I wrote this piece in April 2014. In a Creative Non-Fiction Workshop at Eckerd College, I was surrounded by a group of amazing writers. Me, a Human Development major who was NOT used to writing creatively. My college experience was full of technical writing and was pretty stiff. This piece came from a VERY constructively criticized piece about cathartic writing. After getting a C- on the paper (I had never even gotten a B on a college paper before), I had the chance to re-vamp my paper and took it in a different direction following excessive notes. I was very happy that the professor liked the new direction. Here was the end result.
The Break-Up Playlist
Sitting in my car at a stoplight, my ears tune in to the song on the radio. I reach over to turn the music up to the point where it is louder than I can sing. I start belting it out. My hands are motioning as if I’m telling someone off; my facial expressions reflect my utter disdain, annoyance, and anger then go to complete joy when the line says. “We are never ever ever getting back together. We are never ever ever getting back together…”; my eyes open wide and then squint on the verse; and my left leg is stomping along to the beat with the power of a drummer pounding the base petal. Every nerve in my body reacts to the release of emotions emanating from Taylor Swift’s lyrics saying she has had enough. The song ends, I turn the music down to a relaxing decibel and move on as if nothing happened, catharsis. This song was number one on my playlist for about six months after leaving my husband. I reached empowerment through a pop star.
Music can be a powerful tool when going through a break-up. There are songs for every feeling of the five stages of grief. A person can pick songs to reflect the denial/fear of the relationship being over, the anger of getting screwed over, the bargaining to win the relationship back, the depression left from the empty space, and the acceptance/empowerment from moving on. There are some songs that engage all the different stages at once. I know where I’m at in the grieving process by the music that triggers my emotions.
After my next break up, I am back at that stoplight, but the song changed. This time “Roar” by Katy Perry blared through the speakers. “You held me down, but I got up, get ready ‘cause I had enough. I see it all, I see it now…” The lyrics bring me to the point of acceptance by moving me through my anger. The message that I will persevere and come out stronger has a lasting effect. The song even brings in the visual of having “the eye of the tiger.” Now, whenever I see a tiger, I connect it to being a champion of my life. It is amazing what a song can do. This song even made it to my ringtone for about a year. Every time the song comes on, I feel empowered and ready to prove something to myself and to all the people who hurt me.
Katy Perry has mastered the art of creating empowerment anthems for the broken heart. “Roar” and “Dark Horse” reached number one the Billboard charts and “Wide Awake” was number two. These are songs that are playing somewhere in radio land all the time. Her creative team has it down. The second any of these songs come on the radio, the volume goes up and I am physically, psychologically, and energetically moved.
I know this isn’t just me that this happens to. Facebook links to YouTube videos are a popular past time for some. Others choose to share their songs with friends who are currently going through the break-up process. One of my friends made me a CD of her favorites. Since heartbreak is a common thread through humanity, there are break-up songs in every genre of music. Nobody is left out.
Taylor Swift, has crossed multiple genres and age groups. She can touch listener from early childhood with her catchy melodies to mature adults with her authentic experiences. Many fans are intrigued to know who she is referring to in her songs about love and break-ups. This fascination always brings me back to Carly Simon’s song “You’re So Vain.” Questions pondering who it is about still appear in random conversations. Though, some may find Swift whiny, she is honest. She is vulnerable, and she uses her writing as a form of catharsis. For these reasons, her music will continue to touch people during those emotional times.
When I’m going through break-ups, I have a reoccurring conversation in my head. It starts with statements, which include “Do you really think…”, “How was I so stupid to trust you…”, and “You made the biggest mistake by letting me go…” My body tightens up and my eyes squeeze shut with anger, as I use my hands as an outlet for my rage. If I’m having the conversation in a public place, the only thing that’s seen is my hands tightening into fists or my leg zipping back and forth like it is a helicopter trying to lift off. Swift and Perry play out the conversations. Music is the acceptable way to express my reaction publicly.
The break-up playlist is an important tool for dealing with a broken heart. It can remind a person that he/she is not alone. Playlists are the new mixed tape. They are much easier to change, edit, and/or delete. A person can pick songs that fit their mood best. They also can find a place to work through their emotional turmoil in the privacy of their own ear buds, car, or home. Break-up playlists are great for working out. Cardio is a good place to work through the denial, bargaining, and depression stages, while weights are a powerful place to work through anger and acceptance. Each person is different. People need to find the playlist and environment that best suits their processing strategies.
I had a lapse in sanity (more than once) and kept trying to fix an unhealthy relationship. My friends had no option, but to sit back and watch this train wreck over and over. After watching the same event three times, my friend asked me, “What is on your playlist to help you stay away from him?” I created an empowerment playlist. “Roar”, “Wide Awake”, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” were the top three songs. I listened to the playlist while I deleted all his pictures and his phone number. When I reach the point of being done, I’m completely done!
Katy Perry rides along side me as I move into a different phase of my journey. This time it is about knowing who I am and what I want in my next relationship. I realized how different people are and for a while I thought that something was wrong with me because I can’t casually date. I tried, but it doesn’t work. I’m either a man’s friend or I’m completely involved. I don’t like kissing men I have no emotional connection to, and I don’t want to go any further with someone who isn’t committed to me. So, when “Dark Horse” started playing on the radio, I turned it up and started belting it out. Juicy J has a line in the song, “If you get the chance you better keep her. She’s sweet as pie but if you break her heart, she’ll turn cold as a freezer…” a reminder that I don’t have to settle and there is nothing wrong with being an all or nothing woman.
I hope you enjoyed seeing my beginning attempts at creative writing.
With Love and Gratitude,