Labor Day, I was all excited about returning to my normal late-night work schedule after a Summer of working days. It felt like the real start of Fall to me, and there’s that F. Scott Fitzgerald quote about how life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the Fall. There’s something about nights in the library that make me feel most myself; it’s probably all of that time I have to listen to music and think and write.
I was listening to something else, but then I thought that I really wanted to hear David Gray’s “Only The Wine.” That was a mistake, because of course I got lost in that song and then “Foundling” as well, and by the time I got to “Forgetting,” it was too late. I’ve listened to this album a million times without issue, but in combination with the approaching Fall, it immediately took me back to a place of a lot of feeling.
Foundling was released two Augusts ago, and even though David Gray is my favorite in all the world, I didn’t start listening to it right away, because it was too much about heartache at a time when I was already feeling kind of fragile. It wasn’t until the Fall that I really let myself sink into the album.
There’s this strange thing that blogging has done to me where I feel this kind of continuity in my life that has never been there before, and I am not one to dwell on the past, because I always find the future so much more interesting, but it happens to me all the time now where the present reminds me so much of things I have already experienced and written. It’s the circumstances or the feelings or the music or something I can’t name exactly.
I kept listening because giving up three songs in felt like running from something. So I watched as all of my optimism for Fall became complicated by feeling. I resisted for a while, of course, because it was so nice for a second to feel like I was above all of that. Like I could do whatever I wanted and not think about what it means or what I might be leaving behind. But that’s not real.
I will probably always be the kind of person who needs to draw lines in the sand and put things in boxes. Otherwise, I would be drowning in feeling all of the time. Sometimes you do have to carry on like things are simple and you’ve got it all figured out. And sometimes you have to listen to an album that reminds you that things you felt two years ago are as real to you now as they were then.
I have participated in so many class discussions about the power of the past, and yet as personal as theology has always been for me, I never made any connections to my own life. In part, I think, because I didn’t really think of myself as having a past. Not like I was a character in a Western, but I had no real sense of myself or where I’d come from, and my life had been so normal and I had played it so safe. But, of course everything in my past influences my present.
Blogging has helped me realize that I have a past and it is strong. Over the last few years, I’ve had so many moments that reminded me of other times in my life, and making those connections gives me this sense of continuity that makes me feel more authentic–like I belong here and I helped create this. In writing, it becomes a simple narrative that misses a lot of the details, but is important nevertheless.
You can deal with your past and forgive parts of it, but you can’t escape it, and that’s as terrifying as it is amazing. So maybe I’ve been listening to David Gray a little more cautiously this week, timid at the thought of those big feelings knocking me over again, but it’s also nice to be reminded that I have that kind of history.
I wrote this post last week, and then on Sunday night I finally listened to the episode of This American Life that they released after David Rakoff’s death, and something he said sounded so relevant and perfect:
What remains of your past if you didn’t allow yourself to feel it when it happened? If you don’t have your experiences in the moment, if you gloss them over with jokes or zoom past them, you end up with curiously dispassionate memories, procedural and depopulated. It’s as if a neutron bomb went off, and all you’re left with are hospital corridors.