favorite and our best of 2019
you thought we'd stop with love lists? oh no, we're still channeling lola! we have yet another list of treats to jumpstart your new year (decade?!) right here, from albums, drinks, and many thoughts.... read on, and send us your list x
→ placeholder by hand habits
gray: one of my favorite musical discoveries of 2019 is hand habits and their album that came out earlier this year has been one of my faves all year. scratches my folksy-indie-rock itch like no other.
→ Bad Ideas by Tessa Violet
nadine: no, i cannot shut up about tessa violet (see: love lists from may, october and november, and i promise i tried to switch it up). i suggest taking a half-hour to yourself and listening to the whole thing. i just think that writing a quality pop album is such a fine art: it needs good, solid singles, and more catchy songs to glue it all together, and lyrics that mean something. tessa violet managed it brilliantly in bad ideas.
→ Blood Moon Underworld by Misogi
m: ah yes, we’re back to the grungey lofi depths of my spotify. this album is so impressive… atmospheric, with cohesive song just different enough to cater to a range of different music tastes (even hardcore.) close ties include ARIZONA BABY by Kevin Abstract and E by ecco2k.
→ Rowena Tsai
nadine: my favourite youtube channel this year.
m: same tho.
→ Refinery29’s State of Grace series
m: Refinery29 took the unexpected, yet incredibly important, route this year, with journalist and queer christian, Grace Baldridge, exploring issues within the American church, primarily gender and sexuality issues: “State Of Grace is a series that explores the intersection of human rights, sexuality, and faith. Host Grace Baldridge dives into controversial societal realities that Americans face everyday and how to navigate the modern world while remaining faithful.” This series has been a source of both hope and education for me as I have spent 2019 de/reconstructing beliefs.
→ Rhythm + Flow
m: a rap competition judged by Chance the Rapper, Cardi B, and TI. feels like a display of artistry, and i’m happy to have discovered new artists. genuinely had me wiping my eyes during the finale.
m: a docuseries about crowd sourcing mysterious chronic illnesses.
→ The OA, season two
m: total mind bender. perfectly creepy. beautiful.
→ Skate Kitchen
M: b e a u t i f u l. angsty.
→ On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
m: if you’re tired of hearing about this book, it is because you need to read it. Destined to be a classic you actually love.
→ Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
m: my favorite trope, enemies forced into close proximity... enemies to lovers... addicting. funny. slow burn steamy. thoughtful. perfect.
→ Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon
m: i wish i had picked this up sooner. ada’s poetry is simply breathtaking, yet so ordinary and real. i’ve never read poetry like hers, or about topics like hers. a must read.
→ Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives by Adam J. Kurtz
m: short, snappy, and so necessary, whether or not you consider yourself a creative.
→ Heartstopper comics series by Alice Oseman
m: simply lovely. read to decompress, read to believe in love.
→ gray: unflavored la criox was truly my drink of the year
→ m: coffee with a pump of vanilla and a dash of creamer. took me this long to realize simplicity
→ nadine: oat milk in tea! why did i never try this before?
→ nadine: for the lessons 2019 taught me, see this post; otherwise, i learned some cool facts this year…
(1) when i visited a friend last june, i saw a cute magnet on her fridge and she told me the story of a hunter-trapper who completely changed his career path in the 80s and opened a refuge for wild animals.
(2) the same friend taught me what “desire paths” are… it’s not what you think.
(3) 2019 was the year i learned about the danger (for the environment) of not only buying polyester (i haven’t bought polyester outside a thrift shop in too many years to count) but also owning — and especially washing — polyester. it’s worse for “fluffy” polyester fabrics. see this study (nature, 2019), this other study (2017) or this news article, among others. kudos to m for opening my eyes to this! basically, when washed, all fabrics (the fluffier, the worse) produce microparticles. the natural ones disintegrate, but the man-made ones don’t, and they threaten many crucial parts of our ecosystems.
(4) i went to the canadian museum of nature last fall, and i learned such mind-boggling things! in the section about the arctic, i found myself looking at a few panels open-mouthed for an embarrassingly long amount of time… did you know the arctic used to have bear-sized beavers, 3-metre-long sloths and giant camels? some people even think that the characteristics that help modern camels survive in the desert (nutrient reserves, large feet) also helped them survive in the snow! additionally, in another section of the museum, i learned that, though the same mineral can come in different colours, it will always make the same colour trait when you scratch ceramic with it. finally: a friendly reminder that we are all standing on a gigantic ball, the middle of which is made of melted iron (i don’t know about you, but i tend to forget). for all this, fun interactive exhibits (e.g. create your own volcano!) and lots of information on important topics like environment protection and diversity in science, i recommend that museum if you’re ever near ottawa, canada.
(5) skating on thin ice is an actual sport, at the meeting of art and science, and it makes the coolest sounds. see this national geographic video.
