• ponder: rest

    i keep running across the concept of rest in different contexts. i’m not sure i have anything deep to say, but you’re all learning that i like to talk about it when things get thematic in my life. so i figure i’ll just start listing “rest” concepts and see where that takes us. oooo! a journey! very exciting!

    rest as sleep. the body has stopped. the mind hasn’t, but it’s not consciously grinding away. ideally, it’s a sort of rest we get regularly and it lets us start anew, refreshed. i am a big fan of this sort of rest.

    rest in peace. it’s something people say who don’t even believe in spirits. so i know part of it is just habit. it’s just something you say when people die. but i think even those who don’t believe in spirits really do hope that this ending has also brought an end to whatever pain or hurt the person had. for those who believe in an afterlife, i’m sure the intent varies. we hope the person who’s gone on has gone on to better. for some folks, they figure they’ve gone on to a sort of eternal lying about. to others, it’s more that they’ve left the cares of this life behind and gone on to a different set of things.

    give it a rest. it’s not quite the same as “shut up,” is it? because we don’t generally mean that the person ought to shut up in general, more that it’s time to stop on a particular topic.

    day of rest. in the Judeo-Christian traditions, even God took a day to stop working. that’s where the sabbath comes from. that said, surely God didn’t hole up and ignore everything that day. and those who keep a sabbath don’t just spend the whole day sitting on their bums or sleeping. at the very least, the one thing most have in common (since even within one church the ideas of what is appropriate can vary) is that adherents cease their normal labours and tasks.

    r&r (rest and recreation). most people see these two things as tied together. so that getting a good rest from work doesn’t have to mean doing nothing or just sleeping (though it can). and people can come back from active holidays feeling well-rested.

    naomi offers rest to ruth. for those who didn’t know, i guess this is the paragraph where you realise i’m religious. but all you religion haters can put your worries aside. no preaching here. just noting that, in the story of ruth, when naomi offers to find rest for ruth, she is talking about finding her a new husband. i just ran across this recently, and it definitely set me to pondering. you could say that the rest is from the worry that a woman then must have felt at being single and not taken care of. some of you might take a less historical perspective and just see it as a rest from the loneliness. those of you who have been in long-term relationships that you knew were going to last know there is a sort of rest that comes when you have someone that you know is going to stick around and love you and try to work through things with you. a change, in all these case, from the worries and loneliness, from the sort of work that life requires when single (even if you admit that being married is just a different kind of work).

    so, in writing this out, and thinking, i have a thought. rest isn’t a state of nothingness. it’s a change. it lets us, even for a moment, step out of whatever it is that is taking our energy (good and bad things). and, by taking that step outside, we gain the energy, perspective, or will to move ahead when we step back in. we think of rest as an inactive state, but i think it’s an active state. and i think we can’t achieve true rest just by doing the same nothing all the time. i know people who have sat around for days just watching tv. nothing else. at first, sure, it was relaxing. it was rest. but then it ceases to have the helpful effect. it was time to switch up activities. to find rest by giving tv a rest, if you will. i have known people who were getting plenty of sleep, but the worries in their lives left them feeling exhausted. i’ve been there. in that case, sleep isn’t the only rest needed, though you’d still hear me say “why am i so tired? i got plenty of sleep.”

    i have spent all day working hard on music, and it is work, and felt rested, whereas a few hours of “day job” can leave me wiped out.

    right now, i’m looking for rest. looking for the change that lets me keep pushing forward. looking for the rest that lets me step into new problems, and out of old. i’ve been trying to find it with sleep and meditation, with quiet. i’ve been invoking the phrase my friend susan gave me, that i’m not doing nothing; i’m being still. and that has, in some ways, lifted some of the trouble. it’s given me small pieces of rest. but i can see that the rest i want and need now is a more active state.

    so, i’m going to get back to seeing if there’s anything more i can do toward achieving that active state, that change. and maybe you can step aside from the rest of sitting here reading me and out into a more useful rest. heh.

    (note to self: stop ending on “heh.” that is not your catchphrase.)

  • ponder: breaking up broken down

    fair warning: this is long and i don’t feel like breaking it up (har har) into multiple posts.

    got breaking up on the brain. whilst i’m not planning to break up with anyone just now, i have friends at points all along both sides of the breaking up spectrum. on the one side, you’ve got everything from that intuition that a breakup is coming (sometimes right, sometimes not) to signs of relationship failure to dumped and trying to pull it together. on the other side, you have everything from wondering if you ought to consider a breakup to pondering how best to achieve a breakup to blissfully done and moving on. until you either learn your concerns are baseless or you recognise that you’re better without them, none of these are awesome places to be, even when they’re leading to good.

    a few years ago, there was a rash of bad breakups in my social circle. not just bad because hearts were bruised, but bad because of how it went down. sometimes it was the dumper being remarkably horrible and sometimes it was the dumpee clinging and crying in a way that didn’t change anyone’s mind, with a nice dose of breakups due to cheating to make it all feel extra icky. at that point, i made a mock quiz where one was meant to match the relationship scenario with the appropriate way to respond, whether as the dumper or the dumpee.

    the fact is, even if you’re the dumpee and you feel you don’t deserve it, everyone involved can contribute to whether or not it’s an extra craptastic situation. so i thought i’d sort of ramble on about a few points here, because that’s what i do. no doubt, some of this will come back to haunt me in future breakups. though i readily acknowledge i haven’t always been a stellar example, so no need to rub my past in my face. and, for the record, this is all about romantic relationships. ending friendships or business relationships or otherwise ending your association with someone other than a partner would each have its own set of “amber guidelines.”

