The hyacinth called me many times today. I did not pick up immediately, since I had been with a friend. Wary of what the news might be, I called back, and heard about Leonard Cohen.
I rarely write without using a broader brush-stroke, when it comes to my personal life. Many of my choices have been unconventional, compared to societal norms, that I feel reluctant to discuss it. This is one of the rare, handful of times when I feel compelled to.
I fell in love early. It was painful. It was difficult. It was prolonged. It took me a long time to fall out of love. Was it wise? I’ll never know. I sung many hallelujahs to my hyacinth, as many as he sang to his Marianne, for many years. In my singular state of suspension, I was a bird on a wire, hanging upside down, and in Leonard Cohen I found words and song I could not articulate or compose. He was my hero, and I felt that I was travelling in his wake, on paths he had tread years ago, of difficult love, of a difficult life, of every waking moment spent contemplating and reflecting on love and life and death. What I could not find in my peer group, or in my family, or in my lover, I found in his music.
I have had to leave behind whom I loved, because the hyacinth had not taken my offer seriously or because the hyacinth had not thought me capable of delivering on my promise. It had been a state I could not recover from, for years. It did not help that I was always a bit too old for my years, and had known my limits and abilities, my needs and my mind, and had taken myself more seriously than most others did. It does not matter now. It is all water under an old bridge. Time and again, though, I had been told that I was not light-hearted enough, not capable of living in the moment, etc. I had felt ill-equipped, and had felt that I was wrong for carrying about as I did. Cohen put a rest to all of that, the first time I listened to So Long, Marianne. I moved on, with my life, met many others, and met one or two who were quite like me. I knew, from data, that I was not particularly odd or different. I was okay. Life carried on. Before that, before all of that, I had been a young girl of twenty, and only Cohen’s songs had been company.
I remember seeing him in concerts, sharing his well-lived life with the audience, self-deprecatingly, humbly, and carefully. I found the beauty in what he left unsaid, I admired his steadiness in not tampering with the sanctity of the private while venerating and celebrating love and life. Perhaps, now that I think of it, I found even echoes of my own thoughts in his opinions on religion and family.
I have cried many times in my life, and over the years, I have found his voice and words capable of soothing when I find myself desolate and alone. I had felt alien and unsure, time and time again, as what I offered was taken without reciprocation, and worse, taken without understanding the seriousness of it. Yet, I found solace in Cohen’s songs of failure and loss. He had found the strength to go on, each time.
It was love, though, that was the most remarkable. Every song of love he sung was a song of pain and struggle, of sacrifice and steadfastness. I had thought some of my acts and thoughts during my younger years to be influenced by puberty and teen-angst. It was an over-simplification, and a false one at that. I know now that I take people to my heart, when I take them. Over the years, I have become more and more careful, in choosing whom to take. It has been a difficult path to walk, to not feel embittered by experience, to start afresh over and over again, and Cohen has been my salvation in times of doubt and confusion.
In times when I have been at a loss for words, when I have been suffocated by emotion, I had turned to Cohen, and I had found in his repertoire something unfailingly.
I had known that he was dying. He had said that, in his latest album, in many of his songs. It does not make the news any easier to accept, though he had prepared his listeners for it, in his own way.
You taught me to value each connection, to give even when there was no receiving, time after time, to forgive myself and others, to never forget what had been there once. You taught me to acknowledge family, legacy, and history, even if not all of it was pleasing or aligned with my own ideas. I knew to love before I ever listened to you, but you taught me that it was beautiful and not wrong to love as I do. Thank you.