→ m: where do i begin!
o most corporations pay $0 in taxes.
o don’t donate to charity at the grocery store register or amazon check out. corporations profit from donations-- using your money. give your money directly.
o tarot! is mindblowing! so thankful to have begun this practice.
o submit. just do it. Submitting your work takes a certain amount of audacity i do not typically possess, but it doesn’t matter! let the work breathe. have courage. say thank you. keep making.
o it’s okay to feel anger. it’s part of healing. feel it all.
o when you feel stagnant, change it up. try a new medium. change your scenery.
o when you feel stagnant, check in with your routines— and your senses. do you even have a routine? do you plan to connect with your senses? you should.
o everywhere is a vacation destination, even if you live there. nadine’s post has really helped me through discontent with home, post oregon road trip.
o capitalism is not great, and our intersectional feminism needs to address that.
o people’s opinions of me are not the same as my own-- and usually better. just as i assume the best of others, people usually return the favor.
o reconnect with that friend you lost touch with. it’s worth it.
o mossery planners > any other. #nonspon but please sponser us :)
o now for my 2020 experiment to learn whether or not a desk is worth it :)
here's to a good year. enjoy.
august love list
hello, and congratulations!
you've made it half way through summer and august. i feel absolutely torn: do i want to be cozied up in a sweater and flannel and leg warmers with tea, or do i want to remain half naked sprawled out next to a pool or ocean, steeping in the sunshine? i have no clue. but i am positive that your girl powered playlist will thrive this month.
enjoy! do let us know if there's anything in particular we need to sink our teeth into x
→ Vivaldi’s Summer (first movement; find all three in order here)
nadine: this month’s classical rec. if this doesn’t sound like august, i don’t know what does. summer, waning, but still shining frighteningly bright.
→ At Now by Anna Nalick (2017)
nadine: i must’ve listened to Breathe (2 AM), Anna Nalick’s hit song released in 2004, at least a few thousand times. recently, i learned that Anna Nalick is still making music --- and it’s so good. this album is changing the way i feel about music-making, about getting older, about what makes music good. Breathe (2 AM) is a difficult song to “top,” objectively, in terms of numbers, especially for an indie artist. it would also be difficult to write something catchier or more poignant to so many people. At Now doesn’t give the impression of desperately holding on to what made Breathe (2 AM) work. on the contrary, it’s honest, authentic, and artful. do you remember (have you ever experienced it? i may be too old) the magic of buying an album at the store, putting it on, and listening to it from start to finish, in order, and it being a delight? loving the album as a whole maybe more than for its individual songs? this is it.
→ stranger in the alps by phoebe bridgers
gray: this album has been a favorite of mine for a while, but for the last two weeks i’ve been especially into it. the cover of tom petty’s “it’ll all work out” has especially been a late summer-kinda sad-nostalgia mood recently. fave tracks: killer, chelsea, you missed my heart.
→focu$ by rimon
m: the video is beautiful. the sound even more. pairs well with becoming yourself, even when it hurts. "had a tough time / but don’t let it mark you / you don’t need no one / to comfort yourself, embrace yourself."
→ if only there was a river by anna st. louis
gray: this album has more of an early autumn vibe than a summer one, but i think i’m just so over the heat that i’m doing everything i can to will the autumn weather to come sooner. these songs make me feel full and empty (in a good way) at the same time. fave tracks: water, paradise.
→ skin & earth acoustic by lights
m: Lights wrote and illustrated a comic book under the same title, and then created a soundtrack, yet she didn’t stop at these feats. no, Lights then recorded acoustic versions of the soundtrack within the actual settings of the comic. that is, when a song is set to play in a tunnel, she records it in a tunnel. or a cliff. or outside in the rain at midnight. the resulting album and videos are magical.
m: this Netflix docu-series based on the New York Times column of the same name is both heartbreaking and incredible. patients with mystery long term illnesses are able to present their story and files online, and follow leads submitted by readers. you’ll be wiping your eyes in no time.
→ the song of achilles by madeline miller
gray: my goodreads review of this is simply “*prolonged screaming*” and i stand by this
→ fruit of knowledge by Liv Strömquist, translated by Melissa Bowers
m: this one took me a long time to get through. extreme sexism does that to someone. that being said, this comic needs to be read, and i don’t care what gender you are… read this history and analysis of the pussy. how has it been viewed through history and science? what about periods? read it !!!!
→ Satoko and Nada by Yupechika
m: these short mangas follow two international roommates in an American university, Satoko, a Japense girl, and Nada, a muslim girl. they, and the reader, have so much to learn and celebrate as these three cultures intersect.
→ water. remember to stay hydrated, readers! we’re nearly through the hot season….
→ nadine: what are your stories and how are they beautiful? what are the stories of your loved ones and how are they beautiful? a suggestion: take the time to ask someone you love for a story and listen. you won’t have to find the poetry of it; the poetry will find you.
→ m: “desire is just information,” says Jamie Lee Finch. what do i want, and why? how do i feel about this, and why?
