Darling, I’m not going to lie to you. I won’t fill your mind with quixotic fairytales, vacant promises and jubilant dreams. I’m not going to hold your hand, reassure you, tell you that your life will be ideal, it will be complicated. That is the truth. You will struggle. A tiny speck of stardust called hope, will become the elixir you need the most. Your pillow, stained with tears. Your heart, heavy and broken. Your mind, a cloud of chaos. Moments of isolation, panic, fear. Blinded by a forest of darkness. Lost without a compass to guide you. But what you don’t know darling, is how strong you are. You will not see the light for some time, but when you do, it will radiate. Flow beneath your skin, enlighten you. Darling, you will rise like a phoenix. You beautiful warrior. You can do it. I believe in you. Struggle, to find your strength. Fall, to find your bliss. Hope, to find your way. EJ ©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.
I am so happy to accept the Sunshine Award Nomination from an amazing blogger – AimingForScorpion. Thank you so much! Check out her blog here.
So as for the award, here are the rules:
Thank the person who nominated you.
Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
Nominate a few other bloggers.
Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you nominated.
Notify the bloggers on their blog.
Put the award button on your blog.
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF HAPPINESS?
Happiness often feels like an unreachable goal to me, but being truly happy is quite simply, a choice. A choice that only you can make. You have to wake up every morning and choose to be happy, no matter what life throws at you. You have to fight the sad, angry, jealous and toxic feelings that overcome you and be happy with your life. Finding happiness is a journey that I am on right now. I have days when I am incredibly happy but others when I feel like I want the ground to swallow me up. I’m trying to find a balance. I’m trying hard to see past everything that is holding me back and see the light. That’s what happiness is to me, it’s light. We live in a cruel, negative and dark world at times and happiness is a ray of sunshine, a light that won’t burn out. One day I will choose to be happy and I will stop letting negativity overshadow my life but I’m not ready yet, I have many lessons to learn, not just about how to be happy and content with my life but about overcoming the obstacles that I face and learning to deal with my emotions.
IS IT WORSE TO FAIL AT SOMETHING OR NEVER ATTEMPT IT IN THE FIRST PLACE?
JK Rowling said that ‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.’ I agree with every single word of this. Life is difficult and messy and sometimes you’re not going to achieve what you want to right away. The path to success is paved with disappointment. I am getting closer to my goals but I know that I will encounter more failure along the way. I think if you really want something, if you feel it deep down in your gut that it’s what you need to be doing then no amount of failure will be able to stop you.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE JUST ONE THING TO CHANGE ABOUT THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
It’s hard to choose just one but if I could I would erase negativity from the world. It’s hard to stay positive and live a happy life when you live in a world that’s constantly trying to pull you down, telling you who you should love, what you should do with your life, how you should look and who you should be.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS.
Different. Ambitious. Creative.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?
I have so many favourite quotes because I am in love with words, especially wise ones from people who have lived influential lives. One of my all time favourite quotes is ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.’ It’s a true phrase of how we should all live our lives. I want to follow this philosophy, I want to dance in the rain even when the sun doesn’t shine, it’s easy to just say it but actually doing it, well, that’s another thing entirely.
IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Embrace all of the things about yourself that make you different. Don’t worry too much about what path you will go down, who you will meet and what your purpose in life is because you already know, you have always known. You are a writer. You live and breathe words and no matter what the future holds, just know that words will get you through anything.
WHEN YOU DAYDREAM, WHERE DOES YOUR MIND WANDER?
I’m a future thinker. It’s not always a good thing because thinking too much about the future or the past can cause a lot of anxiety. It’s something I struggle with. My mind is constantly wandering, wondering and wishing.
Here are your questions.
What one thing in your life would you change?
Why do you blog?
What inspires you?
Describe your life in three words.
I’ve decided that this year is the year that I will not only attempt but win NANOWRIMO. Now if you don’t know what NANOWRIMO stands for, I will tell you. It stands for – National Novel Writing Month. That’s right, I’m going to attempt to write an entire novel…. in a month! That’s impossible, you’re probably thinking. It isn’t. Thousands of people do it and this year, I will be one of them. I have all of my character profiles done but I still need to write down plot points from the beginning to the end of my story, I still have time though. Once I’ve done that I will confidently be waiting for the 1st of November when I can get my first draft done in just 30 days.
