So many wild waves of emotion crash around in the wake of Sinéad O’Connor’s death.
Me too. I feel a lot. I’ve loved and resonated with all she has offered from the very first album. I mean, her voice, and the way she would give herself fully to delivering those songs to us, no matter if songs were penned by her own hand, or the intimacy with which she would enter into someone else’s work.
I loved her for her raw art, her passionate heart, most of all, her politics. I bowed to her courage and enduring integrity.
I saw her several times, always shocked at how tiny she was in the flesh. This bird-like woman with a voice that contained the whole ravaged and beautiful world. I saw her last on the 15th December 2014 at a BBC recording of the series Mastertapes. She was in discussion with John Wilson about her 2007 Album: Theology.
I was picked to ask my question – submitted some weeks in advance – so was seated at the front, a mere few feet away from the conversation happening between the rather suave John Wilson and Sinéad who was dressed shabby-street rather than shabby-chic.
She had a lot to say about God/Gods, religions, dogma, faith, betrayal, not to mention the music industry, love and loss. Everything made sense, but you needed to be able to attune to her frequency which was fast, and nothing like linear.
As her career had rolled forwards and so many times, she had unravelled in the public eye, I had started feeling immensely protective towards her. Sitting so close to her palpable vulnerability in 2014, I remember wondering how her story would end. Now it has. Sinéad is free and she left carnage behind. How could she not? History wants to repeat itself. Lineage is powerful in micro and macro systems, and it takes a small or large revolution to change a storyline.
I notice there’s a lot of shouting going down this early afterwards. It is here I find myself writing from. Her fanbase is disparate, some taking oppositional positions regarding ‘their’ Sinéad. It must be quite a thing, as an artist, inevitably to some degree is taken hostage by the people you touch, speak to, the people who actually pay your wages in their commitment and love of your work.
Some of Sinéad’s people are pretty strong in their beliefs that she represented their position. There are multiple positions of course, and it has taken me a lifetime to land on the shoreline of everything. Everything is another word for freedom in my book and it sure ain’t the road most travelled.
What if ‘everything’ does away with many entrenched binary constructs, and invites us to see ourselves and each other in a new place, so radically simple it’s enough to break all our human hearts open.
What if Sinéad’s hostage-takers could see across the lines that separate, teach and preach that we are enemies, then notice the common threads are all narratives of sorrow, victimisation, exploitation, betrayal, abuse, trauma and injustice? Sinéad died on the cross a thousand times before she died.
One way or another undefended art gives us – the recipients – pieces of ourselves. Sinéad gave us broke – broken hearted, broken shattered, broken beaten, broken lost, broken alone…trauma drove the car, and she didn’t make it home.
It doesn’t take a psychotherapist – which I am – just a fellow pilgrim, another human rooted in broken, to see that her life was a longing, a seeking, a desperation, for a different home address and that she kept circling back to where it all began and where it ended.
If I had a gravestone – which I won’t – as I’ve choosen the dust and ashes option but if I did, it would say: Broken & Whole – In Good Company.
I was leaning into the deep and enduring space my therapist (who actually isn’t a therapist on paper, but she’s mine) this morning, letting my sad be really sad, moving right up close and closer to my sad. I said – sighing – it’s good to be so sad. We laughed while I wept, because we share a sense of divine comedy and tragedy, that the radical simplicity of what is, the everything, is such a big ask.
It asks us to keep giving up the fight, to keep letting what we think we know fall away, to fall into our own loving arms, the ones that have waited for, not knowing if we’d ever make it. I was laughing and crying because I did make it home. This is my success story. Making it to the one I’m with and trusting enough to really fall because there is a certain point beyond which there is no return. Yep, we can drift off for a bit, go a tad bonkers, but Home is not negotiable, and it doesn’t have a lot of truck for too much fucking about. Come on Caro, calls the heart and boots voice, there is absolutely nothing that’s a problem to be solved. It is just this. Always, just THIS, however much some part doesn’t want this.
There’s a well-loved story – familiar to all those that loved and knew the work of Mr. L Cohen for the doorway he was – about a time when Mr. C was in the deep suffering of resistance and his almost life-long spiritual teacher, Roshi told him: more sad Leonard, do more sad.
My sad today, and often nearby, is the grief of what it has taken to get to the weird and wonder of something like freedom. The freedom from seeking what was always already here.
I grieve and grief is holy water.
My sad isn’t lonely any more.
I wouldn’t change a thing about the toiling, because how could I… this is my little life, and who could I possibly be, or be with if it wasn’t just this?
I lament for Sinéad, for the gift of her broken, the lonely of her sad.
I lament for all the fighting about who she belonged to, and who suffered most.
I lament for this world in so many ways, and in my work that is now as it always wanted to be, but couldn’t be until it could, I offer the humans that find their way to me, my capacity to be safe, and my willingness to not know, to notice what already knows the way and is trying to happen.
I felt called to write a few lines inspired by Sinéad’s life and death because she touched me deeply, and I hated the way she was thrown around as a topic of ridicule and judgement. Or appropriated for a cause, toppled, trampled, and shamed, which I suspect she carried quite enough of in her own blood and bones. Of course, she left us her body of work, which is a legacy free of – though threaded through with her lonely struggles -and the many cracks where the light flooded in.
Thing is, if she wasn’t blessed with her voice and creativity, if she’d been Sinéad O’Connor the ordinary person, her life would have played out the same way. Her life is many lives, maybe especially of women, though not exclusively. Lives of excruciating trauma repetition in regard to attachment (a psychotherapist’s) word for love and connection.
I reckon – based on my soul’s (don’t know if it’s the right word, maybe just the essence, the distilled core of my being) anyway, her insistence on labouring Home, and informed by nearly 65 years of being in this world, working in my field, seeing and feeling a lot, having a lyrical nature, and an unflinching gaze at what is happening across this precious global family, well, I reckon we are pretty damn lost.
I believe the micro lost informs the collective lost, and the other way around, so we are circling into the void. There is so much pain, and so much longing. This seems simple. Pain of separation and longing for connection.
I’m no politician, so I work with the micro systems, being in service to individuals, couples, and small groups, helping the turn toward ourselves to find home ground, from which we are free to be who we truly are, and offer that, however that rolls for each of us, to the bigger kin.
Almost everything we have built will tell us – if we are vulnerable to that – that we are not okay, and should be striving to succeed in being okay. There is a destination culture that kills our capacity to just be HERE.
What if Sinéad O’Connor, the human with an amazing heart and the voice, and the poetry of a river running true, knew in her bones, she was always okay, because not okay was redundant. What if the pain of not okay and the violence of her lineage in the context of this world of violent mirrors didn’t kill her. What if so much suffering and dying that doesn’t make a media storm and goes unseen unless you work in social services, mental health, crisis services, or are just a human with an open heart and eyes, didn’t need to keep rolling, gathering momentum. I literally don’t know now to end that sentence, having sat gazing at the keyboard and it’s coming up empty. I’ll stand in my boots and heart. There are some tears in my eyes. I’ll say: what if, from the chamber of my own longing and the realism of everything.
As those kind enough to read my scribbled life – already know – I am passionate about death on multiple levels.I don’t know anything. How could I/anyone, but personally I long for gone-ness, for the mysterious unfathomable idea of nothing. Whatever it is or isn’t, I do trust that the suffering of Sinéad O’Connor is done.
I know she can’t hear me, but I thank her for her life, for surviving, for keeping intact the part of her that could make beauty out of suffering and the streams of light that flow through the cracks.
Gratitude and love is all I’ve got to say when all is else has fallen away.
Thank you, Sinéad.