Musical Temperance: Harbour Lights

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My original intention this week was to write about the difficulty of making friends in your 30s. I’ll save that topic for next time (because let’s face it, I’ll still be socially awkward in two weeks).

{Image Credit: }
{Image Credit: }

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for myself and my loved ones. Some of us have been flailing, some of us caretaking everyone around us, some of us desperately trying to keep it together, and all of us pushing through what seems like an impossible time. On more than one occasion I’ve been amazed by our resilience and capacity to not only endure, but bravely navigate through the dense fog in our lives.

I had a heavy conversation with one of my best friends yesterday about the strange direction our lives have taken in the past few years and our sincere appreciation for each other’s support. In high school she gave me equal doses of love and tough love whenever I thought my world was going to end (translation: getting dumped) and now we’ve had the beautiful and sad opportunity to sit with each other through identity altering grief.

Many of us mistakenly believe that growing up is solely measured by our ability (or inability) to be self-sufficient. We feel accomplished when we can set our bills to autopay without fear we’ll overdraw or when we can work through life’s curveballs on our own.

wholehearted

I believe, however, adulthood is additionally marked by our ability and willingness to accept and offer support for ourselves and those around us. Most of us struggle with one or the other (or none if you are a well-adjusted human being, unlike myself). For me personally, I try to always be the first person to offer support to my friends and family and yet am often the last person to accept it. I am that stubborn, sweaty idiot attempting to carry 15 bags of groceries up the stairs because I swear I can do it all by myself, I don’t need help, even though you just offered and one of the bags has split open and spilled out boxes of Eggo waffles out in front of you, I don’t need help.

In order to offer and accept support, we first need confidence in the space we hold in our relationships. We cannot give without knowing what we have and likewise cannot ask for help without knowing what we need. There’s much more room here than we first assume and as we settle into ourselves, we may be surprised by the capacity of our emotional expanse and its ability to house our struggle, our desire to love and help, and even our loneliness.

This week my playlist is a bit conflicted, much like me. It’s true, I’m still struggling with the desire to “go it alone” and save everyone. However, in quiet moments like these, I realize how much I appreciate the connectedness between people deliberately sharing their spaces together. At first glance, my choice in songs this week may seem disjointed. The crunch of Brittany Howard’s guitar seems to stand out above the quiet four-part harmony from Mumford & Sons. When this playlist is listened to in its entirety, however, these messages begin to form a cohesive story. We all want to be recognized as our own fully formed narrative. Not only do we desire to see these beautiful connections in the world, but we want to be part of it.

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Kristel is a sometimes angsty writer from Hawaii who now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She claims she’s a Marketing Director at a web design agency, but she spends most of her day in front of the computer while wearing pajamas.

Musical Temperance is her small attempt at creating the perfect soundtrack to help her survive an extended quarter-life crisis. Additional musings and playlists can be found at kristelyoneda.com.

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Musical Temperance: Like a River Runs

BannerLike a River Runs

When I fall asleep I can see your face
What I lost in you I will not replace
And I could run away, I could let them down
And I know you’re gone but still I will remember your light

I will remember
And if you see me in the darkness
I hope you know I’m not alone
I carry you with every breath I take
 
I won’t let up, I won’t let up
Until the wind is gone

-Bleachers

Growing up, death was a rarely discussed topic in my family. I was five when both of my Grandpas passed away, a few months of each other, and the only lasting memories I have of that point in my life is the unfamiliar image of seeing my parents cry. Back then I was too young to understand death’s unparalleled force or the vast hole it leaves in each person’s life. For the longest time, I thought of it as some unknown entity scary enough to make adults cry like children.

Grandma Kaneshiro
Grandma Kaneshiro

In the last year, parts of my childhood have been falling away. I’ve said goodbye to both of my Grandmas (who were my only remaining grandparents), two of my best friends from high school each lost a parent, Tinkerbell and Kaile (family pets who represented two significant stages of growing up) passed away, and most recently I sold the Honda.

www.iammorley.com
http://www.iammorley.com

I know as an adult, death and loss will become more commonplace, but these are strange reminders of how removed I am from my youth. I sometimes don’t recognize myself when I look in the mirror. I feel like I’m changing without my own consent, as if parts of me are unintentionally disappearing as I unravel.