    let’s start with reasons for breaking up. the thing is, relationships are sort of supposed to be consensual situations. unless you’ve gotten married, chances are really good that you didn’t commit to a certain amount of time with the other person. i think some things are clearly reasonable triggers for considering a breakup, like infidelity or abuse. some things are in a murky realm where you have to ask whether it’s just that you might want to put a little more work into saving something awesome or cut your losses and get out before there’s real damage done. and there’s that final group that sounds really silly when you say it out loud.

    if you’ve got abuse, i’m a huge proponent of Get Out Now. i’ve rarely seen an abuser (physical, mental, emotional, or sexual) actually conquer those behaviours. if you’ve got infidelity, that’s a grey area. in amber-land, if you’re an otherwise awesome partner and you made one mistake and are truly sorry and don’t do it again, we can talk about fixing the relationship. but the instant you embark on infidelity number two, or if you aren’t worth the effort to me to work it out, you’re gone. and, in case you’re jockeying to be my next someone, you ought to know that i include emotional infidelity, cybering, sexting, and phone sex on the list of things that count as cheating. i know; i’m no fun.

    in that murky set of reasons…well, it’s a case-by-case situation, isn’t it? for example, if you’re fighting all the time, is it a sign that it’s time to end or that it’s time to fix root issues and regain the happier days? seriously, i don’t even know for me. because it’s going to depend on the situation. i do know that relationships take a certain amount of work. i don’t believe that every relationship merits the same amount, though. which means we’ll find out when we get there. though, at this point, i’m not wont to get into any relationship unless i think it will merit some effort. and if i marry you, i’m up to the task, and i probably think the relationship is worth loads of effort. (other stuff that seems to fit in here is general stuff like indoor person vs outdoor person, adventure person vs tv/computer person, lots of alone time person vs minimal alone time person, purple vs green, liberal vs conservative, indoor cat vs outdoor cat, money use differences, getting on with each others’ friends and family, and…well, probably loads goes in here…) maybe you can sort out more of my mindset on this, if you’re sorting me out, by reading my previous ponder on fitting…

    that leaves the silly things. but what i actually want to say is that this stuff isn’t all so easily written off in my mind. sure, you have to ask whether their inability to close a cupboard after they get out a plate is enough to outweigh the goodness you have. and, sure, it’s hard to see clearly when they’re actually a good person (so much easier when they’re obviously just damaged goods). and, sure, that they’re fun to fool around with makes it even harder to see clearly. plus, you don’t want to be one of those shallow people or one of those people looking for (impossible) perfection. but! some of this stuff is going to make you crazy every day or every time you see them. and you’re not going to get used to it. and eventually, you are going to want to shove sharp things in your eyes. it may be annoying or a case of not fitting (again, see my previous ponder on fitting). but maybe they need to be free for someone who isn’t going to go mental over that little thing. (i’d share a personal example, but if the person ever read this and felt bad, i’d be mortified.) from the dumpee side of this, honestly, if all you see when you look at me is that silly little thing, i might be better off with someone else anyway.

    (note: if you dump me over a silly thing, i will likely say something like, “you’re dumping me over that?!?!” because it’s a silly thing. but that doesn’t mean, in the grand scheme, that i won’t eventually realise i’m better off without the partner who just saw me as that one silly thing.)

    in summary: not every reason is actually a good one. but even if you’re leaving me over a stupid one, even if i derisively note said stupid reason to friends for days to come, it doesn’t mean that you should have stuck around.

    before we talk about the dumping and the being dumped, i’d like to pause a moment to talk about other people. because i know only a few people who go through either side of the spectrum without involving other people. we go to our friends to say, “ack. i’m getting the paranoia. i think i’m going to get dumped.” or to say, “i’m thinking of dumping them. am i crazy?” and then we keep going to them for advice all through, until we finally go to them for comfort and/or to go out with once it’s done. i have just a few thoughts on other people, in case you want to know how i roll

    remember that friends and family who love you more than your partner will remember the negative things you said about your partner, even if you stay together. for this reason, i try to stick to just talking to my top friend or two, because they’re the kind of people who won’t let that cause drama or cause them to be rude later.

    involving other people is likely to lead to drama. drama sucks. i don’t want it, and if you want it, i don’t want you. sorry. another reason to keep it to just a tight friend or two who won’t be drama-prone. because sometimes a tiny issue can get turned into a huge one with the drama, and then you’ve thrown out a perfectly good something over nothing.

    whilst i’m a very introspective girl and very good at being honest with myself, the other benefit of my top couple non-drama-prone friends is that they are outside. they aren’t blinded by being too close to the situation (or not as close as i am). they aren’t blinded by the way my knees buckle when we kiss. their emotions are not so tied up. so, even if i want to think it all out myself, i think it’s a good bet to go to them, especially if they have a real handle on my relationship history, and tell them what i think. not only are they people with whom i can be honest, even if it makes me sound bad, but they will be honest with me. which means that they will listen, question, and then either support or tell me i’m being stupid.

    if you’re one of the other people, it’s a dicey situation. we all know that if you are honest about what you dislike about the partner, that can come back to bite you if the friend stays with said partner. i know i have held my tongue before, though i prefer not to. if you are one of my other people, there’s no need to constantly harangue me (but i know you won’t), but be honest. i think i’ve shown that i never hold it against you. and the person you’re offering criticisms of never finds out.

    no matter what they say, though, i have to remember that, in the end, it’s on me. i have to own the choice i make. i have to live with the consequences of staying or going. so they can advise, but it’s still up to me and my responsibility.

    and, finally…unless we are talking about an actual abuse situation where there is fear of bodily harm, try not to bring other people along for the breakup. you need a ride because you want to do it face-to-face? your ride needs to stay in the car or go into another shop. you realise it has to happen now and you want to call and break up that way, but you’re with a friend? go into another room or send them into the hallway or out to grab a snack. really need them there so that you have the courage to do it? you better make sure they’re going to keep their mouths shut and be compassionate toward all parties. but if they’re there to watch the show, to add some attitude, or because you’re doing a quick dumping before you head out for drinks with them…seriously, they can go wait at the bar.

    now, how to dump…i know some people think the only acceptable way is face-to-face. i totally understand, as i used to think this way myself. for these folks, that’s a sign of respect and of owning your actions and the hurt you’re causing. but i’m not one of those people anymore. dumping me via text or email or voicemail, via a friend or on the maury show, by throwing my things on the lawn or writing rude things on my car with lipstick? not cool. any breakup done with nastiness or destruction or done in a public place when you could have let me get the hurt privately isn’t cool. though i will allow for things like email if you’re overseas. and i used to allow for that if you just lived long distance before mobile phones made calls cheap. especially since the bulk of our relationship would have been in email and chats anyway, so that was just the way the relationship went. but even if you’re overseas, you can now use free online voice chat options to at least make it a call.

    because, in amberland, there are now two mainly acceptable ways to end a romantic relationship with me. the old face-to-face is fine. i do prefer it not happen in a public place, in case you make me cry. (and, yes, even if you’re very nice about it, i might cry. because i might still like you and it always hurts not to be liked back.) though, if you’re worried, i’ve proven to be pretty good at waiting until the dumper leaves to cry. as long as they don’t hang out for more than a few minutes. i might get a bit misty and choked sounding, but i probably won’t sob in front of you. honestly, there may be other hurt i feel you need to own, and you ought to be aware you’re going to hurt me. but you don’t need to own or manage my heartbreak. if we aren’t a good fit, however much it hurts me to learn that, you’re doing us both a favour (and doing a favour to whomever our better fits are) by ending things. if you weren’t mean about breaking up, the most i think you owe me is honesty. you can even just say, “i’m sorry, but i don’t feel like we’re a good fit.” i might want to know more, and if there are reasons beyond just not being a good fit it would be nice of you to calmly tell me, but that would be enough. especially now that i like me, because i’m not going to need to go home and search myself for flaws.

    if you feel like i need to know my damage and you can communicate it in a non-mean way, maybe you can send me a letter. but this sort of thing usually just comes off wrong and doesn’t help anyone. might even make you look like a jerk.

    the other acceptable way is by phone. yes, i’m serious. as the dumper, this means that, in case i go into an unreasonable “but why? but why?” spasm or get mean on you or start sobbing or doing something uncharacteristically sad like begging and pleading, you can say (though i may not hear it over my mania), “i’m going to hang up now. you take care.” and then you hang up and go on with life. i am not prone to those things, but just in case…

    as the dumpee, oh, i love the phone. because i don’t want you to see me cry. i’d rather process that pain privately. feel like i’ve kept some dignity. not let you see my makeup get messed up. it also means that your tempting hot body isn’t there, putting my brain into the mixed signal land of “want!” versus “ouch!” seriously, call me. now, if you are going to ring my mobile to dump me, there’s an extra something you need to do. you need to ask what i’m up to, because if i’m out or at work, not okay. you can just say you were thinking of me (true) and ask me to call you as soon as i am home and can talk. sure, that might make me suspicious. but when i ask what’s up, you’re totally okay to say we’ll talk later and that you need to go. yes, i’ll be tortured, but i’ll appreciate it later. you can even go so far as to say that we need to talk and, when i ask, to say, yeah, it might be unpleasant. but if i badger you into saying it right away, then it’s my fault for badgering. (okay, actually, if i am at home, in my car alone, or with one of my best friends, you’re probably good to just do it then.)

    for both dumper and dumpee, though i understand if you have some choice words when you’re leaving a cheat, an abuser, or someone who has actually treated you poorly, we’re all going to feel better about this if people try to keep it civil. you don’t have to pretend you want to stay friends. you don’t have to hold the dumpee or tell the dumper that this is fabulous. but nasty remarks, meanness, attempts at guilt, drama…that all does no good and just makes it uglier for everyone. as a special note to the dumpee, rarely does anything good come of you begging and pleading and guilting them into staying. if you have to do that to keep them, chances are you’re better off without. really.

    plus, if there is an actual hope of staying friends after (which can only happen if you both want it and can both behave), you aren’t going to want to smear the situation with ugly, are you? (that goes for both of you.)

    okay, so you’re broken up. just a few thoughts on post-breakup behaviour and then i’ll shut up for now.

    it is not cool to destroy their things that you have. it is cool to arrange a quick contact really soon to return things. it is cool to keep that contact super short and simple. you can even be wordless and just hand over the box or bag. really. if you can’t keep it civil, this is an okay time to send a friend. but make it the friend who will be civil and won’t use this as a chance to say nasty things, okay? and return their stuff in its current condition. no petty breaking, secretly dropping it in toilets, or whatever.

    it is not cool to make out extra hard with your new partner in public just to hurt them. if it’s been years and you see someone who hurt you and you want them to see you’re just fine, thanks…okay. but when it’s all fresh, just be breezy and normal. if you dumped them recently, they are already hurt. no need for more. if you got dumped, they will know what you’re doing and it will look sad. instead, just look hot and happy and normal.

    it is cool to turn the hurt into art, especially if it doesn’t come across as petty. for me, this means you can’t tell the song is about you. heh.

    it is cool to give the other person space. you don’t have to avoid hangouts, unless you can’t be nice. but you don’t have to wander over to say hullo or sit where you can stare at them the whole time.

    i’m sure i had more to say, but it’s a friday night. time for me to go and enjoy. because who knows how long it is until i break up with you or you dump me, right? ha!

  • where do lyrics come from?

    with history now briefly covered, and a few pondering posts to test out how i like pondering on here, it’s time to get back to music as a current topic. kind of.

    as many have learned, i’m not really planning to explain my lyrics to anyone. i can’t tell you the number of times jason has asked, as we work a song, “what’s this one about?” only to have me shrug and say, “what do you think it’s about? all that matters is that the music fits it.” there’s only one person i’d make exceptions for, and that’s because i know he won’t tell anyone at all and because he’s got every bit of my trust. and, you know, that’s probably not you. sorry.

    why won’t i tell you what the songs mean? well, there are a number of reasons. for one, not everyone who hears a song will have the luxury of reading or hearing an explanation from me. that song needs to stand on its own, without extra words. also, i can’t tell you the number of songs that were totally meaningful to me, that i made completely valid analyses of, that were then soured when i heard what the writer meant. okay, fine, to the writer that song is about something entirely different, but there’s no need to rob me of the emotional connection i had with the song for my own reasons. additionally, i don’t want people who might have influenced a song to either see it as an attack or as an ego builder. that’s not why i write. and, finally, as you’ll read, most come from too complex a place to really sum up.

    but i can tell you where lyrics come from. and, unlike when you learned where babies come from, i don’t care if you tell your little sister. in fact, please, do tell her.

    the lyrics come a few ways. most just sort of fall out of me and onto the paper, quickly. i feel really blessed that it works that way. every so often, something falls out in pieces. i try not to force it when it goes like that. try to just meditate on what’s at the root. the few times i’ve forced it, the lyrics have been shoddy and needed rewriting. so, better to get it right the first time.

    but at the root, no matter how they come out, is always a mental collage. and the collage isn’t built by effort or always around a clear theme. it’s a mix of memories, of story ideas, of possible futures and missed pasts, of smells and sights and emotions, of other people’s experiences, of individual words or phrases that feel good on my tongue and rolling across my brain. sometimes, there’s almost a physical sensation or two that comes along with it. it’s usually something of a chaotic mess, really.

    if the lyrics just fall out, the mess seems to settle into something i can look at and benefit from once i’m finished writing. until then, it’s almost like the whole mass of the thing is pushing the words out.

    if the lyrics come slowly, the mass starts settling as i regard it. i write what comes easily, and then i sort of let the whole thing shift a bit. i close my eyes and just watch it. sometimes i poke at it. i ask it, “what’s this piece doing here? it’s totally unlike the others.” and as pieces fall together, the words fall out of me.

    even in a situation where i could probably say, “this song is about this person / this event / this theme / this emotion,” there’s always something more going on. that thing has drifted through my heart and my mind and other bits of what’s inside of me have caught onto it. so that even if i told you and tried to explain, there’d still be some line or verse that wasn’t quite that thing. but, hopefully, that still fits.

    of course, a close friend recently noted that a lot of my songs seem to be written before their time. that they are all clearly about things that happened after i wrote them. and when i tried to protest, some pretty uncanny things were pointed out to me. but i think i’m going to chalk that up to the fact that time isn’t linear; we just see it that way through our limited brains. which means that i’ve got endless years of images to throw into those collages. so i don’t expect to understand word-by-word either. and maybe that’s the real reason i can’t explain myself. heh.

  • ponder: i don’t love you like i love him…

    i’ve been pondering love a lot lately, as i seem to have had some fundamental change of nature. among other things, this change includes feeling like i’m overflowing with love, like i have more compassion, like i need to say more sappy things to a few people. that, plus the fact a number of people in my life have been pondering love in their own ways and for their own reasons, has had my head full of thinking about the nature of love. so i thought i’d use that as a chance to keep the blog from getting too stale. plus, as those who’ve been around me a while know, when there seems to be a theme in my life during a particular time, i often feel like it’s useful to talk out loud about it. and that’s just what i’m going to do until i run out of words, for the moment, on the topic. right now, it looks like there are four strands to my thoughts here.

    to clarify, love here is all the kinds of love. not just romantic, in love sort of love. it’s also about love for friends, love for family, and general human compassion. try to keep that in mind as you read this long post, okay?

    strand one: the individual nature of each love. this is the strand that the title of the post is inspired by. what i’ve come to realise is that each love, whatever sort it might be, is unique. it has to be. because each instance involves different people.

    you see, the love i feel for one person has some of its roots and strength in the experiences we’ve had, the stories we’ve shared, and their particular traits. i may love another person equally, but because that love is based on a different set of experiences, stories, and traits, it’s a different love. my dad has always said he loves each of us kids equally, but for different reasons. i think that’s what he means.

    and i kind of think it’s a beautiful thing, for a few reasons. you see, it means i never have to worry if this love doesn’t feel like another did, because it probably oughtn’t. it means that each person for whom i feel any love gets their own unique love from me, and that i am also being given a unique gift when someone loves me. (this is particularly cool for erasing jealousy about the past or about other friends, because if they love me, it is a new thing and not the same love they give or have given already.) it means that i feel like i won’t run out of one particular love, because i only use each one for one person. and it means that if one love is betrayed, it doesn’t kill me on that level of love in general. just that one particular love.

    this also has some downsides and can lead to some emotional turmoil. but it’s love, so you expect that, right?

    strand two: love doesn’t mean trust. not to be a downer on the tail of what was a happier strand, but love and trust aren’t mutually inclusive. that i love you doesn’t mean i trust you, and vice versa. which, actually, i don’t think has to be seen as a downer…

    it’s awesome when i have people i both love and trust. to be honest, those are few and far between in my life. at the very least, the levels of love and trust i have for a person are not usually equal. making those few for whom i have loads of both extra precious. but knowing that i can feel one without the other and not feeling like i have to feel both is rather freeing.

    i used to fuss over this. how could i feel one and not so much the other? did it mean i was wrong in my assessment of how i felt? and on and on…but now that i’ve concluded it’s just a fact of life, i don’t stress. i’m mindful of each and don’t tend to go barrelling into behaviours (either of showing love or trust) just because i’ve got one of those feelings. and you probably oughtn’t take it personally if you aren’t one of the very few for whom i have loads of both. because each is, in its own right, a rather lovely gift.

