I thought writing this would be easy. I listened to the song for hours and hours and when I realized I just wasn’t fully getting the lyrics I looked them up so I could read along and then I listened to it for hours and hours more. I really felt something while I listened. I was ready to write about it but I needed (or at least I thought I did) to give some back story first. So I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote and when I was “finished”, I hadn’t written about my feelings at all, but instead wrote about a concert I didn’t enjoy and an artist I had no interest in and then I copied and pasted the lyrics to a song you’ve probably all heard for yourselves before, and I left you with a promise to get to the real point in another post… soon… because I chose to believe that you really wanted to know.
But time has not been on my side and while I enjoyed listening to the song, how many days can you listen to the same song over and over again without going bat-shit crazy? I moved on and listened to other music, and did my actual job, and wrote brief, relatively meaningless posts about head and pianos… Or something like that… Now I’m sitting at my computer and I’m ready to write this post and I played the song again and I’ve got the lyrics in front of me and—Nothing!
Wait. I’ll listen a few more times.
Something is happening…
I thought this was worth writing because the feelings were pretty strong and yet not easy to identify. Now, two days later, that feeling is starting to come back, but it’s slow.
What follows is bound to be more of a stream of consciousness thing than I had intended and if you’re bored already, I won’t be offended if you stop reading here. I make no promises about the quality of the rest of this post. For those of you who are gluttons for punishment…
I listen to the song while doing other things and it seeps into my sub-conscious, but the lyrics aren’t readily thought about, and I notice a bit of a melancholy comes over me. The music is soothing and the singing voice is almost comforting. Maybe consoling is a better word. I can feel the emotion of the song. I do feel the emotion of the song. A sort of… mournful hope, painful optimism and to be honest it’s not entirely comfortable to feel. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the spectrum of feelings mashing up against one another or maybe it’s because I don’t know how to handle my feelings in the first place and so feeling anything is at once exciting and horrifying.
As the feeling starts to wash over me I become more aware of the lyrics. A word here: forgiveness, happiness, self-assurance; a phrase there: “The more I learn, the less I understand and all the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again”, “gotta put it all behind you, ‘cause life goes on. You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside.”
And then, the song in its entirety:
“I got the call today I didn’t want to hear, but I knew that it would come. An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone. She said you found someone.”
I can imagine the heartbreak of that moment. I’ve experienced the heartbreak of that moment. I hear that line and I think of the day a mutual friend of my ex-fiancé and mine wandered into the store in the mall where I worked and told me that my ex and her new guy were getting married later on that evening. I knew she had a new guy and I knew they were engaged so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise and yet, it felt more like a kick to the gut.
Then again, that was a lifetime ago and I’m a completely different person than I was then. I’m over that hurt. I can relate to and imagine the heartbreak of that moment, but I don’t feel it now.
“And I thought of all the bad luck and all the struggles we went through; how I lost me and you lost you. What are all these voices outside love’s open door, make us throw off our contentment and beg for something more?
I’ve been learning to live without you now, but I miss you sometimes. The more I know, the less I understand. All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning them again.”
The last line strikes a chord these days because I feel exactly that way. I thought I had made such progress in my life. I felt like I had learned so much from therapy and experience and time, and now, I feel like everything I thought I knew has been a lie, like I’m back at square one. The more I know about me, about whom I am and the life I’ve lived, the less I understand… pretty much anything. I’m not even sure anymore what I’ve learned.
“I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter.”
It has been a recurring phenomenon for me, in life and particularly in therapy, that when things get tough, my brain shuts down. Quite literally, when things become too hard to face, or information becomes too complicated and overwhelming, my brain just stops processing. It’s difficult to even articulate the experience. I lose the ability to focus on the task or the issue at hand and it’s almost like the mental imagery breaks apart and scatters in all directions like oil on water. I’ve always felt like I was the only one who felt that so this lyric of the song, in a way, is comforting.
“But I think it’s about forgiveness. Forgiveness. Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.”
It almost seems like this is goes without saying. Forgiveness is difficult. It shouldn’t be. It should be the easiest thing in the world but it just isn’t. I can’t speak for other people and I’m sure I’m not really the only person to feel the way I do, but I am the only one I have to worry about and the fact is, very few days have gone by in my life where I wasn’t hurt or degraded or let down in some way, by some one. I’ve had a considerable amount of hurt in my life and have every reason to expect a considerable amount more. It’s hard to get over. It’s tough to put behind you and I think no matter how much you wish you could, you don’t forget the hurts in your life.
For me, and thousands if not millions of people like me, the possibility that someone incredibly important in my life might not love me anymore if they knew everything there was to know, is too great to be ignored. The part that’s so confusing and difficult about all this is they’re some of the same people who have caused the most pain and sadness in my life.
“These times are so uncertain. There’s a yearning undefined, and people filled with rage. We all need a little tenderness. How can love survive in such a graceless age?”
