some notes on anxious attachment through the lens of 90’s radio hits

hello, beloved blog readers. 2023 has been a whirlwind so far and it’s only just begun, only 23 days in. multiple things have happened that have triggered my anxious attachment and god damn it’s not even the death anniversary of my BFF (jan 29, 2005–it’ll be 18 years soon, holy shit) yet. this year started with plunging into the atlantic ocean with one of my greatest friend-loves, with my dad looking on, on an unseasonably warm (60 degrees!) day in coney island, brooklyn. i decided to do this plunge in november, 400 miles away in my home of pittsburgh, pennsylvania. i was leading a therapy group, which is something i am unsuited for and that presses upon my deepest insecurities. i led the clients in a writing exercise where we wrote about a place that felt safe to us, and mine turned out to be coney island. in it, all my dead friends were there, climate change was reversed, old species were coming back to life. no one made fun of us for being gay or trans or fat. it was such a beautiful vision, and it was sad how a lot of it couldn’t be real, but some of it was still possible. Also at work, I encourage people to use the TIP skill a lot, of which the “T” involves dunking your face into cold water to trigger your mammalian dive reflex, which slows down your heart rate and temporarily halts all non-essential processes, such as ruminating or freaking out, for about ten minutes. And i thought, wow, I’m so anxious all the time now, maybe I should do the tippiest TIP skill of all and bathe in the chilly atlantic oshy at my favorite happy place, Coney Island.

And so I did, and it was fucking amazing.

But the rest of January has not been quite so amazing, multiple little things pulling at me. Death by a thousand tiny paper cuts. Seasonal affective disorder, the final death-knell of a friendship of 10+ years that is one of the most important human connections that I have ever had but is simply no longer possible, painful work shit, painful romance shit, painful being-a-human-in-late-capitalism shit. A lot of these things are triggering my anxiously attached mind. Do you know your attachment style? If not, I highly recommend doing some reading and figuring it out. I’ve been an anxiously attached person for 40 years at this point; I’ve been aware of it for less than ten. That awareness is so helpful. To look at a behavior that seems ingrained, like the deepest most shameful flaw, the thing that drives other people away, the thing that makes you feel the most unlovable: it is simply a reaction. It is a reaction that can be managed. Not that it’s easy to manage, but knowing that is so powerful.

The thing that has mostly saved me this month, so far, is reading a lot about anxious attachment and thinking of it, being aware. And since I’m aware, I’m seeing it everywhere, in everything. The song “ex-factor” in Lauryn Hill’s phenomenal 1999 album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” is totally a classic anxious attachment song. It’s a really popular breakup song, especially for people who are old enough to have been young adults in the late 90’s, because it really captures the unique hell of feeling like you will absolutely die without someone but you also can’t live through them staying.

But, on the same album–in one case, merely ONE SONG after the most anxiously attached song of all–there are two secure-attachment songs. “For Zion,” the song about her nurturing her baby boy, loving him more than anything, loving him past all reason or sense. A reminder. You can have been loved so poorly, and yet still know how to love, how to pay forward what you never got. How to reach within yourself to the thing that the world couldn’t touch, and give it out, to someone who needs it even more. Both of you can be healed in that moment. It can reverberate throughout your whole life. If it’s towards the next generation, even better. But it’s also OK if you have no interest in nurturing the next generation, because people of the current generation, the past generations, we all need it too.

And then! “Everything is everything,” such a securely attached song. I imagine a wise old redwood embodying those words, or a caring elder, someone who’s been around for so so long. Lauryn Hill was 24 when that album came out. Was she pulling these words from some deep ancestral place? Was she just exceptionally wise at 24? Was this wisdom passed down from an elder that she captured in a space where everyone coudl hear it? All month, I have sung these words over and over again, trying to ground myself, trying to find some hope: Everything is everything. What is meant to be, will be. After winter, must come spring. Change, it comes eventually. Words that are so true that they almost feel redundant. Maybe you’re lucky enough to think that those words are obvious. But sometimes, we need a reminder from something larger than ourselves. Sometimes words come at us, out of the radio, on a scratched CD from the library, on the cold prairies of the internet, the swirled-up sprinkles of a streaming service.

Here is one piece of wisdom I want to share with you all, it feels slightly embarrassing to type it out because it may actually not be true, but it’s true for me: the song “fantasy” by mariah carey cannot be ruined by a bad crush! I have excitedly danced to this song in my bedroom while thinking about my crush of the moment since the early 2000’s at least (when this song was out on the radio i foolishly thought i was too cool, too DEEP, for mariah carey. reader, i was neither). i have thought of at least ten people–realistically, probably more like 20–while listening to this song. did any of these motherfuckers deserve me? resoundingly, no! (i of course can’t remember every single instance, so probably some of them were sweet people for whom i have no resentment, maybe even sweet people with whom i fell in love and became securely attached to, but that’s not who i’m remembering right now).

and yet, the song endures. it doesn’t hold on to the remnants of the people. it is its own shapeless form. it fits every situation. mariah will always be riding the dragon coaster in the video (another childhood happy place, and if i’m not mistaken, it’s still standing, you can still ride it today at rye playland, an amusement park in the NYC area). my friend noah once wrote on facebook about how this song is so perfect for the throes of a crush, especially with that line, “I get kinda hectic inside,” I mean, especially those of you anxiously attached babies, what better way to describe that addicting-yet-devastating feeling of having a new crush? It’s the only way. Mariah Carey and I have nothing in common besides the fact that we’re both Arieses from Long Island. I would say that we also both get kinda hectic inside, but I don’t know if she wrote those lines or if she just sings them so well. As an Aries, I would wager that she maaaaybe knows that feeling but I don’t want to speculate any more (as if I haven’t been speculating enough!)

Anyway, it doesn’t matter how many times your heart gets dinged. This song will be there for you. All the songs will be there for you, if you know where to find them. I will have a new crush and dance to that song in my bedroom again, someday, and probably very soon, even though I’m a fucking 40 year old punk-adjacent butch and not a 12 year old girl.

REASONS FOR WRITING THIS POST:

25% having thoughts that I feel like sharing and not wanting to individually call/text all of my friends

40% writing gives my life meaning and i need to do it whenever the urge strikes, ideally in as public a manner as possible

35% I have some paid work to do for my day job but there’s no strict deadline so OBVI i would rather be writing entirely for free instead

5% shouting into the void

REASONS FOR WRITING THIS SENTENCE:

I engage in a lot of magical thinking and I am fearful of hitting “post” at an odd time (it was 7:05 when I started but now it’s 7:06 so i can post it. Maybe one day I’ll work on this. but not today, not now.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: