Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thread through a needle


I have been working on a mix CD for my best friend entitled, "Aren't We Aging Well?" because of a Dar Williams song and it's got me thinking about emotions.

I have been thinking about so many mixes made in the past. Mixes made out of infatuation, mixes made out of grief. Mixes made for my car stereo and not to give as a gift because I wanted to wallow in their emotion and not feel as alone.

I made break-up mixes in honor of my college boyfriend that included the Indigo Girls singing Love-Struck Romeo and shouting in my heart, "But it was just a scene to you!" When I left my first job bitterly, I made a mix that highlighted Ani DiFranco's Million That You Never Made. I made a mix for my ex-husband before I knew our marriage was dead with Garth Brook's Rodeo mixed with Dolly Parton's Touch Your Woman inexplicably mixed with Aretha Franklin's Rock Steady because he still gave me joy but I couldn't say out loud that he was growing distant. After the divorce, I made a mix with the Rolling Stones's Sympathy for the Devil because I discovered it helped to put it on repeat and turn the stereo up - way up - in the car. My first mix for Jacob had Thao's Bag of Hammers because I really really wanted him to stay and not get on that interstate bus when the inevitable fights came up because I was so delighted with him and wanted it to work but knew that I was was like a bee sting sometimes.


The emotions that we make mixes to reflect are powerful. They inform our day to day living. We sing songs in our heads while swimming and driving and filing and we want those songs to be appropriate to our mood so we craft little soundtracks for ourselves or as gifts for others, trying to help them feel less alone and more loved. They are big emotions.

Now that I am married, I wonder if these big emotions get short shrift. Now that the break-ups are done, what is left to make mixes about? Logically, there should be plenty of stuff since big emotions are probably pretty evenly distributed throughout life and not front-loaded to life before marriage. I wonder if I bury them under the equally large but more culturally acceptable emotions of love and contentment. We all fall into the lie that life is a Disney movie that ends with a happily ever after and I wonder which parts of that I have not been unpacking.

I'm not asking for tragedy to strike but I think I need to start noticing other events in my life that need mix tapes. I have walking around in a low-grade rage for a couple of weeks after a lovely stint of calm and serenity brought on by intensified therapy. It has had me puzzled until I started to think about mix tapes. What lyrics are speaking to me in the music I'm listening to? For one thing, the other day I realized that I had never uploaded my Alanis Morrissette or Violent Femmes albums. That should tell you something about what my sub-conscious mind is asking for. The Dar Williams song above makes me cry every time because I feel both that I AM aging well but also that I'm not. The rest of Susan's mix that I'm working on now has some pretty hard-driven funk like the Chili Pepper's version of Higher Ground and Ida Maria's I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked but also has fun dance songs like Kermit and Fozzie singing Movin' Right Along.

So, what emotions am I brushing off because they seem less important than happily ever after emotions when really they deserve their own mix tapes? Well, I have stopped engaging a dear, dear friend of mine because we had a blow-out and she insists on treating me like a monster that she doesn't feel safe with unless she hides behind email or has a mediator in the room. I can't handle being the bad guy for her anymore. There is real sadness mixed with real relief there but I don't know how to process it. Or, out of his own intense emotions, Jacob said something deeply insensitive on Friday. We have talked about it and grown closer but I find that the wound still stings. Also, I feel pretty unsuccessful in my interactions with folks in a variety of communities, like I am not navigating well the narrow line between being myself and not offending or upsetting others.

None of these powerful emotions are really attached to an inciting incident that would typically be noticed in the story arc of a normal life. I mean people all around me are having babies and moving and dealing with cancer, for Heaven's sake. I would have expected that the emotions associated with my situations would flare and then dissipate since they are not as huge as, say, getting married. They are part of day-to-day living, not events.

But as I think about mixes, about soundtracks, these little tensions inform everything I do when I succeed at being present in the now. Like the WS Merwin poem says, they are "like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with [their] color."


This will require me to change the lens on the camera aimed at my inner landscape. I'm so tired. I would love to just be. How does one take a vacation from the continual process of fitting a chipped cog into the broken machine that is this world? Maybe not so strangely, I have been finding comfort in a Vance Gilbert song: Your Brighter Day.

2 comments:

ABG said...

"None of these powerful emotions are really attached to an inciting incident that would typically be noticed in the story arc of a normal life."

I really resonated with this line of what you wrote. I think that's WHY it seems like the emotions are "front loaded" into life before marriage. Before marriage comes the first day of school and confirmation and your first period and your first kiss and your first broken heart and moving away from home and the last night of your first show and graduation and graduation and first job and first grown up break up and...on. After marriage, these "events" do get more spartan...

Just some first thoughts on something you've obviously been thinking about longer than me...

Susan said...

I love that you are making me a mix CD. The CD's I get from you are amongst my most treasured possessions...no one makes a mix tape like you!