maybe it’s time for something new : tips for simplicity

Driving through parts of the Tennessee countryside I’ve never seen before, I am always struck by one thing: the simplicity of it all. I mean, when I first moved out to College Grove, it certainly felt like I was in the “middle of nowhere,” but I quickly became familiar with the fastest routes to the nearest grocery stores and soon enough, a 30 minute drive to downtown Nashville (on a good day) didn’t feel so bad.

But the homes I pass on winding tree-lined, single-lane country roads are truly of another variety. These are people who don’t have much to their names aside from a double-wide trailer and a pile of kids toys in the yard. I’d be willing to bet most of them don’t feel the yearn for designer goods or fancy restaurants. They may not even care what they are. Because they know how to appreciate the silence, how to stay at home and have a perfectly good time – likely because they’ve never known any different. While I, on the other hand, have always been privy to convenience – weekends that must be catered to by the latest entertainment, meals bought out “on the town” after a day of shopping, and the constant, incessant need to be doing something exciting.

Half the time, I don’t even know what I want – I just have the sensation that I need something “more”.

This doesn’t exactly make for the best quality of life. I’m always uneasy, trying to remember what hot new spot I wanted to try for dinner this weekend, feeling at a loss when I’m not out of the house and on the road by an early hour. I don’t know how to relax, how to have quiet time, how to appreciate a Sunday afternoon that isn’t based on a rainy day and a Netflix binge.

When I have a day off, I find one reason or another to stay out until “the work day” is done. That’s the only way I know how to be at home – after hours.

And I don’t enjoy being this way. I’d love to wake up at a comfortable time, sip on my coffee for a good hour or so, ease into an enlivening workout, and set to work reading, writing, or crafting…but even when I find the time – these are not the things I choose to do. I don’t make them a priority. I want the ever-elusive “more”. I want adventure, exploration, and exceeding happiness at every waking moment.

What I want most of all is to find all that happiness in the “nothingness”. Yes, I must be motivated. Yes, I must find joy in my work and my relationship – but I shouldn’t be wasting my time seeking something more than what I already have. I don’t need another perfect writers’ bag, another iced coffee, or 5 more wild bandannas. I don’t need the perfect rose gold ring – it’s already on my finger. I don’t need to eat out – I can make it at home. And I don’t need to feel unfulfilled, because my life is going exactly as it’s meant to be.

So what are the things that hold you back? The insecurities, the wishes, the dreams, the pressures to be perfect, respected, or simply seen as a fully-functioning adult? Do they drown out your potential for peace, for self-love, for quiet? Do they disrupt your financial stability, your ability to be happy with what you have and who you are in the moment? Do they leave you feeling like you’ve missed out, like you’ve forgotten something, like you’re letting someone down?

Then STOP! Easier said than done, I know, but you (and I) are not doing ourselves any favors here. If you have the time to sit and read this blog – if you have internet access and shelter and food and comfort and a working mind – then you have all that you need. And I do, too.

So here’s what I propose:

  • Don’t be vapid with (all) your free time. I don’t know about y’all, but as soon as I get online with nothing to do I’m 1. Checking the news, Instagram, or Facebook, and 2. Browsing all the sales that came through my email last night. Nothing is stopping me from doing something more satisfying and enlightening with my time, like writing, walking outside, cooking, cleaning, or reading. Instead, I’m looking for more ideas to fill myself to the brim until I explode. And that’s no good.
  • Set attainable goals that make you feel good. God, y’all, I am not into goal-setting. But it’s actually a pretty great practice. My theory is if you set goals that you know you’ll hit, you’ll feel more motivated to keep going. You’ll feel more satisfied sitting at home and typing if you can feel that you’re satisfying a greater part of yourself. The simplicity of it will serve you well and keep you from distractions.
  • Practice gratitude. Three things, five things, ten things – whatever you can muster, take time daily to think about what you’re grateful for. Very rarely will you be truly grateful for stopping at McDonald’s and getting a McFlurry on your way home. But you will probably discover you’re more grateful for that person who rubs your shoulders before bed, for the painting you sat down and created, or for the excellent meal you whipped up for your friends. The more value you recognize in the little things, the more you’ll crave them – and the more you won’t want more.
  • Let go of perfection. Y’all wanna hear a funny story? I’m obsessed with writers’ bags – usually beautiful, old leather totes that have traveled across the states or the world, worn down by pounds of books, papers, and pens. There is so much personality vested in these bags. But here’s the thing – you can’t truly have one unless you use it. In my endless search for the “perfect bag,” I find myself with way too many – none of which have ever been able to achieve their true purpose and look because they aren’t used with enough regularity to ensure it. This is such an honest note-to-self that less is actually more, and if I could just calm down and be satisfied, I’d eventually get exactly what I want (and save some money/space in the process). When you find yourself craving “those perfect jeans” or “that perfect rug,” stop and ask yourself, Do I really need it? Do I have something already in its place? And you’ll know the answer.
  • Accept that sometimes the “simple things” do still require some $$$. For example, I’ve always been a firm believer in doing my nails myself. It’s unnecessary, right? But after the engagement, I was treated to an SNS manicure – and it’s changed my life. Sure, there’s cost involved, but the stress I save knowing that my nails won’t chip one day after I paint them is so, so worth it. Plus, it helps me feel just a little more glamorous even on the rainiest of days.
  • If you forgot it, it doesn’t matter. This is the hardest thing for me to process. That thought you had that slipped away; that thing you were going to say, but forgot; that store you wanted to go to but missed on the way home? If you forgot it, it doesn’t truly matter. Let it go. Move on. You’ll be happier for it. But likewise, if it’s a thought that’s continuously nagging at you and won’t go away, like GO TO YOGA CLASS, then you should probably do it. Your body won’t lie about what it needs, and some of those “extra to-dos” are, in fact, necessary.
  • Don’t fall victim to the belief that you have to go it alone. Talk to people, share your feelings, your frustrations, your wants and your needs. Sometimes things can naturally become more simple simply because you have help, or because someone else understands what you’re going through. Do you not like staying home because you feel like all the chores fall on you? Then make it a party and work together with your roommate/spouse. Do you wish you had a cozy space all to yourself – then create it! You might be surprised how willing others are to respect your needs – they just need to know what’s going on. And if you’re worried it’s all related to something else, like depression or anxiety, then don’t be afraid to seek real help.

xxix

The weeks leading up to this birthday have left me run ragged with numerous obligations, pre-booked time, and little to no opportunities for myself. Which is why it’s so very important, today of all days, to take the time to myself to reflect on it all, just as I do every year.

Back in January, I chose a word for myself: Aspire. And for the most part, I think I kept up with it – in random spurts and phases. Last month marked my most successful month with this blog: once daily views of about 5 people per post leaped up to 50, 60, and nearly 100. Without even thinking of this word, I have pushed myself throughout this year to develop my brand, my message, and my devotion to A Necessary Rebrand. I have chosen to view myself as a true writer, to accept that my words have purpose, even when it might feel like a lie, or like I’m only feigning to be more than what I am.

But leading up to this birthday, the one thing that’s hit me hardest is the concept of balance: that is, the balance of time, obligation, emotional states, physical activity, new hobbies, and quiet undisturbed moments.

So that’s what I aspired to give myself this morning: I woke up slowly, I engaged in a short yoga flow, I drew some tarot cards, and I took my time. Because these are the things I am seeking for myself in my 29th year – movement, spirituality, positive self-perception, and the ability to do for myself what I actually plan to do.

What’s funny is that the hardest part of this day was the fact that I pretty much had no plan for it beyond the morning. We drove into Chattanooga last night for three days of nothingness – escape, stillness, and an interminable opportunity to go with whatever flow felt right in the moment. It’s hard to imagine a birthday where things aren’t all planned out, where you don’t have a big dinner planned with a group of your closest friends, where nothing especially special occurs. But this is what my body needs right now – this is what my soul needs right now – and hopefully it’s going to bring round a new phase of aspiration, and an even more important phase of balance.

