This is Halloween!

HALLOWEEN!

Halloween has been my favourite holiday since I was about 2 feet tall, dressing up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. As I grew,  I took a turn and later started dressing as a witch. It’s funny the evolution- I use to dress as a witch with a pointy hat and black dress and a broom stick.

Today, I’m also dressed as a witch, though slightly different.

Black skirt, white button down, black sweater, Mary Janes, and a Gryffindor tie.

My wand and my Hogwarts Library are strategically placed on the desk behind me, and it is giving me such a joyful energy. I love when my love of literature comes together with my love for Halloween. What better story to go with than Harry Potter! Unless of course, we’re talking about The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, my other favorite Halloween book!

I’m dressed up because we are going to be handing out candy in our building (a renowned business school) a little later to local children who will come “Trick or Treating” in our building.

I really will take any excuse to dress up.

I love that even when I’m almost 30, I am super pumped about even the littlest costume and details, and that even in this ultra professional environment, I’m managing to still make people stop, think and smile.

This is Halloween

I love Halloween for other reasons too- the historical context of the holiday, how it began and how it’s been celebrated over the centuries. The superstitions, particularly that Halloween is the night when the veil between the living and the spirit world is the thinnest, making it easier for us to be near those who have left the living world.

Not that I’m sitting with a Ouija board trying to catch up with Grandma (those things are not to be played with!) but it’s just nice to feel as though perhaps those I miss so much are a little closer than they normally are.

I love the history of Halloween most of all. In the UK and Ireland, its called Samhain (sow-in), a Celtic festival where people would light fires and dress up to ward off roaming ghosts. It was also the time of the Celtic New Year, which represented the end of summer,  the harvest season and the beginning of winter, which also was associated with a time of death.

Currently, especially in the U.S., Halloween is a children’s holiday celebrated by dressing up as favorite characters and going door to door in neighborhoods getting candy. The 30th of October has become traditionally known in the past 20 years or so, as Hell Night or Mischief night, giving teenage angst an excuse to roam the quiet streets of unsuspecting neighborhoods causing vandalism (mostly toilet paper) and damage.

Growing up, my dad was a police officer and he warned of what happens on Hell Night. My neighbors took a good offensive measure to the tradition by inviting all the neighborhood kids to TP their house so that we wouldn’t have the urge to get into any trouble. They usually decorated for Halloween any way, and felt the toilet papering gave their house and even spookier element. (I love my neighbors).

Some kids still went out and caused mayhem but for the most part, we kept off the streets that night.

Being almost 30 now, I guess it’s time to consider myself a “grown up”, and in my exploration of self this year, I’ve come to realize the things that are most important to me- traditions in particular. I love the celebration of Halloween in regards to the Samhain traditions- bonfires, dressing up, and the celebration of the change of seasons and feeling connected to the natural progression of time and celebrating it.

No matter how old I get, I’ll always engage and invite the magic, mystery and superstitions with open arms every year!

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The place where timing, opportunity, risk, and fate intersect

This crossroads is where magic happens.

I’ve been surrendering my life up to the cosmos, releasing my *very* tight grasp on what happens in my life and my reactions to it. Moving out has given me blessed release to just be, and to live more openly than ever before. It’s good though, that I waited so long; I had a lot to learn before I left the nest of my parent’s home and I am learning everything as I go and support myself. I’m making mistakes and discovering new stresses but I’m rolling with it.

For instance, this is the first week I finally came out on top in regards to bills. I wasn’t completely wiped out, everything was on time and nothing bounced.

This is progress!

I also have been more focused on the things that are most important to me (the people in my life are a given) as well as reading, expanding my ever eager mind, and listening to music. Tomorrow is the long awaited release of Josh Ritter’s newest album, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about it. The songs he pre-released have been on repeat for weeks and I fall more in love with them every time I listen.

Check out Sermon on the Rocks here– you can listen to the whole album streaming from NPR.

His song, “Where the night goes” perfectly surmises the experience I’m about to detail to you.

