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I was talking to this guy I know a little about religion and faith.

He said that he thinks maybe it’s more important to keep the faith…

yet he’s an atheist.

I made an appointment with a different psychiatrist who I have heard good things about. I’m really happy about that…

My dad gave me copies of this paper tracing some of our family all the way back to the 1600’s. It’s interesting to see what my ancestors did…

My old roommate (and one of my very best friends) was asking me about the music situation. She brought up an interesting thought.. which is that a couple of years ago after I took a trip across the country I was really contemplating dropping out of school to just live and play some music. I didn’t end up doing it… but she mentioned how it’s funny that sort of happened anyway.

Man.. I don’t understand why I’m always so wound up at this time of the day…

Song of the day: At the Hop by Devendra Bahnhart.


“All I have for the moment is a song to pass the time,
A melody to keep me from worrying
Yeah, some simple progression to keep my
Fingers busy
And words that are sure to come back to me…”

I’ve always been a really good sleeper. I’d read for a while and fall asleep… and I’d do my best to get seven or eight hours a night.

These days I don’t sleep well at all. Sometimes I wake up and feel like I didn’t sleep at all. A lot of times I just plain can’t sleep.

“So there still is hope,
Yes I can be healed
There is someone looking for what I’ve concealed
In my secret drawers, in my pockets deep,
You will find the reasons that I can’t sleep
And you will still want me…
Will you still want me?”

I’ve been doing a lot better since I wrote my last post. I still need to get my life in order and work to make more and more progress… but I’m going in the right direction.

It’s so important to look at your life, figure out what you can and can’t control, and try to make good decisions.

Good decisions…

I’ve been doing okay with that the last few months. I did make a lot of horrible decisions before I came back here though… with effects that I still feel every day.

I’m adjusting to this new way of life… learning to live again. Learning a lot about love.

It’s hard…

but still so worth it. Love.

The way you think… the way you feel… it controls so many things. I know that if I don’t BELIEVE I can get better, I won’t. I know that if I don’t fight the anxiety, the thoughts… they’ll beat me every time. Sometimes they’ll beat me even when I do fight… but I’ll keep fighting anyway.

“So hold up your fist
To the flame in the sky
To block out the light
That’s reaching for our eyes
Cause it would blind us…”

-Bright Eyes

Two sides to every story… cliche right? Just the first title that came to mind, I guess.

I tend to see things in spectrum. I believe that black and white do exist, but most things fall in between.

I have made so much progress since the beginning of February. I can’t lose sight of that. Yet… the last couple weeks have been pretty rough.

I think a good part of it has to do with the added stress of having lost my job. Not only does that make the money situation ultra-stressful, but it was also just good for me to be working every day. Now it’s a mad rush to get another job.

Right after I lost my job, I went up to Michigan. I thought it would be really good for me, but I think that in a way it was the opposite. I used to sort of joke about having post traumatic stress disorder when I would try to explain how I feel sometimes (not that having PTSD is funny, but joke as in I didn’t think I actually had it.) My sister actually did have it and while I was talking to her about how I feel she said that it does sound a lot like it’s possible that I have it. My reason for saying that is that being up in Michigan was hard because everything there reminded me of those three horrible months when everything just slipped away from me. I kept having flashbacks and it really just offset me.

And since then I’ve just been feeling like I’ve been slightly regressing. It’s really hard because ever since I started being able to function (work, play music, leave the house at night,) it seems sort of like everyone thinks that I’m back to normal or that everything is better. Things will never be “back to normal” and everything is definitely not better yet. Things are a lot better than they were in February, but I have a long ways to go.

Yeah. Things have been harder the last couple of weeks. I’ve been crying a lot.

However… the other side of the story is that:

-I started writing music again.
-I have a lot of fun playing in the band.
-I played solo in a show tonight and it went really well. I had a lot of fun.
-Although I still don’t hang out with a lot of different people (which is really different for me,) I have met quite a few people and feel ready to start doing that a little more.
-I’m really looking forward to being back in school this fall.

It’s really hard to even compare now to when I first moved back here. At night I couldn’t even leave the house or be alone. I literally felt like a zombie. I still had no appetite or hunger and avoided everyone other than in my immediate family. I felt a lot of anxiety all day every day. Things were very, very bad.

So I have come a long way… a very long way. I really want to stay focused on that. I know that I simply won’t get better if I don’t believe that I will get better.

And.. I also realize that I’m very blessed with a lot of different things.

I went to open mic night again last night. There is this guy- who I’ll call Travis- who hangs out around the cafe a lot.

Most performers at open mic get up with an acoustic guitar and sing songs. It’s always sort of refreshing when someone does something different.

Travis got up with a notebook and began to read a poem. Before he even started, I grimaced a little because I could only imagine what it could contain. Travis isn’t especially well-liked around this cafe. He hits on all the girls, acts pretty obnoxiously, and offends many people up and down.

I have to admit that his poem was pretty good- but very inappropriate for the setting. This cafe is a family establishment and he’s been banned before.

His poem was basically a hate and anger letter to God and the Christian religion. Although  the words themselves were well written and the questions reflected thoughts of men and women throughout the ages, they also showed his misunderstanding of much of Christianity. The worst part about it was the arrogance in which he delivered his words with, as if he were smarter than those who believe in Christianity. I respected him for putting these questions out there, but he did it in the wrong place and with the completely wrong attitude. Although many of the things he said sounded good and convincing at first, if you really thought about it on a much deeper level what he was saying didn’t make sense. For example, he kept calling God a fool. By definition, God simply can’t be a fool. He said if God is loving and omnipotent (which he pronounced wrong,) why is there pain in the world? Yet he went on to criticize that God punished his supposed son who lived perfectly.

My response is not a defense of Christianity. It is just a criticism of what he was saying, as well as where and how he was saying it.

This young man was full of such anger and hate! I feel a lot of compassion for him… as well as frustration because of him.

What I’m also getting at is that there are two types of non-Christians. There are those that harbor a lot of anger and resentment towards the God they don’t believe in and the people who do, and then there are those who are at peace with what they believe (and don’t believe) in. I’ve been burned by churches. I’ve been burned by Christians. I’ve been angry at God. I do not call myself a Christian, but I do not harbor such huge amounts of anger and hate at God or Christians in general. I believe in the things I believe in because of logic, reason, experience, and simply what my heart says, NOT because I am angry at the “God I don’t believe in.”  I find such freedom in that.

When I was in the hospital, my dad kept telling me about this metaphor of a bridge somewhere out east. Apparently the tunnel is a few miles long and has a curve somewhere in the middle. Until you go around the curve you literally can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel… but it’s there.

I lost my job. I’ll save the details of that for another post, but let me say that it was no fault of my own nor was it a layoff. I spoke up for myself and got fired for it. At first I wasn’t really upset about it because I felt good that I had said what I wanted to say (and what others are too afraid to say.) Then I left to go to the U.P. for a week and sort of forgot about it. Now that I’m back at home I’m realizing that not only is it the expected stress of financial burden and whatnot,  but it’s also really not good for me that I have now lost the sense of routine that was really helping me make progress.

Feeling the way I did in the U.P… it really made me sort of second-guess how far I’ve come. I know that’s stupid… but it just made me feel really weak. One of the hardest things for me to face is the fact that during high school I had struggled a LOT, but I felt I had overcome and gotten through that “tunnel.” I feel like I just lost all of that.

Which isn’t true. I still draw on things that I learned through that ordeal when I’m trying to pull myself out of this “thing.” And honestly without the things I learned then I don’t know if I could have gotten through this.

So.. I guess my tunnel has more than one curve. Because right now it’s hard for me to see the light at the end of it again. I know it’s there.. but sometimes it’s hard to feel it.

OK, quick life update:

-Lost my job
-Been playing more and more music
-I still play music with those guys where we do a lot of folk.. we have a gig every Thursday before this music festival that happens every Thursday here in the summer. That’s been going really well.

I miss all of you from the WordPress world and really want to make an effort to post more. It’s helped me a lot throughout my time here and I really appreciate you all for your support and advice!!

Last night I went to an open mic night downtown. I stepped outside for a smoke and an older man with a white beard approached.

It was one of those conversations that you hope you’ll always remember.

We talked about music- Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. “Bring it back to the basics,” he told me.

I’ve talked to lots and lots of people outside of this cafe. My guard is always up against what I like to call “creepers.”

Something about this guy didn’t strike me that way though…

He told me, “I don’t know what it is lately… I’ve just been waking up every morning and loving everybody.”


“Yeah.” He takes a drag of his cigarette. “I’m not going to try to understand everyone, but… my heart is just full of such… such love for them. You know?”

“Yeah, I do. The world could use more people like you.”


“Where do you think that love comes from?” I ask, curious if I’m going to hear the pitch for Christianity next, if he’s going to pull out the conveniently placed religious tract and invite me to his church.

