Music for the Soul
When I was around eight or nine years old, occasionally, my cousin Barbara would watch me for my mom who worked a full-time nursing job basically her entire life. One of the things that made not seeing my mom all the time slightly more bearable was being able to spend time with my older, super cool cousin. She taught me a lot about life and love and, most importantly, music. She loved music (and still does, in fact). She would put on different artists, cassette tapes at that time, and I’d learn about all these cool bands, such as The Beatles and The Cure. She went on to college and became a music teacher, which I thought was so perfect for her. I vividly remember being at family gatherings when she’d pull out her violin case, flip open the clasps, and prepare the instrument. I’d watch in complete awe as she’d rosin the bow. It was as if I was witnessing greatness. I could only hope I would grow up to be even half as talented as her. When I received a recorder and began lessons in the fourth grade, I was positive I’d be the next musical child prodigy.
Alas, that was not the case.
But even though I put my dreams of being a classical musician on the shelf, behind a lot of other dreams and desires that were equally as unattainable, I still carried the love of music with me.
In my mind, there is nothing better than music. I absolutely love music. When I’m sad, the first thing I do is put on a playlist of songs that speak to me. Sure, they might make me cry or get me even more upset, but I still love doing it. The idea that someone wrote the lyrics and music and then sang it, or even got someone else to sing it… I love it.
One of the most exciting times for me is when I’m looking forward to a concert. In fact, I’m so pumped for the Florence + The Machine concert in June that I can barely contain myself. And I’m seeing Celine Dion! The greatest singer in the world! I cannot even begin to describe my excitement for that. This coming Wednesday, I am going to see Sarah McLachlan at a small venue nearby, which fills me with so much happiness. I fell in love with Sarah after my cousin Barbara introduced me to Fumbling into Ecstasy.
At the end of the day, it’s connecting with the lyrics that really gets me, though. There are so many songs that I’ve sent to different people over the years and prefaced it with, “Listen to these lyrics. They are so you!” or “They are so me!” or “Oh, my God, I’m bawling just listening to this…”
For every book I write, I have a different playlist that I listen to while writing. The songs connect me to my characters. They embody the sadness or happiness that the lyrics evoke and I love that. I actually think it’s common for people to make playlists to listen to while they express their art, but I know a few people that laugh and say, “oh, you millennials…”
Either way, I am so very happy that music is there for me and plays such an important part of my life. So many songs have helped me through numerous events in my life. The sickness and death of my mom (Shake it Out – Florence + The Machine), horrible heartache (Keeping Your Head Up – Birdy), every time I sign a new contract for a book (Woman – Kesha), and I could go on and on.
I’ll leave you all with this: my current playlist for the novella I am writing for the Hot Ice collection from Bold Strokes Books (due out in December; Aurora Rey and Elle Spencer are also contributing).
Feel free to give it a listen.
Closed Door Policy Playlist:
Laughter and Tears
I ran across a post the other day on Tumblr.
Yes, I still scroll endlessly through that website, even after all the rules and everything else have been imposed. I can’t help it. I get bored. It helps fill the time that should be filled with editing my next manuscript (*cough* Create a Life to Love, available June 2019 from Bold Strokes Books *cough*).
Anyway. I digress.
The post said this:
The reason I’m bringing this up is because it resonates with me so very much. I cannot even begin to tell you how many people I fear I’ve offended because I was only trying to be funny. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve probably pushed someone away because I was trying way too hard to “be there for them.” And again, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve said, “Oh, my goodness, me, too!” and launched into a story about how whatever is happening with the person I’m talking to has also happened to me and here are all the freaking details.
I think a lot of times, though, it’s important for these things to be pointed out. In particular, I want to focus on that first line: “I Was Trying To Be Funny But It Came Out As Really Mean…”
It was difficult growing up in rural Colorado as a young lady, questioning everything, everyone, and also trying to find my place in the world. I hate to say I had it hard, because honestly, I didn’t. My parents were amazing. But they moved me from outside of Chicago to a wide spot in the road, so I had a lot to learn about different types of people. Needless to say, I spent my “formative years” very sheltered. There wasn’t much to do except hang out with friends, stay up late watching Saturday Night Live, and cruise main street. To pass the time, we’d joke around a lot with each other. Humor was all we had. My friends and I called each other names, made fun of other people, tried to not get big-time bullied while also being small-time bullies. We’d play pranks on each other. We’d find ways to embarrass each other in front of the boys. It was great fun, right?
No. It was not! Holy cow, NO.
I will never get over the first time a boy made me cry because he was trying to be funny. Specifically, he called me Thunder Thighs. The nickname TT stuck for years. Yay. I will never forget that horrific feeling that not only was I not good enough, but now I had this nickname that did absolutely nothing for my self-esteem.
It’s so sad to me that I took that horrible feeling that I have carried around with me for a very long, long, looooong, long, looooooong time and have more than likely transferred it to others…all because I thought I was being “funny.”
It’s amazing how our words can cut deep, even when that is not the intention.
I am actively trying to remember the difference between being funny and being mean. Because it’s a fine line and one that I think needs to have a spotlight on it at all times. In the current state of the world, it’s so important to remember that laughter can be very healing. It can turn someone’s day completely around. Hell, it can turn that person’s year around.
So, I want to try harder to make sure that I turn someone’s year around in a good way. I want to make people laugh. And I want to make sure to remember that line between being funny and being mean. I think it’s a good thing for everyone to remember.
2018: Smell ya later!
I hope this blog post finds everyone well and rested. It’s hard to believe, but 2018 is very quickly coming to a close and the shiny, new year is right around the corner. I’m giddy with excitement to close the fuh-reaking door on the utterly craptastic year 2018 turned out to be. Ugh!
Honestly, though, and I don’t know about everyone else, but I have always loved New Year’s Eve. It feels as if it holds such promise. New and wonderful things are waiting on the horizon. Resolutions that we all want so badly to actually succeed at this time around. All you have to do is be patient and have perseverance and the good and incredible will happen. Right?
For me, flipping on the television and waiting eagerly as the ball drops in Times Square in New York City has always been one of the highlights of the current year. It seems odd, though, doesn’t it? That one of the best moments of our year is spent being eager for the next…
A lot of our lives is lived like that, though, isn’t it? Feverishly waiting to turn the page instead of absorbing everything we just read.
I get it, though! I really, really do! For a lot of people, myself included, this year had moments that sucked a giant bag of… well, you know what I want to say. But as the saying goes, in every gray cloud there lies a silver lining.
So, in an attempt to find the positive and not focus on the complete shit show 2018 actually was… I’m going to ask each one of you reading this to post something awesome that happened to you in 2018. That is if you feel like sharing, of course. Sometimes it’s enough to just sit back and remember those times you smiled instead of frowned, laughed instead of cried, held your chest in happiness instead of clutched it with despair.
In the spirit of fairness and honesty, I’ll go first! (Let’s be real, you all knew this was coming.)
While this year was particularly interesting on my end, it still held quite a few wonderful moments. Living in Florida has its advantages and I went to Disney more times than I can count, which if you know me at all, you know I love Disney so much! My first book, Falling into Her, was nominated for a Goldie and was chosen as a finalist. I was able to meet a lot of really awesome authors that I’ve been reading for a very, very, very long time. I went to Vegas! And had an amazing time. But who doesn’t have an amazing time amongst the glitz and glitter and of Vegas? I was able to celebrate one of my very best friend’s fortieth birthday with her in Chicago, my favorite city on this planet. I met some amazing readers in Provincetown during Women’s Week, which was so completely surreal to me.
