soundtracking 2015 – august through december.

Happy New Year! I finished off 2015 sick (thus the delay in publishing) so here’s hoping to a better end to 2016 in 365 days!

This post is a continuation of Tuesday’s post summarizing the 2015 soundtrack from March through July. Here’s how my year concluded, in song form…

Time to Be Well – Jenny Simmons.

In August, I started on a journey towards better self-care. In September, I tried to spark myself a “Self-Care September” challenge. Self-care, actually, is hard shit. In part, I wrote that I wanted to “try to pay more attention to what’s around me—and how that affects what’s going inside me, and how I respond to it”, and I think I’ve done okay with that, even beyond September. It’s a challenge sometimes, but Imyself, am a work in progress—and I had to learn that.

i wasn’t looking,
i wasn’t ready
kicking and screaming 
tired of believing by myself
i never would have done it on my own

oh but You, You were never gonna let me go
You took me, You took me, You took me…

straight to the Healer,
You were my believer
when i couldn’t even see it for myself
and now i’m whole, i can feel it
now i can see it,
when i couldn’t even say it for myself
You said “it’s time to be well”.

The thing is, even though I’ve been ignoring Him so much, I do feel like God was pulling me in this direction: I may not feel like I’m ready, or be ready, but He knows if I am or if I need to learn. This song, when I first got Jenny’s EP, tugged at my heart right away with the truth packed inside this 4 minute and 8 second track. Now in December, I can put into words the realization I had in August: that I am a work in progress, and I always will be. But that does not mean I am on my own.

no man’s an island
we need each other

no use in hiding
no pain in lying to myself
‘cause i don’t have to do this on my own

oh, with You, i don’t have to walk this world alone […]

Not only do I not have to do this on my own because I have Jesus, I also have other people in my world to help me. And, as I’m currently exploring a bit in writing a guest post for Smart Girls With ADHD, in this season I learned better how to ask for help. It’s a task I struggle with more often than I care to admit, but it’s so important to BEING well and feeling whole—feeling supported.
These things—songs, stories—they cross our paths for a reason: for me, I think Jenny’s words in Time To Be Well were a way that I heard a message I needed to hear: that I had to choose this for myself: I had to choose to not be an island in the midst of people, I had to choose to invest in self-care, I had to choose to make an effort to be more well. (“More well” is probably a grammatical nightmare. You get it, though.)

Repeatedly—back in September 2005, and today, this is true of my journey with God:

You tore a hole in the roof, and You laid me down
just to make me well, just to make me well,
and He made me well, and He made me well.

Transformation is conscious, and it is continual. And that is okay. More than okay.

Therapy – Relient K.

There’s a lot of this song that tugs at me, and other parts that don’t really fit my world (“I never thought I’d be driving through the country just to drive“, for example, doesn’t, but “with only music and the clothes that I woke up in” does…) but, there’s more truth than not here.

One night at the cabin, at 2 AM, in the Time to Be Well phase (with my spotty 3G-sometimes-LTE-data in the wilderness…), struggling with aspects of my life, I found a very sliding-scale payment counselling clinic—it works well with my lack of insurance. After my assessment, I was offered therapy, which I passed on since I’d have to go through the queue again—also, I wasn’t ready. Yet, as I kept going, kept reading, everything says therapy is one of those things that should be part of my ADHD treatment. It wasn’t, so I took initiative to make that happen—at 2 AM, like all worthwhile things. Legit—it’s that reflecting-in-the-darkness thing:

[…] I never thought I’d need
all this time alone, it goes to show
i had so much, yet i had need for nothing…
[…] this is just therapy,
let’s call it what it is
with a death-grip on this life, always transitioning.

I was assigned a therapist and started with him at the end of October. I spend an hour every week or two learning how to navigate my world better. I didn’t really know what I wanted out of therapy, except to control my reactions better, mostly—he was cool and worked with my vague-ness, though, for me, I continued the internal debate of whether I even wanted to be there.

letting it all sink in,
it’s good to feel a sting now and again 

Guess what? Therapy is fucking hard sometimes, but that’s why I’ve learned to like it. It makes me think and think about shit differently and criticize myself a bit—I’m cool with that. My therapist doesn’t have much experience with ADHD, and I’m okay with that, because he does seem to totally get the fact that I’m working with a “death grip on this life, always transitioning,” probably at a pace quicker than most people.

forgetting it all, begin
fresh paper and a nice expensive pen
the past cannot subtract a thing from
what i might do for you, unless that’s what i let it do 

This part is huge in that other stuff: the past is only what I let it be. End of story.

[…] loneliness and solitude are two things not to get confused
‘cause i spend my solitude with You
gather all the questions of the things i just can’t get straight
and i answer them the way i guess You do
‘cause this my therapy…
‘cause You’re the only one that’s listening to me.

this is my therapy, let’s call it what it is
not what we were, with this death grip on
this life that’s in transition, this is my therapy

Yeah, therapy for me happens in a room now, not only in a notebook or on a keyboard. But what I’ve learned in that room repeatedly runs through my racing thoughts throughout the day: I reflect, extremely often, without really realizing it. And this is how I know that it’s, at least somewhat, worthwhile for me to go through that “sting now and again”…

I needed to have some solid thoughts on therapy before I threw them all out here. And maybe I’m starting to have those. I’m lucky that I found a clinic I can afford, and a therapist who’s working his ass off to get me and my world, and how to help me to make things work better—yeah, maybe there’s somebody with more experience in ADHD (who I could pay $150 an hour rather than a subsidized $10 an hour), but I’d rather work with someone who tries to get me instead of someone who tries to compare me to a textbook. I actually like coming in to see what he’s printed or pulled up from journals via/or the web, to see that not only am I learning from him, he’s learning because of me, too.

So, I’m learning to navigate this life that’s in transition. And I’ve bought some new black Moleskines and tracked down some Sharpie pens to help me on that journey into next year… With five-plus therapy sessions left and all.

Armistice – MUTEMATH.

