Divad’s Soundtrack #33: July-August 2001

This is the dreaded “post-breakup” mix. It’s actually one of my favorites, because while I could have taken it in an unapologetically depressed and angry direction (and I did give into those emotions here and there), there’s actually a sense of hope and even a slight hint of excitement at the chance to start over that emerges as the second disc winds down. Even in my darkest hour, I was somehow convinced that there would be better days ahead.

In with the New:
Michelle Branch
Superchic[k]
Matchbox Twenty
Circadian Rhythm
Dixie Chicks
Radiohead

Out with the Old:
Beanbag
Train
Cake
Ceili Rain
PfR

Listen on Spotify:


divads-soundtrack-33aDISC ONE

This mix was one of the hardest to make, as it covered a period of time that was one of the most painful in my entire life thus far. Sharon broke up with me on July 21, 2001, and that meant that a lot of the upbeat and catchy songs that I was enjoying at the time felt odd butting up against more visceral songs of anger and loneliness. (Then again, many of the songs I had been relating to and putting on previous mixes had been foreshadowing this for a while.) Aside from the emotional difficulty, there was the practical problem of no longer having access to her computer, and therefore no access to a CD burner! (I finally broke down and bought my own.) Like a fool, I still went on the trip to Michigan with her family that summer, hoping I could make amends and repair the relationship. It ended up being an extremely turbulent and awkward time, and I spent several afternoons wandering on the beach or along the Iron River (pictured again here – it seems all of my good pictures from Camp Soso were of the river), contemplating how I was gonna deal with life alone after having a girlfriend for nearly three years.
Where in the world is this?

2001_Tait_Empty1) “Spy”, Tait (Empty, 2001)

An awesome song for head-banging, with a super-secret-agent guitar riff that represents a big part of the energy that the band will never be able to recapture without Pete Stewart. This was an “inside looking out” song, that confronted a non-Christian with their stereotypical treatment of someone who was a Christian and just trying to be their friend, because they suspected that to that Christian, they were just another mark on the agenda instead of someone they actually loved and cared about. Some people feel that way because Christians have treated that way, but just as we shouldn’t stereotype the world as bigoted against us and unresponsive to God’s love, they can’t lump us all into one unfeeling, militant category, either.

2001_MichelleBranch_TheSpiritRoom2) “Everywhere”, Michelle Branch (The Spirit Room, 2001)

I distinctly remember the very first time I heard this song (or at least the beginning of it). It was late in the evening, on the day that Heather and I had arrived in Michigan. The oldies radio station that Sharon’s parents had always listened to while driving during past years (which annoyed me to no end!) had disappeared, so they defaulted to the local Top 40 station, which we heard quite a bit of during that week and a half that we were there, and this song came on in the Rent-a-Wreck van as we made our way down that final stretch of dirt road to camp. Thus far things were peaceful; Sharon and I hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks since the breakup, and my strategy was basically to kill her with kindness and show her what she was missing, hoping she’d change her mind. She was pretty set on her decision, and my attempts to be tender and try to win her back only served to annoy her during the week that followed. I soon realized what a bad decision I had made. Our relationship was truly over for good, and now she was going to be literally everywhere I went until we finally returned home. Those were some of the most emotionally difficult days I had ever faced, and I totally brought it on myself.

2001_Skillet_AlienYouth3) “Alien Youth”, Skillet (Alien Youth, 2001)

Skillet went a little more dissonant and heavy than their past stuff here, and yet they were still paradoxically so poppy and youth-groupy. I wasn’t sure if I bought into the gimmick, but I certainly enjoyed that such a rockin’ sound was coming from a band that was now 50% female. This record really helped to brighten a lot of days near the end of August, when I finally set about learning how to live life on my own, unattached to anyone. Heather and I were listening to it on my car during the night when I took her with me to help me pick out my very first computer. Finally getting a computer and Internet access at home was part of my plan to combat the loneliness.

2001_Superchick_KaraokeSuperstars4) “Karaoke Superstars”, Superchic[k] (Karaoke Superstars, 2001)

I’d never accuse any Superchic[k] song of being terribly deep, but this fun song about getting in your car, turning up the radio, and singing along at the top of your lungs, represented a simple joy that helped sustain me during that time. I like driving, and I like music, and for the first time in a while, I was doing the majority of my driving without having someone else in my car (or being their passenger). I could listen to whatever I want without someone griping about it. Being alone was a mixed blessing that I was determined to learn to appreciate, in order to survive.


