Music and me: a love story

I was always drawn to music.

First, it was my way to communicate with my parents. Mom and I would turn up the volume and dance in the car. It allowed us to bond without stumbling through awkward conversation, and it kept me from asking questions she didn’t have answers to. We would jam out to Santana or Matchbox 20, and those times were always when I felt closest to her.

With dad, it became a game. I’ll give you a bag of m&ms or $10 if you can name this song and who sings it.  I always lost, but I now have a vast knowledge of the classics.

I was always the girl with music on. I still am. I pause conversations and don’t leave parking lots until I find the perfect song. I cannot stand silence. I always have to have something playing.

Sometimes I have to write in public where I am not in control of the playlist or I spend all of my valuable writing time searching for the perfect song to match whatever mood I’m in.

It isn’t that I’m picky, I’ll listen to anything someone recommends. My playlists range from country to Johnny Cash to Taylor Swift to Godsmack to Jason Isbell to 90s rock to Usher to Ed Sheeran to Augustana to Elvis to country to whatever is on the radio and so much more. I love everything, I just enjoy when the music fits my mood. I don’t understand people who stick strictly to one genre. No judgement, but I’m so all over the place with my music I couldn’t imagine narrowing my taste down.

In middle school, I had song lyrics written on paper and tacked on my walls. I wanted to be like my mom. When she was in high school, she had Aerosmith lyrics written on her wall in sharpie. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but it wasn’t worth the wrath of my step mom to copy her entirely. So instead I collaged my walls with other people’s words as I struggled to find my voice.

I would get in trouble at night because I’d sleep with the radio on just a touch too loud. My parents never wanted to hear Fall Out Boy at 2 a.m. as much as I did. I think that’s likely why they finally gave in and bought me an iPod. Then I could listen to whatever angsty shit I was into at the time, and they could sleep in peace.

I used to walk around the house with my headphones in singing along and jamming out. Happily in my own world. The same way I would read everywhere I went.

Music was an escape, a solace. In times when I was afraid to say how I felt, there was someone out there who had said it already. If I wasn’t ready to own my emotions, I could chalk it up to a song lyric I liked and deny my connection to it.

My dad had this big black CD case he kept underneath the TV full of things like Better than Ezra, Weezer and Dave Matthews. Much to his irritation (I was (am?) notoriously terrible for returning things I borrow), I borrowed it to add the music in my iTunes library.

“The Space Between” by Dave Matthews was the first song I really fell in love with. I heard it when I took the album from my dad’s CD case and played it on repeat for days. I got in a fight with my best friend and wrote the lyrics to that song on the back of a painting I did for her. I was trying to write out how I felt, but I couldn’t find it. Then there it was.

space between

That was the first song that hit me in that profound way. It was the first time I owned my connection to a song. It was the first time I realized the power of music. I’d loved it before, but that song made me realize just how much.

I eventually named my blog after it because I’m constantly feeling like I’m in spaces between things. Life, in a sense, is a series of spaces between. We just don’t realize it in the moment because it’s so easy to get caught up in how wildly important everything feels when it is staring you in the face.

That song changed my perspective on my relationship with music.

I use it to search for what I’m trying to say. Hence the constant playlist changing when I write. I realize that there are some things that others before me have said better. In most things, I’m a very visual person. I have to see things to understand them. Music takes me to a different place. Music opens the window to my mind so I can see what’s in there, what’s going on, what’s bothering me. Sometimes songs lead me to what I’m trying to say. Sometimes they say something so completely opposite of what I’m feeling that it clears up my confusion.

There have been times that I’ve tried to write about things or I’ve tried to explain things to people, and I almost want to piece together song lyrics and deliver it to them instead of working through the mud of trying to put my feelings into words. There are so many times that instead of having a conversation with someone, I just want to make them a playlist, and say “here. Listen. This is it.”

I usually have the music conversation with someone right when I first meet them. You can get to know a person pretty quickly based on what’s on their playlist.

I don’t know much about rhythm or melody. I don’t play any instruments. I can’t sing to save my life, as my daughter loves to point out. I was singing her to sleep the other night, and she said “mommy, stop it. You no sound good.” Once I was done comforting my bruised ego, I was just happy that she recognizes good music from bad music at two years old.

I may not be able to play it, but I love it. I don’t think you have to fully understand something (or someone for that matter) to love it. Or at least be entirely fascinated by it. Music moves through me. I can feel it pulsating through my body, and I can’t help but sway with it. I don’t need to see it for it to have an affect on me. It’s a force that I can’t deny. There have been countless times in my life where I’ve just blasted a favorite song and danced out all of my problems. It makes me feel something I can’t even explain.

I go see one of my best friends play every week, and it’s my favorite thing. He is wildly talented and captivates me and blows me away every time I watch him play. He has an ability to connect with people through his music, whether it’s covers or songs he’s written. I love when I can catch his eye, and he smiles, and I can see how complete he feels being up there and how much it means to him. That’s what I love about music. I love feeling connected to something or someone. I love the transparency that comes from people sharing their music with me.

