Love shouldn’t hurt the way you think

It’s funny how seemingly random songs come back into your consciousness. Then sometime later, you realize it wasn’t random at all. As I like to say, everything happens for a reason.
When I was younger, before I was a teenager, I somehow recognized enough that in the midst of the chaotic childhood I was living, there was something more beyond the limiting existence I knew. I always assumed it would come in the form of a man who would fall in love with me.
This morning, I thought about the song “Nobody Knows” by the Tony Rich Project. It’s a Grammy-winning song from 1996 that was a mainstay in my WinAmp playlist when I was in university. At the time, I romanticized the idea of this man who hid how he felt about a woman. His heart broke when she left. To hide his heartbreak, he wore a mask around everyone else, pretending everything was okay, presenting this version of himself that was impenetrable.
This is obviously not a new theme in popular love songs sung by a male lead vocalist. Two of them that the lyrics of “Nobody Knows” directly nods to are Motown classics “The Tears of a Clown” and “The Tracks of My Tears,” both written by Smokey Robinson and performed by the Miracles.
The difference is in “Nobody Knows,” he finally decided to go after her, praying that if he ever found her again, she would take him back. Such a strange concept for the young woman I was then to latch on to. I hadn’t even been in a serious relationship yet.
As part of an ongoing effort to clean the house on Friday, I cracked open a drawer in an unused room, not realizing what was in the drawers. My stellar academic records and numerous participation and award certificates from my high school and college days were in one folder. These pages told the shiny, sparkling side of the story.
Underneath, in another folder, was the other side. Buried somewhere in my mind, I was aware that I had saved a lot of my records from my most difficult periods, as they were part of my medical history. But I was unprepared at this time to deal with looking over my doctors’ typewritten progress notes.
I went through a lot of awful things as a young person. Terrible things I would never wish on anyone else. I want to have sympathy for people who are afraid of needles and getting a shot. I really do. But given the number of times I’ve had some part of my body stabbed with much larger pointy objects in the name of medical treatment, I find it difficult, and I’m sorry for that.
I had almost forgotten some of the medications, procedures, and treatments I went through. As an adult, I wish I could have looked at these documents completely detached and objectively. I wish I could have been a robot. Instead, reading through them, the memories and confusion came back.
I cried. A lot. I don’t think you want to know.
What struck me most was the ambiguity. The number of times I saw “apparently” appear in the notes from the hospital and my specialists. It is now 21 years after that summer that I was in the emergency room, and none of my doctors are any closer to explaining what happened to me that day. Or the many unexplainable things that occurred over a 15- to 20-year period. I was working in the lab on a hot July day in Maryland. This in itself was not unusual. But then I didn’t feel well, and my hand was acting funny, like it wasn’t following what my brain was telling it to do. And at some point that I don’t remember at all, I collapsed.
Doctors are supposed to be the smart asses. The knowledgeable, experienced ones in the room. How on earth was I supposed to process what was going on if the experts couldn’t even tell me what happened? If a doctor couldn’t explain it, my parents were hopeless.
After I collected myself and put the folder away for another time, I checked my email. I was trying to clear out some old inbox messages that I hadn’t looked at in ages. All by itself, the email client inexplicably navigated me away from the inbox and to the oldest, saved and sent message. It was a letter I wrote to my grad school advisor, thanking him for all his support through a very trying few years. Effectively, that letter ended my academic career. That broke my heart in a different way. But that is a separate story for another time.
I now have some idea why a teenage me was consumed by this song about lost love. That has to do with events in past lives.
I suppose what’s better now, 20 years plus on, is that I recognize that I’m not happy to accept that kind of story.
Real love is hard. Things that are too easy, the kinds of things that don’t have any roots, they don’t last because when the heavy rains come, the cracks show. Anything that isn’t nailed down washes away. Love requires mutual understanding. Compromise and a meeting halfway. Having the difficult conversations.
But love shouldn’t ever ambiguous, or uncertain. You should never be confused about or feel a mortal hurt from someone you love. And unfortunately, I put up with that behavior towards me too many times.
We don’t always have all the answers or the answers when we need them. But we should be confident in ourselves to know, deep down inside, what is good for us, even if it is not immediately clear.
I wish the university-aged me knew that then. The tears I cried then now make more sense.

Photo at top is from pixabay. Photo of red leaf is my own, from a tree this autumn in my neighborhood.

My podcast Starting to Remember the Real You

My final project for the 2021 Fifty Feminist States Podcast Fellowship is now complete and live! I’m very excited to release it to the wild and share it with all of you. My musician friends, is this the feeling you get when you release new music? ::grin::

On the Fifty Feminist States website

On iTunes

On Spotify
I wanted to talk about where the title of the podcast came from. Without taking you all the way down the rabbit hole to explain all the connections I have to and what I owe to Duran Duran, let me say that they were a band that appeared in my life unexpectedly. I do not believe in coincidences. What I once considered a seemingly random event when I was young does not seem at all random anymore.
Photo at top is of a cicada nymph skin, abandoned by an adult and attached to the molding outside of my garage door. I took it on the 1st of June 2021, during the great Brood X emergence.
I was home from college and was watching VH1, which in those days was still showing music videos. I heard a few bars of synthesizer, sans vocals, that sounded very familiar. I knew I had heard it before, but where? I couldn’t place what song it was or who it was by. That was strange because I have a very good memory when it comes to music. I soon learned that the song in question was “The Reflex.”
Sometimes fans of a band can be a bit…ridiculous. Among Duran Duran fans, it was considered a badge of honor to have seen the band on their Seven and the Ragged Tiger world tour in 1983-1984, which was famously chronicled in the documentary Sing Blue Silver. (I own two original copies of this on VHS. Thanks, eBay.) While my memories of discovering Duran Duran’s back catalogue are fond, what proved less so was interacting with the older fans on a band bulletin board-style forum, those who treated the younger ones with derision.
Their assertion was that no matter how dedicated we were, how many albums we bought, or how many shows of theirs we went to, we could never be true Duranies. And why not? “Because you weren’t there” during the height of Duran mania in the early 1980s. I didn’t understand their desire to create division then, and I still don’t so many years later.
Another American fan and I decided we were going to start our own discussion group separate from the one on the band’s official website. This would be our own safe place to talk about the band and the music with other similarly aged fans and without fear of ridicule. When it came time for us to choose a name for our group, we wanted to be inspired by a song from their then-new album.
Pop Trash was the first Duran album I bought around its actual time of release in 2000. And as they say, you never forget your first. Duran Duran just signed a new deal with BMG this year, making the album available on streaming platforms. So you really have no excuse not to listen to it in its entirety.
We chose “Starting to Remember.” I liked it because its abbreviation “STR” was catchy and had a positive connotation, that we could all be stars and appreciated in this little community we’d created. Friends I made through that group saw me through some of the most difficult times of my young life. They know who they are, and I am truly grateful for their friendship.
When it came time to consider a title for my Fifty Feminist States podcast, I wanted the title to have an important meaning attached. I recalled our Starting to Remember group and the purple binder full of our letters of appreciation that I brought to Nick Rhodes in Japan in 2001. Like David Bowie before him, Nick is known to have kept all his clothes from his long career. I like to think that he kept our binder and it’s sitting among his Pop Trash-era items.
I went back to look at the lyrics of “Starting to Remember” a few days ago and was astonished when I read them over. (You can read them and listen to the song itself at the bottom of this post.) The beautiful words, written by Nick during a period of Simon Le Bon’s writer’s block, seemed eerily prescient to the podcast I had already recorded. In a way, I felt like I had come back home.
As I said earlier in this piece, there are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. You are offered opportunities when you are able to benefit from them. Doors open or close, depending whether you’re supposed to walk through them or not. You meet people when you’re supposed to, where you’re supposed to. Sometimes you’re the teacher, sometimes you’re the student. In the best situations, two people learn from each other. We are all students in this thing called life. Let us make the most of it and move through it with as much ease, grace, and love as possible.

“Starting to Remember” by Duran Duran (2000)

How to begin do I shed a skin?
Now that I am starting to remember
It takes a while
But you find a way to open up the door
Let demons walk
Now that I am starting to remember
Can’t change my world

I was happy ever after
Was it only yesterday?
That I bought the dream?
But I don’t sleep no more
Counting the hours
’til the dawn

Now that I am starting to remember
How to love
How to learn draw like a child
Run for miles and miles
Now that I am starting to remember
Who I am
Another lonely night ahead for me now
Buried in the darkening day
That lingers on
And drags me down
But you’ve got to believe
Time will heal.