we are all humans. we might not feel like it sometimes (i rarely do), but really, we are, i promise. i think that lately, it has been difficult for many of us to express love and joy without a lingering sense of guilt. it’s cool on the internet to be emotionless and how can i even think about those things when the arctic is melting and the middle east is unstable and there are school shootings and there are over 70 countries where homosexuality is illegal and some of those it’s punishable by death and the bolsonaro is trying to sell the brazilian rainforests to the highest bidder and--
“As we're bouncing up and down trying to make the floor break
it’s unhealthy to think like this. yes, it’s important to be socially conscious, but, like i said, we are humans. first, we are not super efficient robots who have the ability to solve all the world’s crises, and it’s inhumane to try to put that pressure on ourselves. we really don’t have the ability to process and take on all this suffering, and when we do, we tend to feel a sense of responsibility. second, by denying ourselves true expressions of joy and love, we are denying ourselves intrinsic and crucial parts of the human experience. when was the last time you ended a good day that didn’t have an asterisk attached?
“In those heavy days of June
the month of june is pride month, which i’m sure you all knew, maybe from the inundation of rainbow merch or photos from pride parades or just generally not living under a rock. it’s important that, during pride month, we memorialize the founders of the movement, remember our history, and pay tribute to those we have lost. but just as importantly, we, as lgbt people, should express love and ourselves even when it wanders far from the status quo. in a world that wants to make us ashamed of who we are, we should try our hardest to not be afraid. if we are out, we should do this loudly, so that people know we are here. if we are not yet out, we should respect ourselves and our boundaries and proclaim love softly, so we know we are here. these small acts of self are acts of defiance, and feed the hope of a better world.
To love yourself, you must know yourself. And to know yourself, you must love yourself. Love then is a sublime and universal understanding of self and of others. Love is a discipline of one’s own self-consciousness. Love is beautiful. Love is just. It must endure, it must evolve, it must expand, it must be born-again.
we do these monthly lists not only to share ourselves with you, but to share the things that make us happy, that make everyday life more livable, that we love, and we offer them to you. these small examinations tell us that it really isn’t all bad, it isn’t really all hopeless. the world is a beautiful and weird thing and is somehow there for your taking, so grab all you can fit in two hands. and without further ado, here is the june love list.
→ love yourself/with my whole heart by sufjan stevens
gray: sufjan stevens is out there trudging through mud fighting for our rights this pride month. we love u sufjan.
m: i was going to say this too. u will love it.
→ too bright by perfume genius
gray: i have to include this for pride month!! i so much love how this album seamlessly marries piano ballads with art pop anthems with some more experimental cuts. fave tracks: my body, grid
→ Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, I. Pezzo in Forma di Sonatina
nadine: this month’s classical rec is also well-timed for pride (it is generally accepted nowadays that Tchaikovsky was gay). this man’s story hit me super hard in the last month. to put it shortly, Tchaikovsky married a (female) fan for well-intentioned reasons, but then it turned out to be the Worst Decision Ever, so he ran away. he then wrote that “there is nothing more fruitless than not wanting to be that which I am by nature.” i listened to that story on BBC Radio 3 [https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p01ydqsj] and i wondered why people like him (...and me lol) ignore their own inner guidance and any glaring red flags in order to orchestrate the biggest self-sabotage possible.
→Tennyson's Beautiful World
m: i rediscover this song every summer, and i'm head over heels. i'm consistently amazed at Tennyson's surprising sounds used as music, such as the rush of a bubble drink being poured. deep pure summer vibes.
→ halsey on stright pride and fear
m: you may have heard the call for a straight pride this month. recently, two women were beaten for being gay. when halsey performed in the town, she gave this speech. by the end, i was definitely in tears, as queer kids yelled, “I am not afraid.”
→ on simplicity and beauty, in a silent, four second video
m: the earth is magic
→ Rocketman (2019) in theatres, for those “new life who dis” vibes
nadine: ugh, this. i almost didn’t put it in because i feel like it detonates and honestly, i have shame around proclaiming my love for it (a can of worms i shall open in my journal). but the truth is i love pop and musicals, i love things that are flashy and sort of camp, i love things that are over-the-top and larger than life, i love going to the cinema, and i love this. it’s exactly the type of thing i want to make, songs and score (the arrangements are sublime) and story. plus it feels so good to go to the cinema and forget straightness exists for a while, you know? this movie is kind of a musical happening in Elton John’s head. it’s very introspective and it’s ultimately about personal growth and support systems. please watch and ponder: what is authenticity? when we create ourselves, do we become more or less authentic?
→On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
m: oh oh oh, you know how it is when ocean vuong writes. it’s exactly what you expect: beautiful and fascinating and saturated and heartbreaking. it’s exactly that. OEWBG is a poetic book about coming of age within a family laden with trauma, so be prepared to feel something. I felt inspired in many ways after i completed this book, including in the way i write, and what i write.
→ “All Other Trans People Are Real, But *I* Am A Terrible Fraud” by Devon Price
“I thought I could live a whole lifetime being mistaken for a woman and just cruising along through it. I figured that if I was really trans, I would have known in childhood, and that I would have asserted it loudly, with defiance. Something. Just. Anything. But I didn’t have that confidence. I lacked that introspection. And for years I’ve held onto that, and taken it for a sign that all my feelings are fake.”
gray: insert *i’m in this photo and i don’t like it* meme. but seriously i think it’s hard to admit self doubt and as someone who feels the same way about my gender identity as this author does, i really admire this piece.
→ “Feminist Trans Men & the Narrative of Internalized Misogyny” by Seth Katz
“The difference between a trans man or nonbinary AFAB person and a cis woman (detransitioned or not) isn’t that we hate women and want to utilize misogyny, it is simply that we aren’t women.”
