Thoughts on Life and Art

Winter is Coming 

It’s hard for me to believe it’s already November. Just this past week, I turned 32. When I was a kid, 32 seemed so old. I remember thinking people in their 30’s had it all figured out. I now understand that no one knows what the fuck they’re doing at any age. You just get better at faking it. I mentioned to a friend recently that I still dream about kicking my bare feet in the muddy creek outside of my childhood home, but now I have to pencil in creek time according to my work and life schedule. We are all kids at heart, we just eventually become kids that have to pay bills. Yuck.  

Perhaps it’s the introspection that comes with this time of year, but lately I’ve been feeling disconnected from myself. While I’m working hard at two jobs and am only 9 credits away from graduating with an MPA, there are many days when all I can think about is creating. Creating art, creating music, creating community– these are the things I really feel compelled to do. Over the weekend, I was back in Cleveland to write a song with my friend Adam and perform original songs at Project DREW’s veterans tribute. I always feel most myself in those moments. When I first started playing guitar at eleven, it became my rock, so to speak. As a kid that moved around a lot and went through some big changes, I often felt displaced. Even now, I struggle to feel like I have a home. When I’m writing or making music, or connecting with the community through art, I feel at home. I plan to use my MPA in an organization that creates spaces where more of this connection is possible. It all comes together eventually, right?

Ok. So a few music announcements… 

I’m going to be releasing one song a month over the next few months while people are stuck inside and stuck in their feelings. The first song is called “Lolita” and was a collaborative effort with my buddies Matt DeRubertis (bassist who releases original material under SEER Music and plays with me often) and Spencer Martin (talented producer who produced my album From Birth, to Breath, to Bone). Here’s some single art for your liking:  

Lolita will be released digitally on Friday, December 2nd. On Sunday, December 4th, we’ll be showing a visual I made for it at Jenks Building in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. Stay tuned to my website or socials for details as December gets closer. 

In January and February, I will be releasing two stripped down tracks I recorded with my buddy Tuck. I’m really excited about how they turned out.  

Next spring, my buddy Adam Reifsnyder and I hope to have some tracks recorded and ready for release. If you haven’t heard our duet, “Pining,” check it out wherever you stream music these days. You’ll get a taste of how we sound together. 

That about sums it up. I’m looking forward to the slow pace of winter, the excuse to stay inside and read, and the moments I plan to spend with family and friends around the holidays. Stay warm.

 

11/09/22

Growing 

Autumn is my favorite season, like most people who grew up in the midwest. The waning summer memories, the urgency of incoming frost, the reminder that life keeps going even when everything else is slowly dying.  

 

 

I'm not sure where to start. I shushed my creative side for a little too long. It was a needed break, but it lasted longer than expected-- in part due to life circumstances and in part due to the pandemic. This past weekend, I played for a private birthday party, recorded two songs with my friend Tuck, and participated in Project DREW-- a personal favorite which involves sitting with a veteran, writing a song for them, and performing the song the following day. The weekend was exhausting, but also invigorating. I spend so much time these days working and studying that it's easy to forget my very essence. I love connecting with others through art. I love having even a sliver of impact in the healing process. Life is so damn hard. Sometimes, it’s only bearable in someone else’s presence.  

Recently at work, I had to take a personality test which categorized me as a strategic analyzer. It's true most of the time, I enjoy observing others and finding better ways to show up for them. At work, my brain is equal parts left and right. I love data because it's translatable, but I also recognize that I use patterns to understand people, for better or for worse. I'm an expert in calculating people's next moves in order to make sense of the world around me. At home, it's a struggle because I'm all feelings. When the feelings don't make sense, I find myself trying to sort through them like data points. This dysfunction makes for a lot of conflicting thoughts and feelings, and lately, I find the only place for them to go is in a song or a poem. The good news is that the more time I spend creating, the more I find myself listening to music and podcasts in a whole new way. I feel more aware of my inner dialogue and my body in a way I didn’t in my previous lives, past relationships, and more importantly, in my twenties. Being in your thirties is powerful. I am so excited to be growing, and there is something extremely freeing about that feeling in a world that convinces women to despise aging. 

I’m not sure how to end this. Stay in touch with me. Everyone reading this right now has impacted my life in some way, and I want you to know that I love you for it. I’ll be releasing new material soon. I hope it makes you feel something real.

 

Healing 

“In this universe, we are given two gifts: the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us.” - Mary Oliver 

 

 

Heartbreak is my least favorite emotion because it is the most complex. One moment, you are bent over crying in the middle of a forest after forcing yourself to get some fresh air; the next, you are singing at the top of your lungs to Beyonce in the car and reminding yourself that nothing is going to break you. But heartbreak does break you, at least for a while. 

My fiancé and I are separating. I wanted it all with him…partnership, adventure, family. The reality sinks in occasionally and I don’t want to get out of bed. There are no other details worth sharing except that I have always loved him, even when he didn’t love himself. I know he loved me, even when I didn't love myself. We tried to rebuild trust, respect, and optimism for the future. But sometimes even professionals can’t help you move forward, and the only thing you can do is accept that the healing must happen alone, regardless of how much you want to do it together.

