It’s a crazy world we’re living in right now, so I thought I’d just lean in. Over the course of several somethings, I’ll post performances of songs I’ve written over the years to release some tension and hopefully start some conversations about music, lyrics and songwriting!
A little about this song…
I wrote A Song for Absent Fathers back in 2008 in my last year of college when I was living in Kentucky.
In my head, I was imagining myself looking in a mirror, disappointed with the view and fantasizing about how I might have seen myself differently in that mirror had I had a different relationship with my parents growing up than I did in reality.
In all fairness, I have reconnected with my dad, though we still remain distant and disjointed in how much we communicate. He is a loving, caring person, but the intimacy just isn’t there yet between us. And, reflecting on this song now twelve years after it was first written, I’m starting to realize it’s about my mom too. Though I grew up with her and she was the one who raised me, our relationship was just as distant and disjointed as mine is with my father. Only now there is no chance to remedy that now that she’s gone.
I’m not sure what lyrics will stand out to you or how the song will resonate with you in general, but that’s the great thing about writing. Even though I am the author of these words, and even though I wrote it with a specific intention, I know that once they’ve been given to others, they’ll take on new forms and new meanings. It’s a powerfully beautiful thing to behold in the end.
Let’s talk about the lyrics
The lines that held the most weight for me when writing this song were in the verses and in the ending lyrics. These particular lines were what I wrote the song around. They’re meant to capture the feeling of portraying oneself as a complete, well-adjusted person while inwardly feeling anything but:
“With one step outside your door, the Beautiful, well they’ll have more than any glance you can take of yourself.”
The sentiment is that any passing glance I take of myself in the mirror will be outdone by beautiful people. In this instance, the person assumes that everyone they encounter must be living a much better life. This person has fully given into the “the grass is always greener” mentality. She’s a person who starts her day with a fleeting and flimsy confidence when she looks at herself in the mirror, only to have those hopes dashed the second she steps outside and engages with the wider world.
“I try to have faith in what I cannot think: that what I have to give is valuable to take.”
Here I wanted to make the point that what you see on the outside may not always be what the person is like on the inside. It’s so easy to convince yourself that you have nothing to give to the world around you, that you aren’t contributing enough of anything significant. But this is a lie no matter the angle from which you see it, no matter the kind of life you live. Chances are that if you are asking yourself if you’re giving back enough, or if you’re asking yourself if you’re making enough of a positive impact, you’re living a good life and doing the best you can with what you’ve got.
It’s also just as easy to get caught up in our own narratives and to view the world as this place that functions and turns according to how we see it. It’s a fault I am constantly trying to overcome, as I know that the myriad of things going on in my own head are often only a vague interpretation and representation of actual reality.
“I cannot fit the mold, and I fear I’ve grown too old for this.”
This was a way to portray a passive resignation to the present circumstance. In this song you have a person who feels disconnected, defeated and out of place. What she sees in the mirror and how she tries to convince others that she’s doing okay are in a constant war. She’s lying to herself and to others and allowing the veneer she’s painted over herself to build a definitive, often isolating wall around who she really is and how she really feels. And because keeping up the lie is so tiring, and because she’s done it for so long, she just wants to give up. So that’s what she ultimately does by the end of the song.
The constant battle with the self
In a lot of ways the person portrayed in the song is someone I still feel like I am, and I fight everyday to convince myself that who I see in the mirror is valuable and loved and worth something.
These days, I’m trying not to hide behind a false mask like the person in the song; I do this by being more open and honest with family, friends and even the people I meet online; sometimes this bear-faced honesty has led to some beautiful connections and stronger, more compassionate relationships.
Other times, being so open and honest about where I really am in life with family and friends has created more rifts, anger and feelings of isolation. I’m trying hard not to let those sadder moments get me down for too long. In reality, I cannot expect everyone to have sympathy or empathy when I am honest about why I sometimes lash out or close myself off, even when it’s family; sometimes people aren’t ready for so much honesty. They’ve also probably got their own things going on (I keep reminding myself.), and I’ve got to be patient with that.
Some days prove to be more challenging than others in making myself believe that positivity, faith, hope are all things that are attainable, especially when it comes to seeing myself in a better light, as a good person. But I hope the sincerity and honesty expressed in this song is felt, not only to better connect to each other, but also to help one another release the things that weigh us down, so that we can try move forward to something that’s a little better, and hopefully a little brighter than the present.