reapplying breakup songs as songs of loss

This is not a new thing. Remember Stepmom?

Stepmom

Spoilers, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough isn’t about losing your mom. I’m looking at you, Guardians of the Galaxy.

This should be a creepier transposition than it is, though. Especially in an age where the most powerful people in the world obsess over their daughters’ fuckability, I would expect us to balk at so many songs of romantic loss repurposed for…I guess it’s, what, platonic loss? Familial loss? You have to retreat from the word “love,” even, it seems like, if you want to discuss loss of a family member. We’ve reserved that word for a narrower and narrower space, as you grow older and don’t say “I love you” as much or as freely anymore; or write it in red crayon on lopsided heart cards. I think of the studied disdain of Kevin Kline’s Cole Porter, reflecting on the insipidity of the latest chart-topping hit: “an actual song called ‘I Love You.'” His distaste is that of the artist, sure, but also of the cultural critic. People, for wanting such things, are kind of dumb, is the implication. We should, I guess, want more. Or want it more colorfully.

Obviously the right lyrics — or at least the absence of the wrong ones — helps enable the transposition from romantic loss to non-. But maybe we also lend ourselves to this lyrical reapplication through a desire, both to see loss we could have fixed as inevitable, and of loss we couldn’t fix as something we could have fought, staved off, or avoided through calling back, or being more patient, or picking up.

Take Said and Done, by Nervous but Excited, which cropped up on an old playlist I’d retreated to at work and which, instead, had me desperately undoing my ponytail to hide my crying:

Bases covered:

1.) Come back home (not going to happen)

2.) We can get back to the way we were (we can’t)

3.) Try to forgive the rights that I made wrong (I’m sure everyone has lists of such things…continuing to Skype my mom regularly when I returned from abroad, as she apparently expected when she’d stay logged in all morning hoping for a call, is kind of at the top of my list)

4.) Still close my eyes to the sight of you laughing in sunlight (this verges on too decidedly romantic to be comfortable listening to but again, like with Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, the idea that memories held or promises made are concepts relegated entirely to romantic situations is a little short-sighted — and anyway, you obviously want to remember the person who knew you, laughing maybe, rather than the glassy-eyed husk with concave cheeks who didn’t know you anymore)

Again, I’ve written about people dealing with death a lot, and everything I say is salted with the knowledge that it’s very much the wrong thing, for someone. It’s either too crass (I keep saying she died, rather than that she “passed away,” because I hate the fakery of that phrase, the gentleness it implies, when there was nothing gentle or graceful or noble about this), or too narrow-minded (the President is imploding and taking the country down with him; there are bigger problems than one mother who is no longer here), or simply too much (most of the people caught in the bullet-spray of my sorrow don’t really know me that well, and certainly don’t know what to do other than take cover and wait for me to stop posting sad shit).

I am, though, among the people I do know my age, the first to have to do this. Everyone else has the luxury of parents they can still argue with, or of celebrating Mother’s Days their mothers haven’t died on. They can pose in stupid family photos still, and puzzle over bizarre combinations of emojis texted to them at 10PM, and scream and cry and clutch their mom’s hand as they give birth to their first child.

Let me help you then, all you millennials who will get to have your mothers for decades longer than I did. Let me help you do this years from now. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts for losing your mother, in no particular order:

DO Tell your boss. Even if you aren’t really that close or you were just hired like a month ago. There is probably some company provision that allows you to stay home and cry all day. This is important. It is better to do this at home than on your keyboard. Especially if your work has nice keyboards.

DO listen to sad songs, or songs that are sad to you in the context of your loss. That’s how this post came to be, after all. More importantly, even if you possess a steely reserve necessarily built up over almost a decade’s worth of dementia-driven misery, you should probably cry at some point. Music may be necessary to crack your adamantium shell. Grab those headphones.

DO eat. I mean, duh. I’ve never been moved not to eat by feelings, but I hear it’s a thing that can happen. Nutrients are kind of a big deal, guys. Get them.

DON’T become annoyed by people stepping gingerly around you. They literally don’t know what the fuck to do. This is not their fault.

DON’T snap at other people who text you happy pictures, from better days, of the person you’re both mourning. If you can’t deal with it, just ignore the texts. Your phone isn’t going to fill up, and you don’t know what psychology is driving the other person to fling these images of the lost person out there. You can’t yell (or…text-yell?) at someone loud enough to bring your mom back, so please don’t try.

