The Gift of No

No is new to me. Until recently, it wasn’t something I often said. I knew yes; hell, I yes’d my way through my twenties and thirties the way undergrads drink themselves through college. I committed, I overcommitted and then I resented. Yes was safe; yes was easy. When I didn’t yes, I maybe’d, then gained the requisite guilt when I inevitably postponed or cancelled. No, I didn’t know No. Until recently.

This summer I suffered an unexpected, devastating loss. I couldn’t make it a few hours without crying; I learned No out of necessity. Spending all day trying to not cry in public, I couldn’t face the agony of doing so in my evenings and weekends. So I cancelled plans, engagements, and turned down invitations. No was what I could do; it was all I could do. I retreated into my house, into my self, and sat with my grief. It was hard and awful and I wanted to crawl out of my skin most days. No allowed me to hurt in private, heal in public.

And one day, months into my loss, I made it through a day without tears. Then another. And as my spirit slowly returned, I found myself wanting to see friends again. To spend time with people I loved, possibly even meet new ones. No gave me myself back, and what remained in my new self was the ability to say No.

No is brave; no is ballsy. No is scary and No is hard; it’s not what others usually want to hear. No teaches you about yourself, and also shines light on others…No shows how people react to this and gives you a gimpse of who they are. No teaches you more than yes ever will.

The irony of No isn’t lost on me; it was one of the first words I taught my dog, Lila Belle. And it was losing her this past May, without warning and preparation, that unexpectedly provided me this lesson. She taught me love, she taught me loyalty, and just as I – years ago – taught her No, she taught me its power and worth. I miss her every day, but am grateful for yet another one of her lasting gifts: The Gift of No.

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Ryan Adams wants to know what love is

Much can be said about Ryan Adams – frankly, much HAS been said by me, as I’ve been known to publicly declare my adoration – but he’s received a lot of acclaim lately, both from his involvement with Jenny Lewis’ new song as well as his incredible new album that dropped a few weeks ago. (Which, if you haven’t yet checked out, DO. It’s ol’ skool’ Whiskeytown-ish and all sorts of listenable.) But last week, he melted my heart in a way I hadn’t previously thought was possible: he covered Foreigner. It’s like the best thing found the other best thing and made THE VERY BEST THING.

Sounds like Ryan wants to know what love is. And Mandy Moore, if you don’t show him, you’d better watch out…I will.

Just say it.

To-Do lists. We all have them. If they’re anything like mine, they contain a rotating set of items, many tactical and mundane in nature (call doctor, pay dog walker, find husband) and I tend to check off what I’ve completed with others carrying over to the next day/week/month. (See also: last referenced to-do list item above.) And I’ve realized that the ones that carry over are often the ones I want to do the least.

This week, I decided to change that. Instead of tackling the easy or fun ones, I chose the difficult, painful or challenging items and went to go and do/fix those first. Nope, wasn’t one bit of fun. But the sense of accomplishment? Huge.

In a similar vein, I tried this with my conversations. I naturally tend to avoid things or situations that are hard or painful…I think that’s human nature. But it’s what gets us stuck and KEEPS US STUCK. So instead, I acknowledged that this was going to feel scary and hard and real and I would want to run the hell away from what I was needing to say.

And I did it anyway.

Yep: it was hard. I had butterflies. I had to fight every single urge I had to run away or avoid it and just say it, do it, and lead with the honesty. Because I’m at the point in my life where that’s really all that matters. Having the difficult conversations. Speaking my mind. Making myself vulnerable.

And I survived. I’m still here (albeit a bit more navel-gazing than usual) and while it wasn’t easy, honesty is basically all I’ve got right now. And I’m going with it.

2013: The Year in Music

Look! Great music! In brief: I was going to pick a song from every month and the compilation was going to become The Best of 2013, but that just didn’t happen, namely b/c the stuff I loved the most fell at the end of the year. San Fermin. Sky Ferreria. Wild Cub. London Grammar. And much more. So, instead I went the curation route, of course having the requisites (The National, Frightened Rabbit) and Phosphorescent’s ethereal and fantastic Song for Zula. There’s a few others here, no less phenomenal (I don’t pick a favourite child, you know) and should you want the full list of my 2013 mixes, subscribe to this lil’ Spotify ditty. Enjoy.

An Open Letter to 2013: So long, Farewell. Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight.

As 2013 comes to a close – 13+ hours, but who’s counting the minutes (Me. And I bet you are too), I thought I’d employ a very typical 2013-esque tactic and write an open letter to this year and bid it, unapologetically, a huge good riddance. Goodbye, 2013, don’t let the door hit you on your proverbial ass as you get the hell out.

Why such vitriol? Without question, this was my hardest year. And this sentiment has been echoed by so many friends, colleagues, and those of you I still follow on the Internets. I’d love an astrologer or someone more cosmically tied than I to weigh in here, but the resounding theme I’ve experienced and heard was that this year was a giant sack of shit. (Music releases notwithstanding…My “best of” post will hopefully take a more positive vibe.) 2013 was hard. Like, running a marathon without training hard. Being blindsided with awful news and without a support system hard. Like opening a bottle of wine without a wine opener hard (rule of thumb: carry one in every bag.) But the optimist in me that somehow still exists saw and learned a few things and the verbose me thought I’d share.

Find your voice. You’re stronger than you had realized, and old enough to speak up for yourself. Pissing someone off isn’t the worst thing that can happen, especially if the alternative of staying quiet is at your own expense. But, that said…

Pick your battles. You have enough going on. You can have opinions without having to share them. Fight only the fights you need to…things are hard enough without taking on someone else’s challenge.

Quality over quantity. In all parts of your life…friends, possessions, experiences, even food. Yes, we have to eat a McDonald’s salad now & again but looking back it’s likely we’ll remember that meal at Eleven Madison Park much more.

Trust your intuition. Watch for red flags. Listen to that voice inside. Hell, even trust your dreams, or at least the ones that aren’t a result of late-night Chinese food & the dredges of a $7.99 wine bottle. I credit much of my career success in making choices that feel right, that you can envision yourself being part of. Rule of thumb: if you find yourself adding a caveat when explaining the situation to someone (“But it’s a strong brand!” “But he’s going through a hard time!”), examine it for what it is. Nothing is perfect but you don’t have to put yourself in something harder than it needs to be.

Give the benefit of the doubt. Even in the hardest situations, look for people’s intentions. I don’t think most people intend to be an ass. They may be protecting their own interests, guarding their heart or even just unprepared to handle whatever situation they’ve found themselves in. Recognize that, and while you have to react accordingly, show a bit of compassion & hope that they, too, learn from whatever is going on and can at least look to your reaction as an example. Unless they cheated on you…then kick ‘em in the nuts. (Kidding…not really.)

There’s something symbolic about the year changing, a practical physicality of yet another 365 days around the sun on this globally-warmed planet that we inhabit. But time is short; we are not immortal & our days are literally numbered. Spend them wisely. Surround yourself with people you love and experiences you cherish. This might require sacrifice; literal purging of friends and changing of jobs or locations or habits. That’s ok, and it’s also ok that it’s scary. Because it’s how we grow and learn and get through another 365 of these (and another and another…) that will hopefully be better than the last. Look up…I still am.