Dear Lykke Li, Sometimes I Collapse In Fancy Department Stores Too

[div:credit]Lykke Li

When you hit the dolomite bottom of your world, it is just as furtively beautiful and jagged as the quartz rock that broke you. Just as easily as you fall, flailing your arms in some hopeless attempt at saviour, you lie broken for too long, simply baffled at what made you trip in the first place while also trying your hardest not to recall it at all. 

It’s not quite clear when things begin to feel normal again, like normal used to be (just before you joyously bounded into the jutting spear) but somehow after walking around for months with a crystal dagger in your spine, it heals – the rock just a reminder of it all. The new growth mostly goes unnoticed at first, because it’s harder to see behind you than in front, but sometimes when dressing or undressing for a date you catch a glimpse of it in your reflection and so it never really leaves you.

That is, if you are me or Swedish indie crooner, Lykke Li, or one quarter of the concert-goers at the Toronto stop of her Wounded Rhymes tour – the other three quarters too young, too suburban, or too uncomplicated (but really the latter describes them all) to understand. They are simply there to mimic her on Lookbook, or because some electrode DJ sampled her on Hypem, or because she’s cool now – after having already toured here four times. The rest of us that get it, and her, congregated in a mutual understanding of undisguised and obsessive romanticism, malefic dark recesses and an inbred reclusiveness. 

Sure, we shared these similarities but things were different this time, because she was different this time, the speared stone still bleeding, glistened from the spotlight, its contours visible under her drapey black dress. Her voice still quavered the same way, her dance moves remained the same loose-limbed masquerade of a song, but there was something dying in front of us, all of us, and no one seemed to notice. 

Could it be that we wanted to see her this way? The rest of us who listened to her on repeat on sweaty summer days after sex with a man we couldn’t name, after running into someone whose face makes you want to grab onto their dagger for dear life, or love – or those of us who in dissolving moments want to put the troops away for good, to fall in love for good? Perhaps. After all, that feeling, the one that encompasses all these heart splinters is only everything she writes about. Except this time, she wasn’t just singing about it. Finally she was falling apart like we were.

But I suppose you can’t really call me a fan; for one I hadn’t bought a ticket, even though I had planned to; someone had just bailed last minute, but also because when I brought up her throbbing dagger wound to a friend, she looked at me for moments too long and stated – like I had just asked her how Osama was doing – ‘What? You don’t know what happened?’ No, I didn’t. She proceeded to tell me about this:

On a recent blog post she wrote:

I had some kind of complete meltdown on Marks&Spencer in Glasgow on one of those very rare days off while on route. For various reasons, various hardships sneaked up on me and I was standing at an isle contemplating life and death and the struggles of being an artist/soul/woman/human being when the overbearingness sneaked up on me like Batman himself. I fell to the floor and so did the raspberries I had in my hand.

It was one of her worst performances, a cold-blooded rendition of her music, like those moments when your body is still contorting around the jagged rocks of your fall and you have to answer the door after your best pal has come around everyday after work to check on you, when you have to take a shower because you haven’t in days, closer to a week, and the dry shampoo just isn’t cutting it, or perform in front of six hundred fans who have been waiting since February for your concert, all when you’ve only just died and been resurrected against your will. Yet, it was also one her most gut-wrenchingly affecting shows yet. 

Suddenly the lyrics to “Sadness is a Blessing” were no longer just comforting verses to her emo fans but indicative of a woman who in all her indie celeb glory was still immensely depleted of life’s fleeting elixir – love, obviously – and who, like most manic depressives and artists, needed real help and none of us had noticed until now, and most still hadn’t. 

I ranted, I pleaded, I beg him not to go
For sorrow, the only lover I’ve ever known
Every night I rant, I plead, I beg him not to go
Will sorrow be the only lover I can call my own?

It was, in some selfish manner, comforting to see her protruding dagger though. Because, similar to suicide, people don’t talk about how desperate things have become. You do the same mundane life things in the hope that you’ll stop noticing your hardship, heartbreak, and exhausting hustle to succeed, and then you end up collapsing in a department store while buying berries. It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to have your heart shredded into confetti pieces, it’s okay to struggle for the off chance that you can spend your life doing what you want and not some reincarnation of it. Because for those one third of us who haven’t settled for a cheap life of reflecting condos, dead-grey offices and a partner who fits five of the ten qualities you’ve made in a checklist on your fridge after a girls night in, the admirable aspirations you have are going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to fulfill in your life. But know that even if you can’t see them, most of your awesome friends probably have a jagged row of rocks protruding from their backs too. TC mark

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