I’m lucky to have such a talented friend and lucky that my always over-the-top enthusiasm hasn’t caused him to kick me out yet. (Go look him up on youtube, his name’s Zach Henderson. Or better yet: click here, I did the hard part for you.)

I love the way music  has the ability to take you to another place. I love how lost in my mind, in my daydreams, I get when I focus on the lyrics and the story of a song.

It’s the best escape and also roots me firmly to the earth. It doesn’t make sense, but if you love music or any art the way I do, you’ll understand.

Music makes me feel less alone in the world. It makes me feel close to people and close to something I cannot explain.

It’s gotten me through rough patches. It’s helped me find my own voice. It’s pulled me out of panic attacks and depressive episodes. It’s been loyal.

Music is like a time machine. I hear a song, and it takes me back to a specific moment. It takes me back to a way I felt. It takes me a while to actually write about situations I’ve gone through. Mostly because it takes time to process/let the stories unfold before I can tell them. However, as I work through things I’m always listening to songs and applying them to situations. Then when I go back and write about things, I listen to those playlists and am pulled back to that emotional place, and I can create my own words.

It’s a love I cannot deny, and that will never cease.

Hit me with your recommendations, I always need new stuff.


On relationships, breakthroughs and happy times

Lately I’ve been working on putting smaller pieces of larger stories together. I’ve written about this weird block I’m working through, and that’s a big part of it.

I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding telling stories or processing things or dealing with things, and now that I am, I’m trying to figure out how it all fits together. First in a collection of poems, but on a larger scale, how these events have changed my life and shaped who I am in smaller ways.

The large ones are obvious, it’s the smaller shifts I like to explore.

There’s a saying I hear often (that I’m likely going to butcher) that says something along the lines of “you don’t know the important moments are important until later.” It’s rather obvious, but it’s interesting watching that idea manifest itself in really tangible ways in your own story.

I’ve been writing about Greece a lot. I always knew that going to Greece would change my life, but I never though it would have occurred this way.

That trip was really the moment (collection of moments rather) when I decided that my marriage was over. I didn’t look at it like that then because I was still trying to convince myself there was some semblance of hope that we could fix things, but there wasn’t.

My favorite moments of that trip were the ones where I was alone. Then there’s dirt house story I told here. Then there’s when I was at the most beautiful beach in the world, floating in the clearest, bluest water I’d ever seen, and I still felt empty. I knew at that moment it was as good as it was going to get. Going to Greece was always my life dream, and Chris made it happen, but I still couldn’t be happy.

I’m sure he felt as though he’d given me everything he could give, but it would be unfair to speak for him.

I knew then, though, that if I couldn’t be happy in that space, nothing about that life was for me. I left shortly after that, but the way it all unfolded just kind of came together for me recently.

Since then, though, I’ve been paying extra attention to small moments.

I went out with some friends last week, and we had a really good time. I’m really fortunate to have met some of the best people since I moved to Florida, and we had fun.

We took this picture (below) the other night, and I love it for a few reasons.


First, that lip color, though. I’m obsessed. Second, do you see how amazing the people I’m with are? They’re freaking great.

Mostly it’s the fact that I look so genuinely happy in this photo. Because I am. It isn’t just the tequila/sangria, I promise.

Let’s rewind.

Earlier this evening, I’d had a really dumb situation happen with a not-so-dumb boy. Sort of a misunderstanding, sort of a moment where I had to check myself to make sure I’m not selling myself short like I frequently do. Boundaries and expectations in relationships are freaking hard to navigate, even if things are super casual.

Anyhow, he hurt my feelings, but instead of going home and crying about it, I went out with my friends and had a seriously good time dancing all of our troubles away.

For once I didn’t make other people more important, I just took care of myself.

Judging from the three texts I received from said boy while I was in the club, he knew he upset me fairly immediately. It didn’t matter.

Funny, though, how people only want to show you that they care when they think you’re halfway out the door. I wish more people would appreciate the people they have in their lives while they’re there.

Anyhow, said boy and I worked it out. I didn’t write this to bash on him, he’s a good guy. Anyone who let’s me ramble/overthink to them in a series of novella-length text messages usually ends up good in my book. But we’ll see how this story unfolds. Who the hell really knows.

I wrote this to point out, once again, how far things have come. Brenna spent a lot of time with me last fall when the actions of one particular jerk (who will remain unnamed because evidently I’m only good enough behind closed doors) would ruin our nights out.

I’d end up a wreck. Crying in a bathroom or on a bar stool because some idiot wouldn’t pay attention to me. Because he decided that he could pop in and out of my life as he so chose, and I let him. Always waiting there at his beck and call whenever he needed an ego boost.


I won’t do that again. I won’t be that for someone ever again. Although sometimes it’s hard to tell when you fall into that role.

Hindsight is 20/20. My regular vision…well, I should probably wear my glasses more often.

