6 month check-in:

-Susie Q. –

-Bobbi Lu –

In December, I was recovering from having my confidence rocked. Work was making me anxious, I didn’t have enough and I was getting kicked while I was down. I was in this mindset that more work would fix it. “It” being the proverbial “it”- all things would be righted if I just had one more contract or ten more hours per week with Fill in the Blank Company. I was also bored, I felt stifled in my life prospects and was beginning to feel like a permanent third wheel as nearly all of my friends are married.

Then things started to pick up and I felt like I was standing on my own two feet. I got back to being comfortable and not panicking about my identity being tied to my work, or worse, to my paycheck. By February, I was back to a place where I felt contented with who I was.

And just when I was settling in and getting comfortable, life as I knew it got shocked, shaken up, and I had to scramble to get my feet under me in and still keep living my life which was being inconvenienced by something pretty great. I guess, I’ll just say it. I was sitting at a bar with Bobbi Lu, discussing life, the universe, and everything when life, the universe, and everything decided to hit me with a freight train in the form of a very charming and incredibly fun man.

So there I was thinking I had my shit sorted when life took a sharp turn and suddenly I was headed in a different direction, one I hadn’t expected, with new company, and a slew of emotions that I swore I had scorched and burned. Isn’t that just the way it goes?

During this past six months, I’ve had some high highs and real triumphs in my professional life. Creatively, I have been persistent. Personally, it has been a wild ride, filled with love and friendship and excitement, but I have also been confronting loss and the aching sadness that accompanies it.
Through all of this, I’ve learned one thing: I’ve got no fucking clue what’s coming next and I’m nearly OK with that.

I’m still wondering. I’m still lost. I’m still searching.

Check back in after another 6 months – maybe life will have sorted something out by then.

P.S. – I take full credit for the awesome “meet cute” mentioned in Susie Q’s blog over there – all me people, all me. 🙂

Summer Mode

-Bobbi Lu –

-Susie Q –

I know summer is coming when I can open my eyes at 5:30 AM and see sunlight streaming into my bedroom. At first, I’m a little disgusted at this. Doesn’t the sun realize this is an ungodly hour to be up and how dare it also shine!? But, as we progress further into that glorious summer time, and my evenings stretch out as well, I realize how much I missed all the sunshine. And, I start thinking of all the things I need to/get to do.

It’s a bit of a love/hate thing I have with the seasons. They each bring their own awesomeness to the table, but they also bring their chores.

Summer = mowing, weeding, landscape issues, watering said landscape, bugs, spiders, wasps – all sorts of creepy crawlies. Ohh, and let’s not forget everyone’s desire to go to a pool or some other water bearing local – so my whole body image, health, swimsuit issues surface. And lest we think it is all self-esteem based, I happen to also be allergic to most living things and life in general. This includes all the now flowering and growing items, but also includes chlorine, too much sun mixed with sweat, and some sunscreens. Lots of label reading happens in the summer.

However, summer also = cookouts, camping, s’mores, long strolls in the late evening, green, green, green all around, speckled with beautiful flowering plants, travel around the world, and trips to those ever alluring mountains, trips with my family, trips with the ladies, travel, travel, travel, and summer camp options galore!

So, my adoration of changing seasons will probably drive my desire to live in a place – and summer mode will be observed happily each year it rolls around, no matter my occupation or time zone.

As a kid, I loved school, summertime was great but it presented a few problems: #1, biking. It’s summer, you’re eight, your transport is a bike and I have never been a confident cyclist. In fact, I spent a few summers just running to the neighbor kid’s house ¾ of a mile away because downhill on a bike was fucking scary. #2, Only 3 other kids lived in the neighborhood besides myself and my brother. My only real friend option was the only other girl who, luckily, was my age, because what am I going to do at that point? Hang out with my brother?! Fat chance. (Sidenote, he is 3 and a half years old, he wouldn’t let me hang out and even sawed the lowest branches off the tree with the treehouse so I couldn’t go up there.) That is the problem with living in an off the beaten path neighborhood. There weren’t a bunch of kids to get up to hijinxs with.

Summer was always a bit isolating until I got older. While I was too young to drive, I spent my summer mornings at swim practice. Not hanging at the pool having fun, I was doing laps and getting ready for the next meet. Then, I would then go home, play with my dogs in the yard- I had a whole fantasy swashbuckling adventure scenario that we would run through together. And, I would read. Anything and everything.

