Little Earthquakes

I recently shared an article on Facebook where Justin Timberlake said that Tori Amos’ album, Little Earthquakes, changed his life. Sometimes I agree with this thought—other times I feel like it doesn’t go far enough. Little Earthquakes was to my life what Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was to second-wave feminists: it didn’t just change my life, it gave voice to a part of me that had previously been silent. It put into words all of my conflicted emotions and helped me feel like maybe I wasn’t as lost as I felt.
There have been times when I wished I could say that I discovered Little Earthquakes entirely on my own. But I have to confess that it was a bit of an accident. During my sophomore year of high school, I briefly dated a guy who offered to make me a mix tape (his music collection was vastly superior to my own and he was older and therefore much cooler than me). He asked if there were any songs I especially wanted on it, and I told him that I loved “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche. Well, that was the one song that wasn’t on the tape, at least not entirely. Instead, the tape was filled with songs I’d never heard before. The first one of those songs to really catch my attention was one called “Silent All These Years.” And that was the moment that everything changed. 
I remember times when I cranked up the volume on my stereo and lay down on my bed with my eyes closed, allowing myself, no, willing myself to become fully immersed in the music and lyrics (at least until my father interrupted because he was having a hissy fit over the volume). I would ride on this roller coaster of emotions and just for a moment I could feel like it all made sense. I would choose my start and stop point based on where I wanted to be when I ended, sometimes starting at the beginning, but just as often starting in the middle and circling back around.

That was almost 25 years ago, but Little Earthquakes continues to speak to me and for me. I don’t think there was ever a consequential moment in my life that wasn’t set to a soundtrack of snippets of these songs.

“She’s been everybody else’s girl, maybe one day she’ll be her own.”

“All the world is all I am.”

“Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again.”

“Sometimes I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years… I’ve been here, silent all these years.”

It’s the last quote that lives in me right now, as I still struggle to process my post-election thoughts. While having a blog has theoretically allowed me more freedom to expand on my thoughts than Facebook, I find that the new format does not really alleviate the biggest hurdle: my concern about hurting feelings. I still censor myself, sometimes intentionally, but it’s often an automatic reflex at this point.

What drives this need to polish my thoughts for public consumption? And, more importantly, how do I break the habit? After all, it’s not like polished and censored really prevented any sort of fallout. I spent a full day watching an argument ensue in the comments of the following post:

While I’ve shared plenty of other people’s words, I’ve been generally hesitant to add my own, but I think it’s time to change that.

For those of you who missed my post a few years ago, I am a rape survivor. What most people do not know is that I was also sexually assaulted when I was 16.

Let me be very clear- I’m not offended by the fact that Trump used the word “pussy.” I don’t care if he’s caught on tape using the work “fuck” or any other obscenity. What does offend me is the context in which the word was used. Make no mistakes, what this man was describing was sexual assault. Whether it’s walking up to a woman and kissing her (which he said that he did), or grabbing her by the pussy (based on transcript this was more of a hypothetical), this is unwanted contact of a sexual nature and it is a crime. And if this is truly what all locker room talk is like (which I already know is not the case), all that does is explain why we have this ridiculous ingrained rape culture where men like Donald Trump or Brock Turner believe that they have a God-given right to take what they want from a woman, regardless of her own wants.

Do you really still think that this is okay? Because I don’t.

I spent close to 30 minutes drafting those words, making sure that I didn’t attack anyone and that I presented something that should have been fairly non-controversial. And yet, not one, but two different pro-Trump acquaintances felt the need to defend his honor and throw in some jabs at Secretary Clinton while they were at it. Another post (that I shared from a friend) resulted in my cousin calling me a bitch and ultimately unfriending me.

Probably the biggest reason for my silence is the sometimes challenging relationship I have with my father. I love my father, but our views couldn’t be more different. As a result, my first thought isn’t “what am I really feeling,” but “what can I say that won’t hurt my father’s feelings if he reads it…” It’s easy to see how giving more weight to an opposing opinion than to your own is nothing but a call to silence.

