BPD: The Playlist

October 15, 2014 § 10 Comments

Today while driving in traffic, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. That’d be “Clarity,” by German DJ Zedd.

When “Clarity” came out last summer, I wrote this about it at the time on This is a Liked Music Log:

I’ve long thought that the allure of dance music (for me anyway) is its ability to both tap into despair and to mobilize against it, simultaneously. Like gospel, its roots are a deep existential suffering – tho where bondage is the root of gospel’s pain, the sufferings of love lie at the heart of dance – yet as a genre both by their nature intend to literally move their audiences to action, to movement out of that despair. Gospel through prayer, dance through…well, dancing. As a genre dance recognizes the pain in you but refuses your getting stuck there—if you’re listening right, you’re literally moved up and out of suffering in responding to dance through movement. It’s a kind of music that both touches and transforms pain; through movement comes a kind of liberation.

I put this song (Zedd, “Clarity”) in that category.

But I was also mesmerized by “Clarity” then (and still am) because I identify with its essential conundrum: what inspires profound longing also inspires profound suffering. I understand this paradox to the the psychic essence of what gets labeled borderline personality traits:

If our love is tragedy, why are you my remedy?

If our love’s insanity, why are you my clarity?

For me, borderline traits have meant a longing for reciprocity, a weeping, absolute absence–no, abandonment, an absolute abandonment–at the center of me that is so intense it collapses under its own mass like a star going supernova, sucking everything down into oblivion. My love is so intense it is unstable, it is destabilizing. Nobody could survive my love. Everyone must run. I must run from myself. My need is so intense I can only be abandoned. My need for response is the very reason I am abandoned. To love is to grieve, then, in the same moment. An unsolvable conundrum.

Anyway, from “Clarity”, a playlist slowly began to take shape in my mind. Not just songs I jam to when I’m crazy–flying high on manic energy or stunted immobile by despair–but songs that expose the anatomy of madness, that illuminate the inner workings of borderline craziness, specifically.

And so, I present to you BPD: The Playlist.


Sinead O’Connor and Me

January 2, 2014 § 1 Comment

The first serious album I ever owned was Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. My parents got it for me for Christmas when I was in the 6th grade, cause I liked “Nothing Compares 2 U.” My tastes had always been eclectic – I scoured the radio stations listening to pretty much whatever caught my interest – but most of the albums I owned before Sinead’s consisted of really light stuff, teen pop: Debbie Gibson, New Kids on the Block, Madonna, Martika. Sinead was so heavy, so sad! It was perplexing. I remember laying in my bed attentively listening on headphones to the somber “Feel So Different”—the album’s opening track, in which Sinead renews her faith in the possibility of a non-oppressive Christianity—and trying to figure out what in the world she was talking about.

And then there was that one part from “Jump in the River”:

there’s been days like this before and I

I liked it all

like the times we did it so hard

there was blood on the wall

Blood on the wall? Yikes! What did that mean?

I was in 8th grade when Sinead ripped up the Pope’s picture on national television. I actually saw it live – a group of my girlfriends and I were watching Saturday Night Live that night at a sleepover. I was psyched that she was the musical guest. For her first number, she sang an absolutely beautiful, sorrowful song called “Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home.”

Her second performance was an a capella rendition of Bob Marley’s “War.” It was at the end of that song that she exclaimed, “Fight the real enemy!” and tore up the Pope’s picture.

In the weeks afterwards, I remember the girl whose locker was next to mine at school saying she had destroyed all her Sinead CDs. Though I was also technically Catholic, I didn’t think this was warranted. I didn’t really understand what Sinead was protesting, but her actions certainly hadn’t bothered me. If anything, they had intrigued and excited me. Besides – whatever she was protesting, how could you deny that her music was badass? My friend had taped that episode of SNL, and I recorded those two performances to cassette tape and listened to them again and again. I memorized the lyrics to “War” and sang them on the busride home from school, not understanding the context for their significance whatsoever, but cracking up my friend Adela with my best imitation of Sinead’s passionate delivery. Even now I remember the words to that song – having now a better understanding of the political context for their original significance and for Sinead’s actions as well – and I can still hear her voice in my head and see her standing there on stage alone.

until the philosophy

which holds one race superior

and another inferior

is finally

and permanently


and abandoned

everywhere is war

until there’s no longer

first class or second class citizens

of any nation

until the color of a man’s skin

is of no more significance

than the color of his eyes:

I’ve got to say, war.

until that day

the dream of lasting peace,

world citizenship,

and the rule of international


will remain just a fleeting illusion

to be pursued

but never attained

and everywhere is war

war in the east

war in the west

war up north

war down south

there is war

and the rumors of war

until that day

there is no continent

which will no peace




we find it necessary

we know we will win

we have confidence

in the victory

of good over evil



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