Sunday, November 29, 2009

About once a month I allow myself a therapeutic cry. Well, I shouldn't say allow... it makes it sound like I limit myself to a certain number of crying experiences but that I hold back the rest of the time. I'm not one to cry much in front of others, but I allow myself to cry openly when alone. I see no point in holding back tears and sometimes will even encourage a good cry when it's been a while. I'm not entirely sure if it's because I think I'll feel better afterward (even if I wasn't all that sad to begin with), or if it's that I find the experience itself to be sort of the prime form of introspection... with the tears comes an outflow of emotion that surfaces thoughts that may have been locked deep inside my subconscious. It's almost a spiritual experience for me, though perhaps not in the sense one may typically think when they think of something as being spiritual. It's just a form of expression...

Every form of expression is in essence therapeutic. Why does anyone speak, write or create to express themselves? It's about forming and sharing opinions and feelings. We all feel better when they're let out in some fashion. Isn't the experience when crying similar to this? Whether crying alone or with a friend, in silence or while talking, the thoughts that come up during the process are a sort of therapy through expression.

A lot of the time, for me, I'll start crying and not know why. I honestly would not be able to tell you where the tears came from or what made them start. On the surface I'll blame it on past depression. But if I allow the crying to continue and don't wave it off as "some silly, no-reason tears" I get into a very self-reflective mode, thinking about my life... where it is, where it's been, where it's going. Sometimes I still can't explain the tears, which may make me cry harder. Eventually I hit a peak and shortly thereafter I calm down considerably, with a new sense of calm and collectiveness (and connectedness). Sometimes a headache. But always the feeling that I just went through a sort of cleansing. The key is to never tell myself "time to stop crying"... instead, I try to draw it out as long as possible, until I have no tears left that I want to cry. Then I feel better.

Of course, the tears don't always come out of nowhere. Sometimes it is the self-reflection that comes first and warrants the tears. Or something happens that makes me cry. It's at these times that I realize the power we have as individuals to make ourselves feel better. It's a process, yes. But the therapy for me doesn't come in the tears alone, but in the thoughts that come with the tears. Things are put into perspective. I am always able to convince myself that while things at the moment may not be okay, what is happening is for the best, and will shape who I become and the course my life takes. As much as I may not want or like things that happen, I can come to terms with the fact that they still may be the right thing or what I need, either to teach me something, to help me grow, or to make me happier in the long run. And I find it important to always take a step back and think how blessed I am and how in comparison, my troubles are so minor compared to what other's experience. And at the same time I have to tell myself that despite this realization, it's still okay to be upset and concerned about what I'm going through.

If there's one thing I've learned in my still short life it's that everyone has it the worst. No one person's sufferings are worse than another. Or at least you can't think of it that way. We can't discredit someone's pain by saying their problems aren't too bad. We don't know what they're experiencing. Think about those teenagers who commit suicide and seem to have the perfect life... where nothing on the surface is wrong. Growing up I went through a phase when I was experiencing something particularly difficult for me. I was convinced that no one else in the world could understand the pain I felt. I had it worse than everyone else. Anything others tried to say about their bad experiences in attempt to comfort me only made me hate them for thinking their pain could compare to mine. No matter what, their lives were perfect in comparison. Since then I've seen far worse things happen to other people than what I experienced at the time. And I've seen other's suffer seemingly worse for things I would deem far less extreme than what I went through. I find it important to always think about this to put things in perspective. I don't want to ever discredit others' emotions, so I do not allow myself to discredit my own. I'm comforted when I think that yes, other's have it worse than me, so I am grateful for what I do have, but that it's okay to still feel my pain, with no feelings of guilt.

If you can guess, this blog came after one of these "therapeutic cries"... hence the 5:00 a.m. posting time. The blog itself is a further therapeutic step, as it too is just another form of expression, as much for myself as anyone else. Yes, it's nice to have others to turn to when things don't go your way, but I've never been one to discredit the value of a night of self-reflection, and a good cry to realize that things are going to be okay.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Quite often I find myself intrigued by commonplace things. Usually, these thoughts begin with "Whoever thought it would be a good idea to..." and finish in any of a wide variety of ways. Almost anything can follow that "..." (still don't know the name of those dot dot dots). Usually there's a relatively practical or historical answer, but I'm intrigued nevertheless. For example, who ever thought it would be a good idea to make movies? How did they know people would want to gather around a screen to watch some made up story? Certainly it stems from a history of live theatre but even that... who decided to write these things called plays and perform them in front of a group of people? Does that stem from storytelling? Does it all stem from playing make believe as a child? I could occupy myself for hours thinking about this and researching it all, usually still left unsatisfied with the answers I find. And movies is a rather explicable one. Take instead something like bubblegum. Who thought it would be a good idea to make something that you chew and chew and don't swallow and it never (slash in-reality-just-takes-a-long-time-to-before-it-gets-grainy-and-gross) dissolves? Expand that out to all types of food... who decided to throw plant like things in water, watch what happens and call it tea? Or drink the white liquid that comes out of a cow's udder? Moving away from food, who decided it would be a good idea to stand up on a piece of wood on the ocean, wait for a wave and call it surfing? Who decided the standard way to earn money would be by going somewhere and working 9-5 on everyday but Saturday and Sunday? Pretty much any human invention, activity, or societal norm can be inserted after "whoever decided it would be a good idea to..." and form an interesting thought.

One that always gets me, and which I'll exclaim to a friend or family member usually every other month or so out of a sheer disbelief that is renewed whenever I really think about it, is the concept of pets. Yes, around the third week of every month containing 31 days (rough time estimate), if you were to sit in the living room with my family's animals, myself and my family, you would hear me say, "Do you believe we invite these animals to live in our home?!". Yes, I get the companionship and all and I am a big pet person. But the idea of this amazes me! Who on earth decided it would be a good idea to take wild animals (because all animals were once wild) and let them live in our homes... pay to feed them, clean up after them, and when medical advancements were achieved, pay for doctor's visits? I'm sure it all started with keeping animals for functional purposes... dogs for herding & hunting, cats for killing mice and unwanted pests, and over time these animals "mutated" enough or were selectively bred and had enough human interaction from a young age to not only see humans as a beneficent creatures, but also as surrogate parents. Their behavior literally mutated... the process of domestication. Afterall, weren't dogs once foxes or something? And who on earth would invite a fox into their home now? Like I said before, as with all my "whoever thought"s there's almost always an explanation seeping in history and a hefty dose of logic. But if I think about it on the surface it still amazes me... we let animals live in our homes! The idea that we took these wild animals and said here, live with me blows me away. You must have some equivalent to this... something rather ordinary that makes you laugh to think about.... or am I really just more curious slash odd?

This is reminding me of a blog from freshman or sophomore year about my future imaginary book entitled something along the lines of "Random Things You Never Really Wondered About, But Now You Will"... topics included things such as what happens to you during a heart transplant because you temporarily don't have a beating heart, where do gerbils come from since you never see them in the wild, and a twist on the classic "why is there a different # of hotdogs than buns in packages?" with why are toothbrush holders too small to hold toothbrushes?

Next time you're bored, play my "whoever thought it would be a good idea to..." game and if you have any level of curiosity or a bizarre sense of humor I guarantee you will be kept occupied, by your silent self, for a while. And fairly entertained at that. Then, you can bring up your silent amusing thoughts to others and watch as they stare at you, dumbfounded, wondering why you think about these things. It's a fun rainy day activity.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

So, I was thinking about music. Music styles, music formats. Taste in music. How it's all changed throughout my life. I can pretty much go through the timeline of my musical preferences and think of the music format I listened to, the style of music and how old I was. They're all grouped together. I'm sure it's no surprise that my early life began with cassette tapes, but I also had records. Not just parental hand-me down records, records were bought for me. Thinking back, I'm kind of surprised they still sold them new. It would be like buying a VHS nowadays.

Anyways, my cassette tape/record stage consisted of primarily "kiddie non-music" related, some music related geared for kids stuff, musicals and oldies. There are certain tapes I remember treasuring... one was my "Trisha tape"... one of those things you buy for babies to help them learn their name. In my case it got recycled past toddler years because I thought it was so cool to hear my name in all these songs. One side was for night time and the other side for morning. And all the songs were for me! "Goodnight, Trisha. Time to close your eyes, Trisha" and "Wake up, put a smile on your face Trisha!" I loved that tape. I also remember one of those tapes that accompanied an activity book... I was OBSESSED with it. Just as an example, you'd be doing a maze with a camping theme and they'd sing "We're going on a bear hunt" and tell a scary story that ends with you getting out of the maze safe and sound. I listened to the thing without the activity book all the time. Another favorite was Mary-Kate and Ashley's "I am the Cute One". Who doesn't love to dance to Broccoli and Chocolate or act out Don't Let Your Mom Go Shopping? What girl from my generation didn't fast-forward through My Horse and Me and the spoken word skits? I also had a tape that my parents had custom ordered for me... which I thought was the coolest thing in the world. It was a mix tape that was much cooler than just taping things off the radio because it had the song names printed on the tape and the tape was labeled "Trisha's Music" or something equally as standard and non-creative, but still incredibly exciting to a child because it mentions their name. It had my random oldie favorites like beach boys, chantilly lace, itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini, yakety yak, love shack, girls just wanna have fun etc. as well as some songs from musicals. This was the only music I knew to exist when I was younger. My favorite record was the Chipmunks Christmas album, but there were others, including a Strawberry Shortcake record.

I remember the first time I really realized there was other music besides oldies and musicals (and well, kid songs). I was in fourth grade and my cousin got a CD for Christmas... TLC's Crazy Sexy Cool. First of all, the fact that it was a CD was a HUGE deal to me... not many people I knew had CD players yet. I remember being shocked that he listened to this "modern music" (he was 3 years younger than me). I thought everyone listened to the type of music I did. Except for musicals, I knew not everyone listened to those. But the oldies... the groups from the 50s and 60s and the rock from the 70s and 80s. I didn't listen to a "top hits" station until 6th grade. This was also when I got my first CD, Sister Hazel, as a gift, and had to then go purchase a CD player to play it on. Thus ended the cassette tape phase of my music listening, and the oldies.

I did everything as a young teenager to feel like I fit in, as most teenagers experience at some point, to some degree. I stopped listening to my old tapes and the oldies stations, switching over to KC-101 and Kiss 95.7 and asking for the coolest new CDs. This was the teeny-bopper stage. Cassette tapes were oldies, CDs belonged to the bubblegum pop world. I followed all of the female solo girls (of which there were 4: Britney, Christina, Jessica & Mandy) and all of the boybands (mainly 3: N'Sync, Backstreet & 98 Degrees). I was OBSESSED with Christina... wore a belly-shirt to her concert to mimic Genie in a Bottle, clipped out every image of her I could find, and bought multiple versions of the same CD because each one was issued in a different country and like, a song name might be spelled differently. I bought anything fun and bubbly sounding (B*Witched anyone?). M2M was as non-mainstream as I got. And I thought they were so indie and I was so unique for finding such an awesome, different sounding group. I listen now and it's just as standard pop-ish as the rest of the music was then. I tried to watch MTV around this time too but no matter how much I wanted to like it, I couldn't get into it.

Then, there was this new fangled thing called the Internet. And with the Internet came digital music. You didn't buy CDs anymore. You downloaded them. Uploaded to an ipod. I didn't get an ipod until about 3 years ago, and even still, it's a baby ipod. A shuffle. I have yet to own a normal one. Too expensive. But you can bet I was still downloading music before I got an ipod. And with the digital music out went most of the pop-current hit listening. I'll still listen to the top-hit stations but I don't follow the current artists or buy their new cds. My taste in music changed yet again. During my older teenage years it transformed slightly from traditional sunny fun pop to more acoustic, emo-ish alternative pop. Like, I was a huge Dashboard fan, years before they became mainstream. During college years it changed yet again to a more quirky, bizarre, "anything new and different" type of sound... suddenly I'm listening to gothic cabaret, indie folk with a twinge of jazz, classical inspired electronic, bands that are as likely to play toy pianos, typewriters and wooden crates as violins or trumpets. Little artists no one has heard of. Found with the assistance of, cdbaby, and "Other people who bought this item also looked at" lists from Amazon.

Besides this progression from records and cassettes with oldies, to CDs with pop, to digital music venturing into the indie and bizarre, I also have a recent addition of associating classical with radio. I've never been a classical music person. I avidly avoided any radio stations below the 95.7 mark... which ventured into country and classical land. But lately I've turned to these classical stations when driving home late at night. It's relaxing and refreshing to hear things that are always new to me (rather than the same 12 songs repeated over and over on other stations). It has a calming effect. Classical music always reminded me of Barnes & Noble, where it always seems to be playing in the background. (Do you ever associate types of music with certain places also or is it just me? Classical belongs to Barnes & Noble. Jazz belongs to Starbucks. Easy listening of the early 90s belongs to my old Orthodontists...)

I think it's kind of amusing that with the advances in technology and each new music format that comes out I associate each with a different genre of music based on my changing preferences. And it's strange to think this may continue throughout my life... with a change in music preference will come a new music format... though I can't imagine what more can be done besides digital music and ipods... though I'm sure people once said that about Atari for gaming systems also.