On Goals

Hello, all!

I don’t have many qualms with the world at present or much to say that immediately comes to mind, but I do want to write. I hope you’ll come along for this freewrite!

2000-P Maryland Statehood Quarter

I remember looking at a coin once that had a building I had never seen on it when I was very small. I asked my grandmother (who was with me at the time) where that building was. This turned out to be the Maryland state quarter, so she explained that this building was in Maryland. I asked her if I’d ever get to see it, and her answer was something to the effect of “maybe”. I tucked that memory away, not quite remembering it, not quite forgetting it for the next 15 and some years. It came to my attention one afternoon when I was walking around Annapolis, Maryland and I looked up at the State House. In that brief moment I realized that I was seeing the building I had wanted to see when I was small that day with the coin.

Image result for unalaska on map
Unalaska, the town in question.

A few years later, I was fed up with the Texas heat and craving wintertime, so I announced to my family that I was moving to Alaska as soon as I could. I had a town picked out and everything. I was pumped. Those dreams fell by the wayside about a year after that after I really went to school and focused on other dreams, like songwriting, which I would discover a year or two afterwards.

That was over a decade ago. I also realized today that I have been songwriting for a decade. That mark passed last month (May). I wrote my first song to get even remotely popular in May of 2009. This also means I have been playing piano for ten years, as well. I remember that because I wrote that first “good” song a week after sitting down at my aging keyboard and finding I could play what I heard. One of the loops on GarageBand at the time got stuck in my head, so I sounded it out on piano and sang along with the notes. This is the original recording, also the first “good” recording I ever made. I didn’t look back, and I still record everything.

When I was 12, I made a goal to record an album in a studio in much the same way my idol Sara Bareilles did. I ended up achieving that goal by the time I was 14, along with my other goal of writing a book. So for a time, I thought I had accomplished everything I needed to accomplish in life and that therefore it was okay to drift aimlessly. I didn’t want to make any concrete plans because I was afraid they would get thwarted and ultimately abandoned. I was afraid of failure so I failed to start. What I didn’t realize at the time (and didn’t realize until recently) is that a lot of time, goals can take a long time to take shape and that’s okay. Goals can take even longer to be achieved, and that is still okay. My goal at one point was to graduate college in Maryland. After that was a mystery. I had no other plans. It took finding my husband to finally get kicked in the butt hard enough to make some solid goals. These goals have led me away from my original goal of graduating college for now, but they have instead led to some better goals – having a good marriage, running and building my tutoring service, losing weight, and raising our lizard baby.

It takes time for things to fall into place. If I can get anything across today, it’s that. I left Maryland and its goals in favor of bigger things in Alaska, but I didn’t know that upon leaving. All I saw was that moment.

We are given what we need in the times that we need it, and dreams really do come true. Be patient with yourself, others, and the universe.

Love,

Mago

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On Songwriting

Hello, friends!

I’ve tasked a student of mine with creating a notebook full of ideas that could become seeds of poems. I am starting my notebook today, and the first line I want to stock it with is from the Owl City song “Dreams & Disasters”:

“Think of the sun and the sound of it risin'”.

Owl City, “Dreams and Disasters”

I like this line because the sun doesn’t make a sound as it rises, of course, but it captures instead a different feeling. I tend to like lyrics and lines much like this one that aren’t literal, but instead relate back to mythology, the Bible, and the fanciful. Oftentimes I find those more clever and meaningful. I like the way those phrases can turn.

After I listen to a song a lot or read too much of a certain author, I start to imitate their writing style. I was listening to “You Make Me Smile” by Blue October (below)


when this spilled out:

“Something As Soft”

This is “Something As Soft”, and you might recognize some similarities to “You Make Me Smile” in lyrics and tone. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. It was not a single listen that caused this to spill out, I listened to it maybe 20 times over the course of writing the lyrics.

I have wanted to write an album around this song and others that I recorded that night, but I think I’m afraid to start. I wonder if my sad or even sad-ish songs help people, and that is what has stopped me from recording this type of thing in earnest. I think it’s one of those things where I was told enough times that they didn’t help that I decided to believe the naysayers. I was also annoyed that they didn’t make people get up and dance like I wanted them to and instead made them sleep and relax. I wanted to change my sound and in the process killed it.

I want to record an album again. I want to be able to write an album that sounds like me in the way that Mago did. I get the feeling that it will be raw, but full of joy this time. If this happens, it will have plenty of weird chords and time signatures. I had a producer once record a tiny album with me and we talked about sounding like Radiohead and he said that at some point people might be wondering if Thom Yorke was writing my lyrics. I want to fall somewhere between Hozier and Radiohead, one instrument at a time.

