GPOYW, featuring happy-anniversary-flowers and my new favorite accessory (headband has flexible wiring and can be shaped/moved however you want!)
He picked up Erich Fromm’s On Disobedience from my bookshelf. “Hey, I’ve been meaning to read this.”*
“Have you read Fromm’s The Art of Loving? It’s one of the most influential books of my life.”
“Yeah! That is a really great book!”
And then, my heart exploded into a hundred thousand sunbursts.
*may not be the actual dialogue, but it’s the gist.
Sestina by Ciara Shuttleworth
I love getting poems (scanned into pdf from a book!) in my email from dear friends. In the email, my friend shares some profound thoughts: “i think i often forget how cool language can be and how a few words can mean so many different things. sometimes it’s a wonder that we ever understand each other.”
Goodbye to Love - The Carpenters
A year or so ago, I told myself that I would never sing this song again. The Secret instructed me to purge negative thoughts, negative songs, negative people from my life because they would only attract that valence.
Yet, this song has long been one of my favorites. I was always drawn to the melodramatic self-pity and frustration (“I’ll say goodbye to love, no one ever cared if I should live or die. / Time and time again, the chance for love has passed me by”) juxtaposed by layered harmonies and a killer guitar solo at the end that say to the world, “I’m fine! No, really!” I would sing Goodbye to Love in the shower when I knew that my roommates weren’t home, catharting my own hopelessness to an aquatic audience of metaphorical tears I could not cry in the open with family and friends who looped a chorus of “You are amazing. / You will find someone someday. / He will come along.”
I shared this song with one of my past failures, M. We argued, as we often did with fiery passion, about the message of the song. I insisted on suicide-inducing despair, he said he thought it was a song of hope. But…there are no tomorrows for this heart of mine!…Loneliness and empty days will be my only friend! I chalked it up to his eccentricity and naiveté.
Recently things clicked for me: loneliness is a fact of life, and I would rather make friends with loneliness than be in a less-than-awesome situation. When Karen says “Goodbye to Love,” she is saying goodbye to something that she hasn’t truly known, though she’s tried so hard to find: “All the years of useless search have finally reached an end.” An ideal that may never be found. The song is not a resignation, but an acceptance of our existential isolation with faith (and yes, hope!) that there will come a time of relief - just not now:“Surely time will lose these bitter memories and I’ll find that there is someone to believe in and to live for, something I could live for.”
And so, like Karen Carpenter, I am embracing loneliness and saying goodbye to “Love,” whatever the hell I thought that was. Instead of searching or waiting, I will accept and recognize all the love that already exists in my life. I will continue to practice the art of loving, giving without fear of not receiving it in return.
Once and Never Again*, The Long Blondes
The Long Blondes’ album Someone to Drive You Home came out in 2006, the year of the last breaths of my relationship with J. He sent me this album with a note that said, “I think you’ll like this.” Of course, he was right. He always was about those things. After all, what good does it do to date someone for eight years if you cannot predict what kind of music your partner will like.
At the time J gave it to me, the circumstances of the situation made me into a jerk, as often happens when one wants out, and the other has a hard time accepting that reality. Ugh, another gesture of love! I listened to it once and then not again for three more years. It was an act of rebellion against my history of relying on men to introduce me to music, from the Dave Matthews phase thanks to a high school crush to Iron & Wine via my college crush who was into Asian girls (but not me) to my dad’s oldies to basically everything else I listened to thanks to J. I resented owing so much of my identity to others, namely men. (In hindsight, perhaps that was the ultimate reason I broke things off with J).
Even now, I have trouble letting a guy into my life through music. Several have come and gone, leaving behind songs and albums that act as vestiges of the ambivalence inherent in every foregone relationship. The emotional connections cut too deep. (After a particularly abrupt and painful breakup, I couldn’t listen to Bjork for almost a year because of our shared affinity for that awesomely crazy lady).
Back to the Long Blondes. I’m finally able to listen to the album and appreciate its feminist power, its danceworthiness, the way that it taps into the part of me that wishes I were talented enough, riot grrrl enough to lead an all-female rock band. I am glad I waited years to revisit the album, knowing that I like it because I like it. Not because my musically savvy boyfriend likes them and thinks I would like them. Don’t get me wrong. There’s something very special about having someone know you so intimately that they can reliably predict what music you’ll like, what food you’ll order, whether or not you’ll cry at a movie. But at this point in my life, I find it stifling at the same time. I want to figure out myself, for myself. I know that it’s not a terminal process, but I don’t feel that I’m totally there with my self-integrity. I’m close. Or maybe I’m just scared. Who knows. Send a music recommendation my way, and we’ll see.
*I originally posted “Giddy Stratospheres”, but this song seems much more fitting.
Indeed, to be able to concentrate means to be able to be alone with oneself - and this ability is precisely a condition for the ability to love. If I am attached to another person because I cannot stand on my own feet, he or she may be a lifesaver, but the relationship is not one of love. Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.
A few of books that have changed the way I see the world, my relationships, my work, and my life:
- Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
- Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
- Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States of America
- bell hooks, All About Love
- Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities
What are yours?