On Trying to Find Joy When You Don’t Feel It

I almost didn’t write a joy post this week because I don’t really feel any right now. Like I can’t stop crying I don’t feel joy right now. On top of all the stresses of literally doing 4 jobs at work and the continuing pandemic that at least I’m still living in even if no one else is, my 17 year old cat is dying. I can’t remember having to actually go through this before. All the other animals I’ve had during my life have either run away or gotten very sick, very quickly such that we chose to put them asleep almost immediately. I haven’t had to suffer through the slow decline before. I think my parents had to with a cat I got in middle school, but I was no longer living with it when all that happened and hadn’t for a long time, so it wasn’t the same. We’re also supposed to be going to Hilton Head next week, and I have no idea if we should even go. I really need a break, but will I even enjoy the trip if I’m worried about my cat the whole time? Also, I’m worried about subjecting another friend to dealing with a very sick or dead cat. The last cat we had that died had a stroke while we were on vacation and my friends had to deal with taking her to the emergency vet and having her put to sleep with our sign off over the phone. I don’t want to put anyone in that situation again. Even if she’s completely fine while we’re gone, will I regret not spending that time with her since it’s bound to be a very large chunk of the remaining time we have with her? But if I give up my vacation that’s it. There’s no replacement vacation down the line. Our time rolls over at the end of June. I use it now or I lose it.

So that’s all to say I’m pretty much only feeling sadness and stress right now. But I read this article in the New York Times earlier this week, “How to Cultivate Joy Even When It Feels In Short Supply“. It in and of itself was a little joy reminding about the importance of practicing joy even when joy seems hard to come by. So here’s me going through the motions this week as a reminder that there are still joys in the world even if it’s hard to feel them.

  • This first one is a bit of a cheat as it is not something that happened this past week or even in the past couple of weeks. There a few things I added to my joy list that are sort of perpetual joys, so I was saving them for times when I might be short on other things to write about. This one is a little sad because it’s something my cat used to do all the time, but hasn’t been doing the last few weeks since she started not feeling well. It used to be that when I came home from work she would be sitting on the sofa and would meow for me to come pet her and do this little move where she lifted her head up and her nose got all twitchy in anticipation while I was walking over to her. I loved it, and I’m sad that it seems like she might not ever do it again. But it’s a good reminder to cherish these sorts of little things because you never know when they might end.
  • Speaking of the cat, even though it’s a sad plan, I’m glad we at least have the plan to just sort of make her comfortable and let her ride out her life now. For weeks we were up in the air running tests and waiting for the vet to call us back and the not knowing was just stressful. We still don’t know 100% what is wrong, but it’s likely cancer and we made the choice to not continue testing to confirm and do chemo because based on what I’ve seen it probably buys us only another 6-9 months with her and that didn’t feel worth it to put either her or use through.
  • Two toned tulips. The past week or so has been peak tulip season in Baltimore. Lots and lots of people have tulips planted in their yards, and I have really enjoyed seeing all the different colors there are. I’m especially fond of two toned tulips. Some of them are dramatically two toned and some are very subtle, but they’re my favorites.
  • Kwanzan cherry trees. There are lots of flowering trees around where I live as well. There are several different types of cherry trees and pear trees. My favorite though are Kwanzan cherry trees, which bloom a little bit later than some of the other trees and have also been in full bloom in the last week or two. They have these really full, lush pink blooms. I adore them.
  • We usually get take out for dinner on Thursday nights and I was trying to decide between bbq and tacos, so I threw up a poll in my Insta stories on Thursday afternoon. BBQ took an early lead. It was only one vote ahead by the time I ordered the food, but I went with it because it was in the lead at that point. By the time we picked up the food, they were tied. Then because the poll stayed up for 24 hours people were still voting well past when we actually ate dinner and it amused me that in the final tally tacos made a big comeback and won.
  • Speaking of BBQ, I like that we have a neighborhood BBQ place, Blue Pit BBQ, that has a BBQ jackfruit sandwich on it, which means I can enjoy the meat and my vegetarian husband can actually eat there. Most BBQ places are not friendly to vegetarians. Even most of their sides have meat in them. But he can get a sandwich and a side of mac and cheese and be happy, so I get to be happy with some BBQ too.
  • I was out taking a walk this weekend and I wound up behind a couple of older ladies walking together and one of them was playing with a yo-yo as they walked. Why not?
  • We had some really nice weather this past weekend and it brought people outside. My house sits right at the top middle of the T in a T shaped intersection. There is a group ofneighbors on the cross street that sort of dead ends into our house that just hang outside all the time when the weather is halfway decent. In the summer they set up canopy tents. Mind you none of us have front yards. They’re just hanging out on the sidewalk. I’ve always appreciated watching them treat their sidewalk like an extension of their house, particularly because they’re not obnoxious about it or doing it in a way that I think is really disturbing anyone else. It was nice to see them back at it. Though it almost all ended in tragedy apparently because some jerk face who was involved in a hit in run a few blocks away and was trying to get away for some reason drove down their block not on the street, but on the sidewalk while they were all out there. Luckily no one was hurt, but seriously what the hell is wrong with people.
  • And that brings us to our musical delight of the week, which is somewhat related. My next door neighbors have a back porch area that they’ve turned into a little oasis and spend a lot of time out there since they have a house even smaller than ours and multiple generations living in it. I often hear them sitting out there playing music, especially if we have the windows open. If I hated the music, I would probably be annoyed by it. Luckily I don’t. It’s a lot of 70s and 80s soft rock, which I’m all in on. This was the first time I can remember hearing them out there with their music since it got cold, and I appreciated that the first song I heard was “Summer Breeze”. Great song and it felt very apropos for the occasion.

