For the last week or so, I’ve been “working” on a post about all the awesome and not-so-awesome things that have happened to me recently. Hopefully that post will be finished soon, but until then, I wanted to talk about an incredible episode of This American Life.
One of the things that happened since last we met is that Brad and I broke up. I’m doing fine. I’m over it. And I can honestly say it’s better this way. But when it happened, I wasn’t so calm or reasonable. Between then and now I’ve gone through the obligatory stages of sadness, anger, resignation, and now I’m back to “normal.” Considering it wasn’t a very long relationship, it didn’t take particularly long to go through the spectrum.
My dad sent me an email saying I should download Episode #339 of This American Life and listen to it. He didn’t actually find out Brad existed until my mom told him about meeting Brad when she was in Portland, and then by the time my dad asked me about my new boyfriend, we’d broken up. So in his lovable and adorable Dad way, he tried to cheer me up. (Well, first he told me that boys are crazy, that they don’t make any sense, and that even he doesn’t understand them… But then he told me to download the podcast).
The episode is in four parts, but my favorite two are the Prologue and Part One.
For fear of transcribing every single interesting or funny line in the show, I will only write a few of my favorites and then STRONGLY URGE you to listen to the entire show online for free or download the podcast on iTunes. In fact, if you feel like a little audience participation, let me know what parts/quotes you liked from it.
In the Prologue, Ira Glass interviews a girl named Lauren, who sounds like she’s probably a teenager, or maybe a bit older. She’s in the throes of all the emotional turmoil that follows a breakup, but is still willing to be taped and even describes her situation in a remarkable way. My favorite is this quote:
“Breaking up with someone is literally the most common thing. Like, everyone you know broke up with everyone they ever dated… until maybe the person they’re with right now if they’re with someone right now. But when it happens to you it feels so… specific.”
Which really brings into focus how ridiculous breakups are. You always feel like no one understands, when in actuality, pretty much everyone’s been there. But it still seems different this time.
In Part One, a woman named Starlee Kine, co-creator of the Post It Note Reading Series, talks about her recent breakup and then writes a break-up song about it. I’m not making this up. She has never written music in her life, she has no musical abilities whatsoever, but she decides it’s the best way for her to express her feelings and wallow in them.
One of my favorite parts about Starlee’s story, other than her deadpan humor, is that music seems to play a similar role in both our lives. Music has and always will be one of the most important outlets I have. I don’t create, mix, or even critique it. I don’t claim to be a music snob. In fact, my friend Ben has described me as a music plebian. I listen to just about everything and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I’m just amazed how lyrics or a good beat can affect my mood, change or enhance the way I feel, or identify emotions I didn’t even know I had. My friend Julie is one person that seems to share these sentiments; she will sometimes describe her feelings or state of mind with just the name and artist of a song (not out loud, mind you. Usually on her blog or her status messages on Google chat). I have playlists in my iTunes library for just about any emotion or occasion (Saturday Night Dance Party, Mellow, Giddy, Road Trip, etc.). Sometimes I’ll listen to SNDP when I’m doing the dishes or if I had a bad day and want to cheer up. Or I’ll put on Road Trip at work while I’m doing something boring like putting address labels on 800 invitations.
Starlee associates Phil Collins songs with her ex-boyfriend, Anthony. Nothing is sacred to her in this “report”. She is the first to admit that, “it was hands-down the corniest relationship I’ve ever been in. And by corniest, I mean greatest.” This quote is even preceded by a list of all the red flags she ignored because she was so enamored with Anthony.
When he broke up with her on New Year’s Eve, after nearly a year of dating, she was crushed. When she reflects on it, she says, “In that moment, no one could have conveyed how I was feeling better than Phil Collins.”
She goes on to make a sort of mix tape of breakup songs she loves before trying to write her own. She wants to listen to every sad song she can, to just wallow and be consumed by all of her sad feelings. “A breakup song won’t ever suggest you start online dating, or that you’re better off without him. They tell you that you’re worse without him, which is exactly what you want to hear, because that’s how you feel,” she says. She’s honest, articulate, and apparently has no pride or dignity whatsoever. Heartbroken to the max.
Once again, I don’t want to ruin the entire episode in this post, but let me just say that I have a whole new respect for Phil Collins now, and I even downloaded a song or two of his after listening to the episode.
So it turns out that my emotions can be described or amplified not only by music, but by a program on NPR. Just like breakups, the feelings you are going through always seem so unique and so specific to you, when they’re actually incredibly common. Of course, knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to get over them. It’s just an interesting thought.