Sometimes Goodbye Is A Second Chance

If you had asked me before last year what image the song “Second Chance” reminded me of, it would have been responded with an unsympathetic response about the “post-cheating” ballad “Second Chance by the band .38 Special, an image of a man caught cheating on his wife/girlfriend who asks for a second chance, promising to mend his ways. However, since the band Shinedown has come out with a song of the same name which invokes images of generational conflicts in dysfunctional co-dependent families (something, sadly, I can relate too far better), the song now prompts different images.

I do not know at what point it became popular to write and sing songs about co-dependent family backgrounds. I do know that, alarmingly, my generation has written several popular songs, a disproportionate amount of which have ended up being in my own music collection, and one of which (“Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson) ended up as my favorite song of the year. In fact, if you consider “Daughters” by John Mayer to be a co-dependency song (it deals with the long-term damage of a lack of parental care towards girls, making it a song about parental abandonment), then my favorite songs for two years in a row were songs about children growing up in co-dependent families. Clearly, this is a problem.

It is not hard at all for such songs to become extremely melodramatic, even maudlin. For example, while “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson was a more inspirational song about the attempts of a child of co-dependent families to “break away” from the cycles of bad relationships and dysfunctional behaviors that so many families show (including my own), a similar song in tone and meaning to Shinedown’s “Second Chance,” such a mood easily is turned. Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You” (which, not coincidentally, became a country hit), for example, goes into vivid and painful detail about how parental blunders can shatter the emotional security of children well into adulthood. Other songs of hers, like “Miss Independent,” “Beautiful Disaster,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” “My Life Would Suck Without You,” and “Already Gone,” chronicle different aspects of the crippling problems of co-dependency in romantic relationships that follow from a negative parental example. In fact, one could call Kelly Clarkson’s entire musical career a tribute to the alarming popularity and resonance of co-dependence on generations of teenagers and young adults, and a significant sign of just how extensive these problems are in our society.

And it would be unfair to single out Ms. Clarkson alone in these matters, for my own experience with the theme of co-dependent families in music goes back further even than her, back to the time when I was growing up in the 1990’s. The first band I remember in my own youth being devoted to the themes of family co-dependency was the band Tonic, whose album Lemon Parade produced one big hit (“If You Could Only See”) and one minor hit (“Open Up Your Eyes”). Both of those songs, along with some of the album tracks (like “Celtic Aggression”) dealt with a co-dependent family situation, where the lead singer had been unceremoniously kicked out of his family for his romantic attachment to a young lady deemed unsuitable by his (very strict) parents. Again, families where the need for drastic rebellion mixes with the desire for control and rigidity combine are families where co-dependency, embarrassing family secrets, and multi-generational struggles with abuse and addiction issues can be found.

Nor is geographic distance sufficient to ensure a second chance. It is impossible for me to feel sanguine about such matters, having been well-experienced (unfortunately) with the inner workings of such dysfunctional families and the carnage they spread over generations. After all, all human beings (even very troubled ones) are mixtures of good and evil, and to define yourself as the opposite of your father or mother simply because they were unable or unwilling to love you properly or set a good example about how family life should be still leaves you with a mixture of good and evil that is defined by the experience one has—simply the inverse. And you can take the country boy out of the country, but it’s far harder to take the country out of the country boy. We carry within us, for better or worse, the deep channels of generations of behavior both good and bad. Those channels will not be gotten rid of in one swoop of rebellious defiance, nor should they.

Indeed, in order to properly move on, one must come to terms. This means forswearing pat phrases that seek to convey fortune cookie wisdom without involving deep personal reflection or genuine feeling, and wrestling with the grim and unpleasant reality of families trapped in generations of misery. Cycles of abuse, abandonment, illegitimacy, alcoholism, sexual abuse, and numerous other horrible behaviors do not start or stop overnight, nor without intense soul-searching and great suffering. They do not cease because one’s family scatters to the four winds, but they stop only because one faces them directly, without anything to dull the suffering, but with loving friends and, perhaps, relatives willing and able to provide encouragement instead of heaps of manipulation and guilt trips. And even then it is not easy but it is worthwhile.

Sadly, it takes far more than goodbye to have a real second chance. It takes a coming to terms, with whatever mourning and grieving is necessary, before a genuine second chance (for many of us, a first chance) can begin. It cannot be rushed and it cannot be coerced, and it requires us to maintain what bridges and connections we have while giving up our misguided and doomed attempts to control other people. To rule over one’s self is freedom, to rule over someone else as if they were your own is tyranny, and like Thomas Jefferson I have sworn eternal enmity to tyrants. From the looks of it, the singers who have been so bold in singing about co-dependency have not been so fortunate in finding hope for themselves and their relationships. The Counting Crows still sing about damaged women in songs like “She Don’t Want Nobody Near,” and Kelly Clarkson still seeks that elusive love where she can feel comfortble (for she, like me, is someone who very rarely lets down those emotional walls, and whose romantic experiences are few and largely unpleasant). But someone needs to do so, so that the rest of us may see a way out of the trap we have unwittingly found ourselves in, through the accident of chance and the perceived absence of choice.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Love & Marriage, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sometimes Goodbye Is A Second Chance

  1. peacefulsun says:

    I’m now following you and would like to invite you to follow me as well on
    Great post!


  2. Pingback: You Were Wrong; I Was Right; You Said Goodbye; I Said Goodnight | Edge Induced Cohesion

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