What a long but fulfilling road it’s been. I can’t imagine life without these two.
Here’s to many more milestones to come!
What a long but fulfilling road it’s been. I can’t imagine life without these two.
Here’s to many more milestones to come!
The new year is only weeks away! Here are some tips to create a platform for change in 2014, and to keep you sane despite the lack of sunshine and warmth this winter.
1.) Eliminate toxic people:
Roommates, boyfriends, friends, acquaintances…if your gut is telling you something about someone, chances are it’s correct. Say goodbye to the people who pester you, gossip about you (and others) and use you. And try to do this with your middle finger down; it says a lot more if you can say adieu without anger.
2.) Make motivation with what angers you:
Invent a life that is born out of insult. The things designed to destroy you…to break you…these are actually the opportunities life throws at you. Remember, “The best revenge is a life well-lived.” The lack of closure from people, things, events are to be used as ammo. Let yourself live despite the wounds around your waist. Be that person who conquers and creates rather than crumbles. People will leave you. Places will burn around you. But your drive and your determination will grow stronger. And the scars from all those things that once dug their claws deep into your back will disappear. You’ll move on and make something beautiful from what you’ve learned. One day you will see…and you will understand.
3.) Find progress through passion:
Can you play an instrument? Teach lessons on the weekends. Are you good at math? Tutor a friend who is struggling. Did you lose a loved one in your life? Offer support to a friend or family member experiencing the grieving process for the first time. Give, give, give…but ask for nothing in return. The truest joy is manifested by selfless giving. Money will come and money will go. Smiles will appear and smiles will fade. But knowledge, enrichment and enlightenment will last a lifetime. One of my favorite quotes by Mahatma Gandhi is “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The world is vast and its people are suffering. Forget your own problems for awhile. Learn to love and let others love you in a new, profoundly altruistic manner.
4.) Set some serious goals:
Is there something that has been holding you back? That has been scaring you? That has been eating away at you? Set goals to either push you forward, quiet your mind or take you out of your comfort zone. Be all that you could possibly be in this life. Don’t waste it away by assuming the future will bring you all that you need and desire. The time is now. You aren’t getting any younger but, with each passing second, you are growing older. Kick yourself into high gear…because, at the end of your life, the biggest failure you’ll admit to yourself is that you never even tried.
5.) Find sanity in the face of stress:
My writing and all other forms of my work have been inspired over the years by figures such as Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese, Charlie Kaufman, Robert Hunter, Charles Bukowski, Tennessee Williams, Janet Fitch, John Steinbeck…the list goes on and on and on. A notable, more recent, inspiration for me has been the new artist Lana Del Rey. I’ll never forget the first time I saw her music video for “Ride,” directed by Anthony Mandler. Vladimir Nabokov, Walt Whitman and Tennessee Williams all shine through her opening monologue…what a vision. If you haven’t heard (or read) Lana’s work, see below. You won’t be disappointed.
“I was in the winter of my life, and the men I met along the road were my only summer. At night I fell asleep with visions of myself, dancing and laughing and crying with them. Three years down the line of being on an endless world tour, and my memories of them were the only things that sustained me, and my only real happy times.
I was a singer – not a very popular one, I once had dreams of becoming a beautiful poet, but upon an unfortunate series of events saw those dreams dashed and divided like a million stars in the night sky that I wished on over and over again, sparkling and broken.
But I didn’t really mind because I knew that it takes getting everything you ever wanted, and then losing it to know what true freedom is.
When the people I used to know found out what I had been doing, how I’d been living, they asked me why – but there’s no use in talking to people who have no home. They have no idea what it’s like to seek safety in other people – for home to be wherever you lie your head.
I was always an unusual girl.
My mother told me I had a chameleon soul, no moral compass pointing due north, no fixed personality; just an inner indecisiveness that was as wide and as wavering as the ocean…
And if I said I didn’t plan for it to turn out this way I’d be lying…
Because I was born to be the other woman.
Who belonged to no one, who belonged to everyone.
Who had nothing, who wanted everything, with a fire for every experience and an obsession for freedom that terrified me to the point that I couldn’t even talk about it, and pushed me to a nomadic point of madness that both dazzled and dizzied me.
Every night I used to pray that I’d find my people, and finally I did on the open road. We had nothing to lose, nothing to gain, nothing we desired anymore, except to make our lives into a work of art.
Live fast. Die young. Be wild. And have fun.
I believe in the country America used to be.
I believe in the person I want to become.
I believe in the freedom of the open road.
And my motto is the same as ever:
‘I believe in the kindness of strangers. And when I’m at war with myself, I ride. I just ride.’
Who are you?
Are you in touch with all of your darkest fantasies?
Have you created a life for yourself where you can experience them?
I have. I am fucking crazy.
But I am free.”
-Written by Lana Del Rey (2012)
“I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout Camp, watching falling stars. And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper. And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird. And Janie…and Janie. And Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry. You will someday.”
-Written by Alan Ball, read by Kevin Spacey (American Beauty, 1999)
Settling in for winter here in West Michigan with some of my new (and old) favorites. Here is a list of tunes, films, books & graphic novels to help you shake the winter blues this year.
Radiohead - Electioneering
Fleet Foxes - Mykonos
Timber Timbre - Black Water
Lou Reed - Walk on the Wild Side
Danny Brown - Dip
12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen’s adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s book, written in 1853. Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor not only give compelling (and flawless) performances, but illuminate the darkest aspects of slavery in the pre-Civil War South. McQueen’s work is as riveting as it is candid; a prime example of the unwavering power of the human spirit.
Blue is the Warmest Color (La Vie d’Adèle) – If you can stomach a 3 hour, NC-17 French movie with subtitles, then GO SEE THIS. Though from the same vein as ‘Blue Valentine’ and ‘Like Crazy,’ this film broke ground on the truth, euphoria and consequences of love…regardless of sexual orientation. Saturated with authentic performances from both Léa Seydoux and, especially, Adèle Exarchopoulos, director Abdellatif Kechiche elicits more emotion from his audience than one might be able to handle in one sitting…though the 3 hours fly by quickly and painlessly. In all my 25 years, I have never seen a more heartbreaking (albeit graphic) portrayal of young love. This is a must-see for everyone, young and old. And especially for the bigots out there who actually still believe that love should only be shared between a man and a woman.
The Seventh Seal – The Swedish black-and-white film from the late Ingmar Bergman in 1958. Visionary for its time, this movie explores the true meaning of the biblical passage from Rev 8:1 (focusing on the “silence of God”). Stressing the importance of “values” over “religious worship,” Bergman analyzes mortality, human nature and the absence of afterlife in a truly artistic but delicate way…enough that it runs the chance of confusing even the most determined amateur of cinema. So be prepared to interpret both subtitles AND actors while taking in the historical scenery of Sweden during the Black Plague. With epic undertones, like that of Dante’s Divine Comedy, this movie from The Criterion Collection is sure to move and unsettle you.
Bellflower – Premiering at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, this pre-apocalyptic movie from talented newcomer Evan Glodell is brilliant. Shocking ramifications ensue as multiple characters fall both in and out of love while preparing for Armageddon. Glodell is one to keep an eye on as this showcase of personal style is exceptional. A truly unnerving but nonetheless poignant portrayal of love at the end of life!
Oldboy - An old (and soon-to-be new) favorite. Make sure you see Park Chan-wook’s original version BEFORE seeing Spike Lee’s remake (set for release on November 27th this year). I was highly impressed with Chan-wook’s directorial style for Wentworth Miller’s screenplay ‘Stoker,’ which inspired me to seek out this South Korean thriller. I’m excited to see how Lee, Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen will adapt his 2003 film…and reinvent all the brutal and visceral elements that made it unforgettable.
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me - An honest, touching and witty portrayal of bipolar disorder, written as a graphic memoir by Ellen Forney.
Sweet Tooth – A post-apocalyptic saga with a new breed of animal/human hybrids, written in graphic novel form by Jeff Lemire.
Joyland – The new novel written by The Modern Master of Horror, Stephen King. The perfect Halloween (or any season) read!
To the Lighthouse – A psychological and perceptive representation of true Modernism in literature, this 1927 novel by the late Virginia Woolf never fails to move me in an incredibly profound way.
Poetical Works, including The Rape of the Lock - One of my recent inspirations in developing and practicing a new writing technique. Alexander Pope’s timeless and structurally-sound poetry is absolute genius. Do not depart from this world before attempting to read some of his work!
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
-Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004)
What an irregular and strenuous year it’s been. Twelve months of insufferable and relentless and furious change. We often wonder at the wind; unwilling and unwarranted, it breathes down our backs and wraps tightly around our waists. Hollow and shrill, it congests the canyon with screams. I know nothing of a noise like this…a cry that climbs and contaminates the crevasse walls.
And so I fear those that crawl around in the crater below, though I have not forgotten my own fight. I remember the importance of wandering…of rambling…of the disorientation and defeat that joined me on my own journey nearly one year ago. I look fondly upon those months of metamorphosis…the days that I danced in the most desperate of embraces…the minutes that melted and disintegrated into dust.
Thus I will wait, patiently and loyally, for those that I love. For those who still have many, many miles to roam. For those who will one day approach the apex with well-deserved wisdom.
Here I will stand at the summit with my arms open wide.
I am vigilant, but they are impassioned. I am satiated, but they are strong. I am alive, but they are determined to live.
…what a year it’s been for both the inspired and the inspiring. May there be many more canyons to come, to clear and to bring us closer.
“If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
and my tunes were played on the harp unstrung.
Would you hear my voice come through the music?
Would you hold it near as it were your own?
It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken.
Perhaps they’re better left unsung.
I don’t know, don’t really care.
Let there be songs to fill the air.
Ripple in still water
when there is no pebble tossed
nor wind to blow.
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty.
If your cup is full, may it be again.
Let it be known there is a fountain
that was not made by the hands of men.
There is a road, no simple highway
between the dawn and the dark of night.
And if you go, no one may follow.
That path is for your steps alone.
Ripple in still water
when there is no pebble tossed
nor wind to blow.
You who choose to lead must follow.
But if you fall, you fall alone.
If you should stand, then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way, I would take you home.”
-Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” (1970)
Though I don’t know all the ways of the world, these ten things I’ve found to be true…
1.) Drink water, preach protein:
“Respect your body. Eat well. Dance forever.” -Eliza Gaynor Minden
Cut the crap…literally. Drink water, tea, coffee (if you have to). For breakfast, especially, eat foods that are high in protein. Junk food and fast food does NOT count. Be kind to your body. Do yoga, go running, take your meds on a regular basis if you’re prescribed. And if you’re misdiagnosed, go see a doctor that knows what the hell he’s actually doing. The wrong pills WILL poison you. And, if life gets really rough, you go right ahead and reach for that dark chocolate. Oh, and a good Merlot doesn’t hurt either.
2.) Travel often and in good company:
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” -Anais Nin
Find yourself in the foreign.
I’ll never forget the moment I stepped off the train in Paris. I was filled with the most indescribable feeling; I won’t even try to put that awareness…that sensation…into words for you. It was one of the most beautiful and exhilarating emotions I’ve ever had the chance to experience in life. I had promised myself, only two months earlier, if I could survive this…if I could make it out of the lowest low of my existence…then I would let myself, deeply and emphatically, live. And, when I finally stood upon the cliffs of Normandy in France the next day, I knew I had survived. I had climbed out of the canyon. Surrounded by two of my closest friends, I gave myself the greatest gift that could possibly be given in life. And do you know what that gift was?
Now I’ll be visiting Barcelona, Spain and the Balearic Islands this coming spring and, in 2015, I’ll be off to Tokyo, Japan.
So go see the city. Swim in the ocean. Drive through the country…roll down your windows, 90 mph, and blow your speakers out with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” Learn to live in a way that makes you feel alive.
3.) Accept that you are only human:
“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth. ” -C.G. Jung
Drugs, drinking, sex, dating, broken bones, broken hearts, mental health, physical health, words, fists, failure. How lucky are we to experience the good with the bad? To beg for forgiveness? To feel all that is hatred? To be completely and unflinchingly rejected? To pound our fists into walls and push our fingernails into our face, regretting and apologizing and threatening?
We are all young, in some way or another, and we are all still learning.
Some of us are riddled with disease and some of us are destroyed by disorder. And, more often than not, we are empty. For example: You will break some, perhaps many, people’s hearts…and this will change their lives forever. But know, in turn, that someone will also break your heart…and from that it may never heal. But we get to feel these things, these horrible feelings of loneliness and embarrassment, so that we may appreciate the profound feelings of love and belonging. Your mistakes, your remorse, your inability to change the past…these things mold us and carry us down the road of life. And, somehow, we end up in a place much more lush and breathtaking than before. Patience is key. Remember that the universe will take care of you…it will talk to you…if you have enough courage to listen and let it happen.
4.) Pick a personal religion:
“I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. Scratch where it itches.” -Alice Roosevelt Longworth
Everything happens for a reason. Every, single thing. And, for those things, I am accountable for manifesting. That is where my personal philosophy begins.
