My mom was a very crafty person and loved to crochet. When she first was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she crocheted all the time, a way to help keep her brain active. As time progressed and the disease began to take hold, it became more difficult to complete the more intricate designs of the squares she created in the months and weeks before. Soon enough, she moved on to making tightly constructed circles. Eventually, she just held the empty needles in her hand, roughly simulating the act of creating.
This is going to be a harder blog to write.
So, I suffer from depression. This is not a new thing, if I’m being honest. It’s probably something I’ve always felt in some capacity–touched by this feeling of Knowing and Understanding from a young age. I was always called an “old soul,” never exactly felt right in my childhood body. I say I’ve “suffered” from it, but I don’t know if that’s really the right word, the accurate one. It’s always been there in some capacity, sometimes more quietly, like the hum of appliances in the background, and sometimes I feel it as though it were another person I was accommodating in my mind. Not always an easy friend to have, but one who I understood, and who understood me.
Depression runs in my family, more openly discussed regarding my mother’s side, but something that I can feel on my father’s side, too. It’s hard to compare the two families equally, being that I don’t really know my mom’s side as well (although fortunately, things like social media have helped bridge that gap in some ways), but I certainly understand the way it operates on my dad’s side more. I think it is something that defines us, that makes me understand them better, and certain family members even more. There is a strength in us, but a vulnerability too that makes us feel the world a little differently. Maybe everyone has this, maybe everyone feels this way about their family, but I guess because we share blood and bones and DNA, I feel it more acutely.
My depression is manageable most of the times until it’s not, usually offset by some major stress/significant change, or often it’s seasonal, especially in the winter.
Winter is a season I both love and dread for this. I’ve come to understand that I operate differently during the winter, that my thoughts are different. It’s a time of reflection, of darkness, of self-evaluation and contemplation. There is some hibernation that comes with this territory, some isolation. And to me, that’s okay, because sometimes I need that time away from people, inside myself to really think about the things I’m feeling, to really absorb all the people and life that is happening around me and at me.
But there’s usually a point during the winter, towards the middle or the end, where it becomes a little too consuming. Where the time spent out of the sunshine and limited indoors is a bit too much and the company inside my head is not the most pleasant. It becomes much more difficult to do things, like get out of bed in the morning, or to keep myself from crawling back in it the minute I get home, warm, safe, alone. Continue reading
As I mentioned in my previous post, I put together my annual “Year in Review” CD and wanted to put together some liner notes for this year’s choices. Here’s part 1 of 2 of that.
“We the People” – A Tribe Called Quest. Coming up with the first song to a mix CD is one of the biggest challenges. You want to set the right tone, and draw listeners in immediately. Starting on a good foot will help make sure people stay engaged, or willing to be engaged, even if they don’t love every song you’ve selected.
I went back and forth on this one for a while, really wanting to start with a Bowie song, since for me his death in the beginning of 2016 really set the tone for the rest of the year. I also obsessively listen to Blackstar when it first came out and for the month following Bowie’s death. But as this project kept evolving, starting the CD with one of those tracks didn’t feel right.
After listening through my “Songs of 2016” playlist again, I immediately knew I found my first track when it came up.
This song really had it all: An iconic group, known for addressing social and political themes in their music, releasing an album after a decades-long hiatus that spoke to the current climate of the country. And, true to the seemingly mark of the year, one of its members, Phife Dawg, passed away earlier this year.
“Wintersleep” – Amerika. I think I can credit my discovery of this song to my XM subscription–it seemed like any time I got in the car while I was still driving an hour each way to work on 95, I heard it playing on the radio. (I don’t know if I can chalk that up to coincidence as much as a limited playlist rotation on most of the satellite channels). Although it wasn’t a favorite of mine right off the bat, it grew on me and began to feel a bit like a battle anthem as I sped down the highway, usually on my way to or from Jersey, Philly, or Wilmington.
“The Ministry of Defence” – PJ Harvey. I admit I made it to the PJ Harvey party late in the game. Although her stuff has been recommended to me since college (including a mix CD pass along by an admirer which is still tucked away in a CD sleeve somewhere), I never really had that “ah ha” moment with her until fairly recently, and this song especially seemed to pull me in. I created a 2-song playlist (featuring this and “The Nurse Who Loved Me” by A Perfect Circle) that I listened to fairly exclusively for a 2-week period early in the summer.
“Fill in the Blank” – Car Seat Headrest. Car Seat Headrest was my biggest discovery of 2016 and was on pretty constant rotation for most of the year. I actually debated which song to include on this mix, since I rather obsessively listened to both “Vincent” (Which proved to be a fairly decent running song) and “The Ending of Dramamine” (this was actually the original track I was going to go with, but I wanted to use the Spotify session version, which wasn’t easily available to download). CHS taps into all those angsty, middle school feels that I’ve realized I’ll never fully get rid of. It’s proven pretty versatile, too, fitting the mood for long summer evenings just as well as it does for snowy January Saturdays. In the end I ended up going with “Fill in the Blank” since it seemed like a good introductory song to the band and to that feeling/attitude they have that I like.
