaga’s Speechless to my steering wheel in a mellow dramatic frenzy for weeks on end when stitching up my heart. It still gives me the same feeling of empowerment, even more perhaps, now that I’m on the other side.

And, I know it almost seems too obvious, but Modest Mouse puts a smile on my face on the worst of days with “Float On.”

I’ve had Fun.’s Aim and Ignite album in my car for weeks (yes I’m still living in the age of CDs…) and every time I hear The Gambler, nearly without fail, I start sobbing uncontrollably. I’m not sure why- it’s not intended to be sad, nor do I feel sad when listening to it. It’s a love song. A life-long, old on the porch, sort of love song about falling in deep and having babies and growing old. There is something so beautiful about it to me that I just can’t hold back. I don’t imagine anyone else could really feel the same way toward it. And, that’s the beautiful thing about the music. It’s one of my soulsongs.

What are some of yours?

I swear when I grow up, I won’t just buy you a rose.
I will buy the flower shop, and you will never be lonely.
Even if the sun stops waking up over the fields
I will not leave, I will not leave ’till it’s our time.
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side.

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Broken Heart. The same as a broken anything else.

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The incident.

The initial SNAP.

There’s the slow break. It may happen without you even knowing, causing a dull pain that you deal with, until you finally admit something isn’t right. Wonder how much damage was done by not addressing the dull pain when you first noticed it. Think about what you would have done differently if you would have only been more mindful.

There’s the hard break. Running at dusk, enjoying the fresh cut grass smell of spring, and your leg buckles. Lying on the cement. No warning. Can’t feel the evening sun, the buzzing lawnmowers lose focus, ringing ears. You feel everything and nothing at once.

Symptoms.

Guilt. Remorse. Pain.

The challenging part – admitting that you have a deficiency. You may be the guilty one. Maybe this happened because of your neglect, maybe you could have done something to prevent it.

Wish you could rewind. Go back, stretch, tie your shoes tighter.

Confusion. Betrayal. Hurt.

You did everything you could but the thing you love ruined you. Nothing more to do. Sometimes you can do everything right, yet it still manages to go wrong. You keep telling yourself that. You hope to believe it one day.

The diagnosis.

You see an expert. Obviously broken. You aren’t yourself, you hurt everywhere. You cry and think discouraging things. Every time you move, you are reminded of the pain. You set up a plan for recovery, but you are filled with guilt for now.

Friends tell you not to worry. That this will be a memory soon enough. That you will run again. But you can’t imagine it. The thought of it makes you sick.

The recovery.

Start out slow. Going out, support from friends. Before you’re ready, but you fear you never will be. Wanting to break out in a full run, wanting the instant satisfaction you used to have, missing the momentum, the possibilities. Having to start over from the beginning. Nothing is the same.

Side effects.

Pushing to do more, move forward. But every step reminds you of what you used to be, the gift you used to have. The gift that’s gone. You relapse. You numb yourself however you can. You close your eyes to pretend you aren’t where you are. Wonder if it will ever feel good again.

The prognosis.

You keep stepping, you keep pushing.

Because you have to.

Because you want to believe that everyone else is right and this will all go away.

There will be good days and bad. An entire day will eventually pass where there is no pain. And then a week. Then you will forget that you were ever broken. Eventually, you will be healed. Some evening with overcast clouds and cold rain in the future, you will feel a twinge of pain and be flooded with the old feelings. But you’ll remember getting through it. Remember that you conquered it. And it will be okay.

You will run again. You will be able to see the sunset and smell the spring grass with nothing but feelings of happiness.

You will grow stronger through your healing.

Soulkin – What Love Means to Me

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I don’t believe in a whole lot anymore. The only time I say the words God or Jesus, it is in a fit of profanity. If I had to fill in a bubble on a survey, I’d be some Zen Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, existentialist.  I know that is an offensive contradiction, but I change my mind all the time, and I’m not quite ready to commit to my spiritual status yet. But, despite my lack of spiritual certainty, I’ve become so much more present in my life lately.

I read a short book by Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Breath, which helps you think about being present in your present. Focusing on what you are doing as you are doing it – centering your mind, narrowing your focus. It’s liberating avoiding multi-tasking. And trust me, I’m a serial multi-tasker. I’ll do squats while blow drying my hair and brushing my teeth and reading a book. That’s no exaggeration. I’m crazy.

So it was a challenge just to read – and only read. To breathe and only breathe, to step and only step. This book, combined with the knowledge of my moving soon makes me appreciate everything I do immensely because I know I won’t be able to see and do and feel these things for much longer. My stimulus is about to change dramatically. So I’ve noticed the world again. The way you imagine a small child sees the world, when everything is new and full of mystery and won’t hurt you. I have been exponentially more happy, far less worried and even more positive towards myself and those around me. Just by being where I am – by doing less – thinking less.

I feel good energy all around me lately, and I’ve noticed it for the first time in a long time.

