I’ve never really listened to James Taylor very much. That was my first mistake. My son and I were talking about Fire and Rain because he and/or his friends were planning to perform it at an upcoming shindig. So I downloaded it.
I don’t know if music is like this for anyone else, but sometimes I ‘discover’ a song, and it speaks to me and etches itself on my soul. I find myself listening to it over and over and over again for days, while some kind of emotion releases itself in me.
It was like this with Mumford and Sons’ I Will Wait. I would listen to this over and over and when the line “Raise my hands… Paint my spirit gold..” came on, something inside me just broke, and I cried and cried and cried. Of course I’ve also been on a kick where I couldn’t seem to stop listening to Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO. Deep.
Fire and Rain is such a beautiful song, but it’s just so damn sad. Yesterday was a bad day. Anxiety stream-rolled the whole thing. You know the drill: trigger + meltdown + no focus + out of control emotions.. blah, blah, blah.. Speckled with attempts at mindfulness and prayer and breathing. The whole thing basically running itself into the ground eventually, because one is just not physically or emotionally able to keep up that level of angst indefinitely… Thank goodness, I suppose. I don’t like being this way.
A fairly decent night’s sleep and today has me in the crappy-day hangover, which is actually a good thing. And maybe this is weird – or maybe it’s normal – but I find that the period after these episodes contains a level of clarity and calmness and awareness.
I noticed people while I was in line at the grocery store. Women. Some were older. Some I knew to have been through stuff. And some I suspected to be going through stuff. Mainly because, the older I get, and the more I hear and see, it just seems that one does not get through this life without going through the stuff. Till now I had mostly avoided it. Or at least numbed away what I could. Good times.
I was in line behind two local gentlemen. People I knew (read assume!!) to struggle with mental illness. Social outcasts, for sure (shame on us). I pitied their basic existence. Maybe that’s part of the problem? The way I put my somewhat more socially acceptable struggles on a rank above theirs.
Outside I saw bike trailers, strollers and tiny two-wheelers and I was instantly brought back to those beautiful, sweet, exhausting, frustrating, horrifically sleep-deprived days. The Gong Show of packing up 4 children to transport 2 blocks so the baby could have a check-up. We went everywhere all the time and God knows why I thought it was better to go through the circus of being out and about than to stay home — but somehow it just was.
In that moment, my heart ached for that time. A bittersweet combination of pure love and the impossible wish of a do-over. Tears. The kind that make it hard to breathe. Freaking awesome.
And I could tell ya’ll young moms to ‘enjoy it while they’re babies’… I was told that. And I did enjoy it. And I didn’t. But we don’t really know until that time has passed. Enjoy isn’t even the right word. It’s ridiculous to tell someone to enjoy tantrums and a house that perpetually looks like that aftermath of a frat party. But it is a good goal to be intentional about experiencing it. To be. Just as it’s good to ‘just be’ where we are right now. I remind myself.
I guess what I felt this post-meltdown morning was something outside of, and bigger than myself. When I hit low spots, I take a nose-dive deep inside me. I don’t see other people. I don’t comprehend that everyone is on a journey and has their own struggles. It’s not even on my radar. Maybe the woman that made an effort to be extra kind to me today, has her own set of issues. But somehow she still saw me. Maybe she is a little further in the process of transformation where, rather than projecting her pain onto other people, it has turned into compassion.
I have caught glimpses of that. Where I see people. Actually see them – their pain, their beauty, their imperfectness. But mostly when I’m suffering I go full-on douche-bag and take it out on the person closest to me. Yesterday I was thankful that that person has been down this path far enough they could see through my douche-bagginess and my walls, to my pain. And gave me space to feel it.
In the film version of The Shack, God (who is now officially Octavia Spencer to me) says, “Will you at least consider this: when all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?”
And I tend to think that when all we can see is our pain, we lose sight of everyone.
I’m not the only one who suffers in this world. Obviously. Nice work, Einstein. This is more of a light-bulb moment than it seems, ha. And this is not a ‘stop-feeling-sorry-for-yourself’ kick in the ass. I think it was a moment given to me, to feel a unity with humanity. It was the ability to feel the heaviness of a world that just has hard times. Not heaviness in a depressing or fatalistic way, but in a wool blanket kinda way.
Richard Rohr writes, “We are often tempted to deny, fix, or run away from suffering and imperfection. The Franciscan way, in imitation of Jesus, is to stand in solidarity and intimacy with the world’s hurt… be present and loving in the midst of brokenness.”
My point here, if there is one… is that maybe this is where compassion starts. In solidarity and presence. I’ve seen sunny days I thought would never end. I really thought that. And now, in these moments, it sometimes feels like the rainy days will never end.
But that can’t be true. And in the mean time, it doesn’t hurt to find someone to share an umbrella.