Thursday, February 23, 2017

Love is a Mix Tape...

I'm a mix tape kind of girl.

Or, I used to be, back when people listened to cassette tapes. I personally didn't give up cassettes until long after most normal people had MP3 players.

In the here and now of 2017, being good at making mix tapes is probably akin to being a great bowling alley pin setter. Obsolete.

In any case, I am good at making mix tapes, particularly ones with overriding themes of love and angst that seem completely obvious to me but I'm fairly certain always just sailed over Nick's head. When Nick was in Iraq, I made mix tapes and sent them to him every week. I did occasionally make mixes of just country songs, per his request, because, you know, he liked country.

But my favorite mix tapes were the ones that told a story, that illustrated through music how a girl like me was able to fall for a boy like him. And one of them I titled, "My Love Affair (No Doubt the Love of My Life)." Which was, of course, the story of Nick and me and our entire relationship through No Doubt songs.

Divided into "Before" and "After," it told the story of a girl who desperately wanted to fall in love and get married and have babies on the before side, and of the girl who found what she wanted despite, you know, life not being perfect all the time on the after side. (Oh, sometimes I do long for the days when my life not being perfect was just about my life not measuring up to a Nora Ephron movie.)

Gwen Stefani seems like she could possibly be my best friend in a world where either she is not famous, or where I am. Lyrically, anyway, she loves like me. Deep and all-encompassing and rather embarrassing, really. I lived in a world where all I wanted were these children and the perfect life to go with it. And so her lyric, "All I needed was a simple man, so I could be a wife," resonated with my soul.

Putting all of those lyrics together, piecing together my life as someone else might write it, made complete and total sense to me at age 24.

When Gwen and Gavin announced that they were divorcing, it was like a week after Nick had packed up his things and left. In my sad, pathetic state, it seemed so obvious that those songs that had given my love a voice would ultimately end in heartbreak. Because wanting a family so badly that you will give up all of your dreams for it cannot truly be healthy.

When Gwen released This Is What The Truth Feels Like last year, I scooped it up, hoping to find the balm for my weary soul. But this is Gwen's falling in love with Blake album. There are only four songs on the whole album that are about Gavin, and written in Gwen's bouncy, pop music way, they weren't the sad, grieving songs that I was aching for.

My divorce mix tape looks something like this:

"Full of Grace" by Sarah McLachlan
"Landslide" by the Dixie Chicks (yes, I normally go for originals, but this one is my divorce one)
"The Cowboy in Me" by Tim McGraw
"Foolish Games" by Jewel
"I'm Not That Girl" by Idina Menzel (from Wicked)
"I Got The Boy" by Jana Kramer
"Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley (again, not the original, but I love Buckley's version)
"Do What You Have To Do" by Sarah McLachlan
"Beloved Wife" by Natalie Merchant
"Peter Pan" by Kelsea Ballerini
"Bluest Eyes In Texas" by Restless Heart
"Girl Crush" by Little Big Town
"Sweet Surrender" by Sarah McLachlan

Heavy on Sarah McLachlan. Those particular Sarah McLachlan songs inspired a story out of me back in my college days about the grief of a young widow. It rather shocked me when I slipped that CD in a few months ago, expecting to bring up that story in my mind's eye, and instead finding myself faced with the death of my marriage.

But it is a death. And I did grieve it. So very hard.

Life has taken a turn the past few weeks. An entire year has passed since my divorce. My therapist told me that she thinks that I am in a good place. I feel in a good place. I feel happy and light and free in ways I couldn't have imagined before.

I've said that before. This process has been achingly slow. Grief comes and goes in waves that overwhelm and then dissipate and then gnaw ever so softly away at me. I'm so hopeful that this time, this joy that I'm feeling, this excitement at the idea that my life is still mine-I'm hoping that it sticks around.

So, I'm currently listening to Gwen and her happy, bouncy post-divorce music. I may not be in love, but I am looking ahead and seeing a girl not defined entirely by sadness.