“rainbow connection” – kermit (1979)

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When it comes to this blog, my approach changes week by week.  If there is a milestone that is coming up, I’ll do prep work and really develop my thoughts on the topic.  When something breaking happens, I’ll offer my initial insights as an immediate reaction and speculate on how things will develop.  And, other times, I just kind of wing it depending on my mood.  It is all in flux and varied. The quality may be affected, but that’s alright.  It allows me to go off script, be unstructured, and just understand my thoughts.

This entry was planned for weeks.  I was going to write about the fortieth anniversary of The Muppet Movie and discuss the influence the Muppets had on me over the years.  However, that is not the subject of today’s piece.  I’ll save the original one for later.  But, as I said, sometimes I’ll react to something as a means of processing and I find putting things in writing helps with that.  I had an experience last week and I want to share it.  However, some context first.

Five years ago this week, I went through a really nasty breakup.  And it was bad for a variety of reasons. For one, I did not see it coming.  I had been with this woman for a few years and I was thinking seriously about our future and the life that we would build together.  I felt excited about the future, but she had different plans and it was certainly a shock to the system.

While breakups are never fun, and I’ve had more than my fair share, situations become delicate if that person is somehow present, whether physically or emotionally, and a lot of work must be done to keep things as stable, if not positive, as possible.  Boundaries must be established and respected and an active participation to keep things cordial is needed by both parties.  It can be easy to let down your guard or to act as an instigator so, when one of those things happen, things are said and feelings get hurt.  And, in most cases, there’s no room for friendship when that happens.

After the breakup, due to the timing, I lived with this person for a month.  During that time, I was subjected to a lot of manipulation, cruelty, and emotional abuse.  I was in an absolutely vulnerable state and while I cannot say for certain that my former partner was intentional about their behavior, they were not taking steps that conveyed any respect. I was humiliated and lied to, and it caused me a lot of trauma. And while I have certainly moved on from the experience and resolved some of this trauma, some of the effects are still there.  They will always be there.  That is just the reality and I have come to terms with that.  That is just a natural part of the process when it comes to people who were once very important in your life who are no longer there.

What exacerbated the healing process was that I had little to no support systems for a long time after that breakup. At that point in my life when we were in a relationship, I was working a ton, had little money, and all my hobbies and friends were my partner’s hobbies and friends.  When that relationship ended, I was completely broke and alone.  Except for one person who kept in touch, everything about my life had disappeared.  The friends we shared chose their sides, I was recently laid off so I did not have work to distract me, and I had no hobbies of my own

It was a difficult time and I had to put myself back together.  During the early stages of figuring out what to do next, I was constantly comparing myself to my former partner.  I engaged in behavior that was mentally unhealthy.  I still followed them on social media and I was reading their posts on a blog they started, documenting their dating and new lifestyle experiences, and doing that just kept hindering the healing process. I saw how happy they were with new people and experiences and it was just a reminder of how unhappy I was.

Once I started to make my own friends and develop new hobbies, I was actually able to start the healing process.  At first, everything new in my life were just distractions.  It was difficult to be alone and with nothing preoccupying me.  However, with time, these things resulted in a new life with support systems; things I really needed before but did not have.  It was a lot of work overcoming the mental and emotional trauma I endured, but I survived it.  I became a better, stronger, and more well-rounded person than I ever was in that relationship. I had achieved a freedom and self of self that I did not have before.

So, this blog post was supposed to be about The Muppet Movie but then it changed.  I will get back to the Muppets, but first I want to share why I decided to change the subject of this blog entry.

Over the last five years, while I have been building and enjoying my life, I have run into my former partner randomly.  It usually happens once or twice a year.  We cross paths, make eye contact, and then we just move on.  While I have made a lot of progress in dealing with the trauma they had inflicted on me, I still cannot see this person in public.  Seeing them in public gives me such a visceral reaction.  I feel very ill and I get into a melancholy mood and then I spend the rest of my day dwelling in a negative headspace.  And this happens every time.  That is, until last week.

