Before there was Thank You Quarantine, there was a busy world. I, like many people, was out and about trying to “do” something with my life but quietly yearning for more impact, meaning and connection. I was newly in love and yet awfully aware that romance wasn’t enough for me when these three words came all at once: Thank You Heartbreak.
What began as a 10 question Q&A series has grown into a podcast with 167 episodes and counting, which essentially amounts to 167 hours of conversation with strangers. I got what I was aching for, alright.
The topic of heartbreak has very much become the heartbeat of my days.
To hear the origin story of Thank You Heartbreak, since without it, there very likely never would have been a Thank You Quarantine, click over to the first installment of this series where I reveal how we got here and introduce you to our first spotlight or catch up on past spotlights.
Otherwise, here’s the CliffsNote version: Thank You Heartbreak celebrates individuals who haven’t just stopped after their heartbreak. Rather than recalling a sob story, aka the universal experience of heartbreak, TYHB is deeply invested in those who choose to shine a light on the silver linings they discovered in the wake of disappointment, in the shadows of uncertainty, and in the waves of grief. And, now, so does Thank You Quarantine. In this series, everyday people—people just like you and me—answer questions they’re not used to asking themselves from an environment they’re not used to being in and in the process discover an upside to the global heartbreak we are all experiencing.
Simple enough and yet self-inquiry is often a daunting undertaking. With this in mind, may we honor the guests who have let us in on their otherwise private revelations and may we remember that this series is for us. May Thank You Quarantine guide us toward feelings that strip us down and into answers that awaken us. May we learn about others through the details of their lives and notice ourselves in the universal experience that we share. And may all of this turn us into greater humans and thankful people.Now, let’s learn from our third guest…
Violinist and Marketing Director at Section. 119, ALYSSA MARTIN Spotlight
1. Weeks into quarantining, with more silence and less distractions, is there something that you feel like you are being called to face? Maybe a feeling about yourself that you can no longer outrun, a fear that has been exacerbated, a dependency that’s been crippling you, a relationship that you realize you’ve been neglecting?
I have most certainly found myself face-to-face with my most inner demons during this time. Living in the hustle and bustle of New York City, it’s very easy to run from your problems. Distracted by the almost constant momentum and easy maskability that city life provides, I sit in a cabin, in the woods in silence, certainly uncomfortable to say the very least. Since arriving in the overbearing city, I was gripped by its perpetual excitement and never took a moment to reflect. I’m now bravely retreating into the far regions of emotion.
A quitter?! I have piles, and piles of unfinished projects. Because of the lack of errands needing to run or social obligations, I’ve decided to do some things I’ve always wanted to do and have started! Let’s build an online violin course? Let’s paint! Let’s record that album that you’ve been sitting on. How about that e-commerce website you purchased the LLC to over a year ago and have barely started? I haven’t finished anything that isn’t chained to me the way work is. Maybe these are little escapes? Like jumping in puddles. Nothing I must clean up but just a little bit of busy fun? Either way, it’s concerning, to say the least. To put it into perspective for you, I’m staring at two unfinished paintings hanging above my desk.
2. If you turned this period of quarantining into one long personal development project, where would you most need to breakinward in order to look back and say, “That time benefited me and I emerged healed and stronger in thanks to the pandemic”?
Every day, I do my best to go through a solid routine until at least 1 pm. In that time, I hope I get everything complete that was urgent because the rest of the day is pretty much cyclical. This is still more structure than I’ve often had in the past.
The amount of discipline needed to work from home is magnifying my great weakness.
I’ve spent my whole life studying classical music and wowing spectators with focus and furious ambition. At some point in my life, I set discipline to the wind. If I can continue to show myself that I’m capable of rigor without stifling creativity (and that they actually work in tandem), I will feel much more grounded and stronger than I have before. Also, let’s hope we finish these projects! If I am slow and steady, I’ll be able to accomplish them all!
3. What is the most poignant memory you have of feeling isolated in your life? How did you breakthrough that isolation and eventually reengage with the world?
I know I can’t be alone in feeling this way as a teenager.
I grew up in a small town and was cyber schooled in my junior and senior year of high school. My social life was exiled for a number of reasons which lead me to live this strange existence. Following high school was, as you could imagine, a very lonesome graduation. I had kidney surgery immediately following graduation and at this point, there was definitely a peak in the feeling of isolation.
When they moved me to a different ward in the hospital after just getting used to the nurses, that feeling got even worse. Not only did I need to back out of a scholarship to my dream school due to medical and financial complications, my relationship with my family was broken (as they often are when you’re a teen). I knew it was going to be a long road to recovery. Both physically and emotionally.
To show your face in an open mic after two years of not seeing anyone from high school (while they discuss college in excitement) is something you’d be crazy to do. Which I absolutely was.
It was a moment of “I’ve got nothing to live for so I’ve got nothing to lose.”
Music was the only thing that brought me joy and the only thing I had to connect to my peers. “Maybe I’ll make a friend here,” I thought.
However, to step on that stage was the exact thing I needed. Absolute discomfort in one overwhelming moment. It was probably the greatest thing I’ve ever done and the sigh of relief after creating such a challenge in one moment was the perfect way to reengage. I still look back in a bit of humility – it was pretty embarrassing and I’m thankful that I escaped to New York City where I’m more likely to run into Tom Hanks – but it changed the course of my life.
Here I am, almost 10 years later, confident, socially competent and courageous. The all-or-nothing method worked wonders.
Bravery, strength, and confidence are rarely discredited.
It reminded me of being such a shy girl in class. When I would speak, everyone listened.
4. As you practice self-isolation and physical and social distancing, what and/or who are you missing most from your “old life?”
I’m truly blessed to live in such a beautiful city. During the normalcies of daily routine that the “old life” provided, I could’ve made more of an effort to take a present stroll through the park during a lunch break. I’d occasionally step out for a coffee but I’d run through the rest of my day’s schedule in my head while booking it to the closest Dunken Donuts… only to weight impatiently in line. Witnessing children run through Madison Square Park, and the vendors along the street or even the tourists excitedly taking photos, are such exhilarating experiences. It’s in those moments that I wish I took a step back and soaked it all in.
I’m looking forward to bringing a stronger sense of presence upon arriving back into the world.
5. In a perfect world, where life resumes to normal, what would the perfect day look like to you? Who would you see, what would you do, where would you go, how would you act? And would this look and feel any differently than days of the past?
This changes on a daily basis but I love this question! When life resumes to normal, I most definitely plan to support my friends and love ones more. Increasing my physical presence with the people I hold most dear would be beneficial in so many ways. Emotionally, psychologically, and physically rewarding. They need to know how loved they are. We all do!
The perfect day would bring those necessities into focus, internally. Let’s begin the day, earlier than normal, with yoga and meditation to become really aware of ourselves on all levels while improving our health and energy. Afterwards, doing something that makes us smile would set us up for success. Attacking work’s hills and valleys from this perspective will not feel effortless but definitely more attainable. During the afternoon, smell the roses. Perhaps literally. Try to find a place with nature at lunch break. That may not be easy in the city but let’s be honest with ourselves, a park (even small) is not far.
At the conclusion of the workday, take a moment to give gratitude to the simple fact that we are employed. There are many suffering to make ends meet. Even more since the onset of this virus, and it’s something that is incredibly easy to take for granted.
Maybe at the day’s end, find a moment to show someone else that you care. For me, this would include attending the show and gathering of my friends (which I would always make excuses to not attend) or making a hot meal for my fiancé. Perhaps that day, it’s calling my mother just to tell her I love her and appreciate her conscious, selfless love.
Anything that makes someone else smile also warms you inside. A mixture of self-love, conscious love, discipline and freedom creates the spirit we all want to be.
Let’s fall asleep to a wonderful and enlightening book. When morning comes, we won’t hit snooze. This is what I’m telling myself…
6. What is the upside of solitude and why do we work so hard to avoid it? What question do you have about your life that bubbles to the surface when you’re in solitude? Is there a question you feel like others keep busy in order to avoid having to ask themselves?
Human contact is incredibly important. Sitting with silence is a huge hurdle that is most rewarding to overcome. We all crave stimulation. Mostly because it quiets the self-reflection that can bring us pain as we try to disbelieve the contradiction with our outermost thoughts. Our inner workings are silenced into conforming to what our ego believes to be true.
I don’t think there was a moment while growing up where the TV was off. Sometimes, my sister or I would be practicing our instrument while the radio was playing and the television was on at close to full volume. Chaos became part of our family. We took moments to play board games but even then the TV rattled on in the background.
As I grew older and found it was finally time to tune into myself, to learn who I was, I found silence such an eerie discomfort. Yet, I knew it was crucial.
That silence eventually brought peace. As a musician, I can honestly say, that everything takes practice. You can overcome just about any internal obstacle with practice. It’s not rocket science but it takes that friend a foe, discipline, to bridge you to the other side.
Since I’ve moved to The Big Apple, the chaos has grown louder once again. The ability to separate, during this time, is something I dare take for granted. Instead, I let the discomfort breed reflection. The darkest revelation I’ve made is my acquired taste for the avoidance of fear. Often, my family and friends would praise my bravery. I’ve spoken up in critical professional times or taken large risks without being certain of the reward. However, to me, those are small hurdles. In fact, those acts of “bravery” are microscopic compared to failing at my dreams if I’m actively attempting to live up to them. How do I take a childhood full of an earthless rendering (I was always a dreamer) and go through the motions—of achievement—only to fall short of the stars? Can I truly face that? Should I let the apparent bravery outshine the potentially unobtainable dream?
I begged my parents to let me join ballet from the age of 3-years-old to the age of 5 when my parents were financially capable of enrolling me in dance class. I loved to dance. I breathed dance. However, when I was 7-years-old and up for the lead of a statewide ballet, after what you could imagine being hours upon hours of dedicated study, I broke my arm roughhousing with the neighbor kids. I always wanted to be the best in my class. I’d fuss because my bun wasn’t perfect enough or my leotard wasn’t ironed enough. My poor mom had to be losing her mind.
However, at the early age of 7-years-old, I thought I’d lose my spot in the ballet and never get caught up in time to compete with my class again. It all tumbled through my young mind (my parents brought me to Baltimore Aquarium since I was such a damn mess) and I remember it like it was yesterday. I’m going to be 6 to 9 months behind. That girl already grabbed the spot I wanted and so she’s going to have many times over the rehearsals that I will experience. I can go to class but the other girl who broke her arm had to sit out so much that she can barely do the bar routine anymore. “Loser.” I’m not going back that way!
So I made a speech, in that moment, “I will not be dancing again. I quit.” My mom turned around and started to cry. She said “Do you really mean that? You never want to dance again.” “Yes,” I said. She spoke with her head turned back towards the city as we entered the Baltimore Aquarium, “You will always have regrets for quitting. You’ll look back and you’ll regret that you gave up on something you truly loved.” To have that conversation at 7 years-old was affirmational and spiritual.
I began studying the violin shortly after. It certainly didn’t give me the same high but fed into the dreams of what my future may be. Never again did I quit playing. Yet, I most certainly tell myself, to fail at your dreams will feel like quitting. That can’t be! I can’t be fearful like I was in dance! Like a broken arm would’ve held me back that much?! How life repeats itself is almost humorously. Being fearful of your goals and dreams gives them power. To not attempt them is quitting itself.
Those are the stories you hold to keep from both withering and exponentially growing. Instead of looking at yourself to understand the lesson’s true meaning, you let them haunt you subconsciously. If there was a ghost in your yard, you probably wouldn’t wander too far into the woods to face it. If anything, you’d only let it affect you only when it popped up on the surface of your current existence. Perhaps, we should find the root of our feelings and face them head-on. Don’t we all have inner demons? What do we really have to lose?
