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  • Not Ashamed: Unconcerned with Acting my Age

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    I can’t even recall when I was first shamed for not acting my age. Sometimes it was for doing things that were culturally considered “too young” for my age. Sometimes it was for things that were culturally considered “too old” for my age. I’ve never seemed to get age right.

    The things that were “too old” weren’t as exciting as you might think. In fact, it was always for times I was “too serious” or my intellectual pursuits were above my expected level. Yes, really. Obviously, when balanced with the “too young” stuff (so that you know I didn’t forget being young), I find this particular one almost too ridiculous to even address and I’m certainly not going to feel ashamed of this.

    The “too young” stuff, of course, is a common one. “Act your age!” seems to be something most of us have heard at some point. Of course, most people eventually take that to heart. Even when it’s not reasonable and related to immature behaviours (like adults throwing tantrums and such things). Even when it’s not true to who they are. They change their clothing and hobbies and goals and so forth to fit what society has declared the correct ones for their age. (To be clear, if those new clothes and hobbies and goals are who you really are, I’m not criticising. I know adults who fit the grown up mould.)

    Here’s where I stand on the topic of societally mandated grown up-ness: As long as I fulfil my commitments (which includes paying my bills, so I’m not a drain on your precious society) and take care of “my people” (which includes my cat and other non-humans I might consider part of my circle), I’m adult enough. And I strive to make sure I have emotional maturity, but that has nothing to do with my hobbies, my appearance, etc. I doubt I shall ever be a grown up, and I’m just fine with that.

    Interesting note: Apparently, it’s common for females on the autism spectrum to have disregard for and confusion over age.

    I guess, if you want grown up friends, you’re probably going to want to look elsewhere, as I am entirely uninterested in giving up the magic and delights that have been declared “too young” for me. Especially as there appears to be no good reason for those things being relegated to kids and/or teens. I’m just glad I live now, when it seems there are more of us questioning at least some of what society has decided is not age-appropriate for adults. Glad that, as an artistic type, there’s more room for me to go off the popular, socially sanctioned script.

    Amber with nerf gun and stuffed hunting companions
    Don’t make us come for you. Adventure penguin and Hedgehog will get you!

    Man, those who get upset about me now are really going to hate it when I’m an old lady who hasn’t grown up, aren’t they? Unconcerned with acting my age, now and forever. Yay!

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Not Ashamed: My Own Biggest Fan

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    I am my own biggest fan. I don’t think any human is intrinsically worth more than any other, so I’m not saying this in a way that I intend as pride or vanity. Nor do I think that I’m not sufficiently loved and celebrated by others. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t mind more fans for my band, but I am certainly well-loved by family and friends. I even seem to be held in high esteem for assorted reasons in assorted other circles.

    And, as I touched on in the post on being awesome, I am well aware that people often feel I should be ashamed of thinking I rock. But I refuse.

    Refuse!

    Because I fought hard for this self esteem. I went from the self loathing I wrote about last week to this. This! This magical feeling where I see my awesomeness. Where, no, I’m not blind to flaws, but I could list out ways in which I am, to my tastes, great. I’ve now felt this way a few years and still, as I write this, I’m bubbling up with glee that I feel this feeling.

    Paper with the following text: You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. -Buddha

    I wish everyone felt this feeling. My sincere plan for world peace involves everyone getting enough sleep and everyone having the sort of healthy self-esteem where they see their own goodness and worth without feeling like others are less than them. Really, since I became my own biggest fan, I’ve found I’m less likely to think hateful thoughts about others. Or to worry overly about what those others think of me.

    I find that I try to live in a way that honours how I feel, that treats me well, but that also shines out my kindness and goodness to others. (I think everyone has light to shine if they’ll let themselves.)

    Now, about the fight for this…I’m pretty sure I mentioned at least some of this in another post, but I can’t find it to link to and maybe this is the only post you’ll read, so I’m going to put some stuff here.

    I got professional help. And we were working on my depression (and, really, if you don’t love you, maybe you also fight some depression). And I was given some assignments when she saw that my self-loathing was pretty raging. I’ve passed this advice on to friends…and I’m pretty sure some have used it…actually, I know some have because they’ve told me it helped. (But I only get credit for passing it on; this wasn’t stuff I came up with to do. All credit to my lovely counsellor for this.) Both things here came down to being honest with myself.

    As I mentioned in the post on being awesome (in the last half of that post), part of what I had to set aside was culturally imparted fears of being prideful or of being seen as putting myself on unequal footing with the rest of humanity. Honesty can be hard.

    Part of what I had to do was pierce through the thick cloud of lies others had told me about myself and that I had bought into and then reinforced with some kind of scary zealousness. Honesty can be hard.

    So here were my two most helpful “homework” assignments:

    1. I had to keep a list of external proofs…Compliments I received, certificates for academic excellence, notes thanking me for kind acts, anything that was someone outside of me saying good things about me. This felt decadent and I felt silly and hoped no one would know. But I did it. Every. Little. Thing. Including things like “Thank you for hanging back to help clean up.” Seriously. Because I could look at that and see, for instance, that I was responsible, kind, a good friend.
      Note: This is why I am now a huge fan of giving sincere compliments and of thanking or praising people for the good they do.
    2. I had to make lists of my good qualities. I was sent home with a list of areas (physical, mental, social, etc) and told to list five good things about myself in each. It could be big things or small. Just…five. And I failed. I got maybe one or two in each, and those came after agonised hours of thinking and crying and belittling myself. In fact, most were phrased as “My mum says…” So, I got sent home with the same assignment, but with the clarification that I had to leave my mum out of it. For instance, “My mum says I have nice eyes” had to become “I have nice eyes.” Again, I spent hours agonising and struggling and crying. And I didn’t even manage one thing per category. And I know I spent time looking over the then-new list of external proofs. I took that in…My counsellor gave me praise for what I’d managed, and then told me to keep at it. And we checked in every appointment to see where I was on that list. Torture! But I kept at it. (Because I am a determined beast.)

    One logical twist (thank you, brain, for being logical underneath it all) that helped was this: I looked at the people who loved me. Especially those to whom I wasn’t related, because I felt like they had more choice. I concentrated on how great those people were, and then I asked myself why people that great would settle for someone as rubbish as I thought I was. They had options. They chose me. Or I asked if I really thought they were so dishonest that every kind thing they said about me was a lie. Did I really think these great people were actually liars. My brain sulked. It wanted to believe because it knew that liking myself would change things, and my brain clings to familiarity. Honesty can be hard.

    But I kept at it. I kept at it and it got easier. And when I found myself saying negative things to myself about myself, I made myself stop. I made myself revisit my lists.

