Mind Over Music

I listen to a lot of music. When an artist I like releases a new album, I gotta listen to it on repeat for days to get into it and decide which songs I like from the album. I love musicals, and some days are Hamilton driven, while others call for Mama Mia! or The King and I. I have a catch-all playlist that has all of my favorite songs since I began using Spotify. Sometimes I go through and cringe, or find new jams and wonder why I never added them in the first place. I never delete, I just add.

I have a playlist for everything. As a writer, I have playlists for certain stories or characters. I have one feisty girl in my head who will only lend me her voice if I’m blasting Paramore. I have a playlist devoted to the specific couple that my latest NaNoWriMo novel centered around.

Naturally, I also have playlists for my moods. I have a love playlist for when I have a crush, called “Reader, I Married Him” (borrowed lovingly from Jane Eyre). My depression playlist is aptly named, “Get Ready for the Sads.” My mellow Playlist is called, “Soft Words for Hard Times”.

As I have been open about recently, I’ve been in a season of depression. Now, depression isn’t a set trajectory. It can have highs and lows similar to stock market graphs, soaring and plunging are various times for various reasons, or no reason at all. I’ve been playing “Get Ready for the Sads” a lot, with notable titles like Mikky Ekko’s “Smile” (Smile/The worst is yet to come/We’ll be lucky if we ever see the sun), City and Colour’s “Constant Knot” (How much would you bet/if I tried hard enough/I could spontaneously combust?/I wish I could disappear/and run away from all my fears/I think I’m coming undone), and my personal depression anthem, “Fake Happy” by Paramore (If I smile with my teeth/think you’ll believe me/If I smile with my teeth/think I’ll believe me).

I have started so many mornings by listening to “Fake Happy”.

This week, though, I feel I’ve hit a turning point. I know I could make another 180 at any point, but for now, please indulge me a victory lap- I made a playlist to help facilitate my recovery and growth from this season. It feels like a monumental turning point, this simple act of filtering what songs I’m listening to as I get ready for work in the morning and when I’m on the bus on the way home. I’ve included songs such as Mumford and Sons’ “Beloved” (Before you leave/you must know you are beloved), “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles (Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter/Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here/here comes the sun/here comes the sun and I say it’s all right), and, if I had to choose an anthem for this playlist as well, it’d be “Vanilla Pines” by Tow’rs (Stand tall like vanilla pines/every day is another try to choose to do more than survive/we could do more than survive).

It seems a silly thing to make a whole post about, but I hope my small steps toward a better mental place are encouraging to someone. I know I’m proud of myself, at least, for this.

Ride or Die



Here’s a thing that I discovered a little less than a year ago: I love riding on a motorcycle. Funny enough, I get a lot of anxiety from driving a car, and though motorcycles are arguably less safe, I love being a passenger. It’s definitely a possibility that I’ll get a motorcycle at some point in my adult life, but for right now, I just get to enjoy riding along with the few friends I know who have them.

I was offered a ride home from a friend’s house today, by her dad, on his motorcycle. I told them I’d never turn down a ride, and put on the heavy duty gloves, the full helmet, and a few layers of warmth on my head and neck. It’s still winter here, so the wind is no joke.

As I was riding along, of course my anxiety went through the various what if scenarios, and I contemplated the various ways I could be killed or injured on this short ride to my apartment. I wasn’t too fearful, though, because my friend’s dad is a good driver, and I trust him. He’s not the kind of guy I have to worry about in terms of my safety.

So my anxiety abated, and I began thinking about how being a motorcycle passenger is a lot like how faith life is supposed to be. You are a passenger, and God is the driver. I prefer this metaphor to being a passenger in a car, for a few reasons. While riding a motorcycle, you are intimately close to the driver. You gotta hold on, or you will not have a pleasant time. The first time I rode on the back of a motorcycle, I hung onto my friend’s belt loops for dear life. I was wearing a tank top and cut off shorts and flip flops. And a  helmet, of course. But I definitely thought to myself (as we rode about ten blocks), “If I fly off this bike, my skin is gonna be like Swiss cheese.”

It’s also kind of difficult to communicate while on a bike. It’s loud, and there are no doors or windows to block outside noise. Basically, as a passenger, you have almost 0 control over where the driver is taking you. You can’t really say, “Hey, take a left at this light, not the next one” or “What’s up, man, you missed the turn”, except maybe while stopped at a stoplight.

Third, You can’t carry anything. This afternoon I stuffed my purse into a small compartment on the back of the bike. I couldn’t check my phone at stoplights, or rummage around for my keys a block before reaching my apartment. It’s just you sitting there. No distractions.

When you’re living life with God, you have to hold on. James 4:8a: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” You can’t be part of what He has in store for you at a distance, just like you can’t be a motorcycle passenger without holding onto your driver.

Similarly, you can’t tap God on the shoulder and say, “Hey man, what’s the big deal? You missed that promotion you were supposed to give me last week!” You’re just a passenger, and you trust your driver to get you where you need to go. Perhaps he didn’t make that turn because he knew of a one way street or some construction that needed to be gone around. Perhaps God did not give you that promotion because He knew it wasn’t what you needed or what was good for you.

And just like my purse, you can’t carry anything cumbersome with you on your ride with God. Any of your past, or your material possessions. You can’t carry groceries home on a motorcycle, that’s for sure.

So riding a motorcycle may seem scary and inconvenient, but so is life as a Christian. It’s also . . . exhilarating. I love riding on the back of a bike with a driver I trust. The wind rushing past your helmet, the scenery, the feeling of being in a car with no windows or doors. I feel alive. And I like to feel alive when I’m riding with God.

Gratitude, Or Lack Thereof

February, in the last few years, has become a difficult month for me. Begin with the fact that it’s the time of year that winter seems to sink its teeth in in a last final effort to weigh me down before spring finally warms up and releases me from the cold; factor in seasonal affective disorder; add the continued melancholy of a perpetually unsatisfying celebration of Valentine’s Day and then the anniversaries of the deaths of both of my grandmothers and tad-da: the worst time of the year.

I try to head off my depression and anxiety as best as I can, making plans long before the depressive episodes begin and letting my close circle of friends know that the time is coming and to bear with me, but there’s no way to completely circumvent these feelings.

This time of year is so blah. I feel like I’m accomplishing nothing. I don’t want to go outside, oftentimes, because of the gray and the cold. I cancel plans or just don’t make any, and then worry I’ve sabotaged all of my friendships beyond repair. Sometimes I just cannot help but get caught up in this current, and I know that I just have to ride it out.

I’ve decided to read through the book of Exodus during this woeful period of time.Exodus is full of good examples of God’s faithfulness, even in humanity’s increasing inability to show gratitude to the God who is so good to them. The Israelites making their way to the Promised Land complain every little situation, even against the amazing miracle God has shown by delivering them from their captors in Egypt. Compared to being freed from a lifetime of bondage and slavery, their trials should seem trivial! But who am I to criticize their reactions? I do the same thing.

When it comes to suicidal notions, I have never been terribly active. I used to think it was because I wasn’t suicidal at all, but I’ve recently discovered that I’m dealing with an equally ugly thought process: passive suicidal urges. I will never take my life deliberately. But sometimes, as I walk to the bus stop to go to work or back home, a car will cut just a little too close to the sidewalk, and I will think, “Man, if only they had been a little closer. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this anymore.” If someone were to bump me while standing on a crowded train platform, and it resulted into my toppling onto the third rail, I would hardly be mad. My counselor has gently informed me that these thoughts are no better than a more active plan.

There’s an alley that I walk past most days when I go to take the bus to the grocery store, or to church on Tuesdays after work. If you live in Chicago you can envision such an alley, and understand how easy it would be to not be seen by an oncoming car, and to not realize that there is an oncoming car in the first place. Twice in the past few weeks, I have, though no action of my own,  come close to being hit by cars coming out of this one particular alley, and kept from any injury.

One might chalk it up to basic driver courtesy or my ability to look up from my phone every few seconds to make sure I’m not walking into anyone or anything. I, however, especially after the second time, began to see this as God trying to get my attention. I hear him say, Hey dummy! Because God can be real with me, of course. Hey dummy, if I didn’t have a reason for you to be down here, doing what you’re doing, I’d get you out. But I need you to stay put for now. Trust me. 

Ah, the magic word. Trust. Easy to say, hard to do. I believe that God hears our struggles. But I also believe he pushes us past them. I’m reminded of when my dad made me promise that, if I signed up for the swim team, I’d see it through to the end of the season. My time on swim team was not pleasant, for reasons that are far to complicated to be sandwiched in here. I think my dad knew I was having trouble, and he wanted me not to be. But just removing me from a hard situation wouldn’t necessarily have helped me. I learned something, whether I liked it or not, from sticking with it. I think God does this with us too. Aren’t we so much better after we learn what there is for us to learn? Hindsight is 20/20, though, isn’t it?

