Note: the lyrics in this post are a collection of lines from three sources. I have combined them in my own order. The original writers of all the songs are Emily Saliers (of the Indigo Girls), Rob Hyman, Eric Bazilian (of the Hooters) and John Denver.
I drove across some of the most beautiful countryside in the North Island today. Listening to the music of my young years. The Hooters and The Indigo Girls might be odd CD-stack neighbours, but they harmonized with John Denver to give me a soundtrack that melted the miles into memories of my past. I love them all fiercely and sang loud, alone in the closeted interior of the car. Green fields and cows whizzed by my windows as I lost myself in lyrics I had forgotten that I remember. Holding the notes for just that bit longer than the song called for; holding on to the ephemeral essence of earlier times.
Where do the children go? Between the bright night and darkest days?
If I had a song that I could sing for you,
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way
And if you break down, I will remind you, Ooh of what you were yesterday
Oh mercy, what I won’t give. To have the things that mean the most,
not mean the things I miss…
All you zombies, show your faces… I know you’re out there
All you people in the streets… I see you
as the bombshells of my daily fears explode,
I try to trace them to my youth
I squeeze the sky out but there’s not a star appears;
begin my studies with this paper and this pencil
and I’m working through the grammar of my fears…
My road trip today was to visit the hubster’s dad. He and his wife are over eighty, and in the cruel nature of old age, have been weathering one health crisis after another. This time, it was John’s turn to be rushed to hospital. The nature of his emergency sent him south, so he and my mother-in-law are in different hospitals, hours away from one another, and hours away from us. I make mental notes to myself to move nearer to my children if I make it to my eighties. We’re so far from them. It makes it hard to be the moral support they need, let alone the physical help. So today, I was visiting John. He’s the sole carer of Mary, who has Parkinson’s Disease. Between them, they have been in hospital more than out of hospital over the last year, and it has been a very hard road. My heart goes out to them, so far from one another. Like teenagers, they get told off for hogging the hospital phones. He wants to know how her dinner was last night. She wants to know if his feet are warm. She wakes up alone and panics, wondering where she is and why. He wakes up alone and knows there is a long rehabilitation road ahead if he is to bring her home again. Mid conversation with me, he sucks in a quick intake of air, trying to hold back the tears. His eyes lock onto mine while he tries to wrestle control over his emotions. The tears come anyway. It’s not kind, old age. Life is always too short, even when you’ve been alive a long time.
It makes me thoughtful. The whole way home I am ruminating over that line from an old song. About the things that mean the most, not being the things I miss. I think about how much I have learned in all these years of being alive. And how so many of those things are unproductive, unhelpful, unkind to me. I am unlearning all the things that have kept me from happiness. All the insecurities and fear of failure, all the horrors that because things have happened before they will again. I think about all these fears that have shackled me. And about how I am breaking free of them. I’m examining the context and syntax of every one. And scratching my pencil through ingrained thoughts that I have taken for truths. Thoughts that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Every thought that stops me from enjoying my health and freedom. How ridiculous they seem, laid out in front of me. Relics of my childhood, ready for an edit. I don’t know a better way to live my best life than to do this. Working through the grammar of my fears.
Maybe you have fears like this too?
When I was really sick, I promised myself that I would not take health for granted if I ever got better. I promised myself I would live a life not bound by my fears. I would seek opportunities and take them. I would find the areas that filled me with insecurity, and tackle them. Look for experiences that fill me with joy and collect them. So that is what I have been doing. Last Sunday, I did a lingerie shoot. Out on a windy grassy, knoll, in full view of the public utilising the walking track that skirted the location; I took off my clothes and posed for photos in my smalls. It was liberating! I think if I can do that, I can do almost anything!
I’m going to leave you with a verse from a beautiful song. Think about those young years… who you were… who you want to be. Maybe there’s some editing to your interior monologue that you want to do, too.
…when we last talked we were lying on our backs,
looking up at the sky through the ceiling
I used to lie like that alone out on the driveway
trying to read the Greek upon the stars, the alphabet of feeling
Oh I knew back then, it was a calling that said: if joy then pain.
The sound of the voice these years later
is still the same.