    strand three: love ought to free you to be your genuine self. now, this may seem an odd thought on the heels of the previous strand. after all, this sounds like a trust-laden thing. but i think that love can’t be true if you are loving an image, if you’re loving the person someone is trying to project. in that case, you love the image and not the person. and, on the other side of that, i want to be loved for me. i want you to love me even knowing that i totally disagree with you on a topic, that we have different life goals, that i’m an indoor girl and you like the outdoors. that sort of thing. and if you can’t love me like that, it’s best we work instead on some sort of genial relationship or trust. and i’ll save my time and love for friends and family who do love me like that. and it’s okay. because i can look at my life and see how those people who see and love the person i truly am, especially the ones who know my quirks and don’t get any sort of pretence from me, have freed me to be true to myself. i was going to try to be true to me anyway, as i’m the only person guaranteed to stick by me through life. but letting them know and love real me freed me to love real me more. and then freed me to recognise and let go of self-misconceptions. and now i’m very-amber, and i dig her.

    strand four: to feel love doesn’t mean you’re obligated to do anything about it. to be clear, i think that you can’t do nothing and expect love to survive. so you ought to find at least small ways to show and nurture any love you’re feeling that you want to keep feeling. but…

    i keep running across people who seem to feel like their love of another person brings with it an obligation to act. and the thing about love is that it can be pretty blind and stupid. part of why you can love someone and not trust them. your heart, both in non-romantic and romantic senses, can suddenly throw itself at someone. i find that’s usually how love of any sort happens with me. one day i suddenly realise that, oh, i love this person in this way. sometimes i feel it growing, like my heart is creeping that way instead of throwing itself. and sometimes it’s literally instantaneous. and more than once, it’s been thrown at a person that was just a bad idea. they were a lousy friend, they were a cheating love, they were falsely acting in order to drum up compassion. and my stupid heart didn’t really notice. once or twice, my heart has forgotten i was already in a relationship and thrown itself. and, fortunately, i chose not to follow (because we may not be able to choose where it throws itself, but we can choose how we react to that) and, instead, used that as a wakeup call that maybe i needed to tend to the love in the current relationship. (or honourably end the relationship because this was a chance to realise it wasn’t the good answer long-term. but i’ve rarely had a chance to do that before the other person has butchered it up…good thing, or i might not have so many songs!)

    so, whilst love is a great motivator for acts of kindness and compassion, it is not an obligation. i love you, but it doesn’t mean i have to do for you. i love you, but it doesn’t mean i have to stay with you. i have love for you, my fellow human, and compassion for your situation, but it doesn’t mean i’m obligated to give.

    which means two things. first, that i can stop treating love as an obligation and treat it as something lovelier than that. second, that those things i do for you out of love are by choice, because i want to. because i want to feed the love, the relationship (whatever it may be). and it means that everything you do that i can recognise as a way of showing your love is not taken for granted. because i’m hoping love is motivation, not an obligation for you as well.

    and if you’ve read through this whole post, it has either been out of love of me or because you’re a stalker. either way, it’s time for me to go put some sappiness in a chat window and an inbox and such. all this love talk has reminded me that those i love most are the best people on earth. yay!

  • who put that hope in here?!?!

    like many people i know, i use art as a way to work through intense emotions. and, like many of them, a lot of those emotions are not pleasant ones. one well of emotion and imagery for a lot of my songs is all the rubbish i’ve been through thus far. so, you know, safe to assume that the songs are generally not happy songs.

    lately, there’s been a lot not going awesomely in my life. in most every area. but, somehow, i recently had a very beautiful moment where i realised that i am at peace with my past. in some cases, it’s a general peace, and in others more specific, as i see how things i have been through that were not pleasant have led to good now.

    today, with no external reason or obvious improvement in my life, i have actually been feeling very calm and hopeful. odd, but cool. and perhaps that’s why i got a random urge to flip through all the songs i’ve written the last two and a half years or so and see which of them had hope.

    see, i think that even music that’s not happy can give you hope. i know that the songs that made me most sure i wasn’t alone and was going to make it through dark periods in my past had no hope in them. but just knowing someone else had felt as i was feeling and was still around and was turning it into good music? that gave me hope. but that’s not the hope i was looking for here. i wondered if i could give or was giving hope of another sort in those lyrics.

    at this moment, i have lyrics for 108 songs finished, and am one verse shy of finishing number 109. i can be a bit prolific sometimes. it’s been an artistically dense two and a half years…of those, i found messages of hope in 53 songs.

    do you need a moment to pause, process, pick your jaw up off the floor? because i did. even songs we’ve been playing and actively working on all this time that i didn’t think of as having hope.

    but as i flipped through, i saw bits of hope, here and there. sometimes, the whole song was encouraging to me. sometimes, it started poorly but ended well. sometimes, it’s just a line in there. some of the hope is pretty straight-forward hope, like songs where i say i know i can make it or i know the relationship will make it. some of the hope is more sideways, like songs where i’m encouraging someone not to give up or i’m realising that, yeah, i want you and i can have you. really, i count anything where, if you’re paying attention, you see it’s not all just wanting and lacking and broken.

    because sometimes hope is just that there is something good in all the mess. at least to me.

    so when you’re having a listen or singing along, feel free to take comfort in the bits that aren’t hopeful, in knowing someone else made it through all sorts of unpleasantness (lots of someones, really, as it’s not all always about me). but be sure to know there’s hope in there. and it’s okay to hope.

