I called in sick that day.
I wasn’t really physically ill, yet I couldn’t move. I called my office and made up some excuse — possibly the lamest, most used excuse there ever was.
“My stomach hurts.”
“I don’t know, maybe something I ate.”
“I just suddenly felt it.”
“I can’t come to work.”
Half of it was a lie. My stomach obviously didn’t hurt, and I hadn’t eaten anything. But the other half was 100% true. I just suddenly felt it, something inside of me felt like it burst into flames. I couldn’t put it out, and I couldn’t find the source. I froze right there, on my kitchen floor, and I knew it would take a while before it would pass.
I felt weak. Thousands and thousands of thoughts were running very aggressively in my head. It was as if each thought were trying to outshine the other. They all came rushing into me, and it got so overwhelming that I just couldn’t move. I gave myself a pinch — harder and harder — to snap out of it, but that day was different. I knew it would take a while before I could snap out of it.
“I need a cigarette.”
So I lit a cigarette. Music was playing on my laptop, and as if the universe could hear all the thoughts and voices ringing in my head, Alabama Shakes started playing: I Don’t Wanna Fight No More. Damn it, Brittany Howard. Damn it. I didn’t wanna hear that right now, but she was right. Fighting just sounded like too much. I was defeated, beat up by my own tragedy; once again destroyed by the memory of people and circumstances that had already managed to destroy me.
And if you’ve listened to this song, Brittany Howard kept going,
“I don’t wanna fight no more,
I don’t wanna fight no more, I –
don’t wanna fight no more,
I don’t wanna fight no more I –
don’t wanna fight no more
I don’t wanna fight no more, Ahhhhhh”
Every line felt different. Every line felt heavier, tougher to carry. Each time she blasted the line was a whole new emotional baggage I didn’t even know I had. Each time was like a slap on my face, telling me I was never the strong person I made myself believe to be or the strong person I wanted everyone to think I had always been. Each line of I Don’t Wanna Fight No More was a revelation of me being helpless, clueless, raw. I didn’t know where to put all the feelings. Then I thought of another song they had:
‘I spent all this time tryna play nice and fight my way here. See, I’ve been having me a real hard time, but it feels so nice to know I’m gonna be alright.’
If I couldn’t snap out of this, then might as well dive into it, right? So, I did. I dove right fucking into it. I dove into my feelings and I didn’t let the twisted thoughts in my head take it away from me. It started with a few little tears until I unleashed a whole goddamn ocean. I let it all the fuck out, and in between the moments when I thought I had already pulled myself together, I bawled even more. It was the most painful cry I’ve ever had to date. I had no idea anyone could be capable of crying that much. I cried for reasons I knew and reasons I couldn’t really pinpoint. I cried for hours on my grimy kitchen floor.
The song had finished minutes ago, yet I was still crying. I couldn’t hear the songs that played after that one. It might have changed a couple of times, but I was stuck in the abyss of Brittany Howard’s hauntingly beautiful songs. I questioned myself and my choices. I questioned my firm belief that I didn’t deserve all the bullshit that life had dumped onto me, because what if I did deserve all this after all?
I took some more time letting all these thoughts get the best of me until I managed to gather whatever strength I had left to get up. I went to my room that smelled like a perfect mix of cigarettes and frustrations and disappointments and maybe death. I closed my eyes, it hurt from all the crying.
And then I woke up.
The music had stopped. I looked out my window and the sun was starting to set. I was disoriented, I thought it was the next day but it wasn’t. I slept for hours — a dreamless sleep. And for the first time in a long fucking time, I felt peaceful. I woke up on the same day — same day, but a different feeling.
I brewed some coffee and I let the smell awaken me, and I cleaned up the mess that was a few hours ago. Then I showered and I put on makeup just for the hell of it. And out of nowhere, I felt as if all my strength were renewed. I felt strong, like the strong person I’ve always made myself believe to be — the strong person everyone else always thought I was. The room was filled with deafening silence, so I turned to my laptop to play some music. And I found myself typing another song from Alabama Shakes:
‘There must be someone up above saying come on girl, you gotta get back up. You gotta hold on.’
Bless your soul, Alabama Shakes.
Bless your heart, Brittany Howard.