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a life that is shifting {self-portrait challenge}

liz lamoreux

gone again (dancing)

An imperfect person living in her life.

I grew up listening to Paul Simon. I have distant memories of Saturdays and my mom stacking several records on the turn table and hearing her sing along. I will suddenly know the words to a song and it is because of those Saturdays and that stack of records. I sometimes wonder how many songs I really know (and how I would not have failed chemistry in college if it had been taught in song).

Back in June, Paul Simon’s newest album, Surprise, was the first album I downloaded onto my iPod nano. And I listened to it over and over again. On an afternoon in June, I pretended for a moment that he was sitting on a stool singing to me. And somehow in that moment, with my eyes closed and my ears and heart absorbing every word, I believed he really was there. And he has been singing to me ever since.

I am still absorbing the fact that I saw him in concert last month because, well, you see, I really do think he is singing to me. His words have hit me in a way that forces me to stop and listen and reflect and navigate a bit differently. And now he is appearing to me in dreams. He is literally singing to me in my dreams now. I wake up and think, “Paul is trying to tell me something else. Better listen to him today.”

Last week, I was listening to the album Still Crazy After All These Years while I was working. The second time it was playing through, I has paused my work and in the deep breath of a moment, I was struck by the song “Gone at Last.” So I played it on repeat a few times and danced and sang and danced some more.

Gone, gone, gone at last
Gone at last, gone at last
I had a long streak of that bad luck
But I’m prayin’
it’s gone at last

With this song it is partly the beat that got me off my feet and got me to pay attention. But then it was these words that had me tearing up in that “oh shit, you so are validating all I have experienced, the crap and the good and the big crap and the fantastic” way. Those tears that prick at the back of my eyeballs because I know I am not alone in how I feel, how I “get it.”

Once in a while from out of nowhere
When you don’t expect it, and you’re unprepared
Somebody will come and lift you higher
And your burdens will be shared
Yes I do believe, if I hadn’t met you
I might still be sinking fast
I’ve had a long streak of bad luck
But I’m praying it’s gone at last

I cannot believe how much my life has changed in the past 18 months. I. cannot. believe. it. And although I believe I was on this path to begin with, I still know that things have shifted. And, it is only because of a broken heart, the deepest of grief, that my path shifted. I know I have written about this idea before, but I just need to say it again and again and again because it simply rocks me. That such sadness could bring such life and meaning to my world. To be given a gift of myself even when the grief claws at me. It is astounding.

In the song “Graceland,” Simon sings,

And she said losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow

I don’t think you understand what this means until, one day you do. Someone asked me recently if losing my grandmother was the first time my heart was broken. And I said yes. But the truth is that is not the case. There have been other moments where my heart hurt. However, this was the first time I understood. That is the difference. When my parents divorced, the pain was deep and confusing, and I didn’t understand. Other moments in my life have been like this, painful but I didn’t understand the pain.

When I stood in that funeral home, in one swift moment I understood. I understood all of it. I understood everything.

I walked into that room as one person and walked out as another version of myself. Though only one piece of my reality had changed, it was clear that this new understanding shifted everything.

Back in June when I closed my eyes and Paul Simon sat on a stool in my bedroom singing to me, the words to “Once Upon a Time There Was Ocean” sang in my heart because I knew the singer of this song understood this idea. Understood me. And so began my love affair with the poetry of Paul Simon’s lyrics.

I figure that once upon a time I was an ocean
But now I’m a mountain range
Something unstoppable set into motion
Nothing is different, but everything’s changed