Love and its sound track

Shoop shoop, shoop shoop 
Never stop giving you love 
Sweet, sweet thing 
Sweet thing 
Never stop giving you love

I did not expect that song to play on that particular radio station.  Usually I quickly changed the channel or switched off whatever was playing such music.  Oldies, they called them.

Yet this time I played it louder.  “Baby sweet loooove oh love,” I sang along.  The passengers in my car were quiet.  We often burst out in song together but this time they could not join me.  The song I was belting out was a 90’s R&B tune by Michael Cooper Shoop Shoop (Never Stop Givin’ You Love). I sung it to the end.

By the time the song was over we had gotten home. The askari opened the gate and I parked the car.  The girls ran off to our third floor apartment, they were more than ready for lunch. Except the oldest.  For some reason she just stayed in the car.  Unlike the younger children, I had not rushed out but stayed in my seat, eager for them to leave.  I did not want them to see my tears.

As I feared, the song had done its damage. That is why I usually turned off those 90’s ballads and quickly found another station that would not torment me with memories.  Even the news of bloody mayhem and the world going to pot was usually better than enduring the stabs of pain that struck when I listened to the songs that had been the soundtrack to my coming of age.

The 90s was when I had discovered the heady drug of romance.  It is when, as a young campus girl I had fallen deeply in love with a tall handsome guy, whose naughtiness matched my ironic take on life, and who I considered my best friend.  We could talk for hours about anything under the sun. It is in the 90s that he and I had sung along to all the trending love ballads, and danced close to each other at clubs and parties.  It is the decade in which I had learned how to dress up for dates and discovered the hullabaloo that was Valentine’s day.

Shoop shoop, shoop shoop.

Michael Cooper. Michael Bolton. Luther Vandross.  Boyz II Men.  Theirs were the syrupy songs I had learned to hate when this great romance of ours had ended at the grave of my beloved.  For a long time afterwards, I had avoided romance novels, hated rom-coms and did not want to hear the songs that had provided the sound track of our love story. “If tomorrow never comes” by Joose was especially painful, for obvious reasons.

I do not know why I did not switch the music off this particular Sunday. That whole morning, I had been under a dark cloud and could not even muster the strength to dance to the worship music at church.  I had yelled at the girls when their skirmishes and foot dragging had ended up making us late. In fact, I had been pretty miserable the whole weekend!  Despite sharing my gloomy thoughts with a couple of friends and even praying, the mood would not lift. 

“You will never be happy, you are cursed with bad luck, your dreams are ridiculous, you will always be alone!” were the thoughts that swirled around my tired brain as the tears coursed down my face.  When I finally left the car I went straight to my bedroom and locked the door.  The girls knew better than to disturb me, and my mind was free to get back to that song. 

Shoop shoop, shoop shoop.

Why hadn’t I turned the car radio off? Had I left the song to play because I wanted a release?  Clearly I needed to burst this cloud of gloom, and what better way do this other than triggering a flood of tears.  And then, why had my eldest stayed in the car with me? When I turned around and saw that she had not left the car, I wondered if she could see my tears. Yes, they had started to flow.  The song had undone me. 

She had just sat there, without saying anything. Clearly she could feel my distress.  I had been carrying it around the whole weekend. To her, it must have seemed that I had carried it her whole lifetime. Now I felt guilty, on top of everything else.  I usually tried hard to avoid burdening my children with these black moods but this time I was clearly failing. 

I consoled myself that maybe in this case, she was feeling a subliminal connection to my sadness over her lost father, even if she had no clue that the song had brought back memories of him. I did not say anything to her, and she had left me alone to brood.

Locked away in my room I did something different this time.  Instead of adding this pain to the heap of nasty thoughts flying around my mind, I decided to tell a friend what had happened.  I was in luck. She understood.  I told her that on top of the usual things that were causing me stress that weekend, I was shocked to find that after more than twenty years, I could still sharply feel the grief of losing my long-gone love. 

“However,” I continued “the silver lining on this is that I still have a desire for love. And, thankfully, this time my yearning has not turned to you-know-who. ” She was relieved.  She had once had to do a virtual intervention when I could not free myself of a self-destructive longing for that guy. Mr. You-know-who. 

Girl talk being what it is, we went on to rehash our dreams for finding Mr. Right sometime soon.  We had both been battered in this area but still held on to hopes of a romance that came with kindness rather than draining drama.

Later that night, I took another look inward.  Was there another reason why I had not turned the music off? 

Shoop shoop, shoop shoop.

Perhaps the advice I had been absorbing from all those self-help books, single mummy face book groups and podcasts was starting to sink in. Many times I had heard the advice that one needs to walk through pain and not try to avoid it. You should not skirt around its edges through numbing or avoidance.  I had heard over and over again that anxiety and avoidance are close-knit siblings. 

It seems that I was becoming adept at detecting when my actions showed that I was running away from a dark emotion rather than facing it head on. By letting that song of sweet love play until the end, I had forced myself to face the music. I would have to keep mustering the strength to deal with even very old pain so that I would not be held in its grip forever.

That night, instead of a hours spent plumbing the depths of grief, I softly spoke to God about my desire to be part of a loving relationship.  One that would have the same strength and longevity of feeling that I had obviously experienced in the one I had lost.

This time I pushed away thoughts of my age, my status as a single mother with three children, my lack of time or money to go out on the town, my failure to keep the New Year resolutions to join the clubs and associations where I could meet new people. I did not think of the alarming number on the weighing scale, the unfashionable and ill-fitting clothes in my wardrobe and the lack of a budget for salon visits.

I simply asked God to provide the opportunity for me to find love again. I acknowledged it as a deep desire of my heart. I was filled with gratitude that my heart still had the capacity to want this.  Yes, I wanted to provide shelter, education and food to my children.  But I also want to be loved.  To listen to sweet ballads without crying and to enjoy rom-coms without rolling my eyes.

As I reflected on how the Lord had recently fulfilled certain deep heartfelt desires, I smiled with the satisfaction that my future would soon include many sweet love songs.

Shoop shoop. Shoop shoop.

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