Like many of us who were coming of age in the mid-nineties, she was our voice. She was our anger that we couldn’t quite focus enough to create anything purposeful except, well anger. When Jagged Little Pill came out in 1995, I had just graduated college and was living in my parents basement waiting tables by day and doing theatre in Chicago by night. And drinking a lot. My most serious relationship had come to an awful horrible end and that relationship was with who is my current husband when we dated in college for a year. I was angry. I WAS SO ANGRY at him. AT HIM. I didn’t take any responsibility for my part in things because I didn’t know how. When that album came out I knew she had written it just for me. I would play that CD on my first CD player that I got as a graduation gift over and over and over in the basement and my parents had no idea why I was so angry or who this woman was that was taking control of their daughter. Parents just don’t get it man. As she continued to grow and change and evolve and suffer fools in relationship, she got stronger. She got hurt more. She exposed her bumps and bruises and we related completely. And loudly. She was my age. She was crass and loud and angry and mad at people and didn’t really understand herself yet. She didn’t know how to detach. And how we dug all that as we were going through it too. Who didn’t blast You Oughta Know and bang their head while pointing fingers of HOW DARE YOU at those who hurt us?
In 1998, Supposed Former Infatuation was released. That was the year I got married to the absolute wrong person, but who hasn’t done that ya know? I was miserable. Those years were among my worst. I felt trapped and sad and yet was drinking so much to cover up all the feelings, then Alanis comes along with all her confessions. I had no idea how she did it. How was she able to express how she felt so completely and so beautifully. This lady was doing some work on herself and I was nowhere near ready. That song Thank u on this album is something of an anthem today, and yet, it took me 16 years to get here. A song about being thankful for everything. The good and the bad. All of it. Enlightenment. Thank u indeed.
Under Rug Swept was dropped in 2002 and that was right after I got sober. Now. I remember getting that CD and just playing it repeatedly in my halfway house, so often that the other ladies were pissed. They didn’t get me man. Except they did. It was reflective. It was remarking upon past mistakes and starting to take responsibility. What in the world was happening? Our lives are defined by our relationships. Romantic or otherwise. Mainly our relationship with ourselves. A song like That Particular Time, about losing herself, ugh god. I would sit in my little sad halfway house room I shared with another junkie hoping she wouldn’t hear me sob.
As someone who believes everything is about her, especially back in the day, when So Called Chaos arrived in 2004, I was at a point in my life where I thought I had shit under control. I was in a relationship that seemed stable, but it was in reality incredibly unstable and stalled and my desires for more were constantly getting me in trouble. Songs like Excuses, and Out is Through – they gave me permission to question what I was doing. Why should I feel like I was in trouble in my own sober life? Sure I was sober but was I really making good decisions? Was I being true to myself? Obviously not as I kept straying and looking for contentedness and deep abiding true love. You Make the Knees of My Bees allowed me to be excited for the rest of my life. That’s what I wanted. What she was singing about. And I didn’t want to settle for less. The thing is, she was making me believe that I needed to fall in love with myself before I could ever fall truly madly deeply for anyone else. Let alone have anyone truly love me. You know how Ru says, “if you can’t love yourself, how the HELL you gonna love anybody else?” That is the message I got from this album. Permission to be me. And finally not depend on a man. Doth I Protest Too Much? Following this album, in 2005, I said FUCK IT and ran out of that man’s house to get myself a tiny studio apartment just for myself and my two cats. For the first time in my life, I was living alone and not in a relationship and it was terrifyingly wonderful. As a bonus This Grudge was absolutely fire in my belly against my ex who I hadn’t had contact with in 13 years and was still angry about. Little did I know what was coming…..never say never.
2008 brought Flavors of Entanglement and also my dear sweet husband. In Praise of the Vulnerable Man almost makes me explode with chills and realization that I’m with this man. This great man that I’ve dreamt of my entire life that never ever would have worked had we stayed together in 1995, way back when I was so angry and unaware of who I was. I held a grudge for years and years because I didn’t know how to let go. I accept responsibility today and just like I had to grow so did he. And this song with all of it’s wonder and awe of a good man is exactly how I feel about my man. It only took 12 years to get us back together. From my worst most awful time of relationship to the greatest most life altering and life affirming relationship, Alanis has been there. The greatest thing about all of her albums is that there is still anger and confusion and frustration, and yet, happiness and contentedness also show themselves repeatedly. Gratitude is there. It developed slowly and is more and more profoundly shouted than the anger as she grows into herself. All the feelings exist at the same time. Torch is gut wrenching and so sadly recounts that mourned relationship we all know too well.
Havoc and Bright Lights appeared with the first song Guardian. Lyrics here What an anthem for women. What an anthem for humanity. Alanis married and had a baby in 2010. In Empathy we find a tribute to those who make us feel ourselves. Who accept us just as we are. Here we are at this point in our journey, for me it’s finally come as a 40-year-old woman, who finally feels safe and secure in who she is and loved just for that. In return I can love others right where they are, not for who I want them to be. Also, I feel like this is a declaration for her fans, for she’s been through a long journey that like us, will continue, forever growing and changing and evolving and we can all support each other to be our best selves. What appreciation. You’re welcome Alanis. We all know the Spiral and how we need someone to reel us back in. In Numb, well it’s way too close. Basically every song hits close. Win and Win is about being equal in relationship. FINALLY. After so many years of feeling inferior to be on firm ground is miraculous.
Perhaps I am too close. Perhaps she has shaped who I am in profound ways or possibly we as humans have suffered and celebrated the same way from such a distance. She vents and she rages. She decries the system and violence and abuse. She boasts of pride and beauty and self care. Love of others and acceptance and faith. Gratitude and love and appreciation. Not claiming to have it all figured out, but just slogging through it as we all do. Wherever I’ve gone in the last almost 20 years, you’ve been there. Ever faithful, ever vigilant. Finding the words I couldn’t and declaring them so loudly when I couldn’t yet reach my own voice. Thank you Alanis, for you’ve been there all along.
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