The Introspective Salon
I tend to notice coincidences, or events that feel parallel; events that are somehow connected in time. This last week at work while my coworker and I were doing after school pickup together, I asked her about how she ended up in Colorado, and she unloaded a spiritual journey that involved her taking a huge leap of faith and laying all her trust in God. She was so sure that God had led her to Colorado and so sure that she had made the right decision. I found it incredibly admirable.
Then, before we left the school, a pair of Gideon men were handing out copies of the New Testament. They were completely unassuming, I only knew what they were up to because our student came in the van holding the little orange Bible. She said the men were so nice and that everyone was taking the Bibles. It was so refreshing to see such a calm display of evangelism. When I lived on a college campus evangelism was always so fierce and disheartening, but this student told me that the Gideon men were just saying, "Look to this when you're in trouble. It will tell you where to go."
The coincidence here was timing, I think. That moment of back to back displays of Godly love, not hate, really got me thinking about my own experiences, and I think I needed that reflection right now. I pondered where my experiences have led me and how I've mostly hardened my heart to any notion of God because unlike my coworker, the religion I grew up with was not something I trusted. It was something that had me scared. If I looked to it when I was in trouble it was only because I feared Hell.
On my drive home from work that day, after talking to my coworker and seeing the Gideons, I turned off the radio and thought about my own journey. I thought what I might tell my coworker about my relationship with God. I thought about telling her thank you for provoking the thought in me, and before I knew it, I was crying. I hadn't anticipated getting so emotional, so I tried to think where it was coming from. I pinpointed it to this: the religion I saw was not a display of love.
I didn't see happy religious people. I didn't see people rejoicing in God's love. I saw people scared of the alternative, I saw unhappy people who thought that living by the book and following doctrine could fulfill them. I saw people treat that doctrine as more valuable than their communities and families. More valuable than love.
As I explored this panoramic of the churches I grew up in, I started to get mad. I was mad at religion for keeping me scared. I was mad at religion for closing me up, almost literally. I really believe that religious repression played a huge role in my sexual struggles. I truly thought I was doing something wrong if I so much as hugged my boyfriend too longingly. Guilt swallowed me whole anytime we fooled around, and instead of getting to experience the joy of love, I felt shame. I felt like a horrible sinner. This provokes anger in me because the church (I only speak for the specific churches I grew up in) would rather have people abstain than love. I feel like I missed out on enjoying a pivotal experience during my development and it's hard for me not to blame the messages I got at church for that.
What I saw in my coworker's face though, what I heard in her voice, was full trust and an unfaltering belief that love prevails. I think that's more where the crying on my way home came from, that there was this other, happier way to live by faith. She was able to accept a path for her life and know that she was where she needed to be. I envy the peace in that. I am at war with myself daily about whether or not I'm doing the right thing or if I'm in the right place. This feeling pours out in the fact that I'm always seeking new employment under the guise that I need more money, but really I think I don't feel settled. A new job can't fix that. A bigger paycheck won't make the ache go away.
This morning, I had no desire to check anything off my To Do list and I did a little scrolling through Facebook. I try not to do this because it's a viscous loop more often than not, but I was able to stop after I saw this post from an acquaintance:
Jesus said in John 5:41 that people’s approval or disapproval meant nothing to Him. That’s a powerful way to live. He was saying, “I know who I am, and nothing you do or don’t do is going to change it. You can celebrate Me or you can crucify Me, but I’m keeping My crown.”
It felt like another coincidence. This passage is talking specifically about Jesus, yes, but it pointed me to the reason why I often feel so unsettled. It reminded me about the Gideons who said to look to the Bible when you're in trouble.
My biggest trouble, the reason I keep wanting to find a new job and make more money and be something I'm not is that I worry too much about what others think. I even talked about that with my coworker, too, about how I'm easily embarrassed, and she said she used to be, but isn't anymore. After hearing her story, I think her embarrassment has left her because she's firm in who she is and firm in who she believes God has made her to be. She had such peace in herself and in her decisions.
I never saw that peace with the religious people around me during my childhood. I didn't see trust and I didn't have it. Maybe I didn't know where to look and I'm sure it was there, but it was overshadowed by the fear I saw around me and the fear I felt.