So I have not been hit by any cars coming through any alleys here in dreary, gray, and very windy Chicago. I am still here, because no cars have come erratically careening over the sidewalk to take me out. No one has pushed me, on purpose or on accident, in front of an L train during rush hour. And to think, sometimes I am not grateful to God for giving me life, every day. If you’ve seen the Veggitales Jonah movie, you might remember the scene where Jonah (portrayed by Archibald the asparagus) finds a spot and claims it as his front row seat, waiting for God to smite the city of Nineveh. The sun is hot, so God grows a tree to provide shelter for him while he waits for God to validate Jonah’s frustrations. God also provides a worm that eats through the plant and it is no longer helpful to Jonah. The same thing happens in the biblical text, but I have a very funny mental picture of Archibald/Jonah flopping down in the sand, wailing dramatically about how he’d like to just die over the indignity of it all.

I know we all like to think we’re a Paul or a Timothy or a Mary when we compare ourselves to biblical characters, but oftentimes I believe I am a Jonah. The funny thing about Jonah is that Jonah’s story ends there. It ends with God saying, “You were so concerned about this plant, but you did nothing to plant it or make it grow. Should I not have concern for Nineveh, a whole city teeming with people?” (Jonah 4:10-11, paraphrased.)

We never know what Jonah has to say for himself. Some days I think that Jonah was a stubborn guy who lost sight of his faith and what it meant for him to follow the Lord. He might have just died there, in the heat, of his own stubbornness. Some days I think he might have been filled with remorse and compassion and took it upon himself to go back to Nineveh and apologize for wanting God to smite them and help them get it together. Maybe they could all realize their imperfections and work on being better together.

I continue to get up and go to work and not be hit by cars in alleys. God continues to give me life, and I know I am never grateful enough for it, but some days I am as grateful as I can be in my human capacity. Some days I am not. But God always gives me a chance. He is infinitely patient with me. He loves me even when I don’t love myself.

There’s a fine line I walk when writing posts about mental health and faith. There is always hope in faith to overcome. But there is also space for struggle,hardship, and lament. I won’t end this post by saying I am better now, that my depression is cured and I won’t ever have these thoughts again. Because it’s not, and I will. Christianity is not a place for false hope. It’s a place where hope and hardship can rest together.

Lessons from TV Shows

I have a great love for TV. It’s probably the writer in me that loves stories and plot twists and cliffhangers. I mainly watch comedies, and have been known to shout, “You’re supposed to make me laugh, not cry!” at the TV. Lately I’ve found myself recalling several lessons and memorable pieces of advice from various shows, and thought this would be a nice post to get back to after NaPoWriMo.

  • Anyone Can Stand Anything for 10 Seconds at a Time (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
from knittingsoul.com

I love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The premise is intriguing (for those who haven’t heard of it, Kimmy is one of four women who’e been living in a bunker underground for the past few years, having been told by a crazy cult pastor that the world had ended), and I love Ellie Kemper. The characters are all so vibrant, especially Titus Andromedon. The show also addresses some great issues (like gentrification and being yourself) in some really creative ways.

Last week my bike broke and I had to use a different one while mine was in the shop. Except this bike was shorter and a little more difficult for me to use. It got me where I needed to go, but it made my legs incredibly sore. While I was biking, I often remembered a piece of advice that is central to Kimmy’s story: “You can stand anything for ten seconds. And when that ten seconds is over, you just start on another ten seconds.” That definitely got me through some of my bike rides, and it’s also helped me through an anxiety attack.

  • C A L M (Jane the Virgin)
from foreveryoungadult.com

Jane the Virgin is a new favorite of mine. My roommate and I have started watching it together, and we’re almost caught up. One of the best characters in the show is Jane’s fantastic abuela, Alba. One episode dealt with Jane’s anger issues, and Alba’s suggestion was to calm down by thinking of things that make up an acronym for CALM. Pictured above is Rogelio, Jane’s father, and his acronym of calmness.

I’ve only really tried this once myself, but it was helpful in that occasion. My acronym is Church, Applesauce, Lakes, and Michigan. All things that I love!

  • You can be Hurt and Still Love and Forgive (How I Met Your Mother)
from moviefone.com

Who doesn’t love How I Met Your Mother, even if most of us choose to live in a world where the finale never happened? Lily and Marshall are, without a doubt, my favorite couple in the series, despite some other really nice couples that come and go. The picture above is my favorite- that’s relationship goals right there.

However, early on in the show, Lily ends up breaking off the engagement and running away to San Francisco. Marshall is, understandably, heartbroken, and there’s residual hurt throughout the rest of the gang. But what I find really amazing is that Marshall and Lily were able to get back together. They had to work things out, but their love for each other was ultimately more important than anything else.

