Friday, May 19, 2023

Thoughts on Taylor Swift

 I’m definitely not an average fan. I ‘discovered’ Taylor Swift and her music not even a year ago, and besides that, I’m seventy-five. You won’t find me climbing up to Section H, Row 32 in any stadium. But I’m a writer, I love words that rhyme, and I like music. I’m also a counselor who senses that Taylor Swift is a nice person. At this point, I still don’t know which of her song titles go with which of her songs, but I’m learning. Her talent is amazing. It’s obvious that her sexy moves and glittered leotards are just window dressing for her incredible, multiple talents. Her song writing, her story telling, her catchy musicality, her stage presence, her physical movements, her connection with her fans—each of these are skill sets, and they’re extraordinary.

        That Taylor Swift is thirty-three years old with a seventeen year career is an incredible achievement. That she is filling 70,000 person stadiums night after night, presenting a forty-five song, three hour concert, on stage constantly moving and emoting and singing, without a break, is ground-breaking enough. The reviews I read and the video clips I see have catapulted her fifty-two city Eras Tour into a generational once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Taylor Swift has released over two hundred songs and her legion of fans know the sing-along words to all of them. 

            I should add that her phrases and images are also extraordinary: ‘They told me all my cages were mental/So I got wasted like all my potential…,’ ‘They say all’s well that ends well, but I’m in a new hell every time you double cross my mind…,From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes…,’You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath…,’ ‘You call me again just to break me like a promise…,’And if I get burned, at least we were electrified…”Cuz there were pages turned with the bridges burned, Everything you lose is a step you take…’


            These are words from an observer and a participant in life; from someone who knows how to frame and share images that we all understand.


 The Eras tour began with Taylor Swift snugly in her almost seven year relationship with Joe Alwyn, or so it seemed. For all that time, this couple kept their private life and relationship private, a remarkable feat for the performer of the Century (Century, not decade.) The breakup, announced on the opening night of her filled stadium in Tampa, was a shock to Taylor’s fans, who were quickly concerned about how she was doing. With a thumbs up from the stage, she made it clear she’s doing fine. Word has it that 'Taylor and Joe' actually decide to move on in February, and she’s looking forward to being more open in her personal life and relationships. She’s confirmed this so far by hanging out publicly with friends in New York City, more than once, and, as of two weeks ago, enter the rocker, Matty Healy.

            I don’t know any diehard Taylor Swift fans to check with, so I only have my own opinion, but only three months after ending a seven year partnership, and dealing with all the emotional feelings and fallout in leaving someone you truly loved, and jumping quickly into another relationship, isn’t usually the healthiest or smartest thing to do. Surely Taylor Swift knows this, because she’s smart and introspective and observational. Yes? So, what’s going on?

            Certainly, I have no idea. I have no agency into the private life of Taylor Swift. But do I think there’s some cause for concern? I’d say yes to that. It doesn’t help that the press and paparazzi are all over the Taylor-Matty story. There’s good evidence that she’s keeping herself pretty busy. That’s often a good coping tool to get through a break up. But also, major life changes need time to percolate. Even when a breakup is mutual or expected or healthy, all kinds of feelings come with it: attachment/abandonment issues, loss, old wounds, triggering  memories, outdated beliefs, old and new fears. A sudden jump into ‘dating’ again, and especially intimate dating, doesn’t allow time to process all this, and a guy who by all reports has been a ‘bad boy,’ who’s publicly made racist and homophobic statements, seems, well, a surprising choice. My guess is many (most?) of Taylor’s fans expected (hoped?) to witness a strong, amazingly talented woman rebuild her life as now-single and independent, with determined courage to move forward, on her own. 

            It’s so presumptuous of me to question the decisions of a woman I have never met, and whose relationships I know nothing about. So why am I writing this? Honestly, probably because, for what it’s worth, I have (unsolicited!) advice. I’m holding up a flashing yellow slow-it-down light. It’s my experience talking, just in case.  Don’t rush, Taylor Swift. Take your time, alone, and with your family and friends. Have fun. Breathe. Feel. 

            But don’t let passion drive you, not yet. 


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Refining JOY


Lately I’ve been thinking about joy. I chose this card to enclose in our Christmas cards last year, because the unsettled times seemed to call for a reminder of how much joy matters.

But I’ve been rethinking this advice. It’s not that joy doesn’t matter–it matters a boatload, but let’s face it: it’s increasingly hard to hold on to joy when there are so many worries and crisises all around us. The climate is bringing devastating floods and high winds everywhere; a political breakdown still allows automatic guns and mass murders; our schools and movie theaters and churches and shopping malls and get-togethers no longer feel safe. This is real stuff. 

I’m not an alarmist or a pessimist. I truly believe that positive energy and happy connections with ourselves and others promote a joy that is our human right. But I’ve come to  believe that an emphasis on joy, contentment, self-satisfaction–without acknowledging what happening around us, doesn’t work. I think it’s time to say that out loud. 

Joy lives in the little things: gatherings with family and friends, a job well done, the scent of garlic on your fingers, the sound of rain on the roof, the excitement of a blossoming garden, the passion of romance, the pride of recognition, the feeling kindness brings to the giver and recipient. 

But these days, I think it’s a mistake to pursue ‘joy’ as if it’s achievable without coming to terms with the many factors that aren’t joyful at all. Yes, it’s painful to watch the evening news. Yes, we’re in a major climate crisis. Yes, women’s rights are threatened. Yes, our kids aren’t safe in school. Yes, our government has broken down. Yes, our country and world have huge problems. 

And yes, of course joy matters. My point is this: I don’t think most of us are going to be successful if we don’t also acknowledge that there’s a  canope of anxiety over us these days. The anxiety is real, and there are real reasons for it. I think it helps to recognize that. 

So, I offer some unsolicited advice: be realistic. Cherish your life and the people you love, practice gratitude, and snatch and welcome joy whenever and wherever you find it. But also, these days, be extra gentle with yourself and your hopes. These aren’t easy times. Don’t let anyone mislead you about that, or tell you that the ‘canope of anxiety’ isn’t real. No sing-songy messages are going to change that until we humans collectively change what’s happening around us. I just think it’s healthy and helpful to know that…..