2001_Delirious_AudioLessonover5) “Take Me Away”, Delirious? (Audio: Lessonover?, 2001)

That summer was pretty much the absolute worst possible time for an upbeat love song like this to come along, but it rocked and had a killer guitar solo, and that weird chord progression got to me (the preceding single, “Waiting for the Summer”, had totally not worked for me because it was just wall-to-wall cheese, but that one showed up on a later mix in 2002 when my attitude was worlds apart from what it was in 2001). It represented a goal, a dream which I wasn’t going to lose sight of despite my bitterness. True love existed. I had tasted something similar to it, and it hadn’t lasted, but I knew there was something better for me than an experience which had already been a pretty good one, at least for the first couple years. And when I found it again, I would shout it from the rooftops. The whole world was gonna know that whoever she was, she was amazing enough to overcome the heartbreak and take me back to that sense of romantic innocence that I felt like I had lost.

2000_Lifehouse_NoNameFace6) “Sick Cycle Carousel”, Lifehouse (No Name Face, 2000)

Breaking up with Sharon forced me to examine some of my patterns, beliefs and actions that I had taken for granted as part of the routine, ways that I let myself get away with laziness and greed and other vices. Patterns that part of me wanted to change, but that I wasn’t motivated to before because, well, I was already happy in a relationship and there was no need to rock the boat and pursue radical change. She didn’t try to keep me that way – some of those vices certainly bugged her. But I’d get bummed out about them and it tended to lead to endless discussions instead of definitive action on my part to be a better person. We tend to keep going back to the poisoned wells that we know we shouldn’t drink from, until doing so causes significant enough pain to snap us out of our patterns. This was what started to happen within me due to the jolt caused by our breakup.

2000_LinkinPark_HybridTheory7) “Crawling”, Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory, 2000)

This song stated its frightened sentiments so simply, but to me at the time, the slinking electronic sounds crashing into sore-throated screaming were magnificently eloquent. I knew what it was like to have panic attacks, to feel your blood racing under your skin and to look at yourself in the mirror and realize you’re facing a total stranger when compared to the person you remembered being just a few short years ago. I was scared now, but strangely, the physical symptoms didn’t accompany it like they had during my depression the previous year. It was all in my head. Something in me knew I had to stand up to the fear, and while I had a lot of bouts with bitterness and rage, something about that end goal, to come out a better person on the other end because I was brutally honest with myself instead of cringing in the corner in fear, made me feel so exhilarated and so alive. There was a weird sense of joy that I found in staring those fears in the eye and promising myself that I would beat them.

2001_PfR_Disappear8) “Falling”, PfR (Disappear, 2001)

The new PfR and Tait albums came out on the same day, right before the 4th of July that year. I was excited to have new material from a few old favorites, and figured Sharon would be as well. We had this artificial mini-weekend right in the middle of the week due to the 4th falling on a Wednesday, so we treated Tuesday like a Friday, and I remember excitedly coming over to her apartment and putting PfR’s album in the CD player, hoping to relive happier days when we had played PfR’s greatest hits album (one of my first gifts to her) during many road trips to and from Fresno. She wasn’t feeling it. She put her finger on it during this song – she liked the “new PfR sound” but the songs weren’t really sticking with her. She was more excited to hear Tait, which we listened to while driving to one of our very last dates at the Spaghetti Factory last night, but that one seemed hit-and-miss to her, too. Our tastes were diverging. I couldn’t depend on music nostalgia to rekindle the barely glowing embers.


2001_Train_DropsofJupiter9) “I Wish You Would”, Train (Drops of Jupiter, 2001)

My Train fandom was short-lived – this is the second and last of their songs to appear on any of my mixes (right after the last PfR song, now that I think about it). Honestly, everything they’ve ever done pales in comparison to the song “Drops of Jupiter”, and while the album containing it was enjoyable enough, they started to really irritate me in the years that followed. They had a folk/country influenced pop/rock sound on this album that they really should have stuck with. The harmonica floating through this song really conveyed a sense of loss, as a guy whose woman had left him tried desperately to rearrange everything he could about his life in hopes of luring her back. All the wishing in the world wasn’t gonna make it happen.

