"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Friday, August 22, 2014

love life; live to love

sometimes we need the reminder:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

can't get enough

i finally finished grading papers for the Conflict Management course i taught earlier this month. started packing up boxes of my stuff today. AND, found the time to record some new uke songs! check them out:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Oh Girl

i wish i didn't suck at bar chords! my piano and violin-trained fingers just don't want to get flat against the finger board like that.


thoughts on Richard Linklater's Boyhood:

  1. the conspicuous role of music in creating atmosphere - like a diegetic time capsule (i'm sure i wasn't the only one in the theater last night who felt transported back to a certain time... for me it was college)
  2. the hair! Patricia Arquette's hair in particular (gorgeous!). the film was such a tremendous feat, can you imagine planning a 12-year filming project, getting all the footage you need, planning ahead enough knowing there will be no going back as time marches ever onward? obviously the actors were playing characters within a story prepared for the film, but the mind-blowing thing about it for me is that over 12 years, there must have been some blurring of those lines. for instance, with the hair, i imagine Linklater had to allow the actors to change their appearance as needed, for personal and professional purposes, so i assume all hair choices were made totally independent of the film. so, that was "Ethan Hawke"'s goatee. and can you imagine playing a "character" for 12 years? i assume, at some point, you have to become your character/ your character is you. take, for instance, Samantha's character: aspects of her personality remained constant throughout the film, to the point that you have to believe you are seeing Lorelei Linklater on screen, and not just Samantha. (interesting tidbits learned from Manlius Art Cinema's owner Nat: US contract law prevented Linklater from having the actors contractually obligated to complete the 12-year project (US law stipulates a 7 year cap on contracts), so all filming was completed on nothing more than a handshake, basically. also, yes, that was Richard Linklater's daughter we saw growing up on screen... apparently she wanted her character killed off so she could walk away from it)
  3. everyone enjoys laughing at Texas
  4. Post-Bush and pre-Obama politics -- still funny to this day. three of my favorite jokes from the film: when Sam and Mason go canvassing for their dad and walk up to a house with a confederate flag hanging on the garage ("do i look like a guy who's gonna vote for Barack HUSSEIN Obama?! i'm entitled to shoot you for trespassing!"). they then go across the street to another house where an obnoxiously perky young mom explains she made her children t-shirts that say "my mama's for Obama." finally, Ethan Hawke using the story of Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol as a teen pregnancy allegory for abstinence and contraception.
  5. life has no plot. appropriately, Boyhood was as rambling and aimless and surprisingly delightful as life
  6. biggest surprise: never expected to like Ethan Hawke so much
  7. there is something to be said about the role of video games and the constant companionship of digital entertainment, but i will leave it to others to articulate.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Doctor My Eyes

i got to cross a big one off my bucket list last night, when i saw Jackson Browne perform an acoustic set at the historic Landmark Theatre in downtown Syracuse (technically, it was also an item off my Syracuse-bucket-list).
Jackson Browne's music has meant a lot to me in my early-adulthood. Late For The Sky was the soundtrack to many days and nights spent alone at a window in my apartment in Syracuse, thinking about life, listening to his words and the letting the music wash over me. trying to anchor myself in something happy while feeling lost and drifting in a sea of sorrow i didn't recognize or understand.

it occurred to me at some point that i should try to see Jackson Browne before he stopped touring and doing shows. Ben and i looked into buying tickets to shows he did all over the country, in California, in small little townships and wine country resorts across the country, but then the other day i was walking downtown after dancing in the park to the library to drop off some books and saw in big letters on the marquee: JACKSON BROWNE. i was in total shock, i couldn't believe it. years of trying to get to Jackson Browne and here he was, days before i'm set to leave Syracuse, and he shows up practically at my doorstep. it seemed too good to be true.
so last night i put on a billowy skirt, did my hair, and power walked all the way to the theatre, grinning to myself at the joy of this moment: happily single, treating myself to a date with one of my favorite musicians. and i smiled so hard and so constantly throughout the night that i think i created some new wrinkles.

to watch Jackson Browne perform acoustic renditions of some of my favorite songs from Late For The Sky will truly remain in my heart one of the most emotional moments i've ever experienced surrounded by so many strangers. (the other one: Bruce Springsteen performing "My City of Ruins," both times i saw him).

at the end of the concert, the older man sitting next to me turned to me and said, "thank you for being a fan."

so, in honor of that great experience, my own rendition of one of my favorites:

ETA: look at this cutie! i sat up in the balcony and missed seeing this gorgeous face.

another rendition (because i have been singing it all day every day):

Sunday, August 10, 2014

To Love Somebody

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

I'm Not The Only One

another Sam Smith cover! he's perfectly in my vocal range, which is why i love him.

universal feelings

"breaking up with someone is literally the most common thing... but when it happens to you it feels so specific..."

i listen to podcasts every morning when i wake up. i've got a podcast app on my phone that keeps playlists, which is extremely wonderful when i'm moving about the house trying to get ready or get chores done (though sometimes it gets me in trouble because i want to keep listening rather than hustling!)

this morning as i was lazily going about my morning routine, my podcast playlist cycled through two very pertinent episodes back to back. i was kinda stunned by how much they spoke to my current situation, as if tailor made to my experience. it's been that kind of morning, where i feel the universe is looking out for me and i'm syncing up right where it wants me to be.

the first was TLDR's deeply upsetting interview with one of the execs in charge of OkCupid, following their announcement that they've essentially been secretly experimenting on users and their potential matches. definitely did not help my favorable view of OkC.

that was then immediately followed by this superbly delightful episode of This American Life. between the Phil Collins interview and the Jens Lekman outro, i'm over the moon with how perfect it is.

the best part was that i listened to them right after recording this announcement about my recent break-up, my introspective journey from the last few weeks, and my very exciting job decision.

all this to say, you are never alone. your experience is being shared by others all over the world, over and over again.