7. How would you define freedom? When do you feel most free?
Freedom comes from biting the bullet and letting go of those demons aka insecurity. The places where others perceive my behavior as bravery isn’t necessarily my own bravery all of the time. The fears of others may not be my own. Those that others overcome and take for granted may be a place I’m not secure enough to stand on. Yet, stepping out of YOUR comfort zone may be the best set of wings you’ll ever find.
8. What are you learning about the importance of self-reliance as well as physical touch?
I’m fortunate enough to be quarantined with my fiancé and our two beautiful English bulldogs. However, I’m always craving physical touch. It’s the cornerstone, in my mind, of our physical being. Yet, self-reliance is something that is challenging to perceive. It means something different to each person and to each spirit.
I truly believe this time of self-reliance to be the spiritual journey of finding inner peace. To face the fears and learn how to overcome them gives it meaning.
Relying on others as an uplifting egotistical journey—an affirmation of how you want others to perceive you—is not something that can be obtained in its true form at this moment. It requires that you find what really brings you joy or what you see as an accomplishment since material goods and social status isn’t relative.
9. What’s a moment that you’ve really enjoyed since quarantining?
I’ve isolated my passion. I’ve found that it’s bringing joy to others via a musical channel. I don’t know of another time when I would’ve been able to force myself to stay silent enough to find that passion.
Music brings me joy. I can help others overcome their silent journeys as I bring them into a single moment together. Since quarantining, I’ve brought musicians and music lovers into one space simultaneously through a bi-monthly, virtual, open mic. Relationships have been formed and connections made. This has brought me incredible joy. To see the people I love joining in unison over a topic they’re passionate about without an encumbrance or substance is quite remarkable within itself.
10. When the going gets tough, what’s one mantra you’d like to try and live by?
It may sound negative, but since mandated quarantine, I’ve been living with the truth from the self-given mantra, “If there’s nothing to live for then there’s nothing to lose.” Obviously, perspective is key. By saying “I have nothing to live for” is in fact my personal fascination with all I haven’t overcome, accomplished, or have seen through.
There’s so much I put off because I’m concerned with what others think. I’m worried about judgment and how I’m perceived by my peers. Mostly, how I’m perceived by my idols and mentors.
If I tell myself, there’s nothing yet to live for, it makes you grateful for each day. You’re allowed to let go. To live each day like it’s your last allows you to wake up the next day and act as if it’s a gift. If I’m to only live one more day, then would I really care what other’s thoughts are of me? Will I make that day my own? If there’s nothing to lose then nothing shall stand in your way. Your mindset shifts. I strive for positivity and, as negative as this mantra may first sound, it actually gives way for the light to shine through. It’s freedom.
Inspired by Alyssa’s own reflecting, here are three questions to consider:
1. Alyssa talks about bravely retreating into the far regions of emotion. What emotion are you most uncomfortable experiencing? For example, Humiliation? Uncertainty? Disappointment? Betrayal? Desire? Inadequacy? Envy? Is there a past memory where you experienced that emotion heavily? Is there a future scenario where you worry this emotion could play out? How would the bravest version of yourself take on this emotion, or the potential for it, with openness, compassion, curiosity and the awareness that even this too shall pass?
2. Alyssa recalls the sigh or relief that came after stepping on stage and facing the unimaginable: absolute discomfort in front of a sea of people. What’s a moment in your life that you worked up to be unnerving and nearly impossible, only to do it and then find yourself still standing? What did that teach you about the power of our monkey mind and the danger of future-tripping? When was the last time you felt relieved and how did that relief provide you with a sense of reassurance and self-confidence?
3. Witnessing children running through Madison Square Park and tourists snapping photos in quick succession are exhilarating experiences for Alyssa. When was the last time you were on the outside looking in and felt full of awe and appreciation? Was it an ordinary moment or a once in a lifetime sighting? What situation were you observing and what emotion do you think you were witnessing in those you were watching? Why do you think you were so connected to it?
Now, it’s your turn to reflect.
To work with Chelsea to “break up” with the beliefs and relationships that are no longer serving the highest vision you have for yourself and your life and to learn how to Breakupward in the face of loss, disappointment, and heartbreak of any kind, visit her coaching website.