Sonic Snapshot: “It only hurts when I breathe…”

I played the fool today
I just dream of vanishing into the crowd

In anticipation of my second Melissa Etheridge concert this week, I’ve been reflecting on the songs of hers that resonate most for me, songs that bring me back to a specific feeling or time.  I’ve mentioned a few of them throughout my blog (a quick search in the box will locate them, as well as my first concert experience), but this one, even in the midst of the ‘break-up’ portion of my 365 Days Of Music, escaped notice.  That’s a shame.

Longing for home again
Home, is a feeling I buried in you

This song is unique for a Melissa tune, in that it was the first time in her career that she recorded a cover for an album (in this case, her album Lucky, a title that seems ironic in light of her cancer diagnosis during the promotional period for it).  The original artist, Greenwheel, had released it a year earlier on the same label.  Melissa’s version, however, garnered far more play and success, primarily because of her fanbase but also, the simple truth of her version being superior.

All trivia aside, Breathe is one of those songs that anyone can relate to, as we’ve all had our heart broken at some point.  For me, heartbreak is an excruciating process, a levelling of the mind, heart and spirit with a wrecking ball.  Trust is something I do not give easily, and love is something I give passionately.  I go all-out when I care for people, but trust is earned at a snail’s pace.  When both love and trust are fractured, it reinforces my long-held reflex to recoil, to refuse to grant passage for any new petitioner of my heart.  It’s a bad game of emotional Jenga, and I’m buried in an avalanche of blocks.

I’m alright, I’m alright
It only hurts when I breathe

I will deny it, to the average person.  We all do, don’t we?  “I’m alright,” we claim.  “I’m fine.”  It’s bullshit, but it’s safer to play the cards close to the hollowed chest.  To confess that raw emotion to another is to grant them the same devastating power as the one we’ve loved and lost.

And I can’t ask for things to be still again
No I can’t ask if I could walk through the world in your eyes

The trouble is, we build our sense of comfort – of home – in other human beings, in our loved ones.  We recite, from rote, that tired cliche, “Home is where the heart is.”  While this is an important and worthwhile sentiment, it is also a risky venture.  When the risk pays off, we are richer in our souls than we dared dream of.  But when we roll snake eyes in the game of love and life, our home walks away from us, leaving us with no safe shelter from the agony.  There is no air.

My window through which nothing hides
And everything sees
I’m counting the signs and cursing the miles in between

We imagine new realities, but the window doesn’t lie.  We see who is there, and who is not.  There’s no sense in living in the past.  What does make sense is learning to place the dearest fragment of that warmth we call home in our own hearts; that way, we always have a refuge when the world falls down.  It’s a lesson that took decades to learn, but one of my greatest truths.

I’m alright, no matter what happens.  I just have to remember to breathe.

Breathe – Melissa Etheridge

Breathe – Greenwheel


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