It’s sometimes a challenge to find a song to end the year on, especially since I am ending this year hugely in transition: a few blogging gigs started, a couple to begin, being employed but very under employed, in the midst of the process that is therapy. Armistice is a song I identified with a certain line of after my ADHD diagnosis, and I feel the song is pretty fitting to my current world.

out of time, and out of inclinations that we’re in
how’s it feel to watch a man relenting?
let’s just say that i might be a sucker for progress
it’s all in how you cope in spite of knowing…

The actual lyric here may be “cope in spite of no end,” but the internet people and myself are conflicted. This is the lyric, as it is above, that was a key player in sorting through the whole assessment/ADHD/learning issues diagnosis thing,

you don’t have to say it, i know, it’s all my fault
you don’t have to worry, i know, it’s how we are
you don’t have to say it, i know, it’s all my fault
the give and take is taking its toll

it’s an honest work if i can stand up on it
maybe we’re not as far apart as it appears
swallowing the blame is second nature,
i’ve got to keep on handling my business my way

2015 marked a year that I got into more contract-type work as well—right now, I’m working on four blogs, not including my own, and two are yet to begin, and I’m really stoked about that. I began writing with Understood.org and for the first time am working with an editor (!!!), Andrew, who has been amaaaazing.
Fortunately, I’ve found great people to work with who allow me a huge amount of freedom, and understand I won’t compromise who I am and what I stand for to land a writing gig—not everybody does

[…] i will take the fall if it takes us somewhere
the give and take, the give and take
the give and take is taking its toll

you don’t have to say it, i know, it’s all my fault
you don’t have to worry, i won’t
it falls apart.
you don’t have to say it, i know
it’s all my fault
the give and take is taking its toll…
you don’t have to say it. 

I’ve felt that give-and-take first-hand, so I don’t need reminders of what may have not unfolded as I expected. What goals I have yet to achieve. 365 days never unfold as I’ll anticipate they will, 2015 included. And that’s okay, that’s how growth happens. I’m working on it.

My first soundtrack project, in 2013, ended with “avalanche, in the blink of a year”. While 2013 was more of an avalanche than most, it worked to prepare me to be here. Prepared me for the waiting, the working, the being a work in progress. 

And, here I am, in the first days of 2016—I’m working on things here, still. As I should be. ‘Cause I weren’t a work in progress, wasn’t constantly in transition, I probably wouldn’t be learning anything, and wouldn’t be where I am meant to be.

soundtracking 2015 – march through july.

Back in February, I summarized the 2015 soundtrack so far. In reality, I didn’t add another new song until May—probably because other than travel, March was much a void, and in April I found more work and felt more of a semblance of normalcy—even just saying you have proper work plays into that—and as I’ll get into later, the stories for me happen in transition. I headed to Toronto at the end of April for goalball nationals, my first competitive coaching gig, and then returned in May for Clearing the Air. Then, it was off to Denver

My Disease – A Skylit Drive.

awaken to the eyes of glazed humor
the haze in my somber eyes it burns so cold,
the things you wish you could know

What I thought on those return flights from Toronto and Denver was this: Chronic disease sucks—the community that can arise from it, though, makes it better. If I didn’t have asthma, didn’t candidly share that experience, I’d be a much different person today—for better or worse. And, there’s humour in it that only “sick people” get, and a world that only we understand.

as he enters into the world,
as a ghost
the terror inflicted scrapes your bones
let him hold you close.

[Look… where… over there… fear me]
oh i see what you mean, step too close
see what i see—construct desire
the fine line between disease and what i need

it’s exactly what it seems
the horror i love, the evil that beats inside me:
it’s called my disease.

All of the above: it’s a blessing and a curse. I may have friends and adventures gained from having messed up lungs and other sorts of shenanigans going on in my body, but I still face the reality that everybody with chronic disease does every day. I don’t know what that day will bring, I don’t know what the next hour will bring. Even when my health is stable, there’s still the lurking thought of when will the stability end? It’s not encompassing, but it’s still there. The community of people, the friends I’ve made, makes that tolerable—but even in the good, the amazing, there’s still a kind of evil inside my body that I have to make a commitment everyday to coexist with so that I can continue to own it. A choice so that “evil” does not crawl into my mind and make me more cynical than I already may be somedays, and more importantly, keeps me seeing my circumstance for what it is, rather than what it could be tomorrow. I somehow got a reputation for positivity, and damn it, I’ll keep trying. While everything I chronicle here is the truth, like I said in 2013, there are still “stories I will never tell”, or I will never tell in as much detail as maybe they deserve–there are some stories I’d rather forget—even though I can’t.

The possibility to do good, why the travel opportunities existed to an extent, counterbalances some of that. But it doesn’t make the other stuff suck any less. 
 

Progress – MUTEMATH.

Progress was added to the soundtrack in about July, but really encapsulated April through August well. Work stuff started happening: I got a job with Tennis Manitoba (thanks for the recommendation, Sam!), as well as a more formal respite care provider position

pulling your confidence through
some courage is well overdue
i believe solely in all your promise
why waste a second in doubt
you could be helping out
keeping your head in the clear

I finally felt unstuck for a bit—looking for work is kind of depressing until stuff falls into place. Which can take forever.

[…] every moment of time’s just an answer to find
what you’re here for, what you breathe for
what you wake for, what you bleed for.

Certain things stick with you, no matter what, so every time I hear this song, I think of the above lyric, specifically “[…] just an answer to find […] what you bleed for”, and gently (usually) flash back to the whole situation of most of 2013, and, while maybe I haven’t figured out that whole effing scene, at least I can see how far I’ve come.

everyone’s counting on you
say for yourself what to do
life is a card that you lay down sometimes
to search for the best way of all
is finding the best way to fall
keeping your head in the clear

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know what direction I’m going. I wrote before that I was okay with this—now, I feel like I’m finding the best way to float, not necessarily to fall. Falling means taking risk, at least, means doing something—floating just seems passive. And I’ll admit it: some of the progress has been passive.

every moment of time’s just an answer to find
what you’re here for, what you breathe for
what you wake for, what you bleed for.
what you hope for, what you live for,
what you’re here for, what you breathe for
what you live for,
what you’re here for, what you bleed for
what you live for…

Every minute I’m given is another minute to figure it out; another moment to make a choice to be mindful of even the most passive of things… 

soundtrack saturday – january / february.

