A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

how i get lost January 7, 2014

Filed under: adult fun,family fun — courtsbrogno @ 9:17 am

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am perpetually lost. After living in the same town for almost 20 years, I can still get lost in my own neighborhood. My friends used to joke that if they blindfolded me and put my in the middle of downtown, I would never make it home. That’s a bit extreme, but I am missing some kind of internal compass that other people have.

But this post is not about how easily I can get lost in location; it’s about the few ways I know how to let my mind get lost, to wonder through my environment without my usual worries.

I am a constant worrier. Or maybe an over-thinker. It doesn’t really matter, but because I have generalized anxiety disorder, I am in a constant state of anxiety. Thus, my mind is always working on overtime. Witnessing me from the outside, you’d probably never know. After having GAD for so long, I have become a master of disguise, but on the inside my mind and body is in a constant struggle to relax, clear my mind, and enjoy the moment.

I constantly fail. Except in three cases.

One: Sex. But there’s no way I’m going to write about that in public. But I also don’t want to lie. So, yes, I can lose myself and be calm during sex. ‘Nough said.

Two: A great book. I can lose myself in the characters and story if the book is compelling enough. Recently, I’ve read a few books that have moved me to this state of utter lost-ness, but I’ll write another post about that later.

Three: Live music. This is probably the most powerful. People always question why I see so much live music, like it’s a waste of time and money. I disagree. No matter how crowded the venue (and I don’t usually like crowds), no matter how different the music, no matter if I’m a huge fan or never heard of the musician/band before, once the music starts playing and especially if people start dancing, any anxiety I have melts away. My body relaxes, my mind stays only in the present. To me, this accounts for no less of a miracle. I have found a great way to lose myself in the very best way. I feel alive and free and absent from my norm.

It’s truly glorious.

Fortunately, our little town has been really bringing in some great acts and in the past few months, I’ve only had to travel a few times to see shows. But even with all the traveling, every show has been worth it.

Here are the highlights of the past few months:

Adam Ant! Who knew he was even still alive? Not only alive, but amazing. And I got a free ticket! I’ll see him again anytime.

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Matt Pond (of Matt Pond, PA though he now only goes my his name). I wanted to see this show so badly because I’ve loved his music for the past 10 years, and if you’re a friend of mine and I’ve ever given you a mixed CD, for sure he’s been on it. But he was opening for Jimmy Eat World–who I could care less about–and all the tickets were sold out. Thanks God for Kirby and some of his connections, cause this girl got in for free. And it was, as I expected, an amazing show.

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The English Beat. Ok, I’ve seen The English Beat 4 or 5 times now, but Dave Wakeling never fails to disappoint. We were ranking nonstop. The 80s are still alive.

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The Mother Hips. This band I’ve seen, over the years, probably a hundred times or more. And I love them. This time they played at the Morro Bay Harbor Festival so I was able to take the kids. Luke danced and danced and danced. It was great.

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Sound Remedy. I got these tickets for free as well, and I have to admit I’m not a fan of techno/synthesized music at all, but I thought, “What the hell. I’ll go anyway.” And I’m glad I did. It was a great show, and I danced all night long.

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White Buffalo. I’ve been wanting to see this band forever, and it was such a great show. Kirby called them mountain-men music, and I guess I agree. The highlight was seeing the band after their show at a local dive bar where they were talkative and so so so normal.

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Little Wings (Kyle Field). I’ve seen Kyle so many times, but he’s just so good. And since he’s a friend, I wouldn’t miss his show unless I was really ill. He always performs well and makes me laugh.

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The Bridge School Benefit. This I had to travel to Shoreline to see, but it was well worth the drive. I’ve been to this benefit concert about 4 times in the past, but I haven’t been in the last 5 or 6 years, so it was good to go again. Plus I loved the line-up. The benefit is put on by Neil and Penny Young to support the non-profit school they started years ago for children with severe physical and speech impairments. All acts play acoustically and the kids sit on the stage. Maddie’s gone with me three times in the past, but this year, because we went to the Sunday show, she couldn’t go. Bummer.

The line-up was amazing though:

  • Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (Anyone who doesn’t like this classic band can no longer be my friend)
  • Queens of the Stone Age (I’ve never seen them before, but have liked them for a while, though I wasn’t sure how they’d unplugged. Surprisingly, they were amazing)
  • My Morning Jacket (As always, so good)
  • Tom Waits (This is the entire reason we went, and Waits was beyond great. he was hilarious and his voice sounded amazing).
  • Elvis Costello (He was great, so long as he didn’t play with his wife, Diana Krall)
  • Diana Krall (No offense, but she was totally disappointing).
  • fun. (I only know their songs because Maddie likes this young band, but they were still fun. Haha, get it? Fun and the band’s name is fun. OK, I’ll stop now.)
  • Heart (Amazingly, this band has not–vocally, at least–aged at all. They are still so good. And how can anyone resist “Crazy on you”?)
  • Jenny Lewis (We missed JL due to the long line to get in , which was a real bummer because I really like her)

39(I went with my good friend, Greg)

33(We had grass seats, which wasn’t terrible once they got the big screens going)

I think the most moving part of the show was the Lou Reed tribute. Lou Reed had just died that morning, yet every performer came on stage and sang one of his songs. It almost brought me to tears.)

Band of Heathens. My friend Ryan came up for this show, and though the band lacked enthusiasm (they really seemed tired), we still had a good time.

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Matt Costa played a benefit show to save the Cayucos Pier, and I was able to take both kids. It was a really beautiful, winter day on the sand, and we had a great time.

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41(Never a dull moment for this family)

Even seeing some local, cover band in Atascadero makes me happy.

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Then Kirby and I drove down to the University of Santa Barbara to see one of my favorite musicians, Andrew Bird.

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One night, while I was getting some late night food, I met the drummer and bass player of Suicidal Tendencies.  When they asked me if I had gone to the show, I said, “No. No offense, but your music–less punk, more death metal–really isn’t my style.” To which the drummer said, “Ah little white girl. That’s just a show. We all love Christ and we don’t even drink.” To be honest, that statement kind of ruined the moment for me. But I did enjoy being called “little white girl.”

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I saw X and they just completely blew my mind. I mean, John Doe and Exene have got to be in their 60s now–or at least close to–but they still rock out like I assume they did in the late 70s.

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Then S and I drove to San Francisco to see a few shows.

First we met my brother for his birthday and we all went and saw Midlake at Bottom of the Hill.

16(happy birthday little bro)

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Then the next day, S and I met up with my friend Tim and he took us to the Wave Organ. It was delightful: the Wave Organ and hanging out with Tim. Plus the usually gloomy SF weather was warm and beautiful.

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1(Me)

9(The delightful Wave Organ)

That night, me and S took my cousin, Justin to see–guess who?–Andrew Bird. I mean, really that’s how amazing I think he is. He played in this absolutely beautiful Jewish Temple. I’m not sure how much my cousin liked him, and I actually preferred his UCSB show better than the SF show, but it was still great to see him twice in a few months.

11(The stage. Look at how beautiful this place is!)

12(Me and my cousin)

13(Andrew Bird AGAIN!!!)

Now this next band was a HUGE surprise! Public Enemy came and played in our small town. It was amazing. Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and The Professor. I had so much fun.

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The band Diego’s Umbrella also came and played. I’ve seen them before and they’re just a really fun band. They remind me a lot of Gogol Bordello. During the show, I was called on stage for a beer drinking contest. To my delight, I didn’t win nor did I lose. To my dismay, I drank too much and was hungover the next day.

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Finally, I just ended this musical adventure this past weekend when I went to a house party (I know, a house party at my age! But while there were people younger than me for sure, there were also quite a few people older than me as well). Even at a house party, crowded and hot, I can still lose myself in the music.

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Overall, it’s been a great few months of catching shows. The only thing that’s making me sad right now is that I don’t have one show on my calendar at all. Nothing. Of course, I haven’t researched much what’s coming to town or what’s playing in either LA or SF, but I’ll get to that soon. Because my body craves relaxation and this is one of the few ways I have found to achieve it, live  music becomes almost a necessity for me, like food, clothing, and shelter.

For this is how I get lost.

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my new year’s resolutions January 5, 2014

Filed under: self-growth — courtsbrogno @ 11:45 am

This post is a little late and not because I’ve been busy, though I have been actually, but because I didn’t think I would make any new year’s resolutions this year.

As the new year came upon me, I listened to my friends’ resolutions and read much advice from online magazines, newspapers, and websites, most being passed around and shared on facebook.

