RE: Falling Apart

Every song I've written has generally been about one of two things.  Love or God.  Sometimes both.  Each always weighted by mortality.  The problem is you can only write so many songs about death, or doubting God and death, or loving your wife despite the fact that you're both going to die (I promise I'm a really happy, content person).  The hardest part of writing songs isn't the music; it's the lyrics.  You're trying to give language to something inherently abstract, so the gnashing of teeth in the process is always how to make the song work with words.

A little over a year ago, I really felt like I had run out of road.  It wasn't compelling to write another cynical song about God not showing up or an angsty, meta, morbid love song.  In that vacuum, the only thing that seemed artistically motivating was to write to a then-totally hypothetical son or daughter.  I started "Falling Apart" on April 5th of 2017.  On April 19th, I found out my wife was pregnant.

The song "Always Be," which I wrote in November of 2017, is the first song explicitly about my daughter.  But I consider "Falling Apart" as the first song to her.  It is quite literally me trying to figure out impending fatherhood with the mixed bag of cynicism, morbidity, immaturity, and visceral, imperfect love I knew I'd be heaping on this tiny, unknown person.  What came out was a song about how it's ok to not be ok.  True to form, this song is still very much about love and God and death, but parenthood shifted the focus into new territory for me.  It's not just about suffering, it's about how to experience suffering.  

The first part of the song is essentially about the idea that pain doesn't negate joy; rather that paradoxically, they're almost the same thing.  The second verse, specifically, is basically the story of my relationship with my wife.  September 1st is our anniversary.  

You'll catch the moment just after, past what can be saved
You'll see the empires crumble, I hope the time will come late
I have seen darkness gather, I have seen darkness fade
Sometimes the end doesn't matter, so just remember what stays

I tore the threads from the fabric, I wore the edges to frays
Still I know that I loved her, still I have no complaints
When we kissed in the winter, I think we knew right away
I see the first of September, I see the tears on her face

When I'm falling apart

The idea of fabric and cloth isn't literal, but rather one that came up during a rewrite as I was getting ready to take the song into the studio.  I liked the connotations of love being well-worn cloth, like the baby blanket your parents saved in a box of memories or an old, disintegrating sweater that you can't bear to part with because it belonged to someone you loved.  This idea carried through in the bridge in a slightly different way.

The third verse starts with a really specific memory from my childhood.  I don't remember how old I was, but one day I walked into our pantry some months after my dad passed away.  For whatever reason I decided to close the door behind me and was surprised to find much of the back of the door and wall covered in taped-up pieces of paper.  Each had some sort of quote about not giving up.  I don't remember what any of them said, except for one, which read:

"It will be ok
In the end
If it's not ok
It's not the end"

That was originally the last line of the third verse.  But as I reworked the lyrics, I wanted to find a way to illustrate the purpose of the quote (and the whole memory) rather than just restating it directly.  The idea of having a child is purely beautiful in the abstract, but once it's an imminent reality, you're forced to the soul-wrenching realization that suffering will be an inevitable part of his or her life.  So the most important lesson I could offer my own child (especially after I'm gone) isn't wizened, fatherly or moral advice, but rather both the inevitable reality of suffering and the ever-present possibility of life inside it.  The impulse of pain is to escape it, but that instinct often leads to a very dark, cyclically destructive place.  We've all known people like this–who walk in a very real waking hell because of prior trauma.  The birth of this song was the realization that the greatest thing I could offer as a parent would be my most earnest attempt to show my daughter how to avoid this trap.  Suffering isn't a predator you can kill or outrun, but rather a valley you must walk through if you want to survive.  Pithy rationalizations about God's plan are entirely unhelpful to a woman who's just lost her husband or a 12-year-old boy who's just lost his father.  God absolutely gives you more than you can handle.  It's not ok.  It's not over.  It's also not the end.

It was the wall past the doorway, the days after he died
Where she kept all her words, while she kept us alive
You're born and died a thousand over, just don't get lost in the time
I know that it isn't over, I know it isn't all right

When we're falling apart

The bridge reflects a hope that what's apparent in the way I live is not just soul-searching or cynicism, but an actual reflection of the life I claim to know.  The tearing of the garment was an ancient practice to physically represent lamentation.  Most of this verse is about my lifelong struggle against God because of how broken everything constantly seems.  But my hope is that the earnestness of my conflict actually serves as a greater illustration of the truth I feel in the picture of God's Kingdom.  

One of the most providential things to happen while working through this tune came from my producer Dave Wilton (note: producer not on this version, but on the version that will be on an upcoming EP).  The last couple lines of the bridge are of course a not so thinly-veiled allusion to the parable of the Prodigal Son.  At the time I wrote the song, we didn't know whether Sophie was going to be a boy or a girl.  Dave is the reason it says "child" and not "son," and I'm pretty grateful for that edit.

I hope my life will let you see it
Hope my cracks don't make you stumble
In all the day's I've lost to pace the ground
Between my fortunes and my fears
I tore my garment, haste my freedom
But all my strength can't break the tether
Somewhere the Kingdom's like a father
And he's running to his child

To that end, the conclusion is the only real answer to suffering I believe anyone can offer.  It's not transactional and has no definite end.  It's simply the father I pray that I can be.

When you're falling apart, I hope a part of you remembers
When you're falling apart, I will love you the same
When you're falling apart, I will love you the same

Joseph Cutshall