I left my apartment to go to the grocery store. I have multiple routes I can take to my nearest grocery store and, sometimes, I’ll take one way there but a different way for the return. On my way back, I see my former partner enjoying lunch on a patio with a friend.  My immediate reaction was the same old feeling of nausea I get whenever I see them. My next thought was Why in the hell am I running into them so close to my apartment! The idea of running into this person just two blocks from my apartment just really pissed me off.  As I am getting closer and getting ready to walk on by without so much as a second glance, we made eye contact. I had been through this before.  Glance at each other, go home, and spend time trying to get back into a more positive headspace.  However, that would not happen that day.  I made a sudden decision.

I stopped, and with a big smile on my face, greeted my former partner as if we were old friends with polite enthusiasm.  I asked how they had been and when I got a very vague, awkward response of “oh, you know, still working in the schools,” I took it to the next level.  I was not going to let short, awkward responses stop me from continuing friendly conservation.  I congratulated them on some recent life and family changes (she had recently become an aunt), catching them off guard that I knew as much as I did.  When they realized I wasn’t just going to shuffle away like I had before, she asked me how I had been.  I mentioned positive life changes including some big projects I completed, that I have been going on great trips, have several active hobbies doing really cool things, and that I do a lot of volunteer work with several community-based organizations.  She just sat there smiling, shaking her head politely, confused by the situation.  She was not expecting to be engaged at all let alone engaged in a friendly and polite manner.  We spoke for a few minutes, then I was introduced to her friend, and then I said that I had to run but it was nice to see her and that we should catch up.

Truth is, I have no intention of meeting to catch up and neither does she I’m sure.  But, I left the situation with a feeling I had never experience before from prior encounters. I felt triumphant. I did not feel sick, angry, or upset.  And it was not just a fleeting response.  I still feel good about the encounter.  Engaging with my former partner, being friendly and polite, was exactly what I need to restore a balance of power. I showed her I was not afraid and that she no longer has power over me.  That my life is super awesome, even better than when I was with her.  This life that I built for myself after experiencing the abuse I received from her.  I have no idea what she thought of this encounter and, frankly, I do not care. I needed that experience for me.

Over the last few months, I have been thinking about how far I have come in the last few years. Not just from the aspect of that former relationship, but how my motivation and drive has allowed me to live the life I want.  One on my own terms.  I have made some excellent friends and have had some incredible experiences.  And I find comfort, even pride, in the fact that I made the life I have happen for myself.  To go from being broke, in heart and finances, to having a life I enjoy is just wonderful.  There’s still progress to be made.  I have to continue to grow, learn from my mistakes, and keep trying for the things I want.  Not everything has gone my way in those last five years, but enough for me to be satisfied with the way things are. So, as promised, let’s tie all this into the Muppets.

The 1979 film The Muppet Movie opens with the song “Rainbow Connection” performed by Kermit the Frog, voiced by Jim Henson.  Sitting in a swamp, plucking away on his banjo, Kermit pontificates why so many songs are about rainbows.  What seems like a negative start, suggesting that rainbows are merely illusions with no real concrete meaning, Kermit refuses to belief such a myth. Instead, he affirms his belief, as a frog who wants more in life, that the journey to discovering what is at the end of the rainbow, mysterious and potentially illusory as it may be, is the real significance of the power of rainbows and the awe and wonder they inspire.

During the movie’s finale, after all his adventures, Kermit finds his friends at the end of the rainbow. It is the paths we take and the friends we make along this journey that matter. We do not know what is at the end of the rainbow, or if there is anything at all, but it is the journey and the fear of battling uncertainty and our fears that reveal to us what we will find.  With that in mind, what we find at the end of the rainbow is whatever we truly need.  In Kermit’s case, as well as mine, it is the love and support of great friends and the desire to seek more happiness and wonder from what life has to offer.  That’s my rainbow connection.