2015, well, like the end of 2014… It’s been a weird year so far. Here we are, nearing the end of February, and unlike how I ambitiously pounced onto soundtracking 2013 and 2014… This year has been much different. It’s like I started the year in either seven different directions, or none at all, and I still have no idea where I’m even attempting to go. Which feels pretty uncharacteristic for me, and I am not sure I really like it.

Which I suppose is why, we start the list of contenders here… with courage and control

Courage and Control – Brandon Boyd.

 

I thought I’d be on track again by the beginning of January. After the first couple weeks into the year, I found myself growing kind of despondent. I’d left 2014 with two of my descriptors—student and childcare assistant—lingering within it. It was a weird feeling, and not having a proper go-to-work job (or have “jobs”, but little/no work), left little to distract from those feelings as I often would do, also not having school to bury myself into.

The boulevard is bustling
A vast and wrinkled muselin
To hold over my eyes and
I know I don’t belong.
There is a noise inside of me
That bustles asymmetrically
Oh, how have I to balance
Those sounds into a song?

It’s time to let your hair down
and give yourself permission
It takes courage and control…
but you start by letting go.

Letting go is hard. Especially when your life is so absorbed in certain things/places/people, and suddenly, they are gone—basically fully, completely gone—and you’re left with thoughts rivalling both the moving part of a massive freeway and a gridlock.

The city’s an analogy
For things building inside of me
This chaos and this discourse
Still we move along.
But chaos sings of symmetry
And all her words are poetry
And that’s the kind of city
Which I want to belong

I know there are better places, things, opportunities ahead. Accepting that the present is what it is, though, and there is little I can do about it. Letting go is very much active, not passive. In January, I finally let go of many things.

All i think,
I feel,
I see.
Oh, that this place
it’s not me.
I want to belong,
but be wild and free

Oh, he who asks
receives. 

And gained others.

 

Of Men and Angels – The Rocket Summer

Around the time I met with Richard in January, this song was rather constantly buzzing its way around my head.

Stop the press, everything a mess
You can look alive, but you are not at rest
and i-ideas, are flowing through your head
a million miles an hour while lying in your bed
A lucid life you never thought you’d lead
Are you working every day, are you working just to bleed?
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know.

Right here, this can be what ADHD feels like. I’ve continued to embrace and grow in my ADHD diagnosis so far this year, and it’s been interesting (another post for another day :].)
This next part, of course, echoes back to the leaving bit of 2014… Because as much as we try, our past is part of us (and, I wouldn’t want that any other way, either).

[…] And feeling you deserve what you heard
But it doesn’t go that way

The rest… Enjoy the ride:

Oh, the tongues of men and angels
I speak like, love, oh love, will I stab you in the back?
Working every day, I forgot to show
What’s most important
—Love.

Here I am, dear Lord,
Tasting hints of fame
I don’t want it anymore
If it’s not You that I gain

Wanna fall at Your feet
Don’t wanna fall from Your peace
I understand.

Have you ever been the man that just ran
When you knew that God was talking?
Have you ever heard His voice through the noise
But just let it get away?

Oh, the tongues of men and angels
I speak like, love, oh love, will I stab you in the back?
How come I go with mine instead of Yours
when Yours is always right,
I’m sorry
, just pour into me
—Love.

A heart at rest is harder now
Don’t let it go away
Hard earn pay, or hard earned pain
Right now they’re just the same
What’s the use, why work so hard
When it’s not what you crave?

When what you need is love.

I also was part of a discussion where I watched a friend lose a friend just by the fact that the friend didn’t believe in accepting love in all forms. And, when discussing love and acceptance, and writing questions on what church is… well, it’s a hard dose of reality to swallow that this becomes the outcome far too often.
 

Blankest Year – Nada Surf.

What do you do when you’ve liberated yourself from thoughts that were dragging you down?

Oh, fuck it.
I’m gonna have a party.

might be a pretty appropriate response. I reflected on the shit—‘cause as unfortunate as it is, it’s part of me—

I had the blankest year,
I saw life turn into a TV show
It was totally weird
The person knew, I didn’t really know.

Time don’t move,
We’re the only ones who do.
Bending reason
‘Cause it’s all we hold on to.

And… I choose how to respond to it.
And grow

[…] But you don’t own me, I’d like to return this spell
‘Cause it’s not my size—
And your lies are so much bigger than my lies
And your ties are made of things that shouldn’t make ties

Oh fuck it,
I’m gonna have a party.

 

Crashin’ – Jack’s Mannequin.

I wanna hear some music,
Now that they’re driving us all underground
Not the radio music
Or their satellites singing this
In this town…
I wanna hear some music,
And with the rock stars, all flicker and fade
Pop radio music,
I’m a ghost overground on, on parade

Crashin’ is a song that really comes down to finding/losing/gaining/discovering identity. 

And even if your voice comes back again
Maybe there’ll be no one listening
And even if I find the strength to stand
It doesn’t mean I won’t go missing

And my world will come crashin’…

And maybe that’s what 2015 is supposed to teach me. That I am not the things I do, I am the things that I am. And even if I am able to do all those things, it doesn’t mean the world will give a shit. I am the reason that I will stay alive (The Energy, AudioVent). The people around me aren’t who I am—I am.

Wanna hear some music
I have been waiting down here for so long
Trying to write this big music

With your breath in my face
But now… but now you’re gone

And my whole world comes down, down
And the words, and all the water on this broken town
The freeway’s just like veins without a heart.
[…]

And even if my voice comes back again
Maybe there’ll be no one listening
And even if I find the strength to stand
It doesn’t mean I won’t go on
And even if your voice comes back again
Maybe there’ll be no one listening
And even if you find the strength to stand
It doesn’t mean you won’t go missing

And the world will come crashin’
And the words will come crashin’
And music comes crashin’
Down on me…
And the words will come crashin’
Down on me. So down on me.

