This past Friday was International Women’s Day, a day sponsored by the United Nations that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
There were demonstrations, protests and marches across the world, including activists protesting domestic and sexual violence in Kiev; an official national minute of silence as part of a day of mourning for victims of domestic violence in Portugal; and women marching in India demanding an end to domestic violence, sexual attacks and job discrimination, according to the Associated Press.
I’d never attended an International Women’s Day celebration in the past, but ended up going this year, thanks to a series of unrelated events that originated with songwriting.
At February’s songwriting workshop, I played one of my newer songs, “Bang Your Gavel Down,” which I wrote after viewing the unraveling of a particular news story on Twitter. One of the women in the group who I hadn’t met before heard the song and when she contacted the organizer of the Arizona Women’s Day Gathering event about one of her songs, she graciously also let her know that there were two other songs that she heard at the workshop that might be relevant for the event. She contacted the head of the Arizona Songwriters Association to ask him to be in touch with me about it and after I missed his initial email, he wrote me a second time. This time I saw it and immediately contacted Stacey, who then put me in touch with the organizer of the event.
After performing three of my songs at the annual songwriting gathering in January, I thought that maybe I had gotten over my performance anxiety and I’d be able to perform at this event. I sent her the lyrics, which she said she really liked, and we agreed that I would be part of the entertainment portion of the program, as people were eating lunch.
I didn’t know what to expect, but one of my personal challenges to myself this year (on this milestone birthday year) is to do things I want to do even if it scares me a bit.
So this past weekend I headed out to Mesa with my guitar to perform my song at an event I’d never heard about before and that I likely wouldn’t have gone to on my own without this invitation to perform.
I don’t have much to say about my performance itself except that it was an agonizing two minutes because my voice was shaky and I hit some wrong notes on the guitar (although the recording I made earlier that day sounded pretty good and I hit all the right notes pretty much every other time I played it over the previous week). I felt like I let the people there down because it was so much less of the impact that I had hoped to make. In reality, it was only two minutes of a 5 1/2-hour program with incredibly dynamic and inspiring speakers so I’m sure nobody else gave it a second thought. However, I wanted to grab my guitar and run out and cry in my car because I was so disappointed.
But I didn’t because I wanted to hear some more of the speakers’ stories.
These women were incredible. Brenda Combs shared her story about her transformation from a decade as a homeless drug addict to a professor and the founder of a charitable organization that helps the homeless community. Each of the speakers have overcome tremendous adversity in their lives and are now committed to helping others. It was a very moving and emotional day. Even some of the speakers were crying as they spoke because they said they were so moved by some of the other women’s stories.
One of the messages that came through many of the women’s talks were how important it is to find what it is that you’re meant to be doing in this world and how you can use it to help others. The one thread that has woven throughout my life is writing so I think that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. But how? Did all the writing I did for the local community newspaper make a difference? Any of the freelance writing? My blogs? My songs? What should I focus on? What can make the greatest impact? Is there an answer out there?
Since the purpose of this blog is to document my songwriting journey, I’m going to continue with my songs in the order that I wrote them. We are now in August 2017 and I was working on an article about a domestic violence shelter.
As I was writing about the shelter, I was thinking of the women who would be using it and what their lives might be like before they go to the shelter. This inspired “Symptom of Your Love.”
She has nightmares during the day
Gets shut down when she has something to say
Hopes it will blow over but it decays
I also thought about the men in their lives who led them to making this choice to leave. Was there love in the beginning? Was it a gradual change? Do they feel remorse? The chorus is directed at the men in this scenario:
This is a symptom of your lo-o-o-ove
You keep taking, it’s never enough
It’s a symptom of your lo-o-o-ove
Of your love
I changed a line in each chorus:
You are the storm that causes the flood
You promised cake but left only crumbs
Are the men aware of the impact of their behavior or is it something they were raised with and don’t realize that it’s not the way it’s supposed to be?
She speaks softly so you won’t hear
Some days she prays that she’ll disappear
She thought you would change, now it’s clear
Then the moment comes when she knows it’s time to leave.
Late one night she plans her escape
Takes one last look, feels her heart break
The cycle likely continues for most men, regardless of the woman he is with; whoever he is with probably gets treated similarly.
She was a victim of your lo-o-o-ove
You stole her dreams and turned them to dust
It’s a symptom of your lo-o-o-ove
Of your love.
When I brought this to the songwriting workshop, the feedback was that it was the most complete song I’d brought in so far, having a beginning, middle and end, but it didn’t really address the content of the song.
To me, this song touches upon the strength that victims of domestic violence have when they make that decision to leave their intolerable situation. I don’t know if this song properly conveys it, but I have so much admiration for people who take those difficult steps to improve their life and then ultimately strive to make the world a better place for others, too.