There's nothing quite like a song you have never heard that strikes such an emotional chord that you know you've just been hit by a freight train, only you have no idea where it came from and why it's here.
And there is nothing quite like a song that can bring to the front of the stage in your head one of the most dramatic moments you lived and re-examine it in such a way that you hear, see, feel, touch, and taste it all again, like a bruised piece of fruit. The thing is though, reliving these utterly devastating moments helps us heal. Reliving them from an older and wiser perspective also helps us empathize and forgive. It helps us unpackage the tender glass shards our hearts are ultimately made of and oh so gently place them back together in a way that feels a bit more whole and that doesn't prick us so painfully again.
It took me two full days but now I get why this song claimed such a giant space in my head.
When I was fourteen, for a moment, my father got really upset with me, and he sent me packing to live with my mother in Jacksonville. The leaving was bitter, and nearly ripped my heart to shreds, but the thought of finally getting to know my mother and exploring thoughts of new experiences for myself kept me treading water, kept me wanting to engage, and ultimately to stay here and live my life. Teenage angst can make you want to jump off a bridge. The hope of having my mother kept my heart beating.
That hope slowly lost steam when, even as young and as naive as I was, I figured out she was a drug addict. These were the days before she loved prescription pain medications. Yes, these were the days of coke, and pot, and booze. Only God knows what else.
Two weeks in, she left the small two bedroom apartment that we shared with her boyfriend Darrell and his brother (I had the couch), and she never came home. At some point, Darrell shook me awake and took me to the hospital to see her. She was hooked up to all sorts of monitors and wires and she was flat out unconscious. She'd overdosed on cocaine. Darrell left me there with her because he had to go to work.
Now I know what the medical staff was probably thinking. "That poor girl. Who's going to take care of her now?" I remember the psychiatrist coming in to talk to me, and asking me questions about my mother that I clearly didn't know the answers to. I remember when the line that showed how her heart was beating fell flat. I remember them all running in and slapping my mama in the face to try to wake her. Ushering me out, then back in again when they'd revived her. For hours and hours I watched her as if she were lying there a superstar in a movie about some poor woman who'd gotten overwhelmed and overdosed. Surely this was all an act.
For many, many years the feelings I have had that are associated with those six weeks I spent in Florida in 1989 have been buried very deep. I went through therapy. I dealt with the angst, the grief, and the loss of so much of my innocence, of my hope in better days for my mother. I know now that those fear-filled days in that hospital in Jacksonville, and many of the strange days afterwards have helped me form my own understanding of my mother that I could never have had otherwise. Some experiences just must happen.
I hope not to sound preachy here, but in the end, our love and understanding of one another is quite simply, all we have. This song takes me back to those visions of her, the different times I tried to understand and feel things with and for her so that she could take a bigger space in a heart filled with only the ghosts of all the lost days and nights in between. I get why she couldn't be there for me. I get it and I understand it and I accept it, but unfortunately and quite fortunately at the same time, I can still feel the loss, the frustration, the anger, and the fear.
Never ever let yourself close up so tight that you cannot feel the emotions you need to keep feeling to consider yourself alive. The heart will not stay hurt forever. Use this song, or any that strikes your own emotional chords, to help yourself remember those painful experiences and continue to heal from all you have learned and been able to do since.