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My 2016 Musical: How I Sang My Way Through Chronic Pain

Jeremy Ginsburg

From Suffering to Singing

2016 was the year of letting go.

Last year, I wrote a very long 2015 review. It was filled with achievements, ideas, jokes, lessons, takeaways, books, and goals for 2016.

I don’t think I achieved a single one of my goals I set for myself in 2015. I was supposed to finish my book, start my personal brand, get 5,000 YouTube subscribers, and more (start a personal brand, give a Tedx talk, etc).

Now, I can’t look at a computer screen for more than a few hours at a time without needing to lie down and rest. My book is far from being done. My YouTube channel is currently below 2,000.

But for reasons I will soon share with you, I am completely okay with that.

I honestly don’t care about any of those goals anymore. For now, my priority is being at peace. I want to be okay with everything, no matter what. I want to be content with less. I want to be mindful 24/7. I want to have inner peace. And of course, I want to be pain free.

Chronic Pain Changes The Way You See The World...A Lot

This past year of chronic pain has taught me that goals and plans really don’t matter as much as I thought. As my friend, Goldee always tells me, “We make plans, and the universe laughs.”

When I went back and read my review from last year, I felt like I was reading someone else’s words. Someone who is cocky, egotistical, ambitious, and naive. Someone who feels the need to brag and share his life ambitions with the world because doing so will bring him as much happiness as if he were to actually accomplish the goals.

This past year, I suffered a lot. I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. I grew lonely. I felt ashamed. I felt lost. I became depressed. I even experiences brief suicidal thoughts.

But all of that has contributed to the person I am today, so I still choose to be grateful for all of my experiences, no matter how dark they seemed at the time.

“The truth is, everything will be okay when you are okay with everything. And that’s the only time everything will be okay.” -Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul

The lessons I learned in 2016 were far more life changing than ever. These weren’t lessons I chose to learn, nor were they things I felt ready for. But they were heavy, deep, and eye-opening.

I have learned firsthand how important health is. I have learned about pain. I have learned what it’s like to watch your loved ones helplessly stare at you as you lie in bed holding an ice pack against your forehead. I learned how to be okay with everything (or at least try my best), even when things may not be as I want them to be.

I learned how to let go of control and surrender, not in a “I quit and give up” sort of way, but as a “I accept what is and let go of attachment”.

More importantly, I’ve made progress towards living out my purpose. I have no idea what my purpose in this world is, but I know I’m now closer than ever  to realizing it. I’m pretty sure it has to do with music, personal development, and helping others heal.

Playing Through The Pain

In all of this craziness (6 months living at my parents house, over 40 doctors, $10,000+ of medical bills), music has been my backbone. It has kept me sane. I used to play music because I thought it would make me look cool. I could make people laugh and help them escape from their problems. I wanted to be famous.

Now, my music is my therapy. It’s a way to talk to myself, remind myself of certain messages, and hopefully provide inspiration to others. It’s a way to escape whatever pain I’m in and enjoy some peace, even if it only lasts for a few seconds or minutes.

I wrote a lot of new songs this year. Song of the songs are very deep, and even what some insecure people may consider “morbid” or “depressing”. For me, the songs are REAL and from the heart.

The songs are meant to make the listener think about things for themselves. I would love it if my music can help people connect with themselves on a deeper level.

If not, I’m totally fine with it! The music is FOR ME just as much as it is for everyone else. These songs are a product of my pain, experience, and suffering. Each song is like a diary entry, a musical memory of what I’ve been through and what I learned.

So, this year’s review is going to be a bit different than any yearly review you’ve ever read. You will need a pair of headphones because you’ll actually be listening more than hearing.  

Instead of telling you what happened, I’ll show you...through my original music.

The truth is, the lessons I learned this year are hard to explain in words, so it's easier for me to express my ideas through music. And the lessons are still pouring in.

Below is a collection of original songs I wrote that take you through my journey of 2016. Kind of like a musical of my life...or a singing review.

