Obsessive compulsive listening

This is what I do when I'm feeling particularly crazy: Listen to the same songs on repeat. The same damn sad, crazy-making songs. Sometimes I make entire playlists.

Two years ago it was the title track from Arcade Fire's Suburbs record:

"I would rather be alone than pretend I feel alright."

Just over and over again in the car.

Last month it was an Elliott Smith CD, also in the car. You know, 'bottle up and explode' strikes a certain chord when you're feeling angsty and anxious.

A decade ago when I was in grad school it was, for a while, Aimee Mann's Lost in Space. The entire damn album, all the time.

Well, not all the time. But once or twice a week I'd make the drive to Oakland in the mid or late afternoon. I'd usually be running late and probably driving too fast and listening to Sahara Hotnights or Franz Ferdinand or Joan Jett or Jawbreaker or anything else to keep my energy high, primed for a long afternoon-into-evening of class.

Then at the end of the night--usually around 9pm--I'd head home alone, trying to digest everything I'd learned and observed and talked about in classes and workshops. The energy level would be quieting by this point, trending down. And although I'd still feel residual bits of it pulsating through my veins,  I also felt very, very alone.

I mostly loved graduate school, but being a commuter student made it difficult. I couldn't participate in a lot of the extra-curricular activities--anything from readings to just getting drinks after class. That was isolating. But it also gave me a lot of time to think (for better or worse). This was before smartphones so I'd often keep a digital voice recorder in the front seat and record story ideas, scenes, dialogue, etc.

But mostly I just rolled down the windows and blasted the music.

It's approximately 80 miles between Oakland and Sacramento and on a clear weeknight with little traffic it's a straight shot that takes your car out of the city's urban core into the Bay Area's suburbs and exurbs and finally spills you into s stretch made up of rolling hills and farmland. On cloudless nights, the sky is cut through with glittering stars and if you look to the left you can find the Big Dipper.

Lost in Space, which came out the year I started grad school, makes for the perfect soundtrack on such nights. Those two-and-a-half years I made the commute, that CD never left my car and many nights I'd hit play repeatedly on one particular song, "It's Not," as I tried to work through things in my head:

"I keep going round and round on the same old circuit
a wire travels underground to a vacant lot
where something I can't see interrupts the current
and shrinks the picture down to a tiny dot
and from behind the scene it can look so perfect
but it's not.
So here I'm sitting in my car at the same old stop light
I keep waiting for a change, but I don't know what.
So red turns into green turning into yellow
but I'm just frozen here in the same old spot
and all I have to do is press the pedal
but I'm not."

OK, I get it. I'm flying down the freeway and the song is about being static--stuck. But trust me, it works when you're feeling all sorts of feelings--sad, confused, exhausted, stressed, mixed up, angry, maybe even happy or just bristling with unburned energy, whatever--not to mention musically OCD and maybe it's just that one song that will get you through.

Or at least get you home.


Every 1's a winner

This Hot Chocolate song has made almost every single damn playlist I've concocted in the last eight months. It just narrowly escaped my annual holiday comp.

The song played over that scene in Frances Ha--you know the one when Greta Gerwig's character is in Paris, alone and trying to figure shit out--just did me in.

In both the worst and the best way possible. Meaning it brings up so many feelings. So many memories. So many, many intangible things.

I could watch that scene over and over again, but that's not really an efficient use of my time I guess. So, instead, I just listen to the song on repeat sometimes.

It helps with the depression. In fact it's on my official 2014 Depression Playlist (don't laugh--that's really a thing).

But more on that later.

Until then:

On falling into that vacuum

Today L'Wren Scott, a noted fashion designer, reportedly committed suicide by hanging herself in her Manhattan apartment.

She was 49, and news of her death shook me.

I didn't know her of course. I knew her name though--I'd seen it in magazines, accompanying photos of celebrities wearing her clothes--beautiful pieces that were both modern and retro cool. 

But really that's all I knew of her. Until this morning I didn't know she'd been dating Mick Jagger athough following news of her death that seemed to be the most defining characteristic about her--at least judging by all the headlines that played on some variation of "Mick Jagger's Girlfriend Commits Suicide."

That angered and frustrated me--clearly L'Wren Scott was an accomplished woman in her own right--but that's not why I'm writing about her now.

I'm writing about her because news of her suicide took me to a very sad, very dark place.

She's not the only famous person to do such a thing of course (and here I'm making an assumption that the report of suicide is true, based on what little I know--perhaps it's not fair, I get that) but for me, today, learning of L'Wren Scott's death felt like a note of sadness that echoed to my core.

Have you ever felt suicidal?

I have.

It is a horrible, awful and dark, dark feeling. It is the feeling of loneliness and despair and pain and emptiness and a lack of hope and an absence of all things good--all things beautiful and worth living for. It is all those feelings, wrapped tightly into a home-made hand grenade barbed with self-loathing.

It is a feeling that creates a black hole, a vacuum. A vacuum that can feel near impossible to escape.

And, for some that vacuum does become inescapable.

When I thought about L'Wren Scott today, I felt my mind and my heart and my stomach return, very briefly, to the place that overcame her mind, heart and stomach this morning. And all at once I felt horrible and sad and something of a survivor's guilt but also relief that I climbed out of that place. When you learn that someone's succumbed to those feelings that relief is both overwhelmingly comforting, but also it's no solace at all.

Please, please, please if you feel yourself falling into that vacuum, talk to someone. A friend, a therapist, a doctor, a complete stranger.

Anyone, please.