→ Levi the Poet on “I Used to Think that Positive Self-Talk was BS”
m: it's easy to disregard most self help things, esp if you have depression and anxiety. but i've been learning that so many things i roll my eyes at are, scientifically, true. levi covers one of these.
→ seltzer and only seltzer please someone help me i am kind of addicted….
→ the smores frap is BACK at starbucks and i am HAPPY. marshmallow whipped cream you say? on my way.
→ new york’s next public monument honors two trans activists: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. yes. this is the exact tea i want.
→nadine’s 30 day journal/tarot challenge is kicking my butt in a good way.
→ Questions to Assess Negative Views of Self and World
→ m: why haven’t i done the thing ive been mulling over for years now? what holds me back? what did i used to love, and why did i stop doing it?
→ nadine: when i developed my shame and guilt, what part of my personality took the biggest hit? how may i heal this part of my personality? maybe i need to stop asking myself what i “should” do and start asking myself what i want to do.
→gray: love for oneself is far more complicated than love for another. when we are confronted with self love, we are confronted with questions. when asked, “who are they?” about someone else, we can take comfort in the fact that it’s impossible for us to ever really know. but ourselves? aren’t we suppose to know? and since we’re supposed to know, if we realize we don’t, how can we love? or if we do, and we don’t like what we see? this is something that i struggle with. love for my body and love for my mind. these things do not come as naturally as i would wish. the only way i can reckon with this fact is that i am trying.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
send us an email at email@example.com
HELLO, FOLKS, IT IS ME, AND I AM TIRED.
tired of a lot of things. such as this country. and worrying that i am void of feelings. this love list felt so daunting to me, as i felt like i hadn't had room in me to love lately... and i think that's when these lists are so important. thanks to gray and nadine who argued when i said perhaps we should skip it this month. they filled this place with love, and in reading it, i was reminded that, indeed, i have loved things too, even in my anger.
so it is my pleasure to introduce you to our may love list. i hope you also find strength in you to lay aside your anger for a moment to make room for love.
→ better oblivion community center by better oblivion community center
gray: a phoebe bridgers/conor oberst collab was not only the best thing for conor oberst’s career in the latter half of the 2010s, but also the best thing for both the part of my heart that is still 16 and angsty about everything and the part that is 22 and tired and constantly feeling weird. fave track: didn’t know what i was in for
→ city sun eater in the river of light by woods
gray: this album just feels like spring. fave track: politics of free
→ Górecki’s II. Lento e Largo - Tranquillissimo from Symphony No. 3, Op. 36. for when everything seems to harsh.
nadine: this month’s classical rec is not technically classical (it was written in 1976). it’s honestly so soft and gentle. it features a soloist, but i’d say that as far as “opera” singing goes, this is extremely approachable. the soloist sings in polish about child-parent separation during World War II.
→ I Like (the idea of) You by Tessa Violet, to pair with raging crushes, ice cream and hot wind in your hair.
nadine: honestly!!!! i have!!! so many feelings about this! Tessa Violet is brilliant (check out her previous two singles, Bad Ideas and Crush) and she did it again.
→ blood moon underworld by misogi
m: i just know this one is going to be so difficult to beat for my favorite album of the year. Misogi isn’t your average lo-fi rap/hip hop soundcloud artist. the 19 year old has built something gritty, smooth, and rich in one album, immersing the listener in a saturated spacey world. i love how diverse, yet cohesive it is- we have our emo rap songs (featuring my fave, nothing,nowhere), our beep-boop spacey instrumentals, and our heavy punk guitar filled songs. i’m in love. artful. fave track, a reverb heavy bedroom dream punk song: bleached
→ nightmare by halsey
m: because i am angry, and so is halsey.
→ i think you should leave with tim robinson
gray: super funny sketch comedy with super short episodes, so binge watching it feels less guilty.
→ “mr. ratburn and the special someone” arthur s.22 ep.01
gray: i already wrote about this on the blog but i have to include it here too. it makes me so happy!
→ angry bill nye via john oliver
m: the bill nye we all knew and loved, but make it 2019 on a literally suffering planet. it's less than a minute, which is to say, you have no excuse not to watch this one.
→ autobiography of red by anne carson
gray: this is easily the best thing i’ve ever read, and i don’t think i have read or will ever read anything quite like it again.
→ i hear the sunspot by yuki fumino
m: my first manga, and i am smitten. the i hear the sunspot series follows two boys: a deaf boy and his note taker. it's simply so well written... we subtly observe the nuances of these boys' lives, including the struggle of school/career, the struggle with self-actualization within a developing disability, a difficult home life, and emerging sexuality... i'll spoil something for you now with a question you'll ponder: are they gay? for each other? and when will we know fore sure? :)
→ pilu of the woods by mai k. nguyen
m: Oh oh oh !!! this comic is so heartfelt and so beautiful and so important ! willow loves nature for its beauty, serenity, and intricacies, so unlike her feelings and school and home. this is the story of willow learning to understand the little monsters in her- feelings, in this case, grief- and how to treat herself and others... a good, extremely pretty, kids comic for learning about emotional literacy, compassion, and self expression, for all ages.
→ smoothies with cold brew, oat milk, chocolate protein powder, and bananas
→ trader joe's organic tumeric and ginger tea
→ nadine: this month has, i think, been trying to tell me that compassion should start with the self. i tend to take it for granted that other people need my compassion more than i need my own compassion. why do i assume this? empathy is a gift, not a curse: it should help me do good rather than guilt-trip me.
→ m: how much is too much? when can i walk away from the news and relinquish my need to be an Extremely Informed Citizenship, if it makes me cry multiple times a day?
and you? what are you loving on lately? we'd love to hear you.
don't forget to consider submitting to our issue number one, or our mini issue, safe places.
remember, whether you just have a bullet point list of things that make you happy, or you've written an epic, we want to read it.
also... art! photos! doodles! show us.
we look forward to hearing from you soon. x
when i was a youngster, so many moons ago, i would wake up in the morning, walk my brother to the bus stop with my mom, and then go home and watch a show on PBS called arthur. it was my favorite show and is definitively the show of my childhood. arthur is the longest running children’s television show, and since it deals with important real world situations that children face (like dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder) in ways that doesn't talk down to the viewer, arthur is a show that has really touched people’s lives.
i think we all remember a little while ago when the rug was pulled out from under us regarding bert and ernie. a writer for sesame street, mark saltzman, said in an interview that bert and ernie’s relationship was inspired in part by a relationship he had with a man, and then sesame street responded with a press release that said that since bert and ernie were puppets, they didn’t have a sexual orientation. and so we were all like, sure, but what about kermit and miss piggy? and sesame street was like…ya’ll hear sumn?
while i do think that bert and ernie are a sweet depiction of a desexualized gay relationship, that’s kind of besides the point. like bert and ernie, mr. ratburn’s sexuality has been a topic of discussion on the arthur side of the internet (which evidently does exist). there was, from what i could tell, a pretty big consensus that mr. ratburn was gay. this kind of speculation about a character can lead to three possible outcomes: arthur/PBS execs ignore speculation and never confirm nor deny whether mr. ratburn is gay; arthur/PBS execs state unambiguously that mr. ratburn is not gay and possibly give him a gf in the show; and arthur depicts mr. ratburn as gay on the show. as someone with a lot of television watching experience, i assumed #1 or #2 (most likely #1, given PBS’s reputation, which wouldn’t have been the end of the world).
of course, if you’re on the internet like i am, you’d find that my assumptions were wrong. we got #3. on arthur s22 ep01, mr. ratburn gets married. to a man! to a chocolatier! how sweet (no pun intended)! when i heard this, i was a little worried that it would be done in a way that makes it seem like the show was patting itself on the back. oh look at us! we included a LGBT character! kind of like marvel did in end game with that gay mets fan (full disclosure: i didn’t see it and i dont care). but no! it was so casual, and so, as much as i usually hate using this word, wholesome. the reveal that he’s marrying a man doesn’t even come about until the very end of that portion of the episode, when mr. ratburn walks down the aisle with patrick.
LGBT characters in media are often treated unfairly. in some cases, they are coded and written as LGBT (sometimes stereotypically, which is cringe) and never confirmed. sometimes they are explicitly stated as being LGBT, and their storyline is one of tragedy and they don’t get a happy ending. sometimes, they live for years with their life partner only for some straight executive to decide that they are actually just best friends. we rarely see these characters not have to face some kind of discrimination; even in worlds that are thoroughly fictional, writer’s personal prejudices against these kinds of characters or their tendencies to reach for overdone and outdated tropes bleeds through. but in arthur, a show that does not often shy away from depicting real world situations, we are given a story where a gay rat gets a very happy ending, and i think that that is what he deserves, and what we deserve.
(all images via PBSkids.org)
(…) Here it is:
some days are difficult for me to live through… not necessarily because they are hard, but sometimes things are so good i don’t know how to hold it. i’ve been reading about overcoming imposter syndrome, and one night i understood some things about my view of myself:
i tend to define myself by what i do, and not who i am. when what i do changes, even only slightly, my sense of self is disturbed.
i also divide myself into selves based on context, though not in that good girl/bad girl way that people think teenagers do… mostly my access to words and self changes based on context. when these selves cross paths, i feel shame, fearing i am less authentic. funny, because the merging of my selves makes me more myself than ever. so i need to remember this: i can be both-and, and all. multi-faceted. deeper.
some days, i simply do not recognize my self.
and on these days, i need to settle into my body, into my self. to question what matters. what is beauty, in my eyes. what makes me feel. what i want to do. my intention in every situation.
sometimes this simply means i put clove and tangerine oils in my diffuser. maybe i eat outside and steep in sunlight. maybe i do a little yoga. do my skincare slowly. and sometimes it means i read nonfiction, or fiction, or poetry.
poetry always does that thing to me, whether i write it or read it. it asks me to see and feel the world, without remaining an apathetic observer. to appreciate something, even if it’s the wording of something hard to swallow.
it’s national poetry month, so i’ve added some poems that i think are worth reading or listening to. i hope you find something that brings the color back to your world, and helps you feel a little more like yourself. let us know if there’s anything we should try. we love to hear from you.
namaste, the light in my recognizes and honors the light in you,
→ still i rise, by maya angelou, performed on so you think you can dance, for survival
→ laugh with god, by madi mae parker, for becoming
→ for the dogs tho barked at me on the sidewalks in connecticut by hanif abdurraqib, for meeting yourself
→ angel of the get through, by andrea gibson, for your best friends
→ the future, by neil hilborn, for your hardest days
→ things that could happen to a girl wearing jeans, by rhiannon mcgavin, when politics gets too much
→ how to be a poet under the new regime by roberto montes, on being
→ self portrait with no flag by safia elhillo, for pledging allegiance
→ joy seekers, by levi the poet, for easter
→ Elgar’s Nimrod (Variation IX) from Enigma Variations. listen when in pain, for the reminder than in every hurt there is longing, and in every longing there is hope.
nadine: this month’s classical love is a staple. apparently, according to the song’s wikipedia, it’s played pretty much all the time (i’m exaggerating, but only a little). this enigma variation was dedicated to Elgar’s closest friend, August Jaeger; it’s the story of how Jaeger encouraged him to push through pain and keep making music. in a letter to Jaeger, Elgar wrote that each variation had been written borrowing the voice of a friend, “if they were asses enough to compose.” to me, the Nimrod variation is a reminder of what a powerful balm sincere encouragements can be. i hope it catches you at the right time.
→ Happy by Julia Michaels (released in Inner Monologue Part 1, jan. 24, 2019). listen if you feel like dancing and feeling sorry for yourself at the same time.
nadine: mmm who doesn’t like a good sad pop anthem?? this one’s been stuck in my head all month. (also worth noting that i think this song needs to be taken with a certain measure of self-deprecating humour; it’s absolutely not necessary or even useful to “kill relationships for art.”)
→ Night Falls over Kortedala by Jens Lekman
gray: a long time favorite album of mine, and my favorite Jens Lekman album. every year, for me, this album seems to usher in the beginning of spring. the dancey instrumentals and silly, lovelorn lyrics will never cease to feel brand new to me, even on the thousandth listen.
→ Mississippi by Kevin Abstract
m: the outro to the brand new ep ghettobaby, this song had me both tearing up and dancing at my desk. it’s homey and homesick at the same time.
→ Guava Island
m: i’m of the opinion that Donald Glover can do no wrong, and i am right again. this time, glover is flanked by Rhianna and Lititia Wright *heart eyes*
→ The Future is Feminist edited by Jessica Valenti
m: a brilliant intro to feminism, spanning much time and differing schools of thought. each essay is different both in subject and mood (yes, some will make you smile.) despite the hot pink and orange text (I couldn’t read the quotes in orange), i love it. i want it. this is intersectional, empowering, accepting feminism, and i feel empowered creatively and mentally.
→ “Why Do I Always Have a Crush on Someone?” by Heather Havrilesky
“The trick is not to stop wanting. The trick is to stop abandoning yourself and your life every time you want something. The trick is not to stop eating. The trick is to stop blaming yourself for your hunger.”
as a chronic crusher, this piece makes me feel validated and made me think a lot about how i exist in relation to and treat my romantic/etc desire.
→ With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
m: Acevedo’s first book, The Poet X, was incredible, and so many thought so. Her second book releases May 15, and let me tell you… it is spicy and sweet and warm and bright. Emoni is a single mama, a girl who adores cooking, and a high school senior. this life is so much pressure, but so full of love. highly recommend, not just for the story, but also for the beautiful writing.
→ Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon
m: i feel like this book is a guide to life. all you need to know right now is that it’s austin kleon’s new book. perhaps i’ll give it its own blog post.
sipping + eating
→ thai coffee, strong and sweet and spicy. good for chatty dinners over stir fry noodles or productive afternoons.
→ lemonade. it’s already hitting temps of 80F here, so i might as well lean into the summer weather with a classic drink that happens to be a favorite of mine.
→ ginger matcha ice cream with dark chocolate chips. healthy for your heart.
→ nadine: how are the hindering things i do benefitting my fake self? what can i do to stop the negative cycle where my self-sabotage fuels my negative self-beliefs? procrastination, i’m looking straight at you. i will not let you make me angry.
→ nadine: i want peace of mind, but i am constantly looking for ways to make my life more intense, dramatic, exciting. in my journal, i have written: “why am i not that person now? thick fabrics, plants, light. a big garden. who is this person & what has changed within him/her to bring him/her to let go of that need for drama & intensity? why is he/she content with that life? what life is that?”
→ m: what do i feel like i’m not allowed to do, and why? what blocks are in place before my creativity, and what have i forgotten to love as the years pass by? how can i dismantle shame
→ m: do i have a routine? what is my dream routine, and how can i slowly work it into my mornings, days, and nights?
→ m: how can i create space for other people? who have i not forgiven?
→ gray: time is passing whether or not i want it to. i have spent the last several months oblivious to this, stuck in a pattern of being stuck. now it’s april and i find myself trying to figure out what i’ve even been doing. a short break post-grad turned into a time where i have been questioning all my decisions and skills that i believed i had. how do i move forward with my life now that every turn is filled to the brim with uncertainty? and who am i to complain? how do i stop focusing on the path not taken?
what about you? what’s been making you think, lately, “i’m glad i stuck around long enough to discover this?” let us know!
"to expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness."
allow me to set the scene: the year is 2013, i am a mousy, bookish sixteen-going-on-seventeen year old, and i have just started my senior year of high school, which would be my last year of catholic education (i had attended catholic schools all my life). i walk into my sixth period class, which, i believe, was called “christian existence” (preceded by morality in 11th grade, church history in 10th, and scripture in 9th), and quickly take my seat in the front row. i laze through the class prayer and christian music video that my teacher liked to start class with (she always turned the lights off, and it was always so hot in that classroom) and take my books out. in class we were reading the book letters to a young catholic (which, for the record, i don’t necessarily recommend. just want to be as accurate as i can!), and i flip the book open to the page number written on the board to find out that today, we are reading about another mousy, bookish young person. her name was flannery o’connor.
the portion of ltayc dedicated to o’connor discussed her work as a great catholic apologist, which put her in ranks with the apostle paul and st. augustine of hippo. the book included a snippet from her posthumous collection of letters called the habit of being where o’connor recounts a discussion about the eucharist with novelist mary mccarthy at a dinner party. this occurred when flannery was still a young novelist at the beginning of her career, and mccarthy (who was more than ten years older than o’connor) had already released the company she keeps (a succès de scandale, but a succès nevertheless), was awarded a guggenheim fellowship, and had a career as a critic). i would try to give you the gist of the exchange, but no one says it better than flannery herself:
Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [Mary McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the 'most portable' person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, 'Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.’