Down on you. 

I’ll get down on myself. I’ll get down on the people around me. But eventually I’ll find my words, my voice, my meaning, my place… again.

 

As it’s only February… I struggle to anticipate how the rest of this year will take shape. And I’m excited about that, that for once, this blank slate can be a gift… because for once, I have a blank slate and can choose to expect nothing. All of these songs might not be in the final soundtrack of 2015… but they’re part of the now. Of course, telling myself that I can expect nothing and actually doing so are two different things… because society, this world, expects different of me, too.

2014 soundtrack: from there to here.

Through a series of songs, 2013 could briefly be described as “from the resolution to the avalanche”. It’s both accurate and backwards to how the year actually played out—here’s to chaos. Last year, I began the journey of compiling a “life soundtrack”—a project sparked by my friend Jay that aims to capture core moments over the course of a year through the resonance of music. 2013 captured many moments I’d just as soon forget: they are as much a part of me as any other, but I cannot listen to several songs on that soundtrack without intensely flashing back to places I was in that were not what I had hoped.
And yet, I think that is the aim of this kind of project, really. To not lose those moments that help shape where a journey began and remind you of where it progressed to—positive or negative, this is my life. And try as I might I can’t—and shouldn’t—forget those stories.

2014, however, rose up out of “the resolution to the avalanche”—New Horizons is the title of the first track on 2014’s list, and, the title is strangely reminiscent of a phoenix emerging out of the flames. I wrote in December that the themes of the final set of songs in last year’s soundtrack shifted more into a theme of recovery—if this is true, then 2014 became a theme of revival, knit in with recovery to an extent, but also a completely separate entity.

 
(The real track 11 is Without It by Mutemath, unavailable on Spotify) 

New Horizons – Flyleaf. January 2014.

so you’re tired, but you’re alive
so open up your eyes,
and you can get your sleep when you are dead
kill the clock inside your head

bring your normalcy to the edge and watch it drown
in new horizons.

“So you’re tired but you’re alive” was much a reflection to the shell of a life I spent much of 2013 living in; “you can get your sleep when you are dead” was the huge, forceful attempt to transition out of that. It was the attempt to remember that I did not have to continue living in my past, that it was done, and if it wasn’t, I had the right people with me. Despite this, I spent a lot of time reminding myself this year that I am okay. That every weird thing that happened to my body was probably just that—a weird thing. That started as soon as that clock ticked over to January 1st. It becomes hard to separate the reflection of attempting to separate myself from the intensity of what I lived through in 2013 from what unfolded in 2013 itself.
The killing the clock thing was actually all too real to me—there was another song by Andrew McMahon (I Need You [feat. Tommy Lee]) that had the line “and this ticking clock isn’t for me”, and around this same time, I had to really grapple with discovering that yes, I’d just gone through a bunch of shit that could have killed me, except it didn’t. And because of that, it was evident that the self-percieved metaphorical time bomb over my head did not kill me, and nor did it have to in the revival.

you said i’d only have to wait until i died
new horizon
there is no such thing as time,
inside this moment, no sun rising
wait until i fly…

when the times keep going wrong and we go right…

Shit happened, I lived, and I don’t believe in coincidence. That means something.

 

Circa ’46 – The Rocket Summer. January 2014.

This one actually has to be started a bit reversed. Monday, January 27th, I used this line from Circa ’46 as my mirror mantra—I had recently begun round three of anatomy, and in the process of trying to regain control of my life, this was especially resonant:

life will write the words, you choose your own melody 

On January 28th [after a discussion about hockey the day prior, I might add], my grandpa passed away—subtle signs preceded, perhaps, but, nothing that would have foreshadowed the quickness of the actual event to many of us. I was in the gym with my friend Sam when I got a call from my mom to come to her office, where she told me.

i started moving so i could sleep at night
i figured exhaustion would shut my eyes. 

The first line from the track quoted above, though, was really the one I clung to through this—once again, I don’t believe in coincidence, and that line enough was a very quick reminder of the less-tangible things I learned from my grandpa—and, of course, that I would love little more than to be a likeness to him when I’m old :). This song was not one that summated the entire experience [see next track] but one that I kept coming back to as one that more truly reflected my reflections on the experience—the good of being lucky enough to have him in my life for twenty-two-and-a-half years, and spending a lot of time with him, learning how he chose to create his own story in the midst of his circumstances for nearly seventy-nine years.

i said, life will write the words, you choose your own melody
yes, life has given me hurt, but i choose my own melody

and sometimes it’s that sad, sad song i’m singing all the day long
i’m just trying to find the right notes…


Light – The Rocket Summer. January / February 2014.

all i needed was a light in the darkest place
i’ve ever been in all my life as i try to find my way
in the changing seasons of my life, and my eyes don’t see
the things i love have run their course
are they done? are they just beginning? 

I remember putting this song on while driving to my grandparents’ house from the hospital. And on the way home with my dad that night. And on the way to the funeral home a week or so later.

i’m old enough to know time doesn’t move slow

I am, and have been for the last several years, at somewhat of a standstill with both any semblance of a relationship or real understanding of where I am at with God. Yet, I very intensely felt the resonance of this song and the surrender involved in it, and attempting to act on that surrender to make sense of . . . everything.

and i’m young enough to know
that i can’t ever be old not to trust You

higher and higher, i wanna go there with You
some say Your fire, Your fire is through
and i don’t wanna think that way… 
 

[Note the potential for duality there of simply un-capitalizing some God-representing Ys and simply recognizing that a person who is “gone” is really not gone so long as we remember what we’ve learned.]

I still feel like I am at much of a standstill in that regard above, and it’s also one that I am not sure I want to rectify, or when. I still don’t understand religion, I know I want a relationship and I do not want religion, I know I believe in both Jesus and God, and the connection but possibly not the sameness. I remember opening my arms several times and wanting to feel different while embracing these words, and yet, that block in me is still there, and I think it’s self made. [And no, I don’t believe in Satan or religion or biblical infallibility, and nor do I think I’m wrong in what I believe or how I choose to worship, and nor do I think God doesn’t think I’m not trying hard enough, so this is a reflective tangent but I don’t want to read any of that in the comments…].

i am Yours, do what You wish.
i am Yours, i am Yours, and i know this
whatever happens next, is in Your hands 

Yet, I still believe this as strongly as anything:

everyday there is a choice
and through the joy, through the pain
i will rejoice
.