Uncertainty is such a huge part of life and it sucks. I’ve lived most of my life feeling like I have little or no control over anything. And it’s not that I’m a “control freak” exactly, although, really isn’t everyone to some extent? It’s just that, so much of the time, I feel like circumstances just happen to me. That sounds like a cop-out, I know, but it’s true. It makes me sound like a victim, and maybe in some ways I am, but it makes me angry… one might say, “filled with rage.”
And it seems like we live in an age of me-ness. “Graceless”? That’s just putting it nicely. I’ve been so disturbed and frustrated over the last several years by the general attitude of selfishness and self-importance in the world around me. Once upon a time, you could go to a store and the employees would speak to you. “Excuse me,” they would say before walking in front of you as you examine the products on the shelf. “May I help you find anything?” they would ask, simply because you walked near them. (I worked at a store once that had a “four square” policy. If a customer walked with-in four floor tiles of you in any direction you were supposed to greet them and offer assistance.)
And what about your fellow man? There was a time when people paid attention to where they were going, when it wasn’t more important for them to get where they wanted to be, than it was to be courteous enough to wait until you got by when there was no one behind you. Now, people turn their carts out in front of you and make you stop short, or cut you off on the freeway, just to get out from behind the slow guy in front of them, even though they’re going slower than you. I think this sums it up pretty well.
“And the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness are the very things we kill, I guess. Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms. And the wall they put between us, you know it doesn’t keep us warm.”
I wouldn’t presume to say that I know what leads to happiness. Most of the time I think that people are either born happy or they’re not; and while everyone has bummer days, tragic moments that temporarily sour their moods, those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to be born happy, probably never will be.
Trust and self-assurance are things that have very rarely, if ever, served me well so I’m not so sure those lead to happiness. These last few years have been filled with self-assurance and it has only proved to set me up for a huge fall. Lead to happiness? I’m not so sure. “The very things we kill, I guess”? It evokes a sense of loss in me. However artificial that trust and self-assurance I had been experiencing might have been, it was still significant and now it’s gone.
I don’t know about “pride and competition” but the image of empty arms and “doesn’t keep us warm” conjures plenty of feeling. One I’m all too familiar with. It’s called loneliness. I’m used to it; one might even say I’m comfortable with it. Which is not to say that I like it, but when it’s all you’ve known, it’s pretty easy to settle in for the long haul.
“I’ve been trying to live without you now, but I miss you, baby. The more I know, the less I understand, and all the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again. I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, but my will gets weak and my heart is so shattered.”
All the things I thought I figured out. It’s just a change in the wording, but it’s so much more accurate. Clearly everything I thought I knew turned out to be wrong. Deceiving myself into believing things would be different when they clearly won’t. All the hope I allowed myself to feel, all the optimism that proved to be groundless… My heart is so shattered
“But I think it’s about forgiveness. Forgiveness. Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.”
Now check out the bridge:
“All the people in your life who’ve come and gone, they let you down, you know they hurt your pride. Gotta put it all behind you ‘cause life goes on. You keep carryin’ that anger, it’ll eat you up inside.
I wanted happily ever after, and my heart is so shattered and I know it’s about…”
At the end of the day, this, right here, is what I think this song is about for me. I could make lists. Lists of people who’ve gone, lists of people who’ve let me down and lists of people who’ve hurt me. Lists of people who’ve made me angry, made me resentful, made me doubt myself and my life and the world around me. I try everyday to put it behind me, though I’m generally not very successful. “Life goes on?” What life? I struggle a lot with this one and it’s actually prompted what will probably be tomorrow’s post if I can get it together in time.
“You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside.” This evokes thoughts of my mother and to be honest, it makes me angry. My whole life when I would get mad about something, she would say, “Oh honey, just be quiet. Don’t be like that. You’re not hurting anyone but yourself.” Maybe it wasn’t her intention, but I think it was. What I got from that is. “Don’t feel. It’s not OK to get angry. You’re not allowed to have negative emotions.” It’s kind of ironic if you think about it. “You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside,” is true. It’s so much better to vent your frustrations, to let it out of your system and yet, the words make me think of my mother telling me not to do just that.
My mother and I had a bit of a falling out several years ago and I’m not going to get into it here, but in that conversation she told me “You’ve obviously been holding some grudges you need to forgive and forget.” Naturally, that just pissed me off more, but what I told her is, “I’m not holding any grudges. I suppose I can understand why you would say that, but that’s not the case. When I gave the examples I gave, it was simply that, giving examples. I learned a long time ago not to make sweeping generalizations (especially within this family) without supporting data. As far as ‘forgive and forget’ goes, I don’t even know what that means. Forgiveness is a choice and I’ve made that choice over and over again with a lot of people in my life for as long as I can remember. Forgetting on the other hand doesn’t make any sense to me. One can’t control what they can and can’t (or do and don’t) remember.”
I believed that when I said it. I believed that forgiveness was a conscious decision you make. I guess the truth is I still believe that and yet this song struck a chord with me.
Maybe forgiveness is a process. Maybe forgiveness is a decision and a process. Maybe forgiveness is a process that takes time and you make the decision over and over until – well, until your done.
I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter. But I think it’s about forgiveness…