Again, I’m not sure about some greater power in the universe – we might be functioning off coincidence or self-fulfilling prophecy alone, but every once in a while, the stars line up. I have people in my life who have completely changed the outcome of my life. When I feared a bad relationship would never stop haunting me, it literally packed its bags and moved away. When I was bottoming out in my life, I met a dear friend who challenged me to start a new one. And there are so many of these little happy coincidences to be grateful for. It astonishes me that just when we feel we are at our breaking point, someone comes along to carry some of our burden, and walk beside us. Perhaps someone we never expected to be there in the first place.

I don’t know a whole lot about the Nicholas Sparks, Jane Austen versions of love.  My Pride and Prejudice fantasy ended up being the satirical version with the zombies. But I have so much love for the people in my life – I know people give me those sad expressions when they see my single status, but I just can’t seem to find the feeling that I’m missing out on anything. I’ve had friends sit through sniveling and crying and who have seen my most unshowered, unattractive version of myself, who have stripped me down butt naked and thrown me in a cold shower after a night of binge drinking, who have put up with panic attacks and tantrums and the most irrational and inappropriate behavior you can imagine. The ones who really matter – who have always been there- I know they aren’t going anywhere. The ones that do get away, well, it’s probably the very best thing that they did.

Some people will come and go – some will matter, some won’t. We don’t have time to open our hearts up to everyone, and even if we did, who would want to? The most precious gift you can give someone are your secrets, your time, your trust.  So when you find one of those people – your soulkin – hold on to them as long as they let you. If they want out, be thankful for the time you had together, but let them go. Know that there comes a time when you have to take the gloves off, and have a little trust in whatever it is that you trust. Don’t ever let anyone drag you down on their way out. No matter who it is, they are not worth it. Ever.

Above all, be open to being open. Let in all of the love that you possibly can, and then let in a little more. Accept people who want to be in your life – they see something in you that you may not even see in yourself. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and who will fight beside you. Then be that for someone who needs you. It may make their day, it may give them hope, and it could change you both forever.

Tracking Down Happiness

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I ended up on an interesting website the other day after a marathon of TED talks. I took a Character Strengths Questionnaire after watching a talk by Martin Seligman, whom I was introduced to by the book, Learned Optimism. His book was a revolutionary read for me, as it made me realize I would create envy in the most die-hard pessimist. After reading this book and applying Seligman’s theory to my own way of thinking, I’ve gone from raging pessimist to hopeful optimist … or at least less raging pessimist.

Knowing how much I enjoy Seligman, I watched his TED talk and ended up at authentichappiness.org to take the Character Strengths Questionnaire, which revealed my Character Strengths:

  • Judgment, critical thinking, open-mindedness
  • Kindness and generosity
  • Love of learning
  • Fairness, equity, justice
  • Leadership

After you take the test, 24 total values are given, ranked from most to least. Among my lowest ranking strengths were modesty, faith, self-regulation and humor. My complete list of ranked strengths surprised me at first, and many things that were at the bottom of the list, I would have thrown on top without much thought. After expending some time and thought, it makes more sense than I originally realized. I won’t dive into my perception of the inner workings of my psyche for your sake, so don’t worry.

The purpose of this little exercise is to identify your strengths and find ways to work them into your daily life, so that you will ultimately find more happiness – since doing the things you are ‘good at’ will reap higher rewards than those you are less ‘good at’.

It had some other profound benefits for me as well though. Some of these questions really stuck out to me. Among them were:

I am always busy with something interesting.

Initial reaction: Hell no. I’m either working on something I have to work on, taking a break so I don’t think about something I’m supposed to be working on, or sleeping and dreaming about the things I’m supposed to be working on.

I am the most important person in someone’s life.

My initial thought: Of course.  Then … I’m not sure if anyone would label me as the most important person in their life, or if I can call anyone person the most important in mine. I have a lot of people I love, but the idea of choosing one as more important that anyone else? I’m still not sure. Maybe that’s reserved for people in love, or when those people have a baby and re-fall in love.

I can accept love from someone else.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have no problem expressing my feelings. I shove it in your face. But, accepting love is a different story. This ended up toward the bottom of my strength list, based on this answer and those of similar questions. Accepting love from someone seems like such a primitive idea, and maybe it is something you’re innately given, and lose over time. I want to be able to take in all the love I can. I may have just forgotten how.

I have created something of beauty in the last year.

There has to be something … But I can’t come up with a single thing. That’s one of the first things on my newest bucket list (and not for the sole purpose of crossing it off the list). I want to make something I’m proud of – because I deserve to be proud of myself.

If you would have asked me 15 years ago where I would be today, I’d be a singer/songwriter/supermodel finishing up my first term as president. Biological factors and a short attention span have obviously led me on a different path, but I can’t help but miss the spirit I once had. Naivety is a beautiful thing.

A lot of these questions, and obviously the results to the questionnaire in all, were really positive for me. Sometimes seeing who we are on paper is the best way of recognizing who we’d rather be.  I did more than identify my strengths (and am currently on some kind of mission to put them into practice), but I was able to identify some areas that I did not even realize I was struggling in.

I hope you will take the time for a little reflection today. You don’t have to go this route if it doesn’t speak to you, but sit down with yourself for a few minutes. Check the path you’re on. Ask your past self if you lived up to your own standards. It’s never too late for a little modification.

