Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Autism Answer: When the Song Ends


My oldest son

"As my body moves inside the song, as the lyrics push my hips in uncontrolled urgency, as my arms reach outward into space then pull that space tighter to my sweating, swerving, swinging body - a body that is mine but not mine; given over to the song, a song with words of pain and crescendos of desperate loneliness and need - I close my eyes tighter, pushing the darkness in all directions and joining it with my energy. I invite the loneliness and pain to pull me apart, I push my arms out, I sing along and swing, sweat, sing. I know this song and it is near the end so I scream the lyrics louder, move myself farther in and out with the melody, ride the wave of emotion to it's very last drop. The song ends. I'm spent. My eyes open and the world is still here, I am still here, the cat is looking at me funny. If my memory serves, there are still dishes in the sink. Also, my knee hurts a little. But I feel fantastic. I've been here in this room, dancing, but also gone, disappeared into the pain and loneliness of the song, experienced it with every bit of body and energy I could muster, and it was intoxicating. What story will the next song bring? What feelings will I fall into and fill up now?"
I feel so much when I'm dancing. And though I love all kinds of songs, it's the ones about pain, particularity about self-loathing or self-destruction, that force my feelings around the room with the greatest amount of emotion. I freaking love dancing to those songs. They don't bring me down in any way but, instead, bring me something more. I'm not sure what it is, exactly. Maybe I feel less alone, maybe I feel grateful to not live in that place of self-loathing while still able to recognize it and remember most of us will experience it and that's okay. Maybe I just like pushing on a bruise. I don't know what it is but I do know I feel happy, I feel joy, I feel connected to everything and everyone after a stint of dancing, especially to those songs. 
Those songs tell a story that I would argue is not a nice story, not a positive story, not a sweet story. But they are raw and real, they say things that are hard to say in ways that are both personal and universal. It's powerful poetry where I can recognize parts of myself or loved ones and feel not so awful about the awful stuff. Because it is something in a song, I can dance it out, I can sing along to lyrics that depict someone else's version of our similar awful feelings and we're not alone. 
I am a true deep absolute believer in being intentional and careful with the stories we tell. (I'm an annoying person to watch, read, or listen to stories with because I have strong opinions on the power of stories and my passion pushes those opinions out in words more often than not.) But I don't believe we should tell only good stories, or only stories that have a happy spin. 
I think we do our healthiest storytelling when we care about using our words to add something meaningful or thought provoking or unexpected. When we tell stories, to ourselves or others, in order to explore, consider, reconsider. 
And I think we do our healthiest audiencing when we care about how we are affected. When we choose the stories we read, watch, or dance to carefully. When we pay attention to where we pay attention and how it moves us. If songs of hurt and self-loathing only steep you in feelings of hurt and self-loathing, don't choose them. And if they bring you joy don't let the fact that it's strange for them to bring you joy stop you from feeling the joy. It is, however, a good idea to consider why they bring you joy. 
Which brings me back to my dancing. I'm not sure why I love those songs, but I think it has something to do with having a place for those feelings. A place I can feel them without continuing to feel them after the song ends. 
That's the thing about stories. They bring us somewhere, tell us things, give us new perspectives and ideas, then - they end. 
But they also don't end, because they're part of our memory. 
And we are left to live with their influence.
We are still here, the cat looking at us funny, when the song ends.