New(ish) Music Friday: These Hard Days by Casii Stephan

I don’t have a particularly new song for you today. I haven’t been able to listen to a lot of music in the past few weeks except on my commute so I haven’t been exposed to much new music recently. So instead I looked back through the songs I’ve added to my 2022 playlist so far this year to find one I hadn’t already written about, that you probably haven’t heard of, and about which I felt like I had something to say. So here we are with Casii Stephan’s “These Hard Days”

This song was released way back in September of 2021, though I obviously didn’t hear it until sometime in early 2022 since it’s in my 2022 playlist instead of 2021’s. I don’t think a lot of people are still identifying with this song, but I am more than ever right now. So much feels out of my control and the fact that everyone else seems to be back to living their 2019 lives while my world still seems so small feels even worse at the moment because every day it feels more and more like I’m on my own. I saw another immunocompromised person tweeting after the transit mask mandate was struck down earlier this week talking about never being able to do anything “outside of the tight little routines we’ve been forced to weave for ourselves” and that really described my life perfectly. It’s not that I do zero things, but I almost do. And they are pretty much the same things over and over. It’s not that I didn’t know people were living their lives as if the pandemic doesn’t exist anymore, but having a first row seat to watching my family just running around doing whatever they wanted without a second thought and no masks in sight when I visited them last week just hit home for me even moreso about how limited my life is and how every time I do anything I do this insane calculus in my head that half the time is so exhausting I just give up anyway. It’s beyond tiring and demoralizing at this point.

Anyway, this song that was written when probably a lot more people were feeling it, but it’s still speaking to me right now. So I share it with you in case you are feeling any kind of way at the moment to. It’s a good one to have in your arsenal because we all hit a rough patch at some time or another. It’s got a good message of hope in it. I like that it doesn’t feel like an overly rah rah type of hope either. It’s a simple sort of hope that sort of says things are bad, but we can keep moving forward even if that’s all we’re doing. I like the idea of hope being something you can move slowly towards even when you can’t really see or feel it. They lyric “Though these days may be long and hard, they’re still our days” feels like that to me.

Last Week Delight

It’s time once again to see what’s been bringing me some little delights in the past week.

  • Visiting my family. I haven’t seen my family since June of 2021 in those brief shining days when we thought COVID was going to be over. I canceled going to see them for Christmas because of the Omicron surge, which was the right call since several of them did in fact get COVID over Christmas. My parents were flying to my sister’s in Massachusetts for Easter and my niece’s birthday, so we decided to go up. Unfortunately my husband didn’t get to go because he had to stay home with our sick cat, but I’m glad I at least still got to make the trip. It was nice to see everyone for a few days.
  • Good traffic. Having made several trips to New England by car last summer in horrendous traffic, I’m happy that for the most part I didn’t hit much traffic on either my drive up or back. Partly it’s because I’ve gotten smarter about my routes, but also I left early enough that I avoided most of the worst of it. It was just starting to get bad in Maryland on that stretch of 95 that only has 3 lanes instead of 4.
  • Toll by tag. I really like the places where they’ve switched to toll by tag, and you can just keep driving while cameras scan you from overhead. It’s so much nicer than having to slow down for toll booths even when you have an EZPass and don’t have to completely stop. It’s nicer than even in places like parts of Delaware where they’ve separated out a couple of lanes for EZPass holders where you don’t go through a booth if you’re not paying cash because even then you have to make sure you’re getting into the correct lane. And of course for people paying cash you don’t have to worry about having money on you. You just get to drive and pay later. I wish they would switch everything to toll by tag.
  • My sister’s family apparently watches Wheel of Fortune on the regular so we watched a few episodes while I was there. One night they were telling me how the contestants always say stuff like I’m married to a fantastic person and we have two fabulous children, and they were joking that they wanted to go on and say something like I’m married to a horrible person and we have terrible children. Then the episode started an a contestant literally came on and said I’m divorced from a wonderful man who gave me two great children. I’m guessing he wasn’t that wonderful if you’re divorced. We were all dying laughing. I was crying I was laughing so hard.
  • Spectacularly losing at Sorry. I was playing a game of Sorry with my parents and my niece. I have never seen anyone lose as spectacularly as I did in one of the games we played. I had three of my pieces in the safety zone and then managed to draw three backwards 4’s in a row and had to take every single one of them out, and then every single one of them got Sorry’d and wound up back in Start where they ended the game. I didn’t like losing, but if you’re going to lose might as well do it as big as possible.
  • Return of the inappropriate ice cream man. It got marginally warm last week, and the ice cream man that comes by my house showed up for the first time this season. I say it’s the inappropriate ice cream man because 90% of the time he’s coming around at like 10 pm. Seems sketchy to me. He got a new song on his truck this year too. At first I thought it was a different truck, but it was the same old truck with a new song. I’ve never actually gotten ice cream from him because mostly it’s too late. He sometimes sits right outside forever because there’s a little place he can pull over right across the street. One day I was trying to nap and he was just sitting there and keeping me a wake forever, so I finally decided I was going to give up and actually get some ice cream. Right as I walked up to the truck he drove away. And I’ve never tried again.
  • Progress at work. I don’t know if it will amount to anything in the long run, but something I’ve been trying to promote at work for years now seems to finally be getting a tiny bit of traction with some faculty members.
  • Cat waiting at the bottom of the stairs for my husband. Whenever my husband goes upstairs or doesn’t come downstairs in the morning when I come down our cat gets very concerned about him. She will just sit at the bottom of the stairs staring up at him. She doesn’t follow him up or go looking for him, she just waits there until he comes back down again.

And now it’s time for some musical delights.

  • The first weekend of Coachella was this past weekend. As much as I love music I have zero interest in ever going to Coachella or pretty much any music festival except the Newport Folk Festival. I do like that I can sometimes watch some of the sets being streamed from them though. Last night I stayed up late to watch Maggie Rogers’ set.
  • I continued to listen to music on my old iPod on my trip. Here’s some more things I found in this little archival delight.I kept hearing these U2 songs that I did not know and didn’t ever remember buying. Then it dawned on me they were all from that U2 album that Apple forced on everyone. I totally forgot about that.
  • I hadn’t heard the song “Little Miss” by Sugarland in a really long time and forgot how much I like it. It’s a shame that after they took a hiatus as a band for awhile while they both went off and did some solo things that by the time they got back together country music was firmly entrenched in bro country and had no room for a mostly female fronted duo. I don’t even know if they’re still together or if they broke up again after that return album sort of crashed and burned even though I loved it.

