We all have it. A soundtrack from our childhood. At no time was that soundtrack more embedded into my longterm memory than during my 7-week sojourn at summer camp, a yearly adventure which took place from 1971-1978.
The counselors all had transistor radios in their quarters – rabbit-eared lifelines to the outside world as well as the cherished Top 40 loop. Listening to pop songs both quelled and aggravated homesickness, but overall, I was grateful for the music. Especially the really good stuff.
And like all great music, it stands the test of time irrefutably. I could pick at least a dozen songs I loved from back in the day, but Melissa Manchester’s 1975 ode to vulnerability remains a song that both dazzles me and puts a lump in my throat. Melancholy and hopeful at the same time, the lyrics, though probably intended as a romantic overture, seamlessly apply to any intimate relationship run aground where the heart is invested. Never heard of it? That’s OK kids. Take a listen and hang on to your hats – and maybe a tissue. “Midnight Blue” is from the era when it mattered not what a singer looked like or how risqué her burlesque act was. The currency of the day during the ’70s was channeling the essence of your soul into the microphone.
As I listened to “Midnight Blue” again recently, letting the chords bring me back to a place that no longer exists, I realized something: everything I need to know about vulnerability, I’ve learned from the songwriting team of Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager. Throughout the song, Manchester remains boldly honest as she explains, unapologetically, that she wants continuity in a relationship. She values the other enough to, well, admit it out loud.
I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood recovering from my childhood. What that’s meant for my relationships is a lot of ups and downs. Many moons ago, I possessed a simmering mistrust of people that bordered on hatred, and it had been earned. There weren’t many people in my corner during my formative years. As an unconscious means of self-preservation, I tried to quit humans, many a time. Dogs were better…OK, they still are. But as innocent and unconditionally loving as canines may be, they’re still not my species.
Grudgingly, I had to admit that maybe it’d be in my best interest to make peace with people. That maybe I even n-n-n-need them. Yes, Virginia, I do need connection with other humans. As fraught with risk as it is, it’s crucial to emotional wellbeing – like it or not. It was a learning process to accept we’re all imperfect. Forget Hollywood and the corny scripts of perfectly curated dialog and sunny scenarios abounding. This is real life and as such, human intimacy means both inhaling the fragrance of a rose and getting punctured by its thorns.
Troubled waters, tensions, and disagreements aren’t relegated only to romantic liaisons. There are so many variables when two humans decide to join forces: DNA patterns, personality types, and family history to name a few. Whether it’s in friendship, blood-relations, romance, or in business, relationships can get messy. There’s no varietal of relationship conflict this song can’t be applied to:
* Mother-daughter tensions – check
* Sibling rivalry – check
* Friendship worn down by lack of proper maintenance – check
* Rift with a co-worker because of a conniving boss who loves being subversive – check
When the boat gets rocked, the answer isn’t to throw a relationship away or passive-aggressively neglect until it dies a natural death. Nope, if it’s an alliance worth saving, I’m now brave enough to say so.