Laws of good love and friendship.

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This has been one of the most exciting months of my life. I moved back home, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and had my first surgery.

This made me realize a few really important things about love that I’ve always thought about but spent little time contemplating. Not sappy, Nicholas Sparks love, but real-life, down and dirty way-you-love-your-best-friends-love.

First: moving home.

Not an easy task when you’re 24 years old. I was mostly embarrassed at first, but my friends helped conjure up some good excuses, and then reminded me of them after the first week of my Dad texting me when I wasn’t home by midnight. Bigger picture excuses. This brings me to thing I’ve learned about love and friendship NUMBER 1: Be a public defender.

Moving home was the right decision for me, as difficult as it was to swallow the giant lump of pride I kept gagging on the first few weeks. Moving home allowed me Prague. If I would have continued my lease, not only would I not have the money to go, but I wouldn’t have realized that my family will survive without me. I needed the support of my friends to make it okay. Even though I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to be 24 and living at home, and it was okay to make a leap and be scared to death, I needed the people around me who know me the best to tell me the same thing. I needed the people around me to believe in me.

Which led to the next step in my journey: Committing to Prague.

There were mixed reactions. A little sadness, some excitement, but one really bad reaction that came from some of the people I’m closest to:

The selfish reaction. A ‘that’s not fair of you to leave‘ reaction that I got from some people – some with whom I’m closest. It was disappointing. I realize that I’m going to be really far away and that’s scary. I realize our dreams were different when we were younger.  We won’t get married like we joked about; I may not be around for the things I thought I would; you may die while I’m gone; I may die while I’m gone.

So this led to thing I’ve learned about love and friendship NUMBER 2: Listen to all testimony before delivering your verdict.

I’ve sooo been this friend before: “OMG you’re engaged… are you sure that’s a good idea?” WRONG. “Have you thought this through?” WRONG. “You’re kidding, right?” WRONG!

By this time, the person telling you does think it’s a good idea, they have thought it through and they are not kidding. A lot of times, your initial reaction has your best interest at heart, even if you might not realize it. The life you have been picturing is shattered and you are hurt. I know that a lot of the bad reactions I got about Prague were because my friends were scared and felt betrayed that all of the plans we had been making for so long went up in a puff of Eastern European smoke.

But here’s the thing: even if you know – without a doubt – that your friend is ruining their life, now isn’t the time to bring it up. Hear. Listen. Absorb. Our little brains are swimming with endorphins and nerves are firing like missiles in WWII at the point. Shooting down someone’s dreams won’t talk them out of it. They just won’t talk to you about it. If someone you care about is really making a bad decision, bring it up another time when the anxiety of their big news is no longer around and you’re both able to breach the subject with a cool head.

Chances are, even if they are making a mistake in your eyes, you are going to have to learn to live with it, because as much as they love you, they probably won’t be changing their mind. Which brings us to things I’ve learned about love and friendship NUMBER 3: The judge sits alone.  In other words, if you decide to be judgmental, you run the risk that no one will care what your ruling is.

Next came the surgery.

So, with the excitement of Prague still fresh on my mind and my Facebook wall, I started feeling bad. Eventually, my stomach ache led to a surgery (This isn’t a pity post – I’m fine). But, this was my first of anything like this before. I only told a few people because it wasn’t a big deal at the time and I didn’t want people to worry.

But, it made me realize who did worry, which made me see things differently. I got flowers from work and at first, thought how caring that was. But then I realized, no one from work asked how I was doing but one person (my boss) and no one even responded to the email I sent updating everyone. The disheartening truth is that the flowers are probably a box on a list to check when someone is out of work for more than a week. A corporate facade of concern. And that wasn’t the only facade. The one person who I confided in  completely couldn’t even remember to remember. He pretended to be concerned, like he thought he was supposed to, but didn’t follow through in the end (and trust me, that wasn’t the first time he wasn’t able to follow through.) There’s another lesson here: Eventually, you run out of appeals. And, when that day comes, you don’t get to be a thing that matters anymore. People will stop answering your calls.

The check-list flowers did make me realize, one thing, however: There are people who genuinely care about me. That is a good feeling to have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not measuring the value of my friendships on who showed the most concern about me during this one week of my life; I only told a few people anyway. I did grow to re-appreciate a few people a lot more though. Dominic, who I forced into being my best friend in the seventh grade, has been texting me relentlessly. Having him prove that he was worried to death made me love him even more. Kaylyn came over just to spend a few hours doing nothing with me on a Friday night because I couldn’t go anywhere. There are others, of course too. This leads me to thought on love and friendship Number 5: When you love someone, never stop proving it to them. 

I’ve received more love in the form of calls, texts, skypes, cards, flowers, milkshakes (thanks mom), kind words and favors
than I remember ever having received at any one time in my life. Or, maybe I’ve just noticed it more.

And, it’s not that we need these things to validate our love, but I’ll tell you this: it is good to be reminded. So thank you
to everyone in my life who continues to be my public defenders, my jury, my peers and my constant support.
You make me better and make me strive for better.

So my closing thought is this: Notice the love around you, and return it in droves.