Monday, August 04, 2014

!!! !!! !!!

it's mostly a happy announcement! even though it starts out sad.

i've got some feelings to share. listen here ---> Play Recording

(ETA: i wish i were more eloquent and that i'd thought out more of what i wanted to say, but i initially recorded this as a note to myself for later, to turn into a longer piece of writing, but after listening to it, and hearing for myself the tones of voice and how they changed when talking about different things, it felt right to leave it as is, as rough as it is, because of the emotions present in my voice. i want to preserve the sound of happiness as it was captured there, in case i ever need a reminder.

also, our anniversary date would have been August 8, but i couldn't wait to get this out there!)

Friday, August 01, 2014

love according to Stephen Colbert

i love this so much.

Ask a Grown Man: Stephen Colbert from Rookie on Vimeo.

i especially love the part (~7:38) when Stephen starts trying to define love in terms of what it looks like:

"they want to hear your stories. they care how you feel. they want to make your day better. they want to listen to your problems. they reach out to you.

everybody wants to be loved, to have people pay attention to them. but if someone goes to the effort to call you, reach out to you, write you, to come up to you at a party, come over to talk to you, smile when they see you, ask you your problems, those are good signs they like you... if your happiness is more important than their happiness... one nice definition of love, i think, is that another person's happiness is more important than your own. and an early sign of that is that they want to make your day better."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Open Arms

Not In That Way

practice helps everything:

Monday, July 28, 2014

smitten kitten

this post-breakup life has been one surprise after another. thankfully, things are tending towards the upswing.

let me walk you through the stages of post-breakup grief as i experienced them:

  1. denial (refusing to accept what had happened, pretending that twisted relationship was worth saving)
  2. bargaining (trying to accept blame for more than i was responsible for, trying to change to make him happy, trying to do more than it was in my power to do and do it for the both of us since he was unwilling to make any effort)
  3. denial II (saving mementos, pretending like things would magically return to a better place again)
  4. depression (so much crying and wallowing)
  5. anger (vile hatred for someone you thought you knew, who promised they would never hurt you, who could treat you like detritus and discard you once he was done with you and you weren't satisfying his purposes any more)
  6. anger II (seeing your ex-partner wantonly posting pictures of him going camping with a woman, who you suspect was the one he said "he [is] interested in" when he broke up with you... this hurts because: 1. you always wanted to go camping together and you used to talk about it, 2. he brings up the camping trip he planned and you never went on as a pivotal moment in your relationship, 3. it's been how many fucking DAYS since we broke up?! 4. let's be honest, it hurts the most because it looks like he is just fine and moving on so much quicker than you expected him to and the fact he's posting it on facebook has a smidgen of spitefulness to it.)
  7. acceptance (you remove him from your friends list in facebook and put him in "acquaintances", block his news feed posts, and remove facebook entirely from your phone. you stop feeling angry and feel a bit sorry that he is so quickly moving on to another woman... you think for a moment about them getting married and having babies and feel the rage rise in your stomach but let it pass because you realize "better her than me" and that you are lucky you got away from that dick bag. you remove him from your phone, you delete his emails, you take all the pictures out of their frames and save them in a box to burn at a later date.)
  8. survival mode (clawing my way out of a funk like my life depended on it (it kinda does). applying to jobs like crazy, going to the gym and getting into fighting shape, learning uke and singing until my heart feels happy again, reaching out to friends to buoy me, branching out and meeting new people, consuming literature, news, movies and music, cooking by myself, cleaning furiously, gradually putting all the pieces of my life back together more whole and complete than before. reclaiming my life for myself.)
  9. confidence boosting (i didn't realize until after our relationship ended how unhealthy and destructive it was, for my self-esteem, my sense of purpose in life, my sense of self, and my relationships with other people. now that i have, as my dad would say, "cut that cancer out of my life," all the energy i once spent making sure Ben was happy has turned towards making sure i am actually happy. i'm doing things i love again and not worried about being judged for it. i'm finding space to express myself and be happy and meet people without worrying about how to explain it later to someone else. i'm living my life as me rather than as being defined as "Ben's partner." i'm talking to people again and having conversations i care about, rather than trying to exist in a context and parameters dictated down to me by Ben's circumstances. i am meeting so many good people who were previously hidden from me because i was 1. too afraid/not allowed to talk to them; 2. prevented from meeting them because Ben's and my life never allowed for me to grow and reach out to communities i cared about. post-Ben life has seen a wealth of wonderful people, rekindled friendships that had been starved of attention, new friendships that were allowed to flourish once Ben was no longer a hindrance, and most surprisingly of all, a flurry of new romantic encounters that i never would have had the opportunity to explore while tethered to an extremely jealous and possessive but at the same time noncommittal jerk. now that my confidence is back up and i'm happy and free to do what i want, i have seen the difference it makes in my ability to meet people. hopefully it helps me meet people who i want to be around and maybe eventually, help me find someone to love who deserves everything i have to give and will give equally in return.)
  10. adventuring (once i rebuild my confidence, which will likely take a long, long time, i hope to challenge myself to go outside my comfort zone and push myself to pursue the life i want, to live without regrets, to live and love furiously)
i'm at the 9th/10th stage right now, i think. the last few weeks i've been making efforts to forget about ben and whatever residual guilt/responsibility i feel. it had been so hard for me to even talk to a guy when we were dating, out of guilt and fear of ben being upset, that dating post-Ben has been an exceptional mental/emotional challenge. even meeting up with a guy just to talk and share food felt scandalous. 