More later, y’all!

Mago

PS., here’s a Gratitude List:

  1. My instruments
  2. My husband
  3. Alaska
  4. COFFEE
  5. Good food in the fridge
  6. That I have a lesson today
  7. Grocery sacks so that I can carry all the groceries in in ONE TRIP
  8. Friends who care
  9. That it’s my birthday week
  10. Rain that makes Alaska green

I’ll Be The Actress Starring In Your Bad Dreams

Hello, friends!

The album in question.

Confession time – I love Taylor Swift. Her newest album Reputation is a fiery thing. Several of the songs on the album have influenced original characters of mine and the album is overall very good writing music. I want to focus on one song in particular, “Look What You Made Me Do”.

This piece helped fuel my character Archer for page upon page as she went on an anti-hero rampage in my work in progress. This sets up the tension of the second half of the book. I love writing about strong women, strong women with vendettas. Their resentments often lead to them overcoming their fears and seizing the day, for good or for ill.

One of my favorite quotes is “before embarking on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” I’m not sure who said that, but it stuck in my memory. These strong women often fall into these traps, going down swinging fighting to defeat the very demon they sought to destroy. My Nana always says that every solution beings different problems and that anger always leads to irrational actions. As my characters transform, they find that this is true. They often misstep and this leads to disaster. As in Shakespeare’s plays, the hero of the story is faced with a choice to make or a tragic flaw they must overcome that determines the final outcome of the play. Macbeth’s flaw is pride, Hamlet’s is indecision, Archer’s is wrath. If the main character is able to overcome their tragic flaw, they win most of the time. If not, they likely lose.

In “Look What You Made Me Do”, Taylor Swift says that she will be the actress starring in your bad dreams. It’s a common theme when I hold a grudge that I want the person I’m resentful against to become painfully aware of what they have done, either to me or someone close to me. Most of the time, that never happens. I never even get an apology. I would say that my tendency to become closed-minded and unwilling to take an easier road if it means my ways are even remotely compromised is my tragic flaw. This is why forgiveness and change are so difficult for me. I’m stubborn to a fault.

Prince Zuko

Sometimes, though, characters are given a redemption arc. Take Prince Zuko from Avatar: the Last Airbender, for example. He is set up to be the main villain of the show, but he ends up joining the good guys’ crew. They don’t trust him at first, but he proves himself. His fatal flaw that he eventually overcomes is his obsession with honor. His primary motivation at the beginning of the show is showing his father that he is worthy of love, and by the end, he realizes that he was wrong in doing so. It all depends on the choices a main character makes that determines their outcome. What choices can I make to better myself?

I take changing my ways as a defeat most of the time. I find that I am dragged kicking and screaming into any sort of life change and I will fight it to the death if necessary, even if it will make my life easier. Realizing that change isn’t a zero sum game and that sometimes I win if I lose is helpful. One of my major problems is that I don’t like to lose or feel like I’m being submissive. That’s just not me. It’s my way or the highway most times, even if the requests people make will actually help me. My ears are plugged with wax. I want people to listen to me, to be the actress in their bad dreams, to be loved even if I am feared. I know that’s not like that, but I do it anyway.

Archer, like Zuko, ends up with a redemption arc in the end. She stops fighting the things that are unnecessary to fight and realizes she was wrong. She ends up different, changed, but still strong. I want to be like that.

How do you feel about change? Can you think of more examples of change/redemption arcs? Let me know in the comments!

Love,

Mago

On Productivity

Hello, friends!

I hopped on the scale and apparently I have lost 9 pounds in about a week! That’s more than a little crazy to me, but according to everyone I have spoken to, that’s just water weight and should come off fairly easily.

I’ve had people rag on me for my weight, with some even going as far as to say that in order for me to love myself, I must lose weight. That comment makes no sense. I mean, that can help, but that’s not everything there is to it! I started on the journey towards loving myself long before I decided to lose weight AND hated myself even when I was thin. I’ve gotten a lot of conflicting messages about weight and appearance, both from media of all kinds, from the people around me, and even from myself. I used to be deathly afraid of having a double chin, and look what happened! I have one now. Do I hate myself for it? It’s kind of a nuisance, but no! It’s part of what I look like right now. Am I working to change that? Yes. This is not something to hate myself over.

My double chin.

The message I have gotten over the years (as evidenced by my fear of having a double chin) is that being fat makes me worth less than a skinny human and as such should be avoided at all costs, even if it means depriving oneself for extended periods of time. Not okay. I went through a lot of shame before realizing that there’s more to one’s worth than how much they weigh, how closely they follow time honored traditions, or how much they live up to others’ expectations. I am loved constantly and consistently.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the same ideas go for being productive, as well. If you aren’t accomplishing X amount of things during the day/week/month, you’re a failure. This pressure to constantly be doing something can lead to burnout, at least according to this awesome Buzzfeed News article. It specifically talks about millennials, but I think that anyone can suffer from burnout.

It makes some interesting points about how millennials were told from a young age that if they go to college and get a good job, they’ll have it made like the generations before them. But financial disaster struck, rendering their hard work somewhat useless. Being told to work, work, work their whole lives, they overwork themselves in this environment that is different from what they were promised in their childhood. This leads to a culture wherein many burn out and crave more than the hand they were dealt.

I’ve seen this come true with my husband more than for me. Both of us were born at the oft-reorganized tail end of the millennial generation, with him born in 1996 and me in 1997. I don’t want to be lumped in with those who eat Tide Pods, so I tend to call myself a millennial. He has worked very, VERY hard for the things he has accomplished, even going past burnout. He never went to college, and has gained a ton of wisdom and knowledge through work and life experience alone. He’s a hard worker, no matter how much he hates the job or how difficult it gets. It’s what he does. He is the most determined, productive individual I have ever met.

I, however, am just getting started on my adulthood journey and I find it difficult to stay committed to things when the going gets rough. The exception to this is my husband. I am determined to stick with him to the end, no matter how hard it gets or how much we annoy the crap out of each other. He is the biggest help on the adulting journey and he constantly pushes me to do better. One of the things he said to me yesterday was that my best is not what I am doing. I challenged that, saying that he could not determine my best since he isn’t me. He then gave examples, giving evidence that he had pushed me and I had done better than I had done before.

My clean kitchen!

At the same time, is it imperative that we are productive and improving all the time? I see posts on self care, but many of the items described involve distracting oneself, which I find does not help me. I find that the best thing I can do for my mental health when I am sad is to actually get up and do things. As described in my post Wholesome, I find that smashing my daily to-do list gives me more satisfaction than actually taking an off day. I wonder how to fill the time when it’s not structured, and rattling around in the empty time often leads to extra stress and sadness that should not have been there. But then there come the times when I just…can’t do anything.

A lot of times recently have been because of nausea and cramps (I appear to be in that time again) that make it difficult to even move and I’m not able to achieve my fitness goal for that day. Other times I’m just feeling sad and the work doesn’t help at all. Then there are the times where my mind throws such a hissy fit that it’s difficult to even move. Those are the times when I think it’s important for me to take a break – when nothing else will help and both my body and mind need a rest. It’s important to push myself and push myself hard, sometimes past the point where I feel I will break (I get past this most of the time), but it’s important to also stop and rest when I need to. If the stomach pain gets bad enough, my husband makes me draw a bath and sit in it until I feel better. And it helps. Sometimes I need someone else to get me to chill the heck out, listen, or redirect.

Today’s to do list in the process of being smashed.

I believe that my need to accomplish things comes from having far too much time on my hands rather than too little. As with the weight loss, I’ve been taking steps to fill my time and improve. Too much is too much, though. I need to be careful not to actually break myself, like I need to be careful to not undereat or hurt myself exercising. I have a tendency to get overzealous and do too much at once if I get passionate about something, never to pick it up again. Because of my struggle with moderation, I also think it’s important to remember that I am not a failure if I don’t accomplish much one day. There’s a next day so long as I’m alive. There’s never a need for shame and rarely a need for guilt so long as I – we – are improving.

With that, I leave y’all.

Love,

-Mago

Blog post and gratitude list = SMASHED

OH, QUICK, 10 THINGS I’M THANKFUL FOR:

  1. Beautiful Alaskan weather.
  2. Finally feeling motivated today.
  3. Friends who accept me.
  4. That I’m successfully losing weight.
  5. That I’m not melting in Texas right now.
  6. My wonderful husband.
  7. The way the air smells here.
  8. Remembering to do things on my list.
  9. That I’m able to get up and move around today.
  10. That ice cream exists. (what?? I’m not eating ice cream today???)

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I Guess We’ll Have To See

Hello, friends!

I have been giving the concept of a heaven some thought recently and I am still on the fence on it. All the Christians talk about it being a place of rest, but I don’t see the point of a resting place where I’m surrounded by only people of my same faith. In the past, I have been far more in favor of something where our souls take on a different form of energy rather than being transported to a resting place. The only place I run into a snag with that is when I think about never seeing my dad again, or never being able to hold my husband when both of us eventually pass. He wants to poke me, that is what he is looking forward to. If there were any other workaround to that that held some shred of proof of possibility, I would go for that. I suppose there isn’t much tangible proof for a heaven, either, so we’re in this eternal spot of “oh, guess we’ll have to see”. I’m an impatient person, so this bothers me. I want my answers and I wanted them yesterday.

I bring this up because the artist Avicii is (posthumously) releasing a new album called Tim. I was confused because I thought he had died back in 2018, and that appeared to still hold true. The thing that really got me thinking was that they had turned his website into a vibrant memory board where people from around the world can post messages about the memories they had with him and his music. This got me thinking about my aspirations for my soul – to do enough good to be remembered fondly on Earth without much care for heavenly things.

As with the Avicii memory board, I have seen many signs pointing to the restful side of the quandary I’ve been facing, the side where I will get to see the people I love again. I have this one aunt that I have felt connected to since I first saw an image of her. Her name is Florence and it is believed that she died of the Spanish flu before 1920. I saw a picture of her and it was like there was an understanding between us that we knew each other at some point and will see each other again. Even if there is no heaven in the traditional sense, I hope we come into contact with one another again somehow. I believe that she is a guardian angel of mine. After reading about how she threw parties in her hometown newspaper, I have no doubt that she does it well.

This is Florence.

I have heard several of my Mormon friends talk about those who are dying being greeted by those they love who have preceded them in death. Some would also call these beings angels. That’s something I have never seen personally, but have felt. As my dad was in his last days, I felt presences that weren’t physically there. None of them ever made a move to speak or touch any of us. If anything, it was a feeling of comfort that we weren’t alone as we held my dad’s hand and sang to him. If that’s heaven, I wouldn’t mind that.

There are times I feel close to the more afterlife-related areas of God and the Universe, like with the examples of Aunt Florence and my dad. I also meet people whom I feel I have known before this life, and I know that if there are to be future lifetimes, there are a few people I’m damn near certain I will find again and again. My husband and my best friend Lindsey are some examples of this. I also know that I have more people to meet. There is a purpose to everything and God is everywhere. That keeps me going when there’s hardly anything left. I don’t always remember that perfectly, but just because I don’t remember it doesn’t make it untrue.

Do you have any thoughts on heaven? Let me know in the comments!

-Mago

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On The Merits Of Forgiving Myself

Hello, friends!

At first I was going to write more about eating (specifically overeating) and weight loss, but I figured that that would lead to no end of self sabotaging thoughts, so I decided to write about something both harder and easier to write about – forgiving myself. Does this include forgiving myself for overeating? Yes. It’s hard, but it’s going to be worth it.

I say “going to be” because I am still a beginner in this journey. I still beat myself up for things I did 6 months – no, six years ago, and possibly longer ago than that. My dad always said that holding a resentment against someone else was like holding onto a hot coal and blowing on it continuously as it burns through the holder’s hand. But what about holding a resentment against oneself?

I’d say it’s like taking that same hot coal and swallowing it, expecting it to cool off as it burns through you. It’s equally as harmful, if not more so. I’m learning this so much as I discover how badly holding grudges against myself harms me as much as the grudges I hold against others do. I have spent so much time afraid to fail because my inner critic has yelled at me for things I had done wrong in the past. An example of this would be when I tell myself I’m a terrible person because I upset my husband one day or two days in a row. This way of thinking discounts all of the good things I do both for him and for the world at large. Couple that with calling myself a failure and it’s as damaging as it would be had someone else called me that.

Consider the cumulative effect of calling yourself a failure.

If you say or hear something enough, you start to accept it as truth. I started to fall into that “coming up short” mindset when I was about 15. I felt I didn’t meet my church’s standards of a good girl because I experienced “impure thoughts”. Somehow that made me less of a good person! I internalized that fear and it became a part of my being until I left the Church when I was 20. I was also told I was selfish a lot growing up, and I internalized that, too. To this day, my inner critic takes on the voice and tone of people who have criticized me in the past. There are times when I can’t remember the voices of the people themselves until my inner critic is coming at me. I viewed myself as a failure for many years, even believing that God saw me as such. After all, what all-knowing God could love a human who thought such impure thoughts and was so selfish? In other words, I took what I had heard and told myself and didn’t believe it even if I was presented with evidence to counter these thoughts.