→ m: i recently took a trip along the Oregon coast, and it was absolutely stunning and mind blowing. every day and every moment felt like utter magic, whether the sun played over my books driving through forests, wild horses sipped the river, or whales spouted in the ocean. i fell in absolute love. coming home though this begs me to dig my way through disappointment into every day wonder. what do i love about where i am in any moment? which senses are engaged? where can i find contentedness within monotony?
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
healing small loaf syndrome
what is authenticity? when we create ourselves, do we become more or less authentic?
this question has been low-key plaguing me ever since i first heard about authenticity. i was 10. in grade 5, i was one of the oldest kids in my elementary school and i made sure i was a soloist in the school choir. i kind of wanted to be a star.
avril lavigne's debut album, let go, was pretty new and i listened to it on repeat. i thought it was the height of coolness. it resonated so much with me. sometimes i remember myself at 10 years old singing "i might've put up with that when i was 14 and a little more green" with all the conviction in the world and i smile. bless 10-year-olds.
when i was 10, there was this big televised singing competition that everyone really loved to watch in my community because one of the most popular contestants was from a small town nearby. one day, i asked my mother why this contestant was so popular. "people find him authentic," she said. i had never heard or read that term before, so she explained what it meant: "people who are authentic are their real selves. they don't change for others."
i was preoccupied. why did the viewers think this contestant was more authentic than the others? i could understand why his mannerisms on a surface level seemed authentic: he was provincial, rugged and rustic, with a thick accent and manners every bit appropriate to the fisherman he'd been before the competition. but why was this authentic? and why was the other contestants' artistic expression not perceived as authentic?
the thing is, this contestant acted just like every man in my community. i asked myself if authenticity was just playing "the roles we were born to fill" (this is a quote from mona lisa smile, a movie that is about authenticity, if you really think about it). this seemed wrong to me. acting like every girl in my community sure didn't sound like an authentic way for me to be.
now, i look back and i understand that it wasn't really authenticity that seduced viewers, but the embodiment of a stereotype that suited everyone. people from urban centres watched and this stereotype comforted them because it allowed them to pin down the people of my community --- to put us in a box and not have to try to understand our differences.
people from my community watched and this stereotype also comforted them. i think it allowed us to live vicariously through the contestant while not changing anything or confronting anything about ourselves. by staying small and comfortable.
there is this expression in french circles in canada (i have never heard it in the particular community i grew up in, but the sentiment was there): "when we're born for a small loaf of bread..." (quand on est né pour un petit pain) it implies that we are born for small things in this life and that to hope or ask or wish or even work for more is foolish and messing with the natural order of things. in many ways, it's, i guess, a knee-jerk reaction to the "american dream."
i call the pervasive idea that we are born for small things "small loaf syndrome" (i don't think i invented this, but i can't find a source, so maybe i did?). i've always thought that small loaf syndrome was ridiculous and that i didn't catch it.
in my last therapy session, i talked about seeing the movie rocketman several times (don't act surprised). "why do you think you liked it so much?" my therapist asked. "do you think it's because you're an artist?"
i was gobsmacked. how dare she call me an artist? this thought painfully echoed a thought at the core of my self-talk: how dare you call yourself an artist? and a sentiment i perceived from my entourage: how dare you be artistic?
i remember when i was a teenager and dreaming of moving to the big city i live in now seemed like dreaming of a big loaf. how romantic and exciting the city seemed. i had all these fantasies of city life in which i realize now, in hindsight, i was an artist in every way but my occupation, which was always something sensible.
but didn't i want to be an artist when i was 10? yes. indeed. i wanted to be a star, i think were my exact words. later, in middle school, i discovered classical music and i wanted to become a musician. i wrote a few songs, too, and i arranged let it be for a wind quintet, but i didn't think anything of it. then, high school came around and with it a new music teacher, one who seemed to be adamant to sap the very art and fun from all music-making, leaving it dry, drab and technical.
this music teacher had an electronic metronome she would plug into gigantic speakers. she would turn the volume up as loud as she could. then, with the metronome clacking in our ears, she would lean over the first row of chairs clapping her hands with what i perceived to be barely contained violence.
i sat in the first row.
it's like the metronome and the handclaps yanked bits of fun from us students with every clack. as a person who is highly sensitive to sound, emotional atmospheres and heat especially (the music classroom was always hot; it trapped the heat in and then we kids were so stressed we were emanating heat like we were lost in the arctic), i left every rehearsal exhausted and grumpy.
this is kind of what brought me to tears when i first watched rocketman. the entire story is extremely sad, don't get me wrong, but here's what made me cry (i wouldn't consider it spoiler-y):
when elton is about 7 (?), he starts getting into classical music. there is a scene showing him staying up past bedtime reading a score (it looks like an orchestra conductor score but i'm not 100% sure). he imagines himself conducting an orchestra playing rocket man. he imagines the orchestra. the musicians are all looking at him so earnestly. almost lovingly. some of them are even smiling at him. then, elton gets to the piano. this is a piano concerto and he's the star. this scene is so joyful and pure. it shows us that this is what music originally was to elton: a fun, second-nature form of expression.