this past weekend i made huge strides in that i flew out to Madison, WI on a whim to meet a guy i started talking to through the internet! OkCupid of all places! craziness! he and i started talking because we both used to be teachers and he works at the company i am currently considering a job with. we somehow really hit it off and he offered to buy my plane ticket out to Madison. if that wasn't crazy enough, i agreed to do it, which is totally unlike me. we spent the weekend together, getting to know each other. he's totally unlike anyone i've ever dated (younger, athletic, my height (ok, a little taller), clean (like, seriously, his place was spotless!), a former business major, has a cute Midwestern accent, totally charismatic and sweet (he can sing! Justin Timberlake songs! swoon!), and really, really into me). we shared desserts the night i got in after he picked me up from the airport, walked around Madison holding hands (i want to pause here for a moment just to illustrate the crazy levels of Stockholm Syndrome i had going on: even holding hands, months after Ben and i have broken up, felt WRONG. just touching another person's hand still felt like i was doing something shameful. that is the ridiculous degree to which i had programmed it into my head that i was Ben's possession, that i belonged to him, that being with other people was an act of betrayal. thankfully, i got over it, but come on, how insane is that!??), went to the farmer's market to buy food to make later that night, looked at apartments for my move, went to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens and saw the butterflies, made dinner together and watched a movie, had brunch, went mini-golfing (where i beat him in the first half of the course, even hitting a hole-in-one on the obligatory windmill hole), bought pots and soil and repotted his plants for his office, went out for a "fancy" date on State Street and went back to his place to fall asleep and wake up early, he held my hand while he drove me to the airport before going to work. 

it was a crazy weekend on so many levels, but the weirdest thing for me to understand is how... good it felt. to be with someone new, exciting, and excited (by me!) and start over. granted, there were a lot of difficult moments when i felt my scars exposed, when i felt guilty or afraid or uncomfortable or sad. there were times when i asked myself what i was doing, when i questioned my motives and commitment, when i questioned his. but to be able to enter into a new situation with another person and be aware of the good that could be, the bad that was, and embrace the opportunity to experience something new was... liberating. i felt like it finally allowed me to shake off the shackles of that last relationship and enter into life with a mind open to being better to myself.

i don't know what the likelihood of that encounter becoming something more is. we may never see each other again. but we shared a weekend together and we were good and we were kind. that is the weird/magical thing i need to constantly have reaffirmed to me: that total strangers can be extremely good to each other. that's what makes love seem so beautiful to me: it turns two total strangers into best friends and partners for life. i don't know what will happen with my friend in Madison, but the fact that we met randomly through the internet and then managed to spend a whole weekend together and were happy doing so endears me so much to the idea of keeping your heart open to anyone you may meet. i no longer fear being alone or never finding another companion who will make me happy. those people abound if you are open to finding them and if your heart is open and courageous enough to be happy. i held onto Ben longer than i should have because i feared i would never be able to find someone else. i never should have let him put me in cages. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014


"you just have to cut out all the bad stuff from your life. [the bad people in your life are] like a cancer. cut it out so the rest of you can thrive."
-my dad, giving me post-breakup advice. 
he is so smart, and so so right.

he advised me to get rid of everything that would remind me of Ben and never look back. focus on looking ahead and getting back to happy. he's right. Ben was a soul-sucking cancer. working my way towards healing and beating this thing. i will be a survivor.

Moon River

this is one of my and my mom's favorite songs. happy to add it to my growing repertoire.

p.s. i've noticed that YouTube has flagged some of my videos as "matching third party content" and thus as possible copyright infringement... which is kinduva compliment... i must be doing ok if they can at least id the song i'm playing, right?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

begin again

i watched the film Begin Again today with a good friend and found it to be a perfect movie for right now. the protagonist, played by Keira Knightley, was recently dumped by her boyfriend (for another woman) and she finds herself meeting great people and making music and finding her way out of an unhealthy relationship and towards happiness again. obviously, this resonated with me. plus, i could see myself in Keira's character, right down to the wardrobe (though i wish i sang and looked half as beautiful as she does, sheesh!)

a lot of that film seemed like an echo of my life right now... Ben recently dumped me and though he blames me for all of it, he has started dating another woman pretty much immediately after we ended our 7 year relationship and 3-year engagement... so, it doesn't feel like it was my fault entirely. as my friends observed, it looked like he was grasping for excuses so he wouldn't look like a bad guy. jerk face.

he has also grown a really big ridiculous-looking beard, an ongoing joke in the movie. (what is it with guys i date always growing big gnarly beards after splitting up with me? trying to prove they are "men" instead of cowardly boys? good luck with that.)

and though i'm not the talented singer-songwriter Keira portrays in the film, i've taken up singing and playing instruments as a very committed form of therapy. it has honestly helped me through a lot of the heartbreak in a way i can't really understand... i've always enjoyed singing but have been too shy or afraid to do it very publicly. and singing with Ben always felt weird and aggravating, probably because we could never find the same notes, were always off-tune with each other, and disagreed on rhythm and tone, etc. now that i'm a solo act in more ways than one, it's been liberating and empowering to find my voice, to make music on my own, and to put it all out there on the internet for anyone to find. at first i was scared to be laughed at or criticized, but now i'm ok even with sharing it. take me as i am.

the last few weeks i've slowly worked my confidence back up and feel better than i've felt in years... i realize now that the relationship i was in was unhealthy and terrible for my confidence, my sense of self, my place in the world. i have always been someone driven by feeling happy and excited about life and sharing that outwardly and making others feel that excitement. Ben was never like that, and rather than reflect back positive energy he would get irritated and upset and do what he could to break me down. in yoga class this past Christmas, i remember someone read this quote by Marianne Williamson, which resonated with me so much because i felt it was being spoken about my life at the time:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? ... Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. ... And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 
i remember wanting to share that quote with Ben to help me articulate how i felt, but didn't out of fear of being ridiculed or having it become an argument. when i look back over the scraps from my life that i've preserved, i'm struck by how happy and big everything was, and i remember how much hope and joy i exuded in every aspect of my life. it has been a long time since i've felt that and i think i realize now this is why i have been so out of sorts, unhappy, unknowingly depressed. i've felt crushed under the constrictions placed on me by a relationship that wouldn't allow my happiness to exist without a sense of it being wrong to feel so happy.

i have a quote from one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs framed by the door in my apartment, "It Ain't No Sin To Be Glad You're Alive." and i firmly believe that. i actually believe that being happy and grateful for life, living in a way that is exuberant and glimmering and glorious can be revolutionary in its own way. there is so much wrong with the world, yes, but there is also so much to be grateful for, and sharing some joy should not be seen as a selfish or childish thing but an aspiration. i spent so much of my life the last 7 years shrinking from what i was capable of because i felt squashed by Ben's judgment or inability to keep up. well, no more.

in the past week or more, i have met new people, all of whom inspire me to be a better, happier person. to laugh more, to smile at the sheer joy of being, to talk with strangers and learn their stories, to make connections, to move beyond fear and embrace courageous joy. so much of the world seems to have opened up to me again, just as i thought i had lost so much... it's amazing that in a time when i thought i couldn't possibly lose any more (my job, my love, my health for a brief time), i regained the best thing of all: my sense of self. being alone has been a great gift because i've learned to remake myself into the person i want to be, which apparently is someone who will never be alone because i will have friends wherever i go when i am happy.

so yes, let us begin again (and forget about the asshole bearded boyfriends).

Wild Horses

a new one. i'm pretty much at a rate of one new song every other day. a great feeling!

Friday, July 18, 2014

remembering who you are

one reason i'm glad i kept a blog, and have maintained a healthy web presence (despite how embarrassing it can be when some ppl discover it) is that it helps to remind me of who i am when i forget.

recent events have left me feeling like i've lost sight of who i am and what i'm capable of. finding pieces of myself preserved on the internet have been like a map i made for myself to find a way back to where i belong.

i once was a kid without any fear, with a lot of dreams, a good deal of spunk, and a genuinely good heart who, without pretense or illusions of grandeur, put it all out there on the web for anyone to see. before the anxiety and self-consciousness set in, before the neuroses of adulthood and the need to manicure my web presence became a professional concern, there was stuff like this:

Demon Host

not sure what this song is about... the lyrics are a bit creepy, but i was watching Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley last night (highly recommended!) and this song caught my ear. (it's also what inspired me to try out Skinny Love by Bon Iver).

hope y'all enjoy it. and hope my raspy voice disappears soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Skinny Love

another take, this time in a lower octave:

a woman in crisis

i have not made many stupid, spontaneous decisions in my life.

but in the last two days i have made two extremely uncharacteristic, insanely stupid, totally crazy decisions. old me is looking at this current me, shaking her head and judging her harshly for putting herself at risk, for taking so many chances, for being so foolhardy with things like her body, her heart, her dignity, her sense of self-worth, her sense of hope. i feel so alarmed by this person i am becoming.

all in an effort to try to forget this consuming sadness that creeps over me more and more each day.

so much energy spent to lose myself in small moments where i don't remember how sad and lost i feel. but then i emerge from those moments feeling even shittier and more aware of everything, a sinking hole i will never emerge from as each day brings new depths to this despair.


i know that some of this is due, in large part, to the fact that facebook has made it perpetually impossible to avoid seeing Ben's stupid face on my computer every day, particularly since he has taken to cavorting with women and friends of ours/mine/his so that i'm attacked from multiple angles, multiple times a day and reminded: he is moving on, he is seeing other people, you are a forgotten memory to him, he is happy and you are not.

these daily attacks on my fragile sense of recovery have had the following effects: profuse sweating, a nauseous feeling that rises from the bottom of my stomach and wraps around my heart and causes my heart to pound so hard i think it might kill me, a swimming dizziness in my head that i can only explain as all the tears that won't come out drowning my brain... i feel like i'm being torn down the middle, my skin ripped open and my insides turned to dust and tossed to the wind... like i'm being erased, that everything i cared so much about for the last 7 years mattered to no one but me, that i lived a silly dream and as i get closer to waking up from it more and more details are falling away, unable to be recovered.

Monday, July 14, 2014

get with the program!

of all the frustrating things to be upset about post-breakup, here's one i never expected:

my phone must have an algorithm for frequently used words, because every time i type "been" it auto-inserts "Ben" instead. a source of endless daily sadness. if i can stop myself from thinking about him, my phone will unforgivingly, unfailingly remind me when i least need it.

foiled by technology, again!

Friday, July 11, 2014

the world forgetting by the world forgot

i tried to avoid watching eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, but couldn't help myself. Watching little clips of it on YouTube, bawling my eyes out, which hurts extra much because I was in a bike accident today, flipped over my handle bars because I only got a set of front brakes, and hit my eye socket real hard on the handle bar on my way down.
Watching clips made me realize the process of forgetting, viciously forcing my brain to try to forget how much this hurts, trying to forget how angry and sad I feel in the wake of things. I realized the process has begun, we are forgotten to each other. Memories pushed away. It made me so sad, the thought of all these stories we piled up over the years, now disappeared to where? Two strangers who fell in love, now strangers again. Worse than strangers, because we are actively purposefully trying to remove ourselves from each other. It feels like killing someone, removing the evidence of their existence, the act of forgetting them like stabbing them in the heart until their heart stops and you can make them disappear.
I'm lying in bed crying, my throat sore from a cold, my head throbbing from being bonked. I can't help thinking for a moment I'm back in L.A., in our old apartment, Ben lying next to me in the dark, comforting me thru all the pain. Remembering how it felt to have all that pain and aching washed away from you by someone you loved, who loved you. How we once were that for each other.
I made the mistake of calling him to try to tell him this, how I'm scared of losing all of it, of letting go of the happy memories, because so much of life is tied up with it. Days spent on the beach, by the sea, in the sun, so many memories of being happy and young and feeling unafraid. I'm afraid to forget completely, even though I feel it happening. I want to forget, but am scared to lose it all.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

singing in the rain

it's been storming a lot the last few days. trees torn out by the roots all over town.

i've unfortunately been caught outside during every single one of these storms. i can't seem to learn my lesson, with relationships or with the weather. i'm stubborn, i do what i want.

i've been getting back into music again, listening to a lot of really great records, bought some new stuff at a used vinyl shop before the torrential downpour, and playing some music myself. trying to pass the time productively while i figure out next steps. the best part of this is that it reminds me i love creating things and really enjoy making music. i haven't done much of that lately... i guess one thing i refused to admit to myself was that i really hated ben's singing... boy couldn't sing a note in tune to save his life. would literally make me cringe. he was great at guitar, but had no rhythm. (sorry, cruel words, but the guy's a jerk. and his singing really is awful). so my singing is a little shaky from lack of practice, but it's nice to find a voice again and the space to let it out. i've been playing so much ukulele/guitar that my left fingertips have completely calloused over and turned numb. never has not feeling felt so good. if only i could say the same for my heart.

hope you enjoy listening as much as i enjoyed learning them.

a Rihanna cover on the ukulele:

and if you love Sam Cooke as much as i do, watch an improved rendition below!

Stay With Me

another entry in my growing ukulele/guitar repertoire: a cover of Sam Smith's "Stay With Me"

if you're not familiar with Sam Smith, he's great. his cover of Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" is so heartwrenchingly good that i feel compelled to post it here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

emotional archaeology

i've been slowly curating a cheering up, emotionally cathartic, half dance/half trance playlist to help me thru the stormy confusion of feelings i'm in. and today i decided i'd share it, since good music is always in need of sharing. and i can't think of anything that would make me happier right now than having others listening to this with me and having little secret/not-so-secret angry happy dance parties across the globe together.

the title of this ever-growing playlist is "cruel summer." (because what is crueller than surviving the winter and making it to summer and then having your best friend/partner leave you on a whim... summer should be for life and exploring and adventure and he ripped a hole in my sail. spending the days depressed and crying inside when the sun is so bright and hopeful outside... that is cruel existence in its real-est).

the playlist was first named "this moment," but i realized that "this" moment was always changing and i shouldn't confine myself to living in "this" moment forever. this sadness will fade, this anger will pass, i will grow out of it and the music will change to fit new moods, and the playlist, like emotional artifacts, will chart my progress. emotional archaeology. i will come back to this one day and laugh at how far i've come.

already i see the way this playlist builds a story of the last few months. sadness in the beginning, a begging feeling of preservation, some moments of denial that seeped into anger, easing now into acceptance and filling the gaps with a certain strength that comes from knowing everything will be alright, you're better without him.

"falling swiftly thru layers of memory, drowning in and out of love"

defying gravity

nothing makes me feel more empowered than doing what seems physically impossible. no better way to remind yourself of your inner strength than mastering an arm balance.

get into this from eagle pose to give yourself an extra boost of confidence.

Monday, July 07, 2014

life is too short to waste any more of it on you

i finally told my parents about what happened. they were amazingly supportive, clear-headed and wise. i don't know why i expected any differently.

the best advice they could have given me was this: life is too short to be unhappy and life is too precious to let bad people break you down and make you feel less worthy of happiness than you are. forget it like a bad dream and move on. you owe it to yourself to fight for what's yours, for the happiness you deserve.

god, i love them.

and they are so right. onward! upward! the past is behind me and i'm not looking back.

all summer long

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

security blanket:home :: ex-boyfriend's t-shirt:love

this series of portraits documents women wearing their ex-lovers' shirts and talking about the experience of love (and love lost). i feel like i'm looking into a mirror on my own experience. it helps to know i'm not alone and i'm not a weirdo for doing this too. so much comfort in the feel of that soft fabric against my cheek, even if there isn't a person behind it any more.

i sleep with my ex-partner's shirt beside my pillow. i nuzzle into it at night when i start to feel sad, when my awareness shakes me awake and reminds me again that i'm alone. for some reason just the smell of him helps me feel better, puts me in a place of calm and comfort, makes me think of being in california with nothing but his old shirt in bed with me. he started it; the first time he went away to Turkey, he hid it under my pillow for me to find later, and i slept in bed every night with it wrapped around me, the sleeves around my waist or draped over my shoulders, and somehow through all of that it never stopped smelling like ben, maybe it smelled even better over time because it smelled like us. even though the shirt i have isn't one he left for me, i keep it close by as a reminder: you weren't dreaming, he loved you once, he lived here with you and now he's gone. you were a we once. you loved each other. this is all that remains.

