Friday, March 2, 2012

Notes from the Past. Notes for the Future.


It’s a joy, a delight, and a vehicle to the blue skis of pure joy.

Except when it’s a jagged hook that snags your soul and drags you into the oxygen–deprived depths of hideous emotion.

Back in October, two months after HOB made his unexpected and hasty departure from our marriage, I found myself in my classroom on a cold and rainy day. My students had gone and I sat in front of a table filled with ungraded papers.

Normally, I load everything up and head back to my office, but the rain was coming down, my classroom was nice and warm, with the energy of my students still buzzing in the air. I decided to stay and knock out some grading.

Since my classroom is a “smart” classroom which has a video/sound system built into the room and I was in the mood for music, I got on the Pandora website and cranked up the speakers designed to fill every corner of the classroom.

Here’s how Pandora works: you type in an artist’s name and the computerized system plays the music of that artist and selects other artists in the same category and plays their songs as well.

Great, right?

I clicked in James Taylor since I have always loved his music.

I don’t know what I was thinking.

I wasn’t thinking.

With astonishing speed, the first song swept me back to another rainy day in college when HOB and I skipped out on classes and instead stayed inside my warm and cozy apartment listening to James Taylor and planning our future together.

I still remember the rotating of the black vinyl disk, the familiar faint smell of dust, oil and heat from the stereo as it played that album over and over again. We talked for hours and hours, about our hopes, our dreams, our plans.

I gave myself over to emotion and stayed in the classroom, listening to more artists from that era, each song propelling me down a darkened hallway in my own Natural History Museum, each song, a stop in front of a lighted diorama—a choreographed scene of our life together—dating, marrying, moving, having children.

I sat there I the classroom and wept, my tears mirroring the rain outside.

From then on, I assiduously censored the music I listened to. I didn’t let Pandora out of her box again for a very long time.

But I’ve come a long way, Baby.

Just last week, I was in Trader Joe’s, mindlessly pushing my cart, when I heard “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor over the store speakers. I suddenly understood all those women I had seen at dances and parties, crowding the dance floor without partners to dance with wild abandon to this particular song.

There in the bread aisle, I couldn’t contain myself. I swear I started dancing, my lentil wrap, almond milk and bananas rolling from side to side in the cart as I boogied down there next to the sourdough. It was incredible!

I got it!

I felt it!

I knew the truth of the words of that song:

First I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live
without you by my side
But I spent so many nights
thinking how you did me wrong
I grew strong
I learned how to carry on

It took all the strength I had
not to fall apart
kept trying hard to mend
the pieces of my broken heart
and I spent oh so many nights
just feeling sorry for myself
I used to cry
Now I hold my head up high
and you see me
somebody new
I'm not that chained up little person
still in love with you.

I came straight home from the store, put on my I-Pod and cranked up that song. As fate would have it, the song right after that was “Happy Girl” by Martina McBride. I danced all over my house, leaping and jumping from room to room, my cats waking up from their naps as I swayed and sang at the top of my lungs.

I used to live in a darkened room
Had a face of stone
And a heart of gloom

Lost my hope, I was so far gone
Cryin' all my tears
With the curtains drawn

I didn't know until my soul broke free
I've got these angels watching over me

Oh watch me go
I'm a happy girl
Everybody knows
That the sweetest thing you'll ever see
In the whole wide world
Is a happy girl

I used to hide in a party crowd
Bottled up inside
Feeling so left out

Standing in a corner wearing concrete shoes
With my frozen smile
And my lighted fuse

Now every time I start to feel like that
I roll my heart out like a welcome mat

Oh watch me go
I'm a happy girl
Everybody knows
That the sweetest thing you'll ever see
In the whole wide world
Is a happy girl

Laugh when I feel like it
Cry when I feel like it
That's just how my life is
That's how it goes

Oh watch me go
I'm a happy girl
And I've come to know
That the world won't change
Just 'cause I complain
Let the axis twirl
I'm a happy girl

Oh watch me go
I'm a happy girl
Everybody knows
That the sweetest thing you'll ever see
In the whole wide world
Is a happy girl

Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
I'm a happy girl

Oh yeah!

These days I unleash Pandora from time to time, but I click in safe bets like Miranda Lambert (“Come and Get It” is a great song for someone going through what I’m going through) and the Dixie Chicks. (Great, except “Landslide” still gets to me....)

Interestingly, one song appeared in my James Taylor list and also in the Miranda Lambert list. It was a version of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love.”

