Road to nowhere: David Byrne and the five stages of grief

29 Apr

This has been quite the week.

After more than twelve years of service – including the recent, relentless marathon of communications work in response to COVID-19 – I am out of a job. Following losses of tens of millions of dollars in just a few weeks, my health care organization cut a significant number of corporate positions to better ensure they will be able to get back to whatever “normal” will look like at some point in the future.

Now I and more than 26 million other Americans are attempting to forge a path into a future we can’t see and certainly don’t understand. For the type-A personalities and workaholics out there, it’s hell on earth.

In March, Harvard Business Review published an article that put a name to the disruption, uncertainty and fear we are collectively experiencing as we cope with life during the pandemic: it’s grief. And the musician who is helping me process this grief is, strangely, David Byrne.

David Byrne is not a warm guy. Especially in his younger days, he came across as Mr. Rogers on Adderal, with ball bearing eyes and a perpetual motion machine of a body. While his music is outright groovy, that’s in contrast to the intellectual detachment of the lyrics. In much of his work – from the Talking Heads to his collaboration with St. Vincent, his Imelda Marcos opera written with Fatboy Slim and his wide range of solo material – he describes an off-kilter world full of uneasy people. A 2018 interview in The Guardian put it well: “Even when he wasn’t singing in character – a psychopath, a televangelist, a domestic terrorist – he had a knack for making the familiar strange and unnerving. Animals, vehicles, buildings, TV, weather, haircuts… everything was seen with alien eyes.”

Who better to help us navigate strange and unnerving times than the guy who implored us to stop making sense?

So here are my five stages of David Byrne, which I hope will help you find your path forward.

DENIAL: “Once In a Lifetime” from Remain in Light
“And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!”

ANGER: “My Big Hands (Fall Through The Cracks)” from The Catherine Wheel
“Well it ain’t my fault, my fault things gone wrong”

BARGAINING: “(Nothing But) Flowers” from Naked
“I miss the honky tonks, Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens”

DEPRESSION: “Heaven” from Fear of Music
“Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens”

ACCEPTANCE: “Found a Job” from More Songs about Buildings and Food
“So think about this little scene, apply it to your life
If your work isn’t what you love, then something isn’t right.”

And, as a bonus – the sixth stage of grief:
MEANING: “Road to Nowhere” from Little Creatures
“I’m feeling okay this morning
And you know
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go”

See you on the flip side …

11 Responses to “Road to nowhere: David Byrne and the five stages of grief”

  1. Jason Wendleton April 29, 2020 at 10:36 am #

    I’m sorry to hear about your job. I’m glad that you’re finding solace in music, that’s the wonderful thing about art. So with that in mind, please consider writing another book during this break from everything.

    I have written and re-written this comment over and over. I am unable to type anything helpful or worth reading (I did just wake up). Please know that I am thinking about you and hope you and your family are (and stay) safe.

    • lpon45 April 29, 2020 at 10:40 am #

      You are a peach – I really appreciate you reaching out. I am, in fact, trying to consider myself a full-time novelist right now and have a draft that’s been kicking around for the past couple of years that I’m brightening up. Nothing like being forced to stay at home to make you think writing a rough draft is fun (sigh). I hope your family is doing well and that you’re doing some creative business, too. I’d love to read your work, whatever and whenever it is. Take care!

  2. Jason Wendleton April 29, 2020 at 11:37 am #

    I am working from home with my 4-year-old son and 1-month-old daughter. She doesn’t know about the “before times” so she’s fine. The rest of us are really stressed. I want to do some writing but it’s been so long that I’m not sure how to begin.

    • lpon45 April 29, 2020 at 11:39 am #

      Congratulations! I’m glad Warren now has someone to boss around. Keep the faith: we’ll come through this better people, and maybe we’ll be able to better balance what’s important with what we are expected to do.

  3. Roy Sexton April 29, 2020 at 7:14 pm #

    Love you ❤️

    • lpon45 April 29, 2020 at 7:43 pm #

      Thanks, Roy, and right back at you ❤️

  4. Christian May 8, 2020 at 2:14 pm #

    Hands down, the best boss I’ve ever had.

    • lpon45 May 8, 2020 at 2:15 pm #

      That’s very kind of you – and a leader is only as good as her team, so compliments back at you!

  5. marmaladefille May 14, 2020 at 9:56 pm #

    This blog resonates with me–and so does the music. I have great faith in your ability to find out what the next step is and land on your feet. It’s a different world we are in for sure from what I was expecting on January 1, 2020.

  6. gregoria green May 18, 2020 at 3:24 pm #

    I absolutely loved this post – how you coupled Talking Heads/David Byrne’s music with the stages of grief.

    I’m sorry you are dealing with such hardship though – hang in there. And keep listening to cool music – David Byrne’s genius can save the day any day 🙂

    • lpon45 May 18, 2020 at 3:33 pm #

      Thank you – I’m so glad it resonates with you.

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