    Like any human, I still have those moments when the negative self-talk creeps in. I make a mistake, a do a dumb thing, and I am naturally inclined—thanks to all those years of this being habitual—to start berating myself. But I choose to stop. I mindfully insist on thinking other things. I choose to tell myself the things I’d say to me if I were my friend and not me. (Seriously, that’s one of my favourite tips: talk to yourself and treat yourself as you would a good friend.) Because I am my friend. I even wrote myself a poem about that. And I like me. I would definitely date me. Befriend me. Trust me with my cat.

    Animated gif, Darryl from The Office says, "I would date the hell out of me"

    And I see sometimes the shock or resentment in people’s faces when I admit that. But I also swear that I see, when people suggest that this feeling is something I shouldn’t admit to, that they wish they felt this strongly about themselves.

    You know what? I wish it too. I really, truly do.

    I want you to go and get enough sleep (I will never stop extolling the virtues of consistent adequate sleep) and then start making lists and offering sincere compliments and thanks to others.

    Because I am my own biggest fan and I am not ashamed…I am bursting with glee and light!

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Not Ashamed: Self-Hater

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    This one will be short, because:

    • I don’t want to dwell on this and feel bad.
    • I have touched on it in other posts, and am likely to do so in future posts.

    For much of my life, starting around age 11, I was a self-hater. Full on irrational loathing (that I thought was totally rational). Unable to admit to anything good about me even if there was proof more substantial than just my mum saying nice things. For example, I just knew I was stupid…never mind that I got good marks in school and was part of assorted academic competition teams. I would entertain a bit of smug satisfaction when, for instance, I got my grades. But that would somehow be swallowed by the howling storm of self-loathing within minutes. And every time I said good things about myself out loud all through my teen years, I was, in my opinion, lying. (And then I felt bad for lying…)

    What I saw in the mirror and what I saw inside me was…worthless, rubbish, unlovable, unworthy of love, and so on and so on and on and on and on. I was shocked when friends proved true or if someone liked me, but not shocked if I was treated poorly or unrequited in my love. Hurt, but not shocked.

    Think of the person or thing you hate most…the one you literally want to destroy and wipe from existence. That was how I felt about myself.

    And there have been plenty of times where I have gotten the sense that I ought to be ashamed to feel or have felt that way. Sometimes, those are even contexts where I’m pretty sure the person from whom I got that impression was actually trying to be encouraging. But those lost in self-loathing are delicate…easily shamed…quick to (without meaning to) twist everything to proof of their inadequacy.

    I am sad that I hated myself, but I’m pleased that I seem to have gained a little compassion and perspective from that.

    I am sad that, if any blame is deserved for this by other people, it will undoubtedly be aimed at some of the wrong people. (For instance, at my parents. Who truly did their best to love and nurture me and help me see myself as the awesome little monster I am.)

    I am sad that self-hatred, whether it’s the total loathing I felt or it’s a smaller beast, seems to be such a normal part of the human (particularly the non-white, non-male, non-upper class, non-cis, non-heterosexual, etc) experience.

    Yes, you should love you. But, if you don’t, that’s okay. I mean, I hope you will someday soon. But don’t feel bad about feeling bad. That sounds like a vicious shame cycle.

    In fact, if you feel bad about feeling bad, I guess that’s okay too. I honour your right to feel what you feel and, again, hope that, someday soon, you will feel less bad.

    But you are not a bad person just because you don’t love yourself or don’t see your awesome parts. You are just someone who doesn’t love themselves or see their awesome parts yet. Yet.

    I hated myself. And I’m sad about that, but I am not ashamed of it.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Not Ashamed: Depression (Not Physiologically Caused)

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    (Trigger warning: depression, self harm, suicide)

    Look at me, actually writing a topic in the posted order! I’m guessing you oughtn’t get too comfy with that. But let’s appreciate it whilst it happens.

    Today, I’m going to talk a bit about when I was depressed for a long while and it wasn’t just the bipolar thing. I know that definitions and terms change and that I’m not a qualified mental health professional, so I’m leery of using actual terms. And, when I was seeing the therapist who helped, my mind state was enough a mess that I didn’t really file away whatever term she used at the time.

    Basically, even before the bipolar hit me (before there were any mania symptoms), the depression hit and hit hard. And I’d probably have been less exhausted for a great deal of my life if I’d not actually been trying to hide that I wasn’t okay. Fortunately, someone who saw through me was also able to get me some help.

    The great thing about this other kind of depression I was dealing with (and that has probably happened a time or two since…like when my mum died or when certain major relationships ended) is that, thus far, I’ve been able to work through it. If you read my entry on being bipolar, you get some sense of what depression feels like for me. Just double it…except that, really, it felt more like every day was at my worst times ten.

    I felt like I could barely move, it was so heavy. And this was definitely my worst self-harm period. Every day, I felt driven to that. Plus, hey, regular thoughts about suicide. (I’ll cover self-harming and suicidal in other entries.) That was if I could keep myself awake or think through the sobbing. When I think of my younger self, of me during that time, I just want to let her curl up in my arms and try to absorb some of that depression.

    The best thing I did was get professional help. I’m eternally grateful to the friends who tried to help, especially the ones who were life-saving. But it wasn’t quite enough. Which is why I’m a vocal supporter of seeing a professional. (I got lucky with my first one; however, I have moved since and have also had someone who wasn’t a good fit, so I’m also a vocal supporter of finding one who works for you.)

    We worked together to root out non-physiological causes and amplifiers of the depression. We talked about ways I could make changes and take steps to fix what could be fixed. We spent loads of time on self-esteem issues (which, hey, another future topic or two). And I made some choices.

    This next bit is about some realisations and a decision that worked for me. I’m not saying this is the right answer for everyone…but, y’know, if you’re running out of ideas….

    One day, I remember driving around and wondering who I was without my depression. I wondered if I would even like non-depressed Amber. I wondered if friends would still like her. I wondered if the social scene I was kind of part of would still consider me a legitimate member. I was a little afraid. I realised that my depression was my default state. That this was how I knew myself. That this was the lens through which I had seen the world for a very long time. That this was a large part of how I would describe Who I Was if giving an honest answer. That, in a twisted way, depression was so familiar that it was like a warm (smothering, limiting, oppressive) security blanket. I realised that, in some way, I might actually be choosing to hold onto it for all those reasons. So I asked myself if I actually enjoyed the admittedly horrible feeling of the depression. I asked if I really wanted friends or a social group who would prefer me to feel that way. I asked myself whether I might not prefer the (hopefully) less-distorted view of myself and my world that would come with not being depressed. I asked myself whether I weren’t ready to find other parts of who I was and give them a chance to thrive. And then I pulled off the road into somewhere abandoned so that I could sob as I made a choice. I decided that, however much I might fear the unknown, I didn’t want to hurt like that any longer. I chose to stop clinging to the depression and gave myself permission to heal.

    Now, before one of you obnoxious people who thinks people choose depression uses this as anecdotal evidence…read the rest. This is just as important. (And you are wrong and shouldn’t ever suggest people just choose not to be depressed. Seriously.)

    After that incident, I did not magically become Not Depressed. I was no longer holding myself back, but I still had to do all the work with my therapist to work through and conquer the depression. I was just not holding myself back any longer. Except when I was, because this was big and scary and the work was hard and took time, and that, in itself, can be depressing. But I still feel like that moment with myself was an important part of my road out of that type of depression.

    On the other side…it felt so much lighter. It was amazing!

    And then I slipped a little when I realised I wasn’t entirely free of depression (oh, hi, bipolar!) and I started to beat myself up and to get depressed that I was depressed. Fortunately, a little help realising that there are some things that I can’t totally control and that the bipolar issue didn’t invalidate all the hard work I’d done to work through the other stuff got me back to my new normal.

    And when other things have happened that have set off depressions, I’m so glad for the work done with a professional. I now have tools and ideas to help work my way through. I’ve also seen how each depression is unique, so that’s helped me not be the sort of prat who assumes that my experience of depression applies to everyone’s experience. I try never to force my tools and solutions on others, because that can make it worse.

    As with my physiologically caused depressions, this stuff isn’t always rational. Even if you can point to the event or thing that caused it, you can’t always pin down why that’s led to me randomly crying in the middle of a nice day.

    I try to figure it out, just in case, but:

    1. You are probably safer not trying to push me to figure it out or to tell you why. Unless you are a mental health professional whom I’m paying to do that.
    2. If I don’t figure it out, I don’t stress. I know this is a thing that happens and I try to be compassionate to myself as I would others. No need making it feel worse by judging myself for not knowing why.

    If you’re struggling with a depression, if it’s sticking around…whether or not you know the cause, I hope you’ll reach out and find some help. If you’re getting help but afraid of suddenly losing this big piece of you (cos, let’s be honest, when you have depression, it is the biggest piece of your life and feels like you are mainly depression with a few other human characteristics thrown in), I promise you that you will be okay (you will be better than you are now) without it and that you have plenty of other parts that will be able to shine if you give them a chance.

    Also, just so we’re clear, I’m always a little depressed (except when the deep anger of mania has me). So I’ll never judge you if you’re depressed. I’ll just hope that, like me, you find a way to carry a little less of that load someday.

    xx

    (If you’d like someone else’s take on depression—something with more pictures and swearing and chances to laugh but still pretty accurate to my own experience, I really adore the way that Allie of Hyperbole and a Half does it. Read her Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two. I’ve heard people who didn’t understand depression before say these helped them feel they kind of got it.)

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy)


  • Not Ashamed: Genderfluid

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    I’m doing this post out of order, in spite my intentions to just work through the list from top to bottom, because this was the post that circled around and around in my head whilst I considered doing this series.

    First, like a good philosophy student, I want to define terms. I’m just going to copy and paste what the World Health Organization says:

    “Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.

    “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.

    Genderbread Person shows you what different terms mean

    And, here’s the GenderWiki definition of gender fluid, just in case you’re too lazy to look:

    Someone who is gender fluid switches between genders, which may include male, female, neutrois, third gender, or any other genderqueer identity. They can also switch to have combinations at the same time, such as male and female, or other mixes, such as male, neutrois, and a third gender. They can combine varying amounts of gender identities; three, four, or five, or many with which the individual identifies. They can also be every gender and combination at once, a term known as polygender (other terms for which may include multigender or pangender, which may be considered derogatory by some).

    But some of you are here not for a consolidation of definitions; you want to read what this means to me. Especially if you already looked up genderfluid (look, I’ve seen it with and without the space and I like it spelled this way) and realise that this is one of those things where you need to actually ask me what I mean if you want to know how it applies to me. Given the big role gender played in my life, even before I knew what gender was, I’m happy to help you understand.

    As a kid, obviously, the word “gender” didn’t mean anything to me, even though the concept impacted me. I knew I was a girl (look! girl bits!), but I also knew that I liked boy things as much as or more than girl things (something that will mean something else when we talk about my bisexuality…ha!). And I knew that this confused and bothered some people, and that it made friendships difficult. Girls thought I was weird for liking boy things; boys weren’t sure they believed I liked boy things because I also liked girl things. Ugh! That was a real pain for wee Amber.

    TipToAvoidGenderingBabies

    It also led to turmoil later. I went through years and years where I tried to strongly reject all girl things (not that I wanted to be a boy, but if I liked boy things more in general, I didn’t want girl things getting in the way of friendships…plus, my subconscious feminist hadn’t yet realised that this was doing me a disservice; she just knew that boys seemed to have a better deal in life and I wanted in on that…and then I tried to balance not wanting to hate being a girl with trying not to be “too much a girl” and had a whole different miserable experience). I hated colours purely on principle, I was distraught if someone accused me of being at all girl-like, I was ashamed of the things about my body that proved that I was a girl. But I never actually wanted to be a boy in a way that would lead me to change my body or be trans. I felt guilty when I liked things that I’d lumped in as girl things (someone bought me a relaxing spa facial that was ruined by feeling guilty the whole time). I even only wore makeup at one point (I wanted to wear it, but I felt I needed an excuse) because I’d grown up knowing and knowing of plenty of boys who did that (thank you, David Bowie). I wanted people to be romantically interested in me because of me, not because they wanted girly me or because they could picture me as a boy. On and on…what a mess it was in my head and my heart. I’ll spare you the numerous stories and situations and hope you can get a sense of what a non-fun time that was.

    Let’s fast-forward. Still before I’d even learned about gender in the context of the definitions I pasted in at the start of this, I had the great fortune of opportunities that let me gain some pretty solid self-esteem (my self-esteem is another future post or two). As part of that, I kind of laid off on the self-categorisation a bit and just accepted that I was me. That didn’t change what a pain it was to interact with other humans if gender mattered, of course. But then we can fast-forward a little more to when I learned that definition of gender I pasted in. In my world, this was huge. Because here is what it meant to me:

    Unlike my sex, which was a real thing that included definable and concrete elements like breasts (small, but existent…hello, girls!) and female genitals, gender wasn’t real in a way that I felt I had to honour or allow to constrain me. It was something that changed from culture to culture, from age of time to age of time. It was made up. It had no right to mean anything more to me than any other fiction. And it was a bloody shame that someone else’s fiction impacted my daily life. That it would (and does) impact it even if I reject it as a reality, because the rest of society accepts it.