“Honestly? Between you and me?” He trails off for a moment. “I think it’s from God.”

He gauges my reaction.

“I just… I look around at all these people,” he gazes across the street where dozens of high schoolers are hanging out, “and I see a generation that is so lost. I have my bad habits too,” he says, glancing at his cigarette, “but… ” he trails off again with his head down. As he looks up, I see tears in his eyes. He looks at me and apologizes. “I just pray for them. I care about them; I really do.”

We talk about a few other things. He advises me to get more into nature. I smile and say I will. Little does he know how passionate I am about nature.

He was legit. He was passionate. Maybe he was lonely. I really don’t know.

But something about what he said… and how he said it… it gave me a lot of hope.

Love is real.

So.. my blog is called learning to live… I started it with the idea of writing about my experiences while going through this.. “thing.” I wanted to write about building my new “foundation.”

I’ve definitely alluded to it before, but I think the first block I want to lay as my foundation is love.

I know.. I know, it’s cliche. But it’s so true.

To love.. and be loved.

There’s this picture of my family- all seven of us. We are in the front of the church my dad was a pastor at in the UP. I’m only maybe a year old. I’m sitting on this folding chair, a serious look on my face. The best part is the story behind it. Apparently when they took the picture my dad was supposed to be holding my twin and my mom was supposed to be holding me, but I saw one of my older siblings sitting in a chair and I insisted that I needed to be in a chair too.

See, by nature, I’m so independent.. I always have been.

No one else can go through this thing for me. No one else can magically make things better.

But honestly, if I had to do it on my own, I don’t know if I could.

I’ve been missing my old roommates. Two of the best friends I’ve ever had. I’ve been crying because I miss how much fun we had together, and I know that things will never be exactly like they were before. But you know what? I think it’s part of the healing process. For months I pushed them away and didn’t let myself think about it. I’m just now starting to let myself feel the pain of that. And as much as it hurts, it’s real… it’s a sadness that I really should feel. It’s human… and it’s okay.

Last night I played at open mic night. It was.. amazing. Sometimes when I’m playing, I can just sense that there are others in the room who get it. They just get it. I don’t know how else to explain it.. and for a few brief moments you are connected. That’s love.

And the guy I wrote about a while back. That’s still good- it’s really good. I feel like he’s my best friend. The best part of my day is when we hang out. Tonight we just watched comedy and played chess. I can see myself in the future with him, spending lazy days watching shows on National Geographic or going on walks, playing board games.. simple things. Got to keep it simple. He’s one of the best parts about being back in this town. He’s one of the best people I know.

Love is real. It doesn’t always make sense, but that’s what makes it so amazing. Love makes us do things we otherwise wouldn’t. Unconditional love is a miracle- I really believe that. There is no logic behind it, no evolutionary reason. Love makes us better than what we are. Love is.. more real than anything else I know.

Road trips are the best.

I’m writing to you from Brookings, South Dakota. My mom, brother and I left yesterday morning at six a.m. and got here at about three-ish. We really had beautiful weather for our drive, and it’s beautiful outside today as well.

My favorite part about this place is that I have been coming here since I was born. My aunt, uncle, grandma, and cousins (and their kids) live out here. My aunt’s house is really the only place that has remained in my life for my whole life.

There’s not a whole lot to do out here. In fact, my aunt and uncle don’t even live in Brookings- they live a few miles away out in the country. There are miles and miles of flat lands surrounding them filled with crops which I couldn’t tell you the name of. When it’s nice out you can take long walks, but their winter usually lasts even longer than mine in Wisconsin lasts.

The part I was looking forward to the most about this trip, though, was the drive to and from- partly because I really do enjoy long drives, but mostly I was looking forward to the conversations I would have with my mom. Even during the years when I didn’t talk much to my mom at all, we would have great conversations on trips out here. Sure enough, yesterday was no different.

As much as I enjoy the trips out here, though, the best road trip I have ever taken was two summers ago. One of my best friends and I took a road trip out west for a whole month. We drove ten thousand miles during that month, and we camped every night. From the Grand Tetons, to Yellowstone, to the Badlands, to Sequoia, to the Pacific…. and others. It was amazing. You’d think that after a month of sleeping outside and eating granola bars that I would have been ready to go home.. but I honestly would have loved to keep going. I think I literally cried when I crossed back over to the east side of the Mississippi River.

There’s just something about the open road… the open sky… music blasting in my ears, windows down, cigarette in hand…

I do miss the boy though. He’s been amazing.