2000_MatchboxTwenty_MadSeason10) “If You’re Gone”, Matchbox Twenty (Mad Season, 2000)

I think this was another one of the most played songs on mainstream radio in 2001. It certainly had a somber melody that grabbed a lot of people almost effortlessly. Say what you want about Matchbox just being a “radio band”, but I liked that the mood of the song was so obviously that of a pending breakup, and yet Rob Thomas’s lyrics were so quizzical. “I think you’re so mean; I think we should try.” More seductive words have definitely been said in the attempt to woo someone back – this song seems to mostly be admitting defeat. That’s where I was at that point in time. The song first grabbed me back in April, when Sharon and I had just been through that awful fight, and I was driving home the next day after a failed attempt to mend fences. I really don’t recommend breaking down and crying one’s eyes out while driving, but that’s pretty much what I did. This song, and really the entire album (one of the first “breakup concept albums” that I ever got into), accurately summed up a lot of the messed-up, conflicted feelings I had as the relationship finally fell apart that summer. Why would I want to preserve such sad memories? The fighting and arguing may have been unsavory, but when those moments came where I admitted the truth and the tears actually came – that’s where I feel like the healing really started. I’m not a guy who cries over just anything. I feel like it on so many occasions, but I don’t actually do it – something within me holds back for the sake of composure. The days where I actually let it happen always end up being days that I remember with much more poignancy and clarity than the days where I just clam up and sit around feeling tense because of things I don’t want to admit to myself.

2001_Beanbag_welladjusted11) “Slipstream”, Beanbag (welladjusted, 2001)

Like most Beanbag songs, I really had no idea what this one was about. But the relative smoothness of it, compared to their usual abrasiveness, caught me off guard – there was dissonant shouting and harsh guitar playing and all that, but then there was that spooky, smooth chorus – “We will never pull through alone.” “I’ve never felt love before, I’ll never feel love.” I realized that it was a song about who we depend on and what we think it means to feel “alone”. I clung to a girlfriend and was afraid to depend on God. Any sense of love you feel in a situation like that is bound to run dry as the patience of the person you’re expecting to play God wears thin. It’s a no-win situation. I had to be “alone” again in order to realize that I wasn’t.

2001_TheBenjaminGate_Untitled12) “Lay It Down”, The Benjamin Gate (Untitled, 2001)

A simple and fairly repetitive song of surrender. Oh, and it rocks. Adrienne Liesching could really pack a wallop with that odd little voice of hers.

 

2001_CircadianRhythm_OverUnderEverything13) “Beautiful Savior”, Circadian Rhythm (Over Under Everything, 2001)
The breakup couldn’t have happened on a more difficult day. Tim and Lina, who were my closest friends at the time other than Sharon, were both out of town. Heather was off doing something. I couldn’t find anyone else I knew who was on campus that summer. Repeated attempts to call other friends I hadn’t spoken to in a while resulted in nothing. Finally, out of desperation, I drove to Angela’s apartment in Glendale and gave her a buzz, hoping against hope that she was actually home and not busy. Turned out that she had a few of the high school students (well, most of them college age by that point) that used to be in her youth group at Glendale Presbyterian over for a time of worship and prayer. And I felt bad interrupting, but she seemed willing to steal away for a bit and talk to me about what had happened that day. Suddenly I had this epiphany – “If I can’t worship God now, then when I do, it doesn’t mean anything.” So I just joined them for a few songs and let it not me about me, just for a little while, and Angela and I talked later. Through some subsequent conversations with friends like Lina during the days that followed, I realized that I wanted to be able to hang onto that concept of worshiping in the midst of sorrow. So Delirious?’s Glo got a lot of play in my car during those few weeks, as did Circadian Rhythm’s one and only album, which I picked up due to wanting more music which fit that mood. I’m not sure what the deal was with the little exercise routine at the beginning of this song, but it was definitely a fun one.

