Songs in the Key of…Something

She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie

Sara Bareilles, “She Used to Be Mine”

I’ve mentioned before how music has re-emerged in my life to be something so important to me. I have hundreds of songs favorited and saved. I’ve gone through three sets of Air Pods. I listen constantly – even when I’m in the shower (no, my phone is not in the shower). And it’s interesting how songs take on different meanings depending on where you are in your life. And this is no ground that hasn’t been explored before, but I’m indulging my navel gazing.

I can be a bit pithy when I create and name playlists. I have one named “Ire and Rage.” It’s full of songs that make feel better when I’m angry. I guess a sort of reverse therapy?

I’m a grunge girl and no apologies for that. Hard not to be one considering when I grew up. But I like many different eras and genres of songs. My father loved music, and I credit him with why I love 60s music and just enjoy music in general. I love it all, and I’ll listen to it all. OK. Confession: I’m not a huge country fan, but I do like some songs, and I also enjoy quite a few hip hop songs.

I’ve been told in the past that my tastes are pedestrian. Well, isn’t music meant to be enjoyed? Maybe I’m not rocking out to some obscure song that 5 people know, but I like what I like. Isn’t that the point? I never suggested I was “cool”, whatever that means.

What I love about music is that you can always find something to fit your mood, your situation, your stage of life. That moment when you completely identify with what is being expressed as if they had been in your head…

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words

Roberta Flack, “Killing Me Softly”

It’s that moment when you realize you aren’t alone. Someone else has felt the same way you have and they have expressed your feeling, whether it be love or happiness or hope or sadness or despair or anger, so perfectly that you feel seen. You are validated. You aren’t ridiculous.

So, yes, as I cycle through various moods and seasons of life, I turn to music. I admit to being slightly embarrassed when Spotify revealed my most-played song in 2022 had been “Malibu” by Hole. I was never a big Hole fan as a teenager (we’ll talk about the fact that I have a “doll part” from a Hole concert senior year another time). There is a rage to both “Malibu” and “Violet” that speaks to me. Because I have a lot of rage about a lot of things. And it’s cathartic. Sometimes I do feel like some are trying to take everything (metaphorically). I have previously mentioned that I also suffer from anxiety, and it turns out anger helps me drown it out, so listening to angry songs helps me to focus and keep the anxiety at bay. It’s been funny watching Daniel start to sing along to some of these songs. And, truly, my playlists are eclectic. I have enjoyed being exposed to different music by many friends, and I can always find something to fit a particular mood.

A year or so ago, a new friend commented that they didn’t think a song had been written yet that described me. For some reason, that popped up in my head today. Probably because in my slightly anxious brain, I was trying to keep it all together and listen to songs as I drove into work today.

I know that statement was meant (I think) to be a compliment on my uniqueness. It was meant to be flattering. But. Today when it popped into my head, it struck me differently. Who among us does not want to feel…seen? Reflected? Included. Maybe that’s what it is. Included.

The thing is that I spent – well, still spend – so much of my life being told how different I am. And I’m not saying that to compliment myself. Sometimes…you want to fit in. Who doesn’t want to know a love song makes someone think of you? Or that rage-y anthem makes someone say, “this makes me think of you because you take no shit!” Or, as embarrassing as it might be, “this song makes me think of that day you cried in theater class because that guy broke up with you and we all kind of stared.”

I guess what I’m getting at is that there would be a sense of being recognized. You belong. You feel the same things we do. Or, maybe, someone else recognizes that you feel the same things regular humans feel. What’s wrong with me that out of thousands of years of music, there isn’t ONE song that could I could be seen in? I have become Other.

And I know that’s maudlin and likely overthinking (something I am also guilty of). But as I’ve said before, I make no apologies for how feelings hit me.

I’m not sure if any readers have noticed, but I’ve tried to append a few lyrics of a song that reflects my mood to my posts. Maybe I really am stunted emotionally at age 15, but they all reflect where I am at a particular time. And I admit that I tend to the darker stuff and wallow in my feelings and internalize and should probably use commas correctly for items in a series.

But that’s where I am. That’s who I am. And no worries…next song may very well be Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.” I love that song. Makes me dance around my kitchen.

A few weeks ago, I went to a local music show with a friend and the music was great – very eclectic – all over the place. What I loved almost as much as the band was the “youngsters” dancing at the front to the music: headbanging AND moshing. I had the biggest smile on my face.

The kids are alright.

And so am I.


