The Civil Wars Are No More

Despite their violent name, The Civil Wars have disbanded in an amiable way. They haven’t made an album since 2012, and so the news was not especially shocking to the music world. The only one not expecting it, of course, was one particular blogger with a name that starts with B and rhymes with daily. And so, I must commemorate them with one final blog post, professing my undying love for all things Civil Wars (although, notably, not all things “civil” or “wars”).

If you think you’ve never listened to The Civil Wars, then make sure that you haven’t listened to The Hunger Games soundtrack. They have a beautiful little ditty called “Kingdom Come” on that record, and they collaborate with She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Lest-She-Write-A-New-Song (AKA Taylor Swift) on “Safe and Sound.”

If you’re absolutely sure you’ve never heard The Civil Wars after that, then allow me to fill in some of the gaps between your ears. The Civil Wars are a duo, made up of one woman and one man. I would largely call their songs hauntingly beautiful, but they do have some upbeat ballads that challenge that description.

Joy Williams (the woman) is a singer after my own alto heart because in most of their songs, Williams’ voices scrapes the bottom of the barrel whereas John Paul White’s (the man) voice reaches higher than most girls I know. In my mind, and probably most others, they have truly changed how I feel about what a duet can do. (Given that my favorite duet will always, always be Satine and Christian in Moulin Rouge.)

The Civil Wars are considered to be an Indie band, and maybe a little hipster because they do not have much airtime on the radio (and if they are hipster and that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right), but they have enjoyed a fair amount of success and a large fan base throughout the years.

While I am deeply saddened about the duo’s departure from music, I must say that I am impressed by their incredibly classy exit. They did not squabble or fight through the tabloids. They simply offered one last song, a few closing comments, and undeniable gratitude for their fans.

Civil Wars, thank you for countless hours of singing along in the car and dancing in my seat at the library. You are the perfect choice for studying music that won’t put me to sleep in the process. (I’m looking at you, The XX.) You have put folksy duets on the map, and I for one could not be happier about that.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Civil Wars songs:

Goodnight and goodbye to good music.

Help Me, I Know Things

I have a full-time job, two Bachelor’s degrees, and a night-light.

The latter is one of those big paper stars that houses a lightbulb and hangs from the ceiling. (The degrees are also made of paper.) I call it “Polaris,” and I only turn it on when I’m truly scared. Not when I see a spider in the corner of the room, not when I have recently watched Paranormal Activity, and not after I read the economy report (usually).

Proudly, Polaris protects me. Her soft glow floods the room, but it is just low enough that I can happily sleep without feeling like I have a spotlight from a lighthouse shining at me from the sea of my sheets. Sadly, though, Polaris is only a physical comfort. I have yet to discover a mental remedy for being afraid of things in my mind. And yet this is why I turn Polaris on.

And, of course, that’s the thing about what goes inside our mind, about knowledge itself. There’s plenty of fun facts out there: Baby jellyfish are called ephyra, for instance. These tidbits can fetch you a moment of amusement. But what about when you come across some particularly difficult information to digest or reconcile? When you finally come to terms with your own mortality or when you actually realize that humans aren’t at the top of the food chain?

I’m sorry for the less than cheery blog post, but I have to ask: why doesn’t knowledge come with a warning label? I mean, we actively seek it, and yet we don’t ask what we’re looking for. We don’t stop to ask for directions. We just keep going, picking things up along the way, unsure when or if we will need them. We’re kinda like Frodo Baggins in his quest to destroy the Ring. He doesn’t ask anyone if he’s headed in the right direction. He kinda just points with his hobbity finger towards the horizon, and he goes.

So, we can’t unknow things or unlearn things. There is no “great Ring to rule them all” that we can destroy and forget every hard fact we’ve encountered in our lives. But maybe that’s the point. It isn’t about what we know or understand. It’s more about how we come to fully process things, how we interact with things. I bet you can recall the first time you realized that you would die one day. I bet you can remember the moment when you knew that every person on this earth is living their own life, uniquely separate and independent of your own. I bet you can pinpoint the time when you figured out that you weren’t the center of everyone’s universe (or maybe you’re still trying to figure that out.) 

And realizing all of that, have you ever looked at life in the same way?

And that’s the point of knowledge. It’s supposed to stretch and challenge your perspective, not just scare you or cause you to hold on tighter to what you know. And importantly, if you take nothing away from this blog except the fact that I am a college graduate with a night-light, take away this: When you learn something, let it go. It has already changed the dimensions of your mind, so you don’t need to hang on to it. As long as you have a light that you are moving towards, (not into, just towards) like my Polaris, you can rest assured that knowledge will guide you safely home.

Need a Vacation? Then Stop Taking Life So Seriously.

As you may or may not know, I took a “brain break” last week, which, if you were wondering, is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of coming home and running to the gym or, yes, writing this blog, I just didn’t. I came home, I watched Jeopardy!, I read a bit, and then promptly feel asleep. Every night.

And I  h a t e d  it. 

But the saddest part? I thought I needed the break from my writing. I thought it would help me to reduce some stress and exhale outside of the paper bag I was hyperventilating into. I thought if I sat cross-legged in my room and wrote in my journal (just for me) I would achieve some sense of calm because I wasn’t under pressure. But strangely enough, it only made me miss writing even more. It made me miss the sheer panic I always experience when I don’t have something to write about and the irony that washes over me when I do encounter something so strangely perfect during the course of my day. Writing this blog awakens me to the little nuances and coincidences in life that I wouldn’t be reflecting on if I didn’t have a platform to express them on. I’m not really sure why I thought pushing away my passion would be a good move for a week, but I can tell you, I felt even more burnt out without it.

So, how is that possible? How does exerting more energy give you a better quality of life? Well, it depends on what you are investing your time in. Are your ventures decidedly fruitless but you continue with them as if they aren’t? Do you find yourself wishing for more time to do other activities, rather than the things that are on your plate? Am I starting to sound like a poorly scripted infomercial?

Well, if you answered yes to any of those questions, then your first reaction is invariably, “I need a vacation.” Time away from the office, the kids, your family, even your significant other. All I need is a girls’ night, you exclaim as you let your hair out of that matronly bun. I could really do with a night with the guys, you think to yourself as you pass by the bar in the daytime. But you don’t need any of those things. What you need to do is stop taking life so seriously.

We only feel that we need a vacation or time away when we feel like we are having trouble coping with all of the stressors in our life. But if you just admit to yourself that not everything is going to have your full, undivided attention, that not everything is going to go perfect, and that you are (believe me, I’m an expert) going to make a mistake and make a fool out of yourself, then every day of your life will feel like a vacation. The sooner you acknowledge this simple fact, the sooner you can stop scouring blogs for the answers to why you feel so empty and tired all of the time (but keep coming back to my blog. I’ll stroke your ego anytime.) The sooner you can take a bite of all that and swallow it down, the sooner you can start laughing at yourself (but don’t choke), which everyone, absolutely everyone, needs to start doing. Even if your laughter turns into uncontrollable sobbing. That’s cool. This is a judgement-free zone.

So, play when you want to. Work when you have to. But do not believe that the two are mutually exclusive. Poke a little fun at yourself, and see how fast you can shelve that 2-week getaway to the Bahamas. You deserve a vacation, but before you spend the money, try taking one from yourself.