You’ve probably heard the song “Pompeii” by Bastille. It was apparently a global hit back in 2013. But for whatever reason, it didn’t make it onto my radar until a couple of weeks ago. The first time I heard it, I thought, wow, what a great song. So upbeat. So catchy. Then, a couple of nights ago it came on, and my husband Tony, who likes learning everything about everything, asked if I knew what this song was written about. A breakup, obviously. Or depression. Something like that.
But actually, as Tony explained, it was written as a conversation between two people who were buried in the Pompeii volcano eruption.
And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love.
Gray clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above...
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
Here they are, their entire world being buried under layer after layer of molten rock, and they’re trying to figure out how to find the good in the situation–as if finding this good could somehow fix the unfixable.
The other day Tony and I were talking about a woman he used to know who reminded him of Lorelei Gilmore (from the show Gilmore Girls). He described this woman as both looking a little like Lorelei and possessing her same breezy optimism.
“I wish I had breezy optimism,” I said.” You know, instead of…debilitating fear.”
We both burst out laughing. If you’ve ever thought much about humor, you know that juxtaposing two starkly contrasting ideas can be funny. So can being unexpectedly blunt—especially when what you’re saying is absolutely true.
I’m never prepared for January. After coasting through the holidays, sugarcoated and filled with the warmth of familiar movies, game nights, and a twinkle-light-covered world, I blink my eyes and January’s suddenly upon me full of all this newness and possibility. I’ve heard that some people actually find this time of year exciting. And sometimes, I follow them onto the resolution-making, goal-setting, this-is-gonna-be-the-year-that-I-finally-____________ bandwagon. But I don’t usually stay there long. January is too cold and too dark and too sad a month to be moving forward so quickly. So, I end up back on the couch wrapped in a quilt (or two) and petting a cat (or two).
January isn’t an inherently sad month for most people. But for me, the middle of January holds the memories of a death and a life I once shared. His name was Ed, and over the course of his time on earth, he was many things. A computer programmer. A gamer. A stargazer. A martial artist. A son. A brother. A dear, dear friend. And for a time, he was my husband.
Last night, I didn’t attend an election party or sit glued to the TV watching a map turn red and blue. Uncertainty is especially hard for me, and by now in my life, I know how much I can handle. So, I spent the evening doing normal Tuesday night things. By about 9:30 though, I needed to know something. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the news I was hoping for.
I wanted Hillary Clinton to be our first woman president, but that wasn’t why I voted for her. From her tweets to her speeches to her very life itself, it seemed evident that her main goal was to make life better for others, for the people and populations she served. I know it’s a vague sentiment—making life better for others—but this outward focus of good is something that never seemed to be as important to the man who is going to be our next president. Instead, he focused on the idea of America becoming great again, as if there was some moment in the past when we were great but now we’ve somehow failed in the greatness department.
When I look at America, I see a country of people who are sometimes struggling and often afraid, but I also see a country of people who are doing the best they can in the best ways they know how. Like I am. Like my friends are. Like my family is—both the Clinton and Trump supporters alike.
A couple of nights ago, I walked back inside my grandma’s house to find this little feller (that’s Indiana talk for fellow) hanging out on a window. We’d just been sitting out on the porch, my mom and I, watching evening turn to night and talking about life. In my family, there’s a lot of talking about life that happens at this time of day, and weather and mosquito permitting, it usually happens on a porch swing.
I’m back home in Indiana for a while. My grandma’s been sick and in the hospital twice in the past two weeks. The first time prompted my return from Minnesota. The second time, I was the one who was with her when her left arm went all tingly and numb and she started seeing flashes of light. She felt weak, and I felt helpless.
Isn’t summer the best time to fall in love? Actually, I don’t know if that’s true for me. Almost all of my relationships began when the ground was still covered with snow. But still, there’s something about those warm summer nights that beg to be shared. I think Joni Mitchell might have described it best in “Both Sides Now.”
Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy, dancing way that you feel.
As every fairy tale comes real;
I’ve looked at love that way.
But as hinted at in the last line of that stanza, “Both Sides Now” isn’t a song about love. Not exactly. It’s a song about looking back and seeing that things weren’t always what you thought they were, about realizing how much you still have left to realize.
As a kid, the entire Christmas season lead up to that moment on Christmas morning when I got to open up all my presents. I’d wake up long before the sun had even considered peeking over the horizon, run into my parents’ room, and let them know that it was TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was a big moment.
There are a lot of Christmas mornings in life of a writer. The day you get that book deal. The day the you receive a starred review. The day your book wins that award. (You know the one I’m talking about.) These moments stand out there on the horizon, beckoning us toward them, and promising so much happiness and fulfillment if we can just get there.