Rest in Peace, Chester Bennington.

I haven’t written in a while, because a lack of work and an influx of relaxation spells a decrease in inspiration to write.

I just wanted to quickly touch base about Chester Bennington’s sudden death.

It breaks my heart that there are people out there who suffer so greatly, that they feel removing themselves from lives they’ve built is their only out from the terrible debilitating pain they feel every day. Successful people, perhaps in the eyes of the every-person, ‘should’ be happy – they have everything, right? Money, success, a chance to do what they love every day and be paid handsomely for it – but the reality of depression is that if you are not happy, you are not happy, and that is that.

I have not been truly ‘depressed’ and pretending I have been is an insult to people everywhere who suffer from actual depressiion. But I have some problems with the way I see myself and how I come across to others. I have a problem internalizing painful things that have happened in my life – so often, they’re road blocks I can’t let go of. I think about them every day. I miss the past. I can’t reclaim or do anything about the past except try my best to move forward from it and erase the ghosts that are there. I will openly admit to being dumped with a high five by the first person I was ever in love with, suffering abuse as a child, failing several times at career searches and being horrible with money – a very lethal combination that has consistently gotten me in trouble and caused stress, been sexually assaulted on a Tinder date just prior to meeting my extremely loving, wonderful boyfriend and being bullied in high school for my race, my weight, my clothes, my taste in music, and anything else you can imagine. All of these things have messed me up quite a bit. I don’t consider myself someone with a mental illness (again, doing so demeans and diminishes the experiences of those who actually live with mental illness). But I’ve been through stuff.

What gets you through difficult times is whatever you choose to get you through. The support of family and friends is number 1 but it is often not enough, especially if the people who will make you feel better are far away. What has gotten me through my own struggles, has always been music. Music and writing, together or separately. Evidently, I don’t always write. But music is my constant. It is to me, what religious faith is to others.

I find it saddening that someone like Bennington, 41, has chosen to end his life early, particularly because the messages in his songs (I am most familiar with Hybrid Theory) resonate so much with people of all ages, particularly young people, who may have contemplated ending theirs. As adults, we often laugh at the angsty music we listened to as kids – I’ve in the past, made fun of Hybrid Theory and albums like it because of their dated nu-metal sound and overwrought messages and lyrics. But as a teenager, those albums are your life. They demand repeated listens because you have an outlet for the emotions you feel so deeply but are barred from expressing because of this notion that it is uncool, un-invincible, to let out what you’re feeling and truly be who you are through open doors.

Chester Bennington is a figure in music that we always took for granted would be there, that people my age have fond memories of, and who has gotten many through their own troubled times and crushing blows and depression. His was the kind of music that helped people found light because of its darkness. While yes, some of what they have done was a bit cheesy and dated and dramatic, but teenagers need that kind of music. They always have, and they always will.

So rest peacefully, Chester Bennington. And know you, nor almost anyone else on this earth, are not, and never will be alone in the world.

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What it means to be ‘broken’.

One of my proudest accomplishments has been loving completely. Loving so much it hurts. Bending over backwards for the people I love, sometimes to be ultruistic and sometimes, admittedly, to be selfish. Sometimes love is a selfish act because we consistently want love to fill a hole within ourselves that could never possibly be held as deeply as we want or need it to.

Crushes are like that. When we have a crush on someone we constantly strive to ‘trick’ someone, or coerce someone, or pray for someone, to love us. We wish on shooting stars and on 11:11 with the hope that the universe will change its mind and spark someone to love us when the reality exists that, they don’t love us at all. We love this way because many of us sometimes feel ‘broken’; and maybe, if the person we have placed on this pedestal, returns our affections, it will fill that selfish hole, that selfish need for love, and then all will be better.

I always feel broken. My brokenness knows no bounds. I don’t see myself as pretty, I don’t see myself as someone worth loving, and I pour all my energy into showing affection to those I want to hold onto because I’m worried that one day they’ll wake up and change their mind about me. I have a reason to believe this; my reasoning is that a lot of people I have loved deeply – this deeply, in fact – have left me. Many people in my world — people I’ve dated, friends I’ve had, parent ‘figures’ in my life – have eventually abandoned me, or hurt me, and this has caused me to feel differently about my relationships with others. Abandoned people love differently. Hurt people love differently.

Sometimes I’m amazed that anyone would ‘choose’ me. I’ve gone through life mostly believing and seeing myself as someone who would disappear from view if I wasn’t loud enough. The more I progress in life and relationships, the more I realize that having this vantage point about myself leads to despair and rejection. Because my expectations about myself and others are unrealistic. That I always count on people on some level to make me who I want to be. And others cannot do that: only I can.