I’ve been presented an opportunity to write an essay pertaining to my perspective before and after the election. It will be published in the spring. I’ve known for a couple weeks now, but my parents will only find out about it when they read this post. My father has dreamed for years about seeing my writing published, but I feel torn because I know that what I have to say will upset him. My words will be published and I my biggest concern is my father’s feelings, rather than my own.

I suppose this is an age-old problem, and I could go into a short dissertation about women’s voices in the patriarchy, but that’s not totally my point. My point is that I’ve become more and more aware of it and I’m making it a New Year’s resolution to stop it. My voice is just as worthy to be heard, my feelings just as valid, and the gloves are coming off.

The First Words are the Hardest

What do you say after almost a year? If my life were a novel, my last post would have been the end of not just a chapter, but a whole book. I can say this confidently because it’s exactly where I would end the novel in my head. In my mind, last September was the end of Tales from Sick and Twisted, the book I’ve been writing in my head since 2003. After all those years, I wasnt sure how the story would end, but I knew it when it happened. And in retrospect, that was the easy part. 

How do you know where the next story begins? 

I always imagined that a sequel to Tales from Sick and Twisted would have to be called Tales from the Realm of FUBAR, because it always seemed that my life was a near constant experiment in the ironic, outrageous, and unbelievable. But things have been strangely calm, even a bit bland. I tell myself that must be the reason I haven’t written in so long–who could possibly be interested in happy, boring and normal? But even as the thought crosses my mind, I know it’s a lie. 

This afternoon I went to see Florence Foster Jenkins. For anyone not familiar, the movie is based on a woman who lived in NYC back in the 1940s. She absolutely adored music and wanted to sing for people, so she booked Carnegie Hall, and performed in front of a sold out crowd. The sad truth was that she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but she poured her heart and soul into that performance. And the audience responded. Not just with laughs, but with appreciation as well. 

The truth is, I didn’t start a blog to entertain people; I started writing because I have something to say. I often think back to the guy I met at karaoke a few years ago, who said that he sang not for anyone else’s enjoyment, but strictly for his own entertainment. That was always how I wanted to feel about my writing. But I realized that even though I still have so much to say, I can’t bring myself to put the words out there. 

In many ways, Florence Foster Jenkins is the very embodiment of my greatest fears, not just as a singer (which is its own blog post), but also as a writer. Every piece art carries a small piece of its creator’s soul, and it’s not easy to put those little pieces of your soul out there for everyone to see. 

I still don’t know how my next story begins, but I’ve decided I don’t want to wait anymore. I was talking to Hunter today about it. Tales from Sick and Twisted was the ultimate chick lit novel, my own real life version of Bridget Jones’ Diary. Now my life has gone from movie to sitcom–and not even an exciting sitcom like Bones–life these days is more along the lines of Seinfeld. But then again, Seinfeld did run for 9 seasons, so maybe there’s still some hope for Tales from Suburbia, even if it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…


“And everything could change like that, and all these years go by so fast. But nothing lasts forever…” Halestorm, Here’s to Us

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but never really knew where to begin. It’s been a year since my best friend moved away, and to say that everything has changed in that time is the ultimate understatement. 

It’s a strange feeling when someone leaves your life after 10 years. For 10 years Dave was my best friend. For 10 years my life revolved around my commitment to the choir. Saying goodbye to all of it left me feeling a little lost–like a piece of my identity had disappeared, leaving a huge void. 

But little by little, the void was filled with a new identity. And I feel like life is better in every way. There have been growing pains along the way, but I have no doubt that I’m in a better place now than I was a year ago. 