2000_Coldplay_Parachutes14) “Spies”, Coldplay (Parachutes, 2000)
It totally wasn’t intentional that I put “Spy” and “Spies” on the same CD, but it’s funny now that I’ve realized it. This song was all moody and acoustic and minor-key, and I didn’t even know how to identify minor key yet, but my ears knew what they were hearing before my mind knew what to call it, and I loved it. For me, this song’s about hiding from things that you’re paranoid about. Have you ever been so afraid of facing someone or something that you go way out of your way to avoid it during your everyday life? That was me for a while. Reminders of the relationship that I so suddenly had to say goodbye to lurked everywhere. With Sharon living in Pasadena now, very close to the neighborhood I grew up in, and me living and working in the area and seeing friends at Oxy from time to time, it was hard to go places that didn’t bring up painful memories of times we’d spent together. I tried, foolishly, to re-route my life around those places. It didn’t work.

1999_DixieChicks_Fly15) “Cold Day in July”, Dixie Chicks (Fly, 1999)

A fairly apt expression of how I felt on the day Sharon dumped me, except that the girl did the dumping instead of the guy in this case, and it didn’t happen as the sun came up (why are children out on the street playing at sunrise in this song, anyway?) Sharon never made the lofty “I’ll never leave you” promises that I did; she knew what it was like to be in a serious long-term relationship and have it end, and she was wise not to assume that what we had was guaranteed to be forever, even though we were obviously quite enthusiastic about it at the outset. It’s so easy to jump the gun and make “forever” promises the first time you really fall in love. But I was the one making the proverbial declarations that “The day I leave you will be a cold day in July.” That day turned out to be about the coldest one in terms of how I felt – all that pent-up sadness coming out and nobody’s shoulder to cry on as I drove around aimlessly, trying to shake off the shock of what had just happened.

2000_TheNormals_ComingtoLife16) “We Are the Beggars at the Foot of God’s Door”, The Normals (Coming to Life, 2000)

I had The Normals playing in my car the day of the breakup. Seemed like as good a choice of music as any – there was a lot of life in their music, and some troubled relationships slowly falling apart, but a lot of wisdom expressed in spite of it. This sprawling, beautiful song with the ridiculously long title summed it up perfectly – some of us lose girlfriends, some of us betray our families, some of us are flat broke, but all of us have made poor choices at one point or another, and all of us are big losers in terms of our own righteousness. This song embraced that fact, and put me in my place – completely hopeless apart from God’s mercy. It’s a freeing thing to realize – I’d been taught that many times, but the summer of 2001 was when it really sank in that I was a “loser” who God loved dearly. Lina and I had been having conversations on this topic, so in honor of that, I ended up making a pair of compilation CDs for her entitled “Lovers and Losers” – part one was a bunch of love songs just because I knew she liked that sort of thing and she was a friend who I hoped would find it someday (and she did!), and part two was about our failings and God’s grace. This song was one of the cornerstones of the “Losers” disc.

divads-soundtrack-33bDISC TWO

This picture shows the lawn and gardens adjacent to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Heather was dating Sharon’s brother James at the time, so she came with us that summer. I remember feeling weird and definitely very jealous that they were getting to see this romantic place together for the first time, and Sharon’s parents were taking pictures of them in places where they had once taken pictures of me and Sharon. It ultimately didn’t last for James and Heather, but looking back, if they hadn’t ever been a couple, I might not have gotten to know James as well as I know him now.
Where in the world is this?

2000_LinkinPark_HybridTheory1) “Pushing Me Away”, Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory, 2000)
A frustrated songs about seeing the signs that someone is emotionally distancing themselves from you well before they actually have the courage to speak the truth and end the relationship. You try to do everything their way and you totally sacrifice your identity, and none of that changes the fact that they’ve already decided they’re done and they’re just trying to figure out the best way to end it. Horribly fatalistic thing for me to say, but that’s how I felt back then.

1999_Incubus_MakeYourself2) “Privilege”, Incubus (Make Yourself, 1999)

Brandon Boyd was quite the motivational speaker on Make Yourself. This song was a blast – an encouraging call to assert one’s personal freedom and to not be walked all over by others, but also a gentle slap in the face reminding us that with that freedom comes the chore of actually being responsible for one’s own choices and not passing the buck. Accepting responsibility for my own screw-ups has never come easy – it’s generally simpler to just be lazy and say the person closest to you wielded their influence and made you this way. Realizing that you control a good chunk of your own destiny is kind of a double-edged sword.