Whew. lt’s late, and I’ll probably regret this post tomorrow, which will be in 18 minutes as I start this. Or maybe not. I mentioned in prior posts that I talk, talk, talk…the words just spill out of me…word vomit everywhere. It’s quite confessional. I like to think that maybe the universe grants me some sort of absolution as I spill everything in my brain or maybe I am guilty as I am with so many others of the hubris of thinking that the universe cares what I am thinking and have to say. Someone recently told me I was an open book, and I couldn’t decide if that was a compliment or not. Kind of like when someone in high school told me that I reminded him of the characters on Seinfeld. They weren’t exactly likeable.

So, I promised updates in several posts. It’s difficult to come up with how to refer to something as momentous as the date of your husband’s death. Anniversary seems…not right. I know that “anniversary” can be used to refer to anything notable, but I think it has a mostly positive, happy connotation. So a friend coined “Deathiversary” and I think that is perfect. I threw it out in the last post.

This may be a long post.

Friends, what I experienced from mid-October to December 1, I now refer to as Deathiversary Season. I was expecting a day, not a 6-week period. I think what happened was that I didn’t expect the anxiety around the knowledge of what transpired to build and build. Negative anticipation. I know now. I know now what happens on each of those days. We made it through Halloween and had a good time even though I had to give myself several pep talks over the course of the day as I gutted and carved pumpkins with my unwashed hair. But D had a good time, and that is what is important. The next day…I hadn’t slept and neither had D, so we decided to take the day off and withdrew from the world that day. I had foolishly thought I would work. Silly me. So we stayed in bed and cuddled and did nothing.

The next day, November 2, I flew to Denver to visit a friend. I’m still a little shocked I did it, but I needed to get out of town and what better than to go to the other side of the country? It was a short trip, but great and much needed. I consider that a bold act (and maybe that tells you a lot about me and my sheltered existence), and I’m proud of myself for doing it. I won’t deny – it was weird as hell to be back in an airport and flying with a mask. I had become very familiar with travel due to work in the years prior to COVID, but I realized my “travel muscles” had atrophied. I felt like I needed to re-learn everything. But it was a great trip of which I will always think fondly.

And then the rest of November. See, that’s what caught me off guard. November. I was a disaster that month. My anxiety remained high. I found myself staying up way too late. And then I couldn’t sleep or slept very little. And I cried a lot. Like every night. That’s all I did…cry and not sleep. And I think it was because November is in general a loaded month: Jimmy loved Thanksgiving and there were other anxieties building on anxieties around milestones and gatherings and … there was just a lot. I can’t even adequately explain it. But hey, I binge watched Ted Lasso while standing in my kitchen each night and adored it (seriously, watch it if you haven’t). And I still woke up, got Daniel to school and worked. Not looking for a medal; I guess I want to emphasize I wasn’t a complete basket case. I try to save being a basket case from 10pm – 2AM.

And the final milestone. December 1. Our wedding anniversary. A day worthy of the term of “anniversary.” By the time that date approached, I felt more in control. In some ways, I considered it a bookend on “Deathiversary Season”. Last year was significant because our anniversary was exactly one month after he died. And this year? This year would have been 20 years. When the day came, I looked at our wedding picture on the living room wall and sent up a few good wishes and thoughts to…somewhere? And I felt lighter.

Tomorrow (oh, today now) is my last day of work for the year. This week has been rough. Lots of hands-on work that could only be done after hours because I was in meetings all day, every day. It’s Daniel’s last day of school too, and we’re going to go see the new Spider-Man movie after school. First time we’ll have been in a theater in years! And I’m drooling over the thought of popcorn. Yes, please. And all the “butter” I can put on it. Christmas presents are bought. We both received flu shots, and I received the COVID booster today. I’m of the opinion that I will take all the vaccine they want to give me.

It’s interesting because there’s also a darkness about this time of year (and I’m not talking literal darkness although, yes, it was fucking dark at 5PM today). If you think about it, Autumn in general and Halloween and Christmas are all about recognizing death and trying to find light and hope where you can. The cyclical nature of the year always strikes me. You have the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and each day afterwards, it becomes darker earlier an infinitesimal amount until you reach 3/4 through December and the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. But after that day, each day is a infinitesimal bit brighter. It sparks lots of imagery and philosophical musings, but I’ll spare you because I’m trying to rein in my thoughts (not everyone needs a glimpse into the Scream painting that is my mind).