Last night, I experienced this cross roads. Plans with a friend fell through and after sitting at home reading for a while, I decided to venture out. There’s a great little hookah bar/ restaurant I’ve been frequenting with delicious Syrian tea and my favorite rose flavored hookah. Armed with my journal and my book, unsure of which muse would strike me as I sat, puffing away, seated in one of the two front window seats.

I’ve had many nights like this, even before I moved out. I love the solitude of venturing out on my own for tea and writing. I have a few favorite haunts that allow for such an atmosphere that I can simply reach out and graze the muses as they dance around me. It’s always nice to go out with friends, but there’s something equally comforting being with your own company. If you don’t enjoy your company, how can you expect anyone else to?

I sat, comfortably writing, cathartic release of hurts finally healed and looking to the future. The future, in that moment, was any frame of time from that moment to the end of the evening or beyond.

There were other tables seated around me with quiet murmuring conversation and a rowdy group of men enjoying the BYOB benefit of the place. I noticed a man walk in alone, place his order, and sit in the window opposite me. When he pulled out his cell phone, I waited a bit to see if it was to wait for someone, or if he seemed to also be on his own.

I had a feeling, an instinct that I never usually listened to. I looked up, our eyes met, and I motioned to the empty seat across from me.

Because before cell phones, before technology, sometimes, this is how people met and connected.

He accepted my offer. Introductions exchanged,  I asked him what his plan was for his evening. He had come for the same reasons I had- to write and sit.

Funny how plans change.

We started out slowly, talking about writing, our styles of writing and what we enjoy. We moved swiftly to reading and books then blossomed into the passionate declarations of opinions and points of view on music, the current dating culture (we are both survivors of online dating), and all the things that make us tick. It was effortless, fluid, relaxed, fun, and exciting. Hours passed and we noticed the owner turning off the neon “Open” sign, and took our  leave. We walked through New Haven at midnight, the quiet streets allowing us safe passage to continue our conversations for as long as we could. Numbers were exchanged, and the promise of a second meeting lingered between us as we said good night and parted ways.

I had a feeling and I followed it. It felt right. It felt good to fully trust myself again.

I had made the joke when I went off of online dating that I would take my chances in the wild. I guess we shall see how it plays out.

The Struts – An electric current

Sitting here, thinking about going to work tomorrow, and I feel the electric current still running through me from last night. The kind of electricity that can bring you back from the brink of a flat line and that can only be experienced front row at a rock concert.

Not just any rock concert.

The Struts

It continues to amaze me how my life is unfolding this year. My original plans for Sunday night had been very different and had been planned for months. When said plans changed (fell demonstrably to pieces- such is life),  my friends mentioned going to see The Struts at Asbury Park in New Jersey.

I immediately bought my ticket. I’d been listening to their EP for weeks and that alone had been a breath of fresh, rock n’ roll air. I remember downloading it while at work, and immediately sending it to several friends, exclaiming the immeasurably good mood the songs had put me in. I also remember trying not to shake my ass at my desk, or while walking home.

I’ve been enjoying that high the last few weeks. Now, after hearing and experiencing the band live last night, I anticipate that the feeling will not be waning any time soon. Today, driving around and listening to the album, it was different- I had a live performance to associate it with, and I smiled so hard, my eyes were watering, remembering the night before.

We drove from New Haven, CT to Asbury Park, NJ and it was worth every mile.

We arrived in Jersey after several hours, one rest stop (miraculously, with 3 ladies traveling together) and made our way to the venue. Well nourished by not only decent drink specials and food, but the Wonderbar’s “Yappy Hour” where patrons are encouraged to bring their dogs to the bar to hang out. Overloaded with cuteness and Yeungling, we passed the time until the doors opened at  7.

Once inside, we secured prime viewing from stage right (our left) and settled in. The opening band, Highly Suspect, was great, and made me reminiscent of my days going to metal/ rock/ hardcore shows at Daniel Street. Once warmed up, we were ready for the main event.

Enter:

The Struts, a rock quartet from Derby, England with all the regal and glamour of Queen, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones wrapped up in a perfectly brilliant and well oiled package.  Though the influences are there, their sound is entirely their own.

It’s always astounding to me when I go see a band play and they sound even better than the recording. These are musicians who give a shit, who care about their music and their art. They’re good because they accept no less than their best. Also, they love to play. You can just tell from the way they perform, the way they engage with each other on stage and also how they engage with the audience.

They’re an electric force of nature, and from the moment they begin playing, you trust them completely to show you a good time. Everyone knows their part and plays it to perfection.

I danced my ass off, sang my throat raw, and smiled until my face hurt. Every single aspect of the show made my heart start up with the vigor of 10,000 volts that will carry me until next I see them perform again, whenever that may be.

All I know, is their performance and their music is the kind of music that gives me life. As I was experiencing all that The Struts had to offer, I couldn’t help but recall the words of a very dear (and most unfortunately departed) friend,

“My music? *My* music? It is not mine; I did not build it! I am not its creator; rather, it created me. It transcends time, place, genre, and person…it is I and I am it. ‘My’ music is the sound of the world as it hits my ears and collides with my mind, it is everything I know. The world has a rhythm and a pulse, and who but man would seek so lavish and lofty a goal as to organize the heartbeat of the world and scorch it into miles of plastic ribbons and coasters? I receive all that I can- a definition as circular as the world, far less useful than her life’s tempo.” – Mike  Altieri

I received all I could from the guitar, bass, drums and vocals that collided with my every sense that night, and I cherish the beautiful memory it has burned in my mind. I didn’t take many pictures during the show, because I knew there would be no recreating the magic of such an individual experience, and I wanted to experience it presently and first hand, not through a lens.  (though I didn’t pass up the photo op with guitarist Adam Slack after the performance was over.)

When the show was over, I was surprised to see Luke (lead singer/ front man) behind his own merch table, posing for photos and signing CDs, and being an ever gracious front man. My friends were thrilled to be able to get a picture of this performance master who had just rocked their faces off, and I was thrilled to see him so accessible, something that I’m sure going forward will require a back stage pass.

I was delighted (okay, I was ecstatic) when Adam (guitarist) emerged, and I was able to have a quick chat and get a photo with him. His playing was remarkable, and it was a trip getting to tell him so. In a moment I attribute to Amanda Palmer’s “Art of Asking”, when Luke had at one point jumped off the stage, averting everyone’s attention, I had a moment to smile at Adam, who smiled back. I then made the snap, random decision to give him a bracelet off my wrist. In the spirit of audience / band member dynamic that so seldom occurs these days, it was a brief moment to say, “Thank you, your music gets me through the day, and this performance is outstanding.”

His playing was amazing to watch and his brilliant skill had me completely enamored. It was my idea to just say, “Thank you” and wanting to give more than just my attention or ticket money. It wasn’t planned and it probably didn’t make much sense. But I did it, and I’m glad, because I am quite sure, I’ll never have the opportunity to do it again. It wasn’t about trying to be a groupie, or touching a “rock star”; it was more to do with wanting to show appreciation for music that has come to mean a great deal to me, and in many ways, set me free.

It’s a wonderful experience when bands play smaller venues and you can have that amazing intimacy with the music you love. To once again quote Amanda Palmer, “For most of human history, musicians, artists, they’ve been part of the community. Connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance, but the Internet and the content that we’re freely able to share on it are taking us back. It’s about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough.”

There’s something that goes along with seeing a band right before they blow up,  when you see the powder get lit and watch the fuse travel toward the impending barrel of dynamite. I hope this band reaches as many people as possible, and find their success and place in rock n roll.

I think it’s less about lamenting rights to say, “I saw them before they were big” and more about being able to quietly enjoy the fact that you had an up close and personal experience with music you love.

The Struts gave me a jolt I didn’t know I needed until I left their show with electricity coursing through my veins; the kind of music you don’t realize is missing from your life until you listen to it and feel it fill in the gaps. I will always need music and friends who share a love for music like that in my life- it’s the only thing that makes it worth it to keep going.

It was a top night, and I’m curious on what will top this night next.

Friday Feel Good

Friday just feels like this today:

Mr. Ritter so awesomely puts out another amazing song that just hits you right in the groove of your heart that makes you smile and want to dance down the street on your way to work. This has been my jam for the last two weeks.

“They said your soul needed savin’ so they sent you off to bible school
But you know a little more than they were sure was in the golden rule
Be good to everybody, be a strength to the weak
A joy to the joyful, the laughter in the grief
And give your love freely to whoever that you please
Don’t let nobody tell you ’bout who you oughta be
And when you get damned in the popular opinion
It’s just another damn of the damns you’re not giving”

These lyrics strike such a huge chord with me, especially about giving love freely. So many times in the past, whenever I gave someone love it was conditional- I always wanted to be loved back or hoped that by giving love to the person that it would make them love me too.

“Give your love freely…”  BAM.

I’ve changed my perspective in the past months, realizing how much love I have to give. I realize now that giving love with no expectation is actually the most freeing feeling in the world. Its okay if the love isn’t returned. Maybe that person you’re giving it to can’t give it back, not now or ever, which is all the more reason to love them anyway. Expectation is the root of all heartache, and by just giving love to everyone, giving it free of expectation is a very powerful and liberating feeling.

I think of how many times I’ve had my heart broken, and also how many times (not as many) I’ve had to break a few hearts- it sucks on both sides, because of expectation. I think about what I expected from my former boyfriends, and what was expected of me, and how that is why things always fell apart. When those prophecies went unfulfilled, there was distress and disappointment. I don’t think we can ever live our lives fully and not experience heart ache; and the journey to give love away freely is one that we must decide to experience entirely ourselves.

A quote that I love from Nicholas Nickelby fits perfectly here:

“In every life, no matter how full or empty one’s purse, there is tragedy. It is the one promise life always fulfills. Thus, happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it but to delight in it when it comes. And to add to other people’s store of it.”

Yes. And do so without expectation.

Every time I listen to a Josh Ritter song, I nod my head in agreement and feel encouraged and empowered to keep following my own instincts and feelings. He makes looking forward and continuing on this amazing life journey feel wondrous and exciting and gives me all the hope that I have a future full of love; not the way I imagined it, but better than I ever could.

Girl who Reads

There are beautiful, secretive moments that transpire between author and reader, particularly when to the outside world, you’re just reading a book; but between you and the author, you just read something incredibly sexy, or thought provoking, or devastating. From the outside, you’re just reading, but internally your mind is a swirling vortex of imagination, thought, emotion, and profound depth.

Have you ever watched someone read? The anticipation as they gently life the page, eagerly readying to see where their journey goes next. The way they shift their position, lounging or sitting in their relaxed state, gentle breathing, but their mind as furious as a hurricane, inhaling the pages before them as though fighting for air, an insatiable craving that will not desist until the final page is absorbed.

Then there’s the way they glance at you over the top of their book, a brief reprieve to remind them that the world is still going on around them. Or how they look at you once they’ve torn themselves away, as if upon waking from a dream, happy to return to you and the world they know.

People think reading is boring.

I think its subtle, sexy, and wondrous.

Owl Crate and mail happiness!

After sitting on the fence for a while, I finally took the plunge and delved into a subscription to Owl Crate, an awesome service that sends you a box of bookish happiness each month.

There’s so many of these mail services now, and they all sound equally fabulous (Birch Box, Stitch Fix, Sketch Box, Send me Gluten Free, and tons more- check out Crate Joy for others!)

But basically, you can sign up  for anything you want and receive magic in the mail each month, depending on your own interests.

I went with Owl Crate mostly because I have a thriving passion for YA novels, and Owly swag. I signed up, and then nearly burst from the excitement of the anticipation- waiting for my little brown box with the owls on it to arrive on my stoop.

When it arrived, my little heart nearly burst! And it was an awesome box!  The book sounds amazing, and it came with a beautiful bracelet with a Harry Potter quote on it that punched me right in the feels, a pack of the most awesome post cards ever, and a pack of Book Buddies that are basically little owl post its that now life on my desk and spread joy throughout my office building.

So if you love getting mail, and love something that can be boxed up and sent to you once a month, find a crate that speaks to you!

