Phil Collins – Part One of Two


All my life, I’ve been haunted.  Or scared.  Or missing something I could never quite comprehend, much less expect to discover.  With the sometimes benevolent and other times malevolent benefit/detriment of hindsight, I’ve wondered if it’s been because I was born 10 weeks premature.  Or because I was never truly born, but instead surgically removed from my mother (via caesarean section).  Or because as a result of my prematurity, my first few days and weeks were spent in a humidity crib, when they otherwise would have been spent bonding with the most important woman, at least by virtue of creation, I’d share my (but not all of her) life with. Maybe.  But I’ve since realised it almost certainly (albeit not actually certainly) had nothing to do with missing something I’d had trouble finding.  Or holding on to a never productive pain I probably just imagined from an immediately but progressively (but not always quickly enough) less painful childhood.  It really was about imagination.  Or more particularly paranoia.  But that’s all.  I’d imagined certain horrifying realities about my life and ignored or repressed actual, more pleasant ones.  I could never be as free as I deserved until I accepted that some pains are normal; and others are the product of fantasy and fear and paranoia and, simply, poor influence or advice or treatment.  No more.  No more.  No more.

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Me, Melbourne to Adelaide and across the Eyre Peninsula to Cactus, south of Penong, and back to Adelaide surf trip, 2011 – photo Ross Dudgeon

Phil Collins has always been an artist I’ve admired and enjoyed, albeit not known a lot about or patronised to any serious degree (I’ve never bought any of his music.  I plan on doing (or downloading) so.  And at least reading a Wikipedia article about him.  I wonder if he has a biography/autobiography?).  An ex-girlfriend of mine used to listen to his music in order to get pumped up for our first few dates.  It worked (arguably to ill-effect, eventually).  I for one, like I said, have always enjoyed his music but, and this relates to the point of this piece, whenever I’ve heard it I’ve had frustrating difficulty figuring out what his name was.  It was always on the tip of my tongue or brain.  And even with time it would never pop into my head.  (Apparently when we experience such “tip of the tongue” moments, our conscious mind might give up but our subconscious usually continues working on the problem and offers the revelation later on.)  I’d just hear his music again at some point later, and experience the same frustration at not being able to figure out who it was by.  Over and over again, kind of like how life feels when you’re not enjoying it.  Or avoiding enjoying it.

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Sunrise over San Francisco Bay Bridge

Again, no more.  It fits perfectly with the enormous corner my life has turned, and the not so horrifying or debilitating truth about who I am and my current and potential place in the world.  I used to struggle to bring Collins’ name to my mind and/or lips (perhaps it’s no coincidence that my first name is “Colin”), just as I used to struggle to be honest with myself and avoid engaging in paranoid fear about the almost completely self-invented lies I for some reason perceived as terrifyingly true.  Not long ago, after I turned the corner (unashamedly aided by psychoanalysis and depression/anxiety medication) in my life I was listening to the radio and one of Collins’ songs came on, and I was able to summon his name.  Pretty well straight away.  Finally!  It felt so good.  So symbolic of what I’d been struggling for.  Struggling to be honest with myself.  To love myself, non-narcissistically.  To be unafraid.  And my reward, or one of many, was the ability to put a name to some wonderful music which, it’s now obvious, so tellingly and symbolically happened to be by someone who shared my name (albeit switched with his surname, and an extra L added.  It’s always annoyed me when people add an extra L to my first name).  Fear is useful, sometimes.  But even if I still had rational fear, I had forever, I hope, lost the fear to rationally realise.  I was free, of that.

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