I wouldn’t say that I got good at enjoying summer until recently. All through college, I took classes and went to field schools because I had it in mind that I couldn’t fuck around. But when I finished grad school and gloriously continued working at an outdoor gear company (whose name I won’t state here), I learned how to do summer properly. Summer time became about waking up early, hitting the trail, playing for 2 or 3 or 4 hours if I had the time, rest, repeat, maybe paddleboard, maybe camp out, I guess go to work at some point. But most importantly,  be outside and do whatever I wanted. Those were the summer rules. My issue was that I wanted to live by those rules year around. I mean, I was still living by those rules but the weather sucked, so, I hatched a scheme to chase summer. I simply wanted to have it all, all of the time.

In November of 2016, I moved to the Southern Hemisphere. I thought, “This looks like a real shit storm, I’m out!” I packed a bag and took flight. I spent a glorious couple of months running through forests and along mountains trails. I met new people during my travels and had a change of perspective. What I ultimately learned was that a perpetual summer adventure alone with myself had its issues and became just as isolating as those summers when I was a kid.

Falls from grace . . .

-Susie Q –

-Bobbi Lu –

It wasn’t the temptation of an apple that did it for me. No, it was some little fucking punk in religion class who accelerated my fall from grace. To be truthful, it started long before that fateful day in seventh grade.

It likely began when I started writing reports on witch trials, mythology and paganism in elementary school . I loved history and found the parallels between our world and the past fascinating. I felt a connection to the ideas in Greek and Roman mythology in a way I never did with the stories in the Bible. In fact, the more I learned about history, the more I felt like Christianity and Catholics seemed like the bad guys. I know, what a weird 10 year old, sitting around thinking critically. That’s just how I was raised.

My elementary school was an Episcopal School that was attached to the church my grandparents went to. My folks weren’t particularly religious, they just wanted us to have a good education, the public schools in my neighborhood sucked and the opportunity presented itself. So the little girl who would yell “Fuck” in the grocery store when she was two and three years old went to parochial school and learned about god…

I truly loved that school. It was an amazing place to grow up and incredibly open minded for a parochial school. A deacon (a female deacon! Go Catholic lite) taught our religion class. Half of the teachings were from the Christian tradition and the other half were world religions. I was encouraged to think outside the box and I thrived while I was there.

That school was where I learned how to think critically and learn more in order to know my stance in an argument. But what actually kicked off my fall from grace was 7th grade. I got sent to Catholic school and as it turns out, free thinking pre-teens with a tendency for sarcasm aren’t necessarily held in high regard by the nuns. I was miserable from day one. I felt the oppression and was also a middle school kid just trying to get by and not be mocked constantly for my braces, glasses, and non-Catholic status.

One day at the end of religion class, Sister Mary (names may have been changed, or not, you’ll never know because there is always a Sister Mary) told me to collect the Bibles after reigion class. I was walking between the rows picking them up, I had collected eight and then I passed Sean, my chief tormentor. He tripped me, the Bibles leapt from my arms and skidded across the title floor. At this point, Sister Mary waddled over to me, squawking about how I had dropped the word of the Lord and needed to repent. She said I could go to Hell for acting like I had. It was at this moment that I looked up at her and said “I’m Agnostic.” I gathered the rest of the Bibles and continued to be a miserable middle school student.

To say my relationship with religion is complicated is an understatement. Obviously this experience turned me off but things were stirring in my mind earlier, I lacked a real connection with Christianity. I may have had some negative associations with rules and the patriarchy. I was definitely a weird kid, but I knew early where I stood in the world and how I felt about the built in bullshit of our establishment.

This ostracism by a member of the Church wasn’t an isolated incident. A priest told me I was having less of a human experience because I didn’t go to church and believe in his God. This was in college when I was beginning to learn about what would make me thrive. I was beginning to recognize that my friends and family are who I got my love and support from. They were my community. They were who make me feel connected. To me, my human connection comes when I am open minded and open to trying new things. When I narrow my focus, I lose my connection to people and the world around me. When I reflect on my interaction with this priest I feel badly for him because I know that his myopic worldview has made him miss out on a bigger, fuller life experience.

