I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. I’m grateful to be able to give it, and equally humbled to receive it, from Russ and the boys on a daily basis.
At a recent reading/signing for my novel, Songs for the New Depression, a woman asked if the book was about depression. A valid question, given the book’s title, but “depression” is not what I was going for…
The title actually comes from an old Bette Midler album, for whom lead character, Gabriel, has an affinity. Gabe has long been challenged by his past, particularly his unwillingness to fully deal with his emotions, which has lead to a long string of quick sexual encounters and ultimately futile relationships. He has taken the easy route, never really facing his issues and, as much as he may want love and affection, he has no clue as to what real love is, let alone how to fully give himself to another.
When I was younger, I was much the same. For me, though, sex was never casual. It was all about finding “the one”. I pictured an all-engulfing, romantic kind of love, but whenever I did feel “the fireworks”, a fire would soon follow.
It wasn’t until meeting Shane, who had been diagnosed with AIDS, did I rethink what it means to love, both in giving and receiving. Prior to jumping in, as I would previously do, with him I carefully weighed my options, considering all outcomes, before entering into the relationship. And that considered approach, in turn, led to a more adult type of relationship, a richer love, and eventually a personal awakening. Through giving myself over to someone as not only as partner, but caregiver, I finally faced my fears and darker emotions. Through love, I discovered who I am and the strengths I have, and I am all the richer for it.
Many people think, because I attribute this to my experience to Shane, that Russ must feel slighted. But Russ understands how transformational real love can be. Russ and I moved slowly into our relationship, making sure it felt “right”. And there is something about that more considered approach which not only feels authentic and “grown up”, but also seems to lead to an ever-increasing emotional connection and deeper affection. Despite our 9 years together, our love continues to evolve, strengthen, and flourish, growing more rich and nuanced every day.
Thus, the theme of my book is not depression — or depressing. Rather, it is all about love. Wanting love, sometimes desperately. Not knowing how to love, or what it really is. Confusing sex with love. Finally finding love–and then losing it. And how love has the power to fully transform one’s own soul, if only we let it.
Love can be redemptive, changing our very existence.
To me, Songs for the New Depression is about that epic kind of love, fully engulfing. Real love is not the fireworks. It is the slow burn that comes from total enrapture.
And this song exemplifies just that: