August 8, 2017

Oceandust

The skipped song. I felt for the theme I was going for, it worked better at the end rather than where it falls in the album.

I think a mistake that is often made is that the second we get through a difficult time, things magically get better and there is no more work has to be done. But that’s not the case. Dealing with the fall out and aftermath is an important part of getting through and living a happier and healthier life.

At first glance, this song sounds depressing. It kind of has a “there is no point in continuing, everything is lost” sound to it. But that’s not how I see it. I hear it more as a sobering song, and one that has honest hope. The song opens with some fairly melancholy lyrics “There’s no more wind to be found, in the sails / Hands full of fallen stars and comet tails”. Doesn’t really seem to be the embodiment of hope. But as I said, it’s an honest hope.

What I mean by honest hope is this. It’s realising where you are, and where things are going to go. It’s a sort of realist view. But it’s not looking at things without any wish for things to get better. “I don’t want to pretend” is repeated through the chorus, which ties into that honest hope. It’s a desire to get through it, with the understand it won’t be easy. There isn’t a magical gust of wind that fills our sails, or a star to wish on that’ll bring us unlimited joy.

But it’s also, in a sense, a realisation of your own mortality. At some point, we all die, it’s just the way life is. To me, this song acts as a reminder to use the time we have. Each day we spend defeated is one less day we have. It’s important to remember that and live each day to it’s fullest, and strive as much as you can to overcome.

The chorus is full of that same hope. As I mentioned earlier “I don’t want to pretend” is repeated. It’s so easy to think of life like it is in the movies or books. Where seemingly right after the climax, the characters live happily ever after with little or no adversity. We don’t see that daily struggle. But it’s important to remember, and understand, you don’t have to be stronger right after. You don’t have to be the happiest person on Earth. The important part is make sure you are back on solid ground, and that you have a real, lasting peace, not just a pretend face you are putting on for others.

There is no secret sauce, magic wand, genie in a bottle, or any other sort of magical way to get through that. It’s getting up each day, and slowly working on it. Which the third verse sums up perfectly “There’s no respite to be found in the waves / Each rise and retreat will scrub the blood away.” The world doesn’t back off because we’ve been through a difficult time. It keeps coming wave after wave. But, if we keep getting up every day, keep working on bettering ourselves every day, the blood eventually is scrubbed away.

A friend of mine recently talked about habits and why they are important. Even though it’s mainly focused on writing, the truths are universal. It’s the same way when dealing with the aftermath of a difficult time. One habit that I’ve formed after going through a rather difficult time is journaling daily. I have formed a habit of writing in my journal every day at 7PM. It helps me to process the day and make sure that my headspace is ok. I’ve also had to set reminders to form habits to eat, talk with friends, go on walks, do homework, or whatever else I might want to form a habit on. It doesn’t matter how big or small that habit is. It’s one of the most important parts of getting back on track.

The important thing to remember, it doesn’t stop once the foundation is laid and the house is built. You still have daily cleaning to do, and storms that come to take you out. But, if you have an understanding of the reality of the situation, and put in the hard work, form habits, and strive every day to better yourself, you’ll be prepared for the next storm. You’ll gain the strength that the fair tale characters get right off the bat. The sadness of the experiences may never fade entirely, but they get easier to deal with, because you develop healthy coping mechanisms. Set an end goal, but start small. Form one small habit “I’m going to wake up at X time every day” or whatever else it might be. Once you have that habit/goal formed and accomplished, build from there.

Whenever I’m going through a difficult time, my dad loves to ask me a question: “How do you eat an Elephant?” He’s been asking me that question for years. He knows I tend to look at the bigger picture, and that question acts as a reminder to chunk things out into smaller, more manageable pieces. Which is what I want to leave off this series with. Take it slow, take it in as small of pieces as you need. But work at it each day. At least take one step every day. Eventually, you’ll get to your goal. You will get through it, you will rebuild, but it takes time, and that is ok.

August 5, 2017

A Fire On A Hill

Man, I could go on and on about this song. It’s the song that sparked this entire series, and has become a sort of Anthem for me. It’s touched me in a way that few songs have, also one of the few songs that I actually like the music video for.

This entire series we’ve covered so many different topics, from what happiness is, how depression affects our lives, and so many different things in between. This song is where that all comes together.

A topic we’ve discussed is how to build a solid house. But, there’s one problem with building that new, stronger house. The old one is still standing. Before you can build the stronger house, you have to tear down the old one. Not an easy task at all, it’s probably one of the hardest things to do. It requires you to be at your most vulnerable. However, don’t confuse this with self destructing in a negative way. It’s not destruction for the sake of destruction. But it’s with a purpose. it’s to strengthen and build yourself up.

I love the analogy of a house for a multitude of reasons. We’ve talked about the foundation built on your own self worth, not on the backs of others, and your friends being pillars. Both are equally important to building a solid house. I also love the house analogy because houses have rooms. We often keep certain areas of our homes clean. The living room, entry way, bathroom, and other places that guests might see. But we close the doors to the bedrooms, make sure the blankets on the bed hang down to hide what’s shoved underneath.

We put on a show to those who enter. We do the same thing in our relationships with people. We only allow them into our entry way and living room. We hide all the filth and dirt from them, showing them the best we have to offer. It’s what society teaches us to do. Over time though, that house gets packed full of junk, and it’s overwhelming to try and deal with it. We don’t know where to start, or how to go about it.

Sometimes, the best answer is to start over, from the ground up. That doesn’t mean to forget everything in the past and pretend it didn’t happen. It’s not a “get out of jail free” card. It’s taking the best of what you were, and turning it into something better. It’s learning from those past mistakes and turning them into strengths. When you burn down your old life, and start to build the new one, you can learn just as much from your mistakes as you can from your successes.

But, burning down your old house isn’t just to clear space for rebuilding. It’s also exposing yourself. Showing off all your vulnerabilities. To me, it’s a proclamation to the world that you aren’t ashamed of who you are. It’s a show that you aren’t ashamed of who you are. The thing about a fire, once it takes hold, you can’t hide it. People notice. People will see your insecurities, your darkest secrets, you’ll be exposed and naked.

But luckily, that’s not where it ends. Because as I said before, it’s not destruction for the sake of destruction. Once the fire fades, and the old house is gone, you’ve got the starting point ready for you. You can start to rebuild your life in the direction that you want, not weighed down by all the baggage that you’ve had stuffed in the various cracks.

It’s important to note, that this type of rebuilding can only be done if you’ve got that solid foundation of self worth. If you don’t have that foundation, this type of exposure could lead to more harm than good. There’s a reason that this isn’t the first song, because you have to build up to it, and be prepared for it. You have to learn where your happiness lies, and how to find it. This is the last step, not the first. This is when everything comes together.

This also isn’t to say that by rebuilding your house that Mental Illness is defeated and you’ll never worry about it again. There will still be times of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. But, now you’ve got a house that can withstand those things. Think of Mental Health as a hurricane. If you’ve got a shaky house, it’s not going to fair too well during that storm. But, if you’ve built a solid house, on a solid foundation, it will probably still need some work when the storm passes, but not nearly as much as the previous house.

Which is what I want to impart on you. You are rebuilding to be stronger, and more effective. This house is meant to be one that doesn’t require months of work after each storm, one where you don’t feel safe. This house is meant to be one that you know you are safe in. One that when you invite guests over, you don’t have to close the bedroom door, or other places to hide the filth.

I don’t want to ramble on too long with this post, so I will leave with this thought. If you’ve come to a point where you’ve realised the house you’ve built isn’t strong enough to get you through the storms in your life, don’t give up. Don’t feel like you are alone in your struggle. Lean on your friends, and trust that they will help you. Don’t be afraid to admit you aren’t strong enough on your own. Talk to a mental health care provider, take the steps you need to take. But it is not weakness to ask for help.

July 31, 2017

Wisteria

Once we start digging ourselves out and working towards bettering our lives, that doesn’t mean we are free and clear forever. Old issues still come back, and we still have to deal with it. But, when looking at Wisteria compared to songs earlier in the album dealing with the same issues, there’s a stark contrast.

At the start of the album, we see a lot of hopelessness, relying on friends, and not knowing where to go. There isn’t a whole lot going on personally. Which isn’t wrong, as I’ve mentioned multiple times before, it’s important to have a strong support group and be able to rely on them on times of need. But, it’s also important that they don’t become a crutch.

What makes this song different, he’s not waiting for them to come to him and help him out. In the chorus “Mary, Mary, tell me how your garden grows.” He’s taking the first step, he’s asking how to get out of the spot he’s in.

The theme of plants, gardens, and growing is throughout the entire song. The name of the song, Wisteria, is a vine plant. Like most of the songs in this album, I find two different meanings in this song. One of them, is a sort of seasonal depression. Near the end of the song, the lyrics “But then September swept the overcast aside / dusted off the winter’s curse, and she cut me through like knives.” The band is from Australia, so their winter ends at the end of August (thus the use of September). But it gives the impression of being too depressed to do much, and being still long enough that the ground around started to grow around you, which just further gave way to the feeling of hopelessness. The difference between this and earlier in the album, this time he takes steps right away, starts asking how to get out of it and through this session.

The other way, is new life. The chorus “Tell me what it takes to come alive, to see what you have sown / because I’ve grown into the ground and there are branches in my bones / I am overgrown.” It has a sense to me after taking ownership of his life, he’s started to grow and blossom into his new self. In a sense, almost too quickly and doesn’t know how to handle it.

I think both of these themes can be seen in the song, and I don’t think either one is wrong. Both are important. It’s important to know how to get yourself out of depression, and also important to make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

I also love the last line of the song before the final chorus starts. “She whistled proudly her season’s song, and showed me that I was alive all along.” It not only goes back to the importance of a support system and friends surrounding you, but it also shows something important. Often when dealing with depression, we feel dead inside, and that our life isn’t worth much. It’s easy to forget that we are alive. It’s so important to have reminds of that.

