Wednesday 16 March 2022

Fond Remembrances and Sudden Hurt: Thoughts Inspired by Listening to Music on an Evening Walk

And I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to.

(Elisabeth Wagner Rose / Taylor Alison Swift. “All Too Well.”)

Last month I shared some of the distraction techniques I use when I’m feeling low. Amongst them was listening to music, although as I noted, “there are times music is unhelpful as a distraction, because so many of the tracks on my playlists have associated memories, meanings, and significances.” That’s the situation I found myself in recently. I’d not listened to any of my YouTube or Spotify playlists for months. I wasn’t ready to confront the thoughts and emotions they were likely to evoke.

A few days ago, though, on my first evening walk for a while, I suddenly felt it was time. I opened Spotify and selected my “Good” playlist; a mixed bag of around eighty tracks I’ve collected over the past few years. I used to listen to them day after day on my walks during covid lockdown. That playlist became the backing track to my life as I moved through those days, weeks, and months of uncertainty and change. I’ve shared some of them here before, specifically my ten anthems for comfort and celebration and twelve songs that remind me what caring is all about. For the next hour or so I allowed the music to wash over me as I walked.

It’s a commonplace that music can take us back to times and places we’ve known, but I’d forgotten it’s capable of summoning the full gamut of memories, thoughts, and feelings. I tasted them as they came. Support. Courage. Love. Loss. Regret. People. Times. Places. Some recent others from decades ago. Smiles and — almost — tears. Fond remembrances and sudden hurt. I resisted the urge to skip tracks, engage with or push back against what came up for me. I allowed it to be present, acknowledged it, and let it fade away as each track ended, to be replaced by whatever the next track evoked. The familiar mantra.

Feel it. Claim it. Love it. Let it go.

There was a sense of comfort, of refuge, of coming home, in allowing myself to be flooded with these memories and emotions. The very intensity of them was welcome. I’ve missed that. The highs and lows. The drama. I’d lost touch with it. My playlist allowed me to feel it again, at least for a little while. It reassured me I’m still capable of feeling — of living — intensely.

Much of what these tracks evoked for me is gone now. Not just in the sense that all memories are necessarily of the past and thus no longer present, but irretrievably, decisively. There’s a danger, perhaps, in allowing myself to become mired in revisiting the past, rather than living in the present and pursuing new memories. But it doesn’t need to be one or the other. In letting the lyrics and music loose, I brought all that pastness into the present. I began the process of updating the resonances and connecting here/now to all those there/thens.

The lyric I quoted at the top of this post isn’t from this playlist (I have several — Ms Swift kept me company through much of last year), but it captures the push-pull, love-hate relationship I have with my past.

And I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to.

It’s a reminder that there’s value in forgetting some things, or at least setting the memories aside for a time, and value in taking them up again now and again, to see whether our relationship to them has changed. It’s not only music that can do this. I’ve kept a diary for my entire adult life, but rarely take past volumes down from their shelf to read over what I recorded back then. It can be painful to do so, the words capture the reality of whatever I was living through and reading them can be a brutal experience, even when the experiences were good. Perhaps especially then. I’m reminded of a poem I wrote four decades ago.

Lovepoem (6)

my love, come quickly,
for a while we must put aside desire
in a little box, labelled: “Passion. With care.
Do not open until we are both sure what to do with it”.
We must hide it underneath the bed with your copies of New
Society and my hopes of tomorrow.

you know, we came so close to Forever, so
close to letting go that night as
our hugs became caresses &
our kisses deeper: in that instant of wonder  .wandering
my hands became your hands, your body mine &
our release imminent. yet

for a little we must put aside desire ,think.,reassure
ourselves that   ,though i want you
,we sleep together because nights are coldest alone,
because we are too inlove
not to.& because you are
my most .special friend

(&, BECAUSE we’re friends i know one day
we’ll come across a box
beneath the bed
amongst the shoes & dreams and otherpeople’s tears
.then handinhand we’ll realise the words
untie the string,
unleash our little bit of passion on the World

That particular box has never been opened; its little bit of passion remains unleashed. Wisely so, I think. You never can tell what you’ll find when you open a box (or a tool box, for that matter). Just ask Schrödinger. I was unsure what I’d find when I opened my playlist, and a little scared to find out. I’m glad I dared the experiment, though, because I found something real, wholesome, and ultimately healthy. I found a part of myself I’d forgotten was there.


Photo by Alex Blăjan at Unsplash.


No comments:

Post a Comment