I am going to make it through this year/if it kills me.
April 6, 2009 9:16 AM   Subscribe

This last year was not a good one for me. I'm looking for recommendations for music and mental exercises to move on and make this next year a better one.

So my life took a very frustrating turn this last year, beginning precisely on my birthday. As a result, I had to abandon a relationship I was quite happy with and pick up my life and start over (twice!) in one year. I am professionally back to where I was a year ago and socially trying to build a new groups of friends.

With my birthday coming up soon, I am approaching it with a weird mix of fear and relief. I want to just cleanse my mind and go forward with the thought that "Well, next year can't be any worse." What writing or mental exercises can I undertake to acknowledge this last year, but also get ready to dust myself off and move on? What music should I be playing to inspire and psyche myself up for a new year? (I have been playing This Year a lot in the past couple days, which is a good start, but I need more.)
posted by piratebowling to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I completely understand how 2008 sucked hardcore, it did for me too. A good song which has helped me move forward is Dar William's Better Things. I prefer the live version on her Out There Live album, but this was the only Google Video hit I could find since it's not on YouTube.

I hope it helps!
posted by carabiner at 9:29 AM on April 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm a huge fan of accepting the feelings of negativity you get while going through these periods without making them self-defining.

Best of luck.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

i'm sorry you had such a tough year and i think it's awesome that you're being proactive in trying to get positive about your future. Whenever I hear this song from Sufjan Stevens, I immediately get happy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TboOfiTjhU

During recent hard times this one was on repeat from The Killers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6ERe23kSBM

good luck!!
posted by tealeaf522 at 9:50 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

My playlist for this purpose includes some of the following. They don't have a lot in common other than that they make me feel good, and generally center around the "things are going to get better" theme. Hope they have a similar effect on you.

"Lesson No. 1," Viva Voce
"Do You Realize," The Flaming Lips
"Beliefs Pile," Avail
"Magnolia Soul," Ozomatli
"Ultimate," Gogol Bordello
"100 Resolutions," Lawrence Arms
"Corvette," Golden Smog
"Speeding Motorcycle," Yo La Tengo
"Shining On," Big D and the Kids Table

If you like hip-hop, there are lots of other suggestions I might have, including "Laugh/Love/Fuck," by The Coup and "Things Go Better" by Soul Position.
posted by jeffmshaw at 9:58 AM on April 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Hey pb-
I hear you, I had a crappy year last year and could not wait to leave it behind. (In fact, you were there when I officially left it behind, weren't you?) I was desperate for a mantra to encompass how I felt about moving on from that year. About 2 weeks before my birthday, I decided on, "Fuck 35." Not in a wallowing, bleak, negative way, but in a,"Fuck 35. 35 sucked so bad I can't WAIT to be 36, cause 36 is going to be such an awesome year. Plus, 36 is a square number, which is delightful. I'm psyched."

I know you wanted music recommendations, but I don't have anything in particular. Just my Fuck 35 mantra.

Happy upcoming bday!

p.s. 36 has been pretty damn good so far.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:05 AM on April 6, 2009

I think you're really onto something trying to use music to move through a tough phase - that Johnny Cash song was absolutely dead=on - you really should "get a rhythm when you get the blues."

Everyone's got a few songs or genres that they're helpless against - that is, their bad moods simply cannot survive contact w/ said music. I think it's great to listen to inspirational songs with lyrics that directly reference difficulty and overcoming it - songs about hope and courage, such as Better Son or Daughter by Rilo Kiley or the Mountain Goats tune you linked. HOWEVER, I think the shortest musical path to a Good Feeling has less to do with introspective lyrics than it has to do with joyful sounds.

What songs and genres do you have a great time listening to? For my part, I've always liked something real funky to shake the rust off. For instance, let me just toss this opening salvo at your rough year - Stevie Wonder rocking Sesame Street. Seriously, I'm convinced that, when humanity gets its damn act together and we prepare to march into the future in universal brotherhood, they're gonna play Stevie Wonder at the unification ceremony.

