Song 4 – I’m gonna do my best swan dive into shark infested waters

February 19th, 2007

Swan Dive – Ani DiFranco

Given the driving force behind why I started writing about these various songs, perhaps this one should have come first. It has easily been the song in recent years that has had the most significant effect on my life. It helped me find my place and gave me purchase. To this day it is a mantra for my life when I’m feeling everything is just a little too much.

It gives this little place on the web its name.

My once obsession and long term appreciation of the work of Ms DiFranco is no secret. I’d go so far as to say I advertise it, or I used to, with billboard force. It was something I could put out into the world in the hope of attracting like-minded people, without giving too much of myself away. I found her music at a time that I was desperately trying to find myself, and (this is quite a declaration, I know) had I not found her music at the time that I did, I would be a very different person right now and undoubtedly in a very different place. This is not to say it would be a bad place, per se. Just different.

Anyway, I’ve written already about how I came to her music and how I came to fall in love with it. I also touched on the fact that it was the impetus for my friendship with Hellen. Really, though, the impact of that one thing cannot be overstated.

It’s really something to come into contact with a like-minded soul. I’m not talking relationships here; I’m talking about someone you don’t know all that well, but upon meeting them find you’re automatically walking in step with them. You begin finishing one another’s sentences, thinking the same things at the same time, and sensing certain things that are unsaid. If you’re not prepared for it, or have never experienced it, it jolts you to your core.

We’d known each other for a long while but only as acquaintances. At the time we both realised the shared love of DiFranco and playing the guitar, and she enthusiastically extended her hand in friendship, it’s safe to say I was terrified of people. I had always been incredibly shy, and I went from living in Wagga surrounded by people I knew in and out, to moving to Sydney and living with Alan. He, and to a lesser extent his friends, were really all I knew of the city. I became numb in more ways than one.

Then there was Hellen. She was the only person who not only saw the potential in me, rather than the person I was at that time, but she acted on that and actively pursued it. She was persistent and gently pushed me past every barrier I had put in place. She introduced me to literally hundreds of people and looked past me being tongue tied and retarded in new company. I have conversely seen her through breakups and terrible moments of self doubt where she was questioning her right to be happy. She knows the worst of me and yet still sees the best in me, and this is something I am forever grateful for. It’s such a rare thing. And because of all this I have turned into an amplified, social, and at times I’m sure more painful version of my former self.

What about the SONG though. I’ve heard DiFranco talk about Swan Dive a few times, and she states it’s a ‘song about love’. I don’t doubt it – the imagery throughout the song makes it clear she’s singing about the ups and downs of a relationship and her fear of giving her heart away.

Cradling the softest, warmest part of you in my hands
Feels like a baby bird fallen from the nest
I think that your body is something I understand
I think that I’m happy, I think that I’m blessed

What it gives me though is something far more abstract. This is so much a song about strength. It’s about that one trigger in your life that makes you realise isn’t working the way it is right now, and there’s no one but yourself who can help you out.

I’ve got a lack of inhibition
I’ve got a loss of perspective
I’ve had a little bit to drink
and it’s making me think
That I can jump ship and swim
That the ocean will hold me
That there’s got to be more
than this boat I’m in

Who hasn’t been there?

It’s about taking risk and flying in the face of reason and backing yourself to such an extent that it doesn’t matter what the hell the rest of the world says – you’re moving ahead with such a velocity that you’ll knock them and their doubt flat. It’s about recognising that fear in yourself of not wanting to step out and achieve something new, but then steadfastly ignoring it for the greater good. It’s about plunging headfirst into the water every single time and knowing that sometimes it’s going to hurt like a bitch, but that’s just the way the cards fall. It’s about recognising past mistakes and coming to terms with them and not letting those things effect the hopeful glow on your horizon – that possibility of something new and wonderful. It’s about knowing, though, that even though you take the plunge it can all go horribly wrong, but then taking the risk anyway.

I just need a couple vaccinations for my far away vacation
I’m going to go ahead and go boldly, ‘cause a little bird told me
That jumping is easy, that falling is fun
Right up ‘til you hit the sidewalk, shivering and stunned

And this is the part I belt out with all my heart when no one is watching –

They can call me crazy if I fail
All the chance that I need
is one-in-a-million
and they can call me brilliant
if I succeed
Gravity is nothing to me
I’m moving at the speed of sound
I’m just gonna get my feet wet
until I drown

It’s time to get your feet wet Karen. Around 4 years ago my best friend said that to me, and I have tried not to look back since.


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