This past weekend I went to Iowa to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. Said friend and I went to school together for two years, and then at the beginning of our third year, we decided to be roommates. Unfortunately, this only lasted a week before she decided to drop out and move back to Iowa. I was hurt, of course, but we worked things out. And now, two years later, as I prepared to go to her wedding and be her bridesmaid, I had numerous people questioning why I would still be friends with her. I don’t hold grudges like some do- I would always rather work to patch things up and be friends again. Relationships are always worth saving.

  • True Friendships are Hard Work, but Worth It (Community)
from whats-on-netflix.com

Community is hands down one of my favorite shows of all time. It’s one of those shows where I can just pick any episode at random and it’ll be a good one. (Side note, Britta and Subway are one of my favorite couples of all TV.) If there’s one thing that’s really stuck with me throughout all five seasons of this show, it’s that friendships are hard, but so worth it.

When I think back to all of the episodes of Community, I remember all the crazy stuff they’ve done for each other. The group defeated a video game to save Pierce’s inheritance from getting stolen. When they found out that Annie lived in a really terrible and unsafe neighborhood, they helped her make arrangements to move. They indulged Abed’s coping mechanisms. They helped Shirley through her marital problems, and when she thought she was being an awful mother. They stood by Jeff when he finally faced his biological father. I could go on and on.

None of those instances were easy to handle, but because they cared about each other and were in it together, they helped each other overcome their difficulties. I’m blessed to have friends like this in my life.

  • Embrace the Awkward (New Girl)
from hellogiggles.com

If you haven’t watched New Girl yet, you are missing out on so much hilarity. It’s one of the wackiest shows I’ve ever seen, and I love it. The characters are faced with so many ridiculous scenarios: what do you do when you find your neighbor dead on Thanksgiving, only after you sneak into her apartment to use her oven? What do you do when you discover your friends hiding in the back of your truck, only as you’re trying to cross the border to Mexico and a border cop finds them?

While life may not be as ridiculous as TV shows portray, it is full of curve balls and unexpected events. New Girl has given me some insight into embracing the awkward events in my life, knowing that everything will all work out, even if it’s scary and frustrating.

Ode to a Rainy Day


‘the sky is crying’, my mother used to say

and i used to believe her

until i learned that clouds are just molecules

formations of water

and what do molecules


to cry about?


dainty women step out of dainty taxis

tip their drivers with twenty dollar bills

and walk away in the rain

though they somehow seem

to never get wet.


it’s the last day of april

and it’s rained all day

how fitting

and i can only hope

that the old adage is true

that april showers bring may flowers

and so i prepare my garden



i used to live on the second story

with big windows

perfect for watching

a storm rolling in, jagged flashes of lightning

thunder rattling the windows.

i have since

moved into a basement

and can no longer hear the weather.

it’s the only thing i miss.

Forget My Name


The first time you called me Melinda.

I faked a casual smile

So you wouldn’t know anything was wrong–

That I am not Melinda.

You keep confusing me

But no one needs to know

Not even that you’re wrong

But that it hurts me as much as it does.


I’m still Melinda

And still not Melinda.

The only correction occurs with others

When we’re alone I let it slide.

I wonder if Melinda herself would be upset

As upset as I am

That you mistake me for her.


I still don’t correct you

But it isn’t out of pity anymore

More like protection

I’ve made myself a harder shell

So that Melinda’s name can’t get through anymore

No matter how many times you misidentify me.

I guess it just goes to show

That I’ll love you–

I’ll love you until you forget my name.


From across a crowded coffee shop, Harry Potter & Dr. T J Eckleberg stare each other down.

‘I am far more literary minded, a classic,’ Eckleberg states. & some would agree.

‘Have you taken thousands of children to far away places where hope is real?’

Questions The Boy Who Lived. ‘How many have you helped through adolescence?’

Eckleberg pauses. ‘My eyes are the most famous of all literature.’

‘I have my mother’s eyes,’ Harry replies. ‘So they say, but I will never really know.’

‘What good are eyes anyway, if man cannot see what is right in front of him?’

‘Dunno, mate.’


The fabric faces turn away, the conversation ended.

If two such literary minds can have a civil disagreement

I can’t help but wonder

Why can’t we?


Picture, if you will

Two women

Side by side on a bench

Bent over

A captivating text.

Their dialogue is a give and take

Appreciation for subtle nuances

Word choice




We are just two poets

Swimming in a sea of words

Trying to make sense of the world.