All the work while crying



Today I cannot write. I have my physical space set up just how I like it: window seat at the coffee shop, pot of my favorite tea, headphones with wordless music. But my headspace is all wrong. And so I have fallen back onto an old habit: procrastinating.

alltheworkwhile crying

For the past year or so, I have been retraining myself not to make procrastination my default mode, and so far I’ve gotten some pretty good results. My methods aren’t new, they’re just personalized for me and broken down into bite sized, manageable tasks. The more I don’t want to write, the smaller and easier the task. Write one paragraph, or write for one hour. When that doesn’t work, I try to channel Anne Lamott—Bird by bird. Shitty first drafts. Recently, Lydia taught me the  phrase “no stakes writing” and I have taken it to heart. I have learned how to take away the stakes and just move forward. When I just couldn’t bear to sit at my laptop, I went outside with a small whiteboard. Sitting under a tree next to my flower garden, I outlined the paper I’d been despairing about starting for week. It took maybe 15 minutes. The fact that I could accidentally erase it with misplaced wipe of a sleeve was comforting. And from there, moving forward was easier.

But today my headspace is not clear enough to write, and even the best writerly advice will not help. Because right now, most of my headspace is devoted to one thing— a guy that I am not in communication with, but would like to be. One dude, with whom I am in limbo. One person, unresolved. And sometimes that is all it takes. I can’t move forward with him, and my writing is stuck.

They never tell you about this part. I met an important writing deadline this week, but I was only able to do it because it was a deadline—a date set by someone else for me, a day when X had to be sent in. And so I did it—I wrote in fits and starts, in agonizing minutes dragging on, in ten minute jolts followed by twenty minute breaks. I was miserable, but I did it.  All the work while crying.

Those of you out there whose jobs require large amounts of time devoted to mindless tasks—I don’t envy  you. Honestly. When something is upsetting you, your mind has all the free space it needs during those tasks to go over and over the thing that is making you miserable. I have been there and I do not wish to be again. But those of you whose work requires being fully present emotionally and mentally, who need a clear headspace to even begin to accomplish your goals—you have my utmost sympathy. Because you and I have to protect ourselves more, have to be cautious about sharing our hearts and our minds with those around us. If we don’t, there are consequences.

And right now, I am feeling all of those consequences.



Make your own kind of music: foreign language edition

Hey—it’s a weekend! I say that calls for music. Here’s a song I like that I’ve been listening to this week:


Things I like about this song:

1) Chvrches: I love the spelling. We should really bring the “v” version of  “u” back. Everything wovld look like it was chiseled into a Roman colvmn and mvst be taken seriovsly. (It would also drive your spell checker nuts.)

2) Lighthearted sounding synth pop with dark lyrics. What is it about this juxtaposition that is so appealing?

It’s probably related to the reason English speakers like singing and dancing along to songs where we don’t know the meaning of the words. Which brings me to these guy, the vlogbrothers:


I haven’t watched many of their videos but this one struck a chord with me. (Pun not intended! But I’ll keep it.) I can’t speak to the accuracy of the translations—which I know some have already disputed—given that idiomatic expressions were always the bane of my foreign language experiences. But I think the analysis is spot on. I remember being impressed when Gangnam style, a song containing less than half a dozen English words total, jumped up to near the top of the charts last summer. But after this video I can see it as part of a larger pattern.

(image credit:

The idea that the meaning of a song is whatever you want it to be is only a half truth. Sure, the melody and the intonations of the singer may have an emotional resonance that transcends language barriers. But emptying foreign lyrics of their meaning and substituting our own emotional response? Without thinking about why we are so comfortable doing that? Well, at best it’s an unexamined and simplistic way to enjoy music that isn’t in English. At worst, it means we unconsciously assume that non-English songs are never something to be taken as seriously as songs in English —they’re always, at some, level a parody of themselves,  their language, their country or their culture. And that’s a pretty insincere way to appreciate music if you ask me.

Is there an antidote to this, besides the excellent vlogbrothers translation/commentary? I  think that for a star, we can listen to songs in “fake” or gibberish English written from a non-English speaking perspective! This is one of my favorites:

It might just be me, but  listening to nonsense English-y words makes me hear my native tongue with a totally different ear.