December 15, 2008

There's Something About Mary

I just don't feel Mary the way I used to. I was discussing this fact the other day and realized that I've felt this way for some time. The last time I saw her perform live- I quietly decided it was the last time I ever needed to. It was much like wordlessly saying goodbye to a friend you can no longer grow with. Rather than tell you how much I cannot relate to her music anymore, I invite you all to take a rather personal walk with me and the Queen of Hip Hop Soul through my life, her music and the ties that bound us together for a time.

What's the 411

I was fifteen. Fresh-faced and invincible. What stands out most to me about this album was how much my sister- pregnant with my first nephew at the time, absolutely hated to hear this tape being played. She claimed it made her nauseous. Along with my Paul Mitchell hairspray which she forced me to apply in the driveway each morning. Did I care? Hell No. You could still hear Changes I've Been Going Through at the highest decibel everyday from my room. That is still the standout track to me. That and Reminisce. There's nothing quite like those innocent make-out sessions in the basement before your parents get home, is there? Ah, the memories. The 411 Remix Album drops and I'm right in step with her. As the needle drags across the original You Remind Me Greg Nice is infatuated and in love...and I think I am too.

My Life
It's my senior year and Mary is telling me that she knows it's hard but we will get by. And not a moment too soon. It was a harrowing year. My first love had abandoned me for the military just when I needed him the most. Shortly thereafter, things unravel with blinding speed. I found my entire family disbanded for a moment. Bills go unpaid. I bounce between staying with friends and my sister and keep mostly to myself. I am living out of suitcases. No one understands but Mary. For the first time in My Life, I visit my father at a modest hotel room which he calls home for roughly a month. It crushes me. I cry nightly, get high daily. I'm Goin' Down. I get called down to the Guidance Office and am told I am not looking at a June graduation. I nearly give up. All I want to do is Be Happy. Things eventually turn around; my family all under one roof again. Months later we drive to my high school graduation- tears in my eyes as I secretly thank Mary for pulling me through.

Share My World

This album finds me three years out of high school and no closer to a plan for success. While most of my friends are off at college- I hang on the hope of a student visa in order to attend. I work. I go home. I work. This pattern becomes so mundane that I take up Tai Chi just to break up the monotony. To hear Mary tell it- Love Is All We Need but I feel enormously removed from that credo. I'm Searching for a deeper purpose. She is asking the same questions I am, but with a smoky-voiced elegance I can only dream of during my shower concerts. (The acoustics are always better in there.) I'm just living the day-to-day and I decide that I'm Not Gon' Cry about all the unfairness that seems to have consumed my young life. There had to be more in store for me.

The year 2000 brings her self titled album- and with it, my own stroke of independence and self declaration. I feel stronger than I have in years. Time and circumstance has shown me where everyone fits into my life. Much like her album cover, my scars are also visible but I find it beautifully human and strong. I wear it proudly. And even though I was Not Lookin' , I meet someone who adores Ms. Blige in same fashion as I do. He tells me her voice speaks to his soul. That she is the truth and when truth like that exists, it is not only heard but felt. Suddenly, I'm In Love again. "Never felt nothing that so good before- Only you can open the door." All That I Can Say is... loving him is wonderful. And that almost carries me through for a time.

No More Drama

This is where things start to take a turn. Mary sings of letting go of everything that has weighed her down. Over the Young and the Restless piano keys- she tells of freeing herself from the negativity. I feel her on it. I'm just sorta caught up in my own personal stuff a bit too much to wholeheartedly relate. I spend my nights tending bar and skipping songs on the jukebox when this CD is selected. Plus, Ja Rule taking the ride with her on Rainy Dayz turns me off a bit. I miss her collaborating with the likes of CL Smooth and Keith Murray. It was raining for me and it seemed Ms. Blige was stepping into the sunshine. Was I stuck in the past? No. Was I hating? Absolutely not. But I didn't feel moved by the album.

Love And Life

While this album should have been my soundtrack at the time, it was actually just a painted on layer of what I projected. Ooh! finds me singing along to an Ed OG and the Bulldogs beat, promising to cook and clean. And why not? It was damn near Love @ 1st Sight. Below the exterior however, I learn that married life can be a rollercoaster. But I find myself Willing and Waiting for my other half to catch up to my level of commitment. It feels like an uphill battle. Amid that, my closest friend loses four family members in one horrific night. I feel helpless. I experience nightmares. There is no comfort in music, but it is not Mary's fault. I take a good look around and realize that it is no one's fault. There is love. There is life. And some things so tragic in between that not even songs can remedy.

The Breakthrough

Though I never owned the album, I knew that Mary was telling someone I can't Be Without You. I do remember feeling that way once. At about this point is where we unofficially parted ways. We simply weren't seeing eye to eye anymore. I was happy for her new found love and marital bliss, but mine was slowly winding down to discord. Actually it was at this concert tour that I decided there would be no need to get alerts from Ticketmaster when she was in NYC. This night was memorable due to a very specific incident that remains forever bookmarked for me. One thing was true, though. You can't keep a Good Woman Down.

Growing Pains

Time brings inevitable growth. It brings blossoming and withering. By this time, I'm a Grown Woman. Apparently, my girl Mary is doing Just Fine and even makes me do a double take past the mirror and appreciate God's design! How about that? This CD was actually a Christmas gift from the man who I once joked was more than welcome to run off with his honey, Mary- because she...and she alone was woman enough to take him away from me. Things are awkward, but we manage to keep it cordial that holiday- no longer sharing a home or a life for that matter. Only a surname. I continue on my path alone. On my darker days, I too wish that I could Fade Away. "And it feels like joy. And it feels like pain. Feels like sunshine, feels like rain. An excuse for dying. Reason to live. And if you don't know..." that's What Love Is.

A friend hears the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.-- Anonymous

Mary J. Blige and I have been through the best and the worst of times. Leggings and combat boots. Baseball caps. Classy coats, fly shoes and numerous hairstyles. Lonely holidays and sleepless nights. Quests for love and self discovery. She told me that You Gotta Believe, and I did. Mary is woven throughout my life lessons of friendships and relationships. And like many of those in my life- we walked our path until we could no longer go on together; each knowing that there once was a time when we truly connected. No regrets.


Eve said...

On point! You painted an awesome picture. I was there with you as I was reading the details of your evolution as it coincided with Mary's. I could literally "see" you, hairstyles and everything. And I could see myself in a different time and location with my own evolution.

Kari said...

This was such a poignant entry. Well done.