A few weeks ago, I heard the Bleachers’ Like a River Runs EP on Spotify. The last track was titled “Dreams Aren’t Random,” which turned out to be an interview with singer Jack Antonoff and his therapist about the inspiration behind the album. He explained that the title track “Like a River Runs” refers to a recurring dream about his sister, who passed away when he was 18. He recounted how they’re not doing anything specific in it, but there’s a vague feeling everything is okay. “There’s this period of time […] where it’s probably, in reality, only five seconds, but it feels like a thousand years. Right as I’m leaving the dream and right as I’m fully becoming conscious that I’m in reality and in that five seconds […], I’m in reality, but she’s not dead. And it’s the most powerful experience ever.”

There are significant moments in our lives that define us. Whenever I do something, whether it’s playing the guitar or even drinking a glass of water, I do so as someone who has lost their Grandmas. This feature, Antonoff also explains, is as permanently defining as something like ethnicity. “And in those split five seconds in my dream, I’m not that,” he adds. “So it’s like I’m literally a completely different person.” His therapist explains that in these dreams, he’s transporting himself back into this moment where she’s still alive and he’s traveling back to who he was before her death defined him. As a kid, I also moved through the world with a lightness in my step. My sadness was often situational and short lasting, like the single colored disappointment of being called inside for dinner while I was mid-bike ride in the neighborhood.

www.iammorley.com
http://www.iammorley.com

In the weeks after Grandma Kaneshiro passed away, I used to see her in my dreams. A few months ago, she started visiting me again. I remember one dream where I was running through a big field in order to meet someone nearby. There was an adjacent building where people began filing out and walking through the field to get back to their cars. They traveled in pairs and groups, swept up in their conversations as if everyone had just come out from seeing the same movie. I zig zagged through the crowd and spotted my Grandma ahead walking with another woman. She must have said something funny because my Grandma was mid-laugh by the time I reached her. In this moment, my Grandma was still alive. I was bouncing around, excited for my plans, and leapt forward to surprise her when she spotted me. The interaction was quick, as if we had plans later. She told me, “Hi, Kristel!” in that same way she always does and I responded with “Hi, Grandma! I’ll see you later!” as I ran through.

I know my grief has changed me and that the people who meet me now will never know the person I was before my Grandmas passed away. Recently, I had a conversation with my mom about the strangeness of our lives now. She told me, “It’s like life appears the same on the outside, but the base fell out.”

The question I find myself asking these days is one I have no answer for yet: how do we re-define ourselves when we’ve experienced loss?

www.iammorley.com
http://www.iammorley.com

Some think grieving is a process that has a distinct beginning and end, as if our lives are suddenly resumed when we decide it’s time to move on. The experience, however, adheres to no neat timeline. Nothing quite prepares you for it and no one can really tell you how to move through it, and yet it’s a universal experience.

The other day I showed a friend of mine a picture of Grandma Yoneda from the 1940s and she said I had her smile. I suddenly remembered how people used to tell me we looked alike when I was growing up. There’s an old picture of us on my fridge and I never realized until now how the curve of my chubby cheeked half-smile reflects hers. Now when I look in the mirror, I see her too. When my Grandmas make appearances in my dreams now, I try to hold onto that distinct feeling of being with them.

Grief is a cavernous and transformative process, but it also illuminates, in time, the unexpected ways we remain tethered to those we’ve loved and lost. Our dreamspace allows us to process the parts we have difficulty accessing in our waking lives. It opens us up to the possibility of being connected in places we can and cannot see, with the hope we’ll one day recognize these unique and beautifully permanent imprints within ourselves.

Grandma Yoneda
Grandma Yoneda

This week’s playlist is about our journeys and those we carry with us through our lives. Grandma Kaneshiro and Yoneda, please visit again soon.
spotify:user:compassionaterevolt:playlist:4JRsk3KUigqsfLBNXStJL1
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Kristel is a sometimes angsty writer from Hawaii who now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She claims she’s a Marketing Director at web design agency, but she spends most of her day in front of the computer while wearing pajamas.

Musical Temperance is her small attempt at creating the perfect soundtrack to help her survive an extended quarter-life crisis. Additional musings and playlists can be found at kristelyoneda.com.