The Importance of Music

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"when we hear someone else sing about the jagged edges of heartache or the unspeakable nature of grief, we immediately know we're not the only ones in pain. the transformative power of art is in the sharing. without connection or collective engagement, what we hear is simply a caged song of sorrow and despair; we find no liberation in it. it's the sharing of art that whispers, 'you're not alone.'" - brene brown

"that’s one of the great things about music. you can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons." - dave grohl

"i like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things." - tom waits

"after silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." - aldous huxley 


when i was younger, i remember music meaning so much to me. i sang at church, i sang at home, and i always had music rotating on my 5-disc stereo. i played piano for eight years. and before i gave up playing, i wrote my own music. 

but even after i gave up playing because i believed i wasn’t good enough (more on this in a later post), i still listened. i would volunteer at concerts, handing out flyers at the door, just for a chance to hear the last 30 minutes of the band. i remember being twelve years old and putting a portable cd-player on layaway at k-mart. i would pay $5 down every week, my allowance at the time, just for the chance to carry my music with me. it was the first “big” purchase i made on my own. i was so proud of that cd-player. 

all of my favorite memories involve music.

that’s why i love music so much. because art gets at the truth when you don't have the right words. because that song is your story. and because music communicates something so much deeper than we can communicate on our own. the lyrics, yes, but mostly the melodies. all of my favorite songs are instrumental. i like to define myself by my love of words, but the most beautiful things in life don't need words. that is music.

i know people listen to music for a billion different reasons. which is the beautify of it. but for me, it's one of the very few places i feel completely understood. i feel seen, and known, in good music.

to this day, i tend to have my headphones in all day, listening to my music. i don't listen to podcasts because i don't want to miss the opportunity to listen to my favorite songs. i'm also so exhausted from listening to people talk, but that's another story for another time. i even listen to music when i go to sleep, and it's still on when i wake up in the morning. concerts are still the only place i feel completely and totally like myself, with no care in the world; no worry of who’s watching or what they’re going to think.

i wanted to write a bit about why i love music because i believe it is the most beautiful form of art. and i love that there are so many expressions of it. i love how it's so personal to the artist but so universal at the same time. there is still no better feeling than being at a show where you can lose yourself for a few hours. and when you stand in a room with thousands of people screaming the same lyrics as you - or it's best when the room is rendered silent - it's heartbreaking in the best way, and it’s beautiful and irreplaceable. music has a way of uniting people in a way no other art form can.  

i have a playlist on apple music titled "melancholy." and it's full of my favorite songs. mostly, it's full of bon iver, the 1975, and some john mayer. i know there are millions of beautiful songs out there, songs that i very much love, but these are the ones i come back to. i listen to music that makes me feel something. it doesn’t matter what, really. i just want good music to do what it does best.

so i'm sharing my playlist here, with you. i hope you find some songs on here that you love. but i also hope you comment some of your favorite songs, so i can learn something about you. because really that's what music does. it says so much more about ourselves than we even realize. and maybe i'll add your songs to my playlist. :) 

consider making a playlist of your music. make multiple playlists for all kinds of feelings. or maybe one for work, one for running, and one for cleaning the house. make a playlist that you turn on when you create. music is powerful. the most powerful. it heals us. it teaches us we are not alone, in our pain or happiness. someone is always there to laugh or cry with us. 

Melancholy Playlist

Finding Identity

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It seems each of us struggles with something, or maybe a few things, our entire life. And no matter how hard we work to "fix it," we never quite get past it. We work and we work and we work, and still it's the thing that trips us up. Every time. For me, that thing is identity. My identity is constantly shifting and changing. I've never been confident in who I am, or I have but it's only lasted a few hours at best. I'm constantly second guessing myself, worried that I'm not who I think I am, and convinced I'll never be who I want to be.

People always say, "Don't pay attention to your feelings. They're not reliable." I used to get so upset by this statement. Not that I let feelings guide me necessarily, but I think they're important to notice and pay attention to. I tend to think there's a reason you're feeling what you're feeling. Don't act on them, but observe them, sit with them, see what they're trying to tell you. Anyway, it wasn't until I went through the enneagram that I learned why.

I'm a type 4 on the enneagram. To quote the enneagram directly, "Fours base their identity on their inner feeling states ("I am what I feel"), so they tend to check in on their feelings more than other types. But the one sure thing about feelings is that they always change. This presents a problem. If their identity is based on feelings, and their feelings are always changing, then their identity is always changing." So essentially, what I am hearing when people say feelings aren't reliable is that I'm not reliable. I know it makes no sense, but I cannot separate the two.

If you're not familiar with the enneagram, each type has a basic fear and a basic desire from which they operate. My basic fear? "Of having no identity, no personal significance." And my basic desire? "To find myself and my significance, to create an identity out of my inner experience."

I was blown away when I read that. Everything in my life suddenly made so much sense. I was also angry. How am I supposed to create an identity and not let my feelings determine my identity if that's literally how I operate? I threw my enneagram book on the floor and didn't touch it for 3 months. I didn't want to know the answers; didn't want to do the work. 

But like every time God or life is trying to teach you something, eventually you have to give in and learn it, or be miserable trying to outrun it. So I gave in and picked the book back up. That was a year and a half ago. And honestly, I have not learned it. I'm aware of it. And again, I keep trying to "fix it," but I still find myself trying to create my identity out of things that don't sustain; my art, writing, feelings, jobs, the words other people use to define me.

My thoughts sound something like this, "If I write a pretty sentence, people will love me more. That will be my identity. A writer" or "I feel loved, so I am loved" or "I feel lonely, so I'm alone." I still don't know how it feels to know who I am or to know that I have inherent worth just because I'm here. 

I have gotten to the place in this particular lesson where I can feel myself placing my identity in things I shouldn't. I've learned my patterns and my tendencies. This is the greatest thing the enneagram has taught me. But I am in the middle of this, and I think on some level I will always be in the middle of this. But that's okay, you know? Sometimes we never conquer our demons completely, we just learn what they are and how to pursue health and joy anyway. 

This might sound backwards, but I think I moved to New York City to learn this. To heal from placing my identity in jobs or people or feelings. To learn what my true identity is. It sounds crazy, to come to a city known for its hustle and grind and chasing dream jobs, in order to learn how to rest easy in who I am and not worry so much about what others think, or being known for what I do. But it's what's happening. I'm grateful for the new lessons being thrown my way.

On good days, I can say with confidence that I don't care anymore about being known as a great writer or artist. I don't want to be known for the things I've done, but for the love I gave away. I want to be known for sitting and being with people in their pain. I don't care about accomplishments and accolades. On a good day.

Mostly, I still have bad days where I panic about not being recognized for my accomplishments. And I'm convinced people are just pretending to love me. But if I'm lucky I can get my thoughts under control and remind myself it's just how I feel, it's not who I am. 

The same is true for you. It's just how you feel, it's not who you are. Who you are is brave, kind, loved, beautiful. As John Green has said, "Not just capable of being loved, but worthy of it too."

The Art of Self-Care

self care has been a highly discussed topic of conversation in the last few years, as it should be. we have become so busy being busy that we often forget to stop and breathe, or feel guilty for doing so. our culture has perpetuated this idea that if we are not busy, we are not worthy. and that is simply not true.

the definition of self care is “the care of self without medical or other professional consultation.” in other words, we do something that we enjoy simply because we enjoy it. dr. charity byers, a licensed psychologist, defines it as soul care; exercises and practices that are good and healthy for your soul. there is a slight but distinct difference between the two. it’s easy at times to fall into the trap of self indulgence when practicing self care rather than consciously taking care of yourself. when you use self care as an escape from your life, rather than intentionally resting and recuperating, you come back to your circumstances more exhausted than before.

when i had the chance to hear dr. byers speak on self care, i could relate. i had never been taught how to practice self care well, and i kept finding myself emptier than i was before. it’s nice to escape life for a few hours sometimes, but we can’t let that become our crutch. soul care cannot be an option for us dreamers and chasers. in order to bring value to other people’s lives, we must first be healthy by appreciating and noticing the value in ours.

mike foster is the founder of people of the second chance, a nonprofit organization that creates study guides and leadership training that helps people live free from shame and guilt. he created a self care exercise he calls the “canteen exercise.” this exercise can be freeing if we allow it to be. the idea is that you have a canteen, and you fill your canteen by practicing specific self care exercises that are just for you. they are not for your family, friends, or spouse; they are solely for you to enjoy. you break the canteen into four categories: daily, weekly, quarterly, and annually, and you assign each category a monetary value.

YOUR DAILY CATEGORY MAY BE TO ENJOY A CUP OF COFFEE.

you decide, according to your budget, what you can afford. maybe it’s a cup of coffee in the quiet of your home, or maybe you enjoy your coffee at a cute cafe. you are free to decide, as long as it fits within your monthly budget. for me, this is my shower time. i do my best thinking in the shower, so i usually take 30-45 minutes and just allow myself to relax. bonus: a bath or a shower is fairly inexpensive!