my fascination with o’connor started in that class, with that quote. o’connor had been quiet all dinner, conscious of the reputation she had to keep and i’m sure she wanted to impress mccarthy. but when the subject of something she was passionate about came up, nothing could stop her sharp tongue. i long for a passion like that in my life.
soon after this afternoon in christian existence, i read my first flannery o’connor short story, “a good man is hard to find,” the essential o’connor. there’s even a sufjan stevens song based on it. i was shocked, and the fascination increased exponentially. have you read it? it’s merciless. she does not hold back. i almost couldn’t believe it was written by the same woman who had spoken up only to defend the eucharist. to borrow from whitman: she is large, she contains multitudes.
if you’re unfamiliar with o’connor’s work, allow me to write quick summaries of a few stories: entire family murdered by a band of thieves (“a good man is hard to find”); a child witnesses a baptism in a river and thinks it looks like fun, drowns (“the river”); a man spends a bus ride thinking of ways to mess with his racist mom, only for her to die the minute they get off the bus (“everything that rises must converge”); a polish refugee turned southern farm hand is run over by a tractor driven by a man who’s wife just died of a stroke (“the displaced person”); a civil war veteran dies on stage at his granddaughter’s college graduation (“a late encounter with the enemy”). do you see the pattern here? (these descriptions barely give the stories justice, please read her words.)
a little while ago i was reading patricia lockwood’s memoir priestdaddy, and in it i read an incredible quote about o’connor that i had not thought of. lockwood wrote,
All the while I walked more than ever. I walked past Flannery O’Connor’s house and I thought about her grotesques and her misfortunates, and I wondered, as I always did, where the mercy was located in her stories. They seemed so pitiless, as pitiless as reality, but somehow the mercy was there. Suddenly I thought, “It is located in us, it is external, she shows us the sores of the world and we are filled with a great raw feeling for them.”
i was struck by the truthfulness of this. o’connor was a catholic, and chose to write about the tragedies of life as an exercise in empathy. maybe to make the reader say, this is bad, my life is not this bad, i should be kinder, etcetera. say what you want about the catholic church, but it was built on teachings of service to others, and to an extent, empathy is necessary for good service. we read about these trials and maybe, we go through our lives viewing the world as an unforgiving place, and we help each other through it. however, the mercilessness and the grotesqueries are still there.
i hope i stretched well because i am now going to reach really, really far. have you read the book a little life? if you have, good, you’ll be in the loop. if you haven’t…whatever you do, don’t read the wikipedia plot summary, please. i’m being so serious. maybe read the book, maybe don’t; i’ll try to give a spoilerless recount. anyway, there is a lot of mercilessness in a little life. the main character, jude st. francis, faces trial after tribulation until the book ends exactly the way you think it’s going to. but i want to focus on one specific piece of mercilessness that may get overlooked in discussions surrounding all. about 100 pages from the end of the book, something significant happens, and jude is sent into the final despair of the novel. downward spiral doesn’t really describe it, because it wasn’t really a spiral. (sorry the writing here is so clunky but i am trying hard to not spoil anything because this isn’t even a piece about a little life.) but part of this fall included a little lawsuit. i say little because it’s barely mentioned, but if you had been on the other end of this lawsuit, it would really be anything but little. Jude decides to sue everyone even slightly related to the…er…incident. it is explicitly stated that he wants the lawsuit to ruin the people involved. he doesn’t care at all that the truck driver has a sick kid at home. it’s a very take them for all they’ve got scenario. this is not really a unique reaction for jude that only happens because he is angry and upset, another detail that gets overlooked is jude’s job as a litigator for a law firm that represents basically the devils incarnates (iirc, they rep. big pharma, banks, stuff like that).
i think that jude was a character who was used to having his power stripped away from him. there were what i could only describe as atrocities commited against him. i think, that however disagreeable, being ruthless within his profession was an attempt to be in control of someone else’s life. and now time for me to make my point. flannery o’connor was diagonsed with lupus by the time she was twenty seven, in 1952. around this time, she published her fist novel, wise blood. over the following years, she made over sixty appearances to lecture and read her works, as well as published a good man is hard to find and the violent bear it away. aside from occasionally lecturing, her daily life was harshly impacted by the lupus. i once read that her days consisted of attending mass, writing, and then reading and recuperating from both her illness and the steroids used to treat lupus. i wonder (and hope since i just wrote all of this and am saying it…) if a comparison can be made between the terror written into o’connor’s stories and the ruthlessness jude has in his professional life. when you are feeling hopeless, do you not look for some kind of control anywhere you can get it? is it cruel for me to suggest that after losing power over her own life and body, flannery o’connor sought some solace in writing mystical grotesqueries? this is bad, my life is not this bad.
on the very last page of a little life, harold (jude’s adopted father) states, “and so i try to be kind to everything i see, and in everything i see, i see him.” i think this is how we should walk away from flannery o’connor’s words. she wants us to understand that in so many ways, the world is not our place, it was not made for us, and no matter how hard we try, sometimes it can only end badly. things that seem good can fool us, and things are good are always fleeting, and everyone is always a few steps behind. read her words and do not be afraid to enter the hostile world we have come to call home. treat people as well as you can and despite the risks, help those in need and always be kind. good men (“man” in the sense of all people) are hard to find, but they are out there and maybe humankind is worth it. if i may offer one firm piece of advice it would be to always check baskets for smuggled cats, and don’t turn down that dirt road, because your mother was thinking of tennessee, not georgia.
