If you’re not familiar with Brené Brown, let me do the honor of introducing you to a wonderful woman who has dedicated her professional life to studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. Her book Daring Greatly taught me two important life lessons:
- “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
- “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
I look back at the version of myself who once wrote really honest Straight Talk Sundays regularly on here and I admire her openness and expressiveness. In the years that have passed since I contributed my thoughts regularly to this outlet, I fear the majority of that courage to be vulnerable has been lost. It feels tucked away and still not yet ready to come out fully. Perhaps someday. But for now, I’ve found the best way to express my feelings and emotions are through curating the creations of others in the form of monthly playlists (find November’s here and other months here). Today, in an effort to take one more step forward, I want to write about this month’s backstory.
The last month has been a challenging one. I’ve been dealing with some pretty debilitating health issues; I spent the majority of October either at home, in the hospital, or at doctors’ offices. I’ve had to take a good chunk of time away from work, which in itself has taken the courage to be honest with myself and put myself on the sidelines. I’ve missed my family. I’ve continued to miss my dad, who passed away over 8 years ago. I’ve missed a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
I haven’t been able to find much motivation to do many of the things I’ve always loved. It’s no secret that searching for new music is one of my favorite things to do, and I’ve spent a good chunk of my life finding pleasure in that. But I couldn’t find it in October, which is the month I use to put together November’s playlist. So this month’s playlist is mostly a collection of what I found from friends and some old favorites, accompanied by a few new findings of my own.
For reasons you can likely now understand, this month was certainly a more calming collection than some others. And it’s worth noting that these playlists are intended to be played in order as opposed to on shuffle. If you do listen in order, you may notice a sonic progression arranged a bit like that of a bell curve. It starts slow, it begins to get a bit more upbeat, peaks at the hip hop section I always save space for, then brings it back home with some slower arrangements, ending with two peaceful instrumentals and lastly a reminder from Andre 3000 and Big Boi to “hold on, be strong.”
There are songs intentionally placed next to each other that I feel were meant to be together. I imagine what a beautiful thing it would be if the artists could know what their song’s match is. To me, “I Miss You” (Branchez remix) fits perfectly beside another remix called “I Still See Your Face” by San Holo and Flaws, because don’t we all when we miss somebody? There are two Big Wild songs right next to each other, one that repeats “I do it for the love, I do it for the love” over and over again, the next repeating “show me love, show me love, show me love.” Chance the Rapper of course makes another appearance this month, and the song that follows is one he sampled in his song “Everybody’s Something” on Acid Rap. I have found myself asking the world to show me love and to remind me that “everybody’s somebody’s everything” throughout not just trying times in my own life, but also some pretty devastating times in the world around us. Just turn on the news to get a sense for what I’m talking about.
A good number of these songs were played in yoga classes that I’ve gone to as frequently as I can throughout all of this. The practice has brought me calm, community and strength. My confidence in my physical balance has been compromised throughout this journey, and while challenging, achieving different poses in yoga classes has helped me rebuild that a bit. Often led by this wonderful teacher who happens to have a phenomenal taste in music that I borrow inspiration from, I’m reminded in class to be courageous and embrace my own imperfections. And I take this next quote from Brené Brown quite literally: “When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, ‘Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again’—my gut reaction is, ‘What a badass.’” So I fall, I get up, and I keep working on my badass self. And for what it’s worth, I’m having fun finding badass new songs for December already, so I think I’m making progress!
There’s more in there, but I want to leave some for you to find or interpret on your own. With that, if you’ve listened to the music, thank you. If you’ve read these words, thank you once more. And if you’ve read these words without any judgment, thank you the most. Thanks for letting me share my feelings, my imperfections, and giving me the space to be a little courageous. It’s uncomfortable! But I hope you can hear a little more if and when you choose to listen to this and perhaps be reminded to be courageous and intentionally make space in your life for something you love as I have for music and writing. The title of Song 35 is for you.