This is the first year that I am seriously taking up the challenge, I have plenty of time on my hands. I have no job and nothing to tie me down, the only thing I lack is motivation. I’ve added some writing buddies on my NANOWRIMO page and if I get stuck I can talk to one of them or one of my other writing friends. I need to do this. I need to prove to myself that I can really do it. I know I can complete a novel from start to finish, I just need to believe in myself. Winning NANOWRIMO will help me with this self belief.
My new idea is my fourth attempt at a novel. I feel like I haven’t found the right story or the right genre yet. I’m sure I will find out during the NANOWRIMO process if this is the right fit for me. The story is women’s fiction, I would describe it as a chick lit with suspense. The story follows two woman who have an unlikely connection, the story will reveal a big secret and there will be plenty of shocks and surprises to keep the reader turning the page.
I’ve worked out that writing 2,000 words a day would get me to 62,000 words and I only need 50,000 to complete the NANOWRIMO challenge. I’m sure I can manage more then 1,500 words each day. There will be distractions, situations and obstacles but I am really excited about the challenge and I hope that my confidence stays high and I remain focused on the goal. I would love to post another blog at the end of November and tell you all that I did it. Wish me luck… I’m going to need it!
The Civil Wars release, what could be their last album. The album is a beautiful collection of organic arrangements, radiant vocals and heart-rending lyrics. It’s the perfect ‘break-up’ album.
I first discovered this duo when their song If I Didn’t Know Better was featured on the pilot episode of the US TV show Nashville. They also sang alongside Taylor Swift in the beautiful soundtrack song Safe & Sound for the successful film The Hunger Games. I was captivated by their harmonies, the smooth and eloquent melodies and the passion-filled lyrics.
The Civil Wars are currently on hiatus, there is a large uncertainty that they will never get back together but nevertheless they release their beautiful self-titled second album. If you are looking for an album to dance around your room to, you are in the wrong place. This album is a perfect soundtrack to your tears, a soothing collection of tracks that will make your heart ache.
After connecting in a Music City recording studio writing camp back in 2008, Joy Williams and John Paul White created The Civil Wars and worked their way up the Nashville scene. Their Gold-certified first album Barton Hallow received a Grammy; it showcased the obvious talent and chemistry of Williams and White. And while they were never a couple, they are both separately married with children, their best songs play off the will-they-or-won’t-they tension that fills the spaces between locked eyes and harmonized choruses.
The songs on this album are nothing short of radiant, from the flawless vocals to the simple arrangements, the duo are an absolute treasure.
In late 2012, they unceremoniously cancelled a chunk of tour dates, and announced that they would no longer play together live. It wasn’t quite a breakup, but it was enough to seriously question if they would have new music for their fans this year. To everyone’s surprise, Williams and White somehow managed to get in the studio together, at the height of their mutual discontent, to record their highly anticipated sophomore self-titled album.
Their 2011 début album, Barton Hollow, received a huge boost when Adele hailed them as ‘the best live band I’ve ever seen.’ They went on to win two Grammy awards this year, collecting them without making eye contact or, notably, thanking each other. They stated ‘If you want to know what happened to the band, listen to the album.’
That raw honesty runs through the core of this album. From the album’s opening moments with the dark, smoky eruption of The One That Got Away, a resonant track that doesn’t have a hint of any reconciliation between the two. A perfect break-up song that could resonate with many, with poignant lyrics such as ‘Oh, if I could go back in time / When you only held me in my mind / Just a longing gone without a trace / Oh, I wish I’d never ever seen your face / I wish you were the one/ Wish you were the one that got away.’
I Had Me a Girl is a little brooding, a little dangerous. It smoulders says Williams. With dark Gothic tones and distorted electric guitars, White’s voice is seductive; Whereas Williams’ vocals are moody and entrancing. A classic Civil Wars type of track, with amazing vocal runs and simple relatable lyrics such as ‘Like cigarette smoke/ she came and she went/ I slipped through his hands/ to my back door man/ under his chin’ – what more do you want from a song?