“with all the world” – khruangbin (2019)

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Despite the extreme heat and being caught in the downpour that forced a fairly significant evacuation, I had a really great time this weekend at the Pitchfork Music Festival.  While music festivals are normally not my thing, I usually give Pitchfork a pass.  It feels fairly small to me compared to some of the other music festivals in the area, I get in for free, and I know a bunch of friends and colleagues who attend as well.  Despite the crowds that can accumulate throughout the day in preparation for that day’s headliner, I can break away and explore other options like perusing vendors or finding a quiet spot under a tree.  All in all, it is a very good time.

Whenever the lineup for Pitchfork gets announced, it is a reminder of how uncool I can be when it comes to new, underground, and independent artists.  I usually only know a few names and they are typically the headliners or the acts that play right before. I’ve discussed this before.  It isn’t that I actively avoid new, hip music.  It just takes me a while for it to get on my radar.  I just have other things that take up my time and attention and there is always a bunch of new music coming out.  More and more every year and it is too much to absorb.

So, leading up to Pitchfork, I try to do some homework.  I’ll read recommendations from several music publications and critics, or I might sample some of their tracks on Spotify.  However, if I know I will not have time even for that, I can always just show up and check them out.  Showing up to a performance without any knowledge or preconceptions is an absolutely exciting way to experience an artist for the first time.  And there were plenty of new experiences for me this year.

Unlike previous years I’ve attended Pitchfork, I’ve never gone all three days of the festival.  At most, I go about two because I usually have other things going on and music festivals can be exhausting.  However, since I missed last year’s festival due to a vacation, I was going to make up for it.  I was determined to attend all three days and check out new sounds.

The artists I experienced for the first time at Pitchfork were Sky Ferreira, Julia Holter, HAIM, Cate Le Bon, Parquet Courts, Clair, Khruangbin, Amen Dunes, Ibeyi, Nenah Cherry, Snail Mail, and Whitney.  This fest was my first exposure to these artists, and I had a great time at each set.  While some sets resonated more with than others, I still had an absolute blast and walked away with mental notes on who to explore further. While I had so much fun at Mavis Staples, the Isley Brothers, and Robyn, all sets I really wanted to see and whose music I was familiar with, I want to talk about the set from the list of artists I didn’t know previously that impressed me the most.

I had not heard of Khruangbin until they were announced to play at this year’s festival, and I didn’t bother look them up prior to their set.  They were performing on the third and final day of the festival, the day I was debating on attending (I know I said I was going to make an effort to go all three days, but extreme heat and storms do force you to rethink your decisions), and I was so happy I went.  Khruangbin’s hypnotic blend of soul, dub, and psychedelia with a wide variety of global music added an experience to the festival that I felt was lacking in the prior two days.

Their music was entrancing and easy to lose yourself in.  I could’ve just stood there and swayed to their funky, down to earth psychedelic jams, but I was also entranced on the band members themselves in addition to the music.  The energy between Laura Lee on bass and Mark Speer on guitar was so intimate.  It exuded a level of sensuality that seemed almost private, but was shared with an audience as part of the experience of Khruangbin live in a festival setting.

Since that performance left the biggest impact on me from all the artists I experienced for the first time at Pitchfork, I’ve spent today listening to their studio releases.  Released in 2019, Khruangbin’s latest studio album Hasta El Cielo is a really funky treat.  With the opening track “With All the World,” you are immediately coasting through an atmospheric dub with spicy, lingering guitars and an echoey drums.  It all feels very ethereal, but earthy as well.  It strikes a delicate balance between reaching for cosmic limitations and remaining firmly grounded and comfortable with one’s self. It is a great opening track that sets up the tone and theme for the album.

It can be difficult to explore new music. You must remain open to idea of exploring new things.  And worst-case scenario is you don’t like it.  Just move on and find something else.  There’s plenty to explore.