    I started using genderfluid to describe this state of mine where, sometimes, I feel “girl” because I fit the gender stereotypes of Western culture that they consider the female gender…and sometimes I feel “boy” for the parallel male gender reasons…but, mostly, I just feel “Amber.” Which is to say that I rarely think of myself as male or female in a gender way, just in a sex way. And, when I do, I remind myself that I’m buying into a fiction that, in my opinion, has done more harm than good. And then, even if my feelings or actions or appearance don’t change, I’m back to feeling “Amber” and life is better.

    Whether or not I wear makeup (which anyone who pays attention knows I feel isn’t just for females) or skirts (ditto) or pink or etc (ditto and ditto), I’m Amber. And even things like “being very emotional” or “being too logical” that are ascribed to one sex or another by way of gender roles are things I’ve seen in both sexes (and have seen both in myself). Same story with behaviours (girls are backstabbing and boys are emotionally distant…okay, have really only seen the “emotionally distant” in myself, and even that rarely…but you get my point, right?). So, I reject that stuff as actually fundamentally tied to any person just because of the genitals with which they were born. And I certainly reject it as ways to categorise myself, because I don’t fit a box and I don’t worry about fitting a box.

    thereisnogenderbox

    Here’s a short FAQ:

    Q. What’s my gender?
    A. Amber

    Q. What gender pronouns do I prefer?
    A. I don’t have a preference. As long as you aren’t trying to be insulting (cos I don’t ever prefer to be insulted), you can use female, male, or gender-neutral pronouns. I’ve happily responded to all.

    Q. Why genderfluid and not agender?
    A. Because I read the definitions and see overlap and see how both could apply, but genderfluid just feels right. And since it’s all made up anyway, I’m going to go with my feelings on this.

    Q. Do I ever cross-dress?
    A. As someone who’s female sexed, I have a lot more room to manoeuvre clothing/appearance in this society. Unless I stuffed my pants with something to make it look like I have boy parts, I can wear trousers or skirts in all sorts of styles and people likely wouldn’t assume I was dressing to fit a gender. (And I’ve only stuffed my trousers as part of a Halloween costume. Never really found myself wanting to be physiologically male…except during that day or two a month when my female parts are trying to kill me…ha!)

    Q. Is it okay if I, the reader, feel like I have a gender and want to claim a gender, request specific pronouns?
    A. Yes! I have come to where I am because this is the healthiest place for me (something I learned through both study and experimentation). If you have found another place that is your healthiest, rock that place!

    Q. Is it okay that I, the reader, think of you as female?
    A. Sure. I have the genitals that classify me as female. However, I’d appreciate you stopping short of assuming that my physical femaleness tells you anything more about me than that. It doesn’t tell you my personality, my aesthetic, my capabilities, etc. You proceed at your own risk if you try to gender me (instead of just sexing me). (And everyone pause whilst the perpetual adolescent part of me has a laugh at the ways you can interpret that last sentence.)

    We should be back to posts that follow the order of my original list next week. Thanks for being observant and noticing this out-of-order post. I’m going to go empty the rubbish, cook some dinner, and read scifi. These are all things easily encompassed in the Amber gender.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy)


  • Not Ashamed

    I’m starting a new series of posts that I’ll post here and then cross-post to another part of my site. If you want to check in on it without reading through the blog, you can go to its home page. Otherwise, on Sundays (starting tomorrow), I’ll post here and cross-post there.

    For those who want to comment, I’ve thought about it and decided that I’m going to be stricter on what sort of comments I allow on the Not Ashamed posts. I’m putting a big part of myself out there doing these posts, and I don’t feel I owe anyone additional information or explanations, nor do I have any interest in or obligation to defend myself to anyone. Thanks for your understanding!


    After making the post below on social media, it was interesting (and sometimes painful) to process how others reacted to it. It quickly became clear to me that each of us assumes a whole lot of things based on a label, a word or two, and that what we assume doesn’t necessarily overlap with what others assume or with the truth of the person to whom the label is applied. For the last few months, I’ve been thinking about creating this section of my site…A chance to spell out a little about each of the labels. Because who I am can’t be boiled down to a label or even a set of labels, and some labels need more than our culture’s new norm of 140 characters to explain.

    In spite of being a very private person in many ways, I decided to make this series of posts on my public site because I hope that others might be able to feel a little less alone in some things and/or might be able to let go of their own shame (which feels incredible). Plus, if you’re press, you can now skip asking me the same tedious questions about this and get to really interesting stuff 😉

    The posts, which I hope to make each Sunday (though Life might happen and make things early or late by a day or two), won’t all parallel each other in construction or content. But, this way, if you’re hung up on labels about me, you’ll at least have a chance to hate (or adore) me for the right reasons.

    Original post (unedited):

    I am about to list some things about me. Some are about me now; some are about past me.

    Please don’t comment unless you’ve read this whole post. 🙂

    Some of you will think some of these are scandalous or horrible, but see no problem with others.
    Others of you will have the same reactions but to different words.

    I am posting these because (and this is the point) I AM NOT ASHAMED OF WHO I AM OR HAVE BEEN. And that is awesome! 😀

    Please do not comment to tell me I am brave to post these things. I am not braved; I am unashamed. 🙂

    Please do not comment to tell me it’s okay that I am one or more of these things. You don’t need to tell me that; I am unashamed. 😉

    Please don’t post to tell me I ought to be ashamed. I will just delete your comment. I am unashamed. I did not arrive here, in many cases, without much examination/pondering/prayer.

    Please don’t post to argue politics/religion/beliefs with me. I’m not interested. I will delete such comments (or comments that bash any of what I’ve listed). I have probably done you that same courtesy when you’ve made posts that are the opposite of my current politics/religion/etc.

    I’m posting this because I have had a number of situations lately where people have comforted me about some trait when I didn’t need comfort, and I know the intentions are good, but it starts to feel like something negative.

    This is not aimed at any one person. If you choose to assume this is a lie, you do both me and you a disservice 🙂

    Please don’t post apologies. I have just been assuming you meant well 🙂

    For future reference, unless you can hear me speaking and my tone is clearly despondent or I straight-forwardly express concern, please feel free to assume that I am unashamed and okay 🙂

    (See the smilies up there? That means this is not an angry post. Please don’t take it as such.)

    Please don’t assume you have to like everything about me to generally like me, love me, be my friend, be my family. You don’t. Nobody likes literally everything about any other person.

    Please don’t assume I judge you if you are some of these things and are ashamed. Shame is a personal thing. Just as I’ll appreciate you not projecting your shame onto me, I won’t think ill of you if you carry shame of your own.

    Also, I’m not endorsing everything on this list or saying that it’s awesome to be this or that others should try it. Some, sure. Others, nope. And many…they just are what they are and there’s no judgement.

    Every one of them is something that someone has, in one way or another, expressed that I should be ashamed of.

    (Also, if you are the kind of person who reads lists like these and finds them reasons to judge my parents, friends, teachers…unfriend me. I’m very, very serious. There is no blame or responsibility for them to carry and I dislike you on principle if you think otherwise.)