I have people in my life now that I love with my entire heart and around whom many of my decisions are based. But I’ve also frequently let down those I love, or have loved because I can be genuinely selfish, genuinely broken, and genuinely feel hard-done-by. The life I live isn’t perfect but sometimes acknowledging my own failings in this way has made me stronger and forced me to strive more for the kind of perfection and the kind of life that will make me rely less on others and more on myself.

Damaged people love indifferently: they love imperfectly. 

Why is Pride Important?

In light of the #heterosexualpride hashtag trending on Twitter, in light of the Orlando, FL massacre, in light of countless instances of institutionalized and individualized homophobia, is this question even worth asking?

Recently, a friend of mine who is marrying his boyfriend in a year from now was booking wedding photographers. Once the photographer found out it was a ‘gay wedding’ she declined the offer because as this photographer said so pointedly, they only do ‘legitimate weddings.’

Another friend of mine was once kicked out of a youth group because it was discovered that she was gay.

While I don’t have any close trans gendered friends, it comes to mind that I have students in my classes sometimes poking fun at Caitlyn Jenner.

Do I really want to press on bruises of the LGBTQ community by bringing up all the instances of prejudice and discrimination that are thrown in that community’s face every single day? Can you really ask someone who would spew this kind of hatred why pride is important? Is it true what Brian Kinney said on Queer as Folk, that “there are two kinds of straight people in this world — the ones who hate you to your face, and the ones who hate you behind your back”? I don’t believe that last statement for a moment. But, if you are a member of this beautiful, diverse, amazingly familial community that faces this kind of disgusting and somehow socially acceptable discrimination, can you blame someone for believing this?

Pride is important because every life deserves equality. Pride is important because of the alarmingly high suicide rate among LGBTQ teenagers. Pride is important because to this day, it is still considered somewhat acceptable to call someone a ‘sissy’, to hashtag ‘#nohomo’, to proclaim to men that being gay is the worst thing they can possibly be. Because people are afraid to come out to their friends and family because of how they might be perceived differently by those who love and care for them. Because trans-gendered people are arguably THE most discriminated group of individuals on this planet.

Pride is more than just a celebration of homosexuality; it is a celebration of diversity and of its importance. Pride is about being proud to be different and sticking it to the bullies, and the bigots. I’ve participated in pride celebrations not as a gay woman but as an ally, and despite being an outsider in that community, I felt completely at home because despite that the LGBTQ community is one that often experiences hate, never responds with anything except love.

Pride is important because it gives voice to the voiceless, no matter who they are and how they identify.

Two Years.

It is four days until my second anniversary.

I didn’t ever really think that I would be able to be with someone for two years. In some ways, two years feels like a lifetime and in other ways it’s amazing it hasn’t been longer.

The thing about love is this: all love is beautiful. It is illuminating, surprising, deep, frustrating, confusing, messy, complex, life-affirming, and joyous. It is something that changes the course of your values, your goals, your dreams, and yourself – but for the better. Love is all around us in everything we do. And it’s all beautiful. I would never sit here and make the claim that love I have or found is better or more significant than anyone else’s love.

But the love I have is something that’s sustained so many difficulties; demanding careers that eat up everyone’s time; frustrating nights alone when all I want is to be with the person I care for the most; utter mental breakdowns at the loss of what is, and what should or could be if we were just a little bit closer, if everything was just a little bit easier, if we were just a little more in sync in terms of location. This second year has been a year of driving, careening into ditches during storms, feeling like I’m drowning in a depressive messy state, emptying my pockets for the sake of being a huge part of every minute that I’m fortunate enough to spend with the person I love most. Honestly, it’s been so hard. And there were times I was completely discouraged and wanted to fall flat on my face and then just give up. But it’s worthwhile. Love is worthwhile. It’s the most worthwhile thing in the world. I’ll be grateful for this love forever. I wake up grateful for it every single day.

The last two years have been years of flux, of mental anguish, of huge changes in life, culture shocks, meeting new friends and leaving old ones behind, of uncertainty and frustration and insecurity and disappointment, and tough realizations. All of this is a parot of growing up and are harsh reminders that what they said to us as children is often true: that growing up sucks. But the constant force through everything, whether we were driving to the states together and pausing in sweet little towns and drinking at local breweries, or sleeping in the front seats of my car after waking up at 5:00 a.m. to catch a ferry to Vancouver Island, or whether I’m crying on his bed because I don’t want to go back to the horrible place where I live. Everything was slipping out of my hands in this lucid, liquid form. Except him. He was always there for me, through everything, buying me pizza when I felt like I failed at everything; waking up for a moment in the morning so he could put his arm around me before going back to sleep; comforting me in the middle of the night if my teeth grinding woke him up; telling me I look beautiful when I feel like garbage about myself.

I’m so grateful for these two years and as difficult and frustrating and depressing as they were, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I got to spend two years supporting and being supported by the person who loves me when I can’t mustre up the courage to love myself, who cares for me in a way no one else has ever been, and who has truly been a pillar, a permanent thread in the tapestry of my life,  a lighthouse for my ship. He means everything to me. I’m so fortunate.

Favourite Albums Ever.

In light of the difficult news about Gord Downie’s diagnosis, I started thinking about music. The artists I love, the ones that are staples not just in my life but in the musical world, the people like Gord Downie who have produced generations of solidly important songs are records which are so incredibly important to so many people for so many different reasons. I wanted to point out a few of mine from different time periods of my life that have affected me the way artists surely long to affect and make meaningful memories, words of advice, gifts and caring voices for others.

HIGH SCHOOL

The Beatles – The White Album

When I was in high school, I was bullied for listening to my parents’ music (a trend which, of course, now everyone in their late teens and early twenties has come to embrace… of course). The Beatles with this record showed me what it meant to truly be talented and have a gift of music. It was more than just that awe-striking talent though. It was this wavering emotional power, the capturing a time of change and revolution not just lyrically but melodically too; it was Paul McCartney’s voice both crooning on “Martha My Dear” one disc, and yelling out “I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!” on the next. The Beatles changed everything for me. Suddenly I realized I belonged in another generation, and nothing from my generation could ever be good enough again.

UNDERGRAD

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

Recently re-released, Ryan Adams said in a recent interview that this record was a reflection of stress and uncertainty in his twenties where he was destitute, post-breakp depressed, and wondering what was next in life. When I came upon this record, my place in life was similarly stark and I was constantly searching for meaning. From the moment I heard “To Be Young (is to be Sad, is to be High)” I knew I had found it, at least in part. I cry with this record, laugh with some of it, but mostly just use it to help me reflect and get through the grim times. “Heartbreaker” is everything. It is my biography written by someone else. It is ‘heartbreak’.

Wilco – A Ghost is Born

I first heard Wilco back in 2004. I was in a drama class and this guy I liked introduced me to that lengthy noisy portion of the song “Less Than You Think” that he used for his final presentation for drama class. Later on, I purchased “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” to try and cultivate this undergrad college radio hipster that I badly wanted to be back then. To be honest, I didn’t like the record. It was noisy. It was vibrant. I didn’t quite get the melodies, production, or Tweedy’s voice. I had no idea what songs like “Pot Kettle Black” really meant. It wasn’t until later in life I truly understood the stunningly amazing and powerful raw experimental energy of this band that has come to be one of my all-time favourites. “Ghost” is a more piano and synth-driven collection of songs. It is softer, sadder, less kinetic and electrifying than “Yankee” and I think that’s what I needed at the time I developed an obsession with this record. Wilco often writes songs I don’t ‘get’ and can’t fully relate to. They don’t necessarily speak to where I am in life, or where I long to be. What they do so well though is write melodies that etch themselves into the paper of my life and bring me back to times when all I needed was to put on a record like this and lay on the floor, drifting away.

LOSS

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

There is something lighthearted and summertime-y about this record. And yet, the dark undertones of alcoholism, death and heartbreak retain this record’s intensity beneath the string-laden, rising-and-falling surface. “Astral Weeks” is like a pulse. When you feel it, you know you’re alive. When I coasted through years of settling for less than what I wanted out of life, this record was always there reminding me not to; that everything is more beautiful, more important, more grave, than it seemed. I just had to dig deeper.

Joni Mitchell – Blue

One time, I had a conversation with a now former friend about a recent (but not recent enough for this to actually be a justified comment) breakup and I said, “I just don’t know how I am ever going to push through this.” I was in love. Disgustingly, sickeningly, annoyingly hopelessly in love. And it was unreasonable, unrealistic and ridiculous. Suddenly, I was leaden inside. And then I became addicted to this record. I remember listening to Joni Mitchell say “All good dreamers pass this way some day/Hidin’ behind bottles in dark cafes” for the first time and thinking, ‘this is my life right now.’ Songs are like tattoos.

5 Embarrassing, Unlikely Songs that have Inspired Me.

Sometimes it’s the songs from artists who tell our life stories, whose lyrics are so good we’re jealous of them, that inspire change and comfort in our lives.

Sometimes it’s horrendously bad, and/or temporary, and/or fluffy silly am radio-esque songs that make us take a step back and think about or re-think about our lives, relationships, breakups and emotions. Here are a few of those in my life.

Cher – Believe.

One of the first (at least that I can recall) songs that had a heavy, obvious and purposeful pre-Kanye use of auto-tune was also one that I listened to on repeat following my first breakup with my first love. That was a dark time but every day, the sun shone a little bit brighter until I was fully recovered from the blow of rejection and the pain of thinking I would never be happy again. Cher reminds listeners that there is “life after love.” Not only that, but she leaves us with the empowering message that even if you’re sad someone is leaving, you can and must, and WILL move on. AND, not only that but she heeds the warning that “after all is said and done /You’re going to be the lonely one.” This has proven to be true. And comforting in a strange way that makes me feel slightly pink but also like a stronger version of my 20-year old heartbroken self.