New Music Friday: Goodbye Mr. Blue by Father John Misty

I do not love Joshua Tillman, Father John Misty. I find the persona he has created as “Father John Misty” both pretentious and annoying. I walked out his set at the Newport Folk Festival the first time I saw him. Apparently not everyone felt the same because he’s been back since then though I opted to not even bother. I did see him one more time because he co-headlined a tour with Jason Isbell with Jade Bird opening. Normally I would have been happy that Jason Isbell was closing the show I was at because it meant he got an extra 15 minutes to play, but in this case I wish it had been Father John Misty so I just could have left after Jason Isbell’s set. I wanted to see Jade Bird, so I didn’t just want to go late.

Despite all this today I bring you a new song off his album Chloë and The Next 20th Century. It sounds very big band old Hollywood for the most part and I kind of like it. I particularly wanted to talk about he song “Goodbye Mr. Blue” because it sounds a little out of time with the rest of the album, though still definitely a throwback. I’ve been wracking my brain for weeks trying to put my finger on what song it reminds me of, and I actually finally figured it out right before starting to write this post. I was thinking something perhaps by Todd Rundgren or Jim Croce. As an aside, every time I hear Todd Rundgren’s name I think that he’s some sort of metal dude from the 70s before I remember who he actually is and the sort of milquetoast songs that he sings. The song I’ve actually been trying to remember though is Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin'”. So you can tell me if you think I’m right or not.

Last Week Delight

I am so not feeling this post right now, but I’m hoping writing it will make me feel a little better. My cat is still sick going on 12 days now. She went back to the vet Friday and the vet said she thought it was due to a reaction from the rabies shot she got, but she’s not getting better. Even with the anti-nausea meds the vet gave us she’s still vomiting anywhere from one to three times a day. She’s off at the vet getting tests done and wasn’t allowed to eat this morning, so I’m super sad and stressed thinking about her being stuck there starving, stressed out, not feeling well and not understanding why her humans are subjecting her to this torture. Also, we’re supposed to be going to visit my family for Easter on Thursday, but it’s looking increasingly likely that I’m going to be going solo and my husband is going to stay home with the cat. I’m really not looking forward to making the drive by myself. Anyway enough whining. Let’s get to the good stuff.

  • Taharka Brothers Ice Cream. Taharka Brothers Ice Cream is a local Baltimore ice cream distributor. They have a few shops at markets in the area and sell to lots of restaurants and local grocery stores. You can also order ice cream to be delivered. The only draw back of that is that you have to order 8 pints, which is a little excessive. However, they do monthly special flavors and several times in the last six months or so I have really wanted them, so I’ve gotten a friend to split the 8 pints with me. So we each just get 4 pints instead. We just got another order this past week because I really wanted their banana pudding and chocolate chip cookie dough special flavors. And you can’t beat their honey graham, which is happily one of their always flavors. It’s so good.
  • Sunday Walks. I know a lot of people adopted walking outside with friends early on in the pandemic, but that’s not something I ever really did. It’s only been since this past February that I started doing that on the regular with the same friend I split the ice cream with. At some point in February I hit one of those particularly rough pandemic lows. I hadn’t had any social interaction in awhile because the weather was too cold to do outdoor activities and I think even my online game night was canceled that week, so I was like I need to get out of this house and talk to someone that isn’t my husband. So I asked my friend if she wanted to meet up for a walk on Sunday afternoon and now we’ve pretty much done a Sunday afternoon walk every week save for the weeks when one or the other of us has been out of town.
  • Side of Rice at Ekiben. My husband and I got dinner from Ekiben on Thursday night. It’s not his favorite unlike everyone else in Baltimore, but it’s literally steps from our house and it was raining so I suggested we just do that for dinner. I ordered him a side of rice and was very amused by the description “Side of Jasmine Rice. A really good option if you want 2000 of something for only $2.”
  • Long Shadow. After days and days and days of nothing but rainy weather it was finally sunny for a little while on Friday including my morning walk. When I was coming home at one point the sun was at my back and it created the longest shadow of me I think I’ve ever seen. It stretched almost down the entire block. I enjoyed watching my long, tall shadow self bopping along.
  • TV Binge. I enjoy a good TV binge, but it’s been a long time since I’ve watched a show that I just wanted to sit down and keep playing episodes of. I don’t even remember the last show I did it with it’s been so long. I spent a good portion of this weekend binging the show You’re the Worst and it was nice to get sucked into a show again for a little while.
  • New Yorker Salt Box Article. The New Yorker had an article about Baltimore Salt Boxes and how a movement to create them into community art pieces brought them to new life. As I said on social media when I shared this, usually when Baltimore is featured in a national news article it’s about something terrible. It’s stuff like this that makes Baltimore a great city despite its many problems, so it was really nice to see something positive about the city for a change.

And now for your musical delights.

  • Sunday night we finally used our season tickets to the Hippodrome five shows into the season. The show was Pretty Woman: The Musical, which was fine but nothing anyone really needs in their life. However, at the very end of the show there was a part where the whole cast was out on stage and they all hit this note together and the power of it made me tear up. That communal joy in live music and performance is something I have missed more than anything in the past two years and it was so great to experience it again in that little moment.
  • I heard this song on my way to work one day last week when I very much needed the message it was providing. I didn’t know what the song was, so as soon as I got to work I looked up the radio station’s playlist to find out what song I had been listening to. I could have guessed for a million years and never guessed that it was by Weezer. So that was a delightful surprise in and of itself.

New Music Friday: That’s Where I Am by Maggie Rogers

I had to wait until lunch to write up today’s New Music Friday post because as soon as Maggie Rogers started teasing a new song drop for today earlier this week I knew it would be the topic of my post. However, even though the song released on streaming services at midnight the video didn’t drop until noon today. When possible I like to share the video because not everyone is on streaming services or on the same one, so I decided to wait to post until this afternoon.

I love Maggie Rogers and am super excited to have some new music by her. I’m very much looking forward to the full album release on July 29. It’s been three years since her last full length album Heard It in a Past Life, which was my favorite album of 2019. That’s not that long given the pandemic and also the fact that she’s currently finishing up a Master’s Degree at Harvard Divinity School. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing the rest of the album and also hoping for some tour dates soon.

Also as a little bonus I wanted to shout out the new Lucius album, Second Nature, that came out today. I’ve already written about two singles off it, but now that I’ve heard the whole thing I’m hear to tell you that it’s all fantastic. It’s a very disco dance record interestingly produced by Dave Cobb and Brandi Carlile. It’s a lot about the divorce between singer Jess Wolfe and the band’s drummer Dan Molad who are still making the band work, for now at least. There are some more ballad-y songs on the album. I do wish that they had put together the track list differently with sort of an A side dance motif and a B side ballad deal because listening to it through like I will whenever my LP arrives in the mail is a little bit of an emotional whiplash, but the songs are great. And hey with streaming you can create playlists of your own A and B sides.

Last Week Delight

I feel like I wasn’t quite as attentive to things bringing me delight last week. I’ve been in a bad mood watching everyone else back to living their pre-COVID lives and wondering when it will ever feel safe to do so and feeling like more and more people are judging me for being cautious, my cat was sick for several days (though thankfully appears to be better now), our never ending mouse problem is back, and the weather has been crap. So I’ve been more focused on the negative unfortunately. But that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to find the good in between the bad. So let’s get to it.

  • The smell of rain. I love that smell that happens when rain is about to happen. It’s been rainy here a lot lately, so I’ve gotten to enjoy that a few times recently including a little bit this morning though it wasn’t very strong. It’s about to rain for like 4 days straight, so at least I get a little bit of that good rain smell to go with it. I recently read an article about what creates that smell, and I regret it a little because it not only took some of the mystery out of it, but it’s not the most pleasant sounding reason that it happens.
  • The new trailer for Maverick. I love the movie Top Gun. I have seen it so many times including the first time when my parents left us with some babysitter while they went away for a weekend and she took us to see it even though it is decidedly not something my parents would have let us see at that age. So despite the fact that Maverick is everything I claim to hate about movies these days with it’s shameless nostalgia sequelness, I am all in on this movie. I am unreasonably excited to see it against my better judgement. It’s been pushed back multiple time because of COVID, but it seems like it will finally be out Memorial Day weekend. I am willing COVID to let numbers be low enough at that point that I will finally feel like venturing back to a movie theater to see it. Anyway, they dropped a new trailer for it last week, and I am still super excited about it. I’m also a little mad at myself for not figuring out before that of course Goose’s son was going to be one of the pilots because duh.
  • Getting my hair cut. It had been 10 months since I last got my hair cut. Basically the last time COVID numbers were low and we actually thought they would stay that way. If I had known then what I know now I would have gotten it cut shorter than I did so that it had more runway to grow out before it got too long. My hair is super fine and thin naturally and because one of my medications is a low dose of a chemo drug it is even thinner due to drug induced hair loss. So if it starts getting too long it just looks super stringy and gets really tangly at the ends. It was starting to drive me crazy and kept getting caught in my mask straps, so it was time for it to go. I waited until after my trip to New York and then snuck it in before COVID cases get too much higher. Now it is much nicer to look at and deal with.
  • New Maryland Congressional map. I am firmly anti-gerrymandering or anything that does not make our elections as free and fair and easy for people to vote in as possible. We have a long way to go in all of those areas, but at least Maryland is slightly less terrible now. That weird squiggly mess in the middle of the map is my current Congressional district. I think we can all agree that it is insane. The new district makes much more sense. I am a little sad that my house will literally no longer be both the north/south and east/west dividing line in some weird jut off in our current district because that was a fun little fact, but it was also insane so time for it to go.

And now it’s time for your musical delights. I can’t believe I didn’t have any last week. Don’t worry, I have plenty this week.

  • Rediscovering songs. My car is ancient and cheap and doesn’t have a bluetooth connection. This wasn’t a problem with my old phone because it had a headphone jack I could use to plug into the car stereo with an aux cable. Now that I have an iPhone and have no headphone jack (grrrr) I can’t do that anymore. So for our drive up to NYC the other weekend I dug up my old iPod nano to plug into my stereo because it does still have an old 32 pin iPod connector on it. I didn’t adjust anything on the iPod. I just went with whatever I was listening to circa 2008/2009. That was a fun little time capsule of songs, some of which I did not even recognize, but some were some that I had sort of forgotten about but are songs that I love and was happy to be reminded of like Vince Gill’s “Feels Like Love”. Then on the way to work last Friday they were doing a weekend jams roll out or something and played Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us”, which I had somehow forgotten about despite the fact that it was inescapable back in 2012. It’s still a bop. I sometimes wish there was a way I could tell Spotify to play a playlist of songs that I used to love but have forgotten existed.
  • Driveway moments. Related to the above when I got home and Vince Gill’s “Feels Like Love” was only halfway through I sat in the car and listened to the rest of it. I always like those moments when you’re listening to something and you just can’t bring yourself to turn it off. Driveway moments are easier now that we have a parking pad in the back of our house. Back when I used to park on the street they led to too many people thinking you were about to pull out of your spot and having to wave people on.
  • The female pop punk revival. I am very much enjoying the young women with their pop punk music that seems to be popular these days. I thankfully have connection to what they’re singing about with all their relationship drama at my age, but I like that this music exists for a younger generation and sonically I enjoy it. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about there’s of course Olivia Rodrigo, Gayle, and now Tate McRae, whose song “she’s all I wanna be” I just heard for the first time last week.

New Music Friday: Ain’t Killed Me Yet by Adia Victoria

Adia Victoria released a new single last week called “Aint’ Killed Me Yet”. I can’t say anything about it better than what she wrote about it in her Instagram post when she released it.

“There was little to celebrate in life the Spring of 2020 but living itself. With the live music industry shuttered to a close I was forced to find a new way to live. I took a job at Amazon to pay the bills and on the way to the warehouse for a red-eye 10 hour shift I considered my dilemma. Racing through empty streets at 2 am, trying to keep two steps ahead of a virus I couldn’t make sense of, life was lived in barest of immediacy—one breath to the next. That Spring I would end every journal entry with “Life aint killed me yet”. 

 Ain’t Killed Me Yet is the blues existentialism pared down to its bones. It is the irreverent celebration of those who meet life on their own terms. When the future is uncertain, the immediacy of the pleasures and vagrancies of the now is all that matters. I wrote “Ain’t Killed Me Yet” while behind the wheel on the way to work in a warehouse where death was a real possibility. The blues anchored me in the now so that I could not only survive but I could give the finger, and blow smoke in the face of my fear and anxiety.”