And in the struggle, I chose this as much as I could without rejecting the reality of what was going on around me.

 

Guts – All Time Low. February 2014.

If a single song had to summate 2014, I think this would be it.

shooting for the stars
desperately reaching for something in the dark
pictures of memories buried in my heart
lie awake and dream of the endless possibilities
catch my breath and go for it
take apart everything that’s holding me down
make a point to pick a new direction,
to make a new connection.

Anatomy tried repeatedly to suck the life out of me. It felt like all of these things: unattainable; scary; determination; adaptation. My new connection, of course, was that with the associate dean of kinesiology who worked relentlessly with me to figure out a way to make this thing work. This also took the term self advocacy for me to a whole new level. I am, to an extent, used to advocating in terms of my health, but when it came down to having to work with explaining my learning issues to people, this was a big challenge.

is this what it feels like finding out
that i’ve got the guts to say anything?
feels like breaking out
when i can give up my reputation
finally i can see, honestly
i’ve got the guts to say anything.

bold enough to fall
flat on my face when i walk as they crawl

slowing down is just a waste of time to let go
tapping my fingers
to the rhythm of a metronome
counting opportunities.

take apart a gravity that’s holding me down
make a point to find a resolution
to be my own solution.

Through the whole process, though, I was freaking out that I was still not going to make it out: knowing that could have been the outcome even with all of the people helping me was beyond scary—because I needed my work to pay off not only for me, but because other people were giving so much to help me be successful. And on both sides there’s a kind of responsibility there.

if i’m gonna go down just let me go down
let me go down alone… 

Fear – Creed. March/April 2014

I think this song picks up, really, where Guts left off: working with and changing our own variables, and creating our own outcomes—regardless of what obstacles are in your path—for me, much of the time from January through April was focused on just making it through those last four months of my degree… to graduate. This was also a really intense period of self-acceptance surrounding my learning disability and ADHD diagnosis and reframing success and getting there—

the cradle of civilization sparks my fascination
truth ignites a generation to change what’s been programmed inside the mind […]

stay on top if they let you
‘cause the change is permanent.

The change this time was really that of mindset surrounding circumstance, not of circumstance or of mindset themselves: it was the combination of the two really gelling in the right environment, with the right people around—people who genuinely wanted to help me how they could to make it through the term—from anatomy, to the flexibility of my Health in Antiquity prof on a few occasions. All I really wanted was to get out of there, but get out of there as strong as I could. It was, however, knowing—or learning—that I was the one in control, and I can ask for help when I need it (“‘Cause I can see, honestly, that I’ve got the guts to say anything.”)

don’t you turn a blind eye: change what’s been programmed inside
staying silent is a crime

[…] change stops in your mind
leave the past behind, forget everything you know
make a change, let go

And that asking for help and redesigning my world to fit my circumstances… is totally okay.

Revival. Late April/May/June 2014.

Let’s get out of here
Walking outside, everything is feeling right […]Flashing by your brand new eyes it’s the first time
in so long, that you see, that you see you in the mirror. 

Six months after the completion of 2013, I finally regained some semblance of balance that I’d lost pretty much completely in the preceding year.  The day after my final exam of university (since I’d learned I’d passed anatomy), I got on a plane to San Francisco: a rectification for having had to cancel my trip to California in 2014 in exchange for hospitals, surgical procedures, and blood transfusions. And yet, I was still searching for clarity—trying to process what that year really taught me, since I cannot find reason for why it happened.

It’s been a bombs and guns and fire kind of season,
Oh, I need a reason for all of my bleeding tonight.
I’m gonna break it out, I’m gonna make a scene if I’m right
The electric light, we are tonight. 

We’re gonna make it.
I won’t forget this place 
No, I won’t forget you.
Let the revival rattle me
and open my eyes, and open my eyes
it’s so good.

Revival was much the theme of 2014—I will fully admit that I was stuck in processing 2013 until August 2014 (bleeding out and having my entire blood volume replaced by donors in the span of six months might do that to a person—I also found out in July that I have another fibroid and unless it starts trying to kill me again, we’re not change that). This was a piece of that process, knowing that I’d made it through the real shit—and I could make it through the rest—even if it was a process in itself; even if the revival rattles me and is an emotional process, it is still a revival.

 

After the Fire – Andrew McMahon. July/August 2014.

For the second half of the year, I have awakened to this song every single day: it is both triumphant and cognizant of struggle and chaos—and appreciative of the good things that can sometimes only be realized out of a clouded lens.

why dream? we’re breaking out of this machine
we’ll bathe the walls in gasoline and watch the fires go
we’ll burn this house, then raise the fence that keeps us in
the cabinets and the medicine, beds like boxcars in a row.

and when the wave comes sweeping,
the cold blood sleeping in your veins,
after the fire
the sun comes crashing through
a cloud so black and full of rain
after the fire 
i swear one day you would forget them locking us away
after the fire

Forgetting is a big part of it: not that I can forget the year that I left behind in numeric form, but more that I can for days at a time simply not think about it, not flash back to doctors offices and emergency rooms and IVs intensely. It took months to finally realize that no longer was I fighting my own body (well, or at least realize I was back into the capacity of not fighting my body AND the medical system to prevent death on a regular basis… my asthma didn’t get cured or anything).

locked in, the days will end as they begin […]

This line, and the first verse lines about fences and medicine, actually speaks to the daily theme of chronic disease—that it may affect many aspects, but not all, yet it is still present every morning and night… but unlike spending the previous year having too many waiting-game experiences edging closer to death than life, my daily reality is a coexistence—as in, I no longer feel threatened by my own body on a daily basis. Yet, the overarching theme of After the Fire, of course, is perspective.

we were dancing with the ashes falling
we were singing by the open flame
let it burn: tomorrow is another day.

