Forgotten Names

Forgotten Names - Lyrics
Words and music by Angie Nussey

In my weak times, I try to fill my ego with the memory
of soaring like an eagle,
but the truth was
I was standing on the runway tying photos to my hands.
When it came down to strength and perseverance,
I had that, it never gave me clearance
to live right and understand the demons I was fighting for so long.

I used to race towards it like it was a trophy.
Thought if I could hold it in my hand then all the world would see.
But that’s not me. Not anymore.
My heart can’t find the value in a system of rewards.
That’s not me. It never was.
I can’t find that inspiration
in a world I have to judge.

I used to want to be some kind of achiever.
So I could throw it in the face of all the non-believers.
Step by step I’d put each one of them to shame,
but I’ve forgotten all their names.

It’s a strange world. We walk around waiting for the one time
we can stop complaining about all those
small misunderstandings that lay heavy with each day.
So we seek out any peaceful moment to cling to.
It doesn’t seem to pay rent and we smile through.
As long as we can stand it we can carry on this way.
I used to think that all the small shows were beneath me.
Thought if I could make it to that stage then all the world would see.

But that’s not me. Not anymore.
That chip upon my shoulder is now resting on the floor.
That’s not me. It never was.
I don’t have to wear a badge to say I’m worth that kind of love.

I used to want to be some kind of achiever.
So I could throw it in the face of all the non-believers.
Step by step I’d put each one of them to shame,
but I’ve forgotten all their names.
I’ve forgotten all their names.

And the only ones that remain….

Are the loved ones, the ones who stand by when I’m broken,
who never leave a promise unspoken,
who love me just the same when I’m up and when I’m down.
They trust me to do what’s always best and I’m lucky
to hold them to my chest and I can see now,
they only wanted me to feel happy with my life.

I used to think I’d always have to stand alone.
Never realized how close I was to home.
But that’s not me, not anymore.
I have seen all that I should have and I know it to my core.
That’s not me. It never was.
I am finding my way back
into a deeper kind of love.

I used to want to be some kind of achiever.
So I could throw it in the face of all the non-believers.
Step by step I’d put each one of them to shame,
but I’ve forgotten all their names.

Forgotten Names - (Letting go)

 "My goal is not to remain the same but to live in such a way that each day, year, moment, relationship, conversation, and crisis is the material I use to become a truer, more beautiful version of myself. - Glennon Doyle

As I sit back and look at the many twists and turns of life, I realize that we are always walking two paths simultaneously. One path – our human path – reveals tangible things like jobs, houses, cars, trophies, and other aspects of “reality”. The other path – our soul path – provides intangible energetic and emotional experiences like love, compassion, anger, fear, and the whole range of emotions in between. I’ve often wondered if the Universe provides the “perfect” tangible experiences in order to reveal the intangible insights and emotions that will allow our soul path to expand and unfold. Throughout my life, I’ve had many of these “perfect” experiences which have often felt like the Universe presenting me with an ice cream cone on a hot summer night. And not just any ice cream cone. No. The ice cream cone of my dreams… oversized scoops of chocolate peanut butter drizzling down the sides of a crunchy waffle cone. BUT… just as I reach out to grab it, like a bully, the Universe snatches it away. 

Forgotten Names is a song is about a dreadful experience that deflated my ego, and yet created a truly perfect opening for my soul to soar to magical new heights. 

