Recently, I asked a friend of mine if he was going to Star Shaped, a festival for old Britpop bands. I was surprised to hear he wasn’t because he is the human embodiment of Britpop, it’s one of his biggest loves. He has spent his whole career bringing people together through music and that’s how we met.
I was even more surprised to hear him say that he now has a love/hate relationship with old indie music because it makes him feel a nostalgic sadness. Our friendship that was very tight in our 20’s was based around our love of music, particularly older English indie so it was hard to hear as I have such fond memories of it all. I didn’t understand how listening to the favourite music of your life could make you feel sad enough to not want to.
I hadn’t realised until now that I’ve not listened to any of my favourite music either for a very long time. This is only noteworthy because, in times of even the slightest amount of stress, Greg likes to inform me that I only listen to two bands – The Cure and Smashing Pumpkins. They are my teenage retreat, my auditory safety net and keep me wrapped up in a spooky blanket when the world is tough and I want to feel safe. There was an exception – the morning we found out that Greg’s cancer was stage 4.
Until that morning, I had never prayed in my life. I have never even really wished for anything or thought I could have an influence over any omnipresent force. Anything that I’ve ever wanted, I’ve tried to muddle through and make it happen myself. On the Monday morning when we were receiving the results of Greg’s multidisciplinary team meeting, I am in a void where I consider praying. I am totally lost because all my ways of influencing anything are useless. Greg is still in the hospital and I am staying with the girls at my parents’ house. Everyone is downstairs dealing with the usual breakfast chaos and I sit aimlessly alone in the bedroom that used to be mine. There are still parts of this room from that time that have never been redecorated – my old antique mirror adorned with Victorian angels is still up after all these years, piles of old CDs and a stereo.
There is a very profound silence despite all the noise from downstairs. My head is bursting from the memories of my childhood in this room, my teenage dreams of being in love to now hearing my children laughing and waiting to see if my partner is going to die.
This deep emptiness manifests itself in a choking terror. I can’t possibly be here. I’m grasping for something to make all of this go away. What made me feel better when I lived in this room? Music. Music was the way I escaped when things were hard.
I rummage around in my old CD’s and I find the tonic I’m looking for. The music that has always sounded exactly how the inside of my head looks. The opening piano chords of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness make my muscles relax and I am transported back to being 16 when I felt fearless and invincible. I take down one of the Victorian angels to hold like a rosary and channel all the positivity I can as I concoct a prayer that Greg will be ok. What do you say in a prayer? My statement is simple but huge – “We are all the wonder and all the magic in the world and we will be ok”.
The prayer turns into a chant during the journey to the hospital and by the time I get there, I have hyped myself up into a frenzy, I’m speaking in tongues. The building literally throbs in front of my eyes as I repeat my mantra under my breath. I can see the energy pulsating from the roof into the sky. I’m still holding my angel to give to Greg, charged with everything I have ever been – as a child, as a teenager and as a woman.
Before I go in, I send Greg’s brother Aaron a message. I need to tell him that me and a cardboard cherub and Billy Corgan are going to save Greg.
The doctor came.
“I’m sorry, I’m afraid it’s really bad news…”
I haven’t listened to my favourite music since.