“I'm walking through the desert-
And I am not frightened although it's hot -
I have all that I requested –
And I do not want what I haven't got”
- Sinead O’Connor, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” (click to play)
As far as celebrities go, Sinead O’Connor was the musical equivalent of a shooting star.
She rocketed to fame on the success of her 1990 album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, featuring the ubiquitous “Nothing Compares 2 U” (written – in case the title wasn’t a giveaway – by Prince, at the height of his songwriting powers). She spent several months as the media's darling du jour before a few well-publicized and poorly considered public appearances (such as ripping up a picture of the Pope on live TV, refusing to perform after the National Anthem, etc.) brought her time in the spotlight to a turbulent, fiery end.
As for the album – it was the most poignant collection of songs many people had ever seen. The tracks are equal parts stark and passionate, vulnerable and strong, desperate and hopeful. They're the soundtrack of a lost romantic soul clamoring for peace and acceptance in her relationships, as well as her overall place in the world.
They are also the songs that my wife and I fell in love to.
Sinead’s hushed, passionate voice played in the background during countless long nights that my then-girlfriend and I spent together, talking into the wee hours, exchanging hopes and vulnerabilities on the long road to joining our lives together. When we didn’t feel like talking, we’d just lay in the dark and listen to the songs that spoke directly to our hearts. At that time in our lives, we were the center of each other’s world, and there was honestly nothing else I wanted other than the girl and the life that I already had.
Eighteen years later, I feel almost exactly the same way.
I don’t know why memories of the album’s title song came back to me recently – except perhaps that as Thanksgiving draws near, I’m thinking about the blessings I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy over the past two decades. Nowadays, it extends beyond just my wife – to my expanded family, and the beautiful place I live, and all the activities I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy.
When I listen to Sinead's remarkable voice today, I'm reminded to find meaning in the quiet moments, and comfort in the storms of life. My circumstances (not to mention my wife's) are certainly different than they used to be; life is more complex, more challenging, but at the same time, more fulfilled. It remains as desperate and hopeful as it did long ago – but with each passing day, more often than not, I find myself at peace with the way everything has played out.
For all of those things, I consider myself extremely fortunate. I have all that I requested – and I do not want what I haven’t got.