The Wonders of That Particular Time

Have you ever woken up in the morning and that song is going through your head? I’m not referring to any particular song, just the particular song that happens be to be going through your head when you wake up in the morning that that’s been an occasional earworm for the past two days, and you have no idea why or how to get rid of it.

This morning for me it was Alanis Morissette’s “That Particular Time,” from her album Under Rug Swept.

I was introduced to Alanis with her breakout album, Jagged Little Pill, in the mid-90’s. You live, you learn, naked in your living room, one hand in my pocket, and all that. “Would she go down on you in a theater?” I don’t know. But I do know that “Ironic” is literally the least ironic song on the entire album! What’s with that?

Hey! Maybe that’s the true irony. (Whoa! I think my brain is going to explode.)

I wore out that poor CD listening to it.

Then she promptly disappeared from my radar.

Until… Spotify!

And some very special people entered my life.

It’s meeting the man of my dreams,
And then meeting his beautiful wife.
And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

No, that’s not ironic. What would be ironic is if she happened to be your lover and best friend from college that you haven’t seen in a decade, and if they invited you out for dinner and you reconnected, and if all three of you fell in love with each other, and you all lived happily ever after. That would be ironic. A little unlikely, too, but definitely ironic.

Yeah, I still rant about how “Ironic” is so not actually ironic.

I need to tell that story, because I wouldn’t have been able to until fairly recently. There are so many elements of that happily-ever-after story that would have simultaneously terrified, horrified, and disgusted the old me. What an asshole I was.

At some particular time in the 1990’s or early 2000’s, I stopped buying CDs—even Christian CDs. Maybe it was having kids that made the switch: suddenly I was more interested in my children than with hanging with friends and connecting with myself. Or maybe it was becoming more involved in worship music, where all the songs are already written for you. Or maybe it was becoming more interested in writing and software projects. Or maybe it was running out of money—that’s a different story.

Whatever the case, I drifted away from exploring music. And even though I had fallen in love with artists from the 1990’s, I never followed up with their latest stuff. It wasn’t just Alanis. It was Sheryl Crow, The Verve Pipe, Seal, Joe Satriani, The Corrs, Edie Brickell, Gypsy Soul, Pat Metheny, Norah Jones. And that says nothing about all the artists that I never even got to hear.

At that particular time, love encouraged me to leave.
At that particular moment, I knew staying with you meant deserting me.
That particular month was harder than you’d believe, but I still left
At that particular time.

Spotify has done so much to help me get back in touch with music. I so love music. I adore music. Music comforts me. Music inspires me. Music moves me. Music makes me happy.

At the particular time I deconverted, music was mostly wrapped up in religion. I’ve played in the band in just about every congregation I’ve ever been part of. I was a worship leader at the particular time I decided I no longer wanted to be an Evangelical, a fundamentalist. And when it became unsafe for me to be part of my congregation, when my social support network disintegrated in the span of a week, when the people who supposedly had been my friends chose not to support me as I figured out the meaning of my life—

The music died.

The artist in me died. That part of me that loved sight and sound, story and song, the part of me that felt passion and loved and wrapped itself in beauty and ugliness and found wonder in them both, it died.

I stopped playing music. I stopped listening to music. I stopped reading fiction. I stopped writing.

That last part isn’t completely true. That year I wrote a novel-sized tome in my private journal. The next year, same thing. Then I switched to Facebook, and since then, my timeline has been awash with journal entries. But I stopped writing stories, and I stopped falling in love with the things I wrote. I turned into the middle-aged equivalent of an angsty teenager, and everything was about fear, doubt, anger, hatred, bitterness. Cynicism.

Because the music had died.

Ever since then, I’ve been trying to spark it back to life, but the paddles don’t work.

Hey, come on try a little; nothing is forever.
There’s got to be something better than in the middle.
But me and Cinderella, we put it all together.
We can drive it home with one headlight.

I was in a long-distance relationship for 14 months. We became online acquaintances about the time I gave up my old faith. I really wanted her to know who I was. I don’t know why. About a year later our conversations turned decidedly non-platonic. At that particular time, I wanted to fall in love as I had imagined.

She was artistic and passionate. She introduced me to the Wallflowers. She said that the part of me that loved wasn’t dead, but only asleep, and eventually it would wake up again. It hadn’t gone dark; it was only twinkling, like a star.