"It feels like a flag I can’t stop flying. It comforts me in the meantime between the spaces. It’s just a rag I turned into a promise that he would never leave. Some sort of common thread between us. Part of me wants to rip it off. So many what-ifs and could’ve-beens and should’ve-beens and never-weres. It’s just a shirt. It’s been there for me when people haven’t. It makes me feel childish and taken care of. It makes me look a little stronger than I am. As long as I hold onto the shirt she is never completely out of my life. I’d wear it every day if I could. As much as you build a house around it or put a ring on it it’s all still temporary and dissolving so all you can do is love it. Even if it’s painful we need to hold onto something. Proof that we did it. That we went through it. That we learned something. That our hearts were broken. That we were loved. That we weren’t loved enough. For someone I won’t be something that will be so easily shed."

i will not be erased

you do what you can to erase me from yr life
as if i never existed

you made a playlist for us once
i found it on spotify one night and cried tears of relief and joy
thinking we had one chance left
songs curated for our every moment
tender moments we shared
and delicate hopes for the future

when i asked you if it was meant for us you said yes
our initials side by side

today i find the playlist changed
the songs are the same
but the name is now

and i imagine you making love to yr new girlfriend
pretending like that list was for her
you forgetting all about me
these things have no value to you
but meant everything to me

here is that playlist now.
i will never forget.
you loved me once.
and i will not be forgotten.

point of contact

you call me for no reason today
    i was in a meeting
check my phone and see yr face

yr message says you're calling to see how i'm doing
   ask me to call you back

my heart sinks
    boils in my stomach
    my throat tightens
    my face scowls
    my body shakes + sweats

not because i'm excited to hear from you
you calling must mean you have something to say
and i don't want to find out what it is

you don't get to check in on me like you're doing me a favor
like you're such a noble dude
like you're doing a good thing
walking out and hurting me in the deepest possible way
and then call me in a few days as if that will make things better
you don't get to break into my life again whenever you like

you don't get to ask me how i'm doing
pretending like you care again
when yesterday you acted like i'd done the worst possible thing
by falling in love with you

you don't get to check up on me
when you're the reason i am this way
and you're the reason i'm here
and you're the reason i'll never the be same

you don't get to call whenever you like
and disrupt my world
just as i'm learning to live without you

you don't get to feel better by patronizing me
as if all i've needed is to hear from you

because you're not helping
and though i still love you
i kinda hope you rot

sea of love

i've sometimes wondered how i would handle something like a life-shattering, emotionally devastating break-up if i had to (obviously, i didn't think about it often enough, or i might've been better prepared. alas, some things you can just never anticipate).

in the past when i've grieved the loss of loved ones, i've shut myself down, unable to find the motivation to move forward in productive ways. i always beat myself up over things, whether it was the time i got fired from a job, or the time my first boyfriend cheated on me, i've always put myself at the center of that blame ("you weren't smart enough," "you didn't work hard enough to make things work," "you're not pretty or interesting, why would anyone ever want to be with you?") or found ways to blame others if i was feeling generous to myself that day ("the management at that organization was a mess, those people were jerks!", "the lady my dude was cheating with is ugly, why would he want to be with her?") neither one of these approaches is healthy. but we do strange things when we grieve.

when my uncle passed away, i blamed myself, somehow, for it happening. i beat myself up over not visiting him in San Francisco just months prior, thought maybe if i had, the entire course of time would have been changed and he would still be alive. when i got the call that he was in the hospital, i was teaching a class full of irate special ed students in South Central LA and i put the phone back in my pocket, in casual disbelief, and somehow didn't let things sink in enough to phase me (he died that night, when i was in grad classes. when i got the call, it suddenly sunk in so much that i felt myself sinking... tears leapt to my eyes, i couldn't breathe, i ran out of the classroom and got in my car, drove thru the night sky wailing and begging for everything to go back. i called cousins and cried while they told me they loved me. i just stuttered in my stupid grief. i couldn't tell them that more than anything else, i felt guilt, i felt i had caused this to happen... i had believed so much in my world continuing uninterrupted that the universe had to send me a dramatic sign to WAKE THE FUCK UP).

when my grandma passed away, i did the same thing. i thought about the call i had with her just a few days ago, how i was happy to talk to her but also eager to get off the phone so i could go back to whatever stupid selfish thing i was doing at the time (probably studying or writing a paper, or more likely pretending to do that while i wasted time on the internet). i called her every week and this week she was more talkative than usual, and took the time to tell me she loved me, how much i meant to her, and how proud she was of me. i took those words in, but didn't let them resonate the way they should. when she passed away i thought about that conversation, and still do quite frequently, as my grandmother knowing her time was coming and needing to say everything she needed to say to me. how selfish and self-absorbed i had been at the time to not appreciate and be there with her in that moment... it is still a guilt and a pain i hold tight to my heart to this day. i did so many little things to show her i loved her, but when it counted i wasn't there for her in the way i should have. if i could have that moment back, if i could have a handful of moments back, would everything be changed? could my love for her and for my uncle have saved them if i only let them feel it a little more? i had the belief that my love was magical enough to protect all those around me.

