Forget-Me-Nots: a flower and now a song.
My forthcoming debut album ‘The Journey Home’ is a chronological story starting with a birth and ending with a rebirth. This is how many spiritual traditions see death, as a rebirthing; the ending of one phase and the beginning of another. There is a type of rebirth that occurs when one is still in one’s body and in between those two states, lays Forget-Me-Nots. Hardly the expression of the epitome of transformation, this song reflects my time in a somewhat catatonic state, realizing that so much from the past remains, some of which is frustratingly powerful.
I found this song a difficult one to sing as there are so many strong emotions expressed therein, including anger, hostility, longing, victory, joy and love.
‘Seems strange how much remains’ the lyrics repeat, reflecting that moment at the age of 25 that I actually looked in my eyes, at the age of three in photographs there remained the same bewilderment at what I was experiencing, the same feeling of being lost and with sense of trepidation at what would be ahead.
How to sing this song, reflecting accurately the fluctuating emotions and yet retain a sense of wholeness in the structure of the song was a challenge to me. This - I find is an interesting as really it is a direct expression of how I felt at that time, fragmented and in disarray. I remember feeling as if I was a mass of tangled wires, confused and conflicted, that I needed to untangle what be freed.
I give some examples in the song of some memories, one quite painful and one, which was joyful.
The former involves an incident during a PE lesson at the comprehensive school I attended at the age of thirteen. A friend of mine, who was frequently bullied by other pupils for being quite feminine in his mannerisms, was looking down at the ground while the PE teacher was giving a speech about rugby tactics (which also did not excite me in the slightest). He pointed to my friend and said mockingly ‘ Do you like looking at the daisies boy? You like looking at pretty flowers do you?’ There erupted a spontaneous laughter amongst the other students. I on the other hand felt very sad and troubled by this remark and experienced that internal tearful state which I have never quite forgotten. Bullying is such a destructive and corrosive force, which has resulted in the tragedy of suicide amongst children who feel absolutely crushed at the relentlessness of such hateful hostility. When it comes from the adults in the environment, what hope is there for the children in that situation to question their own conduct, when it is repeated with such openness from the adults in a position of authority?
Yet, I had made some progress since that event and had come to terms with my own sexuality. Both my friend and I had turned out to become gay men and he and I were both frequent targets of bullying at the school. I respond to this PE teacher in this song in the following lyrics ‘the part of me you hated has survived and visits heaven. Flowers have a face you see, and its better than the one you wear, but I can’t help but look at me, and see that your still there’.
The other memory, which has become bitter sweet since the death of my grandmother from Alzheimer’s related conditions in January 2016 involves a memory I have of being three years of age, playing in the garden while my grandmother was putting up washing on the line. I clearly recall seeing the little blue/turquoise flowers, asking my grandmother in my native language of Welsh ‘Mam, beth yw'r rhain? ‘Mam, what are these?’ ‘Forget-me-nots bach’ she replied. ‘Bach is a frequently used word in the Welsh language and is a term of affection, meaning ‘little one’. It was intriguing to me to discover that the Alzheimer’s Association has adopted this flower as their organisation’s symbol.
At the heart of this song is a recognition that there needs to be a healing from these events. Little did I know at the time though that there needed to be a greater understanding of why I was so frequently experiencing a fairly serious form of depression. The reasons which lay behind this incapacitating condition was later revealed through my time in psychotherapy. Much of what was revealed in Forget-Me-Nots was really the tip of a very large iceberg, and the unconscious, at the time of writing this song was not yet ready to reveal the extent of what hid in its depth.
The lyrics also express an invitation, which ultimately let me on a long journey to train as a psychotherapist and also to undergo psychotherapy myself. ‘So come through and tell me true you child, who learned so well to hide, what do you need to heal you, is it flowers at your side?’ The symbol of the flowers in this song is multi-layered. In this particular line of the song, I use the flowers in the way that it relates to the suggestion that flowers are associated with the feminine. However, the feminine and the masculine need to be integrated and celebrated and that for many people, this is where the healing begins with the embracing of the polarities, which reside within us all.
It is obvious that an integral part of the bullying that occurred contains a mockery of anything within the boy, which is feminine- as if it shouldn’t be there, and is worthy of mockery and condemnation. Stereotypically, this is played out on the rugby pitch with the PE teacher and the boys all in their rugby kit. In the PE teacher’s eyes, it was perfectly reasonable to mock a boy who was frequently bullied for his feminine characteristics.
Also, the flowers have meaning in relation to the retaining of memories. Incidentally, at the time of writing this, my grandmother had not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and so the symbolism of this being their adopted flower is an added and poignant component, which came later.
So these flowers are rich in meaning and symbolism; of reside in us, those we love and we never want to break the bonds with and those who’s we wish to relinquish from our internal world.
There resides in us the multitude of experiences- surviving the loss of what we craved but did not receive, of being able to see within the eyes of the three year old child, that many of these experiences were still pulling the strings, in me, as a twenty five year old man, and alongside this, a deep love with a grandmother who I know still walks beside me.