And the passion in me stirred, just a little. It was still drugged and dreary-eyed, but enough that I knew that it was there. And I so wanted to slap it awake. And I tried. But it wouldn’t rouse. Even with the intensity of our relationship, I still only barely felt love. I felt need. I felt desire. I felt duty. I felt shame. All the things that I had brought with me from my past, that the Evangelical dogma had drilled into me. But the love was gone. I fell in love with her, but at that particular time, I couldn’t even process that statement.

I’m a man of constant sorrow.
Let the night come soft and slow.
And you can be all kinds of emotional.

I met her on a dating site. She had just begun a new relationship and wasn’t interested in dating a second person at that particular time, but it looked like we might make good friends. I was good with that, as I really didn’t want another relationship either. I just wanted to hang out and go on adventures and discover myself.

We scheduled coffee, and I put together a list of topics we could talk about based on our dating profiles and the messages we had exchanged. I never referred to it once. Several hours later, we were checking our cell phones to see what time it was.

We scheduled lunch for the next weekend. After lunch, we took in a local street festival together. Then we walked down to a local coffee shop. And then took in a movie, which we talked all the way through. (Good thing there was only one other couple in the theater.) And then we sat in her car and talked until I started to yawn. So lunch turned into 12 hours of hanging out together.

The next time we saw each other, we were talking about what it would be like to date each other.

She introduced me to the Lone Bellow. And during one of those early dates, she sang to me in the car, “and you can be all kinds of emotional.” And once when we kissed, my heart broke open inside, and the terror and helplessness leaked out.

How do you know whether a relationship will last? My therapist told me that you wake up one morning and realize that a decade or five has gone by, and that’s how you know.

This person is still one of the most important people in my life. Perhaps until death parts us. We didn’t plan it that way, but sometimes fate presents you with a particular time.

This is in praise of the vulnerable man.
Why won’t you lead the rest of your cavalry home?
This is a thank you for letting me in.
Indeed in praise of the vulnerable man.

But I still didn’t rediscover music, until I met a woman who grew up on Alanis Morrisette. This was not a deep relationship. I don’t know that it ever could have become one. But it turned out to be more meaningful than anyone might have expected.

We met at a local meetup and started chatting online. She told me I let myself be emotionally vulnerable, and she wished more men would. We got together a couple times.

We went out for dinner and drinks one night. She flirted with me like I was cute. She asked if she could touch my beard. She wanted me to kiss her. She put herself in physically compromising positions specifically so that I could misbehave myself. Afterward, I drove home and danced in the kitchen.

At the particular time, I waffled back and forth within my own mind. But if I were to be honest with myself, I wanted to explore this path, wherever it led.

I invited her to my house for dinner. We collaborated on a menu, and I bought the ingredients. We enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal, and then cuddled on the couch and watched a movie together. We played. We slept next to each other. We made brownies for breakfast the next morning. She ignited a passion in me that I had forgotten existed.

And the next day, she said that she didn’t know whether she would do that with me again.

I was saddened, but mostly because I had discovered something about myself: We had just begun getting to know each other, and I wanted to know more. Even if she wasn’t a soulmate, I wanted to explore more. I enjoy following a path to its end, short or long, near or far. Otherwise, it feels like a lack of closure.

We never followed that path together. We are still friends.

She left me with two things: Firstly, impulsive, purposeless joy. Secondly, I started loving music again.

There are experiences that conjure up memories of a particular person who’s entered my life, and some of those experiences are music. But this is different. This is not loving a song for what it reminds me of, but just for the song itself, starting with Alanis Morissette, starting with “Torch.” I had started a Spotify list of my favorite songs. After Alanis, I reconnected with Gypsy Soul, Sheryl Crow, and Edie Brickell, and then I stopped keeping track of individual songs and just fell in love with entire albums.

I miss your smell and your style and your pure abiding way,
Miss your approach to life and your body in my bed,
Miss your take on anything and the music you would play,
Miss cracking up and wrestling and our debriefs at end of day.

These are things that I miss.
These are not times for the weak of heart.
These are the days of raw despondence.
I never dreamed I would have to lay down my torch for you like this.

At some particular time, life stopped becoming a series of moments, a collection of particular times, and started forming a path with loves and goals. I’ve been able to reflect and identify which experiences, which stories, produce my dopamine rush. I can tell you what experiences bring me joy and purpose, and why. And I can tell you what I need to avoid, and why.

I’ve started to put together a story of my spirituality that springs from within me and is not imposed on me from outside. And that’s something I’ve never had before.

I’m hopeful.

I want to follow this path to its end.