in my intro post that i made around a week ago, i wrote a sentence that i was, first, afraid to write, and, then, afraid to publish. the sentence is at then end of the second paragraph of the post and reads, “i use they/them pronouns and (after struggling with my identity for over a year) identify as non-binary.” i kind of antagonized on whether or not i should write those words. yes, i’ve been contemplating this for a year, and yes i do tend to silently consider myself nb, and yes i do modify my appearance in certain ways in order to look androgynous or (more accurately) transmasc (binding, short hair, no shaving, etc). but even though i do all these things and present this way, the actual decision to say that out loud was and is still terrifying to me.
change is always scary for me. i do not look forward to it and when i am force into it i am dragged kicking and screaming. there are many ways that i wish my life was different, but i’ve come to learn that i am very prone to slipping into and remaining in the comfortable and the known. i think most of us are like this. i often find myself thinking well, my life isn’t great, but it could be worse. the fear of the unknown consequences of change scares me more than the changes themselves. what if i make the wrong decision and get stuck somewhere i don’t want to be? somewhere worse than this?
this is the dilemma i face when thinking about my gender identity. i don’t want to say something now and then take it back a year later. my answer to this recently has been what i stated above: present the way i want and don’t talk about it to anyone. i think a lot of us do this. i don’t think there’s anyone who has the “a-ha, i’m trans (or any other identity other than the assumed)” moment and then immediately is able to talk about it (maybe there is, and if you did…respect). i don’t think it’s a long term solution at all, but it’s how i’m treating it, and i don’t know when i’ll be able to tell my family or my childhood best friends that i’m non-binary. i have this vision of myself getting top surgery in five years and just being like “oh idk…just like the way it looks!” when i’m asked about it (this is not a good thing but i am writing about myself and i am not always good).
i read a new yorker article by joshua rothman recently, and in it, he wrote, “it might be easier if our biggest transformations were instantaneous because then we wouldn’t need to live in states of aspiration. certain of who we were, we’d never get stuck between selves.” the article examines decision-making processes and applies them to something i don’t particularly care about (deciding to have children/become a parent), but in it, rothman brings up quite a few good points about how much autonomy we really have over decisions we make, which is exemplified through that quote. to me, right now, as a non-confidant non-binary person, i feel as though i am in a state of aspiration (part of why i was afraid to write that sentence is i thought maybe i am not nb enough (another thing that i think a lot of people feel)). i feel like when i say that, i’m saying, “look! this is who i want to be!” instead of, “look! this is who i am!”
in real life, instant transformations are, of course, impossible. as much as we’d like to believe that we have the agency to be who we want to be, there are always circumstances that make this unreasonable and honestly, it can be dangerous. however, the only way we can know if a decision is the right one is to make it and live the consequences. these possible consequences can become daunting and ultimately scare us off from our goal and from what we had originally been so sure about. now, i’d like you to imagine we don’t live in the real world. the idea of instantaneous changes are so appealing because they get rid of the possibility of being scared off from who you think you are supposed to be. i constantly feel like i am stuck between selves and never quite feel like i’ve become anyone who i thought i’d be. it’s hard to feel like a real person when you’re never quite sure of anything.
maybe, to feel more human, i need to learn to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable and understand (not just know) that life really can’t be lived fully if it’s lived in fear. in paragraph three, i mentioned that i “don’t want to say something now and then take it back a year later.” i don’t think this is the right way to think about these kinds of things, because there’s no way to know if it’s right unless you do it. and if i do change my mind, then whatever. then it gets changed. i don’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself, and my mind changing about this shouldn’t negate the experiences of any other non binary person. all of this is so much easier written then felt, though.
i wish i had a definitive conclusion, but i rarely do. it’s so hard to know what is right, to know what is good for you, and to know what is good for everyone else. and once you know, it’s even harder to act on it sometimes. and unfortunately, the only way to move forward in life is to make hard decisions, and live your life the way you think is right for you now, and hopefully will be right for you in the future.
i don’t know what march is like where you are. if you can feel the springtime coming. here (a corner of canada; this is nadine writing) you can’t. it’s cold, it snows, it’s cloudy. the only clue is the lengthening hours of daylight. and yet somehow that’s enough. you can feel it in others, this quiet resilience, a mixture of tiredness and hope. march is ugly. march is thick ice and grey snow, asphalt invisible under the rocks and the dirt, trees still bare, puddles bigger than the street, car wheels that spin loudly on the ice. sidewalks are the enemy, obstacle courses. march is not kind. but march is precious. thirty-one days. one month. march may not look like a gift. but i refuse to see it as anything else. maybe march is a test. maybe march is nature, vulnerable and wild, fragile and fierce, asking us “can you still love me like this?” and i want to be the kind of person who says yes. i want to be the kind of person who loves unconditionally. people, nature, life.
for me, these days, trying to love life unconditionally means two things: appreciating it as it comes and daring to reconsider it completely.
hopefully these favourites of ours will help you do just that. anchor yourself to the present and look to the future with hope. because you know what? there will be more. a month from now, we’ll make a favourites post, and none of us knows what will be in it yet. you’ll have new favourites too. definitely something worth sticking around for.
→ Debussy’s La Mer: Trois esquisses symphoniques: 1. De l’aube à midi sur la mer played by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap Van Zweden (released feb. 22, 2019). listen with closed eyes. you’re on a small fishing boat on the Atlantic Ocean by the coast of France. it’s dawn. the sun rises, the sea awakens. the sunshine reflects on the waves, blinding you at times. everything is saturated, but in a good way. the song ends at noon and you’re still out on the sea, with the sun at its zenith and your compass unwaveringly pointing north.
nadine: this is impressionist music; like the paintings from the same movement, its purpose is to create an impression in the mind of the person who encounters it. in this case, i find the impression startlingly and pleasantly clear. i know 9:16 sounds like a long time, but it’s so worth it. the last minute of this piece is pure euphoria to listen to for me (the chords!!!!). after i heard it the first time, i had to stop everything, remove my headphones and just laugh because who knew there were still such wonderful treasures i’d never heard before? you never know what you don’t know, and if that’s not a reason to stick around, i don’t know what is. finally, two things: (1) if you have time to listen to the entire programme/album, do it! it also features The Rite of Spring, which i actually discussed in my last post. (2) i will be back with a classical music (loosely-used term) piece each month. will probably discuss why i think classical music is beautiful, powerful and relevant in a blog post, but until then, i do hope you enjoyed this at least half as much as i did (and that would already be a lot).
→ Sucker Punch (LP) by Sigrid (released march 8, 2019). listen when you’re out for a walk on a sunny day, or on a cloudy day that you want to make sunnier.
nadine: Sigrid is my favourite newish player on the pop scene! this is her first LP. listen for a quirky voice and production with an upbeat vibe. i recommended the entire LP because LPs are a rare commodity these days, and LPs with many enjoyable songs are always a rare pleasure. if happy pop is not your thing, you may want to skip directly to the last song, Dynamite; otherwise, honestly, these are all straight from pop heaven.
→ Placeholder by Hand Habits (released march 1, 2019)
gray: the new album from meg duffy’s project hand habits is like a breezy spring morning. duffy’s sweet vocal melodies and melt over ephemeral instrumentation and evocative lyrics. let it fade away, in the bathtub with clay on your face (“are you serious?).
→ What Chaos is Imaginary by Girlpool (released february 1, 2019)
gray: i guess this month i’m into sprawling sounds. since the album came out earlier this year, i’ve been captivated by the vagueness of the lyrics and the moments of larger-than-life sounds (“what chaos is imaginary,” “chemical freeze”) mixed with soft, intimate moments (“all blacked out,” “hoax and the shrine”). let the sound surround you until what’s real becomes…well, imaginary.
→ Avalanche by Just Friends, and other songs on the playlist. listen with the lights dim, your body fluid and submissive to the way music asks you to move and groove. alternatively: on a porch watching a spring rain.
m: bonus points, moving on a rainy day. someone asked me recently what music i like and i froze and blurted out “reverb… beats… purple stuff that envelopes you and makes your body loosen up!” juicy songs to do yoga to. music in the background writing papers, yet the same music you can close your eyes in, and lose yourself in the waves. world building music. avalanche does this incredibly well. half through, the bass thrums in your chest, yet water trickles in the background, but all you can hear is a woman’s voice. then, a piano chord. it’s intricate, yet feels so simple and human. dip into it. then, shimmy your shoulders to playful cellos and basses and more in soul alphabet. dip and repeat.
→ Self Control by Frank Ocean and Cavetown and Dissect. listen loud, with that bittersweet ache, and a thought for summer, late at night, on the phone with your best friend.
m: covers are hit and miss. usually, i prefer the original, but sometimes an artist does a song so differently, or so distinctly theirs, that i fall in love (such as Somebody Else by Vérité.) this is true here. frank ocean’s self control is so intimate and distilled, a musical journal. beautiful. i suggest listening to the podcast dissect episode on the song. lyrically and sonically, it is an art, and irreplaceable. when cavetown, a red haired english boy, covered self control, i was skeptical. while very similar to frank ocean’s version, this version is somehow distinctly cavetown’s. listening to the tune, i could believe each version was written by the artist.
→ The Dream Chapter: STAR by TOMORROW X TOGETHER (or txt, for short). listen when you want to feel happy and excited and kinda silly. like afternoons in the summer with your best friends that you'll remember forever
julia: txt is a new group, they have debuted only a couple weeks ago, but I'm completely addicted to their debut EP. they are pretty young, with members ranging from 20 to 17, so their songs are basically about the growing pains of being a teenager. the main single, Crown, talks about a boy who one day wakes up with horns on his head and is afraid he turned into a monster. but then he meets a boy with wings and realizes that he's not alone in being a bit weird and now his horns feel more like a crown. even though i'm way past that age, i still can relate a lot to both feeling inadequate for something i was born with and trying to come to terms with that too the point where i can see the positive side of it. Also the songs are just bops, Cat & Dog is absolutely absurd and hilarious, it always puts a smile on my face.
→ this video of Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson’s acoustic cover of No Tears Left to Cry with violins and cellos for BBC Radio 1 (released dec. 11, 2018). watch at the end of the long day with the quiet conviction that you’ll find a plan.
nadine: i actually love covers, so i was already sold on the idea of combining this duo with one of my favourites 2018 releases, but this exceeded my expectations in every way. i’ve watched this oneit so often by now that now anytime i finish a video on youtube, however unrelated, youtube is like: “now this?” and i’m like: “YES!” i could probably write an essay about this cover/song. or Miley Cyrus. it’s so quiet but it feels so huge.
→ MARINA’s new album trailer (released march 8, 2019).
nadine: i like people who think deeply, creatively and earnestly. Marina, previously known as Marina and the Diamonds, is definitely one of those people. besides, album trailers are a cool concept, and this one doesn’t disappoint. about staying soft and kind, finding beauty, and finding love in the midst of fear.