So, now that I have bashed the Catholic Church and its clergy, give me an opportunity to bring this back around to a less hostile place. At a friend’s wedding reception a few years back, I passed a lovely hour chatting with a priest about life, the world, and nothing at all about fire, brimstone and why I didn’t go to his church and believe the word of his Lord. We had a great exchange, we laughed, we chuckled, and dammit, we connected as people. I loved it. His religion didn’t speak to me, but there was room for us to speak and genuinely connect to each other.I don’t hate Catholicism. I don’t have an issue with people who are believers of any faith. I take issue with people who can look at me in a moment, without knowing anything about me and say with certainty that I am going to hell. If this discomfort with judgement and sanctimoniousness means that I have fallen from their God’s grace then that’s just fine by me. I know with certainty that I won’t ever walk up to another person and tell them that they are less than me because we are different.

I, like so many, was raised with religion. My mom would scrub all 3 of us children clean, load us up, and head off to Sunday school and church. My dad rarely attended unless it was a special occasion – a fact I didn’t question until my teen years.  During the summer, there was Vacation Bible School for 2 weeks, and later when I was old enough, Church Camp and youth group – which, ironically, was the beginning of my fall.

I was what one might have called a Bible-thumper. I could quote scripture and I wanted to make sure everyone in my life was “saved.” I was also fascinated with the book of Revelations, but I tried not to tell too many people that fact after I got disapproving looks from my pastor when I apparently asked too many questions about it. That should have been my first warning. Questions were a problem.

Because of my connections in my youth group, I got the chance to go on a Mission trip to Africa – Kenya to be exact. I was so excited to travel. You see, I was always looking to escape out into the big world, away from the pre-determination that growing up in a small town imposes on you. You know, where everybody knows your name and everything you have done since birth, and they already have you categorized in their brains – nice and tidy.

Not only was I flying to the mysterious continent of Africa, but I got to stop in London for a few days on the way home – epic! Ohh, yeah, and there was the ministering thing, too. (2nd warning – more excited to see exotic local than talk up the word of god).

It happened so suddenly – I really wasn’t expecting it. We had had a long day of working on building structures and were spending the evening open air preaching in the market area. I was pretty uncomfortable with this – the idea that we were telling others what to think and believe didn’t sit well with me. So, I hung back on the edges and watched and offered to hand out fliers.

The man was drunk, that was obvious, but it was what he said that stuck. He had walked up behind me and pushed my shoulder. “Why should I listen to you? What makes you right and my beliefs wrong? What if you’re wrong?!” Then he sort of stumbled away. Even if he had stuck around, I wouldn’t have known how to respond.

“How did I know?” Ok. Belief – yeah. But it was the “why should I . . .” question that stuck and started revolving in my head. If someone asked me to convert, I would refuse. This was what I believed. Why? Because I had been raised to . . . hmmm. I had never chosen for myself – I had been brought up this way. So, what if the person I was trying to convert had been raised like this too? Taught their belief since birth. If I wouldn’t change, why should they? They thought/believed they were just as right as I did.

This was the beginning of my end. I posed this question to my pastor upon return – and was met with a contemptuous laugh and the self-assured comment that they must convert because ours was the true faith. When I tried to point out that individuals in those other belief systems thought and felt the same about their faith so how could we expect them to abandon a lifetime of belief when we wouldn’t do so ourselves – the contempt was leveraged at me instead. I was told to stop asking questions.

As I said, the questions were a problem. My slow but inevitable fall from faith culminated with college. This most amazing time of exploration and growth and meeting people and discovering who you were becoming.

I went back to my church camp over the summer, but this time as a camp counselor. This pivotal week altered my destiny in so many ways. I really wasn’t sure of my college major, even after a year in college. I liked history, but what would I do? I was interested in government at the time – hmm, how does one become an ambassador? I had no talent for learning other languages, so I was pretty sure I was in trouble with my dream of following Indiana Jones into archaeology. That week, as a camp counselor cleared it all up.

I loved working with the kids. It was like a light turned on and I felt my path open up – teaching – I was going to become a teacher. And what do you know? You can teach history!? I was checking off boxes left and right. Things were looking up . . . until movie night. As the kids settled in, I wandered to the back to chat with our pastor’s wife. She asked about college and how it was all going. Where was I staying? Ohh, I had an apartment – how great – with a roommate? Who was that?