It’s not hard to imagine how 5 straight weeks of work – interrupted only by a surprise proposal and all that goes with it – can leave a person feeling imbalanced. A 30 minute drive to yoga class ceases its purpose as an “escape” and starts to feel more like something that’s cutting into your free time. Intentions of going to the grocery and stalking up on good, healthy foods are much more easily replaced by a quick stop at Papa John’s. And sitting down to write is a taxing endeavor that requires more brain power than is readily available.

What’s damaging is how reminiscing on all of these missed opportunities makes one feel less than capable of being an adult. And more importantly, leaves us realizing that we’re only letting ourselves down in the process.

More than that, I’ve personally realized over the last several weeks just how often I sacrifice my own wants and needs for the sake of other people: I quiet my own voice to listen to the louder shouts of others. Which is “kind,” as some might say. But utterly depleting, as well.

So while I might consider speaking of resolutions and words of the year in January 2020, I think it’s more important to think about the promises I make myself today, on my 29th birthday, when I have the peace and quiet I need to truly evaluate where I stand in this life, what I have to offer, and how I’m going to prevent feeling this way again as I embark on my 30th year next October.


I believe it’s important to take notice of others, but not to the extent that I ignore my own deepest needs.

I believe it’s time to find balance, to find some structure and routine, to make inexcusable promises to myself that will ensure my future health and stability.

I believe that committing to myself in this moment is the only way that I can ever truly commit to another.

I believe in crystals, and tarot, and opening myself up to the forces of the universe, placing some faith in where they lead me.

I believe in connecting to my spiritual self.

I believe in taking the time for others as it relates to my own needs, and not sacrificing my own desires for self-improvement in exchange for feeling like I’m not a victim of FOMO.

I believe in telling my story, in taking risks for sharing that story, and in encouraging others to do the same.

I believe that this story has some value that I’m still figuring out. I’m still in the middle of figuring out the bigger picture, and that’s okay.

I believe in simplicity. I believe in seeking out opportunities for this simplicity and relishing in it – not looking for anything more.

I believe that self love and self care are completely different things. I need to work on both of them, but this – this time – is all about the care that’s too easy to forget.

I believe in the power of love.

I believe in never taking family or friends for granted.

I believe in my personal worth.

I believe in honoring that worth.

And I believe in my ability to change, grow, and find the balance I’m so desperately seeking.


I worry, sometimes, as I observe my Libra traits, that balance is not who I am, but something to which I will always aspire.

And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that’s something to look forward to. Or maybe it’s something which I must work towards every day, knowing that by making the right choices, I will be able to get there.

I say all of this in the hopes that one of you out there feels the same way, too. That most of you also view your birthday as not simply a celebration of your birth but as an opportunity for rebirth. And that all of us can recognize, together, how we so often deny ourselves the simplest of pleasures, the greatest opportunities for happiness, and the the most satisfying of moments.

…to beverly hills : a reflection on ken burns “country music” documentary pt. II

Read Part I Here

“There’s a paradox that’s always existed in country music. How much change do you embrace? And how much change can you make without completely obliterating what you were and what you came from?”

— Bill C. Malone, Historian

The synchronized growth of the City of Nashville and Country Music is something with which I have a deep love-hate relationship. We now have tons of interesting restaurants, breweries, and free music events going on all over town. But we also have a crap-ton of tourists. And the music that represents this city now, well, it’s not always my cup of tea. It doesn’t hold up with the kind of magic that once ran its way up and down all of Music Row.

