“…the only answer is to recklessly discard more armor.”
––– Eric Maisel
I am awakened rudely by construction in the neighborhood. I fight it for a time, but eventually give in and hasten my exercise gear on. I get myself outside for a good walking meditation (my thing these days), and can’t get Hans’ song out of my head.
There are actually lots of songs with my name in the title. The music from the television show Taxi is actually called Angela’s Theme. There’s Helen Reddy’s Angie Baby. Of course, the Stones’ iconic Angie. The Bee Gees have a song. Even Motley Crue, stealing lines from Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary with their own “when the winds cry Angela” lyric.
It can be heady, this idea of your name inspiring song after song, but then again none of them were written for me. So, how heady can I really get?
Until Hans. I’m giving him a kidney in just three more days. This anticipated event has dragged out for nine excruciating bureaucratic months. My best friend pointed out the symbolic time frame as indicative of a kind of birth. But now it’s here, and both of us (Hans and I) have to be bouncing off the walls in our own way. Me, I’m doing these walking meditations every day now for a month solid. It’s equal parts exercise (I really hoof it) and opportunity to live with my own thoughts before my day officially begins with and in the world; to level myself and clear out my brain for the big day. I chant, I do mantras, I work out problems, I talk myself down from ledges, I rationalize behavior, I ask for forgiveness, I defend myself in imaginary arguments, and I thank the Forces That Be for everything.
But on today’s walk, all that activity got shoved to the various corners and crannies of my obsessive brain to make room for memories of last night, going to see Hans play his guitar in a coffee house, and open his set with Angela….written for me.
Interestingly enough, I’ve been involved with countless boyfriends, almost all of whom have been musician/composers, and yet none of them has ever written a song for me. It is either a great poetic juxtaposition, or a really unsettling indication of the impact I have on the people I’m involved with. Of course, I’m also a songwriter, and I’ve never written a song for any one of them either. So, okay, maybe all it indicates is that every one of us is jaded and crusty and we’ve lost all sense of romance and inspiration.
Picasso painted every woman he ever fell for. What has happened to that kind of belligerent romance? The terrible compulsion to celebrate another human being?
So, hearing this song, sung by teenager Hans and his girlfriend and the drummer in his band, was a moment that left me speechless and tearful. A moment that made me realize that inspiration and romance do still exist…. they’re just hiding amongst the young. And if we still want to be touched by it, then the young are who we need to surround ourselves with.
I walked my regular route in the neighborhood, and tried to chant my daily mantra, which usually begins with “Love, reign over me…” (I have tended to find much more prayerful intention in rock songs than I’ve ever found from anything biblical.) “….make me mindful….give me grace…. deliver me from need….fill me with wonder….” etc. Sometimes I chant for winning the lottery, but I sort of get that that’s not really how it works, and so those requests always come with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Today I didn’t care about money or enlightenment. Today I was intoxicated by having had a song written for me, for the first time in my life. I felt like Marie-Thérèse, or Anaïs Nin, or Beethoven’s “immortal beloved”; women who have been painted, written about, composed for, dedicated symphonies. I highly recommend it. Being someone’s muse. It’s a high like no other.
As I walked, I completely tuned out the music that was blasting through the iPod buds wedged in my ear. Explanation: It’s easier for me to do my mantras against music; it’s a deliberate sensory overload; somehow things just stick themselves deeper in the subconscious when they’re too overloaded to have surface impact. It didn’t matter today anyway; I had abandoned my Pete Townsend-inspired mantra and my downloaded pop tunes, to be flooded with Hans’ song. Or rather, the idea of Hans’ song.
A complete stranger who was walking my way held her palm up, and shouted “high five” as we passed each other. I obliged. First time I’ve ever been accosted in that way. And I thought of this woman’s completely loopy bravery. Just to infiltrate a perfect stranger’s sphere, for a split second, and engage. What if I had refused her? Treated her the way we treat the bag ladies who pass us by? I wouldn’t be brave enough to throw my loopiness out there in that way; too afraid of rejection, of having someone look at me like I was nuts. And then I thought of the oddly shaped angle that I was practically on the eve of having surgeons cut me open and pull a kidney out of my body, yet here I was assured that I would’ve been too afraid to be silly on the street with a passing stranger. Which one really takes more bravery?
It takes a special kind of bravery to write a song for somebody. It takes letting down one’s cool guard and daring to show a little vulnerability. Letting the world peek into your opened and exposed heart. And most especially, letting the person for whom the song is written peek into your heart, daring to let them know that you feel, and that they have impacted your life enough to inspire public song.
I once had a boyfriend, a brilliant composer, who, with me, was one day listening to a song written by a friend of ours with a woman’s name in the title. He said, “I don’t think I could write a song with some woman’s name in the title.” He said this with a kind of pride in the claim. I felt sad for him. And sad for myself, as well, because I think that claim was my truth too. We’re all just too cool. Vulnerability is not attractive.
Leonard Bernstein’s Maria, from “Westside Story”, a song of truly loopy and delirious love.
Tom Waits’ Martha, an invocation of sweet, melancholy reminiscence.
The Beatles’ Michelle.
Elton John’s Daniel.
Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.
The list goes on, and on, and encouragingly on. Who knows which of these is based on an actual person, or is merely the playground of fiction? And who cares? Either one still requires a level of unadulterated celebration, and a willingness to abandon cool, which makes someone ultra-cool in my book.
Hans is brave. He is brave to be a musician, going out there in the world for the scrutiny of the jaded. He is brave to have withstood two years of debilitating dialysis, countless surgeries, stem cell experiments, and catheters and fistulas implanted beneath his skin. And perhaps the bravest act of all is his daring to expose his great heart in so many ways, only one tiny example of which is the writing of a song entitled Angela.
(c) 2013 angela carole brown
(3 days later, on July 22, 2008, the transplant successfully took place at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. )
Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.