“Your Best American Girl” – Mitski. This song was permeating my world for a while, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it until one day it clicked and became an obsession for me and Colin. It’s been on pretty heavy rotation throughout the fall and winter months, and when this year’s CD and some of its themes started taking shape, it seemed like a no-brainer addition. (Note, I never actually watched the video ’til just now when looking up links…Maybe listen to it first without it…)
“I Need Never Get Old” – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. This wasn’t really a song I listened to extensively throughout the year, but I found it on one of my saved monthly playlists (Each month I create a new playlist and throw any music I hear throughout that time period onto the list so I can go back and check it out later when I’m in need of something to listen to/in preparation for this CD). While going through songs to include for this mix, I rediscovered this one, and it felt like it helped add balance to some of the more somber, heavier songs in the collection. I also dig the throwback feel and am reminded of the Jukebox Jewels tapes I adored when I was little.
“Shut Up and Kiss Me” – Angel Olsen. This album is on a lot of “best of 2016” lists for a reason (clearly they got their hands on my holiday CD before coming up with their selections). Ch-Ch-Check it out.
Woke up early today to get caught up on writing and emails and editing and all the things I’ve been dreaming about doing since last weekend ended and I find myself hitting a familiar point of distress: all the things that seemed to manageable in the abstract feel daunting when time finally allows me to do them.
I find myself gravitating to my usual distractions: scrolling through Facebook, simultaneously Googling/researching several other things that I’ve been thinking I should look at/work on/get around to doing until I begin to feel so paralyzed by on the things that I have yet to do/have yet to accomplish, not just today, but in life. This suddenly turns into clicking through one of those slideshows that catalogs the transformation of celebrity child stars after they’ve grown up followed by amazing “then” and “now” weight loss successes. If by this point I’m feeling particularly self-destructive, I might begin to look up creative rivals or enemies who seem like they have shit “figured out,” who somehow seem blessed with the ability to stay on task, disciplined enough to diligently produce successful results.
Usually by this point, I’m left with a half-finished blog draft and a very strong desire for a nap.
As is now a tradition, whenever I put together my Christmas packages I also make a little “year in review” CD that highlights all the music that defines the year for me. Creating this holiday package is always fun, and a welcome creative challenge. The past few years have been more light-hearted approaches to the cards–one year recreating the infamous Kim K. “break the Internet” shot, and another poking fun at the Starbucks “Red Cup” controversy–but admittedly, this year seemed hard to come up with good material to fit the way I, and many other people, had been feeling. I didn’t want the card to become too much of a statement, but I didn’t want to ignore the sheer sense of uncertainty and trepidation that seemed to be hanging in the air. So when Colin suggested making a “Greetings from the Bunker” card for the holidays, we started riffing on the idea until the Holiday Survival Guide was born.
We got to work right away, reading various survival manuals and researching styles. It took a while to organize the content the way we wanted to, and even longer to find the right artist to partner with, but once all these elements came together, the project started to really come to life, and I really love how the guide ended up looking, especially considering we didn’t find our artist/designer ’til the 11th hour (Seriously, he rocks):
Sometimes Christmas is about the happiness and joy of the holiday, about the time spent with family and basking in the warmth of that love. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s about accepting the sadness that the holidays can bring, the darkness of the winter, the long nights that give you no choice but to think and reflect, and sometimes, grieve.
I guess this Christmas has been more of the latter for me, one where I’ve just been working through my own shit, trying to understand this next chapter of my life, trying to process who I am, where I am, and what exactly I want to be doing next. This isn’t a bad thing–in fact, I almost look forward to winter for this very reason: a chance to really dig in on this heavier kind of thinking. But it certainly can come with its challenges, especially when trying to keep things merry and bright. Continue reading
I know for me, the feeling of loss comes and goes. As most people know, my mom was diagnosed with early onset-Alz when I was 22 years old. For the past 11 years I’ve watched my mother decline and have found myself ebbing and flowing in the various stages of grief over it. This is a topic that really fascinates me, and understanding that these different stages exist really do help me feel OK with whichever of the emotions I’m feeling at the moment.
Right now I’m definitely feel bummed about my mom in a way I honestly haven’t felt for a long time. I guess after her illness because more of a constant reality and then the norm, it was easy to just accept what was happening, especially because I really haven’t had much of a choice. But for whatever reason I’ve just been struck with such a strong sense of how things used to be, and what it was like when my mom used to care for me instead of the other way around. I always knew I still missed her, it’s a thing you just feel all the time, but suddenly I started to experience a sense of grief like I haven’t in a long, long time. Continue reading
I’ve put together these annual mixtapes for some time now, in one form or another. Some years I focus on particular seasons, others are more a “year in review.” To me these CDs are like a scrapbook or diary—they best represent the things that happened to me, the lessons I’ve learned, and the memories from the year that I hold on to the most. I love making them, and especially love being able to share them with others.
I recently had a few people request that I create “liner notes” to go along with this year’s mix to explain the significance of the selected songs. I thought that would be a pretty cool idea, though I had no idea how incredibly challenging it would be, too.
2015 was a very good year for me in a lot of ways, but it came with a lot of serious change and challenges. While going through the monthly playlists I created with this project in mind, I was able to recount exactly what had happened in that timeframe and the emotional state I was in during most of it. It reminded me of the power of music, and admittedly overwhelmed me a bit.
Some of the songs on this list hold a lot of emotional weight for me; some are just ones I really enjoyed and think you might enjoy, too. Continue reading