For the longest time, listening to music – exploring new music, enjoying old favourites, classical accompaniment, an eclectic mix – was a huge part of my life. And somewhere in the last few years, it stopped. I am hard-pressed to find the exact point when I stopped really listening to music, or even wanting to.
I don’t know when it started, but I started to notice it a couple of years ago. Friends would recommend music to me, and I wouldn’t feel particularly bothered about checking it out. Favourite artists would release new albums and I’d just let them go past. I didn’t even listen to the final albums from David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. In general I now run with an audiobook or a talk-podcast playing now, rather than music. And I stopped singing as much as I used to, too.
But it’s starting to slowly come back. I don’t know if it’s the introspective time that I’m spending writing and trying to be more mindful that has opened that door in me. It certainly seems to coincide with starting this blog, but I was writing in the morning for a long time before that.
I don’t know why I stopped listening to music. I tend to feel, however, that it was a bit of a signifier of a deeper malaise. Instead of ever letting music accompany what I was doing, I would turn to tv – sometimes terrible tv shows or movies – as I cleaned, cooked, corrected, or relaxed. All the spaces that had been previously occupied by music got filled by shows and stories. There is all the content in the world out there now, and I can sometimes feel a desire to get through it all. But it wasn’t just that. Watching stuff tunes me out. I exist inside that other story for the duration. I don’t have to experience my own life. Music is like a highlighter around the edges of my actual life.
There’s something else that I think was part of it too.
Now, there’s a long story behind a reference that I’m going to make, but I don’t want to get into the long story right now. For most of the time that I lived in Japan I was in a relationship with someone I’ll refer to as X, because he is most assuredly that. An ex. Anyway, exploring music and discussing it, and working to music together was a big interaction for us. Now huge swathes of music that I might listen to can feel like it’s infected with emotions from that time; whether it’s music we listened to together, I introduced to him, he introduced to me, he liked, he hated, or even just the act of trying out new artists.
Five years with someone is a long time, and I guess any relationship of that length will have some kinds of hangovers into a future life without that person. But this relationship was problematic – for lots of reasons. Again, I’m not trying to be all “hidden and mysterious” here, but it’s a long story. I haven’t decided how much of it I want to write about here at all, and I want to tell things as honestly as I can. And I’m not sure I’ve even ascertained the truth of it all for myself.
Some things that I’ve more recently decided are true are: he was controlling, I was very unhappy during the duration of the relationship, but I hid that from myself and spent a long 5 years learning to really effectively deny my emotions all while doing the dance of acting like I was connected to them. I compromised myself in many ways, and I don’t even recognise the person I was by the end of it.
There’s more to it than what I’ve written here, of course; I’ve already said it’s a long story, after all. And I’ve already said that I am not a white an shining innocent in the entirety of the story. And my guilt and shame over my own actions has probably been a partial reason why I’ve just locked the whole thing up in one box of the past and been loathe to investigate it in a meaningful way.
But it’s starting to feel necessary. It’s starting to feel like cracks are forming in that lock-box. I’m honing my honesty skills and shoring up my emotional strength, so that I can start the excavation.
It really is going to be necessary. I need to go in there and carve out all those “bad” feelings, untangle the festering nest of shame and excise the necrotic flesh.
Now, doesn’t that sound like fun?