Dave told me he loved me, even encouraged me to relocate to his new town.  And it was easy to get caught up in his promises. But as 2014 rolled into 2015, it became apparent that his promises were nothing but words, and I chose to start the new year with a clean slate. After four months of trying to recapture the past, I decided it was time to move towards my future. A few months later, I met Hunter. I’m still feeling pretty selfish with these memories, so I won’t divulge too much, but where Dave was all empty promises, Hunter walks the walk. Not to mention the times when he looks at me like no one has ever looked at me before. It’s all pretty incredible. 

Dave actively discouraged me from continuing with the choir. He had nothing but negative things to say about the new director, and a year ago I had no reason not to trust him. It was easy to walk away at first–I was waiting for a repeat lumbar discectomy and was in excruciating pain. I had no desire to drive to rehearsals or Mass. 

After my surgery, I began to attend a different church, and after I decided to move forward with my life one of the first things I did was to get involved with their music ministry. It wasn’t the same, but that’s okay. I’ve met new people, I’ve learned new music, and I was even introduced to a new voice instructor, which has given me the chance to further grow. 

Then in June I was contacted by a woman from the old choir. She asked me if I would visit them for Mass one weekend. When I showed up she dragged me up to the choir loft and I sang both Masses that day with the groups I had left. It wasn’t the same, but it wasn’t better or worse–it was just different. And even after I walked away, I felt welcomed back by both old and new faces. A year ago, I swore I would never go back, but there I was. I’m not going to lie, it’s still hard sometimes not to feel wary after all of the things Dave told me, but the more time I spend with the new group, the less I’m able to reconcile David’s words with my experience. 

So it is that one year later life has taken me to new places, while returning me to a few old places as well. It’s still strange sometimes to revisit pieces of my past life through the lens of the present. But I suppose that’s what growth is about. 

Right before Dave told me he might leave, I told him I was thinking about walking away. I was growing tired of the drama and his inability to get out of his own way. Apparently that was the right choice, even if it did take me some time to get there. 

“I am the fire. I am burning brighter, roaring like a storm, and I am the one I’ve been waiting for. Screaming like a siren, alive and burning brighter. I am the fire…” Halestorm, I am the Fire

Another Cliche Carpe Diem Post

In Julius Ceasar, Shakepeare wrote the words, “Beware the Ides of March.” For the better part of the last two decades, it has not just been the Ides, but the entire month of March that keeps me on my toes. Because the month also coincides with Lent, I typically use the time for self-reflection and personal growth, in lieu of the traditional practice of giving something up. It’s a reminder of the years when just getting through the month was a struggle. Although I no longer feel like I battle through the entire month, I find that every year I am presented with something that challenges my thinking, especially how I think about myself and my past. 

Last year was about anniversaries. This year has been about beginnings and endings. One of my best friends is no longer a part of my life (refer to previous post “I Think I Heard the Fat Lady Sing”). After about three months of silence, I heard from him a few weeks ago. The email began, “Hi Corrina, Well it’s been months. I won’t begin to apologize because I don’t think it would help, but I am sorry…” and ended, “I hope you are well and I do miss you.” I realized it was too little and too late and unceremoniously closed that chapter of my life for good. 

Then there was the news yesterday. I learned that someone I knew from high school passed away unexpectedly (how in the world did we survive before Facebook?). We dated briefly when I was a sophomore. We reconnected via Facebook less than a year ago. I was supposed to drive up to see him for lunch one day; I cancelled. We spoke again a little bit after that, but hadn’t spoken since September. After hearing of his passing I scrolled through our texts back and forth, and saw the text that is haunting me right now. We had been talking just about music (we were in choir together in school) and out of the blue he said, “It’s nice to have someone to talk to….”  

