2015 & 2016: Two Year’s Worth of Memories (Jesse Amesmith)
by Steven Spoerl
Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.
In the first edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories Green Dreams’ Jesse Amesmith wrote about a show in Rochester that was memorable for all the right reasons (while some of the lead-up was needlessly tense). In 2015, Amesmith turned in a piece about confronting thoughts of inadequacy just after the last chapter of that edition had been posted. As an amendment, that post will run alongside Amesmith’s piece for 2016, a brief summary of stray thoughts that had accumulated over the course of Green Dreams’ summer tour. Both are teeming with insight, heart, and humanity. Amesmith continues to be inspiring at every turn and having her as a consistent part of this series, as always, is nothing short of a privilege.
Some years are exciting, and others are transitory, a build up to potential future excitement. For me, 2015 was a year of setting up dominoes… quietly and carefully aligning the pieces for their future fall. The older I get the less time makes sense, and the more I am able to make sense of it by just staying in the current moment. Do you ever feel like there was so much that happened that nothing at all did? I opened a yoga studio with my mom, Green Dreams wrote and recorded an album I’m very proud of (look for it on Honor Press this summer), I made art that excites me, we got a new bass player, I spent time with friends and family… and I punched a heckler in the face during a set we played in April.
The latter left me a vacillating mess of anxiety & depression. The trauma of being assaulted at a show in a small town and being gossiped about and degraded publicly dredged up a lot of old bullshit leftover from my teenage years, reinforced by a cultural climate that wants to silence my dissonance. I don’t even want to talk about it most times, because talking about it gives the situation and the people who came after me power, or maybe because I’m afraid that it will bring unwanted attention from these men and others who would rather tell me all the reasons it was my fault instead of holding one of their own accountable.
At what point does personal safety and peace of mind intersect with standing up for what you know is right? What you believe in your heart? Is it worth wading through the muck? Is it worth having mud smeared in your face and hair, only to be criticized for getting dirty in the swamp? What even is this metaphor? Welcome to my brain this past year. It’s been rough.
When so many more good things happened to me last year by comparison, why is this awful memory taking up so much space in my brain? Smeared over top of everything I have accomplished is this thick layer of shame. The Shame tells me that talking about the good things isn’t truthful, or worthwhile, because nothing I do ever feels like enough. It tells me that the bad things need to be kept QUIET! “Nobody wants to hear about YOU”, The Shame hisses. The voice inside constantly tells me these terrible lies we all tell ourselves. On it’s best days it sounds like my abusers and detractors, on it’s worst days the voice is my own.
It’s not enough to have a supportive partner, to sign with a label, to have your dream career and lifestyle. Be thinner. Be nicer. Be more agreeable. Be sexy. Be demure. Be younger. Be any way other than how you are right now. You know what though? Even if I could be all of those things it STILL wouldn’t be enough. The voice is insatiable. It’s not sustainable. 2015 was a year that I stopped trusting that voice, and started to question it’s motives. That isn’t me. My eating disorder isn’t me. The me you see isn’t me. The me I see on my worst days isn’t me. It isn’t you, either. We are not these things. We are not our Shame and Doubt. We exist beyond the confines of our bodies, society, space and time.
My heart breaks over and over and over again when that voice repeats that None of It is Enough. For myself, for this world, for everyone who feels like I do. I feel like none of my accomplishments matter if I don’t look a certain way, or act a certain way, like the more I do the longer that list of expectations becomes. I’m trying to shake these feelings and learn to love myself more every day, even if that means a year of wading through the muck. It’s fucking hard.
More and more I am learning that the only thing we can do to stand up against the oppression of the world around us is to soften. To those who love us, to those who oppose us, and most of all to ourselves. 2015 was a year of intense vulnerability, a year where I embraced the idea that to move on I have to really let go. I hope talking about these things reminds you that you’re not alone, that we all struggle with what it means to be us in this world. Keep being you, I’m gonna keep being me. I am enough, and so are you.
My favorite part of 2016 was probably our summer tour. People we met on the road were still optimistic about the fall & the future, and my own life was on a roll; I was about to turn 30, my band was finishing up a record, my business was starting to happen, and it was warm & sunny. We swam as often as we could, and made sure to eat lots of greens, fresh fruit, and drank enough water. We told each other when we needed space, and held each other when we were tired or needed a cry. The folks we stayed with took excellent care of us, and old & new friendships were forged and cared for.
In a lot of ways this trip represented our idealized world… one where we can still afford to drive large heavy vehicles around the country to hopefully play for enough to get to the next place, where we can forgive each other for times we were young or careless, or selfish. A summertime world where there IS enough when we lean in and look for it… but the brightest sun casts the darkest shadows. More than one place we stopped for gas was hurried through, trying to keep quiet & unobtrusive… respectful muppets in the sea of travelers & passersby.
I think a lot about the people that live in these small places, how much they must hurt too, and love too, and get swept away in the sea of the mind, too. This trip, in hindsight, offers the gift of perspective. People who keep hidden away in their own dark corner of the world will only have the perspective from which they sit, and that part of the unlearning of what has happened culturally this year we need to get out of our own bubbles and into new places, expanding our view of the world.
It becomes much harder to hate when you’ve seen more of the world. People are people everywhere you go. For better or worse, the more different we are the more glaring our similarities become. I think most people just want to be heard, ya know? In 2016 I learned that more than ever I need to stop being ruled my ego and what chains me to my idea of myself. All we can do is take care of each other and the world around us. The first step is stepping out of your dark corner, and into the sun.
We’re all just meat skeletons tethered to a floating rock, and I love you. Here are some photos from the Green Dreams Summer Tour 2016, I hope they feel warm to look at, and remind you of what it’s like to go new places and experience new things. Here’s to more of that, this year. ❤