I’ve Been Taylor-Swifted

It started innocently enough.  I checked my personal e-mail account and went to empty the spam folder.  There was a message from a woman with the same first name as an ex-girlfriend from grad school, and the little Google icon looked kinda like her.  I thought that perhaps Sarah had gotten married, and this was the same person, using her married name.  So, I did a Google image search with both this last name, and Sarah’s maiden name.  Her picture immediately popped up, but not with the married name.  It was a profile on Sound Cloud.  I clicked through.

There on Sarah’s profile were folk songs she had written both while and after we had dated.  Some she had sang to me, some I had never known about.  I was her first love, but I had recently broken off a two-year engagement with another girl at our church.  Her roommate knew I was rebounding and didn’t approve.  Sarah dared me to fall into the depths of her eyes for over a month.  She wrote poetry for me, and cooked lasagna and sushi for me.  My resistance fell, and I fell… wonderfully for her.

I downloaded all her songs to my phone, and listened to her soft singing voice all the way home from work.  Her first song about us is Fall into you:

Falling endlessly, listlessly, the world caving in
falling without a sound, and i wanna fall into you

Chorus:
dreaming of so many nights steaming within your gaze
tossed up into the sky and i wanna fall into you

what make me cry?  hell, even I don’t know
what makes me feel lost in this emotion?
maybe it’s you, i just can’t turn away
you make me feel so endless and wonderful
i just wanna fall, i know i can, i know i will, i know i will
wanna fall, endlessly into you
[Chorus]

i’m strong like that, an Amazon in stature
i’ve always been a woman to be reckoned with
but these words i say might end my reign as the stone queen of all my days
and i’ll turn to flesh, trembling in your arms
can’t turn away now, too late for that just wanna fall, just wanna fall
just wanna fall, endlessly into you
[Chorus]

tossed up into the sky, falling endlessly within your eyes
and i wanna fall, i’m gonna fall into you

Hearing it just now made me remember when she first sang that song to me.  I didn’t appreciate what it meant.  What it means to me still.  All I heard were guitar chords, a melody, and a soft voice.  I didn’t understand the power of a song in the heart.  No, that lesson was left up to my wife to teach me about listening to the words of a song.  Listening to a woman’s heart.

Another song, Drowning, definitely recalls a time when Sarah and I were on a late night phone call; she needed my emotional support, and I fell asleep on the phone.  She correctly identified it as a metaphor for the whirlpool our relationship swirled down into:

Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning for you
And sometimes I’m looking every way but up
I see you standing in the corner
And I just want to turn off the lights
Turn off the lights
‘Cause in the nighttime the sunshine won’t burn
And in the darkness I can feel you up close
‘Cause in the daylight the floodwaters swirl, and
I feel like I’m drowning for you
Drowning in you
Drowning in you
I feel like I’m drowning for you.

So I call you up, it’s 2am
And I don’t think you’re listening
And I’m getting ready to scream out loud
And I’m almost ready
I’m almost ready to run away
So far away

But I love you like and ache
Somewhere in the depths of me
And I don’t know just where to go
So I feel like
I feel like I’m drowning for you
Drowning in you
Drowning in you
I feel like I’m drowning for you.

So I run helplessly far away
So far away
But I know I just can’t get away
Can’t get away
But the pain of the water taking me down
Isn’t enough to swim back up for air
Back up for air
And I know this don’t make no sense
No one said it ever, ever would
Oh no, no, no

So when I see you standing on the other side of the room
I just want to turn down the lights
So I can feel you in the dark
I just want to, want to turn off the lights
Get a little bit closer tonight
Closer tonight
Closer tonight
Get a little bit closer tonight…

So I call you up, it’s 2am
And I don’t think you’re listening
And I’m getting ready to scream out loud
And I’m almost ready
I’m almost ready to run away
So far away

And I know this don’t make no sense
No one said it ever, ever would
Oh no, no, no

So when I see you standing on the other side of the room
I just want to turn down the lights
So I can feel you in the dark
I just want to, want to turn off the lights
Get a little bit closer tonight
Closer tonight
Closer tonight
Get a little bit closer tonight…

Get a little bit closer tonight…

Hearing that song made me, at 42 years old, suddenly feel like one of Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriends.  It’s not that these are “grrrl” songs, but they are certainly personal and brought up many memories of the nine months we shared together in that beautiful, quiet college town.

Arriving at home, I went to my box of journals and pulled out all the ones written between 1997 and 2001, and started scanning for mentions of her name.  I was soon rewarded with a lengthy entry I wrote while flying home for the 1999 Christmas break.  She was right, it didn’t make no sense, and no one said it ever, ever would.

I happened to open Sarah’s web page today before leaving for the airport.  The browser remembered that I had clicked there.  Programmers, well-intentioned, asked the computer to store clicks of the past.  I lingered.  Was there anything new?  Well, yes– two short stories.  And one of them Is about my year of silence.  April 4, 1998 to May 5th, 1999.  She seems to let the dates dwell in her mind.

I know it is only fiction, but tea is not too far removed from the bits of smashed leaves that imparted their flavor.  I want to talk with her about it, though it is fiction.  She didn’t think I understood her; but something inside tells me that the reason our relationship was so intense was precisely because we got inside each others’ heads and hearts.  And now, though by all rights I do not need to recall the past, I am left to deal with the emotions invoked by her powerful writing.

Her writing always was powerful.  Sarah would write poetry for me in the greeting cards I received.  She was often dark and brooding, and she often would say to me how I gave her the joy and light to counter the darkness within her.

So, I immediately wish to start a rebuttal, but I will try for understanding first.  She has the right to her own perception of those events– that was what she experienced, just as my own experience is exactly how I interpret it.  She felt like I was trying to change her.  And I will admit that I was not kind that day, when I discussed her songs with her.  Yes, they were all the same chords; but I am just as sensitive about criticism.

I remember looking around on the plane, noticing the girl in the seat next to me.  I looked at her itinerary and wrote both her name and destination “Nicki, Sioux Falls” in the top margin of my journal.

~ I [all but] dared Nicki to look over and read what I am writing.  Why should I be embarrassed about my voyeurism when I encourage people to do the same to me and even practice a little exhibitionism.  I know Sarah must too if she’s posting her detailed stories to the internet.  It sounds like such a scandal: “Ex-girlfriend posts our break-up on her web site!”  But I don’t really mind, I guess.  All those awful [Taylor-Swift break-up] songs could have been written about me.  Forgiving means you won’t bring it up again, and let memory fade.  I suppose.  Reconciling the past is better than forgetting it, though.

There are a few specifics I take issue with: “He doesn’t understand my passions.  He hears my music and poetry and tells me they are trite.”  At this point, I have to remember that I choose words for their meaning and she chooses words for their feeling.  I understand now the [academic] stress that was so vivid and real to us at the time.  I felt like I was fighting a battle to preserve the good in my life: God, intimacy, escape.  In school every day, I felt under attack by [my graduate advisor], trying to defend my musical and intellectual acumen.

I was finishing up my master’s degree in music, choral conducting emphasis.  At the time, I was preparing a small chamber ensemble for my graduate lecture recital.  It was Stravinsky’s Mass; a very challenging choice for me (as a lousy choir director) as well as for the performers.

Think about that for a second.  Sarah is pouring out her heart to me at night in a sweet, simple folk song, while during the day I was drowning in arrhythmic, screeching, atonal, Latin.  I was in way over my head.  Meanwhile Sarah had taken on the publishing of a Lenten devotional for our church.  It was a huge project on top of her normal classwork.  We both were being deliberately drowned.

I lost nearly all the joy and pleasure I derived from music.  I became cynical.  I had prejudices.  Sarah’s near-and-dear fell under attack one night.  She was hurt, and things were left unsaid.  We stayed hurt.  Now, the truth gets aired, much later.  I am sorry for what happened.  She thought I didn’t understand, or that I viewed her words and melodies as meaningless.  She didn’t recognize my genuine interest and admiration for her creative talent.  Why would I have bothered, otherwise, to experience them at all?

You stupid moron.  Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue,” and Proverbs 21:23 says “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”  I had much yet to learn about loving people.

