A friend from high school once told me that she wouldn’t listen to music after a break-up. She refused to wallow, even for a moment. She believed a break-up had to be handled as you would a cancer – measured doses of the attention of another man immediately following a surgical excision of the unwanted relationship. This is a method of dealing with a painful situation that I can understand, but I do things a bit differently.
This is not to say that I’m a big wallower. I can, of course, wallow with the best of them right up until the moment I pick myself up, brush myself off, and get on with it already. There’s nothing wrong with a good wallow, though. We all get heart hurt from time-to-time, and I’d go so far as to postulate that it’s necessary to allow yourself the time to hurt and to heal. I think the only way to get to the other side of a painful situation is to go through it, otherwise it sits there like a big boulder in the middle of your life’s path.
When we first broke up, “Space Cowboy” by Kacey Musgraves, “Better Man” by Little Big Town and “Send my Love (To Your New Lover)” by Adele were on a loop on my iPhone for a solid week. I usually lean to music with male leads, but these were the voices singing my truth in the weeks that followed the end of what was one of the most significant relationships I’ve had.
I listened to these and other songs and I walked. I walked the neighborhood. I walked in parks. I walked a dog that isn’t mine down tree-lined paths and through wooden gates grown over with pale pink roses the size of my fist. I walked through a graveyard every day for a week to visit Antone Pedranti, an immigrant from Switzerland who died at age 28 in 1889 and who is buried all alone, as though they’d left room for the family he never had or that had moved on when he’d left them behind. I walked on the treadmill at the community center with the (not-that-far) under-80 group that arrives seemingly all at once at its opening every weekday morning like clockwork. I walked the streets of different cities and in hotel gyms when I traveled for work. I walked on the beach on Sunday mornings with my iPhone poking out of the back pocket of my shorts and a grande half-caf almond milk latte with no foam grasped loosely in my hand.
I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t think about it. I just walked, and I walked for a very long time.
In the summer of my life, the singer I’ve continually turned to in times of sorrow and self-reflection, the man who truly does sing my truth, is Jackson Browne. Whenever I felt lonely in our relationship – mine with The Man not mine with Jackson Browne, who technically I don’t know though I spent “A Night with Jackson Browne” in the early aughts while I was living in the Midwest – I’d listen to songs like “These Days” and “The Pretender.” I always, always listened to “Late for the Sky” partly because The Man is in aviation and traveled often, and partly because,.. well, isn’t it just the loneliest relationship song ever?
I was on the treadmill yesterday, walking next to a woman I think of as Betty, though I’ve no idea of her real name, when his song “I’m Alive” worked its way into my playlist, and oh my goodness, my heart just broke with that song. It’s actually one of his more upbeat tunes, but the lyrics are so on point right now for me. (How does he do it? How does he see straight into my soul??) The problem is, though, I don’t want to hear music that makes my heart break right now, and Mr. Clyde Jackson Browne, though I loved him long before I ever loved The Man, will now forever be associated with this relationship, the loneliness I’d felt at times during it, and this pain of loss that I feel right now. I want to be happy, though. I choose to be happy, so for the foreseeable future Mr. Browne and I need to break-up.
I’ve seen this coming. I even let myself start listening to other music a couple of months ago, venturing out in an attempt to get used to the idea of just, you know, moving on. Jose Gonzalez is a contender and I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Jack Johnson – he had me at “Flake.” On a trip to California to visit family, I explored the newer Mumford and Sons, Hozier, the Lumineers, and Imagine Dragons, and after a chat with a couple at the Oakland airport that had just seen him in concert and had just nothing but good things to say about him, I reintroduced Michael Franti to my playlist. I’m trying to get a bit less melancholy in my choices, because, truly there’s no need to be so sad over the loss of a relationship, right? One should be glad, instead, that it happened. I do believe that.
I know that someday JB and I will work it out, and I’ll be able to listen to his music again when I’m in a better place. This is not forever and this too shall pass. Right now, it’s too soon, too fresh, and yes, too hard to get past just yet. I’ll get there, though, to that ‘glad it happened’ part. I am hopeful, which is good,.. and I believe that, too.