July 30, 2017

Fountainhead

One of the most important things about mental health is learning to love yourself. As mentioned in the Shapeshifters post, it’s so important to have a strong foundation. That’s what Fountainhead is all about. Taking your life back from others and making it your own.

It’s really easy, especially when dealing with emotional trauma, to forget about yourself and just focus on others. Either that, or allowing others to rule your life, depending on them to lift you up, tell you what to do. But that’s not how you live life. In the last song, No Parallels, we got a glimpse of living life outside of monetary gain, breaking free from that cycle and focusing on yourself.

Now we see that same idea being built upon. The song opens up with “In a murmuring room full of critics and fakers” and in the next verse “Waiting on a single word / that could spill from my mouth / that would give them a reason / to take me for all I’m worth”. I love these lines because he’s not passively backing down. He realises what he’s up against, and faces it head on.

But this song goes so much deeper than just standing up for yourself after living a life that was in their shadows. It also explores the idea of those who have gotten use to you being passive and doing whatever it is that they said not liking you standing up for yourself. Which can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome.

We can sit here and have a discussion on toxic friendships and how it’s better to get out of them, which if your friends don’t like you standing up for yourself and being your own person, that’s not a healthy relationship. But that’s a completely different topic. When you are working on rebuilding yourself after a difficult time, even more when it’s from the ground up, it’s not as easy as just “cutting them loose.”

This song is an anthem for those who have overcome that hardship and taken back who they are. I love the part in the song where he questions where they got the idea they can control his life.
“I don’t use your lungs to breath, your feet can’t walk for me. / So tell me where you take your right to my mind.” Then just a few lines later “So tell me where you take your right to my freedom, my cause for creation, my mind, my direction, my life.” It fits so perfectly in with finding your own happiness and not letting others make that choice for you.

One of my favorite sections in this entire album is in this song. Near the end, right before the last chorus, “I’m the one who wears the consequence / I’m the one who will stay true to myself.” He’s not looking for a way out, or an excuse. He’s taking 100% ownership of his life and his actions. I think it’s so important. Because once we take ownership of ourselves, it becomes easier to change who we are. We can break ourselves down (in a healthy way) and rebuild ourselves stronger and healthier when we know who we are and believe in ourselves.

July 29, 2017

No Parallels

 

If you’ve listened to the album, you’ll notice that I’ve skipped “oceandust.” There’s a reason for this, and I will be coming back to this song.

 

So far, the album has been fairly downbeat in terms of what the songs are about. A lot about depression, feeling beaten down, and not knowing where to go. True, each song, except for “A Tale of Outer Suburbia” has resolved positively. But that doesn’t change the content of the songs.

That changes the second half of the album. The message is still the same, things still resolve, but it’s no longer focused on the darker sides of the mind, but start to focus on improvement.

Often times when we look at our life, we think “if I had more I’d be happy.” Whether that be money, a better car, better job, education, a romantic partner, or something else. We often base our happiness on our outside circumstances. But, when we do that, we wind up in the places that are repeated over and over in the first half of this album.

A long time ago I was given some advice that has stuck with me. “Love is a choice.” That isn’t to discount the feeling and emotion of love, but that it goes so much deeper than just the emotion. Throughout my life, I’ve tried to apply that same concept to happiness. It’s a choice. Regardless of where we are in life, we can choose to be happy.

From a young age, we are taught how to fit in, how to be what the world wants. We are taught to conform, to be a cog in the machine. Which the song conveys in two lines “Our path a prison, bound to walk where countless feet already fell. / But there’s a wildness in our hearts, that we’ve forgotten in our march”

It’s at this point in the album where I look at the walk of Mental Illness that things start turning around. No longer giving into the fears that are holding them down, and no longer letting it consume them. The tagline for this blog is “The Past Doesn’t Define you.” Which I believe this song emulates. “run free, run wild and leave behind what holds you down.”

 

That’s not to say to forget the past, and not take it’s lessons moving forward. But don’t be weighed down by it so much that it stops you from happiness. But instead, take the lessons of your past, learn from them, and move forward. It’s not an easy task at all. It’s a mindset that is contrary to the one we are taught to believe. It’s one of the things we see all the time in movies and aspire to, changing our “fate” and being someone we aren’t meant to be.

To me, this song embodies the idea that each one of us can choose who we want to be. It’s never too late to go back to school and get that degree, learn a new skill, or just try something new. My dad is a great example of this. After spending 23 years in the navy as a cryptologist, he retired. But, he wasn’t ready to be fully retired. He decided to do something completely different, he went into the oil field, and put as much distance between him and anything computer related. He put himself to this new job and learned it. He forged his own happiness and molded himself until he was happy.

Don’t be someone you aren’t because that’s what’s expected. Find what makes you happy, make a break for it, and go after it at full speed. Regardless of where you are in life, happiness is your choice, not someone else’s.