I decided that I wasn’t sure I felt like listening to my usual Christmas music, so I made a playlist of eclectic songs with the help of friends. It may have gotten a touch out of control because it is almost FOUR HOURS!!!! Go big or go home? But I listened to it in its entirety as I was working, and I think it’s quite good. Knock yourselves out if you wish. I think I mentioned how important music has become to me the last year. It has. It really has. It started with putting an Air Pod in and listening while I did stuff around the house. And then it progressed to listening to new music suggested by friends. And then next thing I know I’m creating Spotify playlists. And then I’m creating a 4-hour Eclectic Christmas playlist. And THEN I’m listening to Taylor Swift songs friends suggested, and I’m crying and wondering why I avoided her and her amazing songwriting ability. She has replaced Radiohead as my go-to “gonna wallow and cry” artist. It’s kind of funny because a friend and I were talking earlier this week, and we both admitted to having songs that just wreck us and instead of avoiding them, we listen to them over and over and over. It’s like picking a scab: you know you shouldn’t, but you still do it.

You may be thinking, “KeAnne, are you depressed?” Well, yes…I have 125 mg daily that agrees with you. But no. But yes.

This has been a rough week. I’m down two key positions, which means I am both in meetings all day, plotting strategy and whatever nefarious things everyone thinks we get up to (I wish…rather mundane), and then after hours doing hands-on work. Many, many late nights this week. I don’t mind. I’m happy to do what my teams need. But it’s exhausting. I was asked this week why I was working so hard, and my response was that I can’t not. It has to get done. Some deadlines can’t be moved.

But today (or yesterday I guess) was emotional. Probably fatigue. Probably stress. I put on my “make me cry” playlist (Yes T. Swift is on it. And so is Radiohead), and I’ve cried off and on all night. And it’s so dark outside. And I felt so lonely and alone. And I know that’s not true. The gifts waiting for me at my desk (office day! real clothes!) demonstrate that people care about me. The cards in my mailbox. The gifts from friends across the country. And it’s demonstrated in a million other ways. I guess I’m trying to tie my feelings today to the above paragraphs about the darkness of the season. In some ways, there is an inherent loneliness built into this time of the year that our celebrations are trying to stave off. Safety in numbers at the very least. But there is a part of me that has always been attracted to the darkness and that feeling of being alone (not that I want to be alone). So my goal is not to allow myself to wallow in it. I have magic to make for D.

Some days I wonder if I am 15 or 44. They are both similar: skin issues; hormonal issues; drama (relationship and drama in general); listening to sad songs on repeat; staring in the mirror, wondering if I am attractive; crying; lots of work to do. Of course the 15-year-old doesn’t necessarily have to be the one to clean up the cat vomit in the living room (thanks for getting the message about being part of the team, cat!).

Good lord, this is long. I’m sorry. No, I’m not sorry. This is my reality. There are good days. There are bad days. I think I mentioned in an earlier post – or maybe not – hell, I can’t remember – that I identified with a crab: hard exoskeleton but soft underbelly. In many ways, I feel like the last year has been a crucible that has burned off that exoskeleton. I feel quite raw. But I also like to think that maybe that time in the crucible is helping me to be a softer, kinder person. A more genuine person. These are parts of myself and feelings that I kept hidden out of fear of being vulnerable. And I like it! I like feeling and doing kind things. But…did I miss my opportunity? Do people still value kindness? Or am I out of step? Should I just stick to cerebral stuff since it is what I am good at?

I’m OK. I’m OK. I promise (see 125 mg a few paragraphs above). We all fall on black days from now and then. Next post will be trying to prove I have a sense of humor and involving Christmas ornaments.

And I’m ready to suffer, and I’m ready to hope. (FL+TM)

Got the suffering down. Now let’s go for the hope.

Are You Down With Me?

Being of a certain age, I listen to Lithium and the 90s channel (as well as the 80s channel) on Sirius XM every day. Daniel prefers the 80s station (good boy), but I am partial to the music of MY generation, the 90s ūüėČ Yesterday, after I dropped him off, Naughty By Nature’s “OPP” came on the 90s channel. Ooofff.

First of all, I think everyone I knew in junior high (as it was called in my day) understood the song’s topic: infidelity. Yep, understood that at age 13. However, thanks to my participation on Twitter and overall increased awareness, I think of that song on an entirely different level now.

You’d think it would be the tacit infidelity that bothered me – and it does – but it isn’t the main irritant now. Now, I bristle at the perception of women. The lines:

That wasn’t the thing it must have been the way she hit the ceiling
‘Cos after that she kept on coming back and catchin’ feelings

Oh, man. That line, that shit bothers me now in a way it never did at age 13. Really? You are saying you are soooo awesome in bed that she forgets all of her morals and wants to hit it all the time? Isn’t that impressive. And unbelievable.

The truth is that you aren’t all that. No one is all that. And hearing such an overtly sexist line pisses me off. I’m not naive; I know many, many songs from a variety of genres contain similar lines. And I know the line is the equivalent of guys bragging in the locker room, a bonding tactic. But it rankles this feminist because I know on some level, it reflects their beliefs about women. And I am trying hard to raise a son who isn’t like that in a difficult, challenging world.

I want to say more, but the truth is that my husband sliced a good bit off of his thumb tonight (slicing low-carb zucchini pasta for me) and journeyed to urgent care, leaving me to hold down the fort. This feminist is worried about her man and also keeping an ear out for her little boy who is slowly slumbering. It’s been a long day. Long week.


What song has been ruined for you in adulthood?

#MicroblogMondays: MC Daniel

Daniel and I listen to music on the way to school every morning because Daniel is not a fan of “the talk” as he refers to NPR, etc. My compromise is that we will listen to channels I like, so that means Lithium (90s alternative), the 80s and 90s channels.

It’s led us to have some interesting conversations: “Mommy, what’s this song about?” when Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance” came on (alas I wasn’t quick enough to tell him it was about Humpty Dumpty, stuttering something about it being about dancing). And telling me he really likes Ben Folds Five’s “Brick,” which is a tad awkward given the subject matter of the song. Daniel seems to prefer the 80s channel, so my work is done.

A few days ago, an Eminem song came on and he asked about it. I told him how Eminem got his name and he giggled. Then he said, “You can call me Skittle!”



Concerts: the Good, the Bad, the Embarrassing

This morning I heard “Owner of a Lonely Heart” (don’t vomit, Amber) on the way to work and had a fun exchange with Furrowed Fox on Twitter (and give her some love because she had a hysterectomy in the morning and is already home and recovering. Rock star). The exchange made me think about concerts I had attended because I had attended a Yes (the band that sings “Owner of a Lonely Heart”) concert.

I like music, but I’ve never been a huge concert goer. They make me feel trapped and bored. The opening acts often suck, and traffic is always horrific. ¬†Concerts simply aren’t something I enjoy all that much. ¬†Nevertheless, I have been to a few.

Oddest Concert

The Yes concert. I knew one Yes song and discovered while at the concert I knew another song vaguely. The opening act for Yes was Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band (“Centerfold” from the 80s). He was skipping through the audience, drumming up participation when he got to me and my friends. ¬†Our faces quickly shut him down and he moved on. We were not amused. We were probably also the youngest people by at least a decade in attendance.

Most Embarrassing Concert

New Kids on the Block. I truly wasn’t a huge NKOTB fan. Yes, I knew the songs…who could avoid it? I even had a favorite New Kid (Jordan 4ever), but I wasn’t obsessed to the point where I was writing fan fiction like some of my classmates (I wish I were joking). ¬†My cousin, however, was a big fan and got tickets for herself and several others and they asked if I wanted to go. Why not? So that’s how I found myself in Charlotte at the NKOTB concert when I was 10 or something.

Coolest Concert

In 1995, my freshman year of college, I saw David Bowie and Trent Reznor. I went primarily for Trent Reznor, but Bowie was cool too. I caught a ride w/ a friend, but I was there by myself.  That concert was way cooler than I was.

Bands I’m Tired of Seeing in Concert

Aerosmith. I must have seen them at least 3 times. Retire, guys. It’s OK. I think that was one of the parts of Dazed and Confused that was so relevant to my age group: they end the movie going to get Aerosmith tickets in 1976 and in the mid-1990s, my friends and I were driving 2 hours to see Aerosmith too.

Concerts that Brand Me a Member of Gen X

  • Pearl Jam. I’ve seen them in concert 3 times.
  • Foo Fighters. ¬†They played a smallish venue in Raleigh in 1996, and I went by myself. It was a great concert.
  • Hole. I saw them my senior year of high school. I had given blood that day and the opening night of Fiddler on the Roof was the next day, and I was playing Golde. My theater teacher didn’t want me to go, but I decided to do so. It was the first time I ever encountered a mosh pit, and I was confused because I thought a massive fight had broken out until I realized what I was seeing. I wore a slip dress, hose and Mary Janes (umm OK, KeAnne), but I did leave with an actual doll part.