I'm so blessed my coworker shared her story with me. It reminded me of a different way I can come to peace. Through all my frustrations with religion, I've never stopped believing in a God. I know there's something bigger than ourselves that we're all living for, and I think if placing faith and trust in God can provide peace and happiness, then it's a worthwhile journey. Believing in God doesn't have to be tied to doctrine. It was the New Testament the Gideons handed out, after all. They were handing out Jesus' love.
When I made a monthly playlist last month, I said that it would always be called 1. Miscellaneous Tracks of Sorrows and Joys. I did this because I didn't want to have to create a new playlist every single month and end up with a million playlists, but I realized I can just edit the title! So, this months playlist is all about some awesome women who I love to listen to. Some I've discovered recently, some I've been listening to for years. Like Regina Spektor or Emilie Autum. They've been on playlists I've been making since I was probably 14 years old.
April's track list, Rad Lady Vocals (As always, all links are only for your convenience):
1. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Emilie Autumn
A friend of mine from middle school got me into Emilie Autumn. I love her creepy Victorian doll aesthetic, and I think she's a very talented artist. I know the harpsichord isn't for everyone, but personally I love the tinkly piano sound. Regardless if you like harpsichord, it's hard not to get into this rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" because you can tell that Emilie and her band are enjoying singing it!
2. Earth by Imogen Heap
Imogen Heap is best known for her song, Hide and Seek. I think that Jason Derulo's song, "Whatcha Say" that utilizes the original song's chorus, made the song even more popular. I guess Derulo's song isn't technically a cover, but it's hard not to recognize Imogen Heap's song intertwined. ANYWAY! The track on this playlist is "Earth." I chose this song because it has a very lighthearted sound to it, which is nice to hear from her. So many of her songs are emotionally battering, but this one, whether or not the lyrics are exactly "pick me up," has a nice upbeat tempo.
3. Shut Up Kiss Me by Angel Olsen
I first listened to Angel on NPRs Tiny Desk, and have since heard her on the radio quite a bit. Her old-timey vocals combined with the deep guitar riffs is such a fascinating combination. The music style is also incredibly relaxing, even when the tempo picks up.
4. Mother by Florence and the Machine
This song intrigues me because I feel that Florence is using the word "Mother" in the chorus to mean god. "Mother make me / Make me a bird of prey / So I can rise above this, let it fall away." She interchanges it with "Lord" in the intro and outro as well. "Oh Lord, won't you leave me / Leave me on my knees?" In each plea, she's asking Mother or Lord to do something god-like or spiritual. I've always loved the idea that god is genderless, it gives me a great deal of comfort, so in conjunction with Florence's absolutely amazing vocals, this song has a lot to offer me.
5. Green Light by Lorde
I'm not one to keep on top of the newest releases, but I saw the music video for this on YouTube trending (albeit a week after it had already been circulating all over the Internet because I'm just always late to the party) and I watched it with relatively low expectations. I enjoy Lorde's music, but I wasn't expecting to be blown away! What I love the most about this song is its different "layers," if you will. I like how the tempo and feeling of the song changes. It starts low, kicks up, then in the beginning of the chorus the instruments are stripped back and the song focuses on Lorde singing. This kind of variation is something that I've noticed myself craving in music. I've listened to a couple covers of this song and none of them get it right because, I would imagine, it's hard to replicate all the song's layers without a production team.
6. Hideaway by Karen O
I've loved this song ever since the film for Where the Wild Things came out. I love the imagery of the line, "Hideaway, well they'll seat us in the sun." I know that what's meant is being sat where there's sunshine, but I've always imagined it as literally sitting on the sun. Probably because I associate this song with the story, which is an imaginative tale, and I always recall that scene in the film where the teacher is depressing his students with the possibility of the sun "dying," as he says. "The sun, after all, is just fuel, burning ferociously."
7. Wherever is Your Heart by Brandi Carlile
Now, I'll be honest, I don't go crazy over Brandi Carlile, but when I googled "bad ass female vocalists" just to see if there was anybody my own arsenal was missing, hers was about the only name I could find! I do like this song, though, I always enjoy it when this one comes on the radio, and until I looked her up I didn't even know this song was hers.
