Monday, 29 October 2012

Music Monday: Beck

For the past few months, "I'm fine!" has been a common refrain.  Whenever people - friends, family, work colleagues - asked me how I was feeling about my year-long exchange to America falling through, "I'm fine, it's fine," was my response, usually accompanied by a too-bright smile and brittle tone.  When I heard Beck's Guess I'm Doing Fine at the weekend, the lack of conviction behind the word 'fine' - the blatant not-fine-ness of the song - struck a chord.

The thing is, it's not the fact I didn't go to America that's a problem.  It's the fact that I have been so desperately hoping to make a change in my life for a long time.  The actual moving, the leaving of family and friends and making umpteen practical arrangements... well, it's a relief to not have to have done any of that.  I'm not sad I didn't go to America, I'm just sad I'm still here.  I feel ungrateful saying that.  I have a lovely house, a job that I variously enjoy, tolerate, or love (which is more than most people can say, I know), family I adore, and fantastic friends.  The issue with 'here' is not so much with the city I'm in; 'here' is more a state of mind than a place.  Stasis when I want action, the same old same old when I crave change.

But you know what I realised in Amsterdam?  Going to America would have solved absolutely nothing.  Becuase the problem is me and my inexplicable misery, and my painful shyness, and that would have come to Colorado with me, and probably been magnified.  What's the old saying?  Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. 

And although I don't kid on that I've fooled anyone with my "I'm fine!" schtick, a lot of people close to me will be surprised I'm writing this, because I don't talk about how I feel.  Ever.  In fact, I had an interesting conversation with my friend Leanne recently about this exact issue.  Whereas I used to see myself as a bit of an open book, it turns out I am something of an enigma to my friends.  I find talking about my feelings very difficult and have always been reluctant to admit to any sign of what I perceive to be weakness: by which I mean normal, healthy, human emotions like sadness or disappointment.  I can't bear the thought of people feeling sorry for me, and so I just don't tell anyone when I'm feeling bad, and then it gets harder to talk about anything 'real'... and here we are.  One friendship was irrevocably damaged by what my friend thought of as my reluctance to share things with her, when in fact I was just incapable of sharing things with anyone.  My poor mother - who I am closer to than anyone else - regularly begs me to share (she used to be a counsellor, so she's a nightmare for the "and how does that make you feel...?" method) but I'm massively uncomfortable with it.

Next time someone asks me how I am, I will really try not to answer with "guess I'm doing fine," and instead take a leaf from Beck's book.  He wrote the Sea Change album (from which this track comes) after his marriage ended, and although beautiful it's a painfully melancholic and maudlin record.  But at least he's being honest about his feelings and putting it out there, y'know?


  1. What a post... and what a huge first step towards ditching the word "fine"! I have nothing really useful to say, but I sat and pondered on all this for a while; I hope you figure out where to go from here.

    1. Thank you. I wrote it in fifteen minutes and then quickly pressed 'Publish' so I wouldn't wimp out. Already noticing lots of things I want to change or edit but will resist...sometimes I need to accept that what I'm saying is more important than how I say it!