Taylor Swift – Shake it Off

All those bloggers and instagrammers and tweeters who have adopted the mantra “haters gonna hate” are right. What’s ‘wrong’ about this message is how it is said in so many ways and in so many contexts, that it has somehow lost its meaning (and the poor grammar and made-up words and canned inspirational quotes and everything else that makes social media all too often less than inspiring). But, Taylor speaks some important truths in this song. If you’re constantly thinking about all the bad things and people who hate you and failures and mistakes, you’re never going to move forward in life and enjoy what is actually good. This message kind of goes without saying but when it’s said in such a way that is so peppy, accessible and irresistable, it reinvigorates a more or less ‘cliche’ kind of message.

Jojo – Too Little, Too Late

I hope I’m not the only person on the internet who remembers Jojo. She was a reality show contestant-turned-fifteen-minutes-of-famer and had a couple of hit hip hop-flavoured pop songs in the mid-2000s, including this one. The song is essentially about letting people back in who have wronged us. Jojo says, “don’t.” It’s funny because I’m someone whose exes have all come back, or tried to. And there was a time when I used to let poisonous people back in. I did it so many times I became a door mat who was stressed, anxious, annoyed, and confused by hurtful people (exes, and friends as well). And whenever I’d get a message from an ex eons later, for whatever reason Jojo’s soulful little voice and the message from this catchy pop jam would sneak into my head. And I would write off that message. If you didn’t want to be good to me the first time, why would you a second time?

Leanne Rimes – We Can

What ever happened to Le Ann Rimes? Anyway, this song made an appearance on the “Legally Blonde 2” soundtrack (which could be on a list of silly movies that are inspiring somehow) and it seeks to very obviously and purposefully rouse up inspiration and a ‘let’s do it’ attitude both in melody and in lyrics. Sometimes these attempts are inspiration are cheesy and laughable and sometimes they work. Here, they work enough that this song makes it onto my running playlist and as I’m sweating, I think “Hey, I can do this!”

Justin Bieber – One Less Lonely Girl

Childhood is a precious little thing. And when we have that first moment of sexual awakening, even if it’s just an innocent crush, then a little piece of our childhood in one way is over, but in another way that sweet innocent look we give love as we imagine it to be, the non-complicated fairytale where that cute guy takes you to the dance and kisses you under the stars and makes all your problems go away – is just beginning. This song, and its singer in his pop star hay day, perfectly and beautifully encapsulate that moment. That special, special moment when you look up and see him and everything changes. Going back to that innocence recaptures something lost and broken and it makes you smile from the inside out. I absolutely love this song for that reason. We get so caught up in problems and relationship struggles and complications of life and love. Let’s just have flowers and puppies for a day.

I’m Done.

With March being a significant month in my personal history there’s always this little bit of pain that accompanies this time of the year. While the rest of the world becomes brighter and warmer and lighter by this time, I always feel a little lost and impatient. Nowhere near as much as I did eight years ago (has it really been eight already?!) but still, only a little. I’ve found though that as time passes and things change, so do those feelings and anxieties and pains that accompany that first “real” love.

I’ve tried recently to put this into words… to release again, my reflections and thoughts and feelings about first love, about who I was before I knew anything about the world, where I’m at now versus where I was eight years ago emotionally, physically, inwardly.

But I can’t anymore. It feels like an old tired cliche. It feels like an exhausted empty shell that you put your ear to and can’t hear the ocean anymore. In short… I just don’t care. I’m tired of this same old story over and over and over again. It feels like a ghost of my past is living inside me sometimes. But at the same time, that ghost has less and less of its unfinished business. And now there’s just nothing there except a wisp in the dusty corners of my heart. Sometimes I do feel that I need to consistently remind myself of the important markers of my personal history. My demons and angels and the things that have most made me me. And other times I realize what’s done is done. There’s nothing left to explore except the present, the future, the moments that are yet to come that are bigger and more important and actually worthwhile to talk about and think about.

I once sat on a bench and thought of nothing but you in the most sorrow-filed, darkest way imaginable. The darkness I felt about us, and you, became reasons I hated myself and reasons why I wanted to hurt myself and harm myself and torture myself. I listened to “She Wants to Play Hearts” again and again while I looked down over the new snow-blanketed valley, its vast emptiness and deadness almost symbolic of the exhausting, empty, despicable hole in my heart. Everything was different that evening. Everything had changed in my life. I had changed. It was the first time I ever really had changed, ever. It was the first time I was ever really left in the dark and unsupported until I would have to find my own answer just to get through what had happened. The person who sat on that bench that night, is not me. And that’s all I need to really say about that.