alan doyle

Exit 248. A Shakespearean sonnet made entirely of 20th and 21st century song lyrics.

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes,
You know I wish that I had Jessie’s girl;
There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb,
Ain’t no companion like a blue eyed merle.
I’ve seen a little, but it ain’t enough,
We’d take a limousine ‘cause it costs more;
A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of,
And I can see the perfect sky is torn.
You got me ticking, going to blow my top,
I’ve got a pocket full of Kryptonite;
Pulsating to the back beat, Blitzkrieg Bop,
Yeah, I don’t wanna lose your love tonight.
Nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three,
That’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee.

Author’s note: Years ago, I noticed for some odd reason (this is how my brain works sometimes) that “You know I wish that I had Jessie’s girl” was iambic pentameter.  I heard Jessie’s Girl last week and started thinking about other song lyrics that could be considered iambic pentameter, which gave me the idea for this project.  So I listened to a lot of music on shuffle and thought of a lot of well known songs, and this is what I came up with.

Some of the rhymes aren’t perfect, I know.  It should also be noted that I found a lot of lyrics which, sadly, are missing the first unstressed syllable, like “everybody wants to rule the world” or “hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you,” so they don’t appear in this project even though those are among the best songs ever.  I also had a lot of unused lines that didn’t rhyme or didn’t fit very well, so if I keep listening for lyrics that might fit this pattern, I might write another one of these someday.

And if you don’t recognize the songs, every line is clickable.  Most of them are very well known, although from a wide variety of genres and eras, but a couple of them are more obscure.

Exit 186. The voice of a ghost singing words a quarter-century old recently pushed me to make a difficult decision.

The voice of a ghost singing words a quarter-century old recently pushed me to make a difficult decision.

Okay, I suppose that’s explaining it in an overdramatic way.  Let me back up and explain.  A couple weeks ago, Irish musician Dolores O’Riordan died unexpectedly.  Ms. O’Riordan was best known for being the lead vocalist of the band The Cranberries, who had three big hits in my late teens.  At least that was my extent of Cranberries knowledge over the years.  (I should point out, though, that as friends started posting Cranberries music on social media as tributes to Ms. O’Riordan, I found a couple more of their songs that I recognized.)  They weren’t one of my favorites back then; I was mostly neutral toward their music.  I always liked the song “Dreams,” although I don’t think I ever knew the title until maybe five years ago when I was expanding my collection of 90s music for making retro gaming playlists.  I had completely forgotten about “Zombie” from some time in the 90s until seeing someone perform it at a karaoke bar in 2015, but that is a good one too.  The third song of theirs that I remember, however, was definitely my least favorite of the three, and ironically, those are the quarter-century-old words that I’m writing about today.

I hate trying to interpret song lyrics, because I was always bad at interpreting poems in high school English class.  But the way I’m reading this one seems pretty straightforward: the narrator has been treated badly by a significant other, but her feelings for him still linger.

So what does that have to do with me?  I may not have been treated badly, or treated others badly, in the specific ways described in the song lyrics, but I understand that sense of feelings lingering from both sides.  And I did something about one side this week: specifically, the point of view of the other character in the song, not the narrator.  I called someone I met on Christian Mingle and told her that I just didn’t feel like we were clicking.  It’s hard for me to do that, because I often can’t pinpoint a specific reason for it.  She didn’t do anything wrong, but I just didn’t really feel like she was someone I could see myself spending my life with.  And I didn’t want her to have to feel like she was wasting her time with me.  And as much as that hurts on both sides, I think that’s better than pretending to make something happen when I know I’m not feeling it and stretching the heartbreak out over several months.  (This makes me think I should link to another relevant song here, this one not having any direct Cranberries connections, but it does use the word “linger” in the same context – by the way, I saw this band live for the third time last week, they didn’t play this song but it was an AMAZING SHOW!!!)

I’m wondering if there are other lingering issues I need to deal with (double meaning, issues related to old feelings lingering… lingering issues of lingering, if you will).  In this case, I’m more like the other perspective of the song, the narrator dealing with her lingering feelings for someone who doesn’t care for her in return.  In particular, I have a lot of people I’m still in social media contact with whom I’m not sure if I should be in contact with anymore.  Some of these are people I knew in the past who mostly just post angry political and/or anti-Christian stuff that I don’t agree with.  Some of these are people whom I’ve had various issues or hurtful experiences with in the past. Some of them are acquaintances from certain social circles who are just arrogant jerks.  Most of the people in question here I have at least unfollowed on Facebook, so I don’t have to think about them any more than necessary, but that begs the question, what purpose would it serve to unfriend them completely?  If I don’t see these people anymore in real life, and I have things set such that I don’t see their posts on social media, is it necessary to take any more steps?

It might be.  It might help me find closure in my mind and put a stop to the lingering (there’s that word again) issues once and for all.  But, as I’ve said before, maybe I’m overthinking social media here, but I find it hard to cut people off like that.  If you are my Facebook friend, that means there was a time when I wanted you in my life, and it’s hard to let go of the hope that we’ll never be close again.  But maybe it’s necessary to let go of that.  There are people that I once hoped to be close with, but realized that I didn’t want to after all once I saw what they were really like.  And there were people I was once close with, but then they changed, and my hope is that I might once again someday be close with who they were before, not with who they are now.

So I don’t know.  I don’t have an answer for how to deal with these situations.  But it’s something I should be thinking and praying about.  I need to take care of myself, and it isn’t healthy to let people linger in my life who are causing more harm than good and probably won’t change.

Exit 38. :)&[4].

The combination of numbers and punctuation marks appearing in the title of this post is something I’ve used a few times over the years as a Facebook status.  I haven’t recently, though, because I haven’t really felt that way, although I know I really need to change my attitude.  And that’s what I need to work on right now.  But first I should explain what “that way” is, considering that :)&[4] is an abbreviation I made up (for a quote I didn’t make up, though).

:)&[4] is short for “I’ve got a smile on my face, and I’ve got four walls around me.”  To me, that means that I’m content with life at the moment.  I may not have everything I want, things may not be perfect, but I have what I need and I’m okay with that.  (Feel free to start using that in your own statuses and tweets.)  The quote is the both the opening and closing lines of this song:

As I mentioned in a recent post, the vocalist and primary songwriter for that song, Alan Doyle, recently wrote a memoir.  I just finished reading it today.  (And if I’ve mentioned it two weeks in a row, that means it must be really good, so all of you should go read it as soon as you’re done reading this.)  One of the first things that struck me about Alan’s story was when he writes about the first time he brought his future wife to the small rural fishing village in Newfoundland where he grew up.  He tells about how they had no car and his dad had to hitchhike to work, about throwing big parties to warm up the house when they ran out of heating oil, about having no bathroom at all when he was young, the non-flushing toilet in the bathroom his father built later, and taking his first shower as a preteen while visiting some relatives on his mother’s side in a different part of Newfoundland.  You hear stories all the time like this from people of my grandparents’ generation, who grew up during the Depression, but Alan isn’t that much older than me.  All of the stories in this book happened in the 1970s and 80s.  When Alan was a university student in St. John’s, he brought his future wife to his childhood home, and she said that she had no idea that Alan grew up poor.  Alan didn’t understand what she was saying at first, because he had never thought of himself as poor.  It was the only life he knew, and his family always had each other and they had all they needed in life, and they knew how to make do when they didn’t have something.  And that attitude shows up in the lyrics of Ordinary Day.

One foggy morning last week, I was driving to work, and while still in my own neighborhood I saw a blind pedestrian walking down the street with a red and white cane.  I don’t know who this person was, and now that I think about it, I don’t even remember if I noticed if it was a man or a woman.  But it just got me thinking about how when you don’t have one of your major senses, you have to learn to make do and do the best you can without it.  And suddenly, something hit me, like that feeling you get when you figure out something that has you stumped for so long.

I don’t consider myself poor financially.  I have a job and a house and a car.  I used to be a bit less well off financially.  I spent seven years working at a small private school that did not pay well.  In mid-2014, when I left that job, I was taking home the same dollar amount, not adjusted for inflation, as what I made in public school in 2003.  And I found ways to make do.  I didn’t jump on the smartphone bandwagon.  I had roommates for a while, and when the last one moved out, I decided to live by myself, which required more making do.  I got rid of cable TV, and I stopped getting the print edition of the newspaper.  And now that I’m taking home more money at my new job, I still don’t have a smartphone, cable TV, or print newspaper subscription, because those things aren’t really necessary for me when compared to how much they cost.

One of the areas in life where I do feel poor is in my chronic inability to form romantic relationships, and along with that, my fading hope of ever having a family of my own someday.  I came of age in an environment where I was told that dating was bad, because people who rush into relationships make bad decisions, so I should stop looking to find that special someone, and eventually God would bring her along, and we’d be married and happy and fit neatly into all those evangelical Christian stereotypes, where I’d be a strong manly Promise Keeper leading my family spiritually, and she would be a strong womanly Proverbs 31 Woman going on women’s retreats that looked like commercials for feminine hygeine products.  What no one told me was that all of that came with a deadline.  It doesn’t work the same way in real life once you’re too old for youth groups and college groups.  God isn’t just going to bring someone along with no effort on my part once I’m out there in the real world and not surrounded by singles my own age in my place in life.  Many of the people around me who heard that message with me in their early 20s got married in their mid-20s and now have happy families, and I’ve spent most of my 20s and 30s frustrated over the fact that none of that works for me.  I know there are other issues at play here.  My self-confidence issues have gotten in the way quite a bit, and those happy families aren’t always so happy all the time.  But there’s something else going on here.

And this brings me back to what I was saying earlier: I have to learn to make do, and do the best I can with what I have.  The world I knew in 1997 when I was being told all that stuff about dating is gone.  If I keep denying that, if I keep expecting life to stay the way it was in 1997, then nothing is ever going to change.  I have to make do with what I have, and what I have is a pretty awesome life in 2015.  I don’t have a family of my own like a lot of my age peers do, but I have a lot of friends and experiences and adventures to be thankful for.  And there do exist single women in 2015, but I’m not going to meet them by sitting back and waiting for them to come to me.  That doesn’t mean I’m denying the power of God in my life, it means I’m being reasonable and realistic.  I’m not meeting women my age with my values in my normal social circles, which gives me three options: other social circles, bars, or online dating sites.  Other social circles are an option, although I still think it’s hard to find people with that much in common with me.  But I’m going to be spending the next two Saturdays attending birthday parties of people who aren’t among the people I spend time with often, and that can’t hurt.  I never know how things will play out in the end.  (I should add, though, that I was at one of those same birthday parties a year ago, and I met someone.  We went out a couple times, and it didn’t end well.  In the interest of not using this blog to bash exes, I won’t say anything more about that, but I will say that I’m glad that I had the experience, as a live-and-learn growing experience type thing.)  As for bars, most women there also don’t share my values, and bars aren’t really my scene, so maybe if I want a relationship, I should try going back to online dating.  I had seven months of bad experiences with online dating, but that was on one site that was free, so there are other options to explore.  Yeah, it sucks that we live in a world that is so impersonal that we can’t meet each other face to face, that everyone is too busy to have any real interaction, but that’s the world of 2015 that I live in, so if I want to get by in this world, I have to make do.  I’m not going to meet a woman who shares my interests and values 100%, but very few men do, so I’ll have to make do.

I’m not saying I’m going to start looking for a relationship right now, I’m too busy with other things to know if this a good time for sure, but I don’t want to be closed to the idea of online dating because of that one stretch of life.  Sometimes I wonder, though, if maybe God never allowed me to have a family of my own because he knows that I wouldn’t be able to handle it with all my other commitments.  I often wonder how busy people manage to raise kids.  But if I ever do get the opportunity to have children of my own, I already know the secret: I just have to make do with what I have, and do the best I can.


Exit 37. How many kids have I hurt because I was having a bad day?

I am currently reading the book Where I Belong by Alan Doyle.  Alan Doyle is a musician, best known for his work in the band Great Big Sea; the band seems to be on indefinite hiatus, and Alan has been recording and performing as a solo artist since then.  He is also known for playing Alan A’Dale in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood movie (the similar name is a coincidence).  The book is a memoir about Alan’s childhood in Petty Harbour, a tiny fishing village outside of St. John’s, Newfoundland.  One story he told in that book really struck a chord with me.

Alan writes about a mean teacher he had in his early teens.  He was the extreme stereotypical Catholic school teacher, with all the associated ruler-hitting, but also with verbal abuse involving telling Alan that he would never be a man.  Many years later, as an adult, Alan ran into the mean teacher’s brother; he recognized Alan from knowing his music career, and knowing that Alan was from Petty Harbour, he asked if he ever had his brother as a teacher.  Alan didn’t have the heart to tell him how much he disliked his brother and how much he had been hurt, particularly when the man spoke of how his brother had taken care of their ailing mother, and how his brother had recently passed away himself of a long-term illness.

As a teacher, it often haunts me to think about how many kids I have had this impression on.  How many kids have I hurt because I was having a bad day?  How many bright young minds have been turned off of math, or of school in general, because they bore the brunt of my overreacting?

I remember one guy from my most difficult year.  He was a capable student who preferred to act like a wannabe gangbanger.  For a while, though, we did have a point of connection in that he really liked Star Wars.  One day, his class just wouldn’t be quiet, I couldn’t hear myself talk over all the noise, and I just blew up at them.  This student in particular was being disrespectful, and I think I screamed at him and slammed his book down on the desk.  I really don’t remember everything, because I tend to block out these shameful and painful memories.  After that incident, they moved him out of my class.  The vice principal told me that the student told him that my tantrum reminded him of his abusive father, who he had not seen in several years but who also used to blow up like that.  I felt so bad after that, and after they moved him out of my class, I went and found him during my prep period and apologized, and told him that I had given in to the Dark Side.

My first year teaching, there was a girl who just didn’t seem to like me, which is totally normal for high school juniors and seniors.  New teachers don’t know how things are done in their world, so the older students tend to think they don’t have to do anything that the new teacher tells them.  She fit that description, and math wasn’t her strong subject to begin with.  I said something in a phone call with her mom along these lines, and somehow it came across that she thought I was calling her daughter a spoiled brat or something like that.  She complained to the principal, and we had a conference with her mother in which the principal told me that my choice of words was inappropriate.  I honestly don’t remember exactly what I said.

I’m only human.  Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has bad days.  It has been many years since I have seen either of these students, but they, and many others, probably still have very bad memories of my class.  I can attempt to apologize, but the damage has been done.  Sure, I know that there have been many students who have enjoyed my classes and learned a lot from me, but it still hurts to know that I have failed so badly sometimes.  I can learn from those mistakes.  I can think before I speak and walk away from frustrating situations so that I don’t overreact in the future.

More importantly, when I’m on the receiving end of this kind of thing, when someone is mistreating me, I can make an effort to understand what’s going on in the other person’s head.  Alan Doyle didn’t know what his teacher was going through.  Those who have been mean to me over the years have their own sets of issues that I can’t begin to understand.  And my students don’t understand what I’m going through when I’m having a bad day.  All we can do is try our best to be patient and forgiving and understanding.