Dolores O’Riordan and the Shadow of Death

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I need to start this with the statement that I do not believe anyone younger than I am should be dead.  I do not say this to deny the reality that every single day, a multitude of people who have spent less time on this planet than I have–many of them considerably less–die.  Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of the Cranberries, was just 46 when she left this plane on January 15th; I’ll be 49 this coming Saturday.  My belief that people younger than me should not be dead is rooted not only in my own fears about mortality, but also my general belief in fairness.  And it is simply not fair that people die young.

Once again, my desire for fairness is not rooted in some sort of denial about the reality of the world.  There is no philosophy or religion that guarantees fairness in the universe;  if there were, I would’ve signed up for it by now.  But the arbitrariness of it all makes me feel, well, kind of helpless.  Sure, O’Riordan had some health challenges in the last few years, but she was doing okay at the moment and her death was a shock.  It must always be a shock to find a seemingly vital and happy person dead on the floor of their hotel bathroom.  Add to this the news that Tom Petty’s death was due to an accidental Fentanyl overdose and a young person’s death in the family of someone I know.  (My mom has Fentanyl patches for pain relief; obviously I’ll be monitoring her use of them very carefully from now on.)  It’s just kind of disheartening.

Which makes the Cranberries’ “Zombie” the perfect song for this mini-memorial.  It’s a great tune, but it also expresses the shadows that violence and anger and death cast over everyone in their orbits.  It’s about The Troubles in Ireland, about the way politics and religion can be twisted into oppression, about the way we all turn anger into prejudice and prejudice into violence.  It’s about how those with power use that power against everyone without it, everyone who is different in some way that they don’t like.  In terms of the current presidential administration, it’s a nice little reminder.  In terms of a history lesson, it’s a little vague but can be used as a starting off point.  In terms of music and mood, it is a black hole.  It sucks all the light and the hope out of the room.  It is not a denial of reality but an acceptance of it.  Sometimes, you just have to sit with the grief and anger, let it flow over you and simply feel it.

Then you get up and get on with life.  No, it is not fair and people will always leave this plane too soon.  But flowers will still bloom and there will still be joy.  You just learn to carry them with you.

“A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”

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I seem to only check in these days to commemorate the passing of a celebrity or other luminary.  2016’s been a really hard year.  Beyond the cataclysmic political changes, my personal life has kind of gone to hell in a handbasket.  With Mom’s illness (illnesses, if you count the last couple of weeks), I’ve just been barely keeping my head above water.  A hard rain is indeed falling on me.  It’s falling on a lot of people, but I’m having a tough time getting out of my own way enough to care.

Patti Smith’s performance of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” is something of an antidote to my personal storm, in spite of this song’s melancholy and ominous sense of doom.  She is so breathtakingly human, so perfectly imperfect.  Smith is that rare artist who means what she says.  She is not putting on characters in the sense that she is masking herself from her audience; the personas she adopts for her music and poetry are all authentic reflections of the person she is.  When she bothers to adopt a persona that is.  Mostly, when Patti Smith says “I” she means herself.  That kind of honesty and bravery is really beautiful and terrifying.  And her fumbling of these lyrics–from a song she probably knew inside and out long before heading to Stockholm, a song by one of her greatest influences–is beautiful in its own way.  She admits to her own fear and nervousness, something most artists would never do on any stage.  But Smith remains as open about that as she is about pretty much everything.  I don’t think most people know how to deal with that.

It’s one of the reasons I tend to retreat when I have problems of my own.  I have a tendency to not want to bother people (something I know I got from my mother; the last couple of months have shown me that many of the qualities I find most upsetting in myself seem to have been inherited from her, either through nurture or nature).  But my retreat is more than that.  It’s also more than my feeling that my problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world (quick. . . name that movie!).  I know, deep down, that people really don’t know what to do with honest emotion and I am crap at hiding my emotions.  I know I don’t know what to do with other people’s feelings.  I always want to do something to help, to make them feel better, but I also know how fucking annoying I find it when people do the same thing to me.  I don’t always want comfort; sometimes, I just want to feel.  It’s hard to do that around other people without making them really uncomfortable.

