Sometimes it seems like music was invented just for the sake of love songs and break-up songs. In fact, I'm fairly convinced Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 was the product of a really nasty break-up. Since freshmen year of high school (which is now over 15 years ago?!), I've been making "Valentine's Day Sucks" mixes for me and my friends, but mostly for my own enjoyment. I never liked the holiday, even after I was struck by cupid's arrow. (Luckily my husband is okay with my inner-angsty teen-self.) It just always seemed to me like the holiday did more harm than good- made more people sad than happy, and celebrated love in terrible ways. The carnation sale at my high school still haunts me- to no one's surprise, but her own, there were no carnations handed out to the twerpy 14 year-old who tragically had 2 braces on her front two teeth- just two!
However, this year I'm feeling a little bit more romantic than my usual self (see: post-its and s'more pop tarts) So instead of just posting my usual "Valentine's Day Sucks" mix, I decided to post three (!) separate mixes. One is romantic and all things lovely, and the other two are for the ladies and gents out there who are feeling more T. Swift about it all. (There would be a ton of new Swift on these mixes if she didn't take all her music off Spotify! This is when we need you most, T!)
There are two separate "Anti-Valentine's Day" mixes because I truly feel there are two ways to handle heartbreak, and both are necessary and healthy in order to move on. One way is to wallow. Some people try and skip this part while friends attempt to cheer them up and go out dancing, but, really- crying over something sad is okay. It's okay to feel sad, because sometimes life is sad. Rehashing it all can make you feel worse, it can make you cry until your eyes are puffy...but man does it feel good to feel bad for yourself every now and then and get it out of your system, because it sucks that you haven't found someone worthy of you, or that a dude treated you like crap, or because your sister went nuts on your husband in an elevator because of something terrible he did and everyone in the world saw it. Those things really suck, and why should you pretend like they don't suck? So the first mix is a mix to wallow in your sorrows with. Be prepared with ice cream and maybe a best friend on-call, because these songs give you all sorts of feelings.
What you really need to do, post-break up or not, is listen to This American Life's episode called "Break-Up" which really encapsulates all the real, yet cliched feelings you go through after a breakup. I've listened to it a couple of times throughout the years, and even during my most blissfully in love years, I still find myself nodding along, crying and laughing. It brings back so many raw emotions that we've all been through and can relate to. Many of the songs from the "The Wallow Away Mix" come from this episode.
In the best segment of the episode NPR contributor, Starlee Kine, looks into breakup songs and turns to Phil Collins for advice, which is exactly who you want to speak to after getting dumped.
She explains the wallowing stage better than I ever can....
"I was no longer listening to his songs for pleasure, but for pain. They were break up songs and hearing them was the only thing that made me feel better, and by better I mean worse. There's something so satisfying about listening to sad songs. They're like how you would be actually be spending your day if you were allowed to just break down and sob and grab hold of everyone you met. They make you feel less alone with your crazy thoughts. They don't judge you, in fact they understand you. a break up song won't ever suggest you start online dating or that you're better off without him. They tell you you're worse without him, which is exactly what you want to hear because it's how you feel. I didn't want to be cheered up, I didn't want to bounce back, I didn't want to meet someone new. I wanted to wallow, big time, deeply, and with the least amount of respect as possible and the only way to do that was to turn off my phone and turn up the sad, sad music.....
I promise you, listening to this episode is better than any therapy session. I wish I had been able to listen to it during some bad break-ups and times of heartache, just to know that my feelings were warranted and I wasn't alone, because Phil Collins was right there with me.
You must, however, listen to the more empowering mix next. The I'm-so-much-better-off-and-happier-without-that-idiot mix. As important as it is to feel all of the sadness, it's even more important to realize and recognize your inner Beyonce and how stupid someone is to ever give you up. Really, really, really stupid! You are so much better off without this person because they were dragging you down, they weren't worthy of you, and ultimately you dodged a bullet. Blast these songs and put on something that makes you feel great - whether that's a little black dress, that funky outfit he always hated, or just your skivvies - and dance it out, like Jordan Catalano was surgically removed from your heart (see video below). I clearly remember that point after a heartbreak, when you finally dust yourself off and get past all the hurt and rejection and feel that surge of independence and freedom. That burst of freedom once led me to booking a one-way ticket to London, but that story is for another time.
(*Warning there are quite a few songs with curse words and F-bombs in there - which are needed in situations like these.)
So, however you choose to spend Saturday, whether it's wallowing, dancing with your girlfriends 'til the morning hours or hanging out with the person who makes you feel so many feelings, you now have some background music for each occasion.
(all photos, jamie grill photography)