Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Eminem's 'Headlights' Breaks New Ground

Eminem's Vulnerability in 'Headlights' Pays Off
I hate Mother's Day. I really do. I didn't used to and I didn't for most of my life, but once I hit adulthood, things started to change. 

As I grew up on my own, studied on my own, lived on my own (before the days of umbilical cord texting) I started getting this sneaking suspicion that... well, I wasn't exactly... right.

I had handicaps. I had fears. I repeatedly harpooned my own cargo carrier and sailed down bombs to explode my own battleships. Everyone said I had promise, but I spun my wheels faster, faster and then even faster... to nowhere.

There's normal. There's better than normal (read = healthy) and then there's... us.

The broken. The handicapped. The fallen. The ones with deep wounds that burn, tug, pull and choke us this way and that. The ones who say absolutely nothing is wrong, that everything is good and that we are lucky. "We are so, so lucky!" we always tell you, about everything we can grasp at. But we lie. 

Here's what we don't tell you.

We hurt ourselves and we don't know why. We struggle with daily life and we don't know why. Saying "hello" to someone that isn't good for us happens way too easily, and for those who are the best for us, it is absolutely petrifying. Or worse yet, we don't even see them at all. We are often drawn to our enemies. Paying rent - writing that check - ends up being the easiest transaction in life.

Because it's human interactions - the responsibilities that come with being human - that trip us up. (Do not even start me on marriage, dating, sex and brotherhood, motherhood, fatherhood and the other ties that bind. That's a whole other level of... pain? Struggle. The simple act of loving someone, is anything but simple at all. Not for us.)

And though very few of us can admit it, despite the apparent trend of transparency in our global community, we all hate Mother's Day too.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I know I'm not allowed to say this. I know I'm not supposed to tell you I hate Mother's Day, but you know what I'm really not supposed to tell you?

That I hate my Mother.

And I love my Mother. I hug her and I squeeze her and I don't want to ever, ever let her go... never! Never, ever ever. I love my mother so dearly and so deeply that you can't even imagine it. 

No. Wait. You can. You can imagine it. Because you are the same way. We love our Mothers. No matter how much they deserve our hate.

And this fragment of a sentence - this single powerful deep-rooted fact - the one that absolutely rings true in China, Alaska, Texas, Trinidad, Zimbabwe and Mexico, back to the frozen wastes of lands in Siberia and the Sahara... this rope of a fact is found. Everywhere.

Which is why, when Eminem, with the help of Spike Lee, sent his own Mother a card this Mother's Day, Headlights, and... we all sat up and listened.

Because all of us, every single one of us, knows that letter. The words of that song, I feel like, are already etched on each of our hearts. The song isn't a love letter to her. The song isn't a hate letter either. The song is simply a battle. He somehow had the courage, the bravery, the absolute vulnerability and guts, to not only look down inside of himself, but to watch the battle happening in there when we hear the word "Mother."

Courageous he was to face it, see it, yes - but oh! He did so much more than that, didn't he? He gave a voice to it. 

It was as if he lowered a microphone down into the battlefield and hit 'record' really. But which one of us is brave enough to do that? To say it: I love you Mother. I hate you Mother. You hurt me. I want to hurt you. But please, please don't go.

Motherhood. The constant curse of man today. In an age where mothers *are* let off the hook for doing the very worst to their children, it's becoming less and less popular.... no, less and less "okay" to say "No, my Mom was not a good mom. She was a bad one. She made the wrong choices."

Because no one really "makes" choices today, do they? "They can't help it." "They didn't mean it." "They did the best that they could."

But you know what? I bet if we met Marshall Mathers face to face, I wonder how many of us would shake his hand and say, "Man, you didn't deserve what you got." All of us. It's our own mothers we are not allowed to hate. Not allowed to question. Not allowed to scorn.

I left my mother five years ago. I left my father too. I like to think of it as setting sail from England to seek my fortune in the New World. Only my "new world" is life without them. And it's been brilliant. I don't miss them. I don't want them. I love my life without them. But, God, do I miss them, do I love them, do I wish they'd ask me to come home. 

Even though I know they will mostly likely kill me.

And this is what Headlights gives voice to. Gives rise to. Fearless in the face of  heartbreak and fearless in the face of rage - fearless in the most powerful face we all must compete in front of, perform for and love the most - Eminem was fearless.

Perhaps you think I jest. This is Eminem after all. What in the world does he have to fear. Then I ask you to turn around, into your Mother's eyes, and question her. Be honest with her. Say what you actually feel and really wish you could say.... but you don't, do you? Because there are strings attached and consequences to be had.

Mothers today are more like Big Brothers for us - they buy our houses for us, take care of our kids for us, do the chores for us, and so we owe them our lives - our truths - ours entire beings.

But not Eminem. And not me either. We were brave enough to leave. Brave enough to set sail. And brave enough to say... I miss you Mom. Even though you destroyed me. And I'm not turning around. Peace.

Headlights. I can't decide if this title for his love letter is brilliant or completely off. What does the word 'headlights' bring to your mind when you think of your parents? To be honest, they make me think of my father. I would stay up, late, late into the evening, peering into the black night - in the direction I knew the road he drives ran.

I'd wait, and wait and wait, because I couldn't think of sleeping while I was alone  in the house with my mother. A woman who knew such a refined and profound method of torture, I was scared to lie down. She often pinned me there. My pillow was a place of terror.

So I waited for him - waited for his headlights. Waited till she had his attention and not mine. Waited till I heard his door close and the front door open. And then I could climb into bed, finally easy enough to sleep.

So perhaps Headlights was a brilliant title. My father wasn't safe as I grew older, so the only safe memory of him I have is of those rescuing headlights - approaching in the dark, past the fields of corn, the acres of green yard, the only headlights that ever appeared at night on that road.

And they always meant safety, and relief. Headlights.

Lights in the dark, but the driver behind them is faceless. It's such a relief, isn't it? To break down our father or our mothers into such simple things - lights - in the night - coming or going.

And for him, it seems and for me, clearly, that is all they will remain. Lest the damage go even deeper. Lest the lives grow even darker. I am alive in my freedom. I am alive in my honesty. The more I write the more I grow and the more her vice-grip loosens around my neck. The glory of what she should have been fades into what she really is and I... I stand at Mathers side. At your side. At our sides... and hold hands with you into the silk gold mist called hope and a future, rather than the smokey grind of her love and her desired future.

May we all celebrate Mother's Day with such vigor, gusto and honesty. Raise a tall glass to the mothers who made the right, the holy and the hard choices, and turn our backs on those headlights, fading behind us, into the distance.

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