→ John Green's Cause for Celebration (released november 20, 2018) for when you feel unwell and unhappy.
m: John Green reminds me how much humanness we have lost recently. sometimes i wonder at the human inclination, across culture and age, to dance. humans love to dance. along with this, humans, forever, have celebrated, for the seemingly smallest occurrences. sure, some of this is because people of history actually depended on things like rain to survive. a harder life, for sure, but a more thankful life. i wouldn't mind reclaiming some of this joy, especially in the dead of cold spring.
→ txt’s live performance of Crown
julia: this month has been really all about them for me and I'm simply in love with this choreography. it's so intricate and fun! I have watched it so many times but I'm still not sick of it.
→ Will You by Carrie Fountain, a poem to read on your kitchen counter.
m: this poem uses glitter to confront your wakefulness or apathy.
→ Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
→ Yes She Can: 10 Stories of Hope & Change from Young Female Staffers of the Obama White House compiled by Molly Dillon
m: good for crying into your coffee when you should be working, or googling “credentials to work in the white house, wait a second, who’s the current president?”
→ Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience
m: i picked up my copy of this book today, and i am already stunned and touched. incredibly well written, featuring voices such as elizabeth acevdeo, chen chen, safia elhillo, and ocean vuong. steep in another's world.
→ matcha with vanilla almond milk. pairs best with lust for springtime and planning the present.
→ dirty chai with oat milk. a literal incarnation of the term “bittersweet.”
→ coffee, lots of coffee. currently my fave is a citrus chocolate blend from my friend's own brand. citrus + chocolate, opposites complementing each other instead of fighting, the kind of balance i want for my life.
→ this month was for Existential Questioning with much-deserved capitalization. examples of questions nadine has asked himself/herself/themself include: ♫ what does it mean to be a good person? ♫ why is it important to me to be a good person? ♫ what does it mean to do good in the world? ♫ just as i don’t want to pretend i know what’s best for someone else, can i pretend to know what’s best for the world? ♫ how may i balance altruism and hedonism; how may i contribute to the wellbeing of others while having fun? ♫ what is inner peace? is it attainable? is it a selfish thing to want? do i even really want that? ♫ why do i think i am currently alive as this particular human here? ♫ where does my pain come from? ♫ how much money do i really need, assuming i’ll live to old age? ♫ what motivated the past Big Life Decisions i’ve made? ♫ what pursuit brings me the most happiness, why, and why did i ever give it up? ♫ how can i find more people who don’t make me feel like a freak, who make me feel less alone? ♫ what do i want to do with my “one wild and precious life”?? ♫ what can i do now to start exploring the world more thoroughly? to have more fun? ♫ how may i reframe my feelings to realize that regardless of their degree of normality, they’re normal for me? ♫ how do i become the best friend i can be? ♫ etc. ♫
→ how can i be honest with myself without running away, terrified?
→ club prompts, 3/10/19 ☽ what do you stay for? ♡what is ur church? how do u pray? ☽ spoken word for a wordless song ☽ turn on a song. dance. move the way u need to. capture your thoughts + arising feelings ☽ poems for tarot cards ☽ instant film ♡send us your favorite skies
→ club prompts, 3/5/19 ☽ sink into the point of view of an original character ♡ use a morning routine to create a piece ☽ boat building ☽ what details encapsulates your february? ☽ the horoscope you need to read ☽ erasure ♡a light in the wrong place
what about you? what’s been making you think, lately, “i’m glad i stuck around long enough to discover this?” let us know!
hi. i meant to make this post um at least a week ago, but i get distracted easily. i want to introduce myself before i ask you to read anything that i say with authority (this only seems fair). i will first say that i am not good at writing about m-e, but i will struggle and edit and hopefully post a slightly authentic view of myself for you to understand.
first, my name is gray. well, it isn’t but i often feel uncomfortable with and disconnected from my name, so we’re gonna use this for now. i don’t particularly feel strongly about gray as a name, so it’s subject to change at any point. it’s just the only gender neutral nickname i could make from my name without sounding like an old timey fighter pilot (ace lmfaooo). i use they/them pronouns and (after struggling with my identity for over a year) identify as non-binary. i will write about this in another post soon.
i am 22 years old (year of the rat babey) and am a sagittarius, but a november sagittarius. i don’t know what that means. moon in capricorn and rising gemini. i also don’t know what that means. if anyone knows, hit me up on twitter. i don’t really believe in it, but it’s fun. by trade, i am a graphic designer/illustrator and earned by BFA last spring. if anyone needs some gd/illo work, hit me up on twitter. in the (almost) year since i graduated college, i have learned that i am really bad at phone interviews and i’m even worse at writing cover letters. i firmly do not know what i want to do with my life, and it is really funny to me that just two years ago, i was so sure. it’s ok.
i wrote one of these last week that didn’t come out good, and there was a whole paragraph dedicated to lists of my favorite things. it was way to long, so i will try to just give you the true favorite from each category. NOVEL: a little life by hanya yanagihara. BOOK OF POETRY: night sky with exit wounds by ocean vuong (sorry, crush). BAND: parquet courts. SONG: "the book on how to change ii" by hand habits. TWITTER BOT: @sikenpoems. QUOTE: “you do not have to be good.” -mary oliver. i think this worked well.
it might be good to tell you the themes that i often write about and will most likely end up writing about on this blog. heartbreak (duh), the trauma of womanhood (for me, personally), family ties, the importance of music, and the nuances around “coming out.” i will write about more than just these five things, but i guess this is just a mini preview of what’s to come.
one last thing that i couldn’t figure out how to fit somewhere else that’s not really important but i’m gonna include it anyway: i live in charlotte, nc. i think this is a good introduction; the bases are now covered. i am happy that i get to play a part in this project, and i look forward to reading your submissions.
until next time.
the sprout club
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.