THE WEEKLY CATEGORY SHOULD BE A BIT MORE EXPENSIVE.

this might mean going to a movie by yourself, or enjoying a nice meal on your own. maybe it’s going to a bookstore and purchasing a new read. use your creativity! i personally love going to the theater and book browsing, so i switch off every other week. there are no limits to this, only you can define what is good for your soul. if you don’t know yet, test some things out! do you relax better while reading in a park, or doing diy projects?

THE QUARTERLYAGAIN, SHOULD BE ASSIGNED A LARGER BUDGET.

once a quarter, you take what you’ve been saving up in your monthly budget, and you spend it. maybe you love shopping, go on a shopping spree! or maybe you love plays and musicals. i use this budget to alternate between going on a long weekend trip or to a concert of one of my favorite bands.

THE LAST CATEGORY, THE ONE WITH THE BIGGEST BUDGET, IS ANNUALLY.

this typically means a vacation. a week or two somewhere new to refresh your mind and see life through a new lens. it isn’t required though, the annual category can be anything you want. the point is, it’s something you love to do that brings life and rest and perspective.

here is a free download for the canteen exercise graphic we have put together for you. we encourage you to use it; print it out and hang it somewhere you will see every day. it’s easy to be distracted by everything we have to fit into a day, and the world makes it difficult for us to focus on ourselves, but if we do we will have a greater impact on this world and everyone in it. we are all dreamers, so we must allow ourselves space to dream. relax, rest, and then set your sights on your dreams. pursue them with all of your heart, but remember your heart deserves rest too.

link to article posted on Wild Hearts Co.

Defining Your Values

Most of us have probably listened to a podcast or read a book that suggests you define your life's values. But what exactly does that mean? And what exactly is the point?

The dictionary defines a value as "a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life." I've also seen a life value defined as "things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. They (should) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they're probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to."

From those two definitions, it's clear that our values define our life. Our values show what social issues we are most concerned with, what we believe is important in this world, even what career path we choose. Whether we realize it or not, our values are deeply ingrained into who we are. We should clearly define them and allow them to inform our habits because if we're not careful, we will find ourselves living a life opposite of who we are. We may have the best intentions, but our habits determine where we end up. 

It's funny how easy it is to let life happen, to let it slip by without another thought. It's amazing how easily bad habits set in without us noticing. I think this happens when we aren't being an active participant in our lives.

I've been feeling like I need to be sure my habits align with my values. As of late, they have not. For example, one of my values is exploration. I believe in experiencing different cultures and places; in seeing the world and how others live in it. This means that in order to afford to travel, I have to pay attention to my budget and where I'm spending my money. Over the last few months, I've let myself fall out of this habit. 

It's never fun forming new habits or changing your mindset to be more self-aware. It's difficult, and tedious, and honestly just not much fun. But you know what is fun? Travel. Volunteering. Taking a friend out to dinner. That requires you to make good use of your finances, time, and resources. 

If you've never defined your values, I encourage you to. If you don't know where to start, here are a few articles from Huffington Post and Darling Magazine that can help you get started. Once you've defined your values clearly, take a look at your daily habits. Do they align with your values? If not, what can you change today to close the gap between the two? 

I keep all of my personality tests and value statements, anything that helps to define who I am, in a 3-ring binder on my desk that I can reference quickly and often. I suggest you do something similar that works for you. Post reminders all around your house, make it visible so that throughout your day you are reminded of your values, intentions, and goals. 

We've only got one life. Let's live it well, shall we?

 

a list of nice things

I couldn't sleep last night. I started getting so overwhelmed with all of the anger and fighting and hurting from the past several months. You can think I'm being too sensitive if you want, I don't mind. It's just impossible for me to ignore.

I could feel myself going down a dark spiral pretty quickly, so instead of letting myself do that, I decided to write a list of nice things to remind me of good things in this world. I am not the first person to come up with a list like this, but this one is mine:

 

pop songs played acoustically. the way my puppy sleeps. the crisp air in the early morning. the feeling you get when you look at great art. smiles. eavesdropping on conversations. foreign languages. a new york sunset. travel. the way she acts when she doesn't realize anyone is noticing her. the crashing of the waves. their eyes. a perfectly made chai latte. a perfect quote hidden in the book you're reading. an empty movie theater. kindness. a new pair of shoes. laughter on his face. a song that moves past words and into feelings. campfires. an unsolicited compliment that you needed so badly it nearly breaks your heart. concerts; that secret space where you finally feel home. snail mail. the happiness you feel when you're peacefully alone. hugs. all things cinnamon. crying, sometimes. fireworks. boat rides. a fond memory. friends who become family. harmony. doing something good for someone else. telling no one about it. fresh notebooks. light shining through the trees. confidence. people watching. thunderstorms. 

and you.