I am blessed: Today, I get to try again tomorrow.


Burn Out Bright – Switchfoot. August/September 2014.

Driving through Minneapolis and the East Bay/central areas of California, I have clear memories of Burn Out Bright playing on my iPod while in Minneapolis, and going through my head driving with my friend Steve in Santa Cruz. Interestingly, once again, that the chronic disease journey above, the asthma and the blood transfusions, are the reason that I returned to the Bay Area twice in 2014—the second time, being for Medicine X at Stanford University—reminding me about the huge value that sharing our stories, sharing my own stories, has; reminding me of the people that I would not have ever encountered had I not been placed into this crazy story that’s unfolded in my 23 years that is my life.

All the while reminding me… that I am basically designed to be discontented—because I think once I’m content, I’ll stop growing.

does it have to start with a broken heart
broken dreams and bleeding parts?
we were young, the road was clear
young ambition, it disappears
i swore it would never come to this,
the average, the obvious
how i’m still discontented down here
i’m still discontented.

if we’ve only got one try,
if we’ve only got one life,
if time was never on our side
before i die, i wanna burn out bright.

a spark ignites, time and space
limping through this human race
you bite and claw your way back home,
but you’re running the wrong way.

the future is a question mark,
of kerosene, electric sparks,
well there’s still fire in you yet,
yeah there’s still fire in you.

[…] i can’t clean up the mess i’ve made […]

before i die, i wanna burn out bright

And yes, maybe the discontent leads me to do some minor risk-taking [nothing really too new in that department this year, though I still get in vehicles with people from the internet and share hotel rooms with fellow conference attendees I’ve never met :)], but I don’t know a better type of discontent than the kind that leads to connection.

Of course, as always looking back, I find some foreshadowing in this song (and also references to the past—“before I die, I wanna burn out bright” is a pretty good reference to leaving 2013 behind).

 

 Bruised, Jack’s Mannequin. Late August/September 2014

Of all the songs on my phone, this is the one that I have listened to on every single flight in the past two years.

I’ve got my things, I’m good to go,
You met me at the terminal,
Just one more plane ride and it’s done
[…]Sometimes perfection can be, it can be perfect hell,
Perfect…

This speaks so well to the end of adventure. Of going back home after spending 12 days living out of a hiking backpack, of 11 nights in hotel rooms and a night on an airplane. Perfection, well, what is it, really? Maybe for me it’s coming back down to discontent—returning home is bittersweet. There were good things on the horizon when I hit ground back at home after 12 days on the road, and of course, that desire for some sort of stability. Yet, the buzz of Minneapolis, then the chill of hanging out with Steve in California for a few days, winding down each night by myself in a hotel room, and then the constant stimulation that followed with Medicine-X at Stanford was the type of challenging discontent I’ve discovered I thrive on—challenging me to think bigger and explore wider. Among the most thought provoking aspects of the California part of this trip was just meeting so many people with their own battle scars and bruises, who are striving to create better things in their own worlds, and the lives of others.

I swear, I didn’t mean for it to feel like this, like every inch of me is bruised
Don’t fly fast, oh pilot can you help me, can you make this last?
This plane is all I’ve got, so keep it steady now,
‘Cause every inch you see is bruised.

I returned from MedX exhausted in the best way possible—in the span of 24 hours at the end of the trip, I went from the Wellness Room at MedX in deep reflection, to Google and Facebook, to find some sweet potato fries at the hotel, to catching a ride with Joe and Marie to SFO, nearly leaving my phone in SFO, getting three seats to myself and extra snacks from SFO to MSP, laying on the airport floor for two hours with a free Delta blanket and using the aforementioned hiking backpack as a pillow, and then finally falling asleep on my hour flight home. And, damn, I love that chaos.

I lace my Chucks, I walk the aisle
I take my pills,
the babies cry
All I hear is what’s playing through the inflight radio
Now every word of every song I ever heard
That made me wanna stay
Is what’s playing through the inflight radio

And I, 
And I am finally waking up.

 

Without It, Mutemath. October 2014.

A subject I haven’t written at all about is that I left my job—as of October 1st, 2014, I’ve been basically unemployed. It was an unfortunate circumstance, and leaving work itself was not the worst part: I also managed to lose multiple friends in the process. I completely understand the aspect of not knowing what to say, and I did no better trying to communicate through the circumstances. Three months later, I’ve basically shaken it off and am finally seeing new things on the horizon after three job interviews leading to no action, but the initial transition has been rather rough, even though the process of actually leaving went way more smoothly and amicably than it could have—because more than anything, I was from day one blessed by a team at work.

Here we are
Isn’t life bizarre?
It likes to take from us
and throw it out…
We’ll carry on
What’s done is done

Yeah, we’ll do without it somehow.

The world is gone
Don’t think about it […]They say the road is long,
Don’t think about it,
‘Cause life is short,
We’ll do without it.

We can move on from this
Don’t worry: the best we’ve known is yet to come
We can move on from here
Don’t worry: the worst won’t get the best of us.

I did nothing but my best, but I took responsibility for the circumstances that occurred—part of that responsibility was resigning. We all moved on: I just moved on in a different direction than I’d intended at that point in time.

This section of the song, though, once again reminds me of 2013:

Some memories are crippling:
Don’t let the disease bring us down.
There’s nothing else to know
Just let it go—
Yeah, we’ll do without it somehow. 

I contemplated resigning from my old job when I was sick last September (because yes, being sick definitely correlates with feeling guilty even though that is ridiculous). And now, I am healthy, graduated… and unemployed. Yeah, Fall is an accurate term for how that season went down. I’m rallying, but, there’s something about transitions all happening at once—the still-occuring recovery from the high of MedicineX, no longer being a student, and then, going from having multiple jobs as a student to having one very casual one doing respite a few hours a month.

Crazy. But obviously… a journey. 