I must have glossed over the sermons where God loves me despite my flaws and the fact that I do come up short all the time. That is the Great Constant, and I didn’t realize it was there until I was 21. It was then that I started to learn that failure wasn’t defeat because that love is constant and unwavering. Backed with that new knowledge, I began to see myself in a different light, and I began to learn that forgiving myself isn’t just an aspect of self care. It is essential for me to progress.

Remember that description of swallowing that hot coal? Imagine what that would do! You would be severely injured and it is likely you would die. But what if you buried that hot coal?

This is the hard part, at least for me, and there are plenty of days where I can’t do what I’m about to describe. A person’s experiences are valid, and ours are no exception. Sometimes this takes time.

On an ideal day, the first step is recognizing that what I did was a mistake. I may have done something really bad, but the first thing I try to do is realize that nine times out of ten I haven’t done something so wrong that I can’t come back from it. Second, I make amends if it is a person I have harmed or wronged. If I find myself beating myself up over my mistake a few hours afterward after having done this, it usually means I haven’t done step three, planning how I can do better the next time I come across an opportunity to do the same thing. Step three may be the most comforting in many situations because it helps me realize that this isn’t the end and I shouldn’t beat the shit out of myself if I have a plan for the future. Odds are, this is a small mistake that the other person won’t remember the next day unless they are reminded of it.

It’s normal to have crap days. It’s normal to be clumsy. It’s normal to mess up. It’s how you choose to handle it that determines how you’ll progress in my experience.

It can be very hard for some to forgive themselves, and I don’t want you to take this as another opportunity to kick the shit out of yourself if this is something you experience. This takes time and will not happen overnight. With small moves it will get better, though. It takes work and I’m still working on it.

Before I leave you, I have promised myself that I will write down ten things I am thankful for today.

Here they are:

  1. My husband and his patience
  2. This laptop where I can write
  3. This blog and the outlet it provides
  4. Alex, Berri, Stephen, Athena, and Esme, my instruments
  5. This quiet basement
  6. “Take On Me” by A-ha, which I am writing to
  7. That I am awake right now
  8. That we actually have bagels with cream cheese at this moment in time
  9. That I know how to write and have had this gift fostered my whole life
  10. My hair, which is growing
  11. Chadwick, my lizard baby

What Will We Do When We’re Sober?

Hello, friends!

I chose this line from “Sober” by Lorde as the title because this song meant the world to me during a time that I used to look on with shame and something closer to disgust. But like with many things in my life, I find that my perspective on it has changed. In hindsight, I believe now that I was trying to thrive.

The period I am referring to is the time I spent at Idaho school. I may not have been perfect. I may have gone off my meds for some time. But I think that the anger I felt and the questions I started to ask were valid.

Let me begin by saying that if you think you’re loving someone by only supporting them with money and not listening to the other things they say or being there for them when they need help with something that you think isn’t real or valid to talk about, you aren’t loving them properly. With that being said, let’s go on.

In Idaho school, I started to strike out on my own. I would stay up all night at times and skip doses of my meds, which would throw my moods off, but I began to understand things more. And in the process, I got very angry at my mother because I felt she was only throwing money at me instead of listening to me and supporting me in ways I needed more help with. And since she was throwing money at me, she felt I had no right to be angry at her. She wouldn’t let me be about her thoughts on my “mental illness”, and chocked my “derailing” up to that. When I tried to express my anger or my emotions, they were shut down.

As such, I began to associate that time with shame and something close to disgust. After everything that has transpired these last few months, I have come to realize that my anger was and is likely justified. Giving some money does not equal love for them, no matter how many times someone claims it is.

I made a few bad decisions, that’s true. But I wish she had listened to me. I know I lost my dad, who was my favorite person. That may have messed me up and derailed me temporarily, but that didn’t give her the right or privilege to dismiss my feelings as not real or inconvenient, even if she didn’t understand them. I wish she would have made an effort to understand.

Where to now?

I have been trying to forgive her, but it hurts like hell. I’m not sure how to forgive her yet, but I think it’s a journey and I’m supposed to trust the process. I can’t expect her to understand right now, nor can I barge up to her or tell her off. If she ever reads this, I hope she won’t get angry and will instead try to listen. Please.

It’s strange how my outlook on life has changed and how some things turn negative when they once were positive. I read once or twice that there’s opposition in all things. Everything has a light and dark side and nothing is purely good or evil, and sometimes perspectives change. Mine definitely has.

I will leave you with this –

If you’re in a situation where you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to drop me an email at magoadportas@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Love,

Mago