I did some file cleanup on my laptop today and came upon a saved post from my previous blog (which I ended about a year ago.)
I discarded most of my posts from that blog when I closed it – but I saved this particular one for two reasons:
One – When I wrote it (in January 2012), it had only been a few months since my husband and I had split up. We weren’t actively fighting anymore; we were both pretty resigned to the state of things. And actually, we had been having some problems with our son (who was having a lot of trouble with our split) – and this, while it was extremely difficult and worrisome, was actually serving to remind us that we had a huge and unbreakable bond between us in the form of our children and co-parenting. It’s pretty clear to me now, in hindsight, that this period (early 2012) was actually the very early germination stage of what has by now (2 1/2 years later) grown into a solid and really very pleasant friendship.
In January 2012 though, it was still very, very rocky. And we got bruised on those rocks a lot.
I was writing a lot. I wrote all through the breakup – all manner of writing, including, as of Fall 2011, blogging. I liked blogging a lot; I liked the social interaction of it. I actually preferred it in many ways to writing in a notebook.
But my continual blogging problem was that I didn’t want to lay out the minute details of my life for the perusal of strangers (or, more problematically, for the curious/nosy/critical non-strangers.) Yet I wanted to talk about what I was feeling. I was aware of a need, a strong one, to explore the emotions of what I was going through – and to do so with authenticity. But I didn’t always know how to do that. It was a really hard line to walk – to write with authenticity, but yet to keep what should be private, private.
My “solution” in those moments was often to simply NOT blog at all – which was frustrating.
With this post, I got the idea to sort of come at what I wanted to say from the side. I decided to try to talk about what was going on with me via talking about why a particular album was meaningful to me at that moment.
This turned out to work very well. And I was pretty proud of that!
I keep this post to remind myself that answers are pretty much always there. It’s just that sometimes you can only reach them by a side door!
The second reason I kept the post was because publishing that post – and specifically what happened in the aftermath of publishing it – marked the first time I really grasped, really and truly, that in blogging I had a voice. I could express myself, I could speak for myself – and people could actually hear. And did! That, in a moment when I was struggling to find solid ground, struggling to reconnect with an inner self that felt lost, was an incredibly powerful thing for me.
What happened was that somehow the singer/songwriter whose album I had talked about in my post (Maria Taylor) actually READ my post. And she liked it well enough to post it to her Facebook page. My little fledgling blog consequently got two hundred or so extra hits in the next few days – which for me was a SHOCKING amount of traffic!
I don’t imagine Maria Taylor pondered overmuch on whether or not to post my piece to her Facebook page. I imagine she read it and liked it and so posted it – which is great!! Really flattering and just COOL – that an artist I admire thought enough of something I created to give it that nod. That was nice! And nice of her.
But it really was more than that for me. It was a boost that made a huge difference to my sense of what was possible – not just in blogging, but in my life at that time.
It’s not only the grandiose statements that make a difference in somebody’s life. The little things – a sincere compliment, an encouraging smile, a moment of real listening – can have just as profound an effect.
So anyway, here’s that re-post:
“Follow yourself, and hope that you know where you’re going.”
—Maria Taylor (from “LadyLuck” – the title track of the album by the same name)
I’m having sort of a rough day. A rough couple of days. I’ve said before that I really don’t want this blog to turn into an online diary. That’s not its purpose. My intention with this space isn’t to shoot holes in my own privacy, and that of people I know. I don’t want to vent or spout off. I really don’t want to write a tabloid.
It’s just, sometimes when things happen (as things do), it’s hard to cultivate the detachment necessary to keep from falling into tabloid territory.
So, usually I just don’t write at all at these times.
Today though, I’m going to try something else: Rather than talk about my own life, I’m going to say a few things instead about Maria Taylor’s 2009 album, LadyLuck.
I think Maria Taylor has a really lovely voice – and, generally-speaking, I like her music. When I first heard this album, I liked it. To be honest, it didn’t “grab” me. Sometimes I have a really visceral reaction to music, and particularly to song lyrics. But this album didn’t hit me like that.
But yet…there’s something about this album. When I left my marriage last spring – actually, physically left it – this album was, for a good two weeks, the only music I could listen to. Literally. And not because it’s a “breakup” album (which on the surface it is.) There’s more to it. Somehow with this album, she touches on something real and important – and deeper. Something that isn’t found in many albums (at least, I can’t think of another that accomplishes so completely what LadyLuck does.) It’s something I’ve found in various places in the last year, particularly in women’s writing.
[June 2014 edit: I believe I was thinking particularly about this incredible piece by Cheryl Strayed (writing as “Dear Sugar”) when I mentioned women’s writing. There were certainly other pieces of writing that were important to me at this time – but none that touched the power of this one.]
I don’t know if it’s the music or the lyrics or some way the two work together…or what. But something comes through on this album…something innately and intrinsically part of being a woman, and what that means. This isn’t a “girl power” album or anything like that. It’s not at all strident. It is inherently a breakup album; that’s its surface identity anyway. That’s probably what a lot of people hear, and all they hear, when they listen to it. Maybe that’s all she meant it to be when she wrote the album; I don’t know.
But I really think it’s only a breakup album on the surface. The breakup depicted in it is the catalyst for an exploration of self – feminine self – that is really powerful.
I think this is an album about female strength – depicted in such quiet, subtle strokes, you can miss it. It’s not overtly the lyrics…it’s not overtly the music. Nothing important is overt here. It’s all in the undercurrent. That’s where the power of this album is. There’s a sadness, a breakup-oriented regret that permeates. But it’s not a sad album. I think if I had to pick one word to describe this undercurrent, it would be: determination. A quiet, focused determination. Determination to live and act and find happiness.
Empowerment doesn’t always have to be loud.
This is an album about holding on to yourself and what you need – and about valuing that, the ACT of that. It’s about finding it within yourself to leave a situation, or a person, that you care about but that you know isn’t right for you. Even if doing so causes pain – and the pain hurts you as much as the person you’re walking away from.
It hurts because it’s HARD to do that. It’s hard to bring pain to anybody – even somebody who’s caused you pain, and who you know will again if you stay. Not that it’s easy to leave something abusive or otherwise horrible – obviously. But that’s a different kind of courage. This kind, the kind Maria Taylor is singing about, isn’t talked about very openly usually. It needs to be. There isn’t enough support, culturally, for the things this album is showcasing: for the fact that taking care of yourself is important. That recognizing the part of you that is YOU, apart from any roles you play (wife, mother, girlfriend, daughter) is so very precious – and that valuing that, cherishing that (valuing and cherishing yourself), is not a selfish act.
Bold, brash moves aren’t what define strength. It’s in the choices, big and small, that we make every day. It’s in the courage that comes from standing up for yourself and acting for yourself.
This album is about that moment, when you’ve broken with things that are causing you pain and holding you back, and you’re standing on the threshold of everything else (whatever that even means). And you know you have yourself – but that’s all you’re sure of. “It aches, but it feels good” (“It’s Time”).
There need to be more albums like this. There needs to be more discourse like this. The showcasing of these sorts of ideas is part of what I see as so important in women’s blogs.
Regardless of how much you know you have to, it’s hard, just hard, to be the one in a relationship who leaves. Especially when making that move means leaving someone else behind.
And maybe that person deserves on some level to be left…maybe that person didn’t value you, or that person caused you pain and didn’t take that pain seriously. That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make the leaving easier. Not unless you want to live in a world of bitterness and resentment. When you actively hold on to bitterness and resentment, they will guard you somewhat…arm your heart. Anger can be harnessed; it can propel you. Sometimes this is good. But if you want to live with a pure heart, if you want to be kind and compassionate – you have to let go of the anger and hurt and resentment and all the rest. The alternative is to let it take root in you. This will make you cynical. It’ll darken you.
So you let it go…but then you’ve let your armor go too. You can’t keep one without the other. And this is hard on multiple levels.
Because you manage to close the book on the bad things, because you cultivate the ability to do this – that doesn’t mean you want to go back into the situation that was hurtful to you. It certainly doesn’t mean you should. And it doesn’t mean you regret the things you did to remove yourself from the situation in the first place. What it means is that you’ve come to a point where you can view somebody who hurt you as a whole person again. You haven’t forgotten what they did, or what it was like to be in their power (in a sense). And you don’t want to go back there. But you see them in all their facets – and most people aren’t terrible in every facet. (It would definitely be easier if they were.)
This, seeing this, is hard for any feeling person. But I would argue that cognizance of another’s vulnerabilities, of another’s pain, is especially problematic for women.
I’m not saying I believe this is true across the board; I don’t believe every woman has a maternal or nurturing instinct. I can actually think of a few very striking examples to the contrary just as I sit here. But, very generally speaking, I think it’s true that it’s harder for women to not take care of others’ pain – and I definitely think society supports this view of women. Which makes difficult situations more difficult.
And that’s when it’s nice to, say, listen to Maria Taylor’s LadyLuck – and remember that you aren’t alone. That sometimes the best thing you can do is just to try to do right by others – but to not forget that that includes yourself. And trust yourself that you’ll get to where you need to be.
I’m thinking about a year ago. I’m thinking about now. And I’m listening to LadyLuck again.
And, as I have been so many times in the last year, I’m grateful there are writers out there – songwriters, authors, bloggers – willing to speak and put themselves out there. The intrinsic solidarity of that is so strong. I’m so grateful for it.
[June 2014 edit: Here’s the title track from LadyLuck]: