Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts where I attempt to process thoughts and feelings around a specific topic or current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own (unless otherwise indicated); I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.
It’s often said that the only constants in life are change and death. Our traditions, myths, stories, and scientific advancements all in some way have us trying to pull one over on our own mortality (in the approximately 200,000 years humans have existed, it hasn’t worked yet). Sometimes it’s not even adapting to change or coming face-to-face with death that’s most terrifying, it’s confronting and going through the process of loss and grief and coming to grips with a brand new reality. So many of us try to avoid it so much that there are even stories, both real ie: Barbra Streisand reportedly spending around $50,000 to clone her dead dog, as well as fantasy. Many of the latter have a character so consumed and uncomfortable in their grief that they’ll do anything to try to make the pain stop, even bringing back a loved one that they lost. In those stories there’s also typically a warning that states that, while bringing back the dead is not impossible whether by wishes granted by a genie or the use of dark magic, it is forbidden. And, from nearly every vampire and zombie story we know this to be true (unless you’re Barbra Streisand). The reason being that, whoever is brought back is not and will never be the same as you once knew them. To ignore that truth rather than feel the immense loss and move through the grief, is to wreak havoc on one’s psyche and world. But, what if some things come back to life after they’ve been buried? The tears have been shed, the tidal waves of grief have slowed to small swells, and you’ve moved on. And somehow, after a significant amount of time there’s a second chance. Do you take it? How do you navigate it now that you’re the one who’s changed?
People aren’t the only ones who die. Ideas, dreams, past selves and identities can also come to an end and the loss that’s felt in their wake needs to be honored just the same as if they were significant people in our lives. A reason why the loss of these things can feel as strongly as losing a person is because our brains don’t know the difference between reality and dreams, between the present and our memories, so when we shed something internally the pain of the loss is still physical and very real. The only way to move on and into the new is through feeling the loss.
I bring this all up because, unlike people in their corporeal bodies, opportunities can arise as we go about our lives that open the door to possibly making old dreams and goals a reality. How does one negotiate and begin to understand the reemergence of something once it’s already been let go? I suppose it really depends on if the thing itself was what needed to die or the context in which it was framed. The past few years, and this year in particular, have been incredibly intense and transformative for me. I went from living in NYC for over a decade, getting so close to fulfilling dreams that I’d had since I was a kid, to realizing those dreams (among other things) were contributing majorly to a decline in my health and the quality of my life. In my last two years of living in New York I came to the sobering conclusion that if I were to start living authentically and in alignment with myself I had to change my dreams and leave New York and all my projected future hopes, endeavors and life behind me. It took those two years for me to mourn, begin to realize and make space for other dreams and needs to enter my life and then I was able to actually commit to leaving The City. Two years of mourning a life path I had been on since the age of seven. As I reentered the world it was as an adult infant trying to figure out how to live in my body, my brain, my relationships and society in completely new ways. I was a wreck. During that period of grieving, I could barely listen to music because the sadness of no longer being on track to being the artist and producer I’d wanted to be for so long was too overwhelming. Thinking about all the time, all the years that I had dedicated to opening up doors and becoming a part of the music industry and community was acutely painful as I saw myself out. I stopped singing. My notes and books from conservatory and engineering school gathered dust. The only thing keeping me connected to music and audio at all were #tbt profiles on incredible producers, musicians, and artists I would write for Female Frequency.
I also found in that time that grieving is not all pain. A lot of the process also has to do with acknowledging and experiencing immense gratitude. My 29 and 30-year-old selves had to go back to 7-year-old Katie and thank her for being the dreamer, hard worker, and courageous human that she was. Because of her, I lived in one of the most famous and incredible cities in the world. I got to perform at historical establishments I never thought I would, like The Bitter End in The Village and The Apollo. I got to study and learn from Grammy-winning and multi-platinum selling engineers and producers at IAR. Even more importantly, I made some of my best friends there and have memories enough to last me many lifetimes. I got to have all of that because a seven year old wanted to submerge herself in song and create more music for the world. I will be forever in her debt because I would not be who I am without her guiding me in some integral way. It brought me comfort knowing that she’d probably be really stoked by everything I’ve done up until this point. Being grateful for her and the journey she took me on also made it easier to accept that it was ok that my needs at 30 are different than my needs at 7, and that the prioritization of those needs are more important than sticking to a particular path.
Back to now. This past year, as I’ve been focusing more on writing I have also been, reluctantly and with much hesitation, rebuilding a structure for myself to get back into engineering and producing. It almost feels like I’m being haunted by a ghost and I’m not sure if it’s a friendly, “I’m just stuck here until you figure out what’s still tethering me to this earthly plane so you can do something about it and set me free” ghost or an evil “I’m here to reinforce the capitalist, work-til-you’re dead, go big or go home, scarcity mindset that you are currently failing at because I’m a dick and most likely a Baby Boomer” ghost. I’m sure it’s a bit of both. What I’m coming to realize is that, even though I initially let go of the idea of working in music, I still have those skills and that training and can use them as a means to support myself financially. Almost three years ago I needed to completely let it go to allow myself to get to that place because at the time and for all of my life up until that point, my career was EVERYTHING. Literally was my world. Everything else came second. Now I’m in a place where career stuff has less of hold on me (though I still really struggle with falling back on old habits and ways of thinking) and I can engage in it with more discernment and detachment and, more importantly, look at the narratives that were underneath and driving the work initially so I can better understand and heal them. Because those are things that actually haunt us. Not the work itself, the people or places. But the stories we tell ourselves about them.
How will we go on without them? Life feels so dull and empty. I wish I told them how I felt. How do I fill this void? Will I ever be happy again? All valid questions and feelings and all with different answers for different people. For me, the answers have looked like reminding myself that I am whole and worthy just as I am. It’s not about what I do and achieve and being consumed by that that matters, but how I live. It matters how I speak to myself. It matters how I treat myself. Especially when I’m struggling and in all of my feelings. Living is hard, let’s not make it even harder on ourselves. Change and endings need to happen so we can stop holding ourselves back. Take your own hand, move through the pain, and let it go.
Katie Louchheim is happy that she’s finally been able to rebirth and resurrect this blog and in the spirit of that would like to wish all a Shana Tova, Happy Mabon, a balanced Autumn Equinox, The spoopiest of Spoopy Seasons, and Joyful first weeks of the Descent.