Bittersweet is My Favorite Word
I was sitting in the small Cabaret room at the Townhouse Bar on Midway in St. Paul. A woman with auburn hair and a vintage grass green dress got on stage and began to weave her time-themed story throughout her New York Cabaret-style performance. I couldn’t tell you even one of the songs that she interpreted, but her story was captivating. It was a story of a connection with her first love.
She fell in love with this young man in high school. He was her first . . . everything. The way he was and how he loved her was everything she wanted. When it came time to graduate and move on to University, they said goodbye for the first time. She never forgot him as she dated and threw herself fully into the sexual revolution of the late 60’s and 70’s. This is her story, and she did not hold back. I liked her a lot.
After college– medical school for him and nursing school for her– they ended up working in the same clinic. They had both changed so much, and that chemistry was there, passionately boiling and steadily familiar and feeling like home. He had become quite conservative politically, and she was on fire in the liberal camp. And, indeed they had heated arguments. At this time, both were so committed to their causes that the conflict their past relationship added to their political differences was so overwrought that she left the position.
Years pass and she thinks about him. She wonders about his life. She misses him. They both married and had children and kept on in their careers. Decades have passed. They finally see each other at their 40th High School Reunion.
He doesn’t look well. He is terminally ill. They spend some time together at the party, but before they part, he pulls her aside and tells her that he has loved her all of these years. He’s wondered about her life. He’s missed her.
I was trying not to sob at this point. I’m not sure how many blueberry martinis I had ingested by then. The clearest thing I remember thinking was, “It’s true.” After her set, she made a beeline toward me. Why did she come straight over to me? It was dark in there with plenty of other people she could have approached.
She was awkward and brilliant. I thanked her for her story and performance. She shared about her family a little and that her daughter had committed suicide a couple of years back. She wasn’t one for small talk.
Again, I asked myself, “Why me?” Why did she pick me out?
A couple of days later, while trying to escape the noise and bustle of my children, I hid out at a friend’s house while they were away. I had brought my Jazz Ukulele book and was bound to unlock the secrets of Jazz. Instead, I learned two jazzy chords and inspiration hit.
“Like holdin’ to smoke . . . like graspin’ for ghosts.”
I think that the thing that breaks my heart every day and makes it so very precious is the bittersweetness of longing with which it is full. And what do I long for? Connection. True connection.
I was sharing with a fellow Aspie the other day the story that inspired my song “Still Missin’ You.” As I recalled the story and shared the catalyst for the writing of the song with her, there was such a pang in my heart. I say my heart, but the sensation of longing is like a surging wave within my body and soul that builds and subsides but never breaks. There isn’t relief. I don’t hate it.
In some ways it makes me feel very alive. For me, the longing is connected to hope. So, just as I deeply long for connection, I deeply believe it exists. Did the deep in me call out to the deep in that Cabaret singer and vice versa? Is that what it was? I think so.
“I’m biding my time . . . I’m lost inside my own mind”
I’ve always felt that I am biding my time. When I say “I’ve always felt”, I mean as far back as I can remember. Like the things I was seeing and experiencing in my life were not the whole shebang. There was another place I was living and operating . . . almost. Like maybe I’m the ghost there. In that space, I’m connected and plugged into something that is other and true. Truer than what I see with my eyes.
I am intense in my desire for connection. I am specific. I am limited in my relationships by the level of my longing for truth in connection and connection to truth. I struggle so much to navigate shallow waters. I only know deep waters. And I get bored easily. And I feel like everyone is lying in the shallows.
Many times in my life I have ignored my gut about how deep and true others are willing to go with me. I have tried to bring them to the deep, but inevitably they do not follow. I suppose it is because I can breathe in those depths. I feel comforted and known there. Just to clarify, I am not speaking of depression or darkness when I speak of the deep. I am speaking of the truth, and I don’t know how to say more than that.
I do not wish to imply that I am superior to those who cannot or will not, or simply do not desire to sit with me at the bottom of the sea. We are different fish. I was designed to thrive there.
Do you want to know something interesting about me? If you know me, or have known me in some capacity, it is highly likely that I think of you often. At least more often than what is typical for the relationship that we’ve had. In my mind, in the place where I thrive, the past, the present, and the future is now. I will not try to explain that any further because if you know what I mean, then you know what I mean.
“You’ve haunted my heart for years . . .”
There are so many connections that almost were. Connections that I wanted but that couldn’t be. And yet, I ache because I am terminally hopeful. I am hopeful for connections. My longing is connected to hope. And so I exist in the bitter and the sweetness of all of that. Thankfully, bittersweet is my favorite word.
Here’s my latest single . . . packaged for the Holidays, but came from the depths.