Tuesday, 17 May 2016

It's All Coming Back To Me Now

My current earworm, following a series of unexpected ones over the last several weeks (as you can see from my last blog post. The rest are even more embarrassing, so let's not go there).

But this, I think, is the big one - and not just because of the lush orchestration, huge fuck off vocals, and an opulent video that allow me to indulge a sensuous side I rarely let out. Yes, it's cheesy. Yes, it's Celine. Yes, it's easily mockable. 

So what? It's a song where Jim Steinman took a risk, committed to writing the biggest, most emotionally laden, romantic song he could, inspired by Wuthering Heights. No matter what you think of the result, there's something incredibly brave about pouring your entire self into a creation and then putting out there. Whatever its form, it's a precious gift.

And that gift gives so much more than the creator ever expected, often offering the chance for profound healing, because when they unreservedly pour themselves into their creation, they allow us to do the same from the other side - and it is only when we do so that real transformation can occur.

So it is with this. Jim Steinman wrote it as a song about the darker side of love: obsession as it moves back and forth between 'We're done!' and 'No, wait...' But as is often the case when we step into another's creation, how it resonates with us may be completely different from the stated intent, because all creations from the heart have layer upon layer of meaning. 

When I first told a friend that I couldn't stop listening to this (and listed the others from the last weeks) she said, Your romantic longings seem to be surging to the forefront.

There was an instantaneous, not defensive, NO to that, because even when I first fell in love with this song, it was about so much more to me. Now, if she meant Romantic - with a capital R - that nails it, because it is absolutely about my core quality of experiencing, processing, and creating through intense emotion. 

That is my true indulgence here - letting myself feel. This is one of the few songs that can get me to go on a crying jag I've needed to be on for months, even years. It wrenches to the forefront my lifelong terror that anyone I'd ever be truly, madly, deeply in love with will die and the desolation of having to live with unending grief.

But above all, it's about my family and letting myself feel everything I've held at bay about that most fundamental rupture in relationship. As most of you know, I walked out of the house with a few bin bags, leaving my parents a note on the fridge door. It was a long time coming: by 4, I stayed upstairs watching the Electric Company when my father got home, rather than running down to meet him. In fact, I clearly remember feeling distressed when he got  home, because a sense of oppression would settle over the house, as if the portcullis had come down, trapping us all inside. Leaving was the culmination of a lifetime of inner knowing that staying in that emotional desert would destroy me. Either way, I would always be going it alone.

And better to go it alone and free, whatever that may bring.

I made that choice, knowing many of the consequences: my family's rage and ensuing vindictiveness; the ripples through the wider family; the relief; the fear; the need to carry on fighting. What I didn't expect, didn't dare allow myself to fully know, was

There were nights when the wind was so cold
That my body froze in bed 
If I just listened to it 
Right outside the window 

There were days when the sun was so cruel 
That all the tears turned to dust 
And I just knew my eyes were 
Drying up forever

If I let myself feel - know, in the deepest sense - that tearing yourself away from even a deeply dysfunctional, soul-stealing place would leave you with wounds that bled so much more than you thought possible, I might have gone back. And I couldn't do that. Not for so much as a moment. Instead, defiance and resolve had to see me through:

I finished crying in the instant that (I) left
And I can't remember where or when or how 
And I banished every memory you and I had ever made

THAT. THAT was what was necessary to get out and stay out. If it meant chewing off my arm so I could get out of the bear trap, so be it. Anger and unforgiveness get a bad rap, but they can often be the only things that keep you moving away from a situation you should never return to. Without them, it's too easy to remember the brief moments where you could breathe, when you thought, Yes, this can become something good: moments watching The Muppets, a magical night in the Himalayas with uncles, aunts, cousins, the youngest uncle keeping everyone in stitches

There were moments of gold and there were flashes of light

Moments that, if you could stretch them into eternity, might have brought light from the darkness. But, as all moments do, they pass, and the reality is what you've always known it was...

There were those empty threats and hollow lies

And whenever you tried to hurt me 
I just hurt you even worse 
And so much deeper

...an unrelenting, grim, joyless landscape that just needed to be survived. Though the threats weren't empty, and you were the child, so your power to inflict deeper pain on those responsible for the cauldron you lived in is debatable.

Turn around. Walk away when you can. Don't look homeward, angel.

But you were history with the slamming of the door 
And I made myself so strong again somehow 
And I never wasted any of my time on you since then

But here's the rub: whilst anger and defiance can get you so far, they can't take you all the way. Because even as you think you've banished every memory you have ever made, they are the ghosts that haunt you, the demons that drive you. If you believe that you've never wasted any of your time on them since then, the truth is, you have

In not feeling what you really feel - so you don't go back. In living on defiance - so you never go back. In staying numb so you survive. In not leaning on anyone else because you knew from the beginning you could never lean on them. In not truly letting anyone in so you are never again torn apart like you were by them. In always having one foot out the door so you are never trapped. In living in the grey zone, numb, so you can keep putting one foot in front of the other, moving away from them, even when you no longer need to be a spore blowing on the wind, but can become a seed planted in rich soil, expecting the sun, rain, all you need to grow.

In these ways and so many others, you've carried them rather than banished them; wasted so much of your time on them. But is there a way to put them down after all this time?

If you forgive me all this 
If I forgive you all that

Can I? What does forgiveness mean? Where does it begin? All at once? In stages? Will I have to do it again? Does it mean what they did was okay? And what do I do without that weight? Without the anger that has driven me forward?

What do I do with the emptiness? And now what?

When you see me like this -

And when I see you like that:

(*my parents are on our right)

We see just what we want to see... 

...all coming back to me
I can barely recall but it's all coming back to me now

That's how we begin to heal, even from the deepest, earliest trauma: not by separating, but as the song does, by bringing all of it together: by letting ourselves fully feel the nights of cold wind and the days of cruel sun, even as we slam necessary doors, allowing anger, defiance, and even numbness to carry us to the places where we can stop surviving and start living, even if, at first, only by nearly dying. The way into the light is most often through the dark night of the soul - and through the songs that carry us there. 

It may all be coming back to you now, but that doesn't mean you have to go back to it. Welcome it, even when it feels like the tears will never end; hold it; be with it. Let it all find its place in you.

Remember, you made yourself so strong again somehow.

And then, as Gibran might note, your eve may be, in truth, your dawn.

The dawn that will, finally, bring you home. 

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