I actually paused for a second. I could lie – it would be easy and then all would be well. I wasn’t ashamed though, living with my boyfriend at the time didn’t bother me – it was economical and helping us learn if we were going to make it a long term deal. Stony stare. That is living in sin.

Ohh. Yeah? Well, you know . .

You can’t live with him and be a part of our church. We will have to excommunicate you.

Umm. Excuse me?! What? First, we are not Catholic. Excommunication is a Catholic thing. We Protestants believe we have our own direct line to god, and if that is the case, you can’t cut off my contact to said god – which is basically what excommunication is by excluding me from services and sacrament – which we had none of by the way, sacraments that is. Well, clearly my church believed otherwise. I received a letter letting me know that I was no longer a member, could not vote on issues, but was still welcome to attend services. Ohh, sure – so you can tell me how horrible a person and sinner I am? Pass.

In some ways, I think this was needed. It gave me a clean break to continue exploring who I was in the college years with an open mind and the freedom to question everything. I remember smiling a little in a history class as I noted a certain king in the past had been excommunicated twice – well, I was ahead of him at least. In the end, I came to realize that instead of the problem, questions were my answer.

To change or not to change . . .

-Bobbi Lu –

-Susie Q –

“No one ever really changes.”

“A tiger cannot change its stripes.”

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

These adages fall on the side of “no change is really possible.”

“Fail forward.”

“We learn best from our mistakes.”

“Change comes from our struggles.”

These thoughts fall on the side of “change is possible.”

So . . . is one right? Either we can change or we can’t? I’ve been thinking this over ever since the nation jumped on the bandwagon and wanted to unseat a politician, who decades ago did something on the server end of the stupid spectrum. And while, yes, I abhor what he did, I had to wonder – is that who he is now? I wondered that because so many of his (former) supporters all were quick to point out how shocked they were. How this was not the man they knew. So, ok, that seems plausible. In fact, I am definitely different now from even 5 years ago. But it started me wondering – if he is a great guy now, a “good” person, as it were, should he have to resign? Apologize – yes. Perhaps lead some initiatives on the issue and how to address it and create . . . well . . . change. But, has he changed and grown from who he was when he did this stupid college-aged act? Isn’t that what we want from people? If we don’t allow them this, then what the heck is all the teaching and preaching about? Why even bother if we won’t allow that people can change?

Now, I think there is truth in the adages listed at the beginning of this rant – but I do mean all of them. It is hard to change. Not all of a person changes – not all at once – not all the time. But we do change and we grow into “newness” over time. I mean, can you imagine if we never changed out of those dreaded teenage years!?

So, is it that we crucify others in order to make ourselves look shiny and bright by comparison? Hmmm – are we afraid of change? We demand change, but not if we can see it publicly, or is it that we demand it so we can see that we created it – but not that we actually want to change ourselves? We’re fine, right? We aren’t the problem we are fighting against.

It seems that we ourselves can point out how others must grow, adapt, change – but do we ever point at ourselves, in earnest? Not in platitudes. And, if the change occurs but not in the way we wanted, demanded, envisioned, then do we allow it? Count it? Try to accept it? Hmm . . . I’ve got no answers on this. See, one of the ways I am changing is to stop trying to have an answer to every question, and instead, sometimes just listen to other’s thoughts on the question, or ask a question myself, or just allow myself to wonder about it? I feel that I learn more when I think and when I listen – not when my mouth is spouting out platitudes to fill the empty air. What a change.

We are resistant to change, threatened by change, scared to death of change. But, the problem is, we change. Think back to ten years ago. What were you like? I was hot mess, struggling to stand up and own my worth. Time changes us, circumstances change us. The people we spend time around change us. So perhaps the question ought to be why on earth are we all so afraid of change?

People ask: can we change?

I think of this question as the one that dissatisfied people ask in their relationships. Of course people can change, look at what happens when they get a new job, get a life altering disease, lose a friend or family member, have a child, make new friends. All of these things change you. This question is asked when we wish that we could influence others and make them become what we most wish they would be.

