You know, the ones that rip your heart out from your chest before kicking it against the wall. THOSE old songs. The songs that we can never seem to separate from the moments they remind us of. Sometimes it’s a good thing. There are several songs that remind me of my time stationed in NAS Pensacola when I was a young Marine, a leader amongst my peers, and in the happiest relationship of my life. “Have you Forgotten” by the Red House Painters and “Death and Destruction” by Weezer, especially, take me back to the summer of 2002. I can smell the cleaning products ever-present from the mandatory cleaning of my barracks room. I can see the Marines in the smoke pit outside my third story window and the walkway to the gym besides them. I also remember the sleepless nights caused by staying up on the phone with my girlfriend. Once, I was on the phone so long that one of my buddies came knocking on my door telling me that I was late for our physical training. I hadn’t realized it was the following morning.
When that relationship fell apart many years later, those songs no longer brought me kind memories and peace of mind. They began to torture me and give me stomach aches. I, being the masochist that I am, would play them often knowing the damage they caused me. I justified it in my mind by convincing myself that eventually I would play them out and break their association with the past. In the Marine Corps, we would train in ground fighting techniques that would involve “body hardening”. Body hardening was the constant striking to certain parts of the body used to fight in order to kill the nerves that cause pain in them. Shins, forearms, and legs were especially painful. It is the same theory I applied to my constantly playing of music that would cause me sadness. I had hopes that I would eventually become numb to it. It never worked. To this day, those old songs are linked to my past and the memories of my failed relationship with the woman who I was at one point engaged to.
There is a difference now, however. And perhaps it’s because a lot of time has passed since those days, but those memories no longer hurt me. The images are still there, as are the smells, and sounds. But, the feelings are no longer present. I feel detached from what I felt in those moments. Very similar to remembering a dream. I know that I was happy and I know that I was sad, but I don’t feel it when I think about it. I am sure that time helped heal those wounds, but I also have to credit my meditations on detachment.
Before I could separate myself from those painful feelings, I had to face them and really observe every aspect of what I did and what happened to me in my relationship. My memories were no longer flashes of certain moments, but instead long dissections and analysis of failures in communication and proper actions. I broke everything down and realized my faults. I was also able to see that the relationship had warning flags from the beginning that I chose to ignore because I was having such a good time. When I accepted the truth, it was easier to begin letting go of those feelings. The past will forever be the past and I will always be linked to it. We will be linked by those moments for the rest of our lives just as we are linked to our best friends growing up that we have lost contact with. They were special too and we are fine without them now. We can be grateful and remorseful without ceremony.
I burned all the pictures of my ex along with all her letters and notes earlier this year. I know I could have tossed them, but I had to see them turn to ashes. I did not want them rotting in a landfill. Why? I don’t know. I guess it was the closure I needed. Seven years turned to smoke in minutes. I don’t regret it. I am glad that I no longer have to think about that box and what to do with it. There was a feeling of “what if we work it out in the future?” for some time, but I could no longer allow that to happen. Sometimes you have to cut your losses short and know when to walk away. I would have never found the peace that I have now in that toxic relationship. I am not saying she is a bad person because she is not. I am sure she still has all the qualities that made me fall in love with her and I wish her the best in life wherever she is. I honestly do. We weren’t a good match, that is all.
There is no doubt that many of us attach our feelings to music. I know my life has a multiple-disc soundtrack to go with it! I think we all do, whether we really know it or not. Music is magical. It does a lot for us. Definitely more than I have the time to write. There is nothing wrong with tying emotions to music. That attachment often unites us. Mix-tapes have become play-lists, but we still enjoy sharing our favorite music. And if it brings pain, then we must detach ourselves from the pain and not the pain from the songs. Perhaps, some day, you may be down on your luck and your only option may be to let the music speak for itself, so let it speak when you can’t say anything. Good things may happen.