Viva La Vida

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I owe a lot to Jónsi’s music, because I’ve written the vast majority of my novel listening to his songs on my headphones. Especially Grow Till Tall and Hengilas.

But I owe Coldplay’s Viva La Vida my regained life. It is the theme song to my life transition.

I spent much of last year in the grip of severe postpartum depression. Ten months of it, in fact. My depression was not without struggle–I didn’t just succumb; I fought it hard. I walked my baby in a stroller miles each day, in hopes of gaining endorphins. I tried to go out and get sunlight. I looked into my baby’s eyes and tried to find the light in hers. I went online and tried to connect with friends and society. I met my best friend everyday. And every single morning, I danced.

Yes, I danced, even though I wanted to die, and even though I was always alone, and even though I was sleepless and couldn’t eat, and was down to high school weight, and even though unbeknownst to me, my marriage was crumbling beneath me.

Every morning, I put my daughter in a sling, and danced for an hour to Viva La Vida.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

The sun had not yet risen, but my baby would awaken. And I would get up in the dark in an empty house, and we would dance in the kitchen. My life had completely changed, and I was going through the biggest shitstorm.

We bounced. Sang. Faked it.


I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing,
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

It took a long time to get pregnant. Thirteen years. We gave up so many times. When I finally got pregnant, it was so unexpected that I spent the first week of my pregnancy riding rollercoasters and drinking daquiris at DisneyWorld and Universal Studios. Because I did not know I was pregnant.

My life, to that point, had felt perfect.

My life, to that point, had been perceived as perfect.

We were the couple everyone wanted to be. I didn’t just think this–people told us all the time. People still tell us that in the wake of divorce. “We thought you were the ones who would make it.” So did I.

We’d just sold our startup. We were college sweethearts. Everything, I thought, was in balance.


One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

But then, as all things do when they fall apart, things fell apart fast.

What I had thought was a foundation, was no longer there. The house had been sliding for years. Slowly, I thought. It could be fixed, I thought. But at some point, there was a fulcrum, and the house tipped. It didn’t take much. A pregnancy. A baby. My depression. My ex-husband’s restlessness.

We’d been through worse. And survived. But not this time. It was too much.

I wanted to die. Everyday. But I carved out space for joy–I slid down the concrete slide at Cordonices with my best friend–because, as my logic went, for that minute, I could experience glee while falling. Even if for a minute, I wanted to not want to die.

And I danced.


I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

And then I stood up. I didn’t know the terrain. But I stood, trembling. Things had changed so much in the course of a year. I hoped things would get better. I danced because I wanted at least one hour of dancing each day, when I mustered all the energy I had into getting my head above water. I had that hour. I had this song. I was bliss adjacent.

My best friend held me while I cried. Answered my calls. We texted every waking minute.

We were bliss adjacent.

We went to New York City. And we danced. In the mornings there, I danced to Viva La Vida, as the sun rose over the East Village.


For some reason I can’t explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

I’d lost my world. There were so many lies. Where are you, I’d ask. And you were not where you said you were. You were not telling me the truth.

There was nothing to do but dance in the morning. With feigned joy, at first. I would show my daughter how to be happy.


It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become

I didn’t tell many people what was going on. I told my closest friends. I told my best friend. All the walls had come down, and I felt too vulnerable out in the world.

I couldn’t deal with the shock. I was too shocked, myself.

I wondered about my future. What would I become? What would I do? Who was I without this marriage?


Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh, who would ever wanna be king?

Who would want my life? Who wanted this life? I certainly didn’t.

I danced until my cheeks flushed. I danced until I was sweaty. My daughter laughed with glee at my chest.


I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

We sang. It didn’t feel victorious. It was hopeful, though. It was about faith–that happiness would eventually return. That there were lessons to learn. That I would emerge, stronger.

I was scared. I held onto the familiar. I gave him time. I said I would wait.

I overcame my postpartum depression. I started seeing colors again.

“You’re the same as before,” he said.

“Yes, I’m back.”

“What did I do?”

“I don’t know.”


For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

So many lies. He never called me. He was far away. Even though he was really in town. But the truth–the truth came out almost exactly a year ago. And it nearly destroyed me. But it was better than the lies. The moment he told me everything felt like a deep and fatal wound–but at least I felt something. And it was true.

The day it was over, I had to call him. And then the truth, again.

It was over. I collapsed.


Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh


I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field


For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

That was my old life. I wasn’t dancing alone then–I thought I was alone, but I was dancing with my daughter. And my friends. And my new love.

2 Comments

  1. This is beautiful, thank you for your words. My theme song was Rilo Kiley’s Silver Lining. <3

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