When I started my weekly music posts back in May, I had no idea how important they would become to me as a creative outlet. Those posts stopped in September, right around the time my personal life exploded around me. I didn’t have it in me to write about music or much of anything else really. Almost three months have passed since my last music post, and I’m about to a point where I actually FEEL like writing again.
Music is incredibly personal for me. You can often tell what kind of mood I’m in by what I’m listening to. As I get older, I find more meaning in lyrics to songs I’ve listened to countless times before. That is one of the reasons I stopped writing about it. For the last several months, there were days I couldn’t listen to my music without breaking down into tears at some point. I’m not a big fan of crying in public and I’m even less of a fan of crying at work. There are only so many times you can tell people you have allergies or a cold before they start to question the reasons for your red nose and puffy eyes.
Christmas music is a special treat for me each year. I like to listen to a variety of it, from the traditional to the amusing. I tap my foot along to Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall. I soar with the various artists belting out O Holy Night. But one song in particular brings on an incredible sense of nostalgia and a little melancholy: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. If you really listen to the lyrics, you get mixed emotions. There’s a hope for better days ahead. Friends are here now, but may not be in the future. And it is that uncertainty about the future and whether dear ones will be with you down the road that made this song so pivotal in my life eight years ago.
I had become good friends with a woman who initially was just someone I worked with. I had been assigned to a contract at her company and was there for about 6 months. One day, she touched me on the shoulder so as to not startle me and it felt like a jolt of electricity shot through my body. It was a strange, and under the circumstances, scary sensation. Why would her touching my arm send such a sensation through me? I sure as hell didn’t feel that way when my boyfriend touched my arm. I did my best to ignore the feeling. After all, what good could possibly come from it? The longer we worked together, the stronger those feelings got. There was no denying the attraction on my end. But I did deny it, or at least tried, because soon I’d be gone and I wouldn’t see her again. Or that’s what I thought.
A few months after I was back at my company, this woman came to work for us. I was ecstatic, not just because of how I felt, but because she was a great person to work with and for. Over time, we became friends and my feelings grew stronger. We were both married, so as far as I was concerned, I would just be happy with the friendship and push any other feelings I had out of my mind. One of the many things that made her such a good friend, and someone who I came to love, was that she was supportive of me in all facets of my life. She listened to me when I needed to vent. She encouraged me. She challenged me to be better at what I did. She kicked me in the ass when I needed it. We could talk about anything for hours. And as much as I loved spending time with her, there was a bittersweet quality to it for me. I knew I could never have what I really wanted. I consoled myself with the fact that at least we were friends.
Then she made the decision to leave the company and move out of the area to pursue another career. To say I was devastated would be a gross understatement. I fell into a depression and found solace in far too many cocktails and glasses of wine. It wasn’t just her leaving that had me depressed. I had finally started to realize that I was miserable. I was living a lie and didn’t know how much longer I could keep it up. I was in a career that I was very good at but that wasn’t what I really wanted to do with my life. At the same time this was going on, she had what I can only term as a born-again Christian moment. She changed in such fundamental ways that I no longer recognized her as the same person. Some of her views became ultra-conservative and totally opposed to much of what I believed in. Despite all that, the love I felt was still there.
When she got up at that last Christmas party to sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” I had already had a rough evening. I was a mess of emotions, fueled by too many drinks. I kept up the happy face as best I could. When I finished one drink, I sent my husband to the bar for another one. I sat there knowing that my life had to change. That my friendship with her would never be the same and that eventually we’d lose touch. That I had no idea where I was going or how I would make it there. Numbing myself was the only way for me to get through that night, any night. In the car on the way home, I just cried. My husband thought it was because I was sad she was leaving. He was partially right. He just had no clue as to WHY I was upset as I was.
It’s been six years since I last saw or talked to her. I have no idea where she and her husband have landed. But I do still think of her often. I wonder if she’s happy. I wonder if she’s returned to who she was before the religious zealousness took over. I wonder if she would still want to be friends if she knew who I was now. And when I hear that one Christmas song, I think of how quickly life can change on us, for better or for worse. When I hear this song, I think of who she was and silently thank her for helping me become who I’m supposed to be.