Songs That Make Me Feel Things 1 - The Dance, Garth Brooks

Hi there! Merilette here. Welcome to the first entry in my blog series, 'Songs That Make Me Feel Things'. In this series I will be getting incredibly personal with you all, detailing why certain songs mean so much to me and how I relate them to my life. 

Today, we will be taking a look at The Dance. A quick word of warning - this will get really serious really fast. 

The Dance, written by Tony Arata and made popular by Garth Brooks, is often considered one of the greatest songs ever written in country music history. I wholeheartedly agree.

Almost everyone that hears this song is able to relate it to their own life in one way or another. The main premise of The Dance is that all good things come to an end. On the surface, it sounds like a perfectly written song about a breakup, with Garth singing about how glad he is that he didn't know it would end in such an ugly, painful way - because if he had known, he probably wouldn't have entered into the relationship in the first place, and thus would miss all of the wonderful memories that he procured along the way.

I don't hear it that way.

When I listen to it, I can't help but hear it from the perspective of my mom, at my funeral. 

I know. It sounds horrible, and it is. But many people in my situation think about things like this often.

As I'm sure many of you know, I have been struggling with mental illness for most of my life. With my combined illnesses, my suicide risk is incredibly high compared to the rest of society. I've attempted suicide twice. Luckily, here in Pittsburgh I have finally been diagnosed correctly and effectively treated. My last suicide attempt was about two years ago, and I have been doing really well for the past year or so. Sometimes when I'm feeling down, I still have low-level suicidal ideation, but I'm able to ask for help and wait for it to pass, and it always does. 

Despite doing well lately and feeling very positive about my mental health and my life in general, I am always well aware that the road to recovery is not linear, and it likely doesn't have an end point. The hardest part about my mental health situation is knowing that I may have to fight for my life until the day I die.

Most people with severe mental illness know the feeling - you've been feeling pretty good for a few months, and you start to wonder when it's going to all fall apart. You start to wonder where the bump in the road is. You start to wonder which wave will suck you under again, and if it will be the wave to keep you under for good.

So, I still think about my risk of suicide, and the experiences I've had with it. 

I think about what it would cause. 

I think about what the people who love me would do, think, feel and say if I were to ever lose the fight.

There's really no way to know what they would do, think, feel and say. 

But for me, listening to The Dance is the closest thing possible to knowing. It gives me an odd comfort knowing what song I'd like played at my funeral if I were to lose the fight, and simultaneously emboldens me to keep fighting, and hard. Because the very last thing I ever want is for my mom and my dad and my husband and my nana and my grandpa to have to bow their heads as this song plays at a funeral home, me forever gone out of their arms.

Lyrics, annotated with my thoughts:

(reminder, I hear this whole song from the perspective of my mom if I were to pass away by suicide)

Looking back on the memory of 
The dance we shared beneath the stars above (the dance, in this context means to me the relationship between mother and child)

For a moment all the world was right 
How could I have known you'd ever say goodbye (this makes me envision my mom, holding me for the first time)

And now I'm glad I didn't know 
The way it all would end the way it all would go (how could my mom enjoy being my mom knowing that I would be gone early, in such a horrible way?)

Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain 
But I'd have to miss the dance (self explanatory)

Holding you I held everything 
For a moment wasn't I the king (again, I see my mom holding me for the first time)

But if I'd only known how the king would fall 
Hey who's to say you know I might have changed it all (If she was somehow able to know this would happen before conceiving me, would she continue? I don't think I would in that situation.)

And now I'm glad I didn't know 
The way it all would end the way it all would go (same as above)

Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain 
But I'd of had to miss the dance (If she could choose to not have a daughter that suffers and succumbs to mental illness, that suffering would never happen. But the joyous and wonderful moments would, just the same, never happen. And what a shame that would be.)

Yes my life is better left to chance 
I could have missed the pain but I'd of had to miss the dance

Listen to the song, performed live by Garth Brooks in 1989:

Thank you for reading, and I will be back next week with another song.



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