    But I am not ashamed of who I am or have been. Even choices that weren’t great, whether in fashion or in action, are part of the path to having become who I am. (And you might have caught on that I am a fan of who I am….heh!)

    I make, in general, good choices these days. I take care of myself and my people. I am kind, pretty, talented, intelligent, funny, and a load of other things that make me madly love me. I strive daily to be closer to my best self, to live a life that spreads love and light. And I fail daily, but I keep trying. I might not be everyone’s cup of tea (and maybe even less so for some of you after you read this list), and I am okay with that. I’d drink me!

    So, here are labels you could apply to me now or in the past (don’t worry; the ones that are dangerous to my health are either in the past or under control now…please don’t post concern) (also, these are posted in no particular order, so please don’t try to read import into the order):

    • Bipolar
    • The kind of depressed that’s not physiologically caused
    • Anorexic
    • Autistic
    • Bisexual
    • A geek
    • A nerd
    • Pale
    • A night owl
    • Fiscally and socially liberal
    • A self-hater
    • My own biggest fan
    • A daydreamer
    • A rock musician
    • Genderfluid
    • Ambitiously in pursuit of my dreams
    • A writer of scifi
    • An introvert
    • Reclusive (no, seriously…I need hours of alone time daily–sleep and work time don’t count…I never get lonely…I can go weeks with only digital human contact…I can even go days with no contact at all before curiosity about some friend or other has me sending a note or looking at Facebook…I don’t fear leaving the flat, but I’d generally prefer not to…)
    • Apparently very selective in my friendships
    • Ridiculously musically eclectic
    • Devoutly Mormon
    • A friend to multiple people who dislike each other
    • Suicidal (which does not mean the next label is a given)
    • Self harming (which, no, is not a necessarily the same thing as suicidal)
    • Victimised by a sexual predator
    • Violently angry
    • A pacifist
    • Unconcerned with acting my age
    • Verbose (yeah, you probably noticed that)
    • Precocious
    • Intense
    • Silly
    • A gamer (and not just video games…tabletop…online RPG…LARP–which I’d do all caps even if it weren’t an acronym because I know that’s the one I’m most likely to get scorned for…)
    • Serious
    • Pro-life and pro-choice (which is to say that I can’t see–aside from a very tiny list of reasons–choosing abortion for myself, but that I support every woman’s right to make her own choices)
    • Vegetarian (I did this for years…it’s complicated…)
    • Related: For various health reasons, I also tried paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, absolutely no sugar, and a few others
    • Related: I eat sugar and meat and simple carbs and dairy
    • Sober
    • Goth
    • Punk
    • Not goth
    • Not punk
    • A regular patron of loud dance clubs and quiet bars
    • Celibate
    • Feminist
    • Poor
    • Sometimes, briefly, a little bit well-off
    • And there are a few physical illness/pain issues that don’t allow me to do everything everyone, including me, wants or thinks I should do and I might not like it but that doesn’t mean I’m ashamed

    There are others, but you get the point. (Or I hope you do, because even I am tired of the list.)

    TL;DR (for older readers, that means “too long; didn’t read”): I am or have been a lot of things various people think I should be ashamed of. I am not ashamed. Please do not tell me I am brave or console me unless I ask. It is okay to like me without liking everything about me. I expect that’s the case. Thanks 😀


  • Ziggy Played Guitar

    On the Varnish twitter, I had this exchange:

    Twitter conversation where I mention that Ziggy Stardust album was huge influence and friend suggests I blog about it.

    And, because I hate to disappoint a pretty girl…and because it seems a completely obvious topic…Here’s a post about David Bowie‘s album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and its influence on my life. Of course, as I’ve contemplated this post the last month, new bits have wiggled into my brain, so I’m sure this isn’t going to be an exhaustive list. In fact, I can think of specific moments and interactions that aren’t covered here, but that aren’t for sharing, in which my early exposure to this album are factors.

    First, I want to note that I am serious when I say that you need to listen to this album. If you like rock music at all, it deserves a chance. If you liked the film Velvet Goldmine, this is the Bowie that inspired that film (as much as Bowie reportedly hated the film because, in my opinion, it told the fairy tale of what glam was and not the truth of what his actual story was). In fact, if you want to go and listen now (or listen whilst you read–as I’m listening whilst I type), that would be great. This blog post will be here for you when you’re ready…

    Album cover

    Those of you who are diligent readers and followers know that I’ve mentioned the album more than once. In addition to assorted tweets, I can find it in this Varnish vlog:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuXw1yIZUEU

    It’s also been mentioned in posts on this blog, here and here.

    In case you don’t read those, I have to give credit where it’s due. This album, like much of the great rock from the ’70s and earlier, entered my ears thanks to my dad. He might not want to take the credit for all the things the album did to me and for me, but I’m going to call it one of his great contributions to my life.

    (Side note: It’s really hard to write this whilst listening to the album cos I keep having to stop to sing along.)

    Not to minimise the influence it had on me musically, but let’s sort of sweep through that bit. I never doubted this album rocked. This wasn’t soft rock or something to make soccer mums feel like they were edgy whilst actually being sanitised, stock tropes. It rocked. It was the reason that I understood that you could be a proper rockstar with electric guitars and keys. That you could be a proper rockstar with acoustic guitars. And there could be orchestral instruments, not just guitar/bass/drums and still be proper rock music. (Hey, I was young, so this was big to me…And since it was my touchstone, whilst he wasn’t the first to do it, this was the album that really drove it home and that came to mind as I formed my thoughts about what could be proper rock music.) You could even throw in some slower songs and still have an album that was serious rock music.

    This album pretty much blew my mind in a way that cemented Bowie as my favourite musician. (As a girl who’s grown up to have few favourite anythings, that’s a big deal.) And, because of that, it meant that I was open to all Bowie. Which meant that, unlike many others I could have chosen as favourites, I was into someone who did a range of musical styles. If you listen through his catalog, if you look at those with whom he has toured and worked, you’re going to see range. Sure, I was going to get range just growing up with the influences of those in my family. But, let’s be honest, there are times in your life when the rockstars have more influence on your tastes than your parents or siblings…

    And, if I’m being really honest, when I pictured myself as a rockstar, even from a young age, it was Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie that was my template for so long. When I need a go-to album, whether I’m trying to decide what to listen to or I need to be motivated in general or reminded of the big dream that hatched in me when I was wee, this is the one.

    Huh…Okay, that was a bit longer than I’d thought…But, I’ll leave that as proof that there’s more to this than even I realised. Ha!

    In addition to the musical influence, here are some other things (and I’m going to write little paragraphs and ignore transitional sentences cos we all know I get too verbose sometimes…) in the order they showed up in my brainstorm of things this album impacted, not necessarily in order of importance.

    This album (and things it caused further down this list) were basically like a gateway drug to my other musical favourites, Manic Street Preachers and Placebo. This matters to me, because those two bands also have had a huge impact on my life. Some of this is due to the next cluster of things. (Oh, and I feel it bears noting that I found Bauhaus and all the music in genres connected to them because they covered Ziggy Stardust…) But, yes, the way that Richey James Edwards and Nicky Wire and Brian Molko looked helped turn my eyes and ears toward their bands…I was seriously relieved when the music was good. (Because a pretty face isn’t enough…I can’t enjoy looking at someone pretty if their music makes me want to puncture my eardrums.)

    My love of boys in makeup surely must have been implanted by the look of Ziggy (and other incarnations of Bowie). I did get that it wasn’t the societal norm, but Ziggy Stardust made it clear to me that it was well cool and quite alright. Which may be why…

    There is no doubt that this contributed to the alternate model of what an attractive man is that guides my taste in boys. Forget tanned, muscular, super masculine boys. There are a few I’ve thought were fit, but I’ll take my boys tall and thin and pretty. (So, yes, I’m sure it can also be blamed for some poor choices I made in boys, but those mainly led to songs so I’m going to call it good.)

    And, of course, that leads to the topics of bisexuality and androgyny. For those of you who’ve looked at pictures of or paid attention to Bowie, you can see how a girl who fancied Bowie might see those things are not entirely abnormal. Thanks to this, I didn’t grow up with a negative attitude about people who weren’t straight (thank goodness…that likely saved me loads of personal pain…). And, yes, widened my ideas about what was appropriate for boys and girls. It wasn’t just looks. That was part of it, but I couldn’t see the androgyny and not also think about what society was telling me were appropriate ‘gender’ roles or activities for a girl or boy. Again, something for which I’m super grateful.

    As a non-standard girlie, it won’t be a surprise to you that there was a point where I wanted to cast off girl things and just be boyish. But, due to my love of glam (by which I mean the pretty picture this album painted in my head of what it was to be glam), even boyish Amber fancied makeup and sparkly things. To be honest, part of that period of my life was set off by some unhealthiness, and I truly credit not losing track of myself entirely to the fact that I could play boy in my head and still put on the makeup and glitter I loved (but might otherwise have considered too girlie). And, on a completely shallow level, I’d have to say that my life has been prettier, shinier, sparklier for the influence of this album. For the dream of glam.

    As a girl who doesn’t like to have to choose between good things, I also have a fondness for things that combine multiple tastes. If you’re not familiar with this album, the Ziggy Stardust persona was an alien. And a number of the songs on the album are about aliens and such. Those who’ve paid attention know that, in addition to being a rockstar, I’m a scifi girl. A geek. And, look, an album that was scifi and rock! I know I wasn’t born yet, but since I believe time isn’t linear, I’m going to just claim that Bowie wrote this for me. Ha! (If you want to check out another thing I love that’s scifi and rock, please watch the 1984 film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Seriously. And, yes, I do like the pretty boy in there…yum!)

    Ah. Okay. This one is on the verge of too private, but I’m going to say this anyway. There have been some dark moments in my life where the song Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide helped pull me through. Yep. That’s all I want to say about that. But, in case you’re somewhere ugly, ‘you’re not alone’.

    Not quite as heavy, and keeping it brief again cos I don’t feel a need to list his troubles…This album and the things I read about Bowie as I got interested taught me that rockstars can be imperfect humans. I didn’t have some delusion that I was worshipping a perfect being. In fact, the imperfections and struggles I saw both let me like him more and kept me from worship. (I don’t judge people who have some kind of rockstar worship thing; I just think that it has the potential to lead to some negative situations and a girl like me was better off without.) When I talk about how seeing that people with similar demons had made it to musical fame helped me, Bowie was the first. I could be flawed and have my dreams. My flaws and troubles could lead to art.

    Back to less heavy stuff. This album and Bowie in general taught me that, yes, the music is important, but there’s more to rock than that. I learned watching clips of Bowie that some performance, some theatre, can add to the experience for the fans. What that involves can (and should) vary, as appropriate. But the reality is that music isn’t just music. It can be, but shows where someone is really performing the songs, not just standing there and aiming for technical perfection? Way more engaging for me. When you see me perform, it’s all coming from a genuine place. But the reason I decided to just let that happen instead of holding it in and standing nicely at the mic was first set off by the vision Bowie planted in my head of what it would look like to be a rockstar. If I perform the songs, that is more genuine to the emotions of the songs and to what goes on in me when I write as well. So, it’s a win for us all!

    Related to that, Bowie was how I first clearly understood that rock isn’t just music. That rockstars are also their images. I don’t want to have a fight with those of you who will argue the ideal that music ought to be purely loved for being music. And, yes, I’ve seen people who were great musicians but crummy at performance and image and it hurt them. And, no, I’m not sure that’s fair. But it’s the reality of our world. I feel fortunate that I ended up someone with (I think) some kind of good taste in appearance, so that I don’t feel like I’m not being me whether I’m wearing frocks or jeans. So, if rock music is part image (and more than one source has assured me that this is true, whether or not people want to admit it), I’m lucky that I have a bit of an eye for looks. I’m also grateful that, because Bowie helped me see how the looks and the music can be so effectively intertwined, it wasn’t a shock or a betrayal as I started to make music and watch music being made by others and saw that image mattered. (Again, I’m being genuine me and thanking my lucky stars that my preferred aesthetics match my music and seem to work well in general for the rockstar part of my life goals. I’m not suggesting people should be fake. Ehm…yeah…this could be a whole other post…maybe when I’m in the mood for arguments or controversy…For what it’s worth, there are people I love who so hate that image impacts musical success that I avoid the topic with them. I get it. I do.) Onward!

    This may seem small to you, but is huge to me. It turns out that my beloved Varnish guitarist Jason also loves Bowie and this album. And the glam thing and songs from this album directly led to our forming a band. Not with intent to recreate Ziggy Stardust…In more roundabout ways. But they are certainly part of why, one night, I told Jason I was writing songs and he said we ought to have a band…And then there was Varnish and my dreams were finally getting a chance. And striving for those dreams in the more concrete way only possible once I went from dreaming to doing has massively, massively impacted my life. Really, it deserves to be said again: MASSIVELY. And, so, if you like the music I make or you’ve discovered me through the music or in the last few years and that’s been at all a good thing–I really hope it has–The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars has also impacted your life. Hurrah!

    Finally, a few years ago, as I was pulling together this simple Halloween costume, I realised that it was a partial step toward being a Moonage Daydream. (Or a scifi lullaby, if you’re more in a Placebo mode.)

