Kumbaya-deeyada and the Paralysis of Perfection

Two nights ago I went to a gathering at a charming little cafe with an outdoor event space that looks like a burning man camp got lost on their way to the desert and ended up in Bushwick. I decided to go on a whim after coming across an event they advertised on Facebook called Musicollage. A group of smiley young white people dressed in harem pants and paisley scarves gathered around to burn some palo santo and vocalize until their sounds melded together to form something resembling a song. Now, in spite of the unsettlingly cult-like atmosphere, (something my New-York-City-neuroses had great trouble easing into), I must admit that I enjoyed myself. As we roamed along the astroturf, humming in synchrony beneath the moonlight, I found myself beginning to sing in a way that I haven’t in a very long time. I had control, I could project, I could harmonize, and most importantly, I could emote. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to access this type of singing that it felt like nothing short of a miracle; those evangelical healers ain’t got nothin’ on Musicollage.

Up-to-date bathroom selfie at my favorite place to write and subsequently my favorite place to shit

As the evening wrapped up, we sat in a circle and had the opportunity to talk about how we felt and kumbaya-deeyada. To my surprise, (or perhaps this is just how they initiate newcomers), several participants felt inclined to note my presence. A few folks said, “You have an amazing voice,” then another person said, “You really helped my singing; your strong guidance made me feel comfortable exploring my own voice,” and lastly, undoubtedly the most moving comment of all, “You have an Amy Winehouse sound.”

Okay, I’m joining this cult. Away, team!

Not relevant, but a beautiful view from a rooftop screening I recently attended. Points if you can figure out which obscenely 80’s film it was…


It really was a far better way to spend the evening than my usual routine. You see, I am plagued with the modern misfortune of not really having a network of friends. This is not to say that I don’t have friends! I just don’t have any friends who are friends with my friends. Get it? So every night I’m at a different bar with a different friend having the same conversation but perhaps with a different drink in hand. It’s not the most fulfilling of ways to spend my time nor do I feel that it’s sustainable (for my liver or my sanity).

Yesterday I sent out my resume for some jobs that I have no business applying to and then I went to the gym. As it turns out, when I don’t physically exert my energy, it goes back into my body to be converted into pure, hot psychoses. So! I take it to the gym. But this time, in an attempt to make the most of my session, I brought along a leave-in conditioner that I’ve been meaning to use.

Yes, I did a hair treatment at the gym.

And yes, it is only now occurring to me how that might be a bit strange. This prolonged deprivation of stimulation has lead to a rapidly dwindling sense of self-awareness. Pretty soon I’ll be one of those people who sings aloud at the grocery store or watches movies at the coffee shop or… the final evolution, touches my bare feet on the train.

God help me.

On another disgusting note, this morning I decided to take a fish oil capsule from a bottle that I purchased about two years ago. I checked the label – they don’t expire for another year. So they’re fine! Right? Wrong. As I type this I am emitting burps redolent of something that I’ve only ever smelled before outside of a dumpster in Chinatown.

Which reminds me, I just reread a handful of essays that I’ve saved over the years that thanks to my crippling perfectionism, I never published. One of them is about the time I was too cheap to get a haircut from a ‘traditional’ salon, so I took myself to a nondescript studio in Chinatown where they did it for $20. The experience was… memorable.

I found another essay I wrote about the day I went to the beach and met a very nice gentleman while wading through the tide. He was well-meaning and our conversation was relatively interesting, but he lost me when he decided to spend the entirety of our 10 minutes together talking exclusively to my breasts. Of course an encounter like this is not unusual for any woman who’s lived past puberty, but it was unique in that he did not break his stare for even a single moment. It was so shameless that while I know I should have taken offense to it, I walked away feeling strangely impressed with his Jedi-like focus. Perhaps he thought my eyes really were down there – the water creating a reflective surface similar to that of a mirror in an old camera lens, flipping the image upward. Anything is possible I suppose.

Another essay that I rediscovered is from last summer, without a doubt the most harrowing and surreal period of my entire life, when my time was spent either in hospitals with my mother or in Brooklyn with my abusive then-partner (no, this is not the place to expound on that). In an admittedly desperate attempt to infuse some joy into my life, I decided one night that I would attend a roller-disco party. Oh yes, it was a terrible idea. To avoid simply pasting the whole essay in here, I’ll just give you the gist of it:

I spent 2 hours waiting in line for rental skates, 10 minutes on the rink, and then 3 hours in the E.R. There I would witness in the room across from me, a young man being wheeled in on his stomach, arms outstretched ahead like a petite black superman, as he was admitted for a gunshot wound… to the ass. I thought that surely he was having a worse night than me, but then I got the chance to talk to him in the hallway while we were awaiting x-rays and he was remarkably unfazed, jovial in fact.

I, on the other hand, with a freshly fractured wrist and an exhausting, volatile partner pacing in the next room (no doubt wishing I had just broken my neck and spared him the inconvenience of having to be there), was not okay. I was so deeply not okay. I believe the reason I’ve been withholding this particular story is that, while I was able to extract some moments of levity from it, it is an inescapably painful period of my life that is still so difficult to reflect upon. Perhaps one day I’ll be ready to share the story in its entirety but for now that’s all I can spare.

Nevertheless, there are countless pieces that I re-read now and think, “Why didn’t I just publish this? There was nothing wrong with it!” I take note of other creators, people who consistently produce and release content, and know that they could not possibly be perfectionists. They are enabled by a mindset that both taunts and alludes me. “How do they do it?” I think, “Are they not petrified of adding mediocrity to this already oversaturated climate? Do they not see how their work could be improved?”

I justify my stubborn reticence by telling myself that these unpublished essays are simply being saved. Waiting in the wings for the glorious day that I compile them into a book. Of course if I’m being honest I would argue that if I’m too afraid to post these pieces on a private blog, then surely I’ll never be ready to consider them for a book. Right? Right.

Anyway, I’m off to go have a drink at another bar with another friend. I’ll wrap this up by saying that if anyone in the Brooklyn area feels inclined to take me away from my boredom, self-criticism, and noxious fish-burps, then do be in touch! I enjoy nachos, books, photography, visiting museums, more nachos, and getting lightly sauced at dive bars. (Much like the vegetables in the image above. Indeed, I’ve been wanting to use this photo for some time now. Thank you for humoring me.)



  1. I am the same re: friends. I haven’t traveled in a pack since Fredonia. I have friends but while they know OF each other they don’t know each other so it’s always a mano a mano situation. We need another art date. Life is sucky of late and art is one of the few things that makes me hopeful. Art and alcohol, lol.

  2. Please keep writing. And get that book together.

  3. Great read, Bryn! I would read your book, just saying. Also, I’m still waiting on that yoga and/or pole class! I don’t really drink so I’ll spare your liver.

  4. Comedy and tragedy you have a gift for writing about both . Try not to analyze how other people can send their stories out , I think better to save them and put them in order in one book. There is more than one book in you and I do hope some day you will write The Second Book Of Ruth. A warning never eat yellow snow. Oh, in a high class bar or a dive Cranberry juice is the best drink by far.

Comments are closed.