Songs

This is how I feel about a lot of people right now.

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This is how I’m afraid I’ll feel one day. I don’t yet, but someday I may.

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I like helping people, especially people I care about. It makes me feel better, for a variety of reasons: My friends’ happiness makes me happy; it reassures me that I’m a good person; I no longer feel like I’m trapped in my castle, unable to feel the rest of the world, unable to understand or sympathize or make a difference. Every time I’m able to make someone smile when they’re sad, it erases a little of the frustrated rage at never being able to protect anyone. Every time I help someone keep going, even if I only make the tiniest difference, the world becomes brighter. The future becomes brighter. My hope for my friends becomes brighter.

It wears me down. Of course it does; how could it not? Life wears you down, one way or another. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. My life is filled with joy and ease and peace. I’m lucky. I have options for my future and love in my present. I have so much. I’ve had my issues, like everyone else, but I was lucky to have them all be inside my head. The world wasn’t actually attacking me; I just had to learn to deal with the harsh, dangerous, crazy thing we call living. I do recognize that my life is blessed – well near perfect – and I do know that I don’t have anything ‘real’ to complain about. I’m not trying to belittle myself, don’t worry. I’m just.. apologizing, sort of, for all the fuss I’ve made over little things. They felt big to me.

I’m grateful for all I have. Truly I am. And all my life, my parents have taught me that when you have something in any abundance, you have to give it to others. Good fortune isn’t meant to be jealously hoarded, but shared with as many people as you can reach. Finally I’m old enough to try, and I’m trying as hard as I can.

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This song used to make me cry.

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My mom doesn’t get it. Or maybe she does, but she can’t stand seeing me in pain any more than I can stand seeing it in my friends, and it makes it hard for her to see why I need to do what I’m trying to do. She doesn’t want me to give of myself so much that I don’t have enough left of me to live my own life. I agree with her, but I don’t want to stop giving of myself. I have to find the balance, yes, the lines I need to draw between my life and other people’s so that my life won’t drown; but I don’t want to draw lines that are too thick just because I don’t know yet what I’m doing. I’d rather draw lines that are too thin.

Pain is a lesson, if you let yourself learn it. It’s like falling down. When you’re little, you run around at top speed, tiny legs hurtling you forward as fast as you can go, until you fall down and skin your knee. Then you wail at the top of your lungs as if your whole world had ended, because you’re not used to the pain. Fast forward a few years: now when you fall and skin your knee, you get up and keep running. You’ve learned to cope with the pain.

Parents want to protect their children from every pain in the world. They all have different ideas on how to do that, but most of them are forced to recognize that sometimes you have to let your children fall down and get hurt. A lot of knowledge and wisdom can be passed on from parent to child, but some lessons need to be learned from falling down.

I’ve stopped telling my mom about my friends’ problems unless they’re so big that I need to get them out immediately. I’ve stopped telling my sister. I never told my dad much, but now I say even less. It’s an automatic response, I guess: if sharing what’s going through my head makes them and me more unhappy than happy, then stop.  It feels like a very teenage thing to do, though I don’t know if it is. It leaves me with fewer people than ever to talk to.

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Sometimes it feels like this song takes what I’m feeling and wraps it up, like thread wrapped round a bobbin, so it’s no longer messy and confusing and impossible to deal with.

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I don’t want to be rescued. I don’t want to be saved. I’m not in any danger, and I’m not trapped. I’m not suffering any more than I choose to. I just want someone – someone who knows, who understands – to give me a hug. To hold me while I shake with held-back sobs, just for a little bit. Not give any advice, not tell me what I need to do or how far I can go or that I have to stop. Just hold me. I just want someone I can go to who believes I can do this, that I’m strong enough and smart enough to do this right, and who will give me a hug. That’s all I need right now. A hug.

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Sometimes this song calms me.

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Belief

The Second World War was pretty hard on the British people. Alone on their islands, they suffered through rations and bombings. Their men were sent to war and their children to the countryside. NeverThere were no street lights at night – their cars barely had headlights. They had to make do with far less than they were used to eating, wearing, living with. Every day they lost more. Every day could be their last.

I’ve never heard of a riot in that time. I’ve never heard of public protests against the war. I’ve certainly never heard of people fleeing the country. I suppose this is due in part, perhaps in large part, to selective teaching. Yet it is impressive, isn’t it? A whole nation bearing such hardships for a cause they believed in.

I don’t know if it would have worked so well today. People don’t believe in things today, not like they used to. Not like that. I think that when the time comes to break under pressure or adapt and survive, most people surprise themselves. But still I wonder – if this happened today, if we had to fight Nazis today – if we had to open the newspaper every day dreading the names we would find there – how would we take it?