(Note that while I listened to Hold Me Down by Incubus on the way to resign from my position on staff, and on the walk home, there was too much animosity within it to use it as a truly reflective piece—“The road is long, the trees are orange and brown, I’m not afraid to leave this goddamn town, I’ve had enough and God I won’t look back, I’ll walk awhile along the railroad track […] I want more than you can offer, I am off to anywhere but here, I keep walking so nobody can hold me down. […] I’ve had enough, it’s too much to live down […] but this place, you see, is trying to hold me down.” Much of it, I think, was trying to rationalize anything, in a way that wasn’t at all rational…)

 

Bridges, Farewell Fighter. October/November 2014

I’ve been continually looking for jobs since graduating (something my former boss, supervisors and coworkers were all aware off and encouraging me towards), so while I let up a little in early October to give myself some recovery time (no matter how good making the best of a tough scene is… it’s still not a good time to make decisions), I got right back on the ball within a few days.

Because no matter what they are, the experiences behind me are bridges to a better path—“there’s no map for this thing” (—Andrew McMahon), but all maps must have been made on trial and error at some point. Because I am still relentlessly optimistic, despite everything. Yet I cannot make sense of anything as of yet.

These red and blue lens glasses won’t assist me any more
Cause all of my third-dimension friends have all ascended to the fourth
And i have been hard at work, believe me,
Searching high and low for clarity
But oh my God, my eyes are so sore
:
I don’t wanna use ‘em anymore.

So is it worth the weight
I’m bearing that’s about to make my back break?
I’m ready to burn this bridge for a better way
And oh, hallelujah, let me go.
I guess I’m only human after all. 

As my friend Dia said once… “I can’t look back every day or I’ll never move forward.” So, I am once again choosing to move forward—and accept my humanity.

I used to have a flag to defend,
But someone just told me that conflict has come to an end
But there’s a new addition, a brand new mission
I’m just too self-absorbed to circumvent
“Well maybe you should just be more like them,”
Well, I guess I just wasn’t cut out to fit in.

[…]

Some may think the worst is worth the best of memories
And some fine day, the chance is high they won’t remember me.
But I’ll get mine:
My heart, my head, my hands will all be fine.
When will I know to draw the line? 
Guess I need a bit more time,
So I can lock it up safe inside my mind.

So if it’s worth the wait,
I’ll feel a little better when the storm breaks
There’s so much left to say.

Oh, hallelujah, let me go:
I guess we’re only human after all. 

There’s so much left to say: I can settle to be discontent—but I can’t just settle. And if I’m not cut out to fit in, I can deal with that—because that means I’m made to create my space not just fill one. The uncertainty will at some point lift, I’ve most importantly learned to forgive myself, and my heart, my head, my hands will all be fine . . . because I can accept my inability to completely control my circumstance—and I can accept I’m human.

 

i believe, Christina Perri. December 2014.

Thanks to To Write Love On Her Arms, I finally listened to/came across this song a few weeks ago (since I struggled to get over the “Hold on, I am still alive.” shirt, but struggled in a good way). And then I listened to it on repeat (because, “holy shit, are you in my head?” kind of happened for parts of it).

I don’t think much commentary is needed here. Just that sometimes it is important to become lower case.

i believe if i knew where i was going, i’d lose my way.
i believe that the words that he told you are not your grave.
i know that we are not the weight of all our memories
i believe in the things that i am afraid to say.

hold on, hold on.

i believe in the lost possibilities you can’t see
and i believe that the dark reminds us where light can be
[…]

‘cause i have been where you are before
and i have felt the pain of losing who you are
and i have died so many times
but i am still alive.

i believe that tomorrow is stronger than yesterday
and i believe that your head is the only thing in your way
i wish that you could see your scars turn into beauty
i believe that today it’s okay to be not okay.

hold on, hold on.

this is not the end of me
this is the beginning.
hold on, this is not the end of me
this is the beginning.
i am still alive.
this is the beginning. 

Believe. And move forward.
Again.

believe.
we are alive.

Full circle:

“So you’re tired, but you’re alive, so open up your eyes and you can get your sleep when you are dead, kill the clock inside your head.” —New Horizons, Flyleaf

“hold on, this is not the end of me, this is the beginning: i am still alive.” —i believe, Christina Perri

Own it—wherever we’re at, no matter the chaos… we are so fucking alive.

 

2013 soundtrack: part three.

The original post in this series can be found here—the recap of that discussion can be found here. The second set of tracks can be found here.

Previous tracks: The Resolution – Jack’s Mannequin, Even if it Kills Me – Motion City Soundtrack, Feeling Good – Muse (cover), Typical – MUTEMATH, Workin’ it Out – Hilary Duff, The Year of Discovery – Tess Dunn, Caves – Jack’s Mannequin, Twenty Two – Millencolin, Diane the Skyscraper – Jack’s Mannequin, Weightless – All Time Low, Watch the Sky – Something Corporate, I Swear This Place is Haunted – A Skylit Drive.

I cut the last post off in July—from the point of August on, even though the battle had yet to begin again in September and was nowhere near over, the vibe of the tracks shift to recovery. 


Rise – A Skylit Drive

I wrote in mid-July about feeling like a grenade. Rise was a response to that–

some days i feel like a loaded gun / i paint a target on everyone […]

some days i feel like i’m fucking done / i’m waging war against everyone / it’s killing me, like it’s killing you / what’s done is done, what will you do?

–but also to freedom from that feeling, even if briefly. From February through September, August was the only good month—the only month that I felt healthy, like I could do what I wanted. Like things were falling into place. I went through August with no ER visits, no blood transfusions, and only scheduled doctors’ visits. I started Concerta for ADHD, and I could feel my world changing for the better as a result.  I went to Vancouver—I left my surroundings, I felt more free than I had in months.

run / you think you’re running away: i think you’re running in place / i’ve never seen you this way.

do not pray for an easy life / search for the strength to walk the line / i see a hope that’s hard to find / so don’t run away.

this is the end.

Things were better, it could have been the end, things could have gone back to a better semblance of normalcy—I re-ignited the hope just to go into another battle.