    Me in a simple 'spacegirl' costumeSpacegirl face

    I’d love, someday, to know that my music was a massive positive influence on someone. I’d love to have one of my albums mean enough to merit a blog post that’s long (too long?) and explicates ways in which it impacted someone’s whole outlook and dreams. And, if that happens and you find your way here, make sure you’ve given this album a chance and you’ve paused a moment to thank Bowie. He might not be the only influence, but he was one of the first and biggest.

    Thanks, Lady Stardust, for coming down from space with your rock ‘n’ roll message.

    xxx
    Amber


  • Simmering in Yesterday

    I don’t know why, but the last few months have been heavy on the nostalgia and on regaining/rebuilding things I love from my past. Whether the nostalgia or the reconnecting started first is sort of a “chicken or egg” situation. But, much like with chickens and eggs, it doesn’t matter which came first as long as the goodness exists, right?

    Picture of fried chicken and fried eggs
    If you fry nostalgia and reconnecting, I will eat them too

     

    I’m working to rebuild some faded relationships. Fortunately, none of these were fights or horrible moments. Just suddenly realising there was distance and wondering how that happened (later, I tell you the most likely reason). Even more fortunate, most of these people have been open to it. My happy heart!

    I’m burrowing into music and photos that remind me of past goodness and make me feel a sort of happy pining. Like this one, in case you’d like to start making up stories:

    Amber kissing a lot of people
    Not too bad for 2 weeks…

     

    I may even have found a place to go dancing! To music I like a lot! (See my post on dancing from a few months ago to understand why this is huge.) This discovery was the silver lining to a slightly grey cloud. And when the DJ played Placebo on request, the grey was consumed by the shining of the silver. Squee!

    I’m even poking at gaming that doesn’t involve a computer/console again, which means building character concepts and playlists for them. And reconnecting with the people with whom I most like to do this.

    The list goes on. And it seems like most items tie back to music (even if I’d have to explain why music is an important part of certain items).

    Working on stuff for Varnish whilst we don’t have a bassist is, honestly, less fulfilling than when it’s a complete band of people I adore and we’re finishing songs and playing shows. So I suspect that this surge of things might be a subconscious effort on my part to make sure that my emotional nooks and crannies are filled and that music is continuing to feed me.

    And here are some facts about me that seem important in the current state of affairs:

    I want to make music I’m passionate about with people I’m passionate about. Settling isn’t an option (though someone is welcome to try to throw loads of money at me and change my mind…haha).

    I don’t get lonely; I merely have moments when I pine for a specific person. And my best state for working out most things is solo. Add to these things that my life is full of great people..I’m never happy to have anyone I love feel forgotten, but this is how it happens. I don’t forget; I just fall into working things out and suddenly realise there’s someone I’ve neglected. So this is a public apology to those to whom this applies. I wouldn’t be an artist or rockstar if I didn’t have some social issues, right? (But, seriously, I apologise. And I’m working to balance my own optimal approach to things with the fact that the people I love ought never doubt it.) For the rest of you, this might still be something to know about me, cos it’s also part of why I don’t throw myself at every opportunity to build new friendships and go out to play. It’s not personal, I’m just socially overwhelmed apparently.

    In May, I wrote a post where I talked about feelings, among other things. One conclusion in there was that I feel a lot and I feel deeply. And, if you doubt it, see how few of my posts on this blog do not have some conjugation of the word “feel” in them. And imagine what a soft-hearted, feeling sort of girlie I must be just based on this blog…I’m not thin-skinned, mind you. I’ve had enough nasty comments from people who didn’t like that I was different or unkind actions from friends’ significant others who didn’t understand that I wasn’t a threat…And poking fun, done correctly, is part of many of my friendships. But, yes, I’m a soft-hearted, feeling sort of girl. And the more I reconnect to these past bits and snuggle into the “nostalgia that isn’t sad,” the gooier this heart feels. And I like it. And I’m not wont to apologise for it. Especially when it’s positive emotions (and as long as I’m still also strong…rar!)

    Me crying...
    I even cry in public (and blur pregnant faces…you’re welcome… also, never let me wear red eye shadow on a “goodbye day” again, okay?)
    More of me crying
    See, soft-hearted, feeling girl. (At least I had sunglasses on at this point…It was a long cry…)

     

    Related, whether it’s people or music or pastimes, I love to love unabashedly. No wonder I’m a geek…And I love that I’m simmering in yesterday, stewing in the nostalgia and the regaining, cos that stuff is seriously lovelovelove.

    So, this is the mushy stew that’s me right now. I am comfort food. Comfort food in glitter and eyeliner and some pretty cool boots. Yum!

    My tall, shiny boots
    When these boots die, my coolness will take a serious hit…

     

    What makes you mushy? What pieces of goodness from your past have slipped away and could be happily, healthily reclaimed? What facts about yourself could make it easier to sort that out if people knew them?

    Now, I’m going to sleep. Cos it’s nice when something I love so much is also something science says I need. Heh.

    xxx


  • No Happy Songs

    This last week, one of the incredible bloggers I follow online (The Bloggess) let us all know she’s been struggling with depression. In fact, it’s something that she struggles with regularly and is really open about. What she’s learned, writing her blog that’s a great mix of socially inappropriate and bizarre humour along with some inspiring and very open writing on mental health struggles, is that being open helps people. She’s even built an online community full of people who are supportive…If you’re feeling down and want a laugh, go read. If you’re feeling down and need to reach out, go read and comment. I watched the comments save a life this last week.

    And that’s probably why this particular topic (on my list of possible topics…cos I do keep a list…) jumped out at me as I pondered what to write for my blog this week. It’s this little mass of things all around music that isn’t happy. And it will answer a question I never answered before.

    Really, there are two questions I’m answering here. Let’s start with the one I never answered. And because I feel like this is important, I’m going to break some of my own privacy rules. Hopefully, someday some way this helps somebody. Because if I can shine some light out, my life has been worth it 🙂

    “Why don’t you listen to happy music?”

    When I was less on top of my depression, because I’m one of the many who has some depression issues (I’m not going to elaborate here…some other time, maybe…), many well-intentioned people asked that question in some way or another.

    “Isn’t the music you listen to making it worse?” was another way it was phrased.

    I was always inclined toward the unhappy stuff…the sad, the angry, the heartbroken, the frustrated, the lost, the pining…And, surely, I ought to counteract that by listening to happy music, right?

    Some of you are saying, “Right!” Maybe cos you never struggled with depression or maybe cos, for you, that actually worked.

    But some of you are shaking your heads, backing away from that advice slowly…carefully…aware of the danger it holds.

