Music feeds my soul and is an absolutely crucial part of my life. I don’t sing in a band; although I do think that being a front woman in a band was a calling in another life. But I don’t really know who I would be without my love of rhythm and lyrics and song. It guides my emotions to a place they need to be and takes my heart on adventures I never could imagine. And there are certain songs that take me and lift me up and drop me right into a certain moment of my life. There’s a Father John Misty song that takes me straight back to the first summer after my divorce, a time when I was gracefully unhinged and navigating waters of a brand new life.
Sometimes music drops me in an uncomfortable place, though, and it’s those times in which I find reckoning. Either that or I find myself desperately punching a button to skip past the song once I hear the first notes. A couple of months ago, I was tending bar and waiting on a group of men and we started having a conversation about songs. I joked about how so many songs had been tainted for me because they reminded me of exes.
One of the men looked at me and said “Don’t ever do that.”
“What?” I asked.
“Don’t ever let a man take your music from you,” he said.
That comment from a stranger shook me to the core. But then, like sometimes soul shaking things do, I forgot about it. Enter the upcoming Huntington Music and Arts Fest, which is a wonderful local event that we have in our town. It’s a day of outdoor music and community and it’s something that I look forward to every year. Well, every year except for this one.
You see, I had attached a pretty jagged memory to this event (HMAF, as all the cool kids call it). Last year at this time I was involved in a new but pretty intense relationship with a man. Because I’m not quite ready to go into detail and in the interest of keeping this short, I’ll just say that our ties together started fraying and unwinding the day of HMAF. They continued to do so for a few more weeks before we called an end to it.
That ending came about because of music as it turns out. We had gone to a music festival together and we were watching one of my favorite artists, Josh Ritter. He started performing my favorite song, one about a girl in a war with eyes like champagne. I had seen Josh Ritter three times previously and he had never done that song live. So when those first notes were played, my heart burst all over Cincinnati and I began to cry. I grabbed the hand of the man I was with and knew in that moment he had no interest in holding it; he would never be able to give me that moment or any other moment for that fact. Later on Band of Horses starting singing a song about how no one is gonna love you the way I do. I asked the man I was falling in love with to let me go that night. Our ending twisted and turned a little more but none of that is important.
And so I declared to my friends that I would not be attending HMAF this year. And then yesterday I started making a new playlist for my yoga class that would be happening the day of HMAF. I was listening to the artists that would be in attendance and started getting sad that I would not be. I told a friend of mine that today at lunch. She looked at me and asked me if I remembered what that man said to me at the bar that night.
I had forgotten. I was letting a man take my music from me. I was negating all of the times that I had been to HMAF before last year, I was giving them up so easily in reverence to this one bad year. I was denying myself the right to dance and laugh and be with my community. And that’s just silly.
I remember my moment I gained closure from my divorce. It was on a ferry en route to the small town in Costa Rica where I was going to attend my teacher training. This was a few months following that summer that Father John Misty played in heavy rotation. I had been on that ferry before….on my honeymoon. Yes, I was doing my training in a town which I had first visited as a newlywed. On that ferry, sea spray hitting my face, caliente music booming from the loudspeakers, I questioned my decision. I wondered why I was revisiting this place. And then I decided that I would not revisit it; I would reclaim it and make it mine. And I did. I took my flag and stuck it in the place where the new life would soon spring.
I have a hard time learning the lessons of closure. The rational part of me knows that I am the only one who can give myself the gift of closure. That, as much as I may want it from another person, they might never give me what I want. But I have that power to reclaim what is rightfully mine. I have the right to my music and my songs and my ferry rides. So if you see me this Saturday, maybe grab my hand, give me that moment….give me a new story to weave in between the lines of the song being played. But a warning–I might drag you straight to the dance floor.