So, whatever your preferred Good Time genre is, listen to a lot of that and try to lock a few especially toe-tapping songs into your head, so you'll have them with you as you face your day. If you feel that old despair kicking it, just crank up the "volume" of the beat you've got with you. When I was at my lowest, my absolute lowest, I did this and had some great results - there were a couple Snoop Dogg songs that I just loved, so I'd listen to them over and over again until I had the lyrics memorized. That way, when I was out and felt that mental noose tightening, I could whisper a couple verses to myself and be alright again. As you can imagine, I learned those lyrics pretty well!

Even though I'm pretty well stabilized nowadays, I still use this method. Don't know how many of these you'll enjoy, but here's a few tunes that I keep on deck to keep a spring in my step.

Rah-Rah-Rasputin, Russia's Greatest Love Machine

Those Dear Hearts & Gentle People - Bing Crosby
Billy motherfucking Joel
Timbaland (absolutely an example of sound-before-lyrics)
The Partisan Song (belongs more in the "inspiration" column than the "joyful" column, honestly)
Pork & Beans!
Je Xoix Te Voir!

You get the idea - lock a happy song in to your head and draw from it as often as you need. Think of it as the Zippity-Do-Da effect.
posted by EatTheWeek at 10:05 AM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Gershwin's Bidin' My Time (Next year, next year/Somethin's bound to happen/This year, this year/I'll just keep on nappin').

Meanwhile you can revisit the responses to this question too.
posted by hellopanda at 10:16 AM on April 6, 2009

Yeah, 2008 was awful for me too. Lived through it, got some hard-earned hard knocks, learned some things, and I'm moving on.

I was going to recommend This Year, but you've already been tastefully rocking that, so that's good. Don't forget Sax Rohmer #1; there's some serious determination in that one too.

Let me suggest, in addition, some strange and silly stuff with complex and indecipherable lyrics that make you unaccountably happy and weirdly invulnerable. Los Campesinos!
You! Me! Dancing! (Features enormous red creatures destroying science-fiction cities)
Death to Los Camesinos!

They've helped a lot. Also, Cut Off Your Hands:
Turn Cold.

Mostly, just survive. Enjoy the tough-looking new scar tissue. Cultivate that aura that says "Yeah, I've been through hell. I made it out. I'm fucking amazing."
posted by MrVisible at 10:16 AM on April 6, 2009

This will be our year - the Zombies

It's Gonna Be (Alright) - Ween
(this might be a little wistful and sad but I feel it nails the feelings inherent in the ending of a relationship and the hope in continuing on.)

If Looks Could Kill and Keep It Clean - Camera Obscura
posted by schyler523 at 10:21 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan is pure catharsis.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:27 AM on April 6, 2009

I'll second Dar Williams, my choice being After All; doesn't quite seem to fit your request until the last two lines change everything.

Writing exercises? Write a letter to everyone or everything that you have left things unsaid or unresolved or still have some residual feelings that are keeping you from moving forward. Long or short, stream of consciousness, don't worry about spelling, punctuation or format. The one suggestion I have for doing this is to write them out longhand; there's something about the physical act of having to write things out on paper that makes it more cathartic than typing. Don't re-read them to make corrections or fix them; they're fine the way they are. Get out whatever you need to without any intention of ever sending them.

Best to your next year and cheers to you for doing something to make it so.
posted by variella at 10:58 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think having a soundtrack for the year is a great idea. I have a couple of mixes at home for when I need that kind of pick me up. Unfortunately I'm at work, so this is just what I remember of the top of my head...These are songs I think of as great stop-moping-get-going/take your life back songs. (Not that I'm implying that you're moping, just that these songs get me going when I'm feeling battered and bruised by life)

The Weakerthans - Plea from a Cat Named Virtue
Modest Mouse - Float On
Datarock - Fa-Fa-Fa
Barenaked Ladies - Pinch Me
Barenaked Ladies - Baby Seat
Gaelic Storm - Beggarman
Fraggle Rock - Allister
Bruce Cockburn - Get Up Jonah
New Pornographers - Mutiny I Promise You
Santogold, etc - My Drive Thru (free download on the Converse site)
Benny Goodman - Sing, Sing, Sing
Gwen Stephani - What You Waiting For
Yoshida Brothers - Rising

And if you don't mind foreign music...Sambomaster is a fantastic Japanese rock band all full of 'the world is awesome, power of rock and roll' type music. Especially "Utagoe yoo Kore" "Subete no Yoru to Subete no Asa ni Tambourine o Narasu no da" (they're really into long names) and "Tegami ~Kitarubeki Ongaku to Shite~"
posted by Caravantea at 11:12 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

A few that work for me:

Stevie Wonder (again!), Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing (from Innervisions)
Ozomatli (again!), Love and Hope (from Street Signs)
Jamie Lidell, Little Bit of Feel Good (from Jim)

Great idea!
posted by chicainthecity at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2009

Harlem Shakes: Strictly Game. Awesome song, chorus chimes "this will be a better year." I enjoy.
posted by sararah at 11:35 AM on April 6, 2009

Oh! Forgot Paul Weller's Brand New Start (don't know the album, sorry)
posted by chicainthecity at 11:38 AM on April 6, 2009

I started to make an 8tracks mix on this theme but I see someone else already did.

Good stuff.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2009

posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2009

You'll get no argument from me that 2008 sucked in a big way. Lots of songs have helped me. "We're Going Down" and "Rock a Bye Maybe" by the Night Marchers were big helps. I'd also heartily recommend:

"I Don't Care About You" by Fear
"Cereal Song" and "4am" by Bicycle Thief
"Total Bummer" by Rocket from the Crypt
and oddly enough, anything by Richard Cheese
posted by Atom12 at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2009

The Impossible Dream
posted by phrontist at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2009

the soundtrack to mamma mia. i know it's absolutely cheesy, but i cannot stay in a funk while listening to it (i skip the 2 or 3 angsty brooding songs).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:05 PM on April 6, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the recommendations so far.

I think it's interesting that there are so many more music suggestions than mental exercises, but I don't mind. I must admit it feels pretty damn cool to get a mixtape from Metafilter.
posted by piratebowling at 12:27 PM on April 6, 2009

Oh! I'd meant to go over the mental exercises - thanks for reminding me!

There are two things which have helped me.

First, Tai Chi is awesome. It is extremely beneficial to the body and the mind to wake up and meditate while moving slowly every morning. It clears the brain and it straightens the spine - and you'd be surprised how much straightening your spine can help you relax and approach difficulty.

Second, I recommend getting an Oblique Strategies deck; they are always helpful for finding new directions.
posted by koeselitz at 12:43 PM on April 6, 2009

As far as mental exercises go, what helped me was the thought that I'd just focus on getting through the next minute. Or ten minutes. Or hour. Or day. Whatever works for you. But when you start throwing out absolutes like "I'll always feel this way" or "it'll always be like this" it becomes a lot harder.

It's also tempting to get caught up in your own drama. Try to keep things in perspective. No matter how hard you've got it, somebody's got it a lot worse than you do. Try to focus on the positive things in your life that bring you joy -- friends, family, good ice cream, whatever. Nothing's off limits and nothing's too small or stupid. Make a list and keep adding to it.
posted by Atom12 at 1:04 PM on April 6, 2009

Death Cab for Cutie - The New Year

Kate Havnevik - New Day

Regina Spektor - Better

Shout Out Louds - Tonight I Have to Leave It

Ms. John Soda - Hands
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:34 PM on April 6, 2009

I'm not sure how much you write already, but I find that writing - AT ALL - can be helpful.

