You Will Never Get Away by Samantha Lamph/Len
I don’t know if all depressives can pinpoint the exact moment they first felt that existential dread creep into their consciousness and start setting up permanent residence. But I know that, for me, it happened at the tail end of sunset on one of the last days of summer in 1998.
My birthday had just passed, and I was about to start the fourth grade. The rest of the nuclear family and I were packed into our blue Plymouth Voyager, making our way home from visiting my mom’s side of the family in northern California.
We were entering the seventh hour of a nine hour drive, but we had made this trip so many times that I had begun to enjoy spending extended time with my Discman, my books, or daydreams about my current crush.
I was desperately hoping that Robert would be in my class again that year, and that he would sit in front of me as he had in the third grade. I had memorized his hairline, and had become remarkably successful at predicting when he would come to school with a fresh buzzcut.
That same intuition told me not to get my hopes up, that there were a lot of fourth grade teachers, and the odds were against me. I turned out to be right, and I spent the first week of school utterly heartbroken and despondent. Luckily, Thomas, an even better crush, would take Robert’s spot in my heart, and it would, as Celine Dion would remind me later that year, go on and on.
Continuing an impressive streak that had already lasted the entire summer, my dad was, once again, playing Fleetwood Mac’s, “The Dance.” It was a live album they had recorded the year before. Of course, my dad also had the VHS tape of the concert, which he watched nearly every single night.
My dad had loved the band since he was a teenager. The legend went that he had asked his mom for a Led Zeppelin record for his birthday, but it was out of stock, so the record store employee sold her on “Rumours” as an adequate substitute. As he tells it, my dad was pissed upon opening the gift. Fleetwood Mac was a pop band, not a rock band, after all. But they grew on him. And here we were, some 20 years later, living in a Fleetwood Mac echo chamber, listening to the same 17 tracks on an infinite loop.
I fucking hated Fleetwood Mac.
At nine, I knew way more about the sordid affairs that had transpired between Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, and the ultra-mysterious John McVie (who even is he?) than was reasonable or appropriate for a girl who had not yet reached puberty.
At this point, I had all of the lyrics to every track memorized, along with the corresponding video of each performance.
As Stevie sang the first few verses of “Silver Springs,” I pressed my forehead against the window, staring out at the desolate fields on either side of that last, long stretch of the 5 before it enters the twists and turns of the Grapevine.
Whether the foliage was grain, dead grass, or weeds, I still don’t know. But the rosy-orange tint the dismal landscape took on as the sun slowly disappeared made me feel suddenly and inexplicably sad in a way I never had before.
The rows of crops were whizzing by so fast, too fast to really see. It occurred to me that my life was passing me by just as quickly.
I was already nine, and I had barely noticed it happening at all. I could still remember a specific science lesson from the first grade with astounding clarity, yet here I was, three years older. I had the sense that, from then on, I would always feel that way, and that, if this was the case, I might as well already be on my death bed.
Soon, I would be a teenager, which was a terrifying thought because the teenagers I saw on Jenny Jones were so mean to their parents, and I didn’t want to be mean to my parents. I loved my parents!
And then, before I knew it, I would be an adult and have to move out of my parents’ house and fend for myself. I wondered how long I could reasonably postpone this inevitability. 24 isn’t too old, is it? I couldn’t grow up to be a loser.
Would I ever find a boy who loves me? Would I be weird and chubby forever? Would I have children, and if I did, would they love me unconditionally, and take care of me when I got too old to do it myself? Or would they leave me in a nursing home to spend my last years delusional and alone? I would definitely never be leaving my parents in a home; I decided that right then and there. How could anyone bear to do that to their mom and dad?
In a panic, I saw entire futures flashing before my eyes, and somehow I knew that, from then on, I would be digging in my heels, desperate to hold on to each moment for as long as possible, until every single one fought their way out of my hands and it all went dark.
I was experiencing #FOMO nearly twenty years before it became a staple in the millennial lexicon, and it’s a feeling that has followed me my whole life.
I’ve always been pretty good about setting goals for myself, and then doing whatever it takes to make it happen, whether it’s winning a spelling bee, graduating college with a 3.9 gpa (let’s hear a big fuck you to the UCR Archaeology department), landing a job, publishing a piece of writing. But I’ve never found a lasting sense of satisfaction from any of those accomplishments, no matter how big or small. As soon as it’s happened, I’ve moved on to doubting whether I’ll be able to accomplish anything ever again. I don’t think that cycle is ever going to stop.
It’s what has spurred me to make major life decisions with a haste that only an overwhelming sense of anxiety could fuel.