    You see, when I listened to happy music (I tried…I really did), it made things worse. Sometimes, it was just too jarring. Sometimes, it felt like it was pushing me toward mania. Sometimes, it just made me feel like I was the only pathetic loser who couldn’t be happy like everyone else. That happy music was just nasty razor claws slashing at my little heart and brain as it pushed me closer to the ugly feelings that were already attacking me. It was screaming, scrabbling ants in my brain or the mockery of every popular person at school who was making themselves feel better by putting me down.

    In short, really, really not good. (Plus, honestly, music vs physiological factors causing depression doesn’t seem like a fight music can win…So a bit of a misguided bit of advice for a girl whose issues weren’t all in her mind, if you will.)

    The one exception, which only worked out sometimes, was if I could dance to it. If I was in a place where I could put all that energy and scrabbling into the physical act of dancing. Even then, it wasn’t joyful, happy, depression-free dancing. It was frenetic and desperate. It was like trying to exorcise my demons. And since a girl can’t literally spend her whole life dancing…And since there’s little release in that sort of dancing (lucky if the release of the dancing balanced out the horrible feelings the music created)…Yeah, not a case for the happy music.

    On the other hand, there was the music I was listening to…the sad, the angry, etc etc etc…

    To be fair, yes, it did move me to tears or to violence (though, to my credit, I didn’t go out hitting other people or even putting holes in the walls of my room…but I did enjoy mosh pits and I kicked a lot of empty boxes into bits, among other things). But the actions that music pushed me toward actually did feel like a release. At the end of a desperate night sobbing, for instance, I did feel lighter for just a moment. A blessed, blessed moment. (Though, just because it’s one of my little pet peeves about when depression is misunderstood, the fact I was crying does not mean that depression is the same thing as just feeling sad. Very much not the case…)

    Younger me moping
    See? I couldn’t even take happy pictures :p

     

    There was more to it, though. And here’s where I transition…Finishing up answering the first question whilst answering part of the second question.

    “If you believe in light…if you’re a positive person now…if you’re the sweetheart you seem to be…if you’re on top of your depression…why is your music not happy music?”

    These days, I can listen to happy songs. I mean, I will probably go mad if it goes all silly and chipper for long bits of time…but I have days where the song stuck in my head is exultant…hopeful…happy.

    But I’ve only written a couple of songs that are happy songs. The rest are sad, angry, heartbroken, frustrated, lost, pining…

    And here’s my two-part answer. Part one is the second part of my answer to the first question.

    When I listened (still listen) to the songs that aren’t happy, they help(ed) me. I knew that someone else had felt something like what I was feeling. That many of them felt it and survived it. That they could even turn it into something beautiful. I wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t the only pathetic loser who couldn’t be happy like everyone else. There were others, which meant we…we weren’t pathetic losers. We were just one other kind of human experience. And we could survive it. Sure, some of those who made the songs I love(d) ended their lives. But most didn’t. Most kept surviving. And, oh, they made music. Music!

    That music, even when it pushed me to tears or violent actions, made me feel better. It didn’t heal me, but it also helped pull me just enough back from the edge…To quote one of those songs:

    “But don’t forget the songs
    That made you cry
    And the songs that saved your life”

    -The Smiths, Rubber Ring

    So, one reason I write that sort of song is in the sincere hope that someone (you or someone you love maybe) will find that one of my songs does for you what all those not-happy songs did for me. Cos you’re not alone. You’re not the only one. And, like me, you can find a way to make it through. And maybe, just maybe, there’s music or art in you. You won’t just make it through, but you’ll turn the horrible things you’re feeling into art. There are few greater things one can do…(And even if you can’t do that, you can allow yourself to learn compassion from what you’ve felt…to reach out to someone else, so that we create a chain of people who have helped keep each other from falling into the pit.)

    The second part of my answer is a bit more selfish.

    Yes, I now consider myself a positive and optimistic person. But that doesn’t mean my depression is gone. It doesn’t mean my sadness, anger, heartbreak, etc etc etc are gone. They aren’t; I doubt they will ever entirely go. I doubt, even if I didn’t have physiological things that tend me toward them, that life on this planet ever lets anyone be entirely free of those emotions.

    But I learned, from the songs I love and from all those therapists who suggest art for therapy, that I can turn them into songs, and that helps. It’s like siphoning out some of my poison and turning it (I hope) into the antivenin. Even the belief that getting it out of me and putting it into the world is helpful is, in itself, helpful.

    There are other reasons, but those are the important ones. Those are the ones that matter for this post.

    What I always found strange was that the right sort of encouraging songs were okay. They weren’t happy and telling me I was broken…They were acknowledging that things were broken but it was worth it to keep fighting…That maybe, just maybe, I was warrior enough. Turns out, I was never allergic to hope, even when I trash-talked it. Maybe that’s why, without meaning to, I left little seeds of hope in most of my songs. May they grow up to big, beautiful trees in your soul. May they bear the fruit that feeds you and keeps you fighting through all the ugly things inside of you and outside of you. Let me put down roots in your heart…

    xxx


  • Clearing the Pipes

    2012-05-10

    And, I’m back! Here’s a quick catch up so that I can get to my longer, ponder-y post that’s the official “every second Saturday of the month” post in a couple days. (And, yes, that means at least a monthly post, but there might be others….like this one!) Mainly, this is to get you up-to-date on topics that have been mentioned here before, just in case you haven’t also been following things on Varnish pages and sites.

    • We released Each to Each (a sort of maxi-EP, if you will) 1 December, 2011. It’s got the 5 studio tracks, plus 3 live tracks (of lesser production quality) that I threw on. It’s only available as a digital download at this time. Much love and thanks to all involved in making it happen.
    • In order to put all his musical energy into Post Adolescence, Johnny stepped down as bassist. Yes, in fact, I am gutted. But we’re all still friends, so that’s a happy thing. Don’t want to think what life would be like without my best friend.
    • Mentioned in one of the first posts that my mum didn’t like our music. Somewhere about midway between that post and when she passed away, she told me (out of the blue) that she did, in fact, really like a couple of our songs. That was a seriously happy thing for me to hear.
    • I’m going to shift things here a bit so that the focus on this blog is more to do with me, including Varnish things specific to me. Not that I was posting loads of band business here, but I’ve got so many updates on the Varnish main site, the Facebook, and Twitter that you’ve got plenty of sources for Varnish information. And I hope you’ll join us one or more of those places, cos your support and love are huge to us.
    • I am still a big hippie, believing in love and light and the great worth of all people. Plus, organic food and treating animals well and taking care of the environment. And so forth. I’d apologise for not being rock ‘n’ roll enough, but I feel pretty good about it. Heh.

    And now, back to work. Cos taking care of my band is a full-time job!
    xxx

    ps Here is a picture of my cat. Doesn’t his cuteness make you forget (or at least forgive me for) how long it’s been since I posted here?

    Does this NY Met bag make me look cultured?