2001_Cake_ComfortEagle3) “Comfort Eagle”, Cake (Comfort Eagle, 2001)

Cake was smarmy and sarcastic, which were emotions that I definitely felt after getting dumped when was trying to tell myself I should just get over her. But I also knew that Cake was a band she liked, and they had a new CD that came out after she left for Michigan, but before I did. Part of my reason for checking it out was to have another possible topic of conversation, which was silly because we didn’t have a lot of time to talk to each other either way on that trip. But at least I discovered a sneering little song with creepy hand claps and coins going “cha-ching” and a diatribe on commercialized religion. That was fun.

2001_KevinMax_StereotypeBe4) “Existence”, Kevin Max feat. Coffee (Stereotype Be, 2001)

The winding, twisting minor key melody and elements of Eastern music drew me into this song – probably Kevin Max’s best solo number – quite easily. It was a basic “Why am I alive?” question that I hung onto as I tried to figure out the quickest way to make my life feel like it counted again despite being in a single state that I didn’t want to be in. It turned out to be the standout track on an album that resounded deeply within me all the way through. I expected weirdness, and instead I found some honest (albeit somewhat cryptic) musings on love gone wrong, and trying to fit into God’s larger plan for the world while maintaining one’s own “weirdness”. Kevin Max totally understood me, and it took me by complete surprise.

2001_Radiohead_Amnesiac5) “Pyramid Song”, Radiohead (Amnesiac, 2001)

Late that summer, I finally admitted to myself that I kind of liked Radiohead. I had previously poked fun at them after attempting to digest Kid A and Amnesiac (really not the best place to start with them), deciding they were trying too hard to be difficult and weird, and writing up a review of Amnesiac that criticized it by imitating the gimmicks of each song as I described it. I was later forced to append the review and admit that enough of the music had become memorable to me that I decided to break down and buy the album anyway. This song was the beginning of Radiohead’s breakthrough into my musical vocabulary – the eerie, ghostly Eastern feel made it blend in perfectly after the outro from “Existence”, and I was continually intrigued by the way that the song slipped off of its rhythm, and yet proved to have a method to its madness once the drums kicked in. Radiohead will probably never be my favorite band, because they’re a little too obscure for me at times, but I owe them a massive debt of gratitude, because learning to appreciate their music opened the floodgates for a paradigm shift in how I would seek out and analyze new music. This album and Kid A have influenced my ability to stick with a record that seems slow, meandering, and difficult to get into until I find its inner beauty – probably more so than any album had since Jars of Clay’s Much Afraid.

2001_OutoftheGrey_616) “Waiting”, Out of the Grey (6.1, 2001)

The long-awaited return of Out of the Grey came late that summer (they disappeared again not long after that), and it seemed cruel to have a whole new album from them and nobody to cuddle up with during a summer sunset while listening to it. I was rather impatient with this album’s mellow, quirky nature because I was all by myself, so it was a few years later before I fully appreciated its subtleties. This song grabbed me right from the beginning, though, with more of an electronic pop/rock approach. I was kind of in a funk, waiting for the right song to come along and cheer me up – “Waiting for a single with a catchy rhyme”, but no amount of catchy or clever songwriting on the part of any of my favorite artists was going to bring the solution I needed. The opportunity I was waiting for – the chance to change – was already sitting right in front of me. God had dropped a paradigm shift into my everyday life and now it was my choice to see that as a positive opportunity for a personal 180, or just as a frustrating setback that I did nothing but medicate myself with temporary pleasures until I “got over it”.


2000_CeiliRain_ErasersonPencils7) “Barely Stay Inside of My Own Skin”, Ceili Rain (Erasers on Pencils, 2000)

This song was so fast and full of life and contagiously happy – it was pretty much the exact opposite of how I felt at that point in time. Even then, it was good to know that a genuine musical celebration of true joy could at least put a tiny smile on my face. It ended up here as a reminder that no matter how much I felt like I had been kicked around and how lonely I got at times, I was never completely closed off to my emotions. I had felt this sort of unbridled happiness before, and I’d eventually be able to feel it again.