So I’m gonna try to come out of my self-imposed exile.  Music helps heal me, and I’ve been neglecting even listening to it lately.  I don’t need advice or comfort, although I won’t stop anyone from offering it.  Distraction is nice; waving shiny objects in front of me almost always helps me feel better, but it’s not obligatory.  I just want to break out of my own tangled web of emotions.  I’m still gonna feel them, I’m just gonna try not to hide it so much.  I might melt down on y’all.  I know I’m gonna say stupid stuff.  And like Patti, I’m gonna fumble the lyrics occasionally.  But I’m gonna own that, just like she did.  If Patti Smith can be that open and generous and honest, then I can try it too.

Crap.  I think I just made a New Year’s resolution.

“Devilish Mary”

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Today would’ve been Daddy’s 75th birthday.  That’s the only reason I dug up this chestnut.  I debated using some Wagner or Monk, or a song by one of Daddy’s other favorites.  But then I decided this happy memory from my childhood was a better choice.

I’ve shared before my love of the old Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland (now fated to never return since they’re building Star Wars Land in its area of the park).  The music in that show was the kind of music they call Americana now, but it was the kind of music my father grew up listening to in Iowa.  I remember being very small, not more than five, sitting in Daddy’s lap while he bounced his knee in time as the animatronic bears sang this song.

“Let the Good Times Roll”

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I’ve had this song popping in and out of my head for a couple days now.  I don’t really know why, but as I’ve previously stated, I don’t know why half the things that pop into my head are there.  I just kind of roll with it.

Well, okay.  I don’t really “roll” with anything.  I am a bundle of anxiety and worry most of the time.  Between my hypochondria, what I’m pretty sure is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and a really excellent imagination, it’s a wonder I can get any sleep at night.  One of my goals in life is to stop the hamster wheel inside my head and get some freakin’ peace.  It’s not as simple as relaxing or just not worrying about stuff until something happens, like many people have advised.  (It’s good advice; it just doesn’t apply to me.)  I often can’t turn off the thoughts that are bothering me so much.  I have to find a way to distract myself.  It’s one reason why I play dumb games on the Internet so much.  Music helps sometimes, but not always, since music is so tied to my emotions and memories.  Sometimes that’s exactly what I’m trying to escape.

Songs like this are good for me, though.  Catchy, fun, not associated with anything else in my life.  I remember hearing this in Animal House; I think Stephen Bishop may have even covered it for the soundtrack (or not. . . I’d look it up, but I don’t really care that much).  Yes, it’s a metaphor for sex.  A significant portion of popular music is a metaphor for sex.  It’s one of those primal things that virtually anyone can connect with on some level.  This is distraction.  Just what I need when my brain gets kind of funny.

“A Long December”

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I didn’t consciously decide not to post yesterday, but things were so busy I just didn’t get around to it.  Family came over, and it was fun.  Food, presents, movie, general silliness.  My cats were even kind of friendly to people they don’t know very well.  Yay, Christmas!

I’ve used this song around this time of year before, but this isn’t really a repost.  I know I thought I’d be more downbeat for the upcoming New Year’s festivities, like I was before Christmas, but something seems to have shifted in me.

Maybe the shift has affected how I hear this song.  It is pretty depressing, with an almost equally depressing video.  But I’m not down listening to it.  There’s something hopeful here, a little spark that just needs some nurturing to grow into a warm flame.  “It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean, I guess I should.”  I guess I should.  Do something.  See the ocean again.  That big, beautiful, vast space that holds so much power and mystery and danger and promise and life.  Do something.  Do anything.  Live.

