Content Warning: mention of depression, pandemic, coronavirus, suicide and Christmas.
It’s the tail-end of a very hard year for everyone, though some more than others. Lives have been lost all around the world, people have lived in fear and reacted to it in their own ways, the world keeps turning and our worries don’t look to end any time soon.
I know that’s not a very uplifting note. Remember: the end of a year isn’t seasonal, it isn’t magical, we don’t get a fresh reboot come January 1st. It’s a normal transition from one common day to the next, no matter how many fireworks you let off or how much booze you drink.
Things only get better if we make them better.
That’s not to say we should give in to despair – and there is an awful lot of despair going around right now. Australia seems mostly good, though there’s a worrying outbreak of coronavirus in New South Wales and we’re entering our bushfire season, but the United Kingdom is seeing cases of a mutated form of the virus, the Unites States aren’t even close to eliminating it yet, and the rest of the issues in the world haven’t magically gone away just because everyone’s had to deal with a pandemic.
Enter this song: Don’t Give Up, Peter Gabriel (ft. Kate Bush).
Now, I’m nobody special. Just some standard, boring disabled non-binary geek in their 40s with a head-full of worries and a heartful of love. It’d be weirdly romantic if it weren’t largely inconvenient. My point is, I’m not particularly different from anyone else in the world – though I am both more and less privileged than much of the planet’s population (yes, people can be both and most people are).
I have, however, faced down suicide multiple times in my life. I’ve stared Death in the beautiful, tempting face, both dealing with the passing of loved ones and through the processing of my own occasionally suicidal thoughts. So this is a topic of which I have some understanding and for which I have a lot of passion.
This song hits me in the heart every single time. It would do so even if I weren’t hopelessly in love with Kate Bush’s voice (which I am and, I feel, understandably so). The subject matter, theme, mood, composition, sound – everything is far too close to home not to have an effect on me. Every time I hear it I need to fight against tears. Sometimes I don’t even try.
It’s about struggle, yes, and about the need to deal with one’s failures. It’s about how our upbringing very often falls short on preparing us to deal with setbacks in a healthy manner. Many people hurt themselves and others for want of adequate coping mechanisms. It’s about holding on, not because things are better than you think they are, but because things can get better than they are now.
This is a distinction that I sometimes feel people miss about this beautiful song. It isn’t dismissive or derisive. Peter Gabriel isn’t being made to feel less, he isn’t being told to ‘man up’ or that ‘you’ve got it easy.’ This song does not make those assumptions, and neither should we. Peter is expressing very real emotions in a way that is healthy. Many people have never done so. In the context of this song, Peter may never have expressed these doubts and fears so clearly or candidly in his life. He may never have let himself feel them so keenly and without artifice.
Kate is not belittling him. She is a presence of comfort. She’s not even trying to give suggestions for how Peter might improve his lot; that’s not her role. She is comforting him, reminding him that he isn’t alone, that these fears are natural, that expressing them is healthy and good. She is there for him, willing to hold and to be held while he works through the burdens of his life. She is his reminder that there is good in the world, that he can keep going even if he doesn’t feel that he can.
Sometimes we all need Kate Bush to tell us there’s no reason to be ashamed, that it’ll be all right, to not give up. I know I do.
As I type this, we’re less than two hours away from December the 25th, which is designated Christmas Day whether we celebrate it or not, and as depressed as I am I can’t help but turn my mind and heart outward. I wonder how many people are struggling tonight – how many families don’t have enough to eat, how many people are living without a roof over their heads, how many are being preyed upon by manipulative, abusive and deceptive entities – whether it be by governments, family members, strangers or ‘charitable organisations’ ostensibly set up to help those very people.
We have a lot of sadness in the world. We need a lot of compassion to combat it.
Please, don’t give up.
If you need it, here’s a website with a bunch of support resources*, including a global list of suicide prevention hotlines. Reach out. Talk. Let someone know, even if it’s a stranger you’ll never meet in person.
* = I am not affiliated in any way with Suicide Stop or any of the resources provided therein. I just want you to have options, no matter where you are in the world, should you need some help.