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A “Swift” End to 2020

This year has been objectively terrible. This isn’t groundbreaking news nor would it be groundbreaking writing to share with you all the ways this year was specifically terrible for me.

It sucked for everyone. In all kinds of ways. And no one’s journey navigating this shitstorm should be made to feel inferior or invalid simply because someone else also navigated a shitstorm. We were ALL covered in shit.

I also will not use my last blog post of 2020 to wade through the shit in attempts to find the shiny things. Yes. They exist. Yes. We are all grateful for their existence. But not screaming about them from the rooftops doesn’t make us ungrateful jerks. So not doing that either.

No. I’m going to use this final post in 2020 to do something else entirely — do a brain dump about specific songs from two specific albums by one specific artist for no particular reason.

Unless you lost internet access in 2020, you probably know that Taylor Swift released not one but two surprise albums this year. And like most basic white women, they’ve been on repeat both in my head and my home since their release dates. (Fun fact though, per my Spotify annual wrap-up, only ONE T. Swift song breached my top five. So 2020 has been heavy on the music therapy for me y’all!) And while I am well aware that she has both fangirls and haters, this post isn’t for neither of them. Go in-fight amongst yourselves elsewhere.

Nope. I just want to write about a few of the songs on these albums that spoke to be personally. That’s it. That’s how I want to end 2020. A little analysis. A little reminiscing. And then BOOM! Let’s put a bow on this sucker and WRAP IT UP!

Exile (featuring Bon Iver) Folklore

It is no surprise that this song hit hard for me given the circumstances of my life over the last 24-months or so. Part of why I found the song so beautifully haunting is that I could so easily relate to both of the roles within it. In fact, each time I listen to it, I find myself flitting between the characters wanting better for both of them and also wanting them to be better themselves. As with other songs in this post, I feel like this one does such a beautiful job at pointing out that perspective matters so much. In Exile, the perspective is raw and it’s limited. For each character. But for each it is also valid; neither felt heard or seen and in the end, both are in exile from the very person who once brought them the deepest solace — their homeland. And exile hurts.

Mad Woman Folklore

While it isn’t Taylor’s first “burn it all to the ground” song, I feel like she really pulled off something special with this particular bit of music. It’s a quiet fury. Somehow simultaneously controlled and unbridled. And for me personally, it hit on so many fronts this year. Anger at the pandemic and the personal choices that has prolonged it and taken so many lives. Anger at being a single mom in the middle of a global pandemic who is expected to work (more than) full-time, parent flawlessly, make perfect decisions that everyone agrees with and I don’t know — find time to shower? It has been a year of so many things but the beautiful way that she managed to capture the seething but somehow contained fire within women right now — wow! Just stunning.

Peace Folklore

I totally get that this song is written about Taylor’s own life – her inability to provide a partner with true “peace” because of who she is and what she does. I know that logically. But I often find myself feeling like it was written specifically for me too. I am not, nor will I ever be, a superstar mobbed by photographers or written about in magazines. But in my own way, I’ve feel that I too can never really offer peace to partners and friends. Maybe none of us can. And maybe that’s okay. Each time I hear this song I find myself not only accepting that fact but embracing it. The devil is in the details but in the end, I know I stand in the trenches with those who also stand with me. And I like the company the keep.

Tolerate It Evermore

Have you ever heard something and upon hearing it, realized that it put into words something you couldn’t fully comprehend you even felt? That was Tolerate It for me. I’ve discovered the best way for me to process a new album has been to run a hot bath and play it from start to finish while reading the lyrics. I tell you that so you can fully appreciate the visual of me – relaxed with a glass of merlot in a hot bath — and then nearly dropping my phone in the water when she crooned, “I know my love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it” for the first time. I nearly lost my mind. I know that sounds like a dramatic reaction to a song but I don’t care. It was. The entire song helped me identify aspects about myself that I had been struggling to even acknowledge. And while it is no secret that I am a big fan of therapy, let’s just say that this song alone helped me make some mental connections that I had been struggling for YEARS to understand. Thank you Taylor.

Happiness Evermore

Anyone who has actually listened to these albums and knows anything about my life could have easily predicted that I would become entranced by this song. The raw emotion of it and lines like, “I was dancing when the music stopped” could bring anyone to their knees — much less a divorced single-mom. But one of the most beautiful things about this song for me personally, is how it showed me just how far I’ve come since my music stopped. While I related to so much of it, I also realized that unlike the narrator in the piece — I have met the new me. And not only have I met her, I’ve learned so much about her. I respect and love her on a level that I was wholly incapable of in the past. And that “reinvention” as she calls it, has been the most brutal and beautiful transformation of my life thus far. I don’t blame her for not wanting to face it. I didn’t want to either. I had to though and she knows she does as well. But yes. I can confirm. There is happiness.

——–

So that’s it. That’s how I want to close out this terrible, awful, transforming year. These aren’t all the songs on these albums (or hell — any others) that have helped me tune into my own fury, peace, and growth over the past twelve months. They aren’t even necessarily my favorite songs on these two particular albums. They are though, the songs that I wanted to include here – in this particular list. So I did. Not necessarily because I think any of my readers would be interested in them or because I think my perspective offers any sort of fresh take on any of it. None of that. Nope. Just for me. It is what I wanted to write about so I did.

And if you’ve read this far I’m going to assume that you have also spent some time with these albums this year. So as we close out this shitstorm let me just say…

Long story short, it was a bad time. Long story short, [we] survived.

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