Ketch Secor, of Old Crow Medicine Show, says it best in an interview with Rolling Stone: the institutions of Nashville need to have a “moment of reckoning….in which they are able to talk about ways in which they allowed and supported a particular paradigm to exist”. The change, he says, isn’t needed on the stage. It’s needed on the Row. It’s needed in those office buildings, for those people making the decisions – for those who have let their greed for success make a lot of faulty decisions about the direction in which country music has been going for the last decade or more. (OK, that last sentence is entirely my opinion, but I have a feeling Secor would agree with me more or less.)

There are bands and artists out there, like OCMS, that are doing their best to perpetuate an older, more timeless devotion to many of the acts that made country music great in the first place. But they’re not on the radio. They’re not gaining the national attention that is necessary for change. And if it’s only the people who are already fans – who are already going to those shows and buying those records – listening to those songs, then change can only move so far before it’s brought to a halt.

I first started listening to country music in the early 2000s. I loved the smooth, familiar sounds of Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, and Carrie Underwood – familiar because most of their music could have easily crossed over to my favorite Top 40 stations, I’m sure. I had little interest in the past, because that was long gone and it was too much to catch up on, anyways.

But as I’ve gotten older (to the ripe old age of 28, mind you), my curiosity in the roots of country music has deepened. Maybe we need to get older to search for deeper meaning than a drunken party out in a field – maybe we’re just bored and seeking something new and different. But Nashville doesn’t seem to see it that way – and it makes me sad.

This place that once made me feel so unique, so different, so much more in touch with the world, has now left me feeling alienated within its borders. There’s still goodness here – there’s history, southern charm, and creativity at every turn – but so much of it is being hidden, built around, and obscured by taller and taller boutique hotels.

The Concrete Jungle, I believe they call it.

Walking downtown the other week, I found myself no longer at home, but at war with a thousand scooters, a dirty stench, and a certain sadness that lurked behind the closed storefronts promising new rebuilds – another celebrity bar here, a new shopping mall there.

But watching Ken Burns Country Music has renewed my hope in the past – and my hope that the past might make its way into the future of Music City. Because Nashville doesn’t need to sell its fans on more bros – it needs to challenge the status quo and find promise in preserving the past. As depicted in the documentary, every great era of country music evolved from a need for change: The Outlaws, for example, were not dwelling on the past, but seeking for meaning amidst the growing commercialism of the genre. And eventually – they became the artists we now uphold as “classics”.

I’m not saying we need to throw away our progress – in fact, we could be a hell of a lot more progressive in a lot of ways – and not every country singer should be wearing overalls and a straw hat with blacked-out teeth. But there is a simplicity to the songs of The Carter Family, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, and Merle Haggard that only a handful of modern artists are using as their inspiration today.

In fact, I’d have to wonder if many of our modern artists do seek influence from those older acts, but feel prohibited from exploring those songs due to the pressure of Music Row wanting another #1 hit.

It’s an endless cycle. If all you offer to the public is the same thing, then they’ll keep eating the same thing – because they have to survive. But if you place something new in front of them – if you truly give them the opportunity to make a different choice in satiating their appetite – you might be surprised what they’d choose. At least, some of them. And maybe the more you put those different choices in front of them, the more comfortable they’ll be with making a new choice. It could take some time – but that’s all the more reason to start today.

Now that the documentary’s run is “over,” I can’t help but miss it. There was something so comforting about coming home to it every night, feeling its inspiration weave its way into my psyche, watching the charts as older artists infiltrated the Top 40 on Spotify and iTunes. Maybe I just miss the promise of something new, the hope for change, the possibility of a revolution. Or maybe I – like everyone who found enjoyment in the 8-part series – just needed to be reminded of the past, to dig a little deeper into it, to remember that there’s so much more music out there than what’s being laid out for us by iHeartRadio.

Back in 1962, as country music took on more “suave” and countrypolitan tones, The Beverly Hillbillies series premiered on CBS, featuring a “hillbilly music” theme song performed by a nearly-forgotten Flatt & Scruggs. It revived their career. And silly as the show’s premise was, it actually painted the simple-minded hillbillies as more likable and lovable characters, compared to all the rich city-slickers already living in their flashy neighborhood.

