Show Much Can I Take?
I'm Stuck on You
The Christine DeMeo
a listening guide for the spiritually interested
I'm stuck on you. How much can I take? I've been there, too.
This is the heart of soul music: transcendence intertwined with an unflagging sense of being in the thick of life, the sound of ordinary people heroically getting by. To live is to face the fight. To not want to fight is to live. Fly on.
-- Ann Powers, NPR
A Yearning for Connection
(to be sung with enthusiasm)
A Yearning for Connection is but one of many moods in the spiritual alphabet developed by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat in Spirituality and Practice. Christine DeMeo sings them all in her live performances and audios: attention, being present, creativity, connectedness, courage, devotion, enthusiasm, faith, forgiveness, gratitude, hospitality, imagination, justice, listening, meaning, nurturing, openness, peace, play, questing, reverence, silence, transformation, unity, vision, wonder, X (the mystery of life), yearning, and zest for life.
Stuck on You and How Much Can I Take speak to one of these moods -- connectedness -- and more specifically the yearning for it. This yearning is everpresent in human life. We yearn for connection with friends, family, and lovers. We seek the satisfaction of being bonded in relationships that open up possibilities for the other spiritual modes: play, love, wonder, and zest, for example. We want these for ourselves, of course, but also for others; and we believe that they can come through the relationships themselves.
So what happens when the yearning for connection is frustrated? What happens when we are stuck on you but can't take any more. We might look for another relationship, but we can also take heart in the lamenting itself.
Christine DeMeo's songs help us do that. There is a zest for life and an enthusiasm in her lament. Who knows? Strange as it sounds, you may even desire to become frustrated, too, so that you can enjoy the intensity, the fullness of life, along with her?
And then you might find yourself asking: Why do I want this so much? Perhaps, at some level, there is a Light in the lament itself. Perhaps contemporary music, sung with passion, is our version of the biblical Psalms. Bob Dylan would understand. He is a psalmist for the 21st century, along with many other singer-songwriters. Christine DeMeo understands it, too.
The Light is in the Lamentation
A Commentary on Stuck on You and How Much Can I Take
"The wound is the place where the Light enters you." So we learn from Jalalaludin Rumi. In Christine DeMeo’s two songs – Stuck on You and How Much can I Take -- the wound is clear enough, but where is the Light?
As it happens, the singer/songwriter has a religious side to her life. So we learn from the pastors who sing her praises when she helps with worship services. She, too, believes in the Light. But here I am not talking about Christine DeMeo as an individual, but rather the person who she become as she sings the song: the woman who knows that she’s wasting her time loving someone who won’t or can’t love her back, the woman who can’t forget all the things the two of them once enjoyed, the woman who is stuck on an unnamed “you” and crazily out of her mind, maybe forever. Christine DeMeo becomes this woman as she sings the song. Where is the Light for this woman?
We might imagine the Light is a place at the end of a tunnel when the longed for beloved finally comes home and the relationship is renewed. But the song itself does not leave us with this expectation, so we must find the Light in a different place: namely in the passion for singing the song in the first place and for somehow surviving, mightily, amid the disappointment. This passion, this power, is the power of lamentation: the soul in soul music. Ann Powers of NPR writes: “This is the heart of soul music: transcendence intertwined with an unflagging sense of being in the thick of life, the sound of ordinary people heroically getting by. To live is to face the fight. To not want to fight is to live. Fly on.”
And so it is with the soulfulness in which Christine DeMeo sings Stuck on You and How Much can I Take. The person she becomes in the act of singing is empowered by the Light of endurance, of true grit – and sometimes that is all that we can expect from the Light. After all, the Light is not a cosmic puppeteer who pulls the strings of history so that everything comes out for the good. Rather the Light is an empowering lure who shares in the human experience, including its longings and losses, and who rises up, day after day, resurrection after resurrection, to say “Yes” to life in even the hardest of times. The Light is in the lamentation.
Make no mistake. Christine DeMeo sings all kinds of songs, only some of them lamentive. She can sing upbeat song, pop-heavy songs, funny songs, spunky songs. But she comes alive, indeed, in her creative laments, thus inviting each of us, in our way, to find the Light within the wound.
- Jay McDaniel