Saturday, November 15, 2014

Measuring my life in Ben Folds concerts

The last time I saw Ben Folds in concert, I was in a bad place. To say the least. I'd lost my dream job of managing a reception team at a brothel, and felt like I'd never get another job that satisfying again. Right after I lost that job I'd gone straight into a textbook small business exploitation role, working for a sociopath who wanted me to be a receptionist, a freight specialist, an export/import specialist, a chemist, and a PA - all for the wages of a receptionist. I'd lost that job too, and at the time firmly believed it was my fault, that I was the failure, and that I would never get another job again full stop.

The boy and I had gotten tickets for the concert back when things had been better, and so when the night came I mustered what small reserves of positivity I had and went along with a smile plastered on my face. But when he played Picture Window, the smile melted off and was washed away with wave after wave of open weeping.

It's a sad song at the best of times, but something in the lyrics touched that deep, dark, pit of despair inside me and brought it all tumbling out.

"You know what hope is?
Hope is a bastard
Hope is a liar
A cheat and a tease
Hope comes near you?
Kick it's backside
Got no place in days like these"

It took me a good song or two afterwards to compose myself after the song, and I was shaken and trembling for the rest of the concert. I'm very practiced at keeping the darkest, saddest, softest parts of me squelched right down as much as possible, and it was unsettling to have those feelings just spill out.

Unsurprisingly, it was fairly soon after that that I decided I was going to kill myself. Obviously, I didn't go through with it, and I talked more about that over here. But long story short, life went on, things changed, and last night I ended up back at a Ben Fold's concert.

This time the concert was at the Opera House, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, so a lot of the actual music was just breathtaking. But I was primed and waiting for him to play Picture Window - I wanted to see what it touched this time. I didn't FEEL despairing anymore, but I hadn't realised how despairing I was last time until that chorus swelled.

I grabbed the Boy's hand when the opening chords played, ready to be pulled inside out. But instead, I found myself crying through the second chorus because the part of me it touched last time wasn't there anymore. It just wasn't. I wasn't hiding it, I wasn't squishing it down - I looked, I let the music right in, and it just wasn't there. So I cried, but tears of surprised relief this time.

There is another Ben Folds song I've always loved, called Landed. It's about a bad relationship, and the relief of getting out - I've had some bad relationships, and it's always spoken to me.

But last night it spoke to me in a slightly different way - I didn't hear the lyrics as being about a person, but about my illness if it was a person. It spoke to me about breaking free of my illness, about feeling for the first time like I might be able to live a life where it's not in charge.

"The daily dramas she made from nothing
So nothing ever made them right
She liked to push me and talk me back down
Until I believed I was the crazy one,
and in a way
I guess I was..."

It reminded me that just earlier that evening, I'd been talking to complete strangers and it had been totally fine. It reminded me that would never have happened last time I heard Folds play this song, and highlighted just how far I really have come. It spoke to me about the feeling of coming out into the world, blinking in the light of day, astonished by all the wonderful people that had been waiting for all along outside the walls of my own depression and anxiety.

"If you wrote me off I'd understand it
Because I've been on some other planet
So come pick me up...
I've landed

I opened my eyes and walked out the door
And the clouds came tumbling down

Down comes the reign of the telephone czar
It's OK to call
Now I'll answer for myself"

In the final chorus, Ben Folds beautiful tumbling piano was lifted by the incredible swelling strength of the strings, and once again, I wept. I bawled my little eyes out, because it finally occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I could actually build a life I really want to be living. Not just for a little while, before things get bad and the Bad Stockbroker ruins everything again. Maybe I really could change things.

Maybe I can actually be happy. Not momentarily, or in the moments between disasters. Maybe I can just be happy.


  1. Beautiful post... you've actually got me sitting here with tears rolling down my face, paertly in happiness that there is escape from this life, partly in sadness that I am still stuck and can find no way out.
    So happy for you <3

    1. *hugs* I hope the tears are at least cathartic.
      Something to remember is that there was a good three years in between these two concerts, and those three years weren't a steady incline. There was some bad shit in between, and some good shit, and I only just realised I've hit a patch of really good shit. Maybe your brain won't get better - I don't want to make empty promises. Sometimes things don't get better. But every day you wake up and try again is a day where there's a chance, however remote, that things might get better.

  2. BTW can't stop playing Landed, great song.

    1. It's SUCH a good song. And with the orchestra...ugh, mindblowing.