I usually listen to the radio while I’m driving. While I know there’s nearly as much algorithmic programming behind music radio these days as there is on Spotify, just occasionally a human being gets to drop something unexpected onto a radio station’s playlist.
So it was the other day when “broken” by lovelytheband came on as I whizzed along the motorway.
I’m enough of a stickler for detail to be slightly bothered about lovelytheband’s apparent inability to find either the shift key or the spacebar anywhere in the band’s name or the song’s title, but not bothered enough that it prevented me from enjoying their delightful song, “broken”…
Every once in a while, a set of lyrics connects with you on a different level. The lyrics for “broken” spoke straight to my soul…
I like that you’re broken
Broken like me
Maybe that makes me a fool
I like that you’re lonely
Lonely like me
I could be lonely with you
Most of us learn sooner or later that the path of love is rarely a smooth one.
I’ve always envied people who meet someone special at school and spend the rest of their lives with them…the people whose funeral eulogies say “they were never out of one another’s company for more than five minutes a day since they first met as teenagers 72 years ago”.
Yes, I know…I’m a hopeless romantic.
And pretty much unrealistic in my expectations…although I’m privileged to know one couple who will be eulogised in this way…though hopefully not for several decades yet.
My own love life has been more like being strapped to a Saturn 5 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, and thinking I was in for the time of my life, only to find out I was in reality strapped to the second-stage booster which gets discarded somewhere over the Indian Ocean after all the fuel inside is used up.
“Broken” isn’t a word I’d have used, unprompted, to describe myself. But when I listened to lovelytheband’s song, I realised that’s closer to the mark than I might have suspected.
I pride myself on my resilience. I keep a smile on my face and my shoulder to the wheel at all times, no matter how dark things get.
Unless you knew me really, really well…which almost nobody does…you’d never realise. My “game face” would win a Tony for maintaining a cheery smile when “on stage” even while my world collapses around me.
I’d like to say it’s some sort of innate skill. Truth is, it’s only good because I’ve had plenty of practice…
I used to think if only I could find someone to love me, I’d start to heal my shattered soul. But over the years I’ve discovered the market for love when it comes to sensitive, bookish, music-loving accountants isn’t nearly as large as I once hoped…
In times gone by, I tried to find people who were very different from me. I figured a boisterous, outgoing party animal would be the perfect counterpoint for the areas I wasn’t good at. Together we’d complete one another and live happily ever after…that was my plan anyway…
Opposites might attract in the movies. Let me tell you…real life is much more complicated.
But I like to think I’m a smart guy, so I figured if people who were my opposite weren’t the answer, I should try to find people just like me. People who were, perhaps, “broken” too.
That was no more successful…arguably it made things worse, as I had now ruled out the only alternative strategy I thought might stand a chance of working. I was now officially out of options.
Nowadays, I rarely come across anyone who might be interested in me and even when I do, I mostly turn a blind eye. However much someone thinks I’m what they’re looking for, I know they’re only fooling themselves.
I don’t blame them — they’re just trying to find the exact opposite to whoever they’ve been with before and sometimes I’m it. But I know I’m just a reaction to something, I’m more like the antidote to a bad experience which helps them get back on an even keel than any sort of long-term option.
I’m not an unpleasant person. If we met socially at a business or community gathering, I’d spend a few moments chatting with you quite easily. I’d be unlikely to offend you and I consider it a good thing if I can make you laugh about something and brighten your day a little.
But every now and then, I can see something like this verse from “broken” going through someone’s mind, admittedly not in quite the same words lovelytheband use…
There’s something tragic, but almost pure
Think I could love you, but I’m not sure
There’s something wholesome, there’s something sweet
Tucked in your eyes that I’d like to meet
Very occasionally they see something they like in me or, on the very rare occasions I open up a little to someone, they want to “fix” me. But I’ve been through this cycle often enough to know they’ll quickly decide I’m not what they really want for the long-term.
So not only will I be hurt, I’ll have hurt them too…or, perhaps more accurately, allowed them to put themselves in a position where they’ve hurt themselves
These people are always nice, kind people who were only trying to figure out the world for themselves. They weren’t setting out to hurt me, I know, but I still end up hurt.
At the same time, they feel sad to have hurt me by leaving. When any suggestion of romance only ends up making two people sad, it becomes a lot safer for everyone just to pretend not to pick up on any romantic interest coming my way.
We just continue the pleasant social conversation we’d been having up to that point and I’ve managed to stop two people getting hurt a few weeks down the line. That seems like a pretty good outcome for us both, if you ask me.
You might think this is a sad tale…and I agree there haven’t been many laughs so far…but through all this I’ve learned a valuable lesson in life.
Here it is…
It’s impossible to fix yourself through someone else.
During the years I was trying to either find someone to bring the qualities I lacked or someone whose experiences mirrored mine closely enough that they would understand me, I’d been making a cardinal error.
I thought the process of “fixing me” was “out there somewhere”…that some other person, if only I could find the right one, would have a magic key that would make everything right.
I learned they don’t. Nobody does.
So I stopped trying to find someone to care for me as that meant giving control of my happiness over to someone else…which past experience told me didn’t tend to end well.
Instead I worked on things that didn’t depend on other people approving of what I did. I focused solely on things I could deliver 100% by myself.
A big surprise was to find out that writing about music…and my own personal perspectives and experiences of it…helps a lot. I’ve written nearly 400 different articles about songs on Medium and elsewhere in the past few years and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
Not because I’ve got a huge audience or because I receive lots of external validation for what I’ve written…although I’m extraordinarily grateful for the small number of people who do read what I write and occasionally leave me a kind word or two in the comments.
I’d still feel the same about writing even if not another single living soul ever read what I write…which for many years was almost exactly what did happen. I get as much pleasure from writing articles that nobody reads as for the handful which have proved vastly more popular than I ever thought possible.
That’s because, even if the song I’m writing about has nothing to do with my own life and experiences (and, if you’re a new reader, don’t worry — most of them don’t), every time I click “publish” somehow another little piece of me magically heals inside.
As lovelytheband put it in “broken”…
Life is not a love song that we like
We’re all broken pieces floating by
Life is not a love song we can try
To fix our broken pieces one at a time
Now, to be fair, I’ve got a lot of broken pieces to fix and I’d be prepared to lay a bet right now that whenever I meet St Peter at the pearly gates I probably won’t have fixed any of them.
But that doesn’t matter as much as it used to — which is the second lesson this process has taught me…
You see, for a lucky few, happiness is reaching your dreams and experiencing everything you ever wanted out of life. Good luck to you — I wish you nothing but happiness.
For the rest of us, however, the direction of travel is much more important than reaching the destination…although getting there would clearly be a bonus.
Every time I see a new word come up on my laptop’s screen in response to the keys I’ve pressed on the keyboard, I know I’m moving in the right direction…and, more importantly, that the journey is completely under my control.
Thankfully, life hasn’t made me hard and cynical…well, not most days anyway…and I’ve still got enough of the romantic idealist in me that I was glad to come across lovelytheband’s…er… lovely song, “broken”.
I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way…even though someone as smart as I’d like to think I am should have worked most of them out a long time ago.
I’m no closer to being the sort of person someone might care for romantically, but I’m at more at peace than I’ve ever been.
I’ve realised no-one else can heal me. The only person who can heal me is myself.
All I need is my laptop and the ability to touch-type, which years of childhood piano lessons thankfully equipped me for very nicely.
With every article that goes out, I feel a little better inside. There’s still plenty left to heal, but I’m moving in the right direction and making progress.
And if life has taught me anything, it’s taught me that moving in the right direction and making progress every day is all that any of us can ask for…
“broken” was written by Mitchell ‘Mitchy’ Collins (lovelytheband’s lead singer), songwriter Samantha Derosa and writer/producer/arranger Christian Medice.
Their song really spoke to me when it came on the radio the other day. I hope it does the same for you.
Here’s lovelytheband with “broken”…
The video is below but, if you prefer, you can enjoy the song on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/6XcfKZvJio9Z0fQy11GnNX
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”…or even more than one if you’re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published.