Anyways, I did not end up in a puddle of tears in some gross bar bathroom. That, my friends, is progress.

That, my friends, is me taking care of me. And that is how you get a genuine smile.

It was a small moment, one night out with those fabulous people in (hopefully) a series of them. But it did not go down as “the night Michelle ended up crying over some dumb dude.” Instead it’s “the night Saqif showed us all up on the dance floor.”

It was a small moment, but those are the ones that make all the difference.


You’re crazy, but you’re also sane

Here I am. Yet again, surrounded by boxes and half-packed suit cases, trying to sort through the piles of clothes, books and toys to pack them away.


I’ve moved five times in the last two years. Five. Not counting the three times we switched hotel rooms in the four months we lived in Virginia.

Five times.

I should be an expert at this by now. I should have a method to the madness of moving, but I don’t.

I don’t have a method to much of what I do in life. I have a restless spirit, almost to the point of recklessness. I’m a wanderer, physically and mentally. I day dream more than the average person, and I’m frequently wishing I were somewhere else. I can’t sit still to save my life so here I am, packing. Again.

My books and notebooks are off their precisely organized shelves and packed neatly into boxes. They are usually the only things I pack with any semblance of care. Seeing my journals filled with the stories, thoughts, mistakes, regrets and dreams of the past few months (or years) in a box always has an interesting affect on me.

Most of the time I feel like a complete mess. Once everything is packed though, and the physical parts of my life are put away, I can’t help but hope that maybe the less tangible parts of my life can be that organized. Doubtful, but a girl can dream.

I know it is time to have new experiences to fill more notebooks with.

It’s time for a new chapter. Again.

There is something exhilarating about starting over. New opportunities, new challenges. I know this next step will lead me to some great places. There are quite a number of good things coming my way, I can feel it.

Still, it is hard to leave other things behind. There are people I will miss more than I know how to handle. Some I know will still be around, their loyalty has been proven time and time again. I’m grateful to have friends who don’t care about my geographic location.

Others, well, I worry. I worry that not being here means those relationships will end. They likely will, and that means they weren’t meant for me anyways, but they aren’t things I’m ready to let go of.

I’m big on closure, and there are some things that will feel unfinished.

I’m still trying to convince myself that is okay.

My fear about this next step comes from my lack of a back up plan. In every scary step I’ve taken, I’ve had a clear “If plan A doesn’t work out, then I will…” So as much as I’ve felt like I’m diving into things head first, I’ve always known what I would do if it didn’t work out. My issues stem more from a lack of confidence or courage to act on those plans.

This time, I don’t have a back up plan. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t get things to work out. On the one hand, I have every confidence that I will figure it out. On the other, trying to be okay with uncertainty is a constant process.

I feel very Rory Gilmore in the revival, except I know where (most of) my underwear is, and I (unfortunately) don’t have a super attractive international lover. Man, would I be less upset if I had Logan Huntzberger in my back pocket.

Scratch that, I would be happier if I had Jess Mariano to remind me that I’m still a contender. 

I rambled about this to my lovely friend Eden earlier today. She told me that my uncertainty shows I’m a mature and sane adult.

“Mature and sane?” I questioned. “Those aren’t usually how people describe me.”

Her response?

“I mean girl, you cray. But you’re also sane.”

She’s right. I’m cray. I keep thinking I need to tame myself, to “get my shit together.” I don’t even know what that would look like. I keep thinking that maybe if I were less restless I would be happier. That if I didn’t let people in so easily I would be happier. That if I got a better job or a retirement fund or something that I would be happier.

Fuck that. 

The people in my life love me despite my crazy. I will forever be grateful to them and will constantly search for ways to show them just how much I love and appreciate them.

I have always had this need for outside approval. I can’t do anything without running it past a panel of people. I either do what they say, or I do something because they told me not to, and I felt like I needed to prove to them that I’m a grown ass woman who makes her own decisions.

Neither of those are good ways to make decisions. Doing anything based solely on anyone else hasn’t gotten me far in life. In fact, it made me completely lose my sense of self. I’m just starting to get it back, and I’ll be damned if I hand it over to anyone else again.

The past month I holed up. I didn’t drink. I didn’t go out. I hardly saw anyone, and I didn’t reach out much to talk or catch up.

It was just me and my notebooks (and Sophie, of course). I needed clarity. I had decisions to make and things to figure out.

Usually, I would feel terribly lonely and anxious. I actually enjoyed the alone time quite a bit.

For one of the first times, it is nice to feel like I am doing what I need and not what other people need from me. I suppose I’ve been doing that a lot over the past few months, but it is nice that it feels like a new normal and not just a whim I followed.

I’m so tired of taking better care of others than I do for myself. I always talk about how I love big, but sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes people aren’t deserving of it, and I have to realize that taking my love back doesn’t make me a bitch. It just means I’ve learned to love myself as much as I love others.

That’s another story for another time.

All I know right now is that it’s okay. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. It’s all gonna be okay.