Music Monday | Here With Me – Dido + a Bonus Track

It’s late. Monday is almost over and I’m trying to squeeze this in before midnight. I’d planned to do it earlier in the day but I’ve been sick, procrastinating, hoping I’d improve instead of getting worse.

In the early 1990s when Beverly Hills 90210 was released, my parents deemed it “inappropriate” television for me. There was sex *gasp*, drugs *the horror*, and domestic violence. While all my high school friends were following the lives of Brenda, Brandon, Dylan, Kelly, Donna, David, Steve and Andrea, I could only watch it in secret at friends’ houses, or listen to the stories around the school lunch table and try to piece together the episodes.

It may have seemed like “just a tv show” to my parents but not being allowed to watch it excluded me from fundamental group bonding between the ages of 12-17. I missed out on popular tv culture that not only provided entertainment, but that also dealt with some serious adolescent issues. Date rape. Eating disorders. Racism. Teenage pregnancy. Suicide. They may have been trying to protect me from the world but the world insisted on making itself known to me through direct experience, even if I hadn’t seen the preview.

Later, when I was living on my own in my late teens/early 20s, a new teenage drama began. I started watching it the first night it aired, not because of the show itself — it was on by accident — but because of the opening theme. The show, Roswell, didn’t last long, a few seasons only; sci-fi teen drama isn’t really a popular genre. But the opening credits rolled with a style of music I’d not heard before. An eerie swooning song, it captured my attention from the first bars. When Dido sang the opening lines, “I didn’t hear you leave, I wonder how am I still here, I don’t want to move a thing, it might change my memory,” I was swallowed whole, into their world.

Roswell wasn’t renewed for a fourth season but my attention was drawn by another show that was starting — The OC. I was married now but Ryan, Seth, Marissa and Summer were living the type of teenage experiences I’d missed out on. Except for the sexual assault. To this day, I don’t know many women who’ve avoided it completely. I inhaled all these shows; the characters with their complicated angst and their ability to act out their emotions so assuredly. The theme song for The OC had an entirely different impact on me; I longed for the seemingly simple, nostalgic American teenage years.

It took me years to realise I was always trying to be somebody else; to escape my own life for something else, somewhere else.

And it’s taken many more to build a life I no longer want to escape from.

Nostalgia

And in the distance
As barren hills are touched by black-tipped fingers
The fading light reminisces about the days it lingered
Over pots of tea with toast
Whispering sweet nothings to its only ghost.
Then the moon rolls across the inky sky
With a gut full of ache and his upside down smile
And he stops to rest in the furthest corner
Heaves in gasps as the solitary mourner
Closes his eyes just for a minute and
Imagines the days when he was thinner.

January 2013

Music Monday | Norman Fucking Rockwell – Lana Del Rey

“And it ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.”

Curled on the couch of my airbnb eating olives, I strip the marinated flesh from the pits and spit them onto a plate. I’m in town for the Melbourne Writers Festival and arrived the previous afternoon but sitting here, having a snack, is the first time I notice the giant clock on the wall is broken. It isn’t that the time is wrong. Worse. The two hands are missing.

“The light was draining out of the room, going back through the window where it had come from.”

I am here, an impostor, having not written anything that’s offered traction for the past year. My brain has been broken.

“My heart is broken,” she goes. “It’s turned to a piece of stone. I’m no good. That’s what’s as bad as anything, that I’m no good anymore.”

Brain.
Heart.
Both.

In November last year, a colleague was killed in a workplace accident. While not on my shift, he’d been a mentor when I first finished my training. The task he was performing was routine. Something I did in the course of my duties. Had it been four hours later, it could have been me standing in front of the thing that exploded. After that, I spiraled quickly into the same dark place I’ve pulled myself out of so many times before. By December, there was a succession of bad news; coming from work, family, home. And I continued to sink.

“Things change,” he says. “I don’t know how they do. But they do without your realizing it or wanting them to.”

My first event at the 2019 festival was Lee Kofman and Fiona Wright’s talk session. Released several months ago, Kofman curated and edited an anthology of essays called Split to which both she and Wright contributed. Together, they discussed life, love, loss and the writing of their essays.

The theme for MWF 2019 is “When We Talk About Love” taken from Raymond Carver’s collection of short stories What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (from which all the above quotes are taken) and the session was called Museum of Broken Relationships: Split.

The talk was held in the No Vacancy gallery, amongst a borrowed collection from the Museum of Broken Relationships.

From the Museum website:
Museum of Broken Relationships is a physical and virtual public space created with the sole purpose of treasuring and sharing your heartbreak stories and symbolic possessions. It is a museum about you, about us, about the ways we love and lose.

At its core, the Museum is an ever-growing collection of items, each a memento of a relationship past, accompanied by a personal, yet anonymous story of its contributor. Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for recovery from grief and loss, the Museum offers the chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creativity – by contributing to its universal collection.

Museum of Broken Relationships is an original creative art project conceived by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić in 2006. It has since taken thousands of people on an empathetic journey around the world, challenging our ideas about heritage. Its original permanent location was founded in Zagreb. In 2010 it won the EMYA Kenneth Hudson Award as the most innovative and daring museum project in Europe.

Stories of lost relationships covered the gamut; romantic partners, parents, friends, children. But the grief was palpable, no matter which type of relationship.

This week, Music Monday isn’t a song. It’s an album. It’s no secret that I adore Lana Del Rey and, on repeat, as I work overtime shift after overtime shift, is Norman Fucking Rockwell.

Lana is the Queen of languid love songs. And of writing about broken relationships.

I’ve finished my olives and need to get to another session. The microwave in the kitchenette says 4:30 but that clock can’t tell me the time either. It’s twelve hours out; I noticed this morning as I ran out the door for breakfast at 20:43.

Perhaps, it’s time to make my own time. It’s time to rediscover my love. It’s time to write.

Tribute

Warning: this post contains gratuitous Mary Oliver references and poems.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

Earlier this week, I posted two pictures on Instagram as part of the #10yearchallenge that is making its way around the interwebs. In the caption, I mentioned that I haven’t posted a selfie in a while because all I see are the same tired, empty eyes and the same strained smile as 10 years ago.

I had forgotten what it felt like to be this depressed. How nothing feels like anything and everything feels like nothing.

The difference, I said, between the two women was that one of them — thirty-year-old me — didn’t know she’d survive the depression she was in. And she didn’t want to. Forty-year-old me, on the other hand, knows that she can survive anything, and she will.

But I left something out. Something critical. There is also another major difference. Forty-year-old me has support that thirty-year-old me never had.

In late May 2014, I met G at a work conference. I flew out for the USA at the end of that week and, for the six weeks I was away, we somehow managed to find up to five hours a day to Skype. At one stage, while we were chatting, I was in a library, looking for a book of poetry.

“Poetry?” he repeated, as if I’d spoken another language (and perhaps I had).

“Yes,” I said. “Mary Oliver.”

I found what I was looking for and sent him a picture of the page. It was The Uses of Sorrow.

The Uses of Sorrow
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Mary Oliver

When I arrived back from my holiday, instead of going home to Sydney, I jumped on a flight to Melbourne. We needed to know if this thing we had developed and nurtured was Real. True. Lasting.

Picking me up at the airport, he gave me two gifts; a set of pens from my favourite stationery store, and a copy of Thirst by Mary Oliver, containing the poem I’d been searching for.

I Did Think, Let’s Go About This Slowly

I did think, let’s go about this slowly.
This is important. This should take
some really deep thought. We should take
small thoughtful steps.

But, bless us, we didn’t.

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver died this week. She was 83. I cannot remember how I first came across her; which poem it was that struck me, in all the ways her poems have struck me since. But I have a number of her books, and read them when I need reminding how to be human.

Poets, I find, know this intrinsically. And I am still learning – how to be a poet, and how to be a human. Because being human; being gentle, kind, loving, compassionate, and patient in this world is hard. Knowing death comes for us all is hard. Feeling dark things is hard.

When Death Comes

When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me,
and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes like the measle-pox
when death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver

Although Mary Oliver won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1984, the National Book Award in 1995, wrote 15 books of poetry and essays and was described by the New York times as America’s best-selling poet, she was still largely criticised as being too simplistic, too accessible with her plain verse and lack of typographical gimmicks.

As if that’s a thing.

Where most people find poetry confusing and convoluted, never fully grasping what the poet is trying to say, Mary Oliver used the natural world, interior revelations and small, daily observances to reach the reader. In a radio interview, she said that “poetry wishes for a community”. She wanted her words to find us.

Tonight, G found me struggling with anxiety. It was a state I’d hoped he’d never see me in. Not there. Not like that. And while it must have been a shock for him, his compassion and gentleness in the face of it made all the difference. He doesn’t yet know how much he helped.

There are things other people can do for me right now, and there are things only I can do for myself.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

It is fair to say that Mary Oliver, much like Leonard Cohen, has shown me how to live. Her words speak to you directly, straightforwardly, kindly and earnestly.

In sixty-nine days, G and I will stand in front of our friends, say some lovely words to each other and commit to continue to nurture this incredible relationship. We both know what it is to be betrayed and it makes us all the more grateful for second chances, love, and joy.

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Mary Oliver

tell me, what is it you plan to dowith your(1)

 

 

Music Monday | hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it – Lana Del Rey (Aaron Darc Remix)

Six days ago, Lana Del Rey released her newest song.

I’ve been tearing around in my fucking night gown 2/47 Sylvia Plath

It’s a sheer, luminous ballad with her perfect voice echoing in a wash over barely-there piano chords.

Writing in blood on the walls ’cause the ink in my pen don’t work in my notepad

The sparse, elegiac lyrics pierce the hard shell I require in place in order to function at the moment.

Don’t ask if I’m happy, you know that I’m not but at best I can say I’m not sad

But they can’t crack it.

‘Cause hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have
Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman with my past

A friend remixed it into a deeper orchestral version with a percussion beat. A feeling of foreboding in the verses is emphasised by the addition of cuts from Marilyn Monroe’s last interview. A repeating piano melody makes melancholy look good.

‘Cause I’ve got monsters still under my bed that I could never fight off

This is the most extreme depression I’ve battled in some years. I am empty.

Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have
But I have it

And yet, there is hope. Because history tells me it will pass.

 

If you want to listen to the original, here it is.

Musicless

Many Mondays have passed without music. As have all the Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There is little solace and much grief. I’m trapped inside a free-falling elevator plummeting to the bottom of the shaft and I don’t know when it is going to stop.

The heat of the day has been swept away by the storm. Light rain is spattering on the roof. And I am going to bed, again, to not sleep.