October 8th, 2011 

I woke up in a hotel room in Buffalo, New York on a tear-soaked pillow. I just wanted to close my swollen, blood-shot eyes and sleep for the rest of my life. Quentin rolled over and snuggled me into his arms, and like a child, I began to ask him questions about fate and life. I wept uncontrollably into his chest, completely overtaken by what seemed like the most excruciating and unbearable pain I’d ever experienced. Quentin pulled me closer, pressing his reassuring hands into my back, and reminding me to breathe. But I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t supposed to be driving home today. I was supposed to be flying to Washington to perform at the Global Woman Summit in front of President and Michelle Obama, Ellen Degeneres, and Oprah. Yes, the President of the United States! It was THE big break I’d been waiting for my entire life. It was the ice cream cone of all ice cream cones. And in the months leading up to it, I had prepared like an Olympic athlete. Every day I rehearsed for hours, perfecting my voice for this life-changing performance. Quentin would videotape my rehearsals so we could analyze how I could improve and get my message across with as much impact as possible. He had set up radio and TV interviews, bought ads for my new album on the Toronto Subway Line, and rented a rehearsal space so that I could practice several hours a day, uninterrupted. I had bought two elegant dresses that were specially fitted so I could expand my lungs when I belted out the words to Still Hope. I even practiced walking in high heels. For weeks, I’d clumsily walk out of our apartment onto Dundas West Street with my high heels on, hands clasped behind my back, trying to exude the confidence of a successful artist about to take her rightful place on an international stage. As my stiletto strut became more graceful, I was ready to step up onto that stage and deliver my gold medal performance.  I was ready to be the woman I was born to be! Okay… maybe not quite ready. I have to admit, I felt more like a kitten in a lioness costume, but I knew I COULD become that lioness and I was damn well going to try. I was going to show all those people who had ever doubted my music career and my talent as an artist. They were finally going to see me in all of my glory. But, as it turned out, the Universe had other plans in store for me… the Global Woman Summit was cancelled. I shouldn't say it was cancelled. It was actually postponed and only cancelled a few months later. We never did get much detail on the reasons other than there being some kind of security breach at the hotel that required them to keep everyone away. I didn’t care to learn more. I accepted it in a knowing way. I was used to things I really wanted being snatched away just as I was about to receive them. And so, instead of flying to Washington, we drove back to our apartment in Toronto. For the first time in as long as I could remember, we talked about nothing. 

Once we got home, life moved on as usual. My first gig back was at a bar on Bloor Street. The bar was busy and the audience seemed frustrated, judgmental, and annoyed. They talked over all of my songs as though I wasn’t worthy of their time and attention. In hindsight, I realize they were reflecting back to me the exact energy I was putting out. I brought into that gig a storm of negative thoughts and emotions and as I went through my performance, I could feel the tears wanting to explode from my face. I wanted to scream: “Don’t you people know who I am? I’m supposed to be playing for the President right now but I’m stuck playing here for you unimportant, unworthy, and ungrateful people! The truth was, I’d fooled myself into believing that a crowd of ten thousand is more important than a crowd of ten. That a President is more worthy than another human being. And that my own worth depended on the world seeing it. That night felt like an eternity and once it was finally over, I decided I was done with the entertainment business. I didn't want to entertain anyone EVER again. 

All of the interviews Quentin had arranged for my epic return from Washington were cancelled. As the days went on, I felt lost and defeated. Here I was holding my brand new album, titled Still Hope and yet I was feeling utterly hopeless. Quentin insisted that I just needed some time to recover. He was convinced I’d bounce back soon and that this disappointment would pass. But it wasn’t passing and I wasn’t bouncing back. So, a few months later, I did what any defeated artist would do: I got a “real” job. It started off as a two-week temp job, but I got so good at stuffing envelopes in the belly of a mailroom that the boss kept me there for three months. Seriously. All I had to do was stuff envelopes and double-check mailing addresses all day long, day after day. It was glorious. There was no pressure. No grand expectations. No one to impress, and no one to prove my worth to. 

When I started this “real” job, I made a commitment to not tell anyone about my career as a singer/songwriter. Talking about it just triggered too much pain inside. If anyone asked about my previous work, I’d tell them that the small business I’d been running had tanked (which felt true to me at the time). After gently dodging the deeper questions, I found myself making new friends. It was in the mailroom that I met Marc, a heavy set, proud Italian man who was on his way to losing 100lbs. Marc had a quick temper and an even quicker sense of humour. He made me laugh so hard I sometimes felt like I was going to faint. He LOVED music and insisted that the mailroom have an excellent stereo system. Through this system, Marc played an array of music all day long. He'd sometimes ask what others wanted to hear, but generally decided himself because he knew what had been played in the days before. We went many weeks never hearing the same song twice. Sometimes he'd sing along, usually to the harmony parts. I was amazed at his talent for singing and for noticing production details. One day he told me how he had been a dance music DJ in the 90s before the bottom fell out of the industry because of all the music downloads. He wasn't able to financially sustain his music career and ended up working a variety of office jobs, including this one. Like many of my musical friends, he was brilliant and his story made me realize that I wasn’t the only one who’d had their ice cream stolen. As time went on, I shared with Marc that I'd retired from a career as a singer / songwriter. Quietly, I started sharing my musical likes and dislikes with him, and slowly, my passion for music started to sneak its way back into my life. One day, Marc asked if I would send him some of my original music and vocal tracks so he could play around with them over the weekend. He remixed my song Quiet Room and played it in the mailroom without saying a word. I smiled when I heard it and then watched as he asked our co-workers if they liked it. They did... still not knowing it was my song and my voice. Marc then re-mixed five of my other songs and released an EP. He started testing out the songs in dance clubs around Toronto, generating some attention. He would send me video clips of “dropping” my remix (playing the song in the club for the first time) and the reaction of the crowd. Marc’s music career started to awaken again and he began working on other musical projects under the name of MPE Project. His enthusiasm was contagious and I could feel tiny glimmers of hope that there might still be a musical path ahead for me. Turns out, one of his best mixes was my song, Swan Song … ironically about not giving up.  

