Mixtape Lessons

For as long as I can remember, I’ve made a mix tape, mix CD, now mix playlist. I remember once hearing Cameron Crowe say he makes a mix a month. I think of him often when I make my mixes, as they are a musically autobiographical status of my life at that moment. They are able to help me tell my story to myself. I don’t share them with others in the moment, they are so highly personal and tender. 

IMG-7430In 2015 my marriage was ending and it was the last thing I wanted. I was desperately sad. I listened to my mix over and over and over for several months, and the music helped me gently let go of something I thought I would never be brave enough to let go of. I won’t lie and say it won’t always be a letting go. Spending 26 years with someone is life-altering, and making babies with someone means that no.matter.what, you are connected.

This is what was on my playlist at the end of 2015:


  • Worth It, Fifth Harmony
  • When I was Your Man, Bruno Mars
  • Can’t Keep, Eddie Vedder
  • Stay With me, Sam Smith
  • Superman, Five for Fighting
  • Nothingman, Pearl Jam
  • Colors, Amos Lee
  • Have a Little Faith in Me, John Hiatt
  • Balpeen Hammer, Chris Whitley
  • Wrecking Ball, Miley Cyrus
  • Naked Eye, Luscious Jackson
  • All My Days, Alexi Murdoch
  • Breathe, Anna Nalick
  • Work Song, Hozier
  • Someone Like You, Adele
  • Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley
  • Rise, Eddie Vedder
  • Loser, Beck
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand, T.V. Carpio
  • What If You, Joshua Radin
  • Please, Please, Please Let me Get what I want, The Smiths

I ended up making 2 more playlists for myself after this one before we divorced, but this is the one that is cemented on my brain. I’m listening to it right now as I write this. For the longest time I couldn’t listen to a single one of these songs without feeling viscerally back in the moment I curated this list, and the memories that each song was harkening to in that 26 year journey. All that longing and sadness and wishing to be seen and being able to see him,  the desperate unknowing was intense. Oh the tears. I just cried every day. I cried all morning, I cried on the way to work, listening to the playlist. I sat in the parking lot of my school and wiped my tears and then turned it off and said “Ok, you can do this.” And then I walked into my classroom and worked with the most emotional class I’ve ever had! God gives us what we need, even in ways we can’t understand at that moment. I remember playing a GoNoodle clip for my class a lot that year of Bruno Mars singing to the Muppets the song, “Don’t Give Up.” I basically cried at that, too. They also LOVED anything Frozen, and we watched Elsa belt out “Let it Go,” and that made me cry, too.

I wasn’t in my best emotional state. EDIT: there is no best emotional state. I was feeling what I needed to feel at the time. And those sweet children needed my reality. IMG-7425

I focus on listening to the music that feels right at that moment.  I am actually really thoughtful to produce a list that flows correctly, too. I don’t just add the songs willy-nilly. I put them where they make sense to me. And then I just listen to it and let it help me figure out what is up, where I’m at. Just like when I paint, or do a collage, or make a garden, or create anything really, I just get into the process and later look at it and go, “WHOA!”

Here’s what I was listening to in my mix at the end of 2017. Wait, let me put it on…ok

  • Greatest Love Story, LANCO
  • Hard to Love, Lee Brice
  • Blue Ain’t Your Color, Keith Urban
  • My Church, Maren Morris*
  • Bang Bang, Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj
  • Good Old Days, Macklemore (feat. Kesha)
  • Tin Man, Miranda Lambert
  • Fire Away, Chris Stapleton
  • Fix You, Coldplay
  • Brave, Sara Bareilles
  • My House, Flo Rida

*(MY FAVE, and my karaoke belting ballad)

Oh WOMEN! That song by Maren Morris is one of the best country songs in so so long. It’s kinda like Tanya Tucker. She just BELTS that song and it is so powerful and calms me big time. It’s an anthem for me.

Music has taken on a little bit of a different meaning in playlists since I met youknowwho, because he sends me songs and those become part of what I listen to.  Several of these are songs he sent to me as his kind of love letter. He’s not big on words, but he’ll dance with me for hours and try to sing along and lead me all over the dance floor. He’s more romantic than he gives himself credit for. And I appreciate every single effort for anything romantic more than he realizes.

(This isn’t said intending him to read it, he doesn’t really read this blog.)

Additionally, this mix shows some conflict in me. I was deeply depressed at the time, but starting to come out of my rut a little. Moving again was harder on me than I expected it to be. Leaving Halsey was WAY harder than I expected it to be. I missed being there. But I was very conflicted because I also liked being closer to Eugene and conveniences and my son again. In December we were able to move into the addition and it was revolutionary what that did for our family. We had space! I wasn’t sleeping with wheels under me! There was reliable heat!

Listening to this mix now is interesting, four months later. I do not think of December 2017 as the good old days, but interestingly, I also think of some hard times in the last two years as good old days. I can see things in better perspective at a distance. Even when things are really hard, there is something kind of powerful about how they were handled and the connection we make when we survive something hard together. Yeah, like remodeling two houses from top to bottom in 12 months. Yeah, like that. If you are new to my story, you can learn all about our home remodeling on tiny empire.

We fight a lot, me and youknowwho. It’s not huge stuff, even when I tell myself it is in the heat of it. But it is totally not what I’m used to. He doesn’t hold onto it, I totally do. I don’t know how to have healthy conflict. It’s not something I’m used to. When people argued when I was a kid it meant you didn’t talk to each other for weeks, months, years and maybe never came to Thanksgiving anymore. In relationships I learned to keep it all in, but then inevitably things would reach a tipping point and my emotions would erupt and everyone was injured. Figuring out a new way is not only a good idea, but necessary for my survival.

It was a hard road to get here, but I’m not going to hold it and not say how I feel anymore. It’s a tough way to live, though. [That’s a huge understatement.] It is tough and hard and brutal. Being emotionally open and vulnerable and willing to get hurt and be raw and letting people see me cry, and be honest, and admit my faults, and be real and organic is very healthy, but SO HARD.

Sometimes I want to just go back to what feels more natural, the holding in. The less-authentic, less awake way of living. It’s safer, but so much less free.

I said to a friend yesterday, it’s like I’ve pulled back the veil to see that Oz isn’t superman or a wizard or God, and he’s just a human like me. The reality I thought I was living in is not actually the reality. There’s no magic in human relationships. There’s no perfect relationship. A good, quality, happy and healthy relationship requires a LOT OF WORK. And a good deal of conflict along with compromise. That takes some getting used to. Another friend remarked to me, “look how much you are GROWING!” She’s right. I am, by leaps and bounds. And this kind of awake living is what makes that possible. I still totally suck at it, though. This is NOT an instruction manual.

I made youknowwho a mix CD right after we met, 3 1/2 weeks in. We were like teenagers and old souls, knowing that we were in love with each other, but keeping it quiet. I almost put Kat Dahlia’s song “I think I’m in Love Again,”  on the CD, but I lacked those guts yet. It took us less than a week later to come clean about our true feelings, and well, the rest is history.  My mix to him is full of songs of being in love and knowing I’m in the right arms even though I was scared shitless (I still am).  Many songs that he’d sent me are on it, too.  He kept sending me love songs, too.  That mix is ours, not to share with anyone but each other. We would listen to it, sitting in my little studio cottage, holding on to each other and being there, letting the music flow around us.

Surround yourself with music that heals you. Let it flow around you and clean the inauthentic crap of life away. Let it be yours and let it change you.

wisteria almost bloomed




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