Sound SystemsIs that what’s happening with the war in Afghanistan? I know there are families out there that live in dread of a letter on their doorstep, or whatever it is the Army uses to deliver such news in these modern times. But we’re not living it as a nation. We don’t have to worry about blackout curtains and rationed meals. We don’t live in fear, every day, of hearing the awful sirens that mean we must abandon everything – and everyone – and run for shelter.

People used to believe in things. In the government, in justice. We used to believe that there was Good and there was Bad, and all you Rock Climbinghad to do was stay on the right side. They used to believe that the Nazis ate babies, too. When everything is black and white, propaganda can be as liberal as it likes with the truth.

I was listening to a song once – “Shades of Gray” by the Monkees – and my mom said she had always thought that song was about the Vietnam War. She said that that was when America lost that view of things, that perception of Good and Evil as easily defined things. That innocence.

Do Not QuestionNow we are jaded and cynical. Propaganda doesn’t fool us! We don’t fall for those old tricks. We don’t believe in the government. We don’t believe in authority. We don’t believe in justice, in honor. We don’t believe in kindness. We don’t believe in Good. We don’t believe in anything. We don’t believe in belief.

We don’t believe in ourselves. In humanity. In people. In strangers we see on the street. In children we screen for guns. In little old ladies who want to cross our borders. In charities who knock on our door, asking for our money.

How are we supposed to believe when the children carry guns, little old ladies carry drugs, and the people at our door want to take our life savings? What is there to believe in?

We have to believe in something. We’re human. Living without belief just doesn’t work. So what do we turn to? Anonymous hackers who claim to fight for freedom? A government that was made to stand for freedom? Organisations that promise to protect our freedom?

What is freedom, anyway?

Do any of us know? Do you?

If you know, do you have it? Are you fighting for it? Freedom is a privilege, you know. Anyone with power can take it away from you. Can you take it back? Can you do it and not lose yourself in the process?Stand Up

Can we – jaded, cynical, cautious and defensive – can we choose to believe in people? Can we decide that what we’ve been calling common sense is just paranoia and really believe in other people? In strangers we see on the street, in children we screen for guns, in little old ladies and people at our door? Do we want to? Can we afford to? Can we afford not to?

What do you believe?

A Quick Update

If there’s anyone out there who actually cares, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in so long. I’ve been alternately busy and worn out most of last week, and what little time I spent writing here went toward a diary-entry-style post which is really, really long and which will take me a while yet. Perhaps I’ll split it into parts, because it is seriously enormous.

As for what’s been going on, well, I had a lovely week of vacation just now, interspersed with an annoying amount of homework. A few of my friends and I are planning on performing at my school’s Bandfest, at which any student or students may perform any song they please (I do think you have to run it by the teachers once, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I were wrong – this is Denmark, where people are much more laid back about Appropriateness and Correctness). We intend to play Resistance, by Muse. It is the Friday after next, though, so I’m not sure if we’ll be ready. I think so, though. What else? My Danish teacher has decided that my class will be writing an online newspaper now. Huzzah. I get to be a journalist. I have always hated writing newspaper articles, but I have a nagging suspicion they’re good for me, so I’ve decided to bear it all with a heavy air of martyrdom and try to get as much out of it as I can.

One other thing. I found out from facebook today that a girl from my old school committed suicide. A lot of my friends have put up memorial posts, saying what they remember her for and why they miss her. It’s beautiful and sad, and of course I wish it hadn’t happened. I don’t think I ever knew the girl, but I must have gone to school with her at one point, and if I’d stayed in the US I’d probably have met her and perhaps even grown close, considering that she got on so well with the people I got on well with.

The part I feel worse about, though, isn’t even the awkward feeling that I ought to know her. It’s the fact that I despise suicide. I find it cowardly and cruel. This is due to personal experience and is no reflection on this girl, but I can’t keep a bit of my disgust from spilling over onto her, and I think that’s wrong when I didn’t know her and I don’t miss her. You see, the reason I call suicide cruel is that no matter what you may think when you do it, you are hurting more people than you can possibly imagine. You are hurting your family and your friends, but you’re also hurting your classmates, your teachers, your neighbours, distant cousins you haven’t seen in years, people in your band/sports team/after-school club, people who met you a few times and thought you seemed a bit sad but never asked how you felt because they didn’t think it would be polite. All of these people will hate themselves now. They will cry and scream into pillows and feel guilty. They’ll be sure that if only they’d been friendlier, kinder, quicker to notice, you wouldn’t have done it. If they’d known how depressed you were, they’d have done something to help. All you had to do was ask! They’d have helped, of course they’d have helped. But now they spend weeks, months, and sometimes even years wondering why you hated them and yourself so much. And yes, they will feel you hated them, even when they tell themselves it’s not true. What else can they think, when you deliberately caused them such pain?

None of this is the case with me and this girl who died. I didn’t know her, and if I did I don’t remember (and believe me, that – not knowing for sure – is more than uncomfortable enough). It’s sad, of course, and I do feel sad, but in a distant, abstract sort of way. I feel no guilt and no personal attachment, so it’s not fair for me to hate her, even if it’s not really on purpose. Part of me – the angry part – is snarling “Why shouldn’t I hate her? She wasn’t thinking of anyone but herself. She’s just cruel and stupid.” My friends have all written wonderful status updates, all of which make her sound like she was a really wonderful person, and that helps, but I still despise her just a little. I keep re-reading these status updates, hoping they’ll convince me to be more forgiving, but I don’t think it’s working.

Cheer Up

I wish I were better at cheering people up. I want to be the kind of person others come to with their problems, because I want to be the kind of person who can help others. But I don’t know how. The best I can do when someone tells me their problems is listen with what I hope is a sympathetic expression. I try to be supportive, I try not to ask indiscreet questions – I try to make the person feel better, but I know I’m failing. Honestly, the best I can be is a place to air out your troubles. While that’s frequently helpful, there are other people more worth talking to.

Today Squiggle was less boisterous than usual. I don’t know why, and was unable to ask tactfully. She and another friend started discussing how Midnight (who wasn’t in school today) had seemed rather down the previous day, especially in the morning. I didn’t even notice. I felt so inadequate.

Yesterday, Indigo, Midnight and Squiggle got out of school just after lunch. Indigo and Midnight stayed, playing cards. Halfway through my next class, during the ten-minute break, I went down to talk to them. I found that Indigo was deeply unhappy, and asked why. “The usual,” she replied.

I didn’t know what she meant. A year and a half of friendship, and I didn’t know what she meant. Hating that I had to do it, but knowing that it was better than abruptly displaying my ignorance halfway through the conversation, I asked what ‘the usual’ was.

The usual was family. Indigo has a myriad of family issues which she has introduced me to in a haphazard sort of way. I do know that she has problems with most of her family, and even what several of these problems are, but I just didn’t think of it.

I sat there feeling like a jerk and an idiot as she sketchily touched on what the problem was this time. Midnight led the conversation in a slightly different direction, and I tried to lead it even further away without seeming to jump at the chance. I don’t know if I managed, but I don’t even care. That’s not the problem. The problem is that I’m so stupid.

How can I forget this kind of thing? Am I blind? Am I insensitive? Am I so desperately airheaded? Am I too self-centered to remember? What’s wrong with me?

This is why I will never be the one people go to with their problems. I don’t have the insight to see what it is that’s troubling them; I don’t have the skill to painlessly draw out the stories that need to be told, and I certainly don’t have whatever it takes to say the right thing afterward. I wish I did, but I just don’t.

If only – I don’t even know what to wish for. If only I didn’t mind? If only I knew that there was something else I was offering, something only I can do, that might make up for my shortcomings? If only I knew that someone else was ensuring everyone’s happiness, so I wouldn’t have to worry about them. They’re my friends, after all – I do worry. I want them to be happy.

If only I were a better friend.

So Very Sweet

I’m nicer than I think I am.

It’s true. I have a terrible opinion of my own level of kindness. When I was twelve or so I came to the firm conclusion that everyone is born with some light in their hearts and some darkness, and I was born more dark than light. This bothered me, but it was nice to finally admit it to myself.

On the other hand, my parents have raised me pretty well. Despite the fact that I was pretty much a total teenager from age three on up, they managed to teach me consideration for others (and manners). Meanwhile books taught me empathy, and both together taught me compassion. I’m still sometimes careless or forgetful, but I try never to be spiteful or cruel. I think I manage, all in all. In fact, I think I manage so well that no one really knows how self-centered and cynical I really am. Several people have made a point of telling me that I’m nice and sweet and so on, though to be honest it kind of freaks me out. I keep worrying that if I think of myself as being a nice person, I’ll forget to actually be a nice person. And I like being nice. I don’t like guilt or other people’s pain. So I’d rather if people kept that kind of compliment to a minimum, much as I appreciate the thought.

On the other hand, I’m not nearly as intelligent as I think I am.