One of the other awesome things that happened is my second book was published. Breaking Down Her Walls hit the shelves this month and I couldn’t be more excited about that! It’s a homage to my home state of Colorado, where my heart runs free amongst the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. It’s also a story of doing exactly what I’m doing now, finding the wonderful when the horrible seems to be all you can remember.
Hopefully anyone reading this has thought about a few times they smiled this year. As my girl Truvy said in Steel Magnolias, “Smile! It increases your face value!”
Instead of saying that 2018 was a dark cloud with a silver lining, which is apropos, but severely clichéd, let’s say another line from my favorite movie, “that which does not kill us, only makes us stronger,” and let’s rock the hell out of 2019.
Good luck, everyone!
And please, remember this: you’re all important and worth it and special. Have fun out there!
(PS: I know Clairee wasn’t the first person to say, “that which does not kill us, only makes us stronger.” But I love her and she is amazing. Period.)
originally posted on women and words
holiday season stress
With the holidays approaching, I feel it’s imperative to discuss something we all tend to put on the back burner, especially around this time of year: mental health.
Shopping, cooking, going to your family’s house for dinner, having to engage with people you rarely converse with, possibly having to dodge a political debate with your ultra-conservative uncle (insert eye roll here)… All of these scenarios can trigger stress and anxiety.
So, let’s talk about something that can possibly help you prepare for these pulling-your-hair-out moments.
As someone who struggles with handling stress and anxiety, this ancient practice that helps a person achieve spiritual calmness and mental clarity has always been a suggested tool to utilize. Normally I feel whenever I try to actually sit down, close my eyes, take deep breaths, and focus on something other than the thoughts in my head, I end up falling asleep. Every. Single. Time. It’s ridiculous. So, when someone says to me, “I think you should try meditating,” I end up laughing. Sure. I’ll “meditate,” which obviously means I’ll just go take a nap, which isn’t bad, but also not the point.
In the last couple of months, though, I have become a believer.
Recently I began seeing a new therapist. (I speak openly and honestly about therapy because I believe mental health is just as important as physical health and I wish every person felt the same.) She is really awesome and has spoken a lot about holistic methods she believes in, including meditation. I was desperate for relief from my anxious brain when I started seeing her, so I decided, what the hell? I’ll give it another shot.
I found a bunch of videos on YouTube with soothing music and a man or woman with a calm voice giving direction about breathing, finding your center, focusing on one particular thing in the room, or, my very favorite, your mind’s eye.
The first time I did it, I situated myself on the hardwood floor, flat on my back, put my earbuds in, and pressed play. I felt sort of stupid. I don’t know why. I was home and essentially by myself. My dog was there, and she thought at first that I was getting down there to play with her, so of course she wouldn’t leave me alone, but otherwise, there was no one there to “judge” me. After I listened to the first three minutes and had no idea what was going on, I centered myself again. I restarted the video and closed my eyes. I listened to the music, to the verbal cues, the sound of my own breathing.
And for the first time in months, I relaxed.
It was incredible.
I didn’t fall asleep.
I didn’t lose concentration.
I didn’t feel like an idiot.
I found my center, which before I always laughed about. People actually find their centers? That’s nuts!
No! It’s real. And I was so calm and clear and at peace for the rest of the day that I decided to keep trying it.
I’ll admit, I did lose steam and stopped doing it for about a week. But I got back on it just last week and again, it has helped so much. I don’t know if it’s because I work in a stressful environment, or that I’m a writer (I use that term loosely) and my brain is constantly working (also using that term loosely), but the five or ten minutes that I give myself to decompress and turn my brain off has been so wonderful.
I know a lot of people suffer from anxiety. If you read my first blog post, you’ll see that I didn’t even realize that what was going on with me was actually anxiety. So, dealing with it, finding a way for the anxiety to not be crippling, has been a real learning curve. Meditation has been so amazing for me. I’m not saying it will work for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it, or if you have and didn’t have success at first, try it (again) and see what you think. It’s a game changer on my end. Hopefully it can be the same on yours.
originally posted on women and words
fIND YOUR VOICE
Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your voice? I don’t mean that you have a cold or that you were screaming too loud at a concert the night before. I mean you are struggling to remember who you are, why you’re here, what your purpose is…
Yeah… um, me neither…
Who am I kidding? Of course I’ve felt that way! Probably more often than I’d like to admit!