i carry so much guilt and sadness with me every single day. all the ways i've wronged my loved ones and all the times i've been the recipient of love and taken it for granted. when i stop too long to think about it i get sick and angry at myself, and in the strange way of grief, wish i could bargain my life, my youth, my health for the chance to bring any of those people back.

i spend a lot of energy thinking about this. in the last few weeks, as i've had to adjust to losing my job and losing the love of my life in the space of a month of each other, i've wondered every day if this is all somehow my fault. if i deserved this. if somehow the universe designed this as a punishment for something terrible i did.

every morning is a battle between two forces inside my head. one that wants to punish myself, to see myself fail, to never be happy again, to never rise out of bed, to shrivel and die and be forgotten and disappear. the other wants to fight, to prosper, to create and reach out and risk it all because there isn't a lot left to lose. i am never sure each morning which one it's gonna be. and throughout the day those competing forces still rage on inside me. there are moments when something reminds me how bad everything feels right now and i shrink into a ball, just break down inside myself and if i don't cry, i stare into the distance and see nothing.

but i am still here because of a few small things that mean everything. at my lowest, darkest point, when i could feel myself suffocating under sadness and grasping for a way out, i had a friend who was able to help me. i'll never forget this moment because he saved me. he gave me what i needed before i even realized i needed it. he told me it's ok to grieve, to be upset, to feel torn down. but never, ever, should i blame myself for any of it. people do cruel things to one another but we cannot be cruel to ourselves. even if i forget that, he reminded me that there are people who love me. and even though there are so many people who hurt us, who take us for granted, who make us feel small and invisible and insignificant, there are more who love us, for whom we are the world, who would be devastated if we disappeared.

in the last few weeks i'd beaten myself up so much i stopped eating, stopped sleeping, and stopped feeling anything besides sadness. i got good at smiling in public, but mostly so i wouldn't make people around me uncomfortable. my family has had the worst of it -- i haven't told them about my job or relationship problems because i don't want them to worry about me. for my burdens to be their burdens. but they can tell. my dad told me on the phone as he waited for his flight to London that he worries about me because i haven't sounded happy in a long time. we're having a family reunion in a week and i'm worried about bringing all this sadness with me. he told me he loved me, so emphatically, that i would have cried if i had any tears left in the tank.

my cousin said it best: "remember that there are people who love you. put one foot in front of the other until you get yourself out of this."

remembering in this helps me to lift my head and get out of bed every day. if not for myself right now, then for the people who love me, who believe i can do great things.

since things started falling apart, i've been slowly finding my feet again and managing to put them one step at a time towards the future: i started playing guitar and ukulele again (as evidenced by my videos), i've started reading and writing again (as seen on this blog + got a public library card!), i've found new communities and causes to dedicate my small efforts to (joined a community bike repair group that fixes bikes for low income youth, did a 50 mile bike ride in support of programs for homeless individuals in Syracuse, will be joining weekly rides with the same homeless advocacy group, trying to find opportunities to work with inner city youth on violence prevention, thinking about starting a cycling group for women and victims of assault and abuse). and even though it once felt impossible to love again, to open my heart to another person and risk being hurt again, it hasn't stopped me from loving my friends and family... if there is anyone in the world deserving of it, it's the people who have been there for me when i needed them most and asked nothing in return, who have seen my sadness and met it not with revulsion or annoyance (as my former partner did), but with patient, steady, everlasting love.

this is not a break-up song, but a thank you song. a song of thanks for showing me the sea of love i am immersed in.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

habits of the heart

i go about my day
       wandering aimlessly
             i realize how i carried you in my pocket all these years (a phone call away)
                 and now you're not

it feels the way it did in California
     sun shining, chill breeze
i'd wander around alone
       collecting thoughts and images
       gathering stories from the day
       to share with you later

a habit that hurts when i return to the apartment later
          and remember you're not there
          and it's no longer ok
          to call you with a moment's forgetting
                                  a moment's little happiness
                                  the day's small news

like, i took a bike ride today
       a small bird alighted next to me as i sat in the grass
       the lake was shining as if you were there next to me and
       i miss you


it's the longest day of the year
     a horrible day to be alone
          and missing someone

i'm starting this summer
        and the rest of this life
                 without you

there are more minutes than usual to while away
more minutes than usual to think about you
more time than i want to spend fumbling thru and waiting
more moments than a usual day to be reminded
                  i'm without you

i think of what we'd do in our other life
       pack up a picnic, sit and listen to the whispers of the lake
       ride bikes, wind like fingers thru our hair
       lay in the tall grass and feel the comfort of sun our face
fall asleep later and thank each other for a good day
wake up happy to see the sun rise again

when you're happy the extra time is a gift
         you want to stretch those moments out forever
         time is never enough
         (we used to feel this way)
when you're unhappy the longest day is a torture
        a sentence to be painfully waited out
        time is your punishment
        (this is how i feel now)

let this be a warning

"Don't let this fading summer pass you by...
you thought that you could outrun sorrow
Take your own advice
This thunder and lightning gets you rain" 

