“Just Try” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

This song has a weird way of sounding sparse even though there’s several layers to it.  Maybe it’s the drums that make it this way.  The song starts off with a sparse drum track that sounds like one of those pre-programmed percussion tracks you can select on your keyboard to help you keep time.  It could be the opening of an early ‘90s New Jack slow jam.  It stays simple throughout the song with just a few extra hi-hat hits on occasion and maybe a few isolated hits on a tambourine.  

The bass seems simple too.  It blends in with the keyboards throughout the song except for a few walk downs during the verses.  The keyboards are more layered.  The base keyboard track is has an organ sound playing chords that stretch out into time.  The second keyboard track has more of a woodwind sound.  It floats over the surface, playing higher notes, adding accents to everything else going on.  The third keyboard track is a rather Beatles-esque piano playing alternating notes before the chorus and playing chords at a steady tempo the rest of the song.

The lead vocal is soft and full of longing.  There is a whispered overdub track that’s not quite in time.  This kind of trick might be considered sloppy elsewhere but here it fits.  The layered harmonies really prop up the main vocals.  The ‘ba-ba-ba-da” backup vocals help to keep the vocals moving where it could have lagged if it was just the main vocal alone.  The backup harmonies in the chorus weave in and out of the keyboards and the guitars in an intoxicating way.  You can feel how hard the singer wants us to just try.

The main guitar plays lonely notes over the verse with reverb and a hint of overdrive.  The notes drop down during the chorus to make space for a second guitar with a clear tone and reverb playing punctuated chords that hit you like the pangs of isolation.  And isn’t that just what isolation is like – seconds blending into each other only to be interrupted searing, reverberating memories of how things used to be.

This song and the next are sort of codependency companion pieces.  It never occurred to me before, in part because the themes are not in the order you would expect.  We are dealing with the pain of loss first.  It isn’t until the next song that we hear the joy in the relationship before it’s end.  So, yes, it’s out of order – a bit like a Quentin Tarantino film or a George Lucas trilogy.  But once you know this, it’s easier to follow along.

So this is how it feels when you’ve got no one
So this is how it feels when you’ve got no home
I don’t wanna be alone
Sitting by a no ringing telephone
I don’t wanna be alone

Sometimes these tales I write about my life come out sounding like I am the hero of my own story.  I do not intend this.  I do not think of myself as a hero.  Sometimes the more complicated details get left out of a story because it doesn’t fit the lyrics or it bogs down the narrative.  If you were to observe me in the wild, you would find me much more complex than what is represented here.  I can’t decide where this story fits in the hero paradigm.  It is either conclusive evidence that I am not a hero or it is the best hero story I have.  I don’t know…

When my ex broke up with me last year, the decision came down hard, angry and without warning.  A Sunday begins by relaxing in bed, playing video games and eating junk food; it ends with your real life turned upside down.  She has moved to the other side of the house and you are crying in bed, alone and heaving up every bit of that junk food you ate in the morning.  This is how it feels when you realize that you have no one now and the home you thought you would have for the rest of your life is gone.  

Food did not pass my lips again for several weeks.  I lived on coffee and nicotine until my stomach could no longer handle the coffee either.  I passed the time by chain smoking and staring off into space.  The breaking of a heart is a physical experience as much as it is anything else.  It was rather like withdrawing from drug.  My body shivered constantly though I was not cold.  I could not sleep nor rest.  The excessive bile in my gut passed through me any way it could, almost like my body was purging itself of a poison.  

So we’ll just try
Just try…

I wanted this to be over and for things to go back as they were.  I pleaded with my ex that we work together to find some way through it, that we just try.  I begged, my voice as full of longing as the singer in the chorus.  She was not interested in trying.  The conditions she set for even beginning to try were more than I could ever meet.  

I still tried on my own.  I thought that if I said the right words, some magical phrase, or did the right things, I could convince her that our relationship was worth some effort.  It had not yet dawned on me that if you are with the right person, you don’t have to work so hard to convince them that you and the relationship are of worth.

So this is how it feels when you’ve got no eyes
So this is how it feels when you’ve got no one
I don’t wanna be alone
Sitting by a no ringing telephone
I don’t wanna be alone

I felt blind.  I was surrounded by darkness and could not feel my way through.  I was scared.  But time in the darkness gains you night vision.  Your sight adjusts until you can spot variations in the blackness and begin make out shapes surrounding you.  It turns out that night vision was what I needed to spot the subtle variations of my psyche that I missed in the light of day.

I was sitting on my bed shivering, covered in blankets, when I realized that I was shivering because I was afraid.  I asked myself, “What are you so afraid of?”

“I’m afraid of being alone.”

It seems like such an obvious thing, but I did not know it until that moment.  I tried to track this fear of being alone back to it’s source.  When was the last time I felt alone?  I peered on the expanse of my life and I saw how much I had done to avoid being alone.  All the relationships I jumped into, all the shit I put up with just to try to keep the peace and keep a relationship going.  And all of this was done with the complete ignorance that my motivation was to never be alone, whatever the cost.  

My mind raced past all the years until I saw myself as an eight year old girl with pigtails and a secondhand sweater, sitting on the ground playing in the dirt and rocks, alone.  That little girl had to endure things that no one should and she did it alone, with no friends and little family support.  She couldn’t leave.  She couldn’t change what was happening.  She could only do the best that she could to protect herself and survive.

This is what being alone meant to me.  It is no wonder I worked so hard for so many years to avoid it.  It frightened me so much that I consciously avoided any awareness of it.  But now it was named.  After decades of running from this unknown monster, it was known and it was named.

It is a funny thing that I was able to keep myself blind to it for so many years, especially since I listen to songs like this one  that call out this fear, plain and true.  I have I really been singing this song for years without even recognizing the many ways it calls out what is at the core of my being?  How is it that a reasonably intelligent person can be so clueless?

So we’ll just try
Just try…

Now that I understood this about myself, I looked back on my relationship with new eyes.  The reason I wanted to try to mend the relationship was less about any love for her and more about my fear of being alone.  That’s probably true of the entire relationship.  This is no easy thing to admit about your own motivations, that you would pull someone close and keep them near you, not out of love for them but because you don’t want to be alone.

Of course, I didn’t consciously know this.  I believed that my love for her was independent of any needs of my own.  The mind will trick you like that, you know.  But you don’t have to necessarily know that a you are committing a crime to be charged with it and convicted of it.  I plead guilty.

This is the evidence that I am not a hero.  But, at the same time, it is the best hero story I have.  Erich Fromm says that this fear of being alone is the central anxiety that we try to overcome all of our lives.  It is the human condition.  It’s what drives us to get married and have children.  It drives us to create, to write, to do crazy things like join marching bands.  It’s why we read or listen to music – to know that we are not alone.

In its darker impulses, it drives us to possess.  We scramble for money, power and influence to gain more and more.  We segregate off into little tribes where we feel we belong.  We wage wars to keep what we have.  The struggle of all of human history boils down to this.  How many of us are willing to admit that it’s all because….

I don’t wanna be alone

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