That great feeling when…

That great feeling when you share something with someone that they’ve never heard of before, and they end up loving it.

I also love the reverse- someone telling me about something that I didn’t know before, which is primarily how I’ve come to love the things I love. All because someone shared it with me.

We don’t all know everything, and sharing information, especially  in the age of information is one of my favorite things to do.

A quote that accompany’s this would be, “No two people ever read the same book.”

I learned this concept similarly when I was in college taking my Communication classes; the concept that no two people will ever have an exact same experience. They may experience the same event and their reactions may seem the same, but they are having different experiences based on who they are, their knowledge, and their own individual database of lived experiences.

I love when I recommend a book, an album, a song, an artist to someone and they come back and share their perspective and thoughts. It’s always nice when you feel validated and like minded, but even more so when someone has a completely different reaction and makes you see something that wasn’t there before.

I’ve always felt uneasy about the way we try to shove each other into boxes with labels and tags because we’re too short on time to actually try to invest the time to reveal who we all really are. We’re cheating ourselves out of greater understandings. That’s why when people feel the need to explain themselves to me, I want to tell them, “It’s okay – I’m going to accept you, with or without the explanation. I’d love to have a deeper understanding, but please don’t feel you need to explain yourself so that I will accept you.”

As Brené Brown’s words so deeply touched me this year, they have impacted and sustained the way that I see people – “You’re not perfect […] You’re worthy of love and belonging.”

One of my favorite things to share with people is Post Secret.

I have seen Post Secret Live twice, both times at the Lyman Center at SCSU. The first time I went, I was with my two friends I had known since childhood. They encouraged me to go, having just lost a dear friend to suicide. When I realized the impact Post Secret was having in a positive way on mental health, I cried. The catharsis was overwhelming, and impacted me profoundly. To hear people reveal their secrets, to feel the love and acceptance that strangers felt for each other, gave me a renewed sense of hope for myself and anyone I would ever encounter.

The second time I saw Post Secret Live, I went with a new friend from work who was completely unfamiliar with the concept. I remember being a bit nervous, fearing she would think it too much or that it would have a negative affect on her and make things weird for us. Instead, we ended up sitting in the car after the event and talking and relating to each other. That night developed a deep rooted exchange of respect for where we had been and where we wanted to be. Now, we can look at each other and understand better than most what our victories look like, and appreciate the love and support we showed each other on the way.

Seeing people bravely releasing their secrets, and being able to sit with the Post Secret books (which I purchased all of with a tax return a few years ago) and feel connection, empathy an love for thousands of total strangers ingrained in me the sentiment that I could encounter them at anytime- at work, on the street, even within my closest friends group. People live with, and harbor secrets sometimes their whole lives, afraid of what their life might be if those secrets came out.

So now it will make sense that the other thing I love most to share is Humans of New York. HONY and Post Secret seem to work in tandem in the sense that they allow us to see and feel for those around us, whether we can see them clearly or not. To share our love and acceptance for people through the medium of social media, which frankly, is my favorite purpose of it.

I can’t tell you how many times (3 this morning) that I’ve looked at the HONY page on Instagram and felt my eyes tear up because of a story someone shared. It could be a sentence or it could be a paragraph, it doesn’t matter. I will still feel the impact.

The HONY books are definitely on my wishlist, and I look forward to making the time to sit down and read each story.

Both of these projects also reflect the philosophy so spoken centuries ago by PLATO, ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’  Post Secret and HONY do a beautiful service in reminding us of this.

We move through our days so quickly, sometimes too quickly to stop and actually see those around us, even those we see everyday for 8 hours a day. I’m not saying that every day need be filled with the oversharing of one’s most intimate detail, but we shouldn’t be so afraid of sharing what’s going on. People don’t have to share anything with me to make me realize that they contain worlds within themselves; other lifetimes and thoughts vast and limitless.

Both HONY and Post Secret have helped me to approach all people with love and understanding. Isn’t that what we all want?

I encourage you to have your own journey and reactions by visiting the sites. I cannot prepare you for what you will see or experience, but please take care, and I hope it feeds your soul as much as it continues to feed mine.