Now, you can type “country music” on Youtube and find music videos like “Rednecker Than You” – an annoying use of words highlighted by visuals of slick, brand-new trucks that your average redneck probably couldn’t even get the proper loan to pay for. The country lifestyle has become a cliche – one that doesn’t even relate to the real country. I should know, because I drive through it every day. Even the genuine countryside here in Middle Tennessee is being encroached upon by golf course communities and Stepford Wife subdivisions. Rather than appreciating the real country for what it is, it seems like our society is doing everything it can to tame it, to make it a greater extension of the growing urbanization of Nashville.

And it just makes me wonder:

What will “country” even be in the next 20 years if we don’t have any country left from which to draw our inspiration?

from bristol… : a reflection on the ken burns “country music” documentary pt. I

please note: I had really great intentions about writing this post the day after Country Music ended. But then I got engaged and was surrounded for people by four days and went back to work and couldn’t get my head on straight before hosting a weekend retreat that has left me entirely exhausted and ready to sleep, but still overly aware of the fact that this post had not been posted and needed to be but also still needed a lot of intensive and focused work before it could see the light of day.

Hence – here it is, about two weeks late, in two parts:

After ingesting 16 hours of country music over the last two weeks, I am consumed with all the feels. I was pretty much a stream of tears for the last 30 minutes of the final episode. Because when I first came to Nashville, I didn’t care about the history, but I still knew there was something that spoke to me. I couldn’t put a finger on it then, but there ws something that drew me in, something that changed my entire life, and something that this documentary drew back up into me. The images that flashed before my eyes, from current-day all the way back to Mother Maybelle Carter made my heart ache for those old-time feelings.

There is still so much goodness in Nashville – and in other parts of the country that are working to preserve what Music Row doesn’t seem much interested in anymore. But there is also so much good in the past – names and songs that most of us don’t remember anymore, but should. I have faith that the genre will circle back again – someday. But it’s high time we start paying attention to where it is that circle needs to go.

I want to believe that something is rustling through the wind on Music Row this week. I want to believe the trees are peeking in through the windows of those old houses and gargantuan executive offices, overhearing conversations of change, whispering to one another that a revolution is about to begin. Hold tight to your roots, because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride, they say to one another. But thank GOD something is finally being done.

This morning, on my short commute to work through the countryside, I was listening to The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s collaborative recording of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. As I thought about the words, as I listened to the varied voices, as I felt the music build from fiddles to pianos and drums and more and more voices layering on top of one another, tears began to cloud my eyes. It was only made worse by the dry weather residue that was obscuring my view through the windshield.

Country music, y’all. There is so much history behind it. History that extends past the oldies of the 60s, past those first hazy recordings of 1920s Bristol, TN, past the borders of this country and the people who founded it. And in that single recording, you can feel every bit of that history.

I can only hope everyone else feels it, too.

You see, that song takes me back to the rebuilding of Nashville, after the 2010 flood. The Grand Ole Opry had been flooded with waters from the Cumberland making their way through the pews right up to the crest of the stage. But the circle – the treasured piece of floorboard transported from the Ryman stage to the new venue back in 1974 – had been preserved. And when the Opry returned on September 28, 2019, its stage was filled with dozens of country stars, new and old, singing that song together, celebrating the endurance, the strength, and the rebirth of the genre.

But there was another kind of growth that took place after the flood, one that put this legacy at risk. (Because if we were going to have to rebuild the city, why not make it bigger and better? Why not take this opportunity to make everything fresh and new again – never mind the consequences that could result from attempting to knock down treasures like RCA Studio A, since rescued and preserved by a movement led by musician Ben Folds – who’s not even a country artist, mind you.) Since then, Music Row is officially listed as one of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

And if that doesn’t clue us in to something going majorly wrong here in Nashville, then I don’t know what will. Talk about scary.

Continue reading here