Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Heart's Gasp

There's that moment - you know the one - when things seem to fall into place.  That moment when your ideas, beliefs about and dependencies on the feelings of another person fall into your lap as nothing more than empty words and silent tears.  The time spent in bliss turns to painful memory.  That moment when things are unbearably clear and you're left with the unfulfilled promise of eternal love.  Your mind races with the urgency of panic-stricken grasps at straws that no longer exist.  The tossing and turnings of that sleepless night when things finally start to make sense.

You've been duped.  You've been used to increase the ego of another.  Easily forgotten and discarded.

You feel like nothing... no matter the bank balance... no matter the time and emotional energy invested.  The words are empty.  You may have found an old note to someone allowing for the same words whispered to you in an intimate setting.  Perhaps you've been granted the unfortunate privilege of seeing an email not meant for your eyes.  You try to breathe but can't seem to inhale.

You. Feel. Powerless.

Living yet dead, you walk, numb, through your day, doing your best to find a way to cope.

You're nodding... yes, you've been there too, yes?  Rest easy... you're in good company.  We all have.

The Cutting Crew released a song in 1986 written by it's front man Nick Van Eede titled "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight" outlining this very phenomenon.  His unique turn of phrase did a masterful job of utilizing word, phrase and music to bring us to this place in a shared experience.

Oh I, I just died in your arms tonight
It must have been something you said
I just died in your arms tonight (Chorus)
A skillful job of setting the stage - Eede opens the song by slowly punctuating the first two words of the song in a loud whisper.  The words themselves lend their weight to the rest of the song.  Clearly, some part of the author's world has ended... and ended within what he thought was a loving embrace.
 I keep looking for something I can't get
Broken hearts lie all around me
And I don't see an easy way to get out of this
Her diary it sits on the bedside table
The curtains are closed, the cats in the cradle
Who would've thought that a boy like me could come to this (V1, L1-6)
What keeps us from finding the things we can't get?  For that matter, what is it we're actually looking for?  The answer here is painfully obvious.  Love in the midst of a battlefield strewn with broken hearts and broken lives.  Our author, in the throws of tormenting pain, illustrates the scene before us.  He's found everything he thought he wanted... love, fidelity... loyalty.  It is shattered in short order by words in a diary... these words have clearly moved aside the gauzy curtain of fantasy and exposed the often embarrassing and always heartbreaking reality that so many of us have felt... what was everything to him was only a plaything to her.  His misery is compounded by the sudden destruction of his self image in the glaring light of the reality now splayed out before him.

Eedes follows quickly with the repeated chorus:

 Oh I, I just died in your arms tonight
It must've been something you said
I just died in your arms tonight
Oh I, I just died in your arms tonight
It must've been some kind of kiss
I should've walked away, I should`ve walked away (Chorus [Full])

Obviously, still holding on to the last shred of the illusion she's woven for him, he allows his emotions to swallow his soul - trying desperately to understand, to find some reason for his nose-dive into an imagined relationship, he relates it to the first kiss... and as we all do, he turns to hindsight, telling himself that he "...should have walked away." (Chorus, L6).

Is there any just cause for feeling like this?
On the surface I'm a name on a list
I try to be discreet, but then blow it again
I've lost and found, it's my final mistake
She's loving by proxy, no give and all take
'cos I've been thrilled to fantasy one too many times (V2, L1-6)

The prose takes on a somewhat frantic momentum in verse two.  Eedes does a first rate job of taking us to that place where we are sitting perfectly still, alone in a dark room while the heart races as fast as the mind... that place we all fear.  Alone with the self-depreciating thoughts of the used and forgotten.  Our imagination runs with the nightmare scenes of how well our ex must be doing while we sit in the darkness of our despair - a broken toy discarded in the attic of the heart.

The author has tried to justify what has happened... asking, as we all have, 'is there anything more I could have done?'  I see you nodding... good, you're here with us.  You've felt the desperation of the calling-and-hanging-up, begging-for-one-more-chance, questioning days and nights Eede brings us to with the phrase "I try to be discreet, but then blow it again." (V2, L3).  You've sat in tearful solitude after the painful realization that your partner has been "... loving by proxy" offering "... no give and all take." (V2, L5).  With the final line of verse 2 we realize that the author, like all of us, has been deceived by fantasy... perhaps this is the final time.  Lesson learned.  Maybe. 

We are given a glimpse into how this happened for Eede, and perhaps sadly, for ourselves as well in the final verse:

It was a long hot night
She made it easy, she made it feel right
But now it's over the moment has gone
I followed my hands not my head, I knew I was wrong (V3, L1-4)

Here is the scene of the crime: a long, sweltering summer night in what may have been an exotic location or a small hovel in a town no one has heard of.   "She" made the author feel at ease, fully open to share his deepest feelings and plans... allowing him to 'use his hands', or explore sexuality, perhaps calling it love-making to draw him in and provide for more excitement.  The author clearly outlines his mistake... he fell into the trap, following her leading... following the urgings of his hands and heart... knowing what might happen.... knowing it was wrong.

Lets take a moment and remember... remember those tear-filled nights, feeling like the world had collapsed... like there were no more options... like we weren't worth anyone's time.  Forgotten.  Discarded.  Broken.

Now, let's look at the lesson and how we can apply it.  Yes: we've all been hurt to the point of lunacy.  Yes; it's made us jaded in some ways.  Yes; it's been cause for every one of us to simply give up on the chance at love.  Before you step out of the ring, however, please read on...

There are a million reasons to stop looking for love.  There are a myriad of pitfalls and hazards to navigate within the terrain of the heart.  There is one reason, however, to continue forward:

Your soul still searches.

Whatever you tell yourself now, there is still that part of you, your hear-and-soul, that yearns for that very thing you were created to express:


Without it we are mere lemmings, trudging about our daily lives like ants pushing crumbs of bread.  Our purpose is negated without love to drive us onward.  Our soul craves it... every beat of our heart cries out for it... when we find it, we find our meaning.  

Don't allow the pain to shadow the purpose.  Learn, yes.  Remember, of course.  You will survive this, my fellow traveler... one day you will open your eyes and things will seem easier... you will feel more a part of the world.... on that day, you will see that your search is not over.... continue, my friends, to live... continue to search for your soul's counterpart... they are out there.  Find them and never let them go.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Where The Heart Is?

Can you remember the day you left home?  Was it on a plane headed to a place far away?  Maybe you left  in a car, headed to, (what seemed like then), a huge college campus?   If you really concentrate you can, I'm sure, remember everything about that day.  You're nodding and smiling... it's an important day for all of us.

Equally as important is the return trip.  Your first visit home after moving out.  The ride into your neighborhood, with the sights and sounds you grew up with, becomes an expedition into the surreal.  There's really nothing like the lump-in-the-throat wash of feelings we get when traveling through the window of time offered to us on that first trip home.  You're nodding again... smile, it gets better...

I think about this every time I hear Chris Daughtry's "Home" (4/2007, RCA).  In this prose, Daughtry has successfully weaved the fabric between the unexplored and the comfortable; between the promise of greatness and the convenience of the established.  He is, through lyrics and melody, able to place us in the reflective area between the known and the desired.  

It is said that this song is, simply, a song about the ride to his hometown after a long and lonely tour.  That might seem the case to the casual listener... however, (you knew we were going deeper, yes?), while Daughtry has said little on the muse behind the writing, his talents have always worked toward "...telling the story of love - found and lost and sometimes found again...", (Billboard, 5/2007).

Daughtry uses his skills on the guitar to gently move us, as a tour bus might, through a dark, moonless night on a deserted highway.  Anyone traveling at two in the morning along any interstate in America has seen this highway.  Desolate... devoid of companionship... lonely... it brings with it a deep sigh and a craving for coffee.  We are placed gently inside the vehicle, looking through the window into a sea of black emptiness.  Our thoughts are echoed in Daughtry's powerful voice as he chimes the first verse:

         I'm staring out into the nightTryin to hide the pain...  I'm going to the place where love, And feelin good don't ever cost a thing - And the pain you feel is a different kind of pain.  (V1, L1-5)

As author and musician join forces, we are offered a shared experience - we look into a black night, devoid of any signs of life.  We are doing in this moment what so many of us do daily... Trying to hide the pain.  The definition of this pain can be as vast as the audience.  Where we are in life, our particular time-frame or our circumstances personally or professionally certainly provide the backdrop for this pain... the simple fact is this:  we all hide pain.  It is in the statement: "Tryin to hide the pain" that Daughtry touches us.  

When we feel pain, then, it is quite natural for us to want to find a place of solace.  Daughtry outlines the next step quite articulately by delivering the answer:  "... the place where love and feelin good don't ever cost a thing."  In a word: Home.  When we come home, we expect, and are rewarded by, a place where we feel loved... where we can be ourselves and laugh, love and expect love in return and all with no expectations for recompense.

Daughtry doesn't let us off the hook easily, though.  He reminds us as he closes out the verse: "And the pain you feel is a different kind of pain."  We know there is pain everywhere, even home, where the pain may well be the simple act of having to leave it.

There exists the possibility that the author, having been away for some time, is recollecting a person.  His girlfriend, who presumably waits for him back in the small town he left to pursue his career.  Perhaps he looks out the window and onto the barren landscape while visions of the girl he left behind move across his memory.  He pictures her, much as we all would, standing and waving, kissing him goodbye.  Has she changed in the time he's been gone?  He feels a nervous chill run down his spine while a rush of excitement fills his chest.  The pain, then, could be the emptiness he feels as a result of leaving her behind.  

A single question rings in his mind: Was this all worth it?

He grins for no reason and for every reason... Daughtry enlightens us as to the nature of his mood:

I'm goin' home, back to the place where I belong, where your love has always been enough for me. (Chorus, L1-3)

The author - anxious, nervous and almost laughing with excitement proclaims his destination, though he knows we already know.  It's a familiar place... with familiar faces... and his love.  They all wait somewhere out there in a place where he feels a sense of what we all strive for... belonging.  He yearns to be caught up in the love he remembers, and to show those who doubted him that dreams do come true:

I'm not running from - No, I think you got me all wrong, I don't regret this life I chose for me...But these places and these faces are getting old... So I'm going home;  Well, I'm going home (Chorus, L4-9)
We see that at some point before leaving home the author took, as many of us have, some ridicule.  Perhaps there were those in his neighborhood who were, in their own way, looking out for his "best interests" by accusing him of running from the opportunities for work there while chasing a dream.  He was undaunted and pursued his career with eagerness.  

His hard work evidently paid off, he comes home, in his own mind at least, a conqueror.  He has no regrets.  He doesn't look back.  He does, however, indicate that it has left him weary and wanting the comforts and security that only home can provide.

Thoughts of the past flood over him.  As with most of us, the good memories remain while the bad ones fade away.  He wonders if his girl will still feel the same, or if  she's moved on.  It's evident, as we will see, that he has communicated with her.  Will the people at home feel differently in light of his success?  Will he see them differently?  He can hardly wait to find out.  We see his anxious plea rings out in the second verse:

The miles are getting longer it seems, The closer I get to you... I've not always been the best man or friend for you, But your love remains true - And I don't know why; You always seem to give me another try (V2, L1-6)

As with all anxiously-awaited destinations, the question: "Are we there yet" gets asked subconsciously again and again.  It never fails, does it?  The road before us seems to stretch longer and the speed reduces exponentially as we draw nearer.

The author is open, at least with himself, about his shortcomings with his girl, his family and his town.  He still feels the love, even at this distance, radiating out - touching him - filling him - completing him in a way the strangers he encountered 'out there' never could; at home, he realizes, are second chances.

He reminds us again, through the chorus, how excited he is to be going home.

As Daughtry thinks back over his time away, he is reminded of the hardships he faced after leaving, and the pitfalls of success:

 Be careful what you wish for, 'Cause you just might get it all, You just might get it all - And then some you don't want - Be careful what you wish for, 'Cause you just might get it all - You just might get it all, yeah (Bridge, L1-7)
We all hear now, in the back of our minds, the warnings loved ones gave us when we would dare to 'dream big'; Be careful what you wish for!  The author is reminded of the warning, and he can attest to the real hardship of 'getting it all' and then some you don't want.  Success has many rewards, he reminds us, and many difficulties.  The choices he made were his, and he's had to accept the good with the bad, as it were, that came with those choices.

Daughtry sends us on our way with one final, heartfelt chorus as we silently watch his bus continue toward it's mythical destination.  We are reminded of that 'first trip' back home.  We are given the opportunity to revisit our own choices in our quest for success.  Our choices were our own, as is our successes and failures.

We are reminded that our journey continues forward.  Whether we've achieved success in one or several areas, we continue forward, always looking to the horizon - always looking ahead.  The things that define us, we see, are not the successes, however.  The things that define us are the very things we were afraid of when leaving 'home'...

The stumbles...
The traps...
The blunders...
The failures...

These are the things that have shaped and molded us, forming the people we are today - the strong, capable, adaptable people who surge forward every day in search of something better... in search of our dreams.  We continue without regret, always searching for the brass ring, the mark of success, the next rung in the ladder of our lives... we find the strength to move forward because we know, beyond a doubt, that when circumstances become overwhelming, we can always visit home.