To say I am devastated is an understatement. I moved to another state to be with him because you take wild risks when you're in love. I left much of my life behind so that we could continue building a new one together. It’s hard not to harbor some resentment when you feel that your individual sacrifices weren't fully appreciated, but I made those choices. I struggle with abandoning myself in relationships. I often prioritize my partner’s needs over my own and then resent my partner because I’m emotionally caretaking. In the end, doesn’t that say more about me? Instead of advocating for myself, I let things happen. I do this with most people in my life. I repress my own emotional needs so that I have the bandwidth for everyone else’s. I don’t like being a burden, and if I’m being honest, I don’t think I really trust anyone to stay. I grieve alone. I cry alone. I think dark thoughts alone. Writing, singing, and praying in nature are my outlets. These are the things I’m working on with my therapist, and it’s been helpful to understand how much of this behavior was learned early in life. There is some gender-related conditioning there, too, so this is simultaneously a nod to those of you who can relate and are also trying to unpack it. 

Today, I found a wolf spider in my bedroom trash can. Out of fear, I dumped it into the toilet, where I tried to flush it. But the spider kept swimming. I started to panic as I realized I was causing it to suffer, so I grabbed a glass and scooped it out of the spinning water. I poured it outside and I watched it run toward the trees. It's in moments like these when I remember how important it is to not make decisions in fear. You can hurt others when you’re afraid. Sometimes, it’s the fear of losing them that causes you to keep them in the wings. Sometimes, it’s the fear of losing yourself that causes you to be callous or impulsive. Sometimes, it’s the fear of being rejected that causes you to withhold intimacy. I’ve seen these all played out by others or myself at different points in life. I really don’t believe in duality. Most people are both good and bad. Maybe that’s why heartbreak hurts so much. You remember why you love that person, and at the same time, why you can’t stay. Timing is everything. 

While I'm lost right now, I know I need to keep working on myself. I am dedicated to being kind even when I’m in pain. I am dedicated to my own mental health. I am dedicated to doing things that bring me joy and don’t hurt others. I am dedicated to learning how to best care for my sweet, sensitive pup. I am dedicated to taking care of myself– financially, emotionally, and physically– so that when I choose to commit again, it’s not for lack of self love or independence. I am dedicated to saying yes and no when I really mean them. I am dedicated to exercising empathy with boundaries so I don’t make excuses for actions. I am dedicated to not shaming others. I am dedicated to my own accountability without added shame. I am dedicated to my continued growth, as both a human and an artist. 

I have a recording session booked for October, as well as a show with my friend Bethany Joy and a workshop with Project D.R.E.W. I'm writing poetry often. I have two more semesters on deck for my MPA and classes start in a week. I’m currently working part-time at the best folk venue in Ann Arbor. I start a new full-time job in two weeks.  

I am going to be okay. We are both going to be okay. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we are strongest when we have no other choice. If you’re going through it right now, please know that I understand it takes incredible strength just to survive some days. This world can be cruel. And in a society that constantly promotes love as a conditional commodity, the most punk rock thing you can do is say fuck that. Love matters, even when partnership fails. Don’t forget to love yourself as fiercely as you love others.

Hey there 

Blogging in the age of social media seems strange to me, but I find myself feeling less and less inclined to take up bandwidth on those forums. Somewhere between the pandemic and the onslaught of never-ending bad news since, I burnt myself out on connecting in that way. I'm not sure writing a blog and cross-posting it is a much better means of staying connected with folks, but since we can't all just regularly meet in a diner these days, just imagine I'm sitting across from you right now eating a gigantic burrito. Let me help you picture it:

 

 

If you haven't heard, my life has shifted focus a dozen times over in the last few years. I moved to Michigan in March 2020, a week shy of the shutdown. I had a part-time job with the local community theatre and high hopes that I would integrate into the Ann Arbor/Detroit arts scenes. Obviously, that didn't happen. I spent much of my time in 2020 trying to find a steady source of income from a computer. It wasn't a smooth transition, considering I had always had gigs, independent contractor opportunities, and occasional restaurant work to rely on as backup. During this time, I realized I had very few applicable skills for REAL jobs. Or at least, what folks refer to as real jobs. I eventually landed a part-time administrative job in child welfare. Next thing I knew, I was working full-time and attending grad school remotely for an MPA. Talk about a 180° shift.

It's only been recently that I've gotten my creative mojo back. I think most people feel like they simply survived 2020-2021. I still feel like the world is moving 100mph and not reconciling with the collective traumas we endured. People died. I lost three people in 2020, including both of my grandparents with whom I was extremely close. It's hard to feel much like writing or even getting out of bed when you're physically and emotionally exhausted. I wish I could say I was one of those artists who naturally channels grief and chaos into creation, but I tend to shut down. I go into my energy reserves and then reflect later. I know it's already 2022, but I'm still reflecting. The before times feel like a lifetime ago. I'm rediscovering myself and it's messy, but it's also empowering. Who knew I was capable of so many things? I sure as hell didn't. I took this picture when I felt like I was splitting into two pieces of a whole:

 

Those pieces are reconfiguring into a new me. Someone who embraces all conflicting identities as valid. I realized recently that there is no singular path that I have to follow. Life isn't that simple. I love the myriad of experiences I have already had and I can't wait to see who I am in 30 years.

Anyway, that's where I've been, or more importantly, where my mind has been. I'm writing poetry often and I've written a few songs, including a few with my good friend Adam Reifsnyder. I have plans to release them in due time. I have a few gigs slated for the fall. I hope I get to see you soon. Remember to be kind to yourself. The unprecedented times are now precedented, but just because it's normal now doesn't mean it's easy.