Prompts never helped me, because it wasn't that I was hiding from writing about what I ate for lunch, or how I spent my summer vacation or why I developed an intense fear of spiders. I needed to sit down with a piece of blank paper (or a blank screen) and just GO.

I started a RBP (really bad poetry) filter on my livejournal. It was the repository for all this writing. I just wrote. I let myself be emo. I let my writing get derivative. I loaded myself up with all the cliches I could think of and I SPEWED them forth onto paper. And omg it was bad. But it was helpful. It was cleansing. And I don't know how long my really bad year would have lasted if it hadn't been for my RBP therapy.


As for mentally, I've had a lot of luck using the twelve step model for reorganizing my thinking about things so that my head doesn't explode. (There's a reason why it is used by support groups of all types - because it is applicable to just about any situation, and is just a nice method for organizing your thinking.) Support group is probably not the most productive way to think about this. Instead, you might consider grabbing a friend and setting up a more-or-less formal relationship with them. In AA, we use sponsors, and the general rule is that you look around the room and if you see someone who you aspire to be like, that's your sponsor. Finding someone to mentor you - ala walk you through a mental process LIKE (or even modeled on) the twelve step program - might be very helpful. One of the benefits of AA is that you know, for the most part, that everyone in the room just wants what is best for you even if they've never met you. Finding someone who genuinely just cares for you but has no vested interest in your outcome (moms, employers, best friends and potential life partners immediately spring to mind as BAD suggestions to fill this role) and who would be willing to just sit down with you periodically to chat about different issues and help you organize your thinking might be a good step. A mind is a scary place - you don't want to go in there alone...

Oh hey, I just described therapy! Except not. Because, see, what you don't need is for someone to sit across the room for you and just nod in passive acceptance of everything you say. You want someone who can sit down with you, write things out, and then hold you accountable for moving onward and upward. Someone who isn't afraid to say, "Okay piratebowling, that trip to the Amazon is great and all, but last time we talked you were into blown glass art - how is this helping you get there? And if you're no longer interested in getting there, let's figure out why..."


And finally a musical theme. I'm a fan of soundtracks and film scores for mood music because...well...that's what they do. They also avoid lyrics which are tricky when you're trying to awaken a certain mood in yourself. That's good, because you want to focus on what YOU are feeling instead of what the lyricist wants you to feel.

The soundtrack from Amelie always reminds me that life is an adventure, and there is magic everywhere if you just look closely enough.

Sorry for walloftext-ing you. Happy pre-birthday.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:57 PM on April 6, 2009

Make up a ritual for yourself to purge the bad stuff in your life and replace it with good stuff. Whether it's a religious ritual, or a symbolic burning of objects that represent things that make you unhappy, or rearranging all of the furniture in your home, do something that reminds you that the old stuff is over and you're in a new phase of your life.
posted by decathecting at 2:13 PM on April 6, 2009

Holland, 1945 - Neutral Milk Hotel

"But now we must pick up every piece, of the life we used to love. Just to keep ourselves at least enough to carry on."
posted by schyler523 at 9:21 AM on April 7, 2009

I've been kinda hanging back here, because I know musical tastes have changed. But my go-to album for lift-me-up in my not-so-happy youth was Wavelength by Van Morrison. You have to get past the goofy disco cover first, but if you do, it's all gold.

Some sample lyrics:

"Take it where you find it, can't leave it alone
You will find a purpose, for carryin' on.
Mostly when you find it, your heart will be strong,
about it."

"I'm gonna walk down the street, until I see, my shining light."

"And though the obstacles along the way, may feel tremendous,
There are guides and spirits all along the way,
who will befriend us."
posted by bricoleur at 5:24 PM on April 7, 2009

Invest in the Polyphonic Spree's musical catalogue...it is pick-me-up music of the highest order.

And as someone who recently turned 31, let me just say that Aimee Mann is a beautiful deathtrap to be avoided when you're feeling low.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2009

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