  • ponder: fitting

    read an article yesterday (that’s a response to a response to another article) that’s basically advice to girls about getting involved with boys. the article i read was by a boy. but, to be fair, from my observations of life, i think this advice is great all around. what he basically said was:

    “if you don’t already fit into his life and share his worldview, don’t do it.”

    a lot of people thought he was suggesting the girl just reshape herself. and others were cranky because we all know relationships involve compromise.

    he clarified in comments that, no, he wasn’t suggesting people change. in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. that someone is fun and makes your loins go tingly and a good person or whatever doesn’t mean you’re a good fit. because relationships are more than that. and trying to force your lives to fit, trying to force things to work out, is more likely to lead to woe.

    on the other hand, he acknowledges that, yes, every relationship requires compromises. but if you don’t start out fitting, you may be making the wrong ones.

    a starry-eyed younger me would trumpet that true love should be followed and you ought to work hard and blah blah blah. and i do believe that relationships of the long-term sort will involve work.

    but i also agree with this boy. if i meet you and you are super cool and our lives don’t mesh, if i have to change my schedule, neglect the pursuits i would otherwise love, look to others to fill roles i’d expect a partner to fill, consider whether i could live without getting the things i’d always hoped my future would be….if i wasn’t meshing with your job, your friends, your family that mattered, your life dreams, your needs…..and if you weren’t meshing with all that about me….i’d think twice. no matter how cool.

    because i have seen the result of people who have to work from the start, to get accustomed to getting less than or other than they want, who then spend months or years (or lives, even) doing that. and it sucks. it does. i’m sorry. this includes some couples i love. but no matter how much i love them, i look and i think:

    if one of you had had the honesty and courage to let go, you could have made four lives better: yours, theirs, the person who’d be the nicer fit for your life, and the person who’d be the nicer fit for theirs.

    if you’re really mad for them, stick around a while as a friend. see how things evolve. maybe you’ll at least get a good friend out of the deal. maybe you will, as i have done a time or two, wake up one morning and realise that you’re glad you never had a relationship with that person or that you ended the relationship (in my case, it’s relationships that ended and i’m happy because i see what is making them happy in life now and know that wouldn’t have made me happy).

    the rest the advice in the articles was all stuff i’d heard before, which is why i’m not mentioning it. but this one, though it seems like common sense to me, seemed to be the most alien to other people responding. which made me go ponder-y. and, apparently, need to verbalise.

  • the joint might get hoppin’

    just a note for those of you who check in sometimes to see if i’m updating. i miss blogging some days. after all, i think a lot, and i find it helps me to process if i write things out. and then things are written out, but they go nowhere. just sit on my computer or in my paper journal (yes, i have one of those). most the things in the paper journal really oughtn’t go out in to the world. but i have this urge to set the other ones free, see what they do in the wild.

    i may be a private person, but i also front a band and write the lyrics. this should be no surprise.

    so i’ve decided to expand the scope of this blog. i’m not yet sure what impact that will have. it should lead to more posts, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot when i post so infrequently. however, there’s only one way to find out what will happen. and that’s to go for it. right?

    i’ll get us going by posting something here i posted as a note on my facebook. because, really, it was whilst writing that note that i finally had to admit i missed blogging.

    feel free to join the conversation. i’m pretty sure this thing has comments…

  • 25 albums

    yes, i’m compensating for quietness with a second post today. however, this one is a bit of a cheat. one of the memes going around facebook is:

    “Think of 25 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world.”

    and because this is about me and music, i thought i’d cross post. but here are a few disclaimers:

    • i wrote this over a few days, so it’s a bit dodgy in quality.
    • i just took the first 25 albums that came to mind, so this isn’t a complete list of albums that fit the criteria or even necessarily the top 25 in said list.
    • some of this stuff might show up again in later entries. i’m not going to apologise.
    • this is all about whole albums, not about individual songs. that’s a different list. and just having one song that owns me on it is not enough to make this list.
    • these are not in any particular order. just the order they fell out of my brain.

    that said, here’s my rather verbose response. feel free to share some of your own albums that fit this criteria in comments. you might even inspire me to drag out something i had forgotten about or to find something new.