2001_LaRue_Transparent8) “Theory of Flight”, LaRue (Transparent, 2001)

I loved that these youngsters had the idea to start off their album with a non-typical track – not a rocker, not a show-stopping ballad, just a song about struggle that almost intentionally didn’t fully get off the ground. They fought their record label for the right to put it first, and they won. Comparing life’s struggles with trying to fly isn’t exactly an original analogy, but this song captured the struggle well – gravity was acknowledged, but not totally surrendered to. I wasn’t off the ground yet, but I could look at the mountains ahead, and see a surmountable obstacle even though I had no clue yet how I would get to the other side.

2001_CircadianRhythm_OverUnderEverything9) “Gloria”, Circadian Rhythm (Over Under Everything, 2001)

This U2 cover was actually my introduction to the song. It took me a while to appreciate the original version from October (I was still getting a feel for U2’s older material that year), though now I see that the original is hard to beat. Circadian had fun with this one by adding a children’s choir – you might cringe at that idea, but it actually works. I got back in touch with Cathy late that summer – she was one of those college friends who I had been close to while we were in school but who I kind of flaked out on after graduating despite how close she lived to me. We went to Universal City Walk and had dinner together and caught up one summer evening, and I found out an interesting fact about her that I previously hadn’t known – she was a huge U2 fan. So I played this song for her, and she admitted that they at least did a decent job. It’s hard to redo classics well, especially if you’re a diehard fan.


2001_Tait_Empty10) “Talk About Jesus”, Tait (Empty, 2001)

I see “Spy” and this song as two sides of a dialogue between a Christian and a non-Christian. Both sides are saying, “Don’t judge me without getting to know me”, and to some extent both sides are blaming each other for the communication breakdown. What’s interesting about this song is that the non-Christian is at a point of realizing that the rest of the world only has emptiness to offer; they want to know if this Jesus stuff is for real, but Christians are just offering them platitudes and not any real love. Though I’ve never experienced anything so tragic that it caused me to give up on my faith, I definitely felt a sting when I heard the lines, “All I’ve ever wanted never wanted me; all the dreams that I’ve lived for have left me incomplete.” That’s where the stuff hits the fan, and a person who needs Jesus will either be helped along the way by Christians who are able to love them, or pushed away by Christians who just spout off doctrine and criticize them for sins that they already feel bad about.

2001_PfR_Disappear11) “Missing Love”, PfR (Disappear, 2001)

There’s a sense of solitude to the last few songs on this mix – a bit lonely at times, but overall peaceful. It kind of begins with this song, which is about losing someone or something you love and then realizing you were totally missing the point and you didn’t really have love in the most genuine sense anyway. I knew what it was like to fall in love and have those fluttery feelings in my chest. But I grew impatient and selfish when that person didn’t respond the way I wanted her to, and ultimately rejected me. It would be a while before I could learn to genuinely show real love to another person in that sort of a relationship. My typical response to not getting what I wanted from someone I supposedly loved was to snipe at them in a very passive/aggressive manner, which Sharon finally had the nerve to admit to me after we broke up, when I made one last phone call to try and reconcile things. Her words left me quite devastated. She may have said it in a way that was designed to sting, but there was a lot of truth to it – I was a manipulative person who knew how to turn on the guilt when he wasn’t getting his way. That wasn’t love. I probably hadn’t treated her like I really loved her for quite some time before she finally decided she’d had enough.


2000_Iona_OpenSky12) “Hinba”, Iona (Open Sky, 2000)

Iona songs are always good for reflection during a personal journey, a time of growth. This one describes sailing out to your own secluded little island and praying and having some sort of epiphany. For me, this was the role that hiking served in my life as I adjusted to being single again. It was a hobby that I was already used to doing on my own, but now it served as a break from the distractions I’d find when I was in the office after hours or at home by myself and there were other hobbies begging for my attention. Standing on some mountain vista above the confines of the hot, smoggy city I called home, I felt like being alone was less of an alienating curse and more of a blessing that I hadn’t fully taken advantage of yet.


2000_Polarboy_400813) “Nothing Left”, Polarboy (4008, 2000)

Quiet acoustic guitar and mournful fiddle fill up the vast space between the stars as a man down on his luck ponders his significance in a massive universe. He feels completely hopeless, and yet in admitting that he has absolutely nothing left to give, no fallback options to bank on, he finds an unexpected joy in just giving it all up and letting God use it as the basis for a miraculous story of redemption.