Well, I should sign off. Hope you all are doing well.

Since returning to the town I grew up in, I have run into a lot of familiar faces- some that bring warmth to my heart, others that make me sort of nervous, and others that I run from as fast as I can.

Mostly, I’m just not ready to see most people yet.

On Tuesday nights I’ve been going to open mics at my favorite cafe in the world. (In fact, I’m there right now, sipping on tea and letting the sun warm me through the window.) Open Mic Night here used to be what I looked forward to throughout the week when I was in high school. I met a lot of amazing people there.

It’s been fun going again, but at least once a week someone asks me why I’m not playing. The truth is, I’m still having a really hard time picking up my guitar… and I’m not really sure why. An artist uses all feelings for inspiration whether they be happiness or sorrow, hopefulness or despair, or really anything. I’ve always been like that. My sound had sort of evolved into this acoustic folk- the overall theme being one of hope and beauty, but always interlaced with elements of sadness.

Partly, I’m just out of practice… and the last couple of weeks I get so down during the morning and early afternoon that I can’t do much other than read a book. Then at night, I’ll feel a bit better and want to go out and do something. By the time I get home it’s too late to play anything without waking someone up.

Last night as I watched people play, I really missed it. So I hope I’ll pick it up again soon. It’s a huge part of who I am. I’ve just never been one to force myself with my music.. it needs to come naturally.

Anyway, last night I ran into someone that I haven’t seen for almost four years. I actually met him and his brother at open mic. I played music with them for a few months. They introduced me to musicians like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. It was really the beginning of me falling in love with folk music. That year I was a senior in high school, but I actually lived more of the typical college life that year than I have since then. We would play shows and then go back to their house on campus and just play music all night. Acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins, harmonicas, an upright bass… it was a good time.

He told me that tonight he and his brother (who I was always closer to) are playing a show. I’m definitely going to be there.

It just reminds me that often times people walk in and out of your life.. and then walk back in just as unexpectedly. I’m really looking forward to seeing them tonight and to hearing their music.

And.. drinking a beer or two. It is St. Patrick’s Day afterall.

I really do believe that it’s the little things in life that often hold the most happiness, the most beauty- even the most inspiration sometimes.

So, in spirit of my “small victories” post, I figured I would make a list of little things that I have been enjoying lately.

1. Coffee!
-It’s true. Sometimes I make it purely out of habit or to wake up, but once it’s brewing, I usually get really excited. There’s just something about relaxing with a nice cup of coffee… writing your thoughts… or whatever it is you like to do.

2. Sunshine
-I guess it could easily be debated on whether this even qualifies as a “little thing,” but regardless, the sunshine can really lift my spirits sometimes, especially in the beginning of spring. It often is so easy to take for granted, but after months of dreary, cold weather, the sun almost makes me manic.

3. Bird(s)
-Hear me out. Sometimes when I’m driving I’ll glance up and notice that one lone bird flying through the sky.. or simply just in the air gliding in one place. Or there will be a whole flock of them flying. I’m not sure why, but birds have become a symbol of hope to me. They can be so beautiful.

4. Jumping into the shower after a work-out
-Do I even need to explain this one?

5. Finding a new song you’re in love with
-To me, this one really doesn’t qualify as a “little thing,” but it probably would to most. It might just describe where you’re at, or inspire you, or simply aesthetically do something for you that hasn’t been done before.

6. Breakfast
-My favorite meal of the day. I love waking up super hungry and just slowly savoring each bite of my food. Lately I’ve been into raisin bran crunch. Delicious.

7. Coffee shops
-Whether you’re meeting a friend or sitting by yourself, people watching or writing or reading or whatever… this is one of my favorite places to be.

8. A good conversation
-A good conversation with anyone brightens my day… and by good, I mean one that makes me think.

9. Humor
-That person who always makes you laugh… or simply being able to laugh at yourself. Laughing is essential.

10. A good book
-I almost didn’t put this, because it really is huge to me… but it’s a little thing in that it’s so easy to do (and inexpensive.) Sometimes I really think I wouldn’t survive without good books.

11. Nice strangers
-not creepy nice, but that stranger who hangs back a second to hold the door for you, or the stranger who flashes you a genuine, warm smile. Those things make my day.

12. Driving with the windows down
-I know some people hate this, but I love it. I almost never use the AC in my car. Turn the music up, windows down, old country road… it’s almost heaven for me.

Post your own list of little things or comment and let me know the small things in life that make you happy 🙂