Are we Glorifying Hustle?

I started writing this article Monday evening. Tuesday afternoon I opened up Jon Acuff's newest book, Finish. Most of us are great at starting something, but not so great at finishing. In his book, he asks why. The simple answer? Perfectionism. We dive into a project or a goal and perfectionism shows up in all its glory. One of the ways it shows up is through the hustle.

Jon says, "More than likely, you've spent most of your life choosing to do more than is possible and beating yourself up for not being able to keep up... Our attempts to do too much feel noble and honorable. Look at us, tirelessly working toward burnout, reducing the quality of everything because we insisted we can do everything. We can share that approach with honor on Instagram. That's the grind. That's the hustle."

The hustle is a worthy endeavor, and often necessary in today's culture. But we need to keep it in check. I'm not advocating for less hustle. In fact, I love the hustle. Who doesn't? Hard work pays off. It feels good to dedicate our lives to something we love, and it feels even better when it finally pays off. But what I am advocating for is more rest. 

Hustle, in some ways, has become a crutch; a cop out. It's no longer only about putting your head down and doing great work. It's taken on a new meaning; of busyness, of burnout, of an unhealthy body and heart. We run ourselves into the ground and we allow our friendships to suffer, all in the name of hustle. 

This doesn't mean we should sacrifice our career, but it does mean we should never sacrifice our personal life or wellbeing for our job. I would argue that a great personal life and healthy mind is essential to productive working hours. According to the New York Times, sleep deprivation is one of the best predictors of burn-out and costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.

The hustle isn't about wearing ourselves thin, making ourselves sick. It's about being prosperous and productive. It's about killing it, not ourselves.

In order to create your best work, you need to be your best self. You need to rest and sleep. You need to drink water. You need deep, meaningful relationships. By all means, hustle. Create. Do amazing work. But an amazing career means nothing without people to share it with and without the ability to slow down and appreciate the work you've done. 

So, I'm not advocating for less hustle. I'm advocating for more rest. And better, bigger, richer lives. 

Work hard. Play hard. Rest well. 

Bucket Lists & Living Well

I have always been a fan of bucket lists. I've kept a running list of things I want to do someday in my head and on pinterest for a long time now. But recently I decided to put my bucket list to paper. I found this journal online, made by Axel + Ash, and it is absolutely beautiful. It even has a space on each page for a photo when you accomplish a goal! 

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I also set out to complete a 30 Before 30 list (it ended up being a 31 Before 30), which happens to be one of my bucket list items. So two birds, one stone, right? 

I'm sometimes guilty of creating all of my bucket lists and goals centered around travel, so crafting this list was actually more difficult than I thought it would be. But living well isn't just about experiencing new cities and different cultures, although I believe travel is essential. Living well is also about reading great books, and going to brunch with friends, and conquering your sugar dependency.

Below is my 31 Before 30 list. I hope you find some inspiration in this list to create your own. It's much more fun doing things in this life when you can look back and remember them; to be able to read a list of experiences you've been lucky enough to have. 

31 Before 30:

1. solo trip to Niagara Falls, Canada side.
2. read 20 classics.
3. solo camping trip.
4. quit something. (ie: my sugar habit)
5. bungee or cliff jump.
6. attend the Hay-on-Wye book festival.
7. make my living working for myself.
8. master the art of self-care.
9. learn my family history.
10. visit where my family is from. 
11. learn French.
12. re-learn piano.
13. start a book giveaway project.
14. have my ideal wardrobe.
15. be strong, healthy, and in shape.
16. establish a great daily routine / wake up early.
17. submit articles to magazines & blog regularly.
18. get my wildflowers tattoo.
19. learn Stand Up Paddleboarding.
20. take a writing class.
21. start & build a thriving book club.
22. take a class on something that interests me.
23. visit Washington D.C.
24. keep a daily journal & art journal
25. send 1 postcard per month to a friend
26. take a sabbatical
27. start saving for retirement / save lots of money / follow a budget :)
28. learn to love myself and be confident
29. visit London again, stay longer this time.
30. find an organization and volunteer regularly.
31. read Harry Potter 1-7 again.