Here’s a confession for you: I’ve never been huge David Bowie fan. Shocking, right? Of course, he was my first sex symbol. I remember watching him (and those leather pants) in Labyrinth at around 5 years old, turning to my mother, and asking “Is that what sexy means?” Don’t remember her reaction, but if she was anything like she is now, I’m sure she blushed furiously and wished she could melt into the carpet. Seriously, though, how does anyone not fall in love with Jareth at first site?
Other than that, though, my only real exposure to Bowie was through the radio hits, which, for the most part, I could take or leave. Sounded good, had great lyrics, just missed whatever that certain something is that reaches out and snags your heart strings. Yeah, I’m a heathen, I know. Don’t write me off entirely, though, because I’m about to tell you something important: I’ve recently discovered a Bowie song that means something to me. One that I play over and over, and listen to when I need an emotional boost (which is all the time, lately, it seems).
The song is “Up the Hill Backwards,” from the 1980 Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album (which also features “Ashes to Ashes” and “Fashion”). The song was released as the 4th and final single from the album, hitting the radio in March of 1981. The song did not receive critical success, only reaching 32 on the chart in the UK, and not making a splash at all in the US.
At late bloomer, as always, I first heard the song about a month ago, at the end of the movie Adult Beginners, which tells the story of a 35-ish guy who loses a tech fortune and moves in with his sister’s family, acting as a nanny while he gets his life figured out. The movie rang some bells for me, but it really hit home when music started playing over the last scene, and Bowie’s voice told me, “It’s got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it.” To be honest, it felt like a home-based Camino moment. I instantly started crying, and then spent the next hour listening to the song on repeat.
I’m working the morning shift at the hotel today, and on my walk to work, I was thinking over some current life issues – work, relationship, self-worth, future adventures, that kind of thing. It occurred to me that there’s so much that’s out of my hands. I can’t control how others feel about me, or if they care about my ideas or feelings. I can’t control how others live their lives. I can’t control the weather, or housing prices, or the stock market. The world goes round. Shit happens – but beauty happens, too. Pushing back against the Universe causes undue stress. It’s time to realize that, while I can be a force of good in the world, and that I can effect change by doing my best, the things that I worry about, that my vanity and pride hone in on and stress over for far too long – these are the things that have nothing to do with me.
In life, as on the Camino, it is my job to breathe deeply, think kindly, and keep moving forward. In this way, and only this way, will I truly be at peace with myself, and an example to others.