A million years ago, I was hanging out in a hotel room in Rome with a woman named Ann. It was the end of one of those 28-day, “if it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” college trips to Europe and I’d holed up in Ann’s room because my actual roommate was driving me to distraction. I was 19, it was Rome, and I was depressed. Ann was older, weird, and to my eyes, a worldly guide to life beyond my sophomore year of college.
I remember her telling me about her trip to New York and her glowing review of the Broadway play, “Sunday in the Park with George” (which would later become a large influence in my life, but that’s another story.) We talked for hours about theater, writing, and music. She insisted that she didn’t listen to music, and when I asked her why, she said something that would stick with me for the next 30 years: “If you fill your head with other people’s music, how in the hell are you ever going to hear your own?”
I’ve been filling my head with a lot of people’s music lately. Social media, think pieces, commentary, you name it. I’ve read, I’ve tweeted, I’ve IMd, I’ve posted, I’ve talked and listened until I’m blue in the face.
This week, my brain finally reached capacity. This week, my brain finally said “enough.” I couldn’t read one more post. Couldn’t face one more IM. Hell, even YouTube videos of adorable cats being little feline rapscallions left me utterly cold.
Yes, a lot of this has to do with the election. Or should I say, The Election? No one who knows me would require further explanation, and if you do, please Google “2016 Presidential Election Results.” I’ve discussed it enough, and I’m not going to rehash it here.
It’s hard, when your brain is filled to capacity and your heart is heavy with grief, to create. It’s hard to find passion in the work that you do, since all that work seems pointless in the context of the world around you. It’s hard to remember why you cared in the first place.
So I did something which, a week ago, would have seemed impossible to me. After a brief IM to a few people whom I knew would worry, I suspended my Facebook account. Only temporarily, only for a day. But I did it. I removed all the background wallpaper from my computer desktop and replaced it with solid black (yes, to match my emo mood.) And I went through and decimated my overburdened Gmail inbox, deleted saved emails all the way back to 2013!
I don’t feel better, but for a moment, I do feel lighter. In that mad email purge, I found saved emails from my Dad, who passed away a year ago in October. Through all this, I feel he’s been communicating with me–through songs on the radio that immediately brought me to his side on the piano bench. He was so proud of me–called me his “social justice warrior,” without a hint of understanding of how that particular phrase has been manipulated and twisted by men who hate women. No, to my dad, there was no irony in that appellation, just pride at his fierce daughter who always tried to do the right thing, who cared for those less fortunate, who never shied away from calling out injustice and bullshit.
I know my dad is watching me today, watching the unraveling of family relationships caused by this contentious election that exposed so many horrible things about us all. I know his heart is breaking for us all, and for the pain we’re experiencing. And in the silence I’ve created for the day, I can still here him at the piano, warming up to Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” and telling me to be brave. It’s all going to be okay.
Peace and love to you all,