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Mondays: Pretty Ponies & Other People's Sad Songs

I skipped a week. I’m on summer break now, so I do what I want. Haha. That’s a joke. I’m a mom to a kid who plays 500 baseball games per week and says he is a “people person” and therefore doesn’t know how to have fun by himself. I don’t understand any of those words. But this is the first summer in years that Fisher hasn’t had some kind of child care (and I haven’t had time to myself). We are squished together all day every day, and I am learning.

Last Monday was my last day of work (technically) before summer break. I packed up my only office at one of my three schools, because next year I’ll have four schools, and the school with the office isn’t one of them. Did you follow that? It’s okay if you didn’t.

Then… later that night, I played a writer’s round in which the theme for the night was “Monday Night Misery”. Four of my songwriting friends and I sat on stage and traded sad songs about sad stories. Midway through the night, our host, Anne Ducharme-Jones, led a discussion about where sad songs come from and why we write them.

I don’t really know where any songs come from or why they come or why we bother to write them at all, other than that life is probably better with a soundtrack – more engaging, easier to understand, and maybe more danceable. Sometimes, things line up and soak in better when they’re delivered with chords and/or a melody. I think it's something about frequency. Or that the biggest things in life are too much for words, so we need something else to capture them.

When it was my turn to share, I said that I don’t write well while weeping, and that I prefer to write about big feelings after they have passed. I said that I detach and write about them like a scientific study, as if every song I write is an act of curiosity.

It was true, I guess. It felt true while everyone was looking at me and the microphone was on.

I remember, a long while back, trying to explain to someone what happens in my brain when I am asked a question that has a "full" answer. My brain starts to spin. Like a sparkly, malfunctioning carousel. I open my mouth, and whichever pretty pony has dislodged is the one that flies out of my mouth. That pretty pony is still true and real and genuine, because it was in the carousel to begin with. But it's not the only pretty pony.

The more complete truth is that I DO sometimes write songs in the middle of big emotions. I just don’t play them for people. Or I play then once or twice and then stop. I stop because I say they are bad songs. But sometimes I think I stop because it feels bad to sing them in front of other people. Too vulnerable. Don’t like it.

I wish I had said something wise about how important stillness is and how sometimes being sad brings it. I wish I had said something about what a rich and vibrant place sad stillness can be once you get past the protective numb parts. I wish I had talked about how much I crave that weird, buzzy vibrancy. I wish I had said something about how sometimes when I'm craving stillness, I wonder if I'm craving sadness instead -- kind of like when I think I'm craving sushi, but I'm really just craving soy sauce.

But I didn't.

I noticed Monday that of the five of us on stage, I was the only one who brought cover songs. Isn’t that interesting? I can play 3+ hours, non-stop of only original music to distracted, apathetic audiences. But tell me to bring just five sad songs to a listening room, and I will bring someone else’s sad songs. Someone else’s sad stories. Isn’t that something? Sweet child. Look at you.


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