Sarah writes: “I don’t think [he] really knows me, and now it seems as if he doesn’t want to know me either.  It’s as if he’s gotten comfortable with the love he feels right now and doesn’t want to spoil it, so he won’t look any further, afraid he’ll find something he doesn’t like.”  If only direct communication had happened, instead of letting our individual opinions fester and further diverge.  Unfortunate.

I say that word “unfortunate” too much.  It’s cold, dissociative, uncaring.

The statement I just quoted was entirely her perception and not at all what I was feeling.  It is true that her constant negativity and lamenting about our conflict with [her disapproving roommate] did not improve the situation.

We also never had much privacy; not at my boarding house or at her dorm room.
At this point in the journal entry, I started waxing with psychobabble about manifesting what we experience and feel.  Again, I am struck by how my head knowledge was so arrogantly ahead of my heart and ahead of my ability to give love sacrificially to a woman.  My inflated ego shows up all over in these pages; it’s humiliating to read now!

She thought I was trying to cover up reality… maybe I was trying to change her view of reality.  I really tried to help her see that a positive outlook on life is possible.  It leaves you better equipped to find solutions when problems arise.  She felt trapped.  I acknowledge that.  But I tried to show a better way to view life.  As long as she holds on to those depressing feelings, she will continue to experience them and manifest them, and just plain feel lousy.

It doesn’t need to be that way, Sarah.  You cling to the skeletons in your closet because they’re all you know.  They’re so tied up in your identity.  So yes, I tried to change you.  But I ask the question: is abandoning destructive behavior bad?  Are you happy and joyful and empowered by hanging on to those limiting thoughts and feelings?

How judgmental this all sounds to me!  Eleven years of marriage certainly has taught me the foolhardiness of those words.  1st Corinthians 13:1 is so fitting here: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  I finish up my journaling-on-a-plane with what turns out to be a particularly unenlightened conclusion.

She said that the opening of our relationship brought her unprecedented joy and love and happiness.  It wasn’t an illusion!  The face of God shining through someone else’s flesh; that’s all it was.

…And the rest is frankly unbiblical and bordering on blasphemous.  Who was I to play God in my own mind like this?  It sorely reminds me of my immature spirituality back then.  Thank you God that you loved me as I was; and as I am now.

We broke up on April 4th, 1998.  She was 19 and I was 25.  It wasn’t the last time I saw her, but that is a good topic for next time.  Sarah, thank you for posting those songs… they are precious works of art.

My words from fifteen years ago make me so grateful that my wife decided to take a chance on me.  Selfish, arrogant, angry, mean old me.  I am truly blessed to have her.  She called me at work today, and her voice was sweet honey for my heart.  It didn’t matter what the topic was; I was consumed with love for her and hanging on her every word.  I try my best, my darling.  Please forgive me for remembering the deep, crazy, complicated love I felt for Sarah before I knew you; it is teaching me today how to love you better.

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About zyll9

Here are some topics that have recently interested me: ♥ The Enigma Machine ♦ Morse Code ♣ Fluorescent minerals ♠ The Long scale and the word milliard ♥ The 21 Spanish Missions of California and El Camino Real ♦ 3D Printing and browsing items on Thingiverse.com ♣ Le Mans and the 1955 winner, a Jaguar D-Type ♠ My huge King James Version Bible, which was printed at least before 1893 ♥ Hyperinflation paper money ♦ Silver certificates vs. United States Notes vs. Federal Reserve Notes ♣ Old Stereoscopic photographs and anaglyphs ♠ Pyramids, such as those at Giza in Egypt and at Teotihuacan in Mexico ♥ The special characters produced using ALT-Codes (ie., Alt 14 makes this: ♫) ♦ Old-style numerals written above and below the line by using Text Figures ♣ The long-s which looks like an "f" and went extinct around 1810. like "Congreß" ♠ How to play chess better, because I really suck at it ♥ Animated gifs of funny movie clips ♦ Archaeoastronomy ♣ Hiking the John Muir Trail ♠ Sighting comets ♥ My DIY Musicbox
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2 Responses to I’ve Been Taylor-Swifted

  1. Incredibly beautiful piece 🙂

  2. Pingback: I've Been Taylor-Swifted | Christians Anonymous

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