On that day in October I cried when I heard this song. I cried because this song speaks of the kind of love I was afraid I would never have in my life again.

I wanted a soft place to fall.

I wanted a place of refuge from the world.

I wanted total acceptance and all-enveloping passion.

Yes, I wept that day because I was afraid I would never have that kind of love again, but, to be honest, I also wept because it dawned on me that I hadn’t had that kind of love for a very long time and I had just accepted its disappearance from my life as the natural progression of a long-term marriage.

To Make You Feel My Love

When the rain
Is blowing in your face
And the whole world
Is on your case
I could offer you
A warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows
And the stars appear
And there is no - one there
To dry your tears
I could hold you
For a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you
Haven't made
Your mind up yet
But I would never
Do you wrong
I've known it
From the moment
That we met
No doubt in my mind
Where you belong

I'd go hungry
I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawling
Down the avenue
Know there's nothing
That I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging
On the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change
Are blowing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing
Like me yet

I could make you happy
Make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends
Of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love, To make you feel my love

In October, that song made me cry, but now it makes me smile. I know when I am ready, there is a man out somewhere out there who is ready to give me that kind of love.

I know I deserve it and won't have to settle for less.

And you know what?

It's the kind of love I want to give too.

Life (and love) in Phase Two of my life is going to be great.

I just know it.


Shelly said...

Music has such a powerful grip on so many unseen places in our minds and emotions. I'm glad Sweet Baby James is bringing up good things for you now. You deserve it.

Old Kitty said...

I thank time for passing and for allowing me to heal so I may re-listen to certain songs - songs that now don't break my heart as they did then!

You will survive, BB!!! And with music too! Take care

Unknown said...

Beautiful in more ways than one.

Leah J. Utas said...

Thanks for sharing the steps of your path with us.
BTW,"I didn’t let Pandora out of her box again for a very long time." is a damned fine piece of writing.

BECKY said...

Betty, your journey is awesome....!

Anne Gallagher said...

I am so proud of you with how far you've come. The best is yet to come for you. (And me, I hope.)

Olga said...

Sounds to me like some healing and some growth. I loved the image of the Natural History Museum of your mind.

Alison said...

Oh, I can totally see you boogie-ing down the aisle behind your shopping cart!

Sounds like you're at the entry to that part of your life everyone promised you would get to.

ellen abbott said...


Teresa Evangeline said...

You little angel, you. I ne3eded to read this today. "I Will survive," was my theme song for many years. I've had trouble with certain music, too, but it sounds like you've found the perfect musical remedy, and maybe you needed that rainy day, mirroring your tears and taking you through your own Natural History Museum (I love that!), to keep moving forward. Wonderful post! Thank you so much!

Kippy Marrie said...

Olá amiga... bom dia.
Passei para agradecer sua visita e por seguir meu blog também.
Já seguimos o seu.
Obrigada pela amizade.
Apareça sempre que puder e quiser, será muito bem vinda.
Ótimo final de semana.
Aus 1000 e Beijos 1000 de minha mamãe...

Com amor e carinho da amiguinha...


Nicole said...

Betty - WOW. Profound. You are healing, right before our eyes! I love this.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You do deserve it! And good for you for dancing. Keep dancing, Betty.

CiCi said...

Music was the center of my life with my husband and since he left I have not been able to listen to the music we listened and sang to. But a few days ago I went through the CDs I had before I met him and could listen to them without crying. Like you, I danced around the house and sang. It felt wonderful to be able to feel some joy. Since then I have listened to some of the songs hubby composed and played to and was able to enjoy the music without falling apart. I know you will keep dancing now that you have found you are at a better place, healing and letting go.

My Mind's Eye said...

Happy Friday BB,
What a powerful've been traveled down a long rocky road; however, through it all your sense of humor has been you constant companion. My mind's eye had a vivid picture of your doing the boot scoot boogie in Trader Joe's!! You go Girl!
I've marveled at your inner they saying goes what doesn't kill us makes us strong!!
I love your new song list!!
Hugs C

Out on the prairie said...

Music makes my world go around. I laugh at a few songs that stuck with actions. I have gotten Adeles CDs after seeing her on the grammies and listen to them a lot.

faye said...

Great choices here ... the music also...
but you are moving along and that is the
best choice.

Have a great weekend.!!

Unknown said...

Hi Betty,
Thanks for dropping by my blog and becoming a follower.
Your blog looks great!
Donna V.

Sarah said...

No matter what's to come down the road, keep the music and dancing going. They make life worthwhile.

jenny_o said...

This is a powerful message for those who haven't yet gotten to where you are. It will help them to heal also. So glad you are feeling stronger now.

Sally Wessely said...

Yeah, Betty. I love Adele. You go girl. I love this life story written with the lyrics of some great songs.

Anonymous said...

go betty!!!! i'm so very happy for you!! music is a great outlet to release emotions and energy.

Empty Nester said...

I would never be able to survive without music. It makes me happy, sad, nostalgic, energetic, peaceful, calm, thoughtful, is my everything!

Ms. A said...

There is so much music out there, that means so many different things, to so many people, at different stages in their life. With it ability too evoke so much emotion. It's wonderful that you have reached a point that, while it still has an effect on you, the effect is morphing into something entirely different.

Blessings to you, Betty!

Gigi said...

I've never heard Bob Dylan's version - but I do love that song as sung by Billy Joel.

Music can evoke so many emotions - and inexplicably the same song can trigger different emotions depending on where you are at that point in your life.

I'm so glad you are feeling strong and looking to the future with hope and anticipation. Hugs.

Vodka Logic said...

I love love love music.. and it AlWAYS gives me flashbacks..some good some bad.

Since Davy Jones died I put Monkees into Pandora and the songs from the era that I had forgotten came flooding back. I was surprised how many I could sing along, knowing all the words.

It is good to cry and remember the good and bad.

I hope it helps you heal..sing on.xx

Ann said...

it's amazing how songs can touch you in so many ways.
There have been so many times when a song came on that had just the right lyrics to make me feel better.

Unknown said...

Good things are awaiting us out there BB. I'm so with you on this one! Love to hear you are looking up and dancing in the aisles. Beautiful. Hugs.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm so glad you found the song to bring some things into better focus for you. You are a survivor. Doesn't Adele have an incredible voice?

Lin said...

You've come a long way, baby!!

You're gonna make it, Betty. I knew it all along--even if you didn't.

:) said...

You go, Betty! I remember belting out "I WILL SURVIVE" months after my marital separation and while dancing like a happily empowered deranged lunatic at a club in the Bay Area. How sweet it is, much sweeter than James Taylor.


Elizabeth Grimes said...

Oh, I SO understand this post. I think its fine to let yourself cry to those sentimental songs sometimes. Music can be such a release. It's nice to see that music usually reflects our changing outlook. I love your taste in music. :)

Connie said...

Oh Betty, this is a wonderful post. I know just what you mean how music speaks to us and can change our emotional outlook to either happy or sad in just a moment's notice. Happy Saturday to you. :)

ds said...

"Music hath charms..."
BRAVA, Betty!!!! *applause*

Tracy said...

Betty, you've come a long way Baby! the ebbs and flows of healing~ I'm proud of you for continually feeling the emotions and then moving on :)

Kazzy said...

Dancing is girl power in action! Ever tried Zumba? That is really empowering.

Zuzana said...

Beautiful post, touched my heart and soul as music means so much to me too. You know what - stick with that hope and belief. After having had my heart broken over and over for decades I am today a living proof of that if you do not give up, you will find that man you wish for.

Unknown said...

Betty: that was a beautiful post.
Loved the Adele/Dylan song. Just gorgeous!
Music speaks straight to the spirit, in a way that words alone cannot.

Catherine said...

Beautiful post Betty! Music can stir such emotions in us can't it? It's good for the soul.

Wishing you a wonderful week sweet girl!
xo Catherine

tattytiara said...

Honey you know it with that much certainty and you feel it that strongly nothing could keep you away from it. Great post!

Joanna Jenkins said...

I've have danced down the aisles with you to "I Will Survive" and I bet you had at least a couple of women smiling and cheering you on.
xoxo jj

SUGAR MOON said...

Great post! You go girl.

Hilary said...

You make me want to dance. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty - great post .. I love the music of that era - but I'm also pleased to hear you strong again ..

I love your header too .. all those colours .. cheers to you sunshine - with the sunshine blog .. Hilary

Baby Sister said...

Oh this post made me so happy!! Good for you, Betty!! You're an amazing person and you deserve the best!!

Alexandra said...

Here's one just for you, that will have you pumping your fists in the air, "Makes you stronger" by Kellly Clarkson: