Except for every time I hear that song...
There’s this Brandi Carlile song, “Every Time I Hear That Song.”The chorus goes like this--
And by the way, I forgive you
After all, maybe I should thank you
For giving me what I've found
'Cause without you around
I've been doing just fine
Except for every time I hear that song…
At this point in my divorce process, I am trying to transition from bitterness to moving on. I have been listening to this song and reminding myself I need to forgive (not there yet), but also that I am doing just fine on my own.
Well, maybe except for every time I hear that song...
A couple weeks ago I went to see my favorite group of all time, The Indigo Girls. And while their tight harmonies and acoustic-driven sound is exactly my sweet spot, the thing that takes them over the edge for me is their lyrics.
I have often stated that there is an Indigo Girls song for every occasion. (I'm not wrong).
I bought the tickets to this show when I was dating my last person. (This whole “having tickets for things” and then breaking up is a WHOLE THING!) But I digress. So I went with a friend instead and I issued her a pre-show warning that I was going to be embarrassing with how much I love Amy and Emily, (and, no braggies, but I like to think I delivered on that warning).
It started off strong.
But then, the third song…
Power of Two.
I would say that I listen to the Indigo Girls several times a week. And for the past 9 months, every time Power of Two has come on, I have forcefully proclaimed, “Alexa, next song.” It’s too much. The lyrics are too much. It was my wedding song.
Now the things that I am afraid of, I’m not afraid to tell. And if we’d ever leave a legacy, it’s that we loved each other well.
At the concert I couldn’t skip to the next song. And it punched me in my gut. I didn’t see it coming and I wasn’t prepared. And hot tears sprung to the corners of my eyes.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the rest of the concert. It was the Indigo Girls, after all. But all night I couldn’t really shake the realization that this was the first IG concert I have been to in over 20 years without Nick. He was my concert buddy, and well, my everything else buddy.
And the truth is that now the things I am afraid of, I am afraid to tell. There was this person who, for decades, chose me unconditionally. And I came to the place where I believed, like the song says, that I was okay, that I was fine, that I had someone to stop my crying, to chase the ghosts from my head, someone who was stronger than the monsters beneath my bed, and smarter than the tricks played on my heart. And I thought that we had created a legacy that we loved each other well.
It took me years, probably 15 or more, to believe in this love. To truly believe in it. To believe it was real and true and lasting. And in many ways, I couldn’t learn to love myself until I realized someone else loved and chose me. That’s not how it should go. But given my Evangelical context, it’s how it happened. And I believe he did love and chose me. And that allowed me to feel safe to explore more of who I am. But then when the real Gwenn surfaced, my worst fears came true. Because then he didn’t.
I felt (and still struggle with feeling) unlovable. Not at the surface— I know that I am truly fortunate to have many people who love me. But there has always been that fear that if someone knew me long enough, or if I expressed who I truly am under all the layers, that I would be rejected. And now, my deepest fear is my lived experience. And I thought it might kill me. But it hasn’t.
For my whole life, people have been telling me I am too much. Gwenn, the motor mouth. Gwenn, the generous pour. Gwenn, the one whose opinions are too vocal. And then there are all the Bible verses about women being silent. And Bible verses about how a good wife acts (spoiler alert, not like me).
But recently, two people have challenged me on that “too much” identity.
“Too much for whom?“ one asked.
“Your big personality is not something I tolerate, it’s something I celebrate,” the other said.
These two individuals challenged the idea that I have just accepted and integrated into my personality—this idea that I am too much. And so here’s what I am striving to integrate now. I am a big personality—that part is true. But guess what? That’s not something I am going to see as shameful anymore. In fact, I can see it as a strength. I have learned to use my (loud) voice to stand up for myself, for vulnerable people and populations, and those I love. I have learned to use my big, gregarious, loud personality to create fun, and to spur others on in joy and play. I love big. I nurture big. I really try to show up big for the people I love.
And fair. That might be too much for some people. It has been for a bunch of people. But that’s okay. Those people are not MY people.
I won’t lie. It hurts (a lot) to consider that the person I spent over 24 years loving is not my person. Like sometimes the pain feels like all my bones are breaking.
But the truth is, he’s not anymore.
My therapist and my friends have been trying to get me to accept this for months, but it just really settled into my soul about 3 weeks ago when I was in the hospital-- the person I thought I was married to doesn’t exist, at least not anymore. Months ago when I was still trying to salvage something between us I had these hopes and dreams that we could midwife our relationship into something new and beautiful. But we haven’t. And I don’t see a path to how that happens. And so, the work now is releasing.
And the truth is without him around I’m doing just fine.
Except for every time I hear that song…