DON’T expect people to say the right thing. They won’t. They can’t. There is no right thing. The right thing would be for your mom to still be alive, and she’s not. So whether you find yourself surrounded by people who pretend everything is fine, or by people who ooze religious platitudes, or who go on about karma or childhood or funeral prices or lame internet jokes, don’t expect a magic bullet. Not from a mentor, not from a friend, not from the old guy who walks his dog at 6AM every day. Literally no one will get it right. Not because they suck but because your mom is dead. It’s not their fault.

Oh, but if it is? Punch them. Just, you know. Because it would probably feel good.

random music fridays : lake shore drive

Yep, this is from the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 soundtrack. God I love this cheerful, bouncy piano. And, in a sudden turn of events I desperately wanted to be deliberate, the girls whom I want to befriend in the gym but who probably think I’m a bitch because I give them tons of space and don’t talk to them so they don’t freak out at some bi girl being in there with them, they stopped their 90’s boy band onslaught and played this instead today. Which cannot, cannot have been intentional because there’s no way for them to know either that I chafed at the boy bands (I’m very careful! I don’t sigh or huff or roll my eyes or anything!) or that I love GotG’s music lineup. But still. It seemed a good sign.

is it selfish or is it brave

I know, I know, it’s not Random Music Friday. But I’d not yet heard the new Andrew Bird album until now. And this song. This song! Rarely do musicians ask the same questions I do — at least not accompanied by instrumentals I’ll listen to. But that bwah bwah bwah used so often in prog rock…and the refrain…dammit. This whole album, including even the duet (!!), but this song. Damn.

the unexpected

This video plays on my computer at least once or twice a week:

This is because my USB wireless dongle craps out if you try to download too much at once. It’s a known issue between NetGenie products and Comcast. Yes, you can throttle down the speed, but that means pretending it’s 1999 and you’re spending two weeks downloading one song on Kazaa. When we discovered that long YouTube videos (kept up and running full-screen, not minimized!) kept the connection open and functioning, this became my go-to loop video to run as, for example, Elder Scrolls Online or ARK updated.

I never read YouTube comments. They’re bad for your health, is my thinking.

For this morning’s ESO update, though, as I frantically clicked open the looped video to avoid losing my wireless (which then necessitates a full restart), I accidentally scrolled down. And the top comment on this video is someone saying her 34-year-old son died listening to this. And to the Gladiator soundtrack and other stuff by Hans Zimmer. Somewhere there was a guy whose musical interests so well mirrored my own, and his mother found this and burst into tears because she remembered him listening to it on repeat as his cancer closed in on him. And he had been able to listen to it as he died because she knew her son, and the music he loved, and she found this for him in the fog of his pain.

Sometimes, reading the comments isn’t so bad.

random music fridays : to build a home

If you’re not familiar with The Cinematic Orchestra but this song sounds familiar, it’s because its instrumental version is currently playing in a State Farm commercial. Lacking tv, I did not learn this until visiting my father a few months ago, where I dropped what I was doing and cut straight across the house to see what had occasioned this song’s playing. I know it’s easy (and knee-jerk) to sneer at ads, since their goal is to get your money, but this one put a lump in my throat. Yes, I’m obviously easily susceptible to songs that contain lines like I misheard:

By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top
I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
Held on as tightly as you held on me
Held on as tightly as you held on me……

And I built a home
for you
for me

Until I disappeared
from me
from you

I always (until, well, I just looked those lyrics up right now) misheard that as “until I disappeared from me / from you.” So I mean, *cough*. I’m susceptible to that. But it’s still a fantastic song. Even if the actual line is “Until it disappeared from me / from you.” They mean the house.

I didn’t.

lifetime happiness points

In seeking old Maxis game soundtracks, sifting through SimFarm and SimTown and SimSafari, and finally reaching The Sims, I stumbled onto this brief compilation. Which contained this comment thread:

My heart bleeds as I listen to this. Honestly, my life turned to shit after 2004. This reminds me of the better times. I was happier. This is a souvenir, a keep sake. Thanks for sharing this treasure.
What happened, if I may ask?
+Leon 3000 I began to deal with depression as i got older.
 
Ah, that sucks, does medication help?
+Leon 3000 I cope. So no medication for me. Plus, I don’t tell people I’m depressed.
I had the same problem from 18-22. Then I met some guys from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was never interested in religion and had always heard bad things about the “Mormons”. After some time allowing them to teach me, I started to read The Book of Mormon and the Bible as they asked me. It wasn’t easy, but I could feel my life changing gradually. Today, 5 years later, I am a member of this church, married, have 2 kids, and can guarantee that be baptize in this church was the best medicine I could ever have!
+Baspa Araujo that’s interesting. I know very little about mormons. I don’t know any personally. I was raised christian and I continue to tell people i’m christian but the truth is, I’ve lost my faith entirely. I haven’t prayed in years and when I try, I just have no words because i don’t even believe in what I’m saying. It’s a great thing you found a way out. Thanks for sharing.
+Grey Mouse surprised to see this is from 4 days ago, insofar as I could actually comment here and you would see it, and it may mean something. How random too, when I went nostalgia hunting on a whim, to find this. Raised devoutly Christian and even having worked in a Christian summer camp which I loved for some years, I lost my faith entirely as well. The logic of life demanded me to see things as they are: shitty. Realistic, hard, and at times rewarding. And now that you got me thinking, I feel like those raised with heavy religion from ignorant past generations are more likely to feel the crushing weight of depression when the reality of life kicks in, coupled with our being so much more informed (in the Information Age, very much as written in the philosophy of the Ecclesiastes) that meaning in life is subjective, fleeting, perhaps even nonexistent. That’s why they clung to a “higher power”, believing “he’s just testing us.” Bullshit.
I liken this to the millennial generation (myself) having been raised thinking we would be rock stars, presidents, and princesses–only to grow up in a harsh world to find that we aren’t so special, and no great overlying force would pave the way of salvation for us. At the end of the day, organized religion and in my opinion the doting of nervous parents are forms of vapid insecurity (imho). People forgot that they, themselves, you and I, are the forces that shaped this world and all of humanity’s accomplishments. I can feel depressed at times: I failed out my first year of school, went through drug addictions, lost many that I loved and still have a sister who’s coming out of having lost years of her young life to addiction. Now I’m back in school having started a company from the ground up with my brother and father and made something for myself. I’m no longer depressed, because I saw that I was the only thing that could solve that, could solve my problems, make something work.
And I grew up with games like the sims. I eventually traded them for books. I grew up with the stories of the bible, I eventually traded them for Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles (to name a few.) Intellectual enlightenment far surpasses any religious madness, shirking the responsibilities of suffering through life and trying our best, knowing that it’s us that’s doing good, not some guiding hand. I urge you to understand that in this world, first and foremost, you have yourself. And you can pull yourself out of anything (if you pay a small fee of $20 per month for my personalized motivational videos sent directly to you.) Be the best you, with my help. OMG IM SO KIDDING. Forgive the note of levity to lighten the mood. If you have to, go see a doctor or a therapist. Maybe they could help. If I were you, I’d take a good long look in the mirror at the fucker staring back at you, and say “there’s the asshole who’s going to make shit work for me.” It’s you and only you. You started
in this world the same way that all the greatest minds of our history did: just a person. Sorry to rant at you but I just saw so much of myself in what you said that I thought I might be able to help a bit. Remember that no ones going to do it for you man. But that’s fine. That’s damn fine, if you want it to be. Big ups, Random internet stranger.
+dublonz55 you’re very helpful. I appreciate your words for real. I agree with you when you say that the problem is the way our parents beat religion into our heads. They emphasize on religion and not so much the spiritual aspect of it. What does religion do for me when I hit rock bottom? I almost feel like the whole thing is emotional blackmail. If i don’t pray or whatever, i will be punished. I don’t really need professional help. I’m not suicidal. Plus, it will jeopardize my career

Let it not be said that we are incapable of addressing the darkness in our hearts with games, or that we are alone in doing so.

random music fridays : your hand in mine

As angered as I am by people just burying their heads in the sand, refusing to fight, and to admit where the institutions they trusted did them wrong…I don’t know. No one will feel motivated to save a world they think can’t be saved. You should remember the good in it, or you won’t do shit to stop any of this from getting worse. For that, there is this.