Changing majors. Then changing back. One more time. Going to grad school when I knew I wasn’t ready, just because I was too scared to get a regular 9-5. Frantically picking up new hobbies and putting them down just as fast. Dragging my boyfriend-now-husband across southern California because I was “literally going to kill myself” if I stayed in Riverside any longer, and then proceeding to move three more times within the span of two calendar years.
At each of these junctures, I never had any doubt that I was making the right decision, and that I needed to pull the trigger fast for fear of wasting any more precious time. And, like clockwork, once I had settled into that new path, I was miserable again.
And it all started because my 500th listen of “Silver Springs” coincided with a sunset most people would find beautiful.
That night, when we got home, my dad watched “The Dance” video again as my sister and I lay in the bed we shared across the hall.
The day-long drive should have been exhausting, but these thoughts kept me up all night, and for the millionth time, I listened to those 17 tracks, hoping at the beginning of each song that I would be unconscious before the next. But sleep never happened.
Instead, I pretended to be asleep when the tape ended and my dad turned off the lights to head to his own bed. Something about this precise mix of stimuli triggered the beginning of a year long battle with insomnia, and the routine was the same every night.
I’m not sure what, if any, theories my parents had as to the cause of their nine-year-old’s insomnia, but they went to great lengths to remedy it.
My dad brought his boombox in from the garage and bought some nature sound CDs that he hoped would help lull me to sleep, but I was immune to the soothing sounds of summer rain, crashing waves, and chirping grasshoppers.
Later, he connected two red Solo cups with a length of yarn that could span the distance between my bedroom and the master.
“If you get scared, just tug on this, and I’ll tug back.”
It’s the thought that counts, but more often than not, my tugs were met with radio silence. At least he was getting some sleep.
I tried to devise my own methods.
I knew that worrying about not getting enough sleep wasn’t helping my plight, so I would create a list of topics to think about in-depth until I drifted off. But I always made it through the entire list and found my mind wandering back to the Aimlessness and Ultimate Futility of this Uncertain & Short Life, original score by Fleetwood Mac.
The Spice Girls movie had recently come out, and I was a big fan. I’d memorized the movie, so I could replay it in my head as I attempted to sleep. But I was always awake to catch those final credits.
I began to pray, repeating the same message to God verbatim every single night like the world’s most desperate mantra.
Thank you for my family and my friends. Please don’t let anything bad ever happen to them, or to me. Please watch over us tomorrow, and help us do our best. Please help me sleep tonight.
I felt less anxiety, but the sleep still didn’t come.
I had recently begun to appreciate reading a lot more, and I figured such a mentally-engaging activity would expedite my unconsciousness, so I asked for a reading light. Some nights, after reading for four hours or so, I could finally fall asleep. So I kept that habit, and eventually, sleep became easier and easier until the sleepless nights were fewer and farther between.
But that fear that my life would be over before I knew how best to live it still perseveres, cropping up, to varying extents, nearly every day.
As an adult, I re-entered the Fleetwood Mac rabbit hole of my own free will, listening to all of their albums and watching all of the live performances I could find on YouTube.
If you watch their performance of “Silver Springs” from their 2004 tour on YouTube, you’ll see that, even after all these years, there is an intense chemistry and tension between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. I saw the band perform this past summer, and it was still there.
They’ve been an intrinsic part of each other’s lives for decades, and you get the sense that, for them, the years cannot be forgotten or forgiven, even if they do manage to reunite for a tour every few years.
When Stevie warns Lindsey, time and again, that she will follow him down until the sound of her voice will haunt him, and that he will never get away from the sound of the woman who loves him, you believe her. And you can tell he believes her too. And he’s not even mad about it. I’d say he’s even gone further than merely accepting it. I think he takes comfort in knowing its true. That, at the very least, this aspect of his life will never abandon him. He can count on it.
Something tells me I will never get away from these thoughts and feelings that have followed me down the decades of my life. But, like Lindsey, I’ve come to love that part of me in a strange way, just as I’ve come to love Fleetwood Mac, and especially “Silver Springs.”
Maybe it’s because this anxious part of me makes the rare, sublime moment I experience more euphoric; maybe it’s because it makes me feel like a uniquely complicated individual; or maybe its because hating myself for it would be just as awful and infinitely more pointless.
Either way, my life is what it is. Even if it continues to elude me forever as I always feared it would.
About the Author:
Samantha Lamph/Len is a writer and cat masseuse living in Los Angeles with her bitcoin-obsessed husband and three cool cats. You can read more of her work in OCCULUM, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Vanilla Sex Magazine, Connotation Press, Mosaic, and the upcoming anthology from A Room of Her Own Foundation, WAVES: A Confluence of Women’s Voices. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @quandoparamucho. But please don’t follow her IRL. That’d be creepy.