    1. david bowie – the rise and fall of ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars. first album i recall hearing as a kid. first record i owned (still have the vinyl). probably did a lot to shape what i think of as great music and attractive men…plus, before itunes, this was the album i put in when i was trying to decide what i wanted to listen to. it is always the right choice.
    2. placebo – placebo. in actuality, it was a crappy bootleg recording of a show in late 1995 that my mate went to. he mailed a copy to me, sure i’d love the music and–though there were not yet pictures–the singer. oh. my. stars. this was the best thing i got out of that friendship.
    3. nine inch nails – pretty hate machine. it was really the first of its kind. and i still think it’s his bet work. it so clearly expressed the anger and betrayal i was feeling when it came out. and the live show when he toured in 1991 was intense.
    4. the cure – disintegration. i’m a huge cure fan in general. and if this hadn’t come along, i’d be listing some other album by them here. but there were a few weeks when i listened to this and pretty hate machine over and over…i was a mess and i really felt like all the depression and loss and longing i was feeling were adequately summed up here.
    5. manic street preachers – generation terrorist. i feel really lucky that i had mates in the uk years ago so that i didn’t miss out on all the good music. this was just one of those albums that spoke to me. yeah, it sounds cheesy, but that’s the way it was. and this was before i saw richey. yum. even now, i listen and i remember that moment of feeling like, yeah, someone understood. i mean, the punks got my anger and the goths got my depression…but the manics just got the jumble of all that together.
    6. ac acoustics – victory parts. i don’t just like them because they share my love of lowercase. i am a fan of the poetry and the fuzziness and the way that sometimes it builds and crashes around me. this was their first album that i heard. again, bless the mates in the uk…it echoed both the issues i was going through at the time and the way that they felt…like everything else on this list, i still listen to it loads and find it’s great for listening to as i fall asleep. kind of settles me deep into who i am and have been and still has songs that are too relevant to where i am now…
    7. lamb – lamb. i got this in the mail from one of my oldest friends right after he got it. he knew it would connect with me as it did with him. and the track he pointed out as amazing was the first to put hooks in me and leave marks. but the whole album is that way now. it very quickly became that, in fact. the drums are amazing. and the lyrics…man, some of these songs still make my throat get tight after all these years…
    8. placebo – black market music. i’m going to feel bad for only pointing out a couple of the placebo albums, because i really did listen to each way too much when it first came out. and continue to do so. i just found this one striking because it was still clearly placebo, but there was this updated and danceable twist on some tracks. whilst other tracks carried through the brooding tones that let me know that this band might just understand my damage.
    9. pj harvey – dry. i know that a lot of girls will note sonic youth as what blew their mind in terms of how they saw women in rock. for me, it was this album. this girl was raw and open and saying things i totally got. she was the one who pushed my whole concept of women in rock over the edge. i mean, sure, there was patti smith. but that was punk. this wasn’t quite punk, so i hadn’t suspended my expectations and such for this one…and, really, every album she has put out has kept pushing at my ideas.
    10. yazoo – upstairs at eric’s. long before alison moyet became how i taught myself to sing, this was a staple of my youth. it had everything….i could dance, i could cry, i could lie on a friend’s bed as he clicked the lights off and on to “i before e except after c” and i tripped out without drugs. (thanks, phil.)
    11. peaches – the teaches of peaches. first, i laughed. not because it was funny. wow. the mouth on this broad…i think it was the audacity of her, though she wasn’t saying anything that hadn’t been said. but, you know, women still seem to pull back from being this…blunt most the time. the first track on this album has been stuck in my head the last few days, so that may be why this is bumping out other albums that could be on this list. but, yeah, i listened to it over and over and never grew less delighted.
    12. amanda palmer – who killed amanda palmer. i love dresden dolls, but this solo album really caught on me. it started with a few songs that really dug in and can still make me choke up, but the whole thing eventually owned me for a few days. hmz…i’m actually kind of surprised and pleased to see that there are recent things on my list.
    13. ours – distorted lullabies. i was blown away when i first heard this. the boy has range (when i saw him in the fall, it was insane to see it live) and writes great lyrics. and the music has this sort of anthemic quality for me. it is far too often relevant to where i am, keeping it in regular rotation when i’m not just using shuffle to decide on music. for added points, when i saw ours in the fall and they played my favourite song–which is on this album, it’s the only time i’ve been standing next to someone who was singing along and felt like my experience was better because i could hear the person singing along.
    14. portishead – dummy. admittedly, the first time i heard portishead, i turned on the radio in the middle of some girl whining “nobody loves me” and i quickly switched channels. but soon after i was having tea and talking deep stuff with a friend and this album was on. and i could barely pay attention to the conversation. too many songs to past hurts and present hopes for me to just listen once.
    15. nick drake – five leaves left. this was the first nick drake i heard, and it sort of wound its way into me. i can’t easily say which my favourite nick drake album is. but this was sort of a timeless melancholy. and we all know i’m a fan of that sort of thing. and yet, there was a sweetness. i think i loved that. so often, people miss that there can be a sweetness in all the downs.
    16. the sugarcubes – life’s too good. before everyone knew bjork, some of us got an earful of the sugarcubes (her band prior to going solo, just in case you missed it). it’s a much rougher, rawer version of her. she yowls and yodels and shrieks….i was just so intrigued by her technique, or lack thereof. i felt like she was improvising in the studio, like they’d never played these songs before.
    17. patti smith – horses. i feel like this is one i shouldn’t even need to explain…
    18. the velvet underground – the velvet underground and nico. i had this on cassette and had to replace it often. it isn’t just considered an essential and standard album that all us non-normal kids ought to check out for nothing. this isn’t hype. this is the root of a lot of where we went with underground music. also, it got back into heavy rotation when i was 16 and a boy that i was all unrequited for cruelly wrote me a love letter he didn’t mean (though i didn’t know it at the time) that included lyrics from the album.
    19. tricky – pre-millennium tension. this album made me feel dirty, in a really good way. it made me (and often still makes me) want to shag someone. and i don’t mean tenderness or making love. i mean steamy, sweaty, moan-filled, filthy sex. and then sometimes it makes me want to cry. none of the other albums that make me want to grab someone and get dirty make me want to cry….weird.
    20. siouxsie and the banshees – the scream. at this point, we didn’t have goth. this was punk. and this broad was one of the few female voices that stood out to me. and one of the only ones where i liked a whole album and not just individual songs. i was so used to music that i liked, that was strong, having male voices. or, like patti smith, feeling more like poetry to music….this kicked my bum.
    21. the stranglers – black and white. what can i say? i am a little punk rock girl at heart. this album was one that made me bop around as i listened. and, you know, not all the albums i listen to over and over need to make me cry.
    22. johnny cash – american. yeah, it was multiple cds. but it’s all one piece of work, so shove it. i always dug on johnny cash. the original man in black. the “country” singer who was punk in his attitudes. but this set of cds that took songs from others and gave them the johnny cash treatment…wow. i admit freely that i sobbed my way through “hurt” the first time i listened, for instance. it just proved his continued relevance and talent, that he could be himself and so clearly connect with these songs.
    23. sinéad lohan – no mermaid. stumbled across her the first time as i walked in to the first lillith faire. yeah, that’s right, i went to the first and second lillith faires. suck it. as i recall, i was in the midst of some hurt and her songs spoke to that. and this album was hypnotic when i got it. everything just felt like…wheels turning. like on a train where it seems slow and steady and lulls you into peace. the lyrics aren’t always easy, which leaves room for my current troubles. i like that.
    24. the sex pistols – never mind the bollocks here’s the sex pistols. yes, yes. it’s a cliché for a girl with punk roots. but if you were there…you remember how it just ripped through things. no, they weren’t the best or anything. but this was great when you were pissed and just wanted to kick things. or those moments you thought maybe all the world needed was to be shocked out of complacency. plus, if johnny rotten could be a singer, so could i….
    25. falco – 3. yeah, i know, you only know rock me amadeus and der kommissar. but this is one i really need to buy, instead of just having the greatest hits. he wasn’t just humorous. jeanny always stabbed my heart, for instance, even though i didn’t understand much of it. (i asked my mum to translate once, and that only made it ache more.)

  • those troubled teens…

    (i just wanted to start by noting that i am determined to post at least monthly. eventually, i’d like to post every other week…maybe more. but let’s not get too crazy with expectation just yet…)

    i’d say that music in my life didn’t really do anything new (you know, beyond soaking up what my dad and brother were playing) until i started sinking into my teen years. that i was a troubled teen in some ways won’t surprise you. to be fair, i was rather well-behaved for the most part and got good grades. but i didn’t look like the other kids, which caused issues. and that’s when those behavioural issues from childhood went from being a manic merry-go-round to being a rampant rollercoaster. but we aren’t here to talk about that. maybe in the future. right now, this blog is about music, right?

    i think i really started exploring music on my own when i was about 10 or 11. that’s when i got my first radio. it was actually a boombox, with a radio and a cassette player. i thought that was pretty bloody cool. i spent hours going up and down the dial, just listening to my options.

    what i quickly learned was that my options were not great. maybe it was because we lived just too far from cities to get the good stations. i recall through my teens the frustration that i could hear the ghost of live 105 in san francisco but could never really tune it in. that said, with my own supply of cassettes being quite small, i would just let the radio play on whichever station was least soft rock. which is how i learned a few too many top 40 songs for my own good. and why i loved when my brother bought new music. when he left on a church mission and left his music in my care, i quickly wore out and had to replace a few of his cassettes. i think i still have 3 squealing copies of a particular bowie album…

    fortunately, the teen years also brought dances and new friends. yes, i went to dances. because, as i will surely go on about in a post of its own, i love to dance. madly. so i went and mostly heard rubbish. but every now and again something else snuck in that was quite alright. and when i started going to clubs (hurrah for clubs that don’t care about id as long as you’re a pretty girl!), the “quite alright” to crap ratio improved. i sucked it all up. though, by this point, it was becoming quite clear i was not a top 40 girl, not once new wave songs stopped hitting top 40 regularly.

    and new friends…in my teens, the people around me were suddenly as interested in talking music as i was. as a bonus, having pen pals was all the rage with the underground kids. i had a handful of pen pals during those years and loved the little booklets we sent around in letters that were like mini personal ads for us to find even more pen pals. (as a side note, there are pen pals i’d love to find again–one of whom literally saved my life a time or two. and there’s one that i bumped into on facebook recently. crazy!)

    one fab thing about the pen pals and the local friends was that we were all a bit mad for mix tapes. i got so much good music that way. i still have all those tapes, too.

    it was in my teens that i really started to internalise the way that music and lifestyle roll together. i’m not a fan of letting your musical tastes dictate how you dress, act, or live. nor am i a fan of letting your taste in clothes narrow your musical tastes. i’m surprisingly eclectic and often listen to things people wouldn’t guess if they looked at me. but it is undeniable that music and the rest of my life started to become one coherent whole at this point. any memory i have of my teen years will include how i looked, what my emotional state was, and what song fit it or was playing.

    this was when i desperately started to want to make music my life. it turned from a childhood imagining into a craving. sadly, 11 was the age at which “the great fiasco” happened and smacked that dream into a sort of shameful and impossible fantasy status. so, what was the great fiasco?

    well, it turned out that my family was asked to be responsible for the programme at church one sunday. with little warning, i was pushed out in front of everyone, along with my 3 younger siblings, to sing a hymn. now, as you’ll recall, childhood deafness has really messed up my singing situation. and nothing had been done to remedy that. so there i was, entering that awkward and self-conscious age, and i was seriously failing to sing that hymn well. at the point, i vowed i would never sing in front of people again. no joke. which meant that all those years i was acting i never tried out for musicals (thus, i learned to do some lighting instead). and when i was in the touring children’s theatre group, i was mortified at the one bit where i had to ad lib a melody for a very short song. torture!

    when i was 14 or 15, i tried again to revive the dream. i gave some of the lyrics i had written to a friend, and was promptly informed that i broke too many rules and this would never work. my complete lack of self-esteem and i took that hard and shut up. buried the dream. it only came out where nobody else could see…

    so instead i spent hours and hours just lying on my bed, listening to music. eyes closed and mind full of other places. if i left the house, my walkman came with me. if i heard something new i liked, i made every effort to play it cool but was secretly scribbling notes so that i could go find it once i had money. i hung out at the music shops at the mall, even when i had no money, just hoping to hear things. fortunately, i made friends with boys there, so it wasn’t conspicuous.

    and that all just rolled over into the rest of my life. as new ways to listen to music showed up, i had to find ways to acquire that technology. i still crave new music. and i savour those rare times i can just lie and listen to music. mix tapes are long gone, replaced by mix cds and emailed playlists. but i’m still that teen me when it comes to music. ravenous for it. listening to it as much as i can. desperately wanting it to be my life. dancing when i can. framing most my moments, even if just mentally, in the songs that fit them. rescuing myself with just the right song…

    i think this is likely a jumbled and chaotic entry…but that’s probably appropriate, given the way those teen years and early 20s felt. given the way that, starting in my teens, music became a force that was practically sentient, practically its own creature. like a spontaneous and moody lover. and we all know what that will do to your life…