If you think you know me, you are probably wrong. I say that because I am still getting to know myself. But these songs will help you understand my life better, just as it did for me. My greatest hope is that my music will also help you understand YOUR life better, too!  

***Warning: If you actually want to listen to each song, doing so will probably take at least 90-minutes to consume. I know, that's a long time. Imagine how long it took me to write all the songs and write this post!

My 2016 in Song...

 

Stuck with a Migraine

January-March, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfO6-bmPlrM

story: In early January, I met my first doctor, Alexis Shields. She advised me to clean up my diet, stop using my nasal spray, and avoid caffeine completely. While it didn’t help much at the time, she has been extremely helpful over the entire year (even though I’m not paying her for her time anymore...proof that she CARES, unlike MANY doctors). Alexis, thank you so much. My family and I appreciate your help.  

Anyway, this is a song I wrote in order to tell my story about my headaches and the things that I tried for the first few months. This was my first original song in while (after over a year!). The lyrics are pretty straight forward :)

Chorus: “I’m stuck with a migraine, it sucks to be in pain (2x)”

Favorite lines: (The last chorus) “I'm cured from my migraines/ I've learned from all the pain”  

 

Cold is my religion

 

April/May, Minneapolis, Minnesota

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kJpJYKQ6rI

Story: After I flew back to Minnesota, I quickly learned that conventional/Western medicine had nothing to offer. My brother and I both knew about the ICE MAN and his crazy cold experiments. My brother said he would pay for the course (Thanks, Uncle Nate!), so I had no excuse not to. Then, a random comment from a stranger on YouTube put the icing on the cake!

The course immediately made my life easier and less painful. This is a song is one big testimonial for a the online course called the “Wim Hof Method”.

The breathing exercises didn’t cure my headaches completely, but they gave me a HUGE REMINDER of how amazing one can feel with a healthy body. After having headaches for so long, I had forgotten what it felt like to be pain free, and it made me realize that I had slipped down into a dark place mentally. This method gave me hope to keep going and to commit to a long life of healthy habits.

I can honestly talk about it all day long, but I think this song that I wrote will show you how much it changed my life. Honestly, without this method, I wouldn’t even have had the energy to write or record this song in the first place.
 

Chorus: “Cold is my religion (3x), you can take it or leave it, the ice man will make you believe it”  

Favorite lines:

I’ve never held my breath for so long

Or felt so WARM in a cold shower

My mind and body feel so strong

now I know, COLD IS POWER!

 

I don’t wanna play with pain

June, Minneapolis, Minnesota

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dnuOjaHoHI

Story: Fast forward a few months, and between big doses of marijuana, lots of cold showers and breathing exercises, and a lot of yoga, I stayed somewhat sane. After trying anti-depressants that made me suicidal, I started to grow frustrated with Western medicine and lose hope. Then, a two-night ceremony changed everything.

I wrote the first few lines of this song while at an Ayahuasca ceremony. This ceremony made me realize how lonely and depressed I had been.

This is a song about pain but also about love. After three months away from my girlfriend, I grew tired of the pain and wished that I could trade my pain for her presence. Writing this song made me realize that pain and love are connected, more than I ever thought before.

Chorus:Pain feeds on pain/ And I don't wanna play that game, I don't wanna play with pain”

Favorite lines:

True happiness requires letting go

Of pain, love, pleasure, and all that we know

The better it feels the tighter we hold on

The more pain we feel when that thing is gone  

 

Unconditional love

July, Minneapolis, Minnesota

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_2M6SUvYik&t=1s

Story: One day, on the way back from a Network Spinal Analysis appointment (I’m still not sure what it is, but it didn’t really help. $600 down the drain, oops!) was listening to a podcast that spoke about self-love and how most of our problems stem from the fact that we don’t love ourselves unconditionally. I mean, we have the ability to love ourselves the same way a mother loves her child, but we rarely give ourselves that kind of love.

I wrote this song as a reminder to myself that no matter what I do, no matter how bad I feel or how much I fuck up, I’ll always love myself. The song is written as if I’m talking to “you”, but it’s really a reminder to myself that unconditional love is ALWAYS available. That goes for self-love, too!