“the other man’s grass is always greener” – petula clark (1967)

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I never really know what I want. Or, to phrase it more correctly, I do know what I do not want. I feel like I know myself pretty well, though I am constantly learning and growing. And sometimes, I surprise myself when I find an aspect of my personality and humanity, I was not aware of before.  There is also the possibility I may rediscover something lost before.  Things change, within me and around me, and sometimes it can be overwhelming.  Other times, change is welcomed.

I think about why it is difficult for me to confidently and affirmatively know what I want.  Perhaps it is a lot of things.  For one, I think that uncertainty is a product of being young and ambitious in a city full of competition.  There’s stress that comes from that.  There’s the good stress that keeps me motivated and driven and there’s the bad stress that makes me question my worth.  There’s also the stress of being the dog who finally caught the car.  When I do finally reach a goal I have worked very hard to achieve, what then? Will I be happy, or will I have realized that said goal was meaningless and a distraction from something much larger and more important? What if it turns out what I thought I wanted was actually not what I needed?

These are big and important questions. If the answer was easily and readily available, then we would not have big and important questions.

I have several friends, when I discuss these matters, who tell me things like “everything happens for a reason” or “listen to the universe and it will guide you.”  That’s all well and good and I see a lot of value in those philosophies.  While I do know that while luck plays a major role in how one’s life turns out, you’re not entirely without control.  You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.  In this case, I’m a big planner and try to work on several paths at the same time.  The reason being that I have some vague semblance of what I want in life and I know it takes work to achieve that.  I guess I just have some anxiety about whether or not it is all worth it.

Sometimes, I think about how I would live my life if I had the resources to live an unburned, worry free life.  What would that look like for me?  If I never had to worry about money, I would live a quiet, middle-class existence.  I would exit the rat race and not work, but I would volunteer frequently with several community organizations.  I would spend my free time reading, trying new hobbies, and taking two or three modest trips a year.  That is the dream.

However, my life is not like that and life like that requires some work and planning.  Some people may be lucky enough to have that kind of life, whether it was inherited or something they worked to achieve.  So, in the meantime, I am left trying to figure everything out as best as I can.

In my early thirties, I have noticed how I think about things differently than I did throughout my twenties. I sure as didn’t know what I wanted in my twenties.  I thought I did, but life events happen and you have to adjust.  Still, I kept my eyes on certain goals no matter what had come my way because that is what ambitious young men in their twenties do.  Now, in my thirties, I am left wondering If I don’t achieve soon what I wanted for myself in my twenties, then when is it time to move on? Or, on the flip side, I also think What if I get this thing and it turned out not to be what I wanted?  In either scenario, I wonder if I am wasting my time.

Then again, why worry about it anyway because my life, overall, my life is good.  I am healthy.  I have friends and family that care for me.  I earn an income that allows me to feed myself, put a roof over my head, and offers some disposable income for quality of life.  I have so much going for me and I have everything I need to live the fullest life possible.  So, why is that not enough?  It is for the most part.  Like Joe Walsh, I can’t complain though sometimes I still do.  But why complain at all?

One thing I know I need to do is live more in the moment.  Try and take things one day at a time.  Admittedly, I do sometimes worry or complain about things beyond my control. It is hard to not complain about that. And if I get what I want, what’s next?

Due these anxieties about existence and progress within my life, I would not say that I am happy.  I am content, but I am also aware that I can do things to increase the quality of my life.  How that happens, I do not know. What it is, I do not know. Will it being the chance I hope it will, I do not know.  All I know is that something in my life needs to change and I am on a journey to figure that out. And unless I get lucky, going on that journey could take a lot of time and work.

What I do know is that all of this is a process.  For one, a key step is to not compare yourself to others.  That is a big one because it can be incredibly hard to overcome.  This extends beyond coveting something someone else has.  This also applies to thought like Well I shouldn’t complain because this other person’s life is worse than mine.  Even if framed from a positive and well-intentioned place, it is still comparing yourself to others. I have made a lot of improvement in that area, though sometimes I slip up.  However, that is ok.

Ultimately, I just wish I could quit worrying about things.  I worry about not getting the things I want.  I worry about not appreciating the things I do get.  And what makes the worry harder is that is the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what you want.

Don’t get me wrong, uncertainty is good and something I do look forward to sometimes.  However, it is all about context.  When I moved to Chicago in 2011, I was uncertain about how things would turn out, but I was excited because I was eager to make that move to Chicago and it was something I have wanted.  I currently do not like my job and it is a negative, stress-inducing cloud and the uncertainty of settling for something else that I don’t really want gives me some anxiety and I have to work hard to reframe my mind and focus on the positive (in this case, it is ok to leave a toxic environment for someplace else even if it isn’t what you wanted because you’re removing something actively toxic).

What I am learning in my thirties is that all the questions and uncertainties in my twenties do not always get addressed and resolved.  Life is still vague, complicated, and everyone is just trying to figure things out.  The only difference is that I am becoming aware of the fact that while I still do not really understand or know what I want, I am becoming more comfortable with it.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am growing more comfortable with it, but I know I am.

Until I figure out what I want, I have to be more active about living in the moment.  Sometimes that is easy and sometimes that I hard.  Though, I do imagine it will get easier.  Or, at least, I hope it does. Some people have it figured out and they live with peace and happiness.  I envy that, though I know I shouldn’t.  They are on their own journey and I am on my own. And, if I obtain something I thought I wanted, I can always shift my priorities.  I don’t have to be stuck with something.  It may take work (and I know the idea of working hard to get rid of something you worked hard to get is maddening), but you’re human.  And humans and their priorities change.

I know this blog entry is vague and rambling.  That’s fine.  There are some discernible nuggets of wisdom from someone trying to figure things out. So, let’s get to the music.

In 1967, Petula Clark released her single “The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener” from the album of the same name.  This charming pop song, written by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, addresses what I discussed in this blog post.  In the song, Clark sings Life is never what it seems / We’re always searching in our dreams / To find that little castle in the air / When worry starts to cloud the mind / It’s hard to leave it all behind / And just pretend you haven’t got a care.

Clark sings about the burden everyone experiences at time or another about the desire to just escape one’s humdrum life and step into someone else’s shoes. Though I feel like my own confusion and uncertainty is unique and no one gets it, I have to realize how narcissistic such a position is because that is something everyone feels.  We all fantasize about how much better life could be if we could live a different life than our own. However, we only know our journey.  We cannot assume someone else’s journey.  They grass will always be greener on the side so, as Clark sings it, be thankful for what you got.  I know it can be hard sometimes, but do what you need to do to live your life one day at a time.  I know we all have worries and it can be hard work to get rid of them, but there no wrong paths.  Life your life and do what makes you happy.

“do you think i’m disco?” – steve dahl & teenage radiation (1979)

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Disco music, since its mainstream popularity in the late-1970s, generally gets unfairly criticized and misrepresented.  If your only cultural reference points for disco are novelty tracks like Rick Dees’ “Disco Duck” or any of the endlessly parodied clichés, then you truly do not understand the significance of disco music.

Disco, in its earliest inception, was a countercultural response to the dominance or rock music on commercial radio.  For members of marginalized community like African Americans, Hispanics, and the LGBT community, the hard and heavy, rhythm and blues elements of popular rock music did not reflect their values, heritage, or culture.  Those groups did not see a place for themselves in the mainstream, so they carved out a niche where they would not be stigmatized for dance music.  This was the birth of disco.

Disco and dance clubs became spaces for marginalized communities, especially the LGBT community in New York, to express themselves without ridicule or threat of violence from rock, fans, the general public, or the police.  As the appeal of disco music began to broaden and bleed into the mainstream, with its up-tempo soul and heavy beats, disco quickly transitioned form being a unique, underground form of self-expression to a broad label that could be attached to any danceable, “four on the floor” style music and marketed at disco.

With the widening popularity of disco, it began to overtake space in the cultural arena that had been dominated by rock and roll.  Seen as vapid, escapist, and, according to Mark Motherbaugh, “a product of the political apathy of the era,” disco was targeted for occupying a space that those in power, rock fans and musicians, felt entitled to.  The vitriol that disco music experienced reflects larger systemic forces than just music.  The admonishment of disco was a statement against minority groups and were subjected to homophobia and racism.

Amidst all the cultural backlash against disco music, the most significant event in the “Disco Sucks” movement was Disco Demolition Night.  A black mark on the history of Chicago music, Disco Demolition Night was a promotion held at Comiskey Park on July 12th, 1979.  Between the game of a doubleheader between Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, a crate of disco records was to be ignited on the field in an explosive and violent display as a cultural statement about rock’s perceived dominance.

Steve Dahl, a local shock jock and a force behind the “Disco Sucks” movement, campaigned heavily for the event.  While only about 20,000 people were expected, Dahl’s aggressive campaign brought in 50,000 ardent disco haters brought records to burn and to declare their musical supremacy.  Vinyl not collected by stadium staffed were hurled like frisbees onto the field.

Fueled by adrenaline and their commitment to rock’s superiority, fans rushed the field after Dahl blew up the piled of records collected.  Riots ensued and a few dozen people were injured during the mayhem with the same game of the doubleheader postponed and then eventually cancelled.  Cited as the start of disco’s cultural decline, Disco Demolition Night became an embarrassment to Major League Baseball and Chicago.  Disco was a space and genre that was coopted and appropriated from the underground and eventually popularized at such a rate that it became dangerous to enjoy and whose supporters experienced racism and homophobia from those who feared losing cultural dominance and power in music.

On June 13th, 2019, nearly 40 years after the riots of Disco Demolition Night, it was reported that the Chicago White Sox would give away 10,000 t-shirts commemorating the night Steve Dahl manifested his hate for disco in a violent act of white supremacy. It was also reported that Steve Dahl would throw an honorary pitch on the field where had had perpetrated a violent act four decades prior.

After much backlash, the Chicago White Sox issued a statement that they would review the event saying

This year’s Disco Demolition T-Shirt giveaway was intended to recognize the anniversary of a historic off-the-field moment that has been connected to the organization over the past 40 years. It is a recognizable part of Chicago baseball history. We recently were made aware of comments criticizing the T-Shirt giveaway and are in the process of reviewing feedback. We have been communicating with our community partners who have raised concerns to make it clear that the intent of this giveaway was only meant to mark the historical nature of the night 40 years later. We have reinforced that the White Sox organization is dedicated to advocating for a safe, welcoming ballpark experience for all people and communities, and will continue to engage in important, informative discussions with our fans and partners to build toward positive change through sports. We remain proud of our franchise’s longstanding record on advocating for inclusion and diversity.

As white nationalism, fascism, and white supremacy are emboldened under a Trump presidency, we must be aware of problematic events in history.  Traditions are not always a good thing because of the dynamics that created and continue to support the tradition.  Whether they be enforced because of outdated racial, gender, or other social factors of their time, modern society must move past those things, recognize the circumstances that allowed them to occur in the past, and not advocate for their relevance in a modern context.  In this case, those who do not understand what Disco Demolition Night represented, they likely do not care or even support it.

Steve Dahl was, and still is, a hack.  Not only is building a persona around one’s racism and homopbia problematic, but riding on that persona and its connection to a violent display forty years on is tasteless.  Dahl’s only claim to fame is that he hated disco.  And, oh man, did he hate disco.

A travesty, though not on the scale of Disco Demolition Night, is Dahl’s musical output.  He hated disco so much that he decided to parody the genre for his own gain.  Recording as Steve Dahl & Teenage Radiation, Dahl released the single “Do You Think I’m Disco?” in 1979.  A parody of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” already a spoof on disco according to the song’s co-writer Duane Hitchings, Dahl proves that his appeal his very limited, his comedy banal, and his satire being anything but that.

If you all know about disco comes from the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it was overplayed and commercialized beyond recognition from its origin, I encourage you to listen to the movement’s early days.  You can feel the power of freedom and expression in the music.  Listen to it, appreciate what it represented, and respect the modern movements that mirror disco’s initial purpose.

“beautiful” – carole king (1971)

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The last month for me has been rather difficult.  I have been experiencing a lot of stress for personal and professional reasons.  And while I know that I am strong enough to endure anything, sometimes I get bogged down by everything.

When that happens, the first step is to know that feeling stressed and overwhelmed is ok.  Those feelings are natural and you must let them pass naturally.  What makes them stay longer and become real problems is if you dwell.  Realize that you’re feeling them, accept them, and move on.

This week’s entry was a struggle for me.  I did not feel motivated to write one.  I know I don’t have to write one.  This blog being weekly is an imaginary stipulation that I put on myself.  However, I like the structure.  And if the topics deal with something difficult and personal, it gives me an opportunity to face the issue, reframe, and move on.  Plus, not every entry is going to be great.  Some will, some won’t.  That’s the point.

I am not going to go into a lot of detail about what has been bugging me, so this will be short entry.  Instead, I’ll share an anecdote about how helpful music can be.  When the right song comes on at the right moment, it is a transformative experience.

A few weeks ago, I got an email that really upset me.  I was being taken advantage of and felt powerless.  I felt like I had no control over the situation.  Though, that wasn’t necessarily true.  I called a few friends and consulted with them on how to handle things.  It was a situation where I was right, but I felt like I had lost.  I was told I could see things that way, or I could reframe my mind.  In this case, it involved me validating myself that I took the high road.  It didn’t solve my issue, but I could leave the situation with my dignity intact knowing I did the right thing.

After my friends talked through everything with me, I could see more clearly now.  I had blinders on all day because I was so upset by this situation.  It prevented me from seeing the larger picture. When I was all talked out, exhausted by the topic, I turned to music.

Sometimes, I rely on magical thinking.  Magical thinking is where you believe that your thoughts or actions can change things in the physical world.  The type of rationale, or wishful thinking, isn’t based in reality.  IT helps as a coping mechanism.  I picked up my iPhone and opened the music app.  I told myself that the first song that that came up on shuffle would be the song I most needed to hear and would fix everything about my mood and put me in a more positive space.  Considering most of the music I listen to can be heady, sad, angsty, or anxious (lots of post-punk and new wave), chances of the first song being one that could successfully give me a moment of lift was slim.  It was a heavy burden for whatever song that would be.  I pressed shuffle.

The first words I heard were “You’ve got to get up every morning / With a smile on your face / And show the world all the love in your heart.”  It was “Beautiful” by Carole King from her 1971 masterpiece Tapestry.  King continued singing “Then people gonna treat you better / You’re gonna find, yes you will / That you’re beautiful as you feel.”

I could not believe it.  That was the song I needed to hear that I didn’t know I needed to hear.  It was the perfect song for the moment and I felt transformed.  I was lifted.  The experience was beautiful, and I felt beautiful.

I try not to be a cynical person, but I can be sometimes.  As much as I love music, I really do not believe it can change the world.  Perhaps in small ways, but not in large sweeps that produce systemic shifts.  Maybe it can.  I don’t know if music can change the world, but it certainly changed mine at that moment.

My mood was lifted and I felt better.  There will be times where you are mistreated by people with more power than you, but you cannot stoop to their level.  Just smile and do the best that you can.  Find confidence within yourself that you’re a good and decent person, and people will treat you like one.  And when you feel good and whole and positive on the inside, it shines through on the outside.  I am beautiful.