The album is littered with songs, describing emotional turmoil. Same Old Same Old is haunting, gentle with profound lyrics. Williams describes the meaning behind this track she says ‘This song represents the ache of monogamy… What I’m realizing now is that sometimes the ‘same old same old’ can actually be rich, worthwhile and a great adventure.’ The track is beautiful, it’s about love, separation and desire. The gorgeous acoustic guitar gently accompanies the two voices.
Dust To Dust starts with a metronome drumbeat that is the pulse of the entire song. Williams’ voice is elegant, filled with heartache and longing. When she sings the lyrics ‘They don’t fool me, you’ve been lonely too long, and it is definitely heart-breaking. She comments on the process of writing this song. Dust to Dust is ‘an anthem for the lonely… when John Paul and I wrote this late one night in Birmingham, England, we decided to change the pronoun at the end of the song. We wanted to represent that we all experience loneliness in our lives.’
Eavesdrop is a mid-tempo acoustic number that builds. A song that could easily swap from Country to Pop, it is one of my favourites on the entire album. Williams says ‘Pregnancy literally changed the make-up of my vocal chords. There’s a different timbre to it now, and I love that I can hear the story of my son in my singing.’
Vocally, the real gem on the album is Devils Backbone, Williams croons about a bad boy love affair, and it’s a great showcase of what she can do with her stunning voice. The duo says ‘this song is our take on an Americana murder ballad.’ This track is a little more complex than the other, a smooth mix of rock ‘n’ roll and country.
From This Valley brings a cheerful disposition to a collection of sombre tracks. Towards the end of country gospel track, drums and guitars suddenly drop away to leave the voices of Joy Williams and John Paul White exposed, the duo harmonising with almost spooky grace. Syllables are elongated and multiplied, their voices blend together, twisting and turning, separating and uniting.
Tell Mama is a rendition of a classic, Williams quotes ‘We recorded the performance at Fame studio in Muscle Shoals, a place we’d written a few songs. I always felt the musical ghosts in that studio, one of whom was the great Etta James. We thought it would be a fun to take a stab at ‘Tell Mama.’ I found out later that where we recorded was the same room she recorded her version. That might explain why I kept getting goose bumps.’ They bring out the conviction in the lyrics and the gorgeous flow of the melody.
Oh Henry isn’t my favourite on the album; it seems to drop in quality ever so slightly. The music is bright and buoyant but the song doesn’t really sit well with the rest on the album. Disarm is a rendition of the Smashing Pumpkins number. This track showcases White’s soaring vocals, gentle acoustic guitar and perfectly mirrored harmonies, this is excellent.
Sacred Heart is the only track on the album in a different language. Williams says ‘We wrote this song in a flat in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in full review on a cold night. Tall windows and Victorian furniture, somehow the atmosphere of all the seeped into the song.’ Although this song is in French, the feeling behind the words still bleeds through. A delightful and unexpected turn on the album, a charming song.
D’Arline is ‘a sweet lament of loss and the belief that you’ll never be able to love anybody else again. While we were recording the song together, John Paul and I could hear crows cawing in the background that I’ve since named Edgar, Allen and Poe. This recording and performance of the song is the first and only in existence, a work tape recorded simple on my iPhone.’ A quiet and gentle song that perfectly closes the album.
Williams and White haven’t spoken since the album’s recording finished in the early spring of 2013, and it’s a damn shame that there’s little chance these songs will be performed any time soon. Nonetheless, The Civil Wars have left fans with what is undoubtedly the best album of their career, an elegant, country-stomping exploration of emotional and creative inspiration that definitely didn’t disappoint.
Society has not only changed the way we look at the world but the way that we look at ourselves. We live in a society driven by advertisements and media. From a young age we are bombarded with images of the media’s perception of beauty. We never learn the real definition of beauty. Instead we have computer generated airbrushed images forced upon us, our TV screens filled with advertisements for beauty products, they persuade us to buy makeup to cover up our natural beauty. Our perception of beauty has been distorted by the media and it is only going to get worse. The idea of beauty will never be the same, the damage has already been done.