Do we allow others to change? It is safer to assume that people will be exactly who you think they are forever. It hurts when people act differently than you expect. When you leave to travel for a longer period than just the traditional American 5 days on a beach (oh this will be a future topic…), you meet new people, try new things, experience life in a different way. You can’t live your life the same way on the opposite side of the world with a different daily schedule and a different mindset, different people, a new city, and different daily reality. I won’t go to New Zealand and experience a day like I would in my middle sized US city. Perhaps this is why travel is valuable. It shakes you up. Changes your perspective. Scares you. Pushes you. Challenges you and then it changes you. You come home and everyone else is the same except that they learned to live life without you. They made changes too, but your changes are the ones that you have to deal with, your changes are the ones that are directly affecting the way that thoughts roll through your head. We are afraid of the changes that we see and we try to keep people safely in their boxes. It’s terrifying to be open to the possibility that people are changing in front of our eyes, today, as you read this. You are changing and that is scary.

But consider it in a different light: what if today you read something, or meet someone or try something new that rocks your fucking world? What if today something tiny happens and it plants the seed for a little bit of change that grows and flourishes over time. Seeing change within yourself as an adventure, as something to celebrate seems like a positive way to experience change. And call me a naive optimist, but I want to experience life with a childlike joy, with fresh eyes, and an openness to change. I want to see the people in my life change and grow and become the next version of themselves. It is dangerous to view people as stagnant. It doesn’t serve us to say that people don’t change.

Entrepreneurialism-istic-ness (and other made up words)

-Susie Q. –

-Bobbi Lu –

I’m going to rail against the state of things to prove my point. There are some major issues with entrepreneurial pursuits in the world today. The hurdles associated with doing your own thing can be so overwhelming that it has completely stifled the entrepreneurial spirit that was once so celebrated.

The main issue that I see is bureaucratic red tape. It can overload people that they’re stopped before they get rolling. No progress can be made when you’re busy determining whether or not your insurance policy needs an insurance policy to work and if that insurance policy covers each room of the space equally. The bureaucratic encumbrances are stunting the growth of small business and crushing the entrepreneurial spirit to dust.

And now, I am really going for it. Let’s dive into a favorite topic of mine: Trickle Down Economics.

It doesn’t fucking work. It puts too much pressure on small business and has made our society one big box store away from my worst corporate nightmare scenario.

Corporations, like Amazon**, are paying next to nothing in taxes in order to stimulate the economy by allowing them to buy more, hire more and do more. And yeah! That’s working like a treat. I recently saw an article about an automated system that Amazon has which is capable of firing people so no actual face to face contact has to be made. SO that’s what has actually been stimulated- the removal of the human element. Employees aren’t just warm bodies that can be replaced with the next and disposed of with no care. That sort of treatment is what leads to the further degradation of society and we don’t have the space for that tirade.

And, on the note of taxes: I’m a damn dirty liberal and proud of it, but I also think critically, listen to people and I am informed. I have seen friends close their small, unique businesses because taxes were crushing them. Between desperately trying to be in compliance with insurance, sales tax rules, leases, state requirements for licensing depending on their trade, and state and federal rules for the production of their goods, they struggle to keep their heads above water and that is before they even get to the websites, accepting of payments, marketing and other necessary details. The point is, small businesses can’t thrive when they end up carrying more weight than a large corporation. Fair isn’t always equal.

I haven’t seen any evidence of this trickle down approach stimulating the economy. I’ve seen small businesses fail, wages stagnate, and retail vacancies increase. I find it discouraging that we live in this weird lie that wealth will somehow trickle down and lift the rest of us up. It is going to take some revolutionary politicians and entrepreneurs to come along and change this and I am afraid that all of the entrepreneurs that I know are too bound by the red tape at the moment to be available to affect change on a national and cultural level.

**Please do not revoke my Prime Membership. I really enjoy watching Grand Tour and I can’t possibly have that much influence that you need to make an example of me!

I started a tiny, microscopic game design company with my husband. “Company” is a very strong word for what we are. He has always had a game in his head that he wanted to make, so about three years ago, we started. One step. See what happens. Two steps back, turn and adjust, then another step.

Lo and behold, we end up successfully Kickstarting our first game (after we survived the campaign, I wanted it to be our last game!). We sent out games to our backers and then set up our website to sell. We are no big thing. We aren’t trying to be. This is not our income – it is a passion and hobby (truth be told – his passion. I’m just here for logistics and free cookies – it’s what I do).

You might think the most frustrating thing would be dealing with trolls on-line, or snippy people who point out everything they perceive as wrong, or even shipping. And, yes, shipping is a racket and a special type of hell. But, nope, in truth, the most frustrating thing is all the ridiculous ways our government has figured out to nickel and dime small business to bleed them dry. I never understood their frustrations until I dipped a pinky toe into that pool – and I don’t have to do ¼ of what a true small business deals with!

I’m pretty sure it was the city “use tax” that sent me over the edge. Trying to force me to pay city tax on anything I have bought to use for my business that was purchased “outside” the city – to promote supporting local businesses. Really!? My laptop and phone were bought online while I sat in this city – does that count!? There is no local business that makes the laptop I need. You have to really look for the fine print to see they excuse it if you paid tax to someone else at equal the city tax rate, but come on! WTF – as though we aren’t already paying taxes left and right, but now you ding people for using items that were bought outside your city!? Global economy, yeah right.

Then, there are the permits for every little thing you do. You might hope that registering with the state of Colorado would cover things – but no. The county, the city – they all want their slice. And, because you might possibly make a little money, you best be filing your taxes each quarter. I’m not kidding about the “little.” The only way they let you skip filing each quarter is if you make less than $25 a month. Huh?! $25 – not $250, no. Twenty. Five. Dollars. A. Month.

So, register you name, register your titles, register your soul. Get a license for everything and pay the fees to do so. Get a license to breath. Set reminders to renew all this because if you don’t keep up all your paperwork, you must be the worst criminal out there and will be shamed as such. Don’t forget, if you survive all this, but don’t make enough money to satisfy the government (i.e. – don’t make enough to send them taxes) they will not allow you to be a business after a few years. Nope – you don’t even get to decide that if you want to. You will be a hobby and pay different fees, and get different licenses, etc.

It’s an interesting conundrum, as I think about it. On the one hand, we want people to be accountable for what they do and what they put out to the world. On the other hand, we want the freedom to pursue our goals and dreams and the ability to have the pursuit not be limited to the rich only. We have created our own little circles of hell and we don’t seem to be able to find a different way, or we don’t care enough yet to break those circles (dare I say, break the wheel?!). So for now, slog on you up-and-coming business owners. Learn the ropes and the hoops, how high to jump and how to walk just so. Maybe you will make it through. Maybe not.

Thoughts on Years Passing

-Bobbi Lu –

-Susie Q. –

Remember when we were kids? Death was far away and not in the circle of our reality. As we grew, we came to understand that death, and endings, and the unknown were a thing. Sometimes, we even come to fear it.

It got me wondering lately, probably due to a lot of death that came knocking on my door. I was thinking about how different I felt now about being older and about what might come after we leave this world. I realized that in my previous years, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it. It was as though there were layers of insulation around me. And now, the layers are thinner and I can see out more . . . out into . . . well, I don’t know exactly. I sure wonder about it a lot when I never used to before. And now, now I even get tinglings of . . . fear . . . doubt . . . dread . . . I don’t know.

Back to these layers. It’s like we get a natural layer wrapped around us just because we are young. Now, mind you, I’m not applying judgements either way on the layers – so don’t you either! Then, your parents, if they are doing any kind of parenting of quality, apply another layer – the on that matches their style and beliefs to be sure, but a layer nonetheless. Grandparents, who hopefully live by the “what happens at grandma/pa’s, stays at . . . ” add their layer. And some fortunate souls also get a great-grandparent layer.

The years pass, and we begin to experience loss. Maybe it’s chronological (as it should go) and we lose greats, or grandparents. Maybe even some of us lost pets and/or others along the way. All this to say that the insulation that is wrapped around us on the outside begins to thin. As we age, the insulation of youth thins from the inside – and we start to glimpse hazy views of the beyond – or whatever is out there.

It is lately though, that instead of peering at the haze – I started looking at the insulation and noticing the thinning. I did some mental calculating and deduced that I’m almost burned through my grandparent layers and that only leaves my parents . . . ! Then me! Well hell! I’m not sure I want to actually thin out anymore. You see, my brilliant brain realized that if I do get through all my insulation, then it is just me and the great beyond. And I don’t really know what is . . . beyond, and frankly, my dear, I don’t want to just yet – or anytime soon.

Its scary when you notice that someone you love is aging. What’s most frightening is the fact that health fails and that people become fragile. I see that in those I love and I forget every Buddhist notion of non-attachment that I have ever practiced. I see that fragility and I get desperate. I see what time does and I want to fight it. I get scared and I lose perspective.

