When someone I care about has suffered a loss, I look for some little thing to give her to show I’m concerned. My grandmother, Joan, taught me to do this. For her, it was baked goods and garden fresh flowers bundled in cheap vases that served as presents for the broken-hearted. I gave her a hundred little things growing up: homemade cards, a painted birdhouse, my best art project from the third grade….little things to cheer her sad eyes.
As I take this last corner around the track of grieving over my divorce, I think not of the humbling loss, but of the endless gentle gestures of friends and family. Like aloe on a sunburn, these tokens of time and material have soothed the burn. The books, phone calls, music, and innumerable moments of sympathy have kept me going.
Distraction from my situation has been very helpful; and many of my friends have taken me out. As soon as I told my BFF what was happening, before hardly anyone else knew, she brought me to my favorite pub for Hammerhead Ale™. A couple weeks later, another good friend was in town and did the same. More lunches, dinners, and Happy Hours have I enjoyed with the coolest friends anyone could hope for. Though I’ve pulled back on the drinking, and my waist line thanks me for it, I’m still living the life of a lady who lunches.
Travel has been another gift. My uncle flew me out to California soon after the announcement, and he and his wife kept me sane during the most intense part of the experience. They flew in to PDX and checked on me a couple times during those early months. Now, I’m preparing for another trip to see them, this time with my wonderful kids. It’ll be our first proper family vacation.
Time is of the essence, I’ve heard it said, and this is certainly true with friendship. Another one of my friends donated many hours of her time hanging out at my house, assuring me everything was okay. I half way believed her. She makes me laugh, which is the best medicine.
My mom and stepdad have been my rocks through the whole ordeal, and I am immeasurably grateful for them. Not only do they give emotional support, but little gifts as well. Mom’s bought me a lot of cute clothes to cheer me. There have also been many lattes. Starbucks should keep our photo on their wall. My stepdad gives fatherly presence; and I don’t care how much of a feminist I am, nothing makes me feel safer than a big hug from a father figure. My parents have both been through divorces and they know how miserable it is. They also appreciate how sensitive I am, and how hard I take things, without judgment.
There have been moments when this process hurt so badly I didn’t know if I could take it: but I did. I have survived; this is due to the loving support of friends and family. Loving company has kept me out of harm’s way, and prevented me from making stupid mistakes out of fear of being alone.
The following is a playlist my sister sent me, which is perhaps the best list ever assembled for grieving and divorce. I listen to this two CD compilation every day now.
Patty's Perfect Break-Up Playlist
1. “Rolling in the Deep” This is the only Adele song I like. It was written by a Minnesotan.
2. “No More I Love Yous” Annie Lennox knows how to sing the blues, I tell you
"t"Terrible Love” This song by the National is great, but the whole album High Violet is exquisite. I listen to it every goddamned day.
4. “Country Feedback” This REM song has been one of my favorites since high school; but I don’t think I understood its meaning until about eight months ago.
5. “Deathly” Aimee Mann’s entire library could fit into this playlist. "So don't work your stuff because I've got troubles enough. No, don't pick on me...when one act of kindness could be deathly."Ah, jeez...she gets it.
6. “Nothing Is Good Enough” Aimee Mann again. She sings, “Nothing is good enough for people like you.” Amen sister!
7. “Sunny Came Home” Shawn Colvin is a master songwriter. This is her opus. I like this song because it’s earnest, “Sunny came home with a box of tool, she didn’t believe in transcendence.” Great line.
8. “Fear” Sarah McLaughlin does female power and vulnerability better than just about anyone. The lyric, “I have nothing to give, I have so much to lose here,” is something almost anyone can relate to.
9. “Poker Face” My sister and older son love Lady Gaga, and listening to this song, I do too; though I'm unsure what it has to do with divorce.
10. “The Con” Teagan and Sara are identical twins, so my sis and I love them.
11. “Why” Again with the Annie Lennox. I’ve listened to the album Diva a thousand times over the last eight months. Best divorce album ever!
12. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” I loved Sinead O’Conner’s music when I was fourteen, but then largely forgot about it. These two selections remind me why she deserved her fame.
13. “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance” It doesn’t get any better than this for break-up music.
14. “Heavy in Your Arms” I adore Florence and the Machine. This song is what I call “vagina music” in the best sense.
15. “My Doorbell” The White Stripes were awesome, and this song is slap happy goodness. It’s only related to a break-up in that, well, sometimes you’ve got to wonder when the next person will ring your bell.
16. “Seven Nation Army” Patty’s mind wandered.
17. “Purple Rain” No need to explain. Prince does it for me.
18. “Cold” Annie Lennox, “Dying is easy, it’s living that scares me to death.” Most honest line ever.
19. “Driving Sideways” Aimee Mann again, etc…
20. “Good Friday” An overlooked song by an overlooked band. The Black Crowes groove; and this song is perfect to my situation. The marriage officially ends Friday the 13th. True story.
21. “Little Motel” Modest Mouse is amazing, and this song breaks my heart every time.
22. “Think Twice” John Lee Hooker is legend, and this is why. “Serves you right to suffer, serves you right to be alone.” Yeah.
23. “You Got Lucky” Tom Petty brings a “go to hell” sensibility to the break-up song. Bless him.
24. “Don’t Come Around Here” Oh Tom, when there’re kids in the picture, you see the ex all the time!
25. “Donut Hole” Tori Amos pens how you can feel hollowed out on the inside from grief, and what happens to the soft middle, who knows.
26. “Not Alone Anymore” The Traveling Wilbury’s album was played in my mother’s car for three years straight when I was growing up. Now I know what the hell Roy Orbison was crooning over. It hurts, damned it!
27. “End of the Line” The Traveling Wilbury’s again. And it is.
28. “Little Bird” Annie Lennox claims the spirit of the emerging heart expertly here. Another pick could have been “Lark Ascending” in Vaughn Williams’ 5th Symphony…but that would be a bit esoteric for this crowd.
So there you have it: the best break-up songs and a huge thank you to my family and friends, and my online community. I didn’t know how much I am loved until my husband didn’t love me anymore.