Chorus:

Take my unconditional love

ooo unconditional love

Here’s my unconditional love

like it or not it’s yours

Favorite lines: The best thing about love is the more you give the more you get

 

I am free (I'll be okay)

July, Minneapolis, Minnesota

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTchDPZblDQ

Story: This song started as a positive affirmation. I got the idea to do a positive affirmation about my headaches from Scott Adam’s book, “How to fail at almost everything and still win big” (this was probably my favorite book of 2016).

For a while, I was reading the chorus to myself every morning. Then, I started getting bored with the poem and turned it into a chorus. Out of that, I wrote some verses and gave birth to this song.

 

Chorus:

“I am free, free from pain

I am free from everything

if the sun comes out today, I'll be okay

If the sky turns to grey I'll be okay!”  

Favorite lines:  I need no approval from no body, cuz I’m so content that I am ME

The Psychedelic squirrel

August, Minneapolis, Minnesota

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZfMG0JIkwc&t=2s

Story: I don’t know how to say this without being honest: I experimented with a lot of psychedelics this year (not recreationally). Most of them are illegal in the USA, but they helped me a lot more than the FDA approved drugs. Go look up some documentaries on this stuff on Netflix if want to learn about WHY certain drugs are legal in the USA and why some aren’t. It’s pretty fucked up.

Anyway, one day, my friend was telling me about a crazy squirrel he was watching. “It was some sort of psychedelic squirrel or something” he said.

Boom. “Psychedelic squirrel”, I repeated with a smile. I wrote down the title and knew that it needed to be song. This song is very silly!

Chorus:

“The psychedelic squirrel

Flying tree to tree

psychedelic squirrel

A friend to you and all of the chipmunks and me

the psychedelic squirrel

Favorite lines:

Soaring on a magic maple leaf ride

this whole new world has nothing to hide  

Singing sticks and stones can break my bones

And probably kill me because I’m so stoned...


 

Soulmates with benefits

September, Minneapolis, Minnesota

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXeD9t3s4Wk&t=43s

Story: After six months of being away from girlfriend, I missed her a lot.

The six months we had spent a part were not easy. At one point, we tried an open relationship. Like any experiment, it had its ups and downs.

One day, I was explaining to my girlfriend (she’s Vietnamese) what “friends with benefits” meant. After she understood, she shouted, “No! I don’t want to be friends with benefits! I want to be soul mates with benefits!”

This made me smile inside, and again, I felt the need to write a song about what she had said. Being away from her for so long made me appreciate how much she means to me, as this song suggests.

Chorus:

If it wasn't for you I don’t know what I would do

If it wasn't for you what would I do?

When you hold me tight, I know love is delicate

My best friend with benefits

My soul mate plus benefits  

 

Favorite lines:

Your love potion

has got me swimming in an ocean of oxytocin

You keep me in line and you’re not afraid to shine

I can't explain time but I'm glad you're mine

 

I Am Pure

October, Phuket, Thailand

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec38B38CwVA

Story:  I flew back to Vietnam (I wrote this emotional FB status from the airport) to see my soulmate with benefits (her name is June), but my headaches were still keeping me in bed for most of the day. At this point I was using copious amounts of marijuana to get through the day and do simple tasks like going out to dinner.

After a 4-day silent meditation retreat, I recorded a video-interview with the mediation teacher, Tobi. When I told him it was for YouTube, he looked on my channel and found some of my funny songs. Then, he told me he had an idea for a song.

“Hey, write a song about being enlightened. Call it “I am enlightened”.

The next day, I wrote this song. I was SUPER excited, so I sent him the lyrics and the video. His response:

“I was joking! The "ME" is not that thing that can "become" enlightened. I meant the song to be a joke.”

It's still a beautiful song and I changed the lyrics from “enlightened’ to “pure”. I still love this song, and it also helped me understand what enlightenment really means. Thanks, Tobi! :D

Chorus:

I am pure I am free

I’m at peace for eternity

Favorite lines:

I love myself no matter what

There are no ifs, there are no buts


 

I believe in love

October, Phuket, Thailand

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I73vsHVjTM4

Story:  After the silent meditation retreat in Thailand, my sister (Melanie), June, and I were all on cloud nine. Filled with energy, we walked to a beach in Phuket, Thailand and brought with us a ukulele so we could play some music.

As we walked in the sand, we heard a man yell in a South African accent, “Ukulele! Ukulele!” and motioned for us to come closer.

He asked if he could play a song, and started singing, “I believe in love.” We ended up having a magical jam session on the beach for a good ten minutes.

After, I told him (his name is Cornelius) I was a songwriter, I asked if I could write verses to the song and make it more complete. That afternoon, I wrote the entire song. The next day, I recorded it and I sent him a draft and mentioned that we could share the rights to the song. His reply,

“What is this I hear about rights and what not? Bull shit, bro! You can’t share the rights to LOVE!”

Chorus: “I believe in love (6 times repeated)”

Favorite lines:

I don't know why there's love

But I don't need a reason

I don't know what I don't know

But I know what I believe in


 

Hey Mr. Butterfly

October, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp1ZAzmPTqQ

Story: After the meditation retreat, I realized that the more I meditated, the less pain I felt AND the more song ideas I had. I then made it a point to meditate longer and more frequently. No matter what.

I realized that as long as you stay mindful, there’s a lesson in every life situation. Whenever I find myself in pain, I try to find these lessons. After all, they are everywhere.

I wrote this song based on a fake conversation with a butterfly that I never had. Ziggy Marley’s song “Dragonfly” was a big inspiration for this one.

The song is filled with questions I would love to ask butterflies (or any animal really) to find out more about them, and at the same time, find about more about myself (and humans in general). I am also excited that I managed to squeeze in some French into this song! My high school French teacher would be proud!

Chorus:

Hey Mr. butterfly, why is life so strange?

Hey Mr. butterfly, how can I accept change?

Favorite lines:  

Do you remember your first step inside your cocoon?

Did you dream of flying, or surrender to your tomb?

Watching you float from leaf to flower

My monarch, though you've surrendered your power


 

Jacob Zweig tribute

November, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y52g3XHZvA

Story: Since 2016 was a year of healing for me, I learned to look for past traumas as well. I tried EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)  a few times to see if it would help my headaches. The results were inconclusive (just like many of the other things I’ve tried).

When I was in highschool, my best friend, Jacob Zweig, was murdered. I was 17.

I wrote this tribute a while back and recorded it as a rap with a video montage, but I never really played it or listened to it. Playing this acoustic version really felt good, and even though I cried a lot, it helped me move on from this tragic loss.

Chorus:

Cuz I know one day we gonna share a beer together

Lift our glasses in the air and say ‘cheers’ together

Cruise to cloud nine in third gear together

Reflect on life through the rear view mirror together

Laugh about our problems and our fears together

Chilling thinking ‘bout his life was never clear together

How we wish we could have spent all of our years together

‘Til then nothing I can do can stop my tears forever  

Favorite lines:  “in the darkness of this agony in my heart you live happily”
 

It is what it is

November, Mui Ne, Vietnam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoPyNDOsHzM

Story: I wrote this around 1 AM after I tried to sleep but couldn't. That night, I had performed at Joe’s Cafe, but I was in so much pain I couldn’t sleep. Performing was bitter sweet. What used to give me energy now brought me pain.

Even though I loved sharing my music and interacting with the crowd, the cigarette smoke at bars made me so uncomfortable I needed to sleep and meditate in between sets. This nearly broke my heart.

The song speaks for itself, with deep and personal lyrics about self-reflection and accepting my pain for what it is. At the same time, I started telling myself that the pain was a gift and trying hard to see find the lesson or positive angle.

Chorus:

This may not be bliss but it is what it is

If you resist, it still it what it is

The more I quiet my mind, the more peace I find

My gift, a blessing in disguise

Favorite lines:

Lately I discovered my decisions are conditioned

There's a voice inside my head always demanding me to listen

It's got me questioning the difference between my mind and my soul

Like 'who am I when I surrender control'?

 

The future isn’t real

November, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9tg-l3Q7qw

Story: Since I’ve been in so much pain, it has forced me to live in the moment. I can’t really make plans when I’m not sure how much pain I will be in.

One of the main principles I learned from a Buddhist meditation retreat was that the past and future exist only in our minds. We can never feel, taste, smell, see, or hear ANYTHING from the past or the future. Once day I was swimming in the ocean in Mui Ne, Vietnam and the chorus just came to me and I started singing it out loud to the waves. A few weeks later, I added some chords and verses and it became a full song.

Chorus:

“The Future Isn't Real, That is how I feel

If you can't smile right now then you never will

Favorite lines:

Who invented the Future, and what did they say

Who lied and said there'd be a time where our current troubles would go away?

Who was the society who invented time, I wonder if they're proud?

Cuz I've never met a moment, a moment other than right now  

 

Dear Self

November, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6igv8Azjrw

Story: This is another self-reflection song I wrote to myself in order to get to know myself better. I truly feel like this pain that I’ve had is a good thing. It has a purpose. Maybe the purpose was to get me to focus on music? Maybe it was to have compassion for the world? Maybe it was to write this post? Either way, this song goes through the internal battle of knowing thyself, especially in tough times.

Chorus:

Dear Self, dear me, I'm trying hard to see

The truth behind the words that I speak

I know you're there somewhere, I'm pretty sure you care

But talking to you face to face has got me, scared  

Favorite lines:

If I can't love myself

Why would anybody else

If I can't live with my mind

Where can I hide

 

Suffering is a Guide

November, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

**Sorry this video is not yet recorded, but once I record it I will update this post**

Here are some of the lyrics:

Who are we really when we're smothered in pain

Do our persona and values remain unchanged ?

Do our brains function the same? Or do our habits shift

Can we stay true to our ourselves or do we ourselves go adrift

Do we lose some of our muse, if we're profusely sedated

If we feel too berated Do our souls get deflated?

Is the nuisance and anguish there to give us a clue

Or are we choosing discomfort, if so what can we do?

Story: I’ve read a lot about suffering and what each part of the world has to say about it. Each religion and philosophy has its own approach (I prefer Hindu belief, that suffering is a sign of spiritual growth).

One day, I watched a video that explained that suffering is not a bad thing, but a guide, helping us get to where we need to be. I loved the concept, and spent the rest of my morning writing a song about it.

Chorus:

What if suffering guided us to clarity

If pain was a sign of disparity

Between our heart and our mind, and once they realign

We reach infinite prosperity  

Favorite lines:

What we feel isn't  just an emotion from our heart

It's the difference between where we're at and who we truly are

We perceive each moment through our current emotions

Knowing this truth, will keep your pain aloof


 

Ice Bath medley

November, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

**Sorry this video is not yet recorded, but once I record it I will update this post**

Here are some of the lyrics:

If you're feeling lost anxious or stressed

Or you're down and you wanna feel less depressed

Take an ice bath, shibadeeboo

Take an ice bath

 

If you wanna feel whole and discover your soul

And you're ready to gain wisdom from the cold

Take an ice bath, shibadeeboo

Take an ice bath, the ice is waiting for you!  

Story: I fucking love ice baths. They’re probably my favorite drug.

One day, I took a long one and was feeling extremely high. I yelled for my girlfriend to get my phone so I could record myself. For the next 20 minutes as my body warmed up, I sang random lyrics, spoke in Jamaican accents, and yelled out other silly things one would expect while extremely inebriated.

Of that recording, two songs were born. One of them being this silly ice bath tune!

Chorus:

If ya feeling discomfort and it's driving you insane

And you wanna quick way to relieve your pain

Take an ice bath, shibadeeboo

Take an ice bath, or a cold shower too

Favorite lines:

Ice bath, Ice bath it'll make ya laugh

Ice bath, Ice bath, it’ll Cut your stress in half  

it's cooler than math!

 

A True Leader

November, Da Lat, Vietnam

**Sorry this video is not yet recorded, but once I record it I will update this post**

Here are some of the lyrics:

A true leader doesn't need a fancy gown or a crown

A true leader steps up when everyone backs down

He doesn't need to be the hero of the story

He does good for good and not for glory

He always ready to lead his peers and friends

it's the people who decide where and when

You don’t have to hold a position to lead

Everyone is influenced by your deeds

Story: I started writing this song the day Trump was elected. I don’t enjoy thinking about politics, but it got me asking myself what a great leader looks like and does. At times, I feel like I am meant to be a leader. Other times, I feel like I can barely lead my own life, so how can I lead others?

Time will tell, but this song is a reminder to myself of what I believe it means to be a true leader.

Chorus:

leaders are like stars

they rise the most when times are dark  

A true leader (2x)
 

Favorite lines:

A true leader doesn't need a fancy gown or a crown

A true leader steps up when everyone backs down

Cares for others interest more than his own

Stands up for what's right even if he must stand alone  

 

Santa buddha

December, Chiang Mai, Thailand

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldOD5ntEr-g

Story: Since “Rasta Moses” is my most popular tune, I decided to try to write another religious parody. This one is very silly, but perhaps a tad bit offensive. If you are Buddhist, please don’t take offense. I love Buddhism.

Big thanks to my hilarious cousin, Adam, who gave me some amazing punch lines for this song. Perhaps we need to write more songs together!

Chorus: “Santa buddha, buddha santa (3x), Santa boooooooodah

Favorite lines:

Peaceful meditation keeps his mind clear,

It's helps that he only works one day per year

He has only one strict policy

All his gifts are wrapped in tranquality

His mind is silent, he has no plan

His apprentice is frosty the om man

 

Music is my therapy

December, Chiang Mai, Thailand

**Sorry this video is not yet recorded, but once I record it I will update this post**

Here are some of the lyrics:

Ain't no way to do music wrong

If you can make noise you can make a  song

Near, far, horns and guitars

Music heals ours aches and scars

Our happiness ain't set in stone

We don't need a metronome

Just play some tunes and sing along

Relax and leave the rest alone

Right now I feel so blessed to know that

Music is my therapy

Story: Without pain, I would not have written all of these songs this year. There’s some odd relationship with my pain and my music. No matter how shitty I feel or tired I am, I can always play music.

There have been times where I have performed sets with great energy and excitement, engaging the crowd and making them laugh. As soon as I stop singing and step off stage, I’m struck with pain and grow tired immediately. Sometimes I’ve purposely ignored fans because of this.

It’s clear that music is my therapy. This song is a way to explain that!

Chorus:

“No matter how deep the pain

A sweet melody makes me feel sane

Cuz music is my therapy

Favorite lines:  

No matter how many things I try

No doctor yet can tell me why

The pain remains inside my brain,

But when I play I feel alive

Bass and treble in my ear

Good vibrations that I hear

A form of art Straight from the heart

That makes my worries disappear

Turning my pain into my super power

So, there you have it. My entire 2016 review told in song. Thank you so much for reading.

I honestly think that my headaches are now my super power. It has allowed me to reinvent myself over and over. And it has been the cause for a lot of new music! 

And for all of my friends and internet connections, WOW. Thank you to everyone who has reached out with new ideas for remedies and healing modalities, or for checking in to see how I’m feeling.

Thanks to my family who have supported me this year, emotionally and financially. BIG thanks to my brother Nathaniel for helping out with some of the medical bills. To both of my parents for putting up with me for 6 months, and for my sister Melanie and girlfriend June for taking amazing care of me since moving back to Asia.

And thank you. If you read this, you are supporting my journey.  

If you’re interested in keeping up with my musical endeavors and new songs, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. I plan to post new videos every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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I hope you enjoyed reading and listening to this. But more than that, I hope my music taught you something new about yourself.