After leaving the mailroom, I was gifted with another “real” job as a vocal coach and piano teacher at an alternative music school. I'd never taught before and I was terrified, but I went with the flow and pushed myself to dissect the ways in which people learn. It was easy to remember what it was like to be a beginner at something as I still feel like a beginner at most things. It was in teaching others that I learned to celebrate little wins. I was particularly inspired by two of my students. One was a woman in her forties who just wanted to sing one song in front of her family. The other was a woman in her late sixties who wanted to find out if she could sing. Holy crap, could she EVER! These two courageous women who wanted nothing from the music industry reminded me that we play music because of how it makes us feel. So simple, but so easily forgotten when you're in a rehearsal space practicing your breathing and pitch all day, walking around in ridiculous high heels and pretty dresses preparing to perform perfectly, in front of the perfect audience, on the perfect stage. 

After another eight months of teaching and learning, Quentin and I moved to Orillia so he could go back to school and we could both start a new life of simplicity. We found the most wonderful little house on a lake and I started a music school. I had developed an unshakeable joy in helping people to find their voice and experience music in its truest form. Eventually, I decided to go back to the entertainment scene. My first gig back was at a bar in Bracebridge called the Griffin Pub. I was absolutely terrified to perform in a bar again because of what had happened the last time. But this time, I was carrying with me a new energy and new lessons that had been planted by Marc in that mailroom and had grown through my teaching experiences. I arrived at the pub having already decided that I was going to enjoy whatever experience was destined for me that night. I was going to send light and love to this audience no matter what. I was stepping into my worth, with or without their approval. 

As I entered the tiny, twenty-five seat bar, I was greeted by some of the friendliest people I’d ever met. Customers helped me carry my gear into the bar and then chatted cheerfully while I was setting up. Just before I started singing my first song, I took a deep breath and looked around the room. It was quiet and filled with gentle, attentive people who were excited to see me perform, and I thought to myself: these people look like the Care Bears. In case you don’t know, Care Bears was a cartoon in which the plot would always involve a crisis that could only be solved by the Care Bears collectively shooting loving light beams out of their tummies. It seemed everyone in that bar was working collectively to shoot an invisible beam of loving light towards me. It was in this moment that I realized they were reflecting back the same loving light energy I’d brought for them. Soon, we were all singing and dancing and shaking eggs and playing tambourines. As I stood on this tiny stage, in front of this small audience, I remembered that I was already “home”. Perhaps for the first time ever, I saw the Universe not as a bully snatching my ice cream cone away, but as a compassionate goddess with a precious gift meant only for me...  a gift so precious that it could only be delivered at the end of the “perfect” storm. I realized I was finally ready to receive the giant chocolate peanut butter ice cream cone that had been waiting for me all along. In this loving light energy, I remembered who I was. The lioness. And I remembered that I was going home to the man I love, to my peaceful cottage on the lake, to my life of meaning and purpose, and most importantly, I came to the realization that the Universe had guided me back to a deeper kind of love. Somehow, the journey of having my dream snatched away was the exact experience I needed for the development of a deeply fulfilling and joy-filled life. 

Forgotten Names is my personal reminder that we’re never REALLY soaring if we’re bragging, trying to prove something, or longing for more. These are human ways to prove our success and worth. This is like trying to fly like an eagle by “standing on the runway tying photos to our hands.” 

To this day, I vividly remember the feeling growing inside of me as the opportunity for international recognition was approaching.... I was excited to finally be able to “show them all” and “throw it in the face of all the non-believers.”  But there was no joy in that kind of motivation. I know this now...and it’s not me...not anymore.

Edited by Lise Leblanc