2001_Avalon_Oxygen14) “Come and Fill My Heart”, Avalon (Oxygen, 2001)

“From here, the climb is steep, the road is long.” I always think of a beautiful, well-forested, meandering hiking trail when I hear this song – one of those journeys that takes the wind out of you at certain points, but each step toward that final destination is exhilarating. Your heart’s working harder to provide oxygen to the rest of your body, and you can feel your pulse racing – normally that’s not something I like to feel, but when I know it’s because I’m getting a good workout, that same sensation makes me feel so alive. For some reason, the trail I often picture is the Maunawili Falls trail on Oahu, even though I hadn’t heard the song yet when I first did that hike with Sharon and Millie back in March. The beauty of that place just stuck with me, and I found that I didn’t have to bury memories of a special place that I went to with her in hopes of rekindling our relationship – the place itself was gorgeous, it was an invigorating trip and I knew somehow that I’d be back one day. Hawaii represents paradise to a lot of people, and it certainly became iconic of dreams for my future. I still had dreams – as jaded and cynical as the breakup had left me, I knew “the one” was still out there, and I was going to take her to special places like this and share my dreams with her. That was a bold thing to dream about at a point in my life where I felt kind of unlovable. I had to give up a narrow-minded dream to God (the old relationship) in order to be able to grasp a bigger one (the relationship God actually wanted me to be in).

1995_TheCorrs_ForgivenNotForgotten15) “Forgiven, Not Forgotten”, The Corrs (Forgiven, Not Forgotten, 1996)

I had dinner with Lina a week or so after the breakup. It was the first time she’d seen me face to face and tried to console me after I’d experienced the biggest heartbreak of my life. I was still pretty messed up that night, telling Lina that I just wished I had one more chance and I didn’t care how much abuse I had to take, I’d do anything to get Sharon back. She was pretty worried about me when I said stuff like that. But she said some things that helped me to get through the worst of it. She told me that after a tough breakup in high school, she actually dealt with it by listening to love songs. That’d totally make it worse for a lot of people, but for her, it was a matter of reminding herself that the dream was still attainable despite that particular relationship not working out. So I tried it. The Corrs’ first album seemed to be a pretty good place to start, since it was packed with beautiful pop songs, many of which were about losing love and finding it again, with gorgeously dreamy Celtic-influenced instrumentation. I kind of fixated on this song, which draws a distinction between letting go of past hurts (forgiving) and actually erasing the person from your life (forgetting). I had a hard time separating the two – I knew I hadn’t yet forgiven Sharon for the damage done, and it was going to take some time to stop hating her. But I found myself running across reminders of our relationship and just wishing I could wipe them from my memory. It wasn’t until later that I realized that, though painful at times, the memories would actually help me in the future, in terms of not making the same mistakes the next time around. And though it would take nearly two years, I eventually went from the point of hating her guts and never wanting to have any contact with her ever again, to actively seeking her out and apologizing for being so childish. I knew that our relationship was long in the past, but I wanted to express to her that the wounds had healed, that she had ultimately helped me more than she hurt me, and that I wished her the best in her new life.

2001_SarahMasen_TheDreamlifeofAngels16) “We Are a Beginning”, Sarah Masen (The Dreamlife of Angels, 2001)

The placement of this song is intentional irony, since I’m ending with a “beginning” and since it’s a sort of “wedding song” that came along when I was darn sure I was the farthest from that dream that I’d ever be. It’s expressed in Masen’s usual innocent, poetic language – an ode to a covenant made by two people who know they’re pledging to love each other in ways that they will, in practice, continually fall short of. The blessing is that they’re willing to stick with it, willing to try, and willing to realize that this God-ordained union is bigger than either of them. It would seem like a completely inappropriate time for me to enjoy such a song, but I liked this idea of ending with a beginning. Despite how devastated I was on that dark day that we broke up, I knew that I had been given a chance to start over, to reinvent myself, to find someone new, to really go after the genuine kind of love that I wanted but wasn’t yet capable of. I was overwhelmed by the breakup, but I saw this tiny little glimmer of a “beginning” emerging from it, and that gave me just enough hope to cling to through the worst of it.

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