It’s been an uncommonly cold start to the New Year, so this month, instead of hiking at Wildwood Park, I’m hitting the gym for my daily dose of cardio. While it’s not been too crowded with folks dedicated to their new year’s resolutions, there have been moments when I’ve had to crank up my MP3 player to drown out the chatter of fellow fitness aficionados. Every so often I change the dozens of songs I’ve uploaded, but more often than not, keep at least a few tunes by Alanis Morrisette in the playlist. This year her complete works are at the ready whenever I need an escape from winter, from worrying about the future, from wondering how I’m going to figure it all out.
Having loosely followed Alanis’ career since Jagged Little Pill was released in 1995, I started earnestly listening to her lyrics in 2008 after moving back to Toledo, bitter and still a bit bruised from a short-lived adventure in Big Sur. I distinctly remember driving up Kenwood Boulevard on a sunny Saturday afternoon with Narcissus blaring through the speakers at top volume and me singing the lyrics at the top of my lungs. Every single word clearly described a “me-show man” with whom I had briefly been involved and who made part of my life in California a living hell. It wasn’t my first experience with a narcissist and it wouldn’t be the last, but every time I met another self-centered boy, somehow Alanis’ ode to egotistical men everywhere was playing in the background.
For the past ten years, I’ve collected every album she’s released, every song recorded for a film. It’s not completely Ironic that I’ve taken solo road trips with various versions of myself along for the ride. In fact, a lot of clarity surfaces when I hit the road and let Alanis’ music wash over me. I’ve sifted through the pain of depression hoping That I Would Be Good, dealt with my tendency to create damsel/rescuer fantasies in confronting my Precious Illusions, and seriously contemplated the 21 Things I wanted in a lover years before he arrived at my doorstep. (By the way, Steve has 19 of them, so I figure I did have a choice in the matter.)
For years I’ve felt that Alanis has written the soundtrack of my life and imagine many of you feel the same way. In crafting relatable songs that cut deeply, Alanis touches a primordial place in those of us who readily recognize ourselves in her lyrics. There have been many Particular Times when I’ve wanted to vanish from pain, yet tried to work through difficult relationships, when I’ve fallen Head Over Feet for the wrong person, when I’ve carried a Torch way too long. Lately, I’ve found myself letting go of the people who were Uninvited, who drove me a little bit Crazy, who had washed their Hands Clean of me long ago. Through it all, I’ve discovered that in the end, All I Really Want is some patience, which is one of the reasons I’m still here.
Since my return from Big Sur, I think of my life as B.C. (before California) and A.C. (after California). Before I moved west, a lot of my time was spent doing intense self-discovery. Since I returned, my life has been about intimately discovering others as well as continuing on my own personal journey. Personal relationships take the Front Row and my perspective has broadened in concentric circles that widen as the years go by. Now I’m focused on creating Win and Win, on allowing myself to find contentment with being Incomplete, and allowing myself to receive Empathy not as a pity, but as a gift of healing. I’ve let my significant other see Everything, let him show me how to Receive, and know that even our challenges teach us that The Only Way Out is Through.
The past couple of years have been truly difficult, but in the face of death, illness, anger, and destruction, I’ve also discovered grace, peace, and truth. While I’ve not always done it well, I’ve been trying to see the world as it is, to see people as they are…and love them still. The other day while I was stretching after a workout, I listened to a song from the film “Dogma”. Tears filled my eyes as I listened to Alanis sing about embodying unconditional love in the face of our often-broken humanity. Perhaps more than any other song Alanis has written, Still reflects an awareness I’m only beginning to truly acknowledge, a path I’m only beginning to walk, even if I don't have it all figured out just yet.
Alanis...Thank U for seeing me.
I feel so less lonely.