It’s typically around 7:30 in the morning when I unlock the office door. Getting in early gives me time to create lists, to un-scatter my brain, and to remember the people I forgot to tell, “I love you.” It gives me time to make plans, to make amends, and to do better. It also allows me to search for music.
I listen to pop radio on long drives, and on one such recent trip I heard Tove Lo’s “Habits” on the radio. I heard it. I felt it. I was challenged by it. I remembered, and it shook me. It launched me backward in time. A cannonball to my gut, powerful enough to send me to the bedside of a hospital room, where I bid “farewell” to a gown that covered an old friend. It thrust me into a car ride where my heart fractured and resolved to push love away. It sent me to an office recently vacated of hope and into a dorm room where orange vials and empty bottles screamed out dares and offered a costly retreat from feeling too much.
The truth beneath Tove Lo’s song is that the choices we make to keep people off our mind will eventually remove feelings too. And responsibility. Connection. Compassion. Direction. Soul. While vulnerability can lead to heartbreak, that pain pales to the absence of the light in our eyes.
I am not shaming the artist; for all I know writing the song helped keep her safe. But this is me relating to the song in the only way I know how – which is to use it as a teaching moment. Personally, I cannot put a dance-y beat to the memories of my loneliest nights. Rather, the emptiness Tove Lo sings about sets off sirens in my heart because I suffered through it too.
To the weary and the broken, to the ones with slamming doors ringing loudly in their ears: There is hope still beyond that threshold. Not now or ever have you been expected to walk through this alone. Not now or ever have you been expected to accept pain silently. While you may feel helpless, you are never hopeless.
I am learning to wear my heart on my skinned knees, so that you can know through my falling that you are in good company. And if the only thing I’ve gained in recovery is honesty, then the lessons have been well spent. My hope is that you can hear other voices. Helpful and transparent voices. Voices that can help you silence the calls luring you away from other people. I hope you find your voice.
I felt hope swell in my chest when I saw an interview with Sia recently. There was a pillow in the background that featured the symbol for Alcoholics Anonymous. Her song “Chandelier” hit me as something beautiful; it calls her doubts to the forefront of her mind so that they can be identified and disarmed. There is beauty in turning pain into a melody. There is peace that comes with being heard. Her album is called “1000 Forms of Fear.” Someone once taught me that fear is imperfect love. Where fear exists, love can grow. Where fear is lonely, love necessitates a certain degree of give and take; it requires at least two independent identities and grows exponentially with the inclusion of more people.
I feel as if Sia gets this. If this song were to fill any purpose, it would be to meet people where they are. To help them feel less alone. To help them feel understood and heard. There’s a subtle switch at play, where the song is produced in an attempt to serve as an audience to the listener.
I admire the role of the audience. In my mind, nothing beautiful has ever existed without the presence of an audience. The mere act of witnessing is a pure expression of love. The audience reminds the artist, the storyteller, and the dancer that they are seen and heard and valued above anything else the world is offering at that moment. It shows that the time spent at your feet, walking through this moment with you, is worth all it could ever cost.
Tove Lo – I hear you. Sia – I hear you too. We have much to learn from one another, and I think The Rocketboys have summed it beautifully with their song “Vive Voce.” We all have a responsibility to use our voices. Regardless of acclaim or reach, there is depth. There are horizons on your breath, so that the sun rises at your words. And I hear you. I am thankful for you. How we use our voices to influence those around us makes all the difference.
In the song, The Rocketboys sing, “To all the people I know that needed my love, I wanna say ‘Can you hear me now? I am singing out as loud as I know how.’”
So sing, yell, whisper, story-tell, breathe, beg, and proclaim. Your voice presents us with limitless opportunities to connect. You are alive and we are your proof, your audience and fellow members of this choir. We are ready whenever you are. We are ready to breathe in whatever life, hopes, and dreams you care to share.