I’m not the sort to believe that death suddenly gives someone amazing qualities that just happened to be overlooked in life. The truth is that we all have good and bad qualities and, even more importantly, the person that we are at any one point in time isn’t necessarily the same person we ultimately become. The problem is that death provides the ultimate opportunity to reflect on someone’s life as a whole, which isn’t an easy thing to do when we’re in the middle of life as it’s happening. I say this because not all of my memories of “Doug” are warm and fuzzy and happy. And I think it’s wrong to pretend otherwise. This was the guy who dumped me (twice), started seeing a college girl who called me and threatened to kick my ass for speaking for him, and after all of this tried to convince me that I should sleep with him. When we dated he made snide comments about my friends and tried to dictate what I wore to school. In my long line of failed relationships with Scorpios, he was the very first. But he was also the guy who first asked me out (via a mutual friend) on my birthday, the guy who first introduced me to Tori Amos’ music, and the guy who told me last summer that he still remembered the sound of my voice from when we sang in choir together twenty years ago. He wanted to get together at an open mic night one time to try a duet together, and I really wish that we had that chance. Instead, I just have a few old text messages. 

And yet, despite the loss, the last few weeks have also brought me great joy. After feeling lost without the choir, I found a new one. This past Saturday night was the first time that I really felt like I was where I belonged (ironically, the new organist knows David- as I’ve said before, sometimes it feels like what’s supposed to be six degrees of separation is really morphed into some weird borderline incestuous soup). I’ve also recently started seeing a great guy (sorry, but I’m still feeling a little selfish about those particular memories). So the scales have balanced out- no need for pity. 

But I have been reminded of just how short and how precious life is, and reflect on how many other times I’ve cancelled on my friends. When I was too tired, or busy or just wanted to be alone. When I figured I would just catch up with them next time. And that is my biggest regret and the real lesson I’ve taken to heart. Because let’s face it, sometimes that next time never comes. 

Finding My Balance

Have you ever felt like the universe was trying to tell you something?  This morning I sat down at my desk and tore away yesterday’s page on my calendar and got the distinct impression that someone must be trying to send me a message.  Today’s Inner Bitch message was “The beauty of being in touch with your Inner Bitch means that you know what you know and you’re not afraid to say it out loud.”  It was especially timely after Tuesday’s voice lesson.  I recently started taking voice lessons again and one of the things my instructor talked about is the tension that intelligent women tend to carry from the many times they want to speak their mind and don’t. She explained it as part of a discussion about trying to release muscle tension in my neck that interferes with my voice.

Well, this makes perfect sense to me, mainly because I find myself editing my comments all the time. One of the reasons I started writing a blog was to give myself the freedom to express my thoughts outside of traditional social media where my friends and family inevitably judge my words. But it’s hard to speak up when you’ve forced yourself to stay silent for so long. Trust me, Tori Amos has nothing on my silent years.

I recently read that the average person has 318 friends on Facebook. I haven’t done a recent count, but I have a feeling my friend count is less than average. Don’t get me wrong- I’m completely okay with that. After all, it was by my own doing. Because every new friend equals the potential of further silencing my words. For example, I’ve done the online dating thing on and off for a while now. Every once in a while a guy I’m talking to will ask me to friend him on Facebook. I almost always decline. I joke with my friends that it’s because it would be awkward to post something about going on the worst first date ever when I know there’s a chance my date would see my comment. In truth, I’m only half joking.

I feel like I’m in a constant battle with myself.  On the one hand, I want to just say what I’m thinking, right when I think it.  On the other hand, I know the damage that words can do. Like everyone, I’ve said things that I later regret, and when I’m really upset, I can pretty much destroy someone with my words. I want to let my feelings out, but (usually) not at the expense of someone else’s.

To add to the confusion, there are time when I feel like I want to keep things to myself. Sometimes I need to wallow in my own sadness before I’m ready to put on my happy face for the rest of the world.  I get the same way about the really good feelings, too.  I feel kind of selfish and just want to savor those amazing moments–almost as if I’m afraid that sharing them might make them feel less vivid in my mind.  The end result is feeling like I’m on a roller coaster and I want to get off, but I just can’t actually bring myself to pull the off switch.

So here’s to finding the balance between my feelings and my concern for the feelings of others… to letting my voice be heard, not for the sake of being heard, but because I have something to say, and it’s time to say it.

