A friend of mine recently broke up with her boyfriend – she has good days, bad days, sometimes she cries, sometimes she’s scared, sometimes she’s angry. My advice to her has been to let herself feel whatever she is feeling; whenever that is, for however long and to not make excuses for any of it. As I told her this I realised it is similar advice that my lovely friends and family have been giving to me about the alien.
I thought back to the break-ups I’ve had and perhaps the two sets of feelings are not worlds apart from one another. Stay with me on this.
Do you know that feeling where you’re on week 4 of the break-up and you think you’re doing well? You’ve been holding everything together and then you find something seemingly insignificant, like a bracelet or a train ticket, but it throws you back because that item was from when it was good…and now it’s not good, now you’re not feeling well, now you’re not holding it together and suddenly you’re back to square one of the break up. Start again. You throw it away, you avoid specific places, stop certain activities and you hear certain songs and quickly have to turn them off. That last one used to be a biggy for me (as I’m sure it is for many).
On my way home from my last visit to see my mam in hospital, I phoned my sister. My sister is super strong and independent, she is fiery, sharp and can take everything into her hands – well into one hand, the other one has a pen and paper in it to make sure she has every last detail (she’s a lawyer after all). I love my sister. We are very different; she is on-the-ball methodical, I am heart-on-the-sleeve creative; she’s high heels, I’m trainers; she’s tea, I’m coffee; she’s law, I’m theatre, but the alien is affecting us in the same way. We both said to each other that night, that we think we are coping, that every day we both have moments where we forget about the alien and then something happens and we are reminded of it again.
In this way it is like a break up. We are breaking up with the life we had before the alien came. I cannot walk down Gillygate without thinking of my mam racing down and looking in every window, I avoided a patisserie when she was in hospital because it upset me that I wasn’t seeing her with a cuppa in there, but in a ward with machines. Some films I haven’t watched and often the radio has been switched off or music changed over because it makes me think of the current alien situation.
This weekend, I decided to take this break up into my own hands. I made a playlist. Rather than trying to avoid those emotive lyrics and melodies that stir you for all the wrong reasons, I made a playlist which instantly transports me to moments of utter joy with every song, that the alien can never touch. Some make me laugh, others dance, scream, sing way too loud or cry happy tears. I allow myself to have those moments and then I carry on; I remember the alien, but on my own terms – no shocks or sudden surprises. And then I am a better person for my mam and for my family.
The playlist goes back to when I was a teenager, drinking red wine in an attic room, my friend recording me covers of songs to make me smile, a number of horrendous dance tracks from club-nights in Fusion (The one club in my hometown), the song that was our 6th form leavers song, others which throw me right back into my university friendship group, a particular album that kept me and my best friend company during dissertation term, songs which had routines to them and that I can still remember now, songs from my short stint in the acclaimed ‘Aca-onsies’, others from shows that I have worked on, songs requested in bars, songs I’d sing at the top of my voice with housemates, a song I always used to sing with a colleague, musical numbers me and my partner used to belt out in the car together and the last one is the song we will have as our first dance.
I’ve always thought music as a powerful thing – it has the power to sink you into the darkest places of your mind, but can also lift you back to forgotten highs. You’ll have these songs yourself.
So, whatever break up you’re going through, use whatever works for you to propel you into whatever world you want. Even if that is just escapism for 5 minutes. It doesn’t matter for how long or through whatever means you do it, just make sure you take time for you, find your own strength and when you are ready, allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel. Do not apologise to anyone (especially not to aliens). This is the advice that my friends and family have given me. I think it’s working. It’s reminding me that a break up is not an end, its just a change.
In the meantime here’s my playlist – Sometime I Forget.
If you have any memories/songs to add – let me know.