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I’m listening to Ani DiFranco tonight, with only a couple candles and strings of Christmas lights lightly eluminating my tiny studio apartment. It’s the jazzy DiFranco… slow bass beats, chilled out brass intruments, a little sleepy drum and xylophone…

I am writing our history on the bedroom wall, and when we leave the landlord will come and paint over it all…

In my deeply introverted state, I hear this lyric that I had heard a hundred times before and it hits me in a different way than ever before.

The transient nature of her, and her music, and her nature, hit me. And the transient nature that I am almost constantly trying to temper. It’s a basic, fundamental aspect of who she is, and it’s something that’s so fundamental to who I am that the relation between us was almost invisible to me before this epiphany-like moment.

How many people know about the ritual of leaving where you’ve been for somewhere unexpected and unfamiliar? About arriving and solving the puzzle of creating a home and an identity someplace, and then walking away from it all, carrying only little bits of what  you’re able to or that are stuck with you forever, whether you like it or not, from here, to there, to there… Traces of what you couldn’t carry being “painted over” carelessly by people who are blips in your story. Whose caricature get one line in the 23 CD lyrical synopsis of your life.

Ani does. And I do, to arguably a somewhat lesser extent than she.

In the moment she sang that lyric, I looked around my apartment and saw clearly the fear I’ve been harboring. Not burying, but keeping it… subdued… Not ignoring it, but not looking at it directly, in the eyes… That I’ll leave here again, as I’ve left everywhere else, and I don’t know when, and I don’t know to where.

For most of us, this is part of growing up. We become adults and we move away from home. We move to jobs. We move in with people who are not our family, people we take leaps of trust with, sometimes traveling the expanse of entire continents with them, and hope for the best…

I’ve been there, too. And I think the failure of that has scared me in ways that I have not yet fully faced. I believed, before this epiphany, that I had fully dealt with all the residual hurt and scars of my past serious relationship. But this lyric reminded me of something else…

In that relationship, we traveled the continent to be together, and worked hard to make it work out, but it didn’t. Things didn’t end terribly, they just couldn’t go forward anymore, so we walked away.

And that can happen at any time. There’s still a fear in me that lives that is born of the realization that love is not enough, and trying doesn’t always work, and going to great lengths doesn’t always work.

But I’m learning now, in my new relationship, that silence and listening can work. That giving space to be an independent individual can work. And I’m learning now, as an individual human who will die in my own arms one day, that… nothing is guaranteed. Pain is inevitable. Joy is, too, though. My boyfriend makes me laugh even when I feel hell-bent on being a sour-puss. With just the sight of his face. There’s something unspeakably strong in that. The only other person who can make me smile when I don’t want to is my mother…

We talk about our future together. We talk about what we want, and where we’ll go, and how we’ll get there, and how we’ll lean on each other and support each other through the challenges we  can see from our current vantage points… But deep inside I still know that terrible things could happen. Partly, I have to admit now, that fear holds me back.

My first love wrote me a letter after we broke up, and in it he wrote [paraphrasing]: “Thank you for the love you’ve shared with me. Your love is amazingly powerful. You love more deeply, more sincerely, more fiercely and purely, than I think most people could ever know or understand. I admire that about you.”

He’s right. But while he admires it, I’m somewhat afraid of my own love, because of its (well-tempered) intensity. It’s hard to carry that around inside you, sometimes.

Maybe that’s why it’s been a blessing that I’ve moved around so much. So that I can learn that temperance. Or so that I can face this fear over and over. Falling in love, and moving on.. falling in love, and moving on.. and learning to deal with that anguish. I don’t just mean falling in love with a person. But with everything around me. I cherish it all. I cherish my connection with everything. It all has depth and meaning to me. It’s seemed almost impossible up to this point to balance detachment and connection. Maybe that’s my life’s lesson…

 

 

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