Sometimes great tunes happen to bad times, and when the bad time is over, not all the tunes get to move on with you.
Rob Sheffield, Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time
It happened to me again, yesterday. I was hitching a ride home with two friends, and one of them decided to play Snow Patrol’s “You Could Be Happy.” My friend was trying to sing along during the chorus, alternating between humming and guessing the right words; I, on the other hand, was trying to maintain an air of indifference, even though just the first few notes brought me back to a time in my life when I thought I was happy, right before life flipped the switch off and made everything dark. Say what you will about romanticizing break-ups, but that was when songs such as this could make me feel gutted and morose, alone and forgotten in such a wicked, wicked world.
Funny, how a song can sometimes simultaneously stand for such a polarized pair of emotions; specifically, how a song about love could elicit the worst feeling of remorse we are capable of wrenching out from the deepest pit in our heart. I wonder, has it ever occurred to those who wrote the greatest love songs that, at some point, the music and lyrics they’ve laid out for the world to hear could backfire in earnest and be the reminder of the exact opposite?
I remember the talk we had about avoiding places that held memories of those we’ve once loved and lost; how we can’t seem to be in these places - once our favorite spots, once we considered safe havens, maybe even another version of home - because now no matter how discomfitingly familiar everything still is, things will never be the same. And it’s too oppressing to think there is nothing you can do about it - that you were powerless to keep it all together, to keep it all intact. I feel the same way about the songs that once stood for moments in that one relationship held important - I am reminded of a certain weakness, of a failure and a defeat I could never redeem myself from, even if I wanted to, because to do so would mean possibly subjecting myself through all of the pain again. And no, thank you, but I am done with that.
So what I did was find new love songs for myself, ones that didn’t bring anyone specific to mind, ones that carried a blank slate, waiting to be filled with a new memory. I never discarded the old ones, though. I listen to them once in a while, when I feel like remembering things. But a lot like love, I move on from songs make me sad, and look for ones that could make me happy again - songs I am willing to share again with someone, in the hopes of making a new moment to remember things by.
I’ve learned just now, while making this mix, that it’s never the song that attaches itself to a particular moment, good or bad; it’s us who makes the connection, and so we decide if we’ll let this partnership between a song and a moment endure, or if we’re willing to let go and make room for something new.
They’re just songs about love, Chelsea. Let them be.