I Think I Heard the Fat Lady Sing

Since November I’ve been hooked on watching Will & Grace repeats on TV. A couple weeks ago I watched the series finale and knew I needed to write this. I’ve procrastinated, I’ve let it stew, but I think it’s time.

The final episode of Will & Grace aired in May, 2006. I never watched the series when it was on the air, and maybe my feelings would have been different if I saw the finale in 2006 instead 2015. But I have to tell you that I absolutely, positively hated the way that show ended. And I know that the biggest reason I hated it was because as I watched it on the television screen I was also watching the same ending unfolding in my own life and it sucked.

I don’t think it was possible to watch the series without imagining Will and Grace being close friends forever. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work with best friends? Everyone always says that no matter what else happens in your life, you’re friends will be there for you.

Over the last few months I’ve written a few times about Dave. It’s fitting that he’s the one who got me watching those Will & Grace episodes in the first place. After all, he was the friend that would always be in my life. Maybe as a friend, maybe as more, but always there. And like Will and Grace, it appears that the time has come for Dave and I to go our separate ways as well.

I knew all along that a romantic relationship with Dave was a long shot at best. The catchphrase from The Hunger Games held just as much irony in that area as it did in the novels. The odds were definitely not ever in my favor. But I had no doubt in my mind that no matter what else happened, our friendship would remain intact. Until it suddenly didn’t.

Unlike Will and Grace, Dave and I have had no heated arguments or tearful fights. There’s only been stubborn silence and that empty void that exists whenever something happens in my life and I want to tell my best friend all about it, only to realize that he isn’t there anymore. No closure, no understanding of what happened or why. Just silence.

Being Able to be Wrong

Two weeks ago I hit a bit of a bump in the road. I’m not really ready to go into the details right now- the wound is still a bit raw. But for a few days around the start of the new year, I was in a bit of a funk.

What stood out during that time was when two former classmates reached out to see if I was okay. You see, I didn’t hear from anyone that I was close to in high school. Instead, I heard from two women who were acquaintances at best. And it humbled me beyond what I can probably put into words.

First, let me set the record straight: I am not one of those people who loved high school or considered it any high point in my life. On the contrary, I’ve often told people I couldn’t be paid enough to do those years over again. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends. I had a small group of friends, but that wasn’t enough to keep me from feeling awkward and like an outsider. I was bullied a lot in elementary and middle school, and while the bullying stopped by high school, that feeling of not really fitting in never went away. I suspect part of the reason I keep people away now goes back to how isolated I felt back then.

When Facebook began gaining popularity I was surprised by some of the friend requests I received. I couldn’t understand why someone who wanted nothing to do with me 15 years ago suddenly wanted to be my “friend” now. I accepted those requests, and figured that maybe some people needed a large number of Facebook friends to feel significant or validated in some way. Not wanting to share the ups and downs (and we’re talking a lot of downs) with people who ignored me at best, I began keeping many of my posts as vague as possible.

One of my favorite ways to keep a post vague was to just post some song lyrics. And that was what I did two weeks ago. I posted from the song “Moving On” by Asking Alexandria:
“I’ve never been so torn up in all of my life. I can’t believe I let myself break down… I’ve never felt so hopeless than I do tonight. No, I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m moving on.”
Melodramatic? Maybe a little, but it was a pretty honest description of how I was feeling.

I didn’t expect anyone to notice my post, let alone comment. I needed to get my feelings out in some way and that was my only expectation. But to have two women offer me positive vibes and a shoulder to cry on, well it was huge for me because I instantly felt less alone.

It also made me rethink all of my assumptions about my former classmates. I realized that maybe it’s time to really put high school behind me and acknowledge that just as I’ve grown into a different person, so have the people I know. So to all of my Facebook friends, I offer my sincerest apologies if I ever silently judged you or your intentions. And I thank you for wanting to be in my life, regardless of how big or small of a role you play.