Some people leave our lives forever and some people, the ones we didn’t think we initially needed, stay throughout the seasons. Some clouds settle over our lives and scattered rain falls down on us for decades. And some people like to believe that God controls their lives…that God gives and God takes; that he drowns us in floods and then, miraculously, guides us to shore. But I, personally, think that is a crock of shit. YOU are the only one accountable for your life; stop wasting it on the theoretical ways of the past. Get in the front seat of your own car, drive it down the road or crash it into a tree, but don’t depend on others to take the wheel. You are the one with your foot on the gas…remember that. If Western Religion helps you to sleep better at night, then good for you. But you are the only one who has to answer for yourself at the end of your life; you can’t sit there and imply that another person or higher being dragged you toward your destiny.
5.) Be passionate about your power and potential:
“Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.” -Charles Bukowski
If you’ve never heard the graduation song, Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) produced by Baz Luhrmann, then you’ve never heard the line: “Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you.” And this is, so very much, true.
I was composing concertos in 2nd grade, though I didn’t have the confidence or self-discipline to pursue the piano. I started reading and writing at an alarmingly young age, yet it took me until my junior year of college to finally share my work with others. Do NOT rob yourself, and others, of your gifts in this same way. Pay attention to your talents. Cultivate your craft. If you’re good at painting…paint your life. If you can play the guitar…start a band. Create products of your potential and grace the world with them. Be confident, be inspired and be inspiring. Even if money is tight, go broke on your abilities. Push yourself. Don’t squander large pockets of your life on things or people that will take you nowhere. Go somewhere that not only makes you happy, but brings joy to the lives of others.
6.) You are a product of your generation:
“Three films a day, three books a week and records of great music would be enough to make me happy to the day I die.” -François Truffaut
YOU are a representation of your era. Learn to love the music, writers, directors, films, and artists around your age group. Get to know your parents and your relatives. Trace your family history. Learn to love the past with the same vigor with which you face the future. Watch the news, mourn with your country, volunteer when help is needed, read the newspaper, subscribe to your favorite magazines…find a way to BE HERE, in the now. Be a walking testament to the ways of the world…the times and the tribulations, the people and the progress. Tell your story and listen to the stories of others. You are an embodiment, a protest and a pattern…be proud of that.
7.) Find your anchor:
“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.” -Helen Keller
Regard your friends as your family; for your nuclear family, by blood, tends to have an obligation to you. But your friends don’t need to stay in your life…they choose to do that. So take a few bullets for them. Keep those alive who have died. Write thank-you notes for gifts AND good deeds (preferably handwritten). Treasure the times spent with those who have cleared the canyon with you. Find your anchor in others and, in turn, anchor yourself for them. For the wake of life is wild. Sometimes you’ll find yourself above the wave, and sometimes you’ll find yourself below. But, every now and then, you’ll ride it…and you won’t ride it alone.
8.) Make peace with the past:
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” -Lewis B. Smedes
One of my mother’s and my favorite films is Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather.’ AMAZING movie and equally as amazing book by Mario Puzo. In the third film, Michael Corleone says to Vincent Mancini (his nephew), “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.” I’ll never forget that line.
Hate will consume you. It will age you. It will eat you alive. Hate won’t even spit out your bones…but it will, most definitely, ruin you. There is a time to be angry, especially when what angered you is fresh, and there is a time to make peace. For some things and for some people, you should fight. For everything else, you should let go. This I know to be true, though I, myself, have yet to master it. We are all learning, expanding, hesitating…I just as much as you all. And anger…anger is a familiar fault of mine. I hope that it has not confined any of you in its grip as it has confined those closest to me growing up. For this I wish all of you, as well as myself, the fortitude to fight without fury.
“Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.” -Wavy Gravy
Life is hard and sometimes, life sucks. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be. Be serious, of course, when the time is right to be so. But laughter, deep and authentic laughter, is the key to a long life. Don’t be THAT PERSON who is easily offended because I guarantee you that you are the only person who gives so hard a damn. Laugh at yourself. Laugh in the company of others. Laugh at life…or you’ll never get out alive.
10.) Get to know yourself:
“There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming” – Shauna Niequist
One day you will die, and everyone you’ve ever loved…they, too, will die. Maybe you’ll be mourned, maybe you’ll be forgotten. On the road of life, you will walk through the season of death many, many times. But one time, soon or far away, you won’t be able to again cheat it. You won’t evade your ending. How do you want to be remembered? How will your legacy live on? What will speak for you when you, yourself, can no longer speak? Get to know yourself…your flaws and your strengths. Your beauty and your ugliness. Be many different people, if you must. Be solemn, if that so suits you. But always be all that you could ever be. That is the goal…the destination…of your alignment with the universe. Be whatever it is you so choose to be…but be that with all your might. Because, as Joseph Campbell says, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”