Cars and the Pixies – The Rocket Summer

can i be honest? / i’m ready for this year to die. / can’t help but notice / every corner where something ain’t right / i’ll be honest, i’ve got the kind of mind right now / to not be modest / i’m sick of walking on eggshells / and i believe that life should be epic.

the cars and the pixies / and the cure ain’t gonna fix me.

September was when I finally realized that I needed the chaos that had been 2013 to this point to end—“ready for this year to die”. I knew that, slowly this time, I was on another decline health-wise and there was nothing I could do except wait—the hormone meds weren’t working and I was being told surgery to remove the fibroid was 2-3 months out—at the rate I was going, there was little to say I’d still be alive in 2-3 months. It was like being in a medical-system crapshoot.

the coin you call it / if heads we’re going back to the heartland / if tails it’s falling, you know, i think i could care less where it lands / i’m exhausted, and overwrought / i’m a message in a bottle, tossing, turning here out in the sea / i’ve been swimming so long, come on / i’m ready for you now to read me.

After nearly dying in September, after surgery… this was what became true:

this is the year we start living (the cure ain’t gonna fix me…) / who says it has to be a new year to start a new year?


Word Forward – Foo Fighters

goodbye, jimmy / farewell youth / i must be on my way, i’ve had enough of you […]

years that i’ve wasted, these i-owe-yous.

they’re just fucking words. / this is life or death. / it’s time to clear the air / you’d better save your breath. / say have you heard, the poison in my heart / the voices in my head? / years that i’ve wasted, these i-owe-yous.

i meant every word, for word, for word, for word.

but it’s only words. / i meant every word / they’re just fucking words.

This is life or death” is among the only way I can represent what September was. There really is no single song that can do that moment justice, because that same moment where I was lifted off of the ER bathroom floor and wheeled into resuscitation was the same moment that the good started happening—and with the recovery, the return to life, came the real battle. (There were many times where David Grey’s A Moment Changes Everything felt appropriate, but really, it was the collection of moments that lead to the resolution, not a single one).

The ridiculous thing about medicine is a lot of it happens based on words—it’s based on your ability to articulate a situation, and usually it’s based on the fact that they care only about your symptoms, not your feelings. I left an appointment where I dropped an f-bomb in my primary doctor’s office vowing never to return (which I did, three months later after a terrible experience with a potential new doctor), because it didn’t seem to matter that I’d almost fucking died that I wanted a new gynaecologist—or that I needed a new one. It didn’t matter how I felt–I’d wasted nearly a year of my life, I’d almost fucking died and I wasn’t into the excuses. A week later I did a less-fabulous job reaming out my now-former gynaecologist, because he was so sincerely apologetic. I gave him a bit of a diatribe, I meant every word, and I left. Which is huge when the past five months of my life had basically revolved around this man especially.  The thing is, I’ll never know if my story will change any of his patients’ outcomes—because they’re just fucking words, on my end and his.

 

New Skin – Incubus

Recovery, the healing process, is largely metaphorical based on a physical concept. It’s not physical, it’s all in the perception of the physical aspects. There’s little I can really articulate about the process, other than finding myself again—which is where this song comes in.

at first i see an open wound / infected and disastrous / it breathes chaotic catastrophe / it cries to be renewed: please renew me! / its tears are the colour of anger / they try to form a scab / to the touch, it’s stiff and resilient: underneath a new skin breathes.

it’s all been seen / with the exception for the right parts / but when will we be new skin?

as outwardly cliche as it may seem / yes, something under the surface says “c’est la vie” / it is a circle, there is a plan / dead skin will atrophy itself to start again / look closely at the open wound / see past what covers the surface / underneath chaotic catastrophe / creation takes the stage

dead skin will atrophy itself to start again

it’s all been seen / with the exception for what could be / when will we be new skin?

[…] fallacious cognitions / spewed from televisions / do mould our decisions / so stop and take a look / and you’ll see what i see now.

 

Not Right – The Rocket Summer

In more than one situation, but the medical situation that was 2013 being the prime example, it has occurred to me that the true impact of something doesn’t hit me for two months. That was early December (or, the very end of November if we want to be technical). It’s the point where I can’t distract myself any longer from what happened and I have to figure out a way to deal with it that works. I’m still figuring it out. I’m “blistered but I’m better”, I don’t know what it is, but off and on? I’m just not right

But I’ll get there.

I found this song literally last week on iTunes and those moments where oh my God, this is my life? I had one.

sundown’s coming / don’t let it stop you from nothing / cause ahead i see that there’s a light on, a right on / break down in pieces / tell me all your secrets / you won’t get lost, i promise / there’s a light on, right on / there’s a light on, right on.

lately, been meaning / to let you in on some feelings / here i am, do you see them? / shine that light on, right on / there’s a light on, right on / a safe place to admit . . .

that i am not right / i don’t know what it is, i’m just not right / i need someone to untangle a couple wires inside / if we’re honest, i am not quite right

shine your light onto my weaknesses.

something cut me / there’s bitterness in my bloodstream / been holding on to dead things / shine that light on, right on […]

so heaven help me / meet me as fast as you can / of the corner / of the state and the maze in my head.


Avalanche – Sons of the Sea

There are many things that bring experiences full circle—the fact that in writing an e-mail to Jay, who encouraged me to engage in the soundtrack project, I was shaken by Avalanche (oh, literality…), was that full circle experience. This happened a couple months ago, however, it never really left my head. In a way that needs little explanation, I’m closing off December of this hell of a year with Avalanche.

I saw none of it coming—most of it is just debris that I want to leave behind, but memories that will never leave. An “avalanche in the blink of a year”.

avalanche / in the blink of a year / tidal wave of debris / unrelenting and free / on my heels and i fear / time, like an arrow in my chest / sent across salty air / as a child i didn’t care / now i bleed like the rest.

but there’s art / in that wave of debris / most eyes will see a mess / but good things coalesce / when yeasayers can see

so i’ll stand / face that liquefied hill / what i fear now the most / is the spectre, the ghost / of my past it hurts still

avalanche / an emergency /  hence the chance to emerge / i’m a seed on the verge / of becoming a tree

 

And that . . . was 2013.

From the resolution to the avalanche . . .

It’s good to be alive.