This week, we’re departing from our usual format for A Very Special Edition of Friday Nights Alone. We’ll be back in our normal timeslot
next week at some point.
… and then there was one.
No matter the circumstances, breakups are never easy. Even the best breakup is, somewhat by definition, a worst-case scenario. Regardless of your intentions (or theirs), the reality of the thing is a brutal, messy affair that often catches you flat-footed and leaves your thoughts rife with self-recrimination and longing.
So what’s the solution? How do you unburden your anguished heart? Hell if I know, dude. This is a music website – I just recommend songs. The best I can do is give you some sick jams to get you through the rough patches.
There are quite a few musicians that do breakups pretty well – Amy Winehouse, Regina Spektor, and Fleetwood Mac all come to mind – but if you’re looking to trade blinding despair for some shred of self-actualization, I’d recommend Florence & The Machine. Normally we only recommend a single song on FNA, but today I’m going to let Ms. Welch and her crew paint a triptych for us.
Act One: Delilah
This is perhaps a controversial opinion, but I think that the existential dread that precedes a breakup is almost as bad as the breakup itself. You can convince yourself of all kinds of things in the days or weeks between when they start to pull away from you and that inevitable moment that they deliver the coup de grace. Those are frantic, desperate hours as you wait for the blow, and they drive people to do frantic, desperate things.
“I’m gonna be free and I’m gonna be fine / But maybe not tonight.”
I suppose in these cases the old adage rings true: “If you have to ask, you already know the answer.” Equally prescient is Florence’s assessment: “I’m gonna be free and I’m gonna be fine / But maybe not tonight.”
Act Two: St. Jude
Saint Jude, as Florence mentions, is the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. As a Catholic, I’ve said uttered many an “Ora Pro Nobis” in my day, and I can tell you that intercession alone will not heal a broken heart, unless you are far more devout than I am.
They say time heals a broken heart, but I’m skeptical of that, too. The passage of time alone will not save you, for her currents ebb and flow – any burden that you set adrift in those waters may very well find its way back to you.
If anything, what truly heals a broken heart is fatigue. The tempest in your heart will rage as long as it needs to, but the violence inside any storm is finite. Let your heart thunder until it is worn out. Then go about picking up the pieces as best you can. In the meantime, try not to be so mad at yourself. Or them, for that matter. Who among us can command the winds?
Act Three: Lover to Lover
I actually wanted to write a post about this song a few months ago, but ultimately decided against it because I was dating someone at the time and it seemed weird to praise a song about failed relationships. Well, SPOILER ALERT – not the case anymore, so I’m gonna take a crack at it.
A couple of months ago, I helped an ex-girlfriend pack up all of her worldly possessions on her last night in town. When we were done, she and I grabbed a quick meal and played the sort of sad, half-hearted catch-up that you play with someone you used to have feelings for and haven’t seen in years. She asked me how I’d been, and the only thing I could think to say in reply was: “I dunno – that’s a hard question. I feel like I’ve lived a couple of different lifetimes since I saw you last.”
But more than anything else, I’ve survived, you know?
For the most part, I think that was a true assessment. I was a concert blogger. I dabbled in social media and more serious writing. I traveled (a little). I dated (a lot). I’ve continued the cycles of love and loss that have become so familiar to me in my adult life. But more than anything else, I’ve survived, you know? And I’ve pledged my fealty to those things that help me survive.
As F&TM note in the song that made them famous: “Leave all your love and your longing behind / you can’t carry them with you if you want to survive.” I think the common interpretation of “Dog Days Are Over” is that love is a good thing and that Florence is trying to convince herself to stop running, but I’ve always taken those lyrics literally, and maybe that’s my problem.
After we finished our meal, I bade my friend farewell and got in my car, heading west. It was late in the day, and this track came on as I got on the freeway – literally as I was riding off into the sunset. It seemed fitting, somehow.
“There’s no salvation for me now / No space among the clouds /
And I feel I’m heading down / But that’s alright”
No matter how long your storm rages, no matter whether you chose to prioritize love or survival, I hope you all get a chance to ride off into the sunset of your own choosing. Good luck, kids.