Friday, June 20, 2014

as if a dream

i imagine other worlds
            parallel existences
      somewhere out there
             there's a version of us
                   that gets to stay together
                   that finds a way to happiness
     somewhere out there
              i'm still holding your hand at night
               drifting thru sleep
                       like otters in the sea

maybe that can be my life one day
       and i'll wake up
            and this version can disappear
                       as if a dream

a poem for the last day of our shared life

feeling like i've been torn apart
  a train running thru my heart
  crushing everything on the tracks
  turning me into pulp

i want to write down every memory before
    i forget
before it's washed away
    before it becomes too gone
                                   too the past
                                      too lost
                                        too never again

these are the last times i will ever think
   about you

so much emptiness around me
   the room divided in half -- yours and mine
    but now you're gone
  half an empty table
     half an empty dresser
             half an empty bed
         a limp and empty pillow case where your head used to lay beside mine

your coats are gone
    your shoes too
     all the little stray hairs cleaned up
           and scattered somewhere else

i always thought when we left here we'd be leaving together
packing up our stuff for a new adventure
but you leave without me to start your life
   and i remain in this half empty apartment
      every corner a memory
         every moment a ghost
i never prepared myself to be abandoned like this
  i don't have bags packed for this trip

the left and leaving feeling
       the reality of loss
           you don't feel the finality until you see the physical emptiness
suddenly surrounding you

i watch as you pick thru things and
   stuff them in boxes
   what you choose to keep
     and what you leave behind

notes you wrote me, i find them crumpled
   and discarded in the recycling
  like small helpless birds with broken wings
    i pick them up and unfurl them in my palm

my heart sinks when i find those pieces of us thrown away
a picture of me from Occupy, left on the refrigerator --
    you don't want me coming with you
pictures of us in California --
    a fortune cookie message we somehow got twice
        "Your dearest wish will come true"
    you pinned them to the pictures above our desk
you left those behind too
in one of the pictures, we walk towards each other
    thru a maze of sea stones --
    forever frozen in time, never reaching each other before our moment ends
stuck in the amber of time
scraps of napkin with tape on the back
   a poem we wrote together
   where did this emerge from?
   you kept it safe all these years, only to leave it behind now like trash
a book of pictures -- The Story of Us --
  our happiest memories, a gift i made you
  that gets left behind too
the scarf i made you for Christmas one year,
the only thing i've ever knit, you took that
i imagine you wearing it around your face years from now, not even remembering me
     or maybe you discard it in a Goodwill pile when you wear out its fibers at last

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mystery Girl

heard this song on NPR the other day in a story on Roy Orbison and it's been stuck in my head since. here's my ukulele attempt at it:

i should leave it alone but you're not right

today brings: more acoustic distractions from the pain i can't stop feeling. one day i'll be able to write and speak with clarity the sorrow of love lost, will be able to give shape to my pain and then discard it like a husk. but until then, these songs are all i have to offer for utterance.

edited to add:
a few hours after the initial video was posted, i rode my bike to the lake and i cried as i stared out across the water. when i got home, my longtime partner and former fiance packed up his stuff and moved out. empty bookshelves and half an apartment vacated... literally holes all around me where a person i loved used to fill it. in the trash i found a note he'd written me last christmas: "Happy Christmas, Baby! Want to color and/or read together tonight? I love you so much, Your Baby Boy" -- so much lost in a year. and he took the activist coloring books he gave me as presents with him. he left other things... frames of us on the floor, a copy of a book i gave him when we first started dating, piles of laundry. such an empty hollow feeling. right now i don't know how i'll ever not be sad, this feeling seems like it was built to last.

so i cried and i cried and when i had no tears left i tried this song again and this is what came of it:

Monday, June 16, 2014

a song you'll never hear again

so many nights spent listening to The National, they've become an outside comfort. they always seemed to know the state of our relationship, both good and bad. but i guess that's every band, isn't it? so much written about love, loss and pain.

in the early evenings in Los Angeles, cooking dinner in our loft apartment, bright kitchen lights softly illuminating the bedroom office, we lived in one large room with many corners connected by a staircase. back then, the lyrics that spoke to our situation were:

Stay out super late tonight
Picking apples, making pies
Put a little something in our lemonade
And take it with us

Tiptoe through our shiny city
With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice
Bluebirds on our shoulders

Turn the light out, say goodnight
No thinking for a little while
Let's not try to figure out everything at once
It's hard to keep track of you falling through the sky

We're half awake in a fake empire

and now? i can't stop listening to this song. it's a chorus to the waves of pain and regret i feel throughout the day. it gives shape to the voids and emptiness and soft-voiced anger i have felt since this started sinking in. it's a reminder that things will be different and i'll never get certain things back, even songs are changed.

Don't make me read your mind
It takes me too much time
You're not that much like me
We have different enemies
You should know me better than that

I should leave it alone but you're not right
I should leave it alone but you're not right

Can't you write it on the wall?
There's no room to write it all
Can you turn the TV down?
There's too much crying in the sound
I should know you better than that

I should leave it alone but you're not right
I should live in salt for leaving you behind

Think about something so much
Start to slide out of touch
Tell yourself it's all you know
Learn to appreciate the void
You should know me better than that

I should live in salt for leaving you behind
I should live in salt for leaving you behind
I should live in salt for leaving you behind

Sunday, June 15, 2014

heartbreak hotel

things have been so shitty lately. if i can live through this i can live through anything.

i can literally feel my heart break into irreparable pieces every day. i think if i ever manage to put the pieces back together, it will be less capacious than before. sometimes i feel i may never find a way out of this sadness.

my survival tactic is to space out distractions for myself... yoga this day, dancing the next, dinner with friends the day after that, a phone call with a west coast friend after that... and in those gaps, i learn songs on the guitar and ukulele, like applying mortar to the gaps between bricks... hoping i can build up defenses around me.

i'm not a super singer. i do ok with strumming things but i'm no rock star. i'm just trying to cobble together an arsenal of kick ass break-up songs to sing when i feel my resolve disappearing.