There are thousands of young girls out there right now, flicking through the pages of their favourite Vogue magazine, hoping and wishing to look like the girl on the cover. It’s wrong. At that age you believe that the images on the cover are the definition of perfect. I know this because I used to be one of them. I was obsessed with the idea of looking like the young celebrities that were the same age as me but were twice as beautiful, with airbrushed skin and fully made faces, I, like many other girls believed it was what they actually looked like. Obviously as I grew up and I discovered the truth but it doesn’t stop the influence that the media has had on my self esteem.
Society would probably say that I am not beautiful. They would say that my eyes were too big, my eyebrows were not perfectly shaped and I had too many curves to even consider being a model. But that’s not true. I used to believe these misconceptions about myself. I would loathe myself in the mirror, wishing I looked like the young celebrities and actresses that I admired. Now of course I have become comfortable in my own skin. Yes, my eyes are big but they are also my best feature. My eyebrows might not be perfect but I have grown to accept them and as for my curves, I like them too. It makes me feel like a woman. Being a size zero is nothing to be proud of. I recently saw a post on my Facebook news feed of a girl showing off that she finally fit back into her size zero jeans. She was perfectly proportioned before but now, her legs look like barbie legs. It’s ridiculous. No one should be striving to be a size zero, it’s unhealthy. Surprisingly, a large percentage of men actually say that they prefer curvier women. So eat that cookie girls, it isn’t going to make you fat.
Something that also concerns me is the way that women present themselves in today’s society. They not only believe that makeup and fake tan will make them beautiful but they believe that dressing provocatively is the only way to receive male attention. Of course sex sells and the media knows this all too well. Exposing cleavage, pouting at the camera and wearing leotards and hot pants. This is what the women of today think is sexy. It’s a sad realization that the days of women respecting themselves is officially over. What happened to the image of women such as Marilyn Monroe? A classy, curvy and attractive woman that is still admired today for her natural beauty. One of her most famous quotes states that imperfection is beauty. But why is it every woman is constantly reminded of her imperfections? How are we supposed to be powerful, confident women when all we see is negative images of what beauty is and what beauty isn’t?
I believe that everyone is beautiful. I believe that I am beautiful. That isn’t me being conceited. I believe that I am a beautiful person. I may not have the prettiest face or the smoothest skin but I have a beautiful personality. I know this now. It has took me a very long time to accept myself. But what about the women that can’t accept themselves? They fall into a downward spiral of self-loathing and low self esteem. People are surprised by the amount of young girls with eating disorders. Are you really surprised? With images of what beauty ‘should’ look like forced in their faces, how are they ever going to feel comfortable in their own skin? What little girls don’t understand is the girl on the front cover of Vogue that they admire, that has pins for legs has been edited tirelessly on photo shop after the actual shot has been taken.
I am blaming society for poisoning our minds with their toxic image of beauty. Beauty cannot be defined. Everything is beautiful. Everyone is beautiful. The colour of the sky, the way a flower blooms in the spring and the image of a rainbow – all of these things are beautiful. Everybody believes that the world is beautiful but why can we not accept that every person is beautiful too? Tall, short, fat, thin, freckles, dark skin, light skin, curvy, green eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes, ginger hair, blonde hair, black hair – everyone is beautiful. People will call you ugly but it is society that is ugly, not you. I am going to live my life believing that I am beautiful, I don’t care what anyone else thinks because life is too short to believe that you are worthless. Unfortunately, that is how society makes us feel – worthless. Society has killed the true meaning of beauty.
Taylor Swift hit the nail on the head when she said that ‘Beauty is sincerity. There are so many ways that a person can be beautiful.’ Never believe that you are not good enough. Never look in the mirror and say I hate myself, I am ugly or I am worthless – you’re not. You are beautiful. Believe this and you will live a beautiful life. We live in a society that only embraces their vision of beauty but there are many visions of beauty. Like a spectrum of colours we are all different and we all have our own identities. Don’t let society kill your definition of beauty. See the beauty in the little things, see the beauty in other people and most importantly – see the beauty in yourself.