But nothing seemed to fit. Sure, I could get out and exercise a bit more, but whatever, it’s not enough for me to make a resolution about. I could also eat better but chances are, once school starts again, I won’t and I don’t need to feel guilty about not fulfilling a resolution I knew wouldn’t be possible or wouldn’t be something I cared enough to do.

Of course, I thought about being a better mother, taking the kids to do fun stuff more often, but hell, I think about that all the time, so again–no need to make a resolution about it.

So I settled on making no resolutions. Letting this be the year of “my resolution is not to make one.”

But I failed in that case as well because I have, in fact, made two resolutions I greatly care about. Two that I do hope to accomplish in 2014.

The first one came to me when I received an email from wordpress.com letting me know my 2013 stats. Sadly, I had only posted 9 new posts for the past year. Going from 365 posts a few years ago to 9 seemed unfathomable, and yet…there it was: Only 9 posts. When I received this email, I had been sitting down to rewrite a portion of a book I wrote this fall. Amidst all the work and chaos of fall, I did have this complete urgency to write, and so I took a few minutes here and there, a few hours alone in my office when I didn’t have grading to do, some late nights sitting in my bed, and wrote–in about one month–a draft of a new novel. And it’s  a story I really like. Something that has potential. I want to publish this. I’m proud of my draft, every chapter hand written.

book 1(This turned into….)

book 2(This. A completed first draft of a novel)

During the fall, I also had time to type the first 7 chapters (about half the book), making revisions as I typed, and send it to my friends Melanie and Neal to read. They both had great revisions for me to make, and I didn’t feel discouraged. But then, during the holiday break, I found myself trying to type up Chapter 8, but the revisions weren’t coming to me. I essentially got writer’s block even though I had already written the book. Maybe what I really got was revision block. Anyway, sitting at my computer typing words onto a word document that I didn’t really like, I got the email from wordpress about how little I had written in the past year. I know that the key to writing is just sitting down and doing it. I teach this everyday to students, but it’s become apparent that despite my sudden burst of creativity, I can fall into the dredges of not wanting to write anything because I’m not inspired when the truth is I’m not writing because I’m out of practice.

Thus, Resolution #1: Write more often.

My second resolution came from a conversation between Kirby and I as we were getting ready to go out on New Year’s Eve.

nye 2(Kirby and I posing after we finished getting ready)

We weren’t discussing resolutions, but Kirby was talking about some girl he met–something not really that important in the bigger scheme of things, as in it was just a normal, boring conversation–when he said: “Listen, I’m 34 years old, and I just realized I’m beginning to go bald. When did that happen? And I don’t really care about my age, but I know that every day I get to live on this planet I’m going to live it according to my rules and not what others think of me. I don’t know when I’m going to die or when I’m going to be totally bald, but I do know that I’m going to live each day to the fullest.”

O.K., so that’s what I recall he said, though it certainly wasn’t that verbatim. But in that moment, it kind of hit me: that’s how I’ve been living recently. I have stopped caring about what other people think of me because I know I’m a good person who makes mistakes and lives with them and tries to be better and sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails–in general, I’m a normal person. But all the pressure from what people think about my decisions, I’ve generally let go of. As in: I don’t give a shit and I just want to live my life.  Now to live each day to the fullest is a complete bullshit, yolo idea and I’m actually pretty sure Kirby didn’t use that cliche exactly, but it amounts to the idea of what he was saying. And I know I won’t live each day to the fullest because no matter how bright my outlook may be each morning, by the end of many, many days, I know I’ll be mired down in work, and kids, and schedules, and I’ll be so exhausted that to think of “how I lived my day to the fullest” will sound like the cruelest of sentiments (even if I can rationalize that doing all my day to day stuff IS living my day to the fullest). But in the free moments I have, in the moments where I can be alone or go out or sit down with my kids or take them to the park or eat a family dinner, I can promise myself that I will live according to my terms, and my terms do include taking in consideration my children’s needs because they are essentially appendages of me and my life.

Resolution #2: I will live each day according to my rules (and I must point out that I do not mean this in any kind of Nietzsche-an “ubermensch” way, but rather in the way that makes me and my family happy while still living in a world with confines and rules, though not necessarily allowing myself to be governed by what others think or by what society tells me I should be doing).

So Happy New Year to everyone. And to myself. 2014 is already shaping up to be an amazing year.

nye(S and me on NYE)