Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Mix Tapes: Once We Get Across the Border

"It seemed he had little pity for me and the divorce I'd brought on myself. He, Eddie, and Karen liked Paul. I couldn't make them understand why I'd had to smash things up. But you seemed so happy was all they could say. And it was true: we had seemed that way. Just as I'd seemed to be doing okay after my mom died. Grief doesn't have a face."

— excerpted from Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
I'm a little more than halfway through this wonderful book by Cheryl Strayed. I had just finished reading this passage when I got to my train stop tonight on the way home from work. The book details her amazing story about hiking more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail alone  — and throughout, it also details her grief of losing her mom.

Reading this book is cathartic, so much so that it's probably a gamble each time I open it on the train and start reading it, surrounded by strangers. I so far have managed not to start crying in public over it, which is impressive, given the material and the power of her writing.

It's not just the way Cheryl Strayed captures her feelings of loss over her mom, or the way she captures her alternating terror and jubilation while on the trail alone. It's also the way she directly addresses her faults, as well. After her mother's death, she spiraled into a series of bad choices with men and drugs, which also led to her divorce from her husband, a man whom she still deeply loved.

At this point you might be reading (if you haven't stopped already, bless you!) and thinking: What the hell, Alison? I thought we were going to be talking about fun music, not getting all serious again. 

Well, it really is getting there, I swear it. After reading this particular passage, I came home and heard this song by Say Lou Lou (formerly Saint Lou Lou). It's called "Julian," and to me, it feels brave and hopeful and exactly like how I feel when reading that book.

There's something about the lyrics, "I'll get you through the check points/I'll get us through the night." There's a sense of displacement, but under it all, this hope that we're going to get to the right place eventually. ("Oh, Julian.")

I haven't written that much lately. After my last post about Local Natives, a couple of people commented to me that I seemed sad. When I wrote it, I was. But then today, I listened to that same album and I didn't feel sad anymore. It wasn't that I no longer felt anything. I just felt something different.

It's kind of like how Cheryl Strayed felt hiking the PCT, I think. One day, she's miles away from water on a hundred-and-something degree day and feeling like "a big fat idiot," but then the next:

"As I spoke, the doubts I had about myself on the trail fell away for whole minutes at a time and I forgot about being a big fat idiot...I felt like a hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian queen."

So with that said, here's one more track for your Monday mix tape. It's the kind of song that makes me stop worrying that while I might feel like a big fat idiot one day, the next I might be a hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian queen.

Sometimes, you just have to feel it. Whatever that may be.

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