later in the movie, it's made clear that as addiction and other mental health issues start taking centre stage, fun disappears from music-making. there are all these montages of elton john performing and looking absolutely miserable. when elton hits rock bottom, his 7-year-old self appears again with the melody to rocket man. it's beautiful!
anyway. it just really moved me to see that joy and see it slowly lost. it reflected my experiences in a way i didn't understand right away.
i think that knowing and embracing what brings us joy is a big part of authenticity. maybe that's the way in which the contestant on the televised singing competition was actually authentic. he knew music brought him joy. so, he dared.
i don't want to pretend to have all the answers, and especially not to the question "what is authenticity?" discovering personal authenticity is a long, thrilling journey. i think my 30-day introspection challenge, over a few days ago, really helped me travel along that path.
i want to pursue joy. i want to pursue a large loaf of chocolate-chip bread sprinkled with sugar crystals. i want to pursue myself.
our june love list
we are all humans. we might not feel like it sometimes (i rarely do), but really, we are, i promise. i think that lately, it has been difficult for many of us to express love and joy without a lingering sense of guilt. it’s cool on the internet to be emotionless and how can i even think about those things when the arctic is melting and the middle east is unstable and there are school shootings and there are over 70 countries where homosexuality is illegal and some of those it’s punishable by death and the bolsonaro is trying to sell the brazilian rainforests to the highest bidder and--
“As we're bouncing up and down trying to make the floor break
it’s unhealthy to think like this. yes, it’s important to be socially conscious, but, like i said, we are humans. first, we are not super efficient robots who have the ability to solve all the world’s crises, and it’s inhumane to try to put that pressure on ourselves. we really don’t have the ability to process and take on all this suffering, and when we do, we tend to feel a sense of responsibility. second, by denying ourselves true expressions of joy and love, we are denying ourselves intrinsic and crucial parts of the human experience. when was the last time you ended a good day that didn’t have an asterisk attached?
“In those heavy days of June
the month of june is pride month, which i’m sure you all knew, maybe from the inundation of rainbow merch or photos from pride parades or just generally not living under a rock. it’s important that, during pride month, we memorialize the founders of the movement, remember our history, and pay tribute to those we have lost. but just as importantly, we, as lgbt people, should express love and ourselves even when it wanders far from the status quo. in a world that wants to make us ashamed of who we are, we should try our hardest to not be afraid. if we are out, we should do this loudly, so that people know we are here. if we are not yet out, we should respect ourselves and our boundaries and proclaim love softly, so we know we are here. these small acts of self are acts of defiance, and feed the hope of a better world.
To love yourself, you must know yourself. And to know yourself, you must love yourself. Love then is a sublime and universal understanding of self and of others. Love is a discipline of one’s own self-consciousness. Love is beautiful. Love is just. It must endure, it must evolve, it must expand, it must be born-again.
we do these monthly lists not only to share ourselves with you, but to share the things that make us happy, that make everyday life more livable, that we love, and we offer them to you. these small examinations tell us that it really isn’t all bad, it isn’t really all hopeless. the world is a beautiful and weird thing and is somehow there for your taking, so grab all you can fit in two hands. and without further ado, here is the june love list.
→ love yourself/with my whole heart by sufjan stevens
gray: sufjan stevens is out there trudging through mud fighting for our rights this pride month. we love u sufjan.
m: i was going to say this too. u will love it.
→ too bright by perfume genius
gray: i have to include this for pride month!! i so much love how this album seamlessly marries piano ballads with art pop anthems with some more experimental cuts. fave tracks: my body, grid
→ Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, I. Pezzo in Forma di Sonatina
nadine: this month’s classical rec is also well-timed for pride (it is generally accepted nowadays that Tchaikovsky was gay). this man’s story hit me super hard in the last month. to put it shortly, Tchaikovsky married a (female) fan for well-intentioned reasons, but then it turned out to be the Worst Decision Ever, so he ran away. he then wrote that “there is nothing more fruitless than not wanting to be that which I am by nature.” i listened to that story on BBC Radio 3 [https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p01ydqsj] and i wondered why people like him (...and me lol) ignore their own inner guidance and any glaring red flags in order to orchestrate the biggest self-sabotage possible.
→Tennyson's Beautiful World
m: i rediscover this song every summer, and i'm head over heels. i'm consistently amazed at Tennyson's surprising sounds used as music, such as the rush of a bubble drink being poured. deep pure summer vibes.
→ halsey on stright pride and fear
m: you may have heard the call for a straight pride this month. recently, two women were beaten for being gay. when halsey performed in the town, she gave this speech. by the end, i was definitely in tears, as queer kids yelled, “I am not afraid.”
→ on simplicity and beauty, in a silent, four second video
m: the earth is magic
→ Rocketman (2019) in theatres, for those “new life who dis” vibes
nadine: ugh, this. i almost didn’t put it in because i feel like it detonates and honestly, i have shame around proclaiming my love for it (a can of worms i shall open in my journal). but the truth is i love pop and musicals, i love things that are flashy and sort of camp, i love things that are over-the-top and larger than life, i love going to the cinema, and i love this. it’s exactly the type of thing i want to make, songs and score (the arrangements are sublime) and story. plus it feels so good to go to the cinema and forget straightness exists for a while, you know? this movie is kind of a musical happening in Elton John’s head. it’s very introspective and it’s ultimately about personal growth and support systems. please watch and ponder: what is authenticity? when we create ourselves, do we become more or less authentic?
→On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
m: oh oh oh, you know how it is when ocean vuong writes. it’s exactly what you expect: beautiful and fascinating and saturated and heartbreaking. it’s exactly that. OEWBG is a poetic book about coming of age within a family laden with trauma, so be prepared to feel something. I felt inspired in many ways after i completed this book, including in the way i write, and what i write.
→ “All Other Trans People Are Real, But *I* Am A Terrible Fraud” by Devon Price
“I thought I could live a whole lifetime being mistaken for a woman and just cruising along through it. I figured that if I was really trans, I would have known in childhood, and that I would have asserted it loudly, with defiance. Something. Just. Anything. But I didn’t have that confidence. I lacked that introspection. And for years I’ve held onto that, and taken it for a sign that all my feelings are fake.”
gray: insert *i’m in this photo and i don’t like it* meme. but seriously i think it’s hard to admit self doubt and as someone who feels the same way about my gender identity as this author does, i really admire this piece.
→ “Feminist Trans Men & the Narrative of Internalized Misogyny” by Seth Katz
“The difference between a trans man or nonbinary AFAB person and a cis woman (detransitioned or not) isn’t that we hate women and want to utilize misogyny, it is simply that we aren’t women.”
→ Levi the Poet on “I Used to Think that Positive Self-Talk was BS”
m: it's easy to disregard most self help things, esp if you have depression and anxiety. but i've been learning that so many things i roll my eyes at are, scientifically, true. levi covers one of these.
→ seltzer and only seltzer please someone help me i am kind of addicted….
→ the smores frap is BACK at starbucks and i am HAPPY. marshmallow whipped cream you say? on my way.
→ new york’s next public monument honors two trans activists: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. yes. this is the exact tea i want.
→nadine’s 30 day journal/tarot challenge is kicking my butt in a good way.
→ Questions to Assess Negative Views of Self and World
→ m: why haven’t i done the thing ive been mulling over for years now? what holds me back? what did i used to love, and why did i stop doing it?
→ nadine: when i developed my shame and guilt, what part of my personality took the biggest hit? how may i heal this part of my personality? maybe i need to stop asking myself what i “should” do and start asking myself what i want to do.
→gray: love for oneself is far more complicated than love for another. when we are confronted with self love, we are confronted with questions. when asked, “who are they?” about someone else, we can take comfort in the fact that it’s impossible for us to ever really know. but ourselves? aren’t we suppose to know? and since we’re supposed to know, if we realize we don’t, how can we love? or if we do, and we don’t like what we see? this is something that i struggle with. love for my body and love for my mind. these things do not come as naturally as i would wish. the only way i can reckon with this fact is that i am trying.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
send us an email at email@example.com
today is day 15 of the 30-day introspection journey i invited you to set on with me, a challenge that ends on the first day of summer. check out the original post; all 30-day challenge posts can also be found here.
i just wanted to check in, since we're halway through our journey, to let you know i'm still doing this challenge and i hope you are too. i didn't post much on this blog through the first half of the 30 days. i figured that, since i did this challenge to rest (yes, i know, ironic), resting should be my priority.
i have been staying with my parents, on the canadian east coast, since day 3 of the journey. i'm going back to my small apartment in the city tonight.
what did i do here? i spent time with my family. i took many walks. i marvelled at the stars. i wrote at the park. i went to the beach. i smelled the woods. i wrote a song. i cried a lot. i read tarot for my aunt. i took pictures. i made pretzels twice. a fox, a bear, a lynx, squirrels and birds came say hi. a lot of it was good.
anyway, here's where this 30-day introspection challenge has been taking me:
- days 3 and 4: how do i want to define stability? what stability have i learned to look for but don't truly crave or require? (answer: honestly, all the stability i need is just: committed relationships, a garden and a retirement fund.)
- day 4: i had a long reflection about how astrology could help symbolize the different flows of life within me.
- day 5: on this day i was crushed by an anvil of apathy. i worked on recognizing apathy as resistance and protection. that both extremes — apathy on one end, and frantically avoiding inactivity on the other — come from me not properly listening to myself.
- day 6: i realized that i didn't just need to mourn the battles i lost; i also had to mourn the battles i won. later, in my journal, i wrote: "i feel sort of abandoned by the life force that used to run within me. [...] that's how i feel: like a wreck, like a burden. well, that's dark. perhaps it's just easier to feel that way [...] than to actually acknowledge what is good and powerful within me. because then i don't have to try."
- day 7: i met a bear and later it came back and whispered in my ear (i'm exaggerating, but only a little). this led me to find a new understanding of my connection to the divine.
- day 8: i got thinking on dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration. i always like going back to this theory when i try to find meaning to my feelings of depression. it makes me feel hopeful to think that there may be something bigger and brighter at play.
- day 9: why am i feeling overwhelmed? (answer: guilt and shame. it's always guilt and shame.)
- days 10 and 11: a lot of going around in circles. i was reminded of a project i once loved; i had an idea on how to revive it.
- day 12: i was reminded of yet another project i'd abandoned. i'd been meaning to write a historical fiction and, shortly before this challenge, i resolved to abandon the idea because it was "wrong for me to focus on details and timelines, and why did i ever think it was a good idea?" on day 12, i remembered why i wanted to write that story in the first place. some voices we need to listen to, and some voices we need to ignore.
- day 13: hello again, guilt! long time no see (not). in my journal, i explored my guilt. i wrote: "i don't want these random skills. i want to be good and wise and benevolent." (fun late morning interlude: i sobbed about the state of critical thinking in the world. like a weirdo.) then, later in the day, i had yet another breakdown about being "a wreck" and "empty of all vivaciousness, lifeless," and how "i successfully put out every hint of a spark within me," and then i listened to dodie sing "i'm too damp for a spark" and i cried. there are days like that.
- day 14: the sea.
besides the classical playlist i made for this challenge, i spent a while listening to khai dreams. i also have a playlist made entirely of the king (conan gray) and cheap queen (king princess).
today, i'm listening to this short playlist:
sober / demi lovato
my mistake / gabrielle aplin
haunted house / florence + the machine
we come together / regina price
burned out / dodie
mostly, i think i've worked on exploring and confronting feelings of guilt and shame. i feel guilty and ashamed because i am convinced i am a frivolous screw-up, a pale copy of whom i once was, the result of a series of unwise decisions. i have unearthed this question that has been at the core of my negative self-talk for decades: how dare you?
because that's what i heard repeatedly from adults (especially teachers!!) when i was growing up: how dare you. how dare you think you can do this. how dare you ask for more. how dare you be yourself.
this may seem like a self-absorbed wound to examine and attempt to heal, but the result of years of berating via how dare you is this: i keep myself small. and no one benefits from that.
the first half of this challenge has been about where we come from, where we are. the second half will be about where we're going.
what about you? what have you been thinking, feeling? whether you've undertaken this 30-day journey with me or not, i'm sure you have things to say.
above all please take care,
let's get to know ourselves better
I’ve been working on getting to know myself better these past years, and these past months especially. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve always felt driven by a deep need to help. What do others need me to do? On a less conscious level, this translates to: what do others need me to be?
A slippery slope indeed!
To be what I thought others needed me to be, I’ve tried so hard to be more sensible, reasonable, stable, temperate, normal and easily satisfied. I’ve tried to be less dramatic, weird, sensitive, demanding, flighty and complicated. I’ve tried to ask for less – attention, opportunities, love, help, consideration, resources – and give more.
Spoiler alert: I burnt myself out. Several times.
Now I’m burnt out again. I spent all of Monday afternoon crying. At one point I was so done and exhausted that I lied down on my kitchen floor to sob. And yes, I’m a dramatic person, but sobbing curled up on my kitchen floor? That’s a low point I hadn’t reached in years.
On that jolly note, and in the spirit of getting to pay better attention to my inner voice, I am creating this 30-day challenge! Time to rest, think and listen to beautiful songs.
This challenge starts tomorrow and ends on the first day of summer (or winter, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere). If you want to join me, we’ll be reflecting and introspecting through different prompts. I have a playlist of one classical piece a day, and I have a list of prompts to go with it. This is a bit of a DIY mix-and-match: whether you want to use the prompts to interpret a tarot or oracle card, to journal, to spark a poem or drawing, or whatever else, is up to you. Do what you want! Ignoring the prompt and only using the song, using the prompt and ignoring the song, using both the prompt and the song, ignoring both the prompt and the song: all options are good. The important thing is just to look inward.
The prompts are inspired by my current needs and meant to somewhat follow the phases of the Moon. I picked the songs to accompany and/or add to these prompts. They are all classical-ish. They’re among my favourites; you’ll notice I’m a big fan of Tchaikovsky, other Romantic composers, and first movements in general. I’m most definitely not sorry.
If you want to use the next 30 days to look inward, too, please tell us about your thoughts!
30-Day Introspection Challenge to Welcome Summer
Day 1: May 23
Prompt: Where am I in my life? (the calm after the storm)
Song: Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, Second Movement
Further thoughts: When Tchaikovsky wrote this Symphony, he was exceedingly depressed and recovering from a series of bad decisions: decisions that seemed good at the time and were every bit good-intentioned, but that had the major flaw of going against what he truly needed and wanted for himself (BBC). Traditionally, second movements of symphonies can be seen as “the calm after the storm.” Since this “calm after the storm” movement was actually written during the calm after a particularly destructive storm in the composer’s life, I think it’s perfect to kick off this challenge.
