Happiness is dangerous. Anger and sadness are manageable because they fill every available space. Fear and longing consume completely, granting satisfying control because at least there is no room left for surprises.
Happiness leaves us open for disappointment. Happiness leaves us open.
God help me. I am happy.
Last April was my first indication that I was losing control. My husband decided to leave his firm and join a smaller one, better suited to him and our family in nearly every way. Immediately, our life began to fall into place, having held itself warily aloft in suspended animation for years.
Feeling our foundation shifting, I excused myself for an evening and drove along the Gulf Coast for a few hours in hope of distracting myself long enough to settle into this new place of mind. And I brought a soundtrack.
I had heard an interview with Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine on NPR’s All Things Considered the day before and had made my annual album purchase as a result. I love music. Loyalty slows me down.
Introduction to Florence + The Machine stirred something long dormant and I took it on the road with me that night.
9pm. I was wandering through dark marsh-surrounded roads of Ocean Springs, warding off thoughts of “lost” and “alligators” when the song “Dog Days Are Over” began playing for the second time. To feel less vulnerable, I had turned the music up, opening the door to hearing the lyrics and absorbing the pulse.
Happiness / hit her / like a bullet in the back
Struck from /a great height
By someone /who should have known better / than that
The dog days are over /
The dog days are done /
Can you hear the horses /
'Cos here they come
Run fast for your mother / run fast for your father
Run for your children and your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind
You can't carry it with you / if you want to survive
I played it again. Again. The entire album. Again. Then I started to cry. I played it again. Again. I screamed the lyrics.
There she was. I hadn’t seen her in years. The walls of glass between us had been fogged opaque, often obscured by hoarded resentment and sadness.
I had been so busy these last few months, I hadn’t noticed the space between us emptying. I hadn’t looked to see that the glass had cleared.
The walls of glass were necessary to build. The pain was too much to bear. Too many responsibilities, too many other people’s needs, their pain and security. I couldn’t let her feel everything at once, so permeable walls had to rise. Muffled light and sound were enough. Just enough. Muffled screams. Raw emotion, dampened.
She was still behind the glass, but her energy vibrated so fiercely that tiny spider web cracks were beginning to threaten the walls. Finally.
One solid bass line through my chest seemed like enough to send the whole defense to its end that night.
I am terrified to let her out. Let her back in. She feels too much. She sees too much. She is too too and damn it, I am finally happy. Albeit muffled.
She takes a deep breath. One scream and the walls will shatter. It is not anger that she screams. It is life.
Can you hear the horses? Because here they come.
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Subscribers click through for NPR interview with Florence Welch
plus video of “Dog Days Are Over.”