It always hits me really hard when I remember that life is a process. Everything about it. Waking up and showering and getting ready every day to go to work – it’s a process. Learning about someone and falling in love with the person and getting your heart broken – it’s a process. Not liking yourself and figuring out that it’s only pushing people away and crawling back from that darkness – it’s all a process. And sometimes the process sucks! And other times the process helps in ways you hadn’t anticipated.
Recently something happened in my life, which is too long to actually describe here, but suffice it to say I finally came to terms with the fact that I have a pretty severe case of anxiety. In order to channel all of that emotion and negativity that anxiety births, I found journaling again.
One of my very favorite sounds in the whole world is the sound a journal makes when you crack it open for the very first time. I don’t know why, but it fills my body with excitement. Is it the promise of filling the pages with heartfelt words about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness? Maybe it’s the idea that no one else will ever read those words, so I know I can say whatever the hell I want? Or maybe it’s the smell of paper that has never touched anyone else’s hands? Whatever it is, I cannot get over the thrill of walking around a store, finding a perfect journal, taking it home, hearing that sound when I open it, and starting to write on its pages.
Over the years, though, I lost touch with journaling. It stopped being something that calmed me and, for some reason, started being this weird burden. I cannot pinpoint why exactly, but I feel like it had something to do with me losing touch with who I was as a person and as a writer.
I don’t know why or when or how, but I wandered into a bookstore one day and journeyed the stacks until I found the journal section. It was as if a siren was calling me. It was strange. I looked through them all and found myself particularly drawn to a bright yellow one with dotted paper and let me just tell you, the sound when I cracked that bad boy open was like coming home after not even realizing I was gone.
I started to write almost instantly. I sat down right in the store (after I purchased it, of course – I’m not a complete barbarian) and wrote and wrote and wrote. I couldn’t get the words out fast enough. I wrote about my feelings, my life, what I was going through, why it didn’t make sense, why I couldn’t find a way to get my head around what was happening… And it started to all make sense again.
Don’t get me wrong. Even after all of that writing, I still had no idea why I was feeling those feelings or why it was all happening… But knowing that I was at least acknowledging it made me feel so much better. Putting my feelings down on paper always helped. When I was growing up, or hell, even as an adult, if I wanted to talk to someone about something that meant a lot to me, I would always reach for a pad of paper, a pen, and I’d pour my heart onto the college ruled notebook paper, scribble out the mistakes, nibble on the end of the pen, read and reread what I wrote, and ultimately feel better. There was something about explaining myself with written words that grounded me.
After talking about journaling with a friend, she said to me, “I think you should try writing poetry.”
I laughed at her. Why? Why wasn’t writing in my journal enough? Even though I felt like my entries said the same thing over and over and over again.
“Try it out. You never know. It could be like journaling,” she said.
I told her that I had no idea how to write poetry. “Do I have to write in iambic pentameter?”
She laughed and laughed, then said, “It’s words and feelings… and we all know you have a lot of both.”
So, I did what she suggested and tried my hand at writing poetry. And I actually really enjoy it! I never thought I would say that, though. When I thought about poetry, I would think about iambic pentameter and rhyming words on alternating sentences and the way poetry was always so hard to read out loud in school in front of classmates. But as I wrote in my journal, I realized my heart and soul had so much more to say than the same entry over and over again about “why can’t I just figure myself out?”
My point to all of this is if you’re struggling or not sure how to channel anxiety or stress or depression or whatever, find something that you can pour your heart and soul into or onto. I guarantee harnessing that creativity will help you heal. I know it has helped me.
originally posted on women and words