While I don't love Carlile, I am taken by this collaboration she took part in with Old 97s in which she voices god. Like Florence refers to god as Mother, this song refers to god as a she. Carlile's voice booms authoritatively into this song, which makes me wonder if maybe I haven't given her solo stuff an appropriate listen.
8. Every Single Night by Fiona Apple
I owned a Fiona Apple CD as a teenager, but I seldom listened to it. I don't remember which CD it was, but it wall all to slow and each song seemed too similar to the others. However, I've been interested in her again since her anti-Trump protest song came along. What I like about "Every Single Night" is, much like what I like about Lorde's "Green Light," the song presents quite a bit of variation. It's a far cry from the songs I couldn't get into on whatever CD of hers I used to own.
9. Black Rainbow by St. Vincent
I became interested in St. Vincent when I saw her perform this song with Andrew Bird. It reminds me a bit of Kimbra's "Settle Down" in terms of its dark domestic content, but it doesn't have that same pop sound to it, and its sounds match its darkness much better with that ominous instrumental refrain all throughout. It is juxtaposed with the fluttery flute, but by the end the dark parts of the song have consumed the flutter.
10. Intertwined by dodie
I've been following dodie on YouTube for a year or two now, and it seems silly, but I'm proud of her for getting this ep out in the world. This is one of my favorite songs of hers, I've loved it since she first uploaded it and I'm so happy it's on the record. She released a pretty dark and emotional music video for it recently, which sparked a lot of discussion among her fans because so many people interpreted the song as sweet and lovely. dodie then released a video breaking down the song, which spun a totally new perspective for me. I have to say, I love it all the more.
11. Runs in the Family by Amanda Palmer
Ever since "Coin Operated Boy" by the Dresden Dolls, I have loved Amanda Palmer. Her music and projects aren't for everyone and she openly acknowledges that, but I like her urgent vocals. I always feel the passion behind her music, like if she doesn't SING NOW SHE'LL DIE! She also has a pretty cool and quirky musical comedy project with Jason Webley called Evelyn Evelyn.
12. Rejoice by Julien Baker
NPRs Tiny Desk has done it again, introduced me to music I adore. (I wonder how incredibly amazing it is to go on Tiny Desk as a musician?) Julien Baker reminds me a bit of Bright Eyes in terms of her lyrics and tone. "Know my name and all my hideous mistakes." She seems like a very happy person when you watch her perform live, though. She also smiles in a lot of her pictures. The same can't be said for Conor Oberst. He's got the gloom all around.
13. The Trapper and the Furrier by Regina Spektor
This playlist wouldn't be complete with Regina. The first song of hers that I remember falling in love with was . . . hmm, you know I can't pick one. I remember having a CD mix of all Regina, and loving each song on it. Her new album has quite a few misses for me, but "The Trapper and the Furrier" reminds me of all the quirky yet insightful lyrics that I've always loved.
That's it for this month's playlist. I had fun reminiscing and exploring new music. Who are some of your favorite lady musicians?
Last month, two of my favorites were Pinterest and the mobile game My Singing Monsters. About mid-month, I went crazy from the amount of time I spent on those apps. I wasn’t enjoying myself, and time felt truly wasted.
I had about a two week period this past month, where I felt I couldn’t find enjoyment or fulfillment from anything. I kept doing things just to do them, but nothing seemed fun or worthwhile. Pinterest and My Singing Monsters were the biggest culprit for this, so I eliminated them from my life. I eliminated Pinterest from my phone, anyway. I still have an account and browse it from my desktop sometimes (mostly in an attempt to keep all my social media accounts fairly active), but the accessibility of having it on my phone allowed me to use it way too much, to the extent that I didn’t even like it anymore!
Although I’m slightly unnerved by how much time I let pass, doing things I really didn’t like, I’m also glad to the extent that I learned to be more weary of what I consider a “favorite” each month. Do I really enjoy the thing, or do I just need one more thing to share, to fill space in my head and in the post?
All that said now, let's move into what I did enjoy this month. (I have linked everything only for your convenience. #notspon #butpleasespon #lolz)
Last month I mentioned that I was loving the orange flavored shortbread cookies known as Polvorones. This month, real citrus has reigned supreme in my life. I've been consuming citrus in some way nearly every day all month. I usually try to remember lemon in my water every day (because I hear it's very healthy for you and it makes my skin look stellar), but I've also been mixing it up with lime. I've been eating lots of oranges, and I tried out some Tangelos. I can't say those were my favorite fruit; a tangy and tart hybrid of tangerine and grapefruit. Also, I wonder what could be a better name for them? Tangelo just doesn't translate to "tangerine and grapefruit" to me. Regardless, I probably won't get Tangelos on the regular, but I enjoyed the experience of trying a new type of citrus fruit.
Like citrus, ginger hosts many health benefits. And, for about a year, I've been trying out ginger flavored foods and drinks more often, but lately I've been gravitating toward it. I want the spicy sweet herb in my life! And, I love ginger and citrus together! A few Favorites ago, I mentioned Noosa Yoghurt. I can't get this brand too often because it's pretty pricey, but I treated myself this month to an Orange and Ginger flavor, and obviously, what with my citrus love, it was AMAZING. I also ordered a ginger beer when getting drinks with a friend, and I'm so glad to have tried it because now I know what beer to order when I go out. I'm usually not a beer drinker, so I'm always asking the server for recommendations, but now I've got a go-to.
The last food favorite this month is a cereal by the name of Bear Naked. I'm not going to lie, I was suckered in by the cute bear on the package, but it was well worth it. I got the Chocolate Almond Clusters variety this month, and it's lasted me all of March because I've just sprinkled little handfuls onto yogurt every morning. The brand has some other delicious sounding flavors too, though. I got some coupons from the box, so I might have to try out a few other flavors for April!
This check mark icon is meant to be like my "everyday" items. Now, I don't do laundry every day, but it is a weekly need at least, and when my husband and I lived in our old apartment we used to use dryer balls instead of sheets to save money. The ones we had were cheap plastic, and after about a year they started to get holes and become useless. Now that we have our own place again, I invested in some new ones, only this time around I got better quality and CUTER ones.
Dryer balls are great because they also make our laundry softer. I'd honestly say they do about as good a job as fabric softener, they just don't have that smell, which could be good or bad depending on your preference. The other bonus is I've been wanting to begin the process of living a less wasteful lifestyle, and this is one easy and inexpensive way to get started. (Not to mention, if you get these friendly guys, it’s CUTE!)
I wanted to save this next Favorite for last, but I think it makes the most sense in the "every-day" category. For the last two months, I've been setting "Be, Do, Have" goals. Just one for each (I'm not quite as detailed or task-focused as Laura with HowToGYST, I just heard about this goal setting strategy from her and adjusted it for my life). So far, these goals have been mostly abstract and related to self-improvement. This month, my "Be" goal was to be compassionate to myself. In order to keep this going all month, I started repeating this mantra:
I am worthy of self-love and compassion.
I am capable.
Sometimes I feel a little silly repeating mantras to myself, but the more I've done it, the more the mantra has just kind-of lived in my brain without me having to put much work into it. My mind will wander, and still this mantra will be circling in the back of my thoughts. Since I started doing this, I've noticed a pretty big difference in how I conduct myself through daily challenges. I've been more assertive at work, stepped up to tasks that would normally frighten me away, and been able to recover quicker from bouts of sadness or feelings of inadequacy.
Did you ever watch the Cartoon Network show "Samurai Jack" as a kid? I never did, I was probably not interested in it because it seemed like it was something for boys, but my husband watched it and he loved it. Recently, Adult Swim has picked up the show from where the old one left off, and they're making one more season to conclude the story-line. My husband convinced me to watch an episode with him, and I was hooked. The world of this new season is dark, yet it's balanced with humor. The art style is breathtakingly beautiful, and the issues Jack is now struggling with are absolutely believable. Even though I never watched the old cartoon, I'm totally into this one. I got caught up on the story from the old series just so I knew more about the world, but I don't think watching this reboot requires binge watching the old episodes. Although, I'm sure there are die-hard fans who would love to argue otherwise.
Go forth, will you, combine citrus and ginger. Eat crunchy granola. Keep your laundry company with
eco-friendly hedgehogs. Love yourself. Read good books and watch good shows.