At the moment, I am seeing some small declines in those I love and it freaks me out. I see this starting to happen and I want to help. I forget that people also have to emotionally cope with aging for themselves and sometimes having someone young trying to give them a pep talk or swoop in and rescue them actually just makes them want to scream. Is anyone else experiencing this dynamic? Turns out I can really strain my relationship with someone when I get too helpful. Note to self: stay in your own lane, it’s ok to not to help everyone at the first sign of a stumble.

What I am trying to get comfortable with is the idea that decline isn’t the end. And I know that the loss at the actual end is devastating for those still around, but it is freeing for those that we lose. I personally want my end to be a well earn release after living an adventurous and full life all the way to the end. Everyone is owed their own sort of dignity. Everyone deserves to be allowed to live life big until the end, they don’t need people fawning and smothering and taking away the final adventures. And it’s this perspective I am trying to wrap my head around as I am confronted with the frightening fact that the people around me won’t be here forever.

Music = Magic

-Susie Q. –

-Bobbi Lu –

The presence or absence of music is a great indicator of what I feel about the current state of my life. Sometimes, I am listening to music all the time, it is the constant background in my life, other times, there is silence.

I used to to have seasonal cycles of music. You knew it was summer when Jimi Hendrix was constantly playing. Around November the music would get darker and more introspective, and in February, silence.

A few years ago the music stopped and didn’t pick up again. It coincided with a time of feeling serious and like I was underachieving. This silence lasted through grad school and well beyond. It was a heavy silence, the kind where you are so wrapped up in your own world that you forget to live life. This isn’t to say that silence has no place in my life. It can be a profoundly useful tool when everything is overwhelming. But silence also allows me to withdraw completely. It makes it easier for me to fade away, hide out, and not address what may need to be addressed.

One day, during the silent period, something shifted. I was sick of the dark and heavy. Sick of being serious. Sick of the silence. I wanted noise. I wanted it to be loud and upbeat or angry or anything just as long as it broke that horrible fucking silence.

The amazing thing about music is that it has the power to pump life into me. It can shock me back into functioning. I love that music has this ability to draw me in when I need some introspection or to pull me out of my head. If I need to focus, I know I need classical symphonies or something instrumental. I put that on and the next thing I know, I am looking at four pages of writing or hours of completed work. If I need to shake things up, then I take a dive back into my high school years and let myself be carried away by Dave Grohl.

My music phases tend to pick up when I’m enthusiastic, when life is moving and I don’t know where but I am along for the ride. It’s getting loud again. I’m excited about this sound wave and ready to explore this emotional journey and what this soundtrack becomes.

I do confess to emotional consumption of Adele during the silent time because sometimes you have to feel feelings and she knows how to force them out of me.

If someone asked me if magic existed in our world, I would say “Yes, most definitely.” When asked where, I would simply point them towards music.

Music is the magic that allows me to shape reality – much like an infinity stone, but without all the fuss. If I need to be productive, I put on instrumental music, or classical music. If I need to feel light-hearted and free, then Jimmy Buffett or Journey to the rescue. Time for some darkness – slip into my old friend Type O Negative. Introspective moods call for Dido, or if I’m up for some change – I feel a country song settling in.

Then, there is also the ability to time-travel with music (the green stone, right?). If I want to go back to my younger, more reckless and yet more carefree years, I need some Blink 182, some Matchbox 20, some Spice Girls. If I want to be in a certain time with a certain person, I cue up 3rd Eye Blind’s “Jumper,” Ani DeFranco, Papa Roach, or perhaps one of the many P!nk or Alanis Morissette songs that send me into a retrospective state with past people and places.

Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs for human development. He believes that food, water, shelter, rest, etc. – those have to come first before people can ascend to higher orders of work. I get this – it makes sense. But I would interject “music” in those “basic” needs. That is how strongly I feel music is magic, or that music makes us human – it is one of the things that set us apart.

You can’t listen to music and not be affected in some way, even indifference or intolerance of the tune is an affect. No apocalypse would be complete with music still in the world. Keep that in mind script and story writers.

I see places in music. I see moments in time when music plays. I see people in the lyrics that wend through my ears. Without this magic, there may as well be nothing, and the world can end with a whimper.

And just to top it off, because I have always loved them despite the ohh-so-trendy need to hate them – give me Nickleback any day, anytime!