You’ve heard the saying: Do one thing every day that scares you.  That’s pretty easy when everything scares you.  I exaggerate a little in my case, because while I’m pretty riddled with fears both real and imagined, I’m not actually afraid of everything.  But I am trying to figure out ways to silence my fears long enough to be happy all the time.  Going back to school scared me, but I’m doing it.  It’s been weird, but good so far (I got A’s in both my classes, so I must have done something right.).  I’m scared about money, about Mom’s health, about all the possible disasters that could happen.  It seems sometimes like I’m not really happy unless I’m imagining some kind of terror bearing down on me.  But of course, all that fear is the one thing that makes me feel unhappy.  I’ve been in that place for so long, it’s comforting in a way.  It’s not good for me, though, and I know it holds me back.  So that’s the one thing I’m going to try to do every day that scares me: Live without fear.  (Crap.  That sounds like a New Year’s resolution to me.)

Part of the shift I’ve been feeling is because I decided to play with Feng Shui a little in my home.  I don’t know what it will bring for me, but I’m working on improving the energy in my living space to bring about health and prosperity for us.  Doing things like rearranging the furniture or lighting candles or hanging mirrors isn’t some kind of magic cure-all, but it helps change my mindset, which is the biggest challenge for me.  If I can do something tangible that represents the intangible thing I’m trying to deal with, that makes it easier to do something with.  So Feng Shui it is, and let the cards fall where they may (or at least where they will be most auspicious).

The upcoming Lunar New Year is going to be the year of the Monkey, and I’m a Monkey.  (I used to think I was a Rooster, which is what most of 1969 was, but I was born right before the Lunar New Year, which puts me in 68’s animal sign of Monkey.)  I’m hoping that means that 2016 will be a good year for me.  And since I have a new mindset and a little Feng Shui energy, then maybe it will be.

 

Not Really a Repost

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I first posted this song back when Daddy was sick, and the original content wasn’t where I am right now.  Things are different.  And the same, since I’ve been dealing with Mom’s illnesses and recovery this year.  (I’m sending out an emphasis on the recovery part just in case the Universe happens to be listening.)  Life keeps moving, whether you stop and pay attention or not.

We got the phone thing from a few days ago straightened out today.  Turns out the jack had gone bad, so a nice tech from Verizon replaced it, and I’ll have to pay extra since I don’t have the “indoor line maintenance plan” (Way to soak your customers, Verizon!).  But the phone works, and I went ahead and got a new phone so we’ll only have one system (one fewer handsets, but that’s cool).  Other than that, things are quiet.  Not too quiet, since I’ve got a ton of reading to do for school and the holiday is coming up.  (Yes, it’s almost time for Arlo Guthrie again.)

But if you happen to spot newer and bluer meanies in your vicinity, remember to go out singing.

“Hello”

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We’ll just call this a Friday round up since I don’t really have anything to say.  I just want to make sure I continue being a Tiny Pepper and post for Nano Poblano.  It’s the 20th today, and I’ve almost made it through the entire month; I’d hate to break the streak now.

I also want to note that this week marked the birthday of one of my dear, dear friends from high school, whom I recently reconnected with on Facebook.  Like so many of the people I spent those wonderfulconfusingexcitingdesperate years with, we lost touch.  She got married, had kids, moved up to NorCal. . . all the usual stuff.  The only reason I joined Facebook was to get back into touch in some small way with people like her, and I’m so glad I did.  This is just a little shout out to her, because knowing she (and all the other old friends I found) are out there is such a nice thing.

It’s an appropriate song, in spite of the fact that Adele is singing about such heartbreak in it.  I’m not heartbroken (one of the eternally pleasant byproducts of swearing off romance) about anything, and certainly not finding friends.  But this is just an awesome song by an awesome artist.  You might think that I’m a little behind since this has been making the rounds on the interwebs for a couple of weeks now, but the album just dropped today and I picked up a copy when I was at Target today; call it an early Christmas gift to myself.  I’m very much looking forward to listening to the rest.

I have to go now, because the kettle is starting to whistle and I really want my cuppa.