Like just about everyone we know (and probably everyone we don't know), Ed & I have made mixed "tapes" since college. We used to put our favorite songs on tape, but finally caught up to the 21st century last year and began burning our mixes on CD. Ed burned his first CD mix the morning we were driving down to Seaside, OR, to stay with friends - aptly titled, "Back to Seaside 2004." I listened to "Back to Seaside" tonight while driving to rent Sex and the City DVD's (don't tell Ed, but I miss cable terribly). Annie Lennox's "Pavement Cracks" is the fourth song and I haven't heard it since last winter. I was immediately transported from a somewhat sticky Boston summer evening to a cold, wet night driving down California Avenue in West Seattle, rain drops smearing the windshield. It's a good song, but what particularly struck me tonight is how the words and the rhythm are in contradiction to one another. The song starts out almost ballad-esque, Lennox's rich and full voice emmiting hope, but the chorus is, well, depressing:
"Love don't show up in the pavement cracks,
All my watercolors fade to black,
I'm going nowhere and I'm ten steps back,
All my dreams have fallen flat."
I couldn't help but think about the last year- how I felt trying to adjust to parenting while trying to figure out what it meant to be husband and wife AND mom and dad. Plus, it was only my second year teaching and I had liked it so much, but the kind of good work I wanted to do hadn't really been possible with a baby. Dreams? Hah. Last year was about surviving. When I'd listen to this song- and sometimes I'd have to turn it off it was so painful--I would let myself imagine the watercolors of my life - you know, those individual apsirations that stay with you (hopefully) even as your "self" is somewhat absorbed into your family. Usually, I'd push those thoughts out of the way before they had a chance to turn black, remember that we were moving to Boston and that I just didn't have the luxury right now for being selfish. And, yeah, that's a bit depressing.
Anyway, after the initial bars of the song, the tempo picks up and Lennox chants in the background, her somewhat droning tone echoing her trademark voice in The Eurythmics. Later in the song, not moments after the song gets even more rocky, the following lyrics held me in the moment:
"Where is my comfort zone, A simple place to call my own?
Everything I wanna be comes crashing down on me."
Would you believe I felt exhilarated? I mean, here I am, jobless, having agreed to move to Boston even though my teaching career and professional relationships were promising, we were seeing (and cherishing) our family regularly, plus I was loving the place I was living in - and I hear a few lines from some song that remind me that I don't feel settled, don't have a comfort zone really yet - financially, career-wise, or even geographically- well, this all came crashing down on me. And yet, the realization that I didn't have a comfort zone didn't crash down on me; it was more like a warm wave washing through me. I felt lucky that there are so many "things" I wanna be. If I felt too comfortable, which is just another way of saying that if I was able to clearly define and label who I am, I wouldn't be in a position to ponder what I might be.
Just like the lyrics and tempo of the song, I was (and am) experiencing genuine contradiction. I am lost, yet certain that I'm going in the right direction. I was reminded of a sermon I heard Sunday when I visited a Congregational Church in Jamaica Plain. The pastor reminded his parishoners that being a Christian means "holding contradictory emotions in creative tension." God, I love that line (to be conistent, part of me hates it, too). Basically, I remembered an ephiphany I had in graduate school: "Emotional tension is good: it means I'm alive. If I felt too comfortable and everything felt settled, I might as well be dead." It's why I love the Everything But the Girl Song that is the title of this song. I mean, when it all comes down to it, the real miracles come when the shit is hitting the fan, but I still feel hopeful, and, well, alive. The truth is I have NO IDEA what path my life will take here in Boston (if the way the roads are out here is any indication, I should avoid expecting clear directions). Now that I'm stripped of many of the influences that might keep me from having insights I might not have-- being in the same general area I've lived all my life or keeping my tunnel teaching blinders on-- I am free to pick (or see) the shape my life can/will take. In other words, I'm ready to flash a welcoming nod to destiny.
We'll talk more later when I still haven't secured any interviews and our rent is due. For now, thanks, Annie Lennox for your honest words and hopeful voice.