Concerts I Wouldn’t Have Attended On My Own

Jimmy is a fan of virtuoso guitar players, and when Joe Satriani came to Raleigh several years ago, we attended. It was at the same venue where I saw the Foo Fighters years before, so there wasn’t seating and you could get as close as you wanted. I remember being enraptured when one of the guitar players played “Moonlight Sonata,” which although cliche, is a long-time favorite of mine from my piano playing days.

Concerts I Regret Missing

  • The Indigo Girls. I bought tickets for me and a friend, but I wasn’t a huge fan at that point and decided not to go, so I gave my ticket to my cousin as a Christmas present. I really wish I had gone now. It must have been temporary insanity.
  • Lady Gaga. Jimmy (my resident Little Monster) and I were supposed to attend Gaga’s DC concert in March but the rest of the tour was cancelled when Gaga was injured. Jimmy was crushed, and I was disappointed too because I was looking forward to the spectacle. I remember going over to my aunt’s to watch Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour on her huge satellite (we didn’t have cable), and we were all mesmerized and dumbfounded. I think the Lady Gaga concert would have elicited a similar reaction from me.
  • Nirvana/Lallapalooza. I never attended a Lallapalooza when it was relevant, and I was a huge Nirvana fan. Right before Kurt Cobain committed suicide, I had decided that if the band came to NC that year, I was going to go. Alas, we all know how that turned out ūüė¶ Since I saw The Foo Fighters a couple of years later, I guess I kind of saw Nirvana…
  • Oasis. Amber and I had tickets to go.¬† On my birthday in 1996, I drove 3 hours to Charlotte and we went to the coliseum.¬† When we got there, we were told the concert had been cancelled. I was so PISSED! And yes, I still do look back in anger ūüėČ

Concerts I Will Attend if They Come to NC

Eminem. I love him. I love his way with words. I do not love the homophobia he stubbornly clings to, but if he comes to NC, I’m there.

What are your memorable (positively or negatively) concerts?

My Little Monster

I remember the day clearly.  It was a nice early summer evening actually.  J and I retreated to our screened back porch to chat, surf on our iPhones and have some wine after Daniel was in bed.

“I have a confession to make, ” said J suddenly.

I looked up from my Twitter feed. ¬†“Huh? What?” I said.

“I like Lady Gaga,” he told me, sheepishly.

I was silent for a moment. ¬†“That’s ok, ” I replied, thinking of my former penchant for romance novels.

Honestly, at that point, I didn’t know much about Lady Gaga or her music other than she was known for outlandish outfits and was very popular. ¬†Something about a Poker Face or Paparazzi?

It turns out that J was downplaying his affection for Lady Gaga.  A few songs turned into buying entire albums from iTunes.  Next he was listening to her interview w/ Howard Stern over and over and texting me about her upcoming Thanksgiving special with Katie Couric.

Then he declared himself one of her “Little Monsters” and proudly displayed his affiliation on his car:

Displaying his affiliation for Gaga for all to see

I wasn’t sure what to think. ¬†Not being entirely out of touch with popular culture, I have a few of her songs on my iPhone. ¬†I looked her up on Wikipedia. ¬†I’ve watched the video of library school students doing Gaga. ¬†She still seemed so weird.

J and I talked about it a lot.  It turns out that he is able to see beyond the meat dresses and pyrotechnic bras to see the weirdo underneath, and I use that term affectionately.  J and I may look like normal, boring people who do yard work, cook pretentious dishes and like nice things, but underneath all of that, we are freaks at heart.  We can identify with not fitting in and not wanting to hide who we are.

I’ve thought a lot about Lady Gaga (WTF?), and forget Britney and Cristina. She is the true heiress to Madonna, only she is what Madonna was trying to be 30 (!) years ago. Madonna pushed the envelope but I wonder how truly different she was. The overt sexuality cheapened her message. ¬†Lady Gaga is different. ¬† She is very talented, yet she walks to her own, very different drummer. ¬†I can respect that. ¬†Thanks to J’s affection for Lady Gaga, I’ve come to appreciate her and what she’s trying to do. ¬†Lord knows if she were going for sheer sex appeal, she wouldn’t pick the outfits she does. ¬†She’s a role model with whom I feel comfortable and would be comfortable for others to emulate if they understand who she is. ¬†Go beyond the wild outfits to understand the misfit underneath.

Maybe I’m a bit of a Little Monster too.