Day 2: May 24
Prompt: What harmful thoughts/actions of mine have brought me here?
Song: Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Dance of the Knights
Day 3: May 25
Prompt: What helpful thoughts/actions of mine have brought me here?
Song: Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, I. Prélude
Day 4: May 26
Prompt: What do I need/want to learn through this challenge?
Song: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (Pastorale), First Movement
Day 5: May 27
Prompt: What is leaving me?
Song: Schumann’s Kinderszenen, VII. Traumerei
Day 6: May 28
Prompt: What are the things I haven’t allowed myself to grieve?
Song: Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel
Further thoughts: Sometimes there are wounds we don’t allow ourselves to take the time to feel hurt by. We may feel they are too small or insignificant, or that we were lucky in our misfortune, or that we are too privileged to complain. Allowing yourself the courtesy of feeling hurt by whatever hurt you is a big step towards self-compassion.
Day 7: May 29
Prompt: How may I allow myself to grieve?
Song: Grieg’s Peer Gynt, II. The Death of Ase
Day 8: May 30
Prompt: What has May taught me?
Song: Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Pas de deux
Day 9: May 31
Prompt: What do I need to leave behind?
Song: Górecki’s Third Symphony, Second Movement
Further thoughts: On Day 5, we reflected on the things that were leaving us of their own accord, or at least, somewhat naturally. Today, we think of those things that may be more difficult to part with.
Day 10: June 1
Prompt: How may I create silence?
Song: Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 3
Further thoughts: I am using the theme of “silence” this New Moon. I still picked songs for every day of “silence,” but feel free to skip them and truly sit in silence if you think it would be beneficial and/or comfortable. This piece is, I think, a great way to ease into silence because it’s so quiet and slow.
Day 11: June 2 (New Moon)
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my mind?
Song: Dvořák’s String Quintet in E-Flat Major, III. Larghetto
Day 12: June 3 (New Moon)
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my body?
Song: Elgar’s Cello Concerto, First Movement
Further thoughts: Allegedly, this melody came to Elgar when he woke up after an operation to get his tonsils removed, something that was quite dangerous for someone his age at the time (Wikipedia). Imagine you have been anesthetized and are just awaking. Your thoughts are blank. What is your body trying to tell you?
Day 13: June 4 (New Moon)
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my heart?
Song: Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending
Day 14: June 5
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my soul? (“I believe…”)
Song: Fauré’s Pavane
Further thoughts: You may want to challenge yourself to write nonstop for a while. Every time you feel stuck, rewrite “I believe…”
Day 15: June 6
Prompt: What does my heart long to offer the world?
Song: Chopin’s Nocture No. 2 in E-Flat Major
Further thoughts: Imagine that the world needs absolutely nothing. Imagine that the world doesn’t need you. Still you feel the urge to give. Give what?
Day 16: June 7
Prompt: Why am I here? (“I am here to…” or “I am here because…”)
Song: Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Fourth Movement
Further thoughts: As for Day 14, you may want to challenge yourself to write nonstop for a while. Every time you feel stuck, rewrite “I am here to…” A possible variant, if you want to explore spirituality more than purpose, is “I am here because…”
Day 17: June 8
Prompt: What nourishes me?
Song: Holst’s Planets, Jupiter
Further thoughts: This is not about your basic needs, but rather what fills you up spiritually, emotionally and/or intellectually. Another way to see this is: “What energizes me?”
Day 18: June 9
Prompt: What am I passionate about?
Song: Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons – Summer, I. Allegro non molto – Allegro
Further thoughts: Is there a lot of overlap with yesterday’s answers? Why or why not?
Day 19: June 10
Prompt: How do I feel after dancing?
Song: Grieg’s Peer Gynt, III. Anitra’s Dance
Further thoughts: This is the best dancing song in my opinion, but any other one will do. You could also replace dancing with anything you don’t usually do: run to the bus stop, skip down the street, balance on one foot while you floss, turn your head upside down for a minute, yell, “think six impossible things before breakfast,” whatever.
Day 20: June 11
Prompt: What do I actually feel grateful for?
Song: Holst’s Planets, Venus
Further thoughts: Sometimes I think I should feel grateful for some things. The problem is I don’t actually feel grateful. Today, we find those things we do feel, in our hearts, grateful for. Leave out anything you don’t feel. Don’t force yourself to feel grateful. The idea here is not to have a long list, but an honest list.
Day 21: June 12
Prompt: What feelings or states of mind do I want/need to have more of in my life?
Song: Schubert’s Fifth Symphony, First Movement
Day 22: June 13
Prompt: How may I make more space for these feelings or states of mind?
Song: Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, First Movement
Day 23: June 14
Prompt: What temptations lure me away from these feelings or states of mind?
Song: Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, First Movement
Further thoughts: From binge-watching tv series to catastrophizing to wanting to help others, anything works.
Day 24: June 15
Prompt: Why do I find these temptations difficult to resist?
Song: Liszt’s Liebestraume, No. 3 Nocturne
Further thoughts: You may want to read up on the enneagram! Reading on the few types you find yourself likely to be could provide you with ideas for answers.
Day 25: June 16 (Full Moon)
Prompt: What am I ready to reap this Full Moon?
Song: Smetana’s Má Vlast, No. 1 Vyšehrad
Day 26: June 17 (Full Moon)
Prompt: What has this 30-day challenge taught me so far?
Song: Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, Second Movement
Day 27: June 18 (Full Moon)
Prompt: What have I actually harvested this Full Moon?
Song: Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, I. Pezzo in forma di Sonatina
Further thoughts: On Day 25, we contemplated what we thought we were ready to reap. What did we really reap? More? Less? Something else entirely?
Day 28: June 19
Prompt: How do I shine?
Song: Grieg’s Peer Gynt, I. Morning Mood
Day 29: June 20
Prompt: How may I shine more?
Song: Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No. 2
Day 30: June 21 (Summer Solstice)
Prompt: How may I make the best of this summer?
Song: Debussy’s La Mer, I. De l’aube à midi sur la mer
Further thoughts: I hope you listen to the song and feel it send you off on a wonderful adventure. Do the final chords lift you up and fill your soul like they do for me? I hope so. Even if it doesn’t, you’ve made it through. I wish you all the best.
why i still love classical music
That feeling during the fourth movement of a symphony where the whole orchestra plays, and the sound swells and flows and finally, finally, something out there sounds exactly like how you feel inside, and everything is culminating, and you know, you just know you’re one with the Universe. That feeling. That’s why I love classical music.
How it goes through your chest and fills up your lungs and shines out of you like sunbeams.
And so much more.
I’ll address a few criticisms on classical music and why I think it’s an element of interest anyway.
First: Classical music is the kingdom of cis white men.
That’s true. I cannot argue that classical music isn’t extremely white-washed, as are pretty much all primarily Western things from that time. Although there is some debate around Beethoven’s ethnicity, the fact remains that, in most people’s minds, he lives on as a white man. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was, however, without a doubt, biracial.
That being said, I do encourage you to smash the gender binary and never assume that anyone is anything. That’s a discussion for another day, though.
When I stream classical music, I make an effort to stream from a variety of contemporary musicians. I encourage you do the same.
But yes. Absolutely. Classical music comes with a history of oppression. So do medicine, literature and sports. I think this history is important to acknowledge and change. Let’s do it together.
Second: Classical music is elitist.
I’m so sorry that you were confronted with people who made you think you were too uneducated to enjoy classical music. I’m sorry you were shushed when you clapped after the first movement of the symphony. I’m sorry your music teacher made you feel bad about yourself. Those things genuinely make me sad because you deserved better than that. No one deserves to be shushed for clapping once the orchestra stops playing. No kid deserves to feel bad at school.
As I’ve just written, classical music comes with a history of oppression. We don’t need to keep that going. We have the power to change that. I’ll try my best.
Third: Classical music is stuffy.
Not to pull a Sebastian-from-La-La-Land, but classical music has caused riots. That’s hardcore. Have you seen Amadeus (1984)? That’s hardcore. Chopin had an affair with an author who went by George Sand. That’s hardcore (though George Sand herself was so much more hardcore than Chopin). Tchaikovsky dealt with widespread and internalized homophobia for decades. That’s hardcore. Have you heard Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and imagined it being played in 1808? That’s hardcore. Vivaldi died in poverty in 1741 and “[m]any of his compositions were written for the all-female music ensemble of […] a home for abandoned children.” (Wikipedia) That’s hardcore.
Classical music is so hardcore!
Fourth: Classical music is too old to still be relevant.
Amazing new songs are being written every day. Yes. I agree. It’s important to support artists who are alive. Yes. I agree. I definitely agree.
Aside from the many, many classical musicians still alive today, I think classical music as an art form is still relevant as a creator of discussion. It’s a reason to think more, talk more, listen more, share more. It’s a reason to ask one another questions. Did you like this? Why or why not? What were you thinking about while you were listening? What did this remind you of? What do you think this piece meant when it premiered, hundreds of years ago? Do you think people hummed the main theme in the streets? Do you think strangers stopped them and said: “Oh, you heard the latest Beethoven too! Wasn’t it amazing?”
Kids learning to play classical? That’s even more important, I think. Playing music in ensembles taught me to listen. It taught me to wait. It taught me the value of hard work. It taught me tolerance. It taught me solidarity. It taught me trust. It taught me the extraordinary hugeness of what we can do when we work together. How are kids supposed to learn those lessons from playing music together when adults don’t value the type of music they play?
Finally, please forgive the hyperbolic comparison, but are mountains too old to still be relevant? Stonehenge, the Moai on Easter Island, the Sphinx of Giza – are they too old to still be relevant? Those monuments of nature and humanity are still relevant because they’re beautiful. Because they’re puzzling. Because we look at them and we’re breathless with the immensity of what we humans can achieve when we put our minds to it as a group. When someone has a wild idea and we listen instead of fearing and chastising.
I want to be one who listens.
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.