And the true dope on salvation is
Two weeks in a clinic
And a public testimonial
You tell them kids
Tell them not to hurt themselves
Speeding fast from who you were
--Mike Doughty, “No Peace, Los Angeles”
Four trains of thought came crashing together in my mind.
It’s strange how that happens to me. All the trains start from the same station running on parallel tracks. I can usually tell that they are related. Sometimes I can even tell how. But it’s not until that moment of clarity that I realize why they were all running.
I’ve often tried to figure out how to communicate that moment of convergence but I’ve concluded that it’s impossible. So, in the spirit of my new dabblings in written minimalism, I’m going to try something different.
When will I hear the click?
When will I know that it is time to split?
What is the use of it?
What is my life without the heart at risk?
--Mike Doughty, “40 Grand in the Hole”
I wrote a paraphrase of that last line on my own blog comments while sitting in the Chupacabra Cantina in Austin, TX. It was some 14 hours after something happened that I had begun to think would never, ever happen again. Some 72 hours after that I sat and looked at the lyrics and realized something:
It’s a song about addiction.
More than that, it’s a song about wanting out.
I don’t understand the specific situation that lead to the song and hope I never, ever will. But I’m pretty sure I understand the concept all too well.
I realized at some point over the course of my oft inane and pathetic ramblings about Her that I wasn’t actually talking about Her. Not really. She’d always represented something bigger, something more fundamental about my universe and my place in it than she or I understood.
She was supposed to save me.
In time I realized that she couldn’t.
It wasn’t a clean path from Point A to Point B. And I’m reasonably certain that much psychological violence was done during and after. In fact, I know it was.
Now the harder I fight the stronger it’s coming
I wipe the tears from my eye and keep on strumming
I ain’t running away
Just trying to find you something better inside me
--RCPM, “Your Name on a Grain of Rice”
Worship concerts used to open up something inside of me that rarely ever peeked out. When I started to lose the ability to connect with god I started to lose the ability to connect to that part of myself. For a while I desperately clung to her, hoping that she would allow me to find that part of me.
But she didn’t want to. I think she was tired of the game, tired of my neediness. She had her own shit to deal with, too.
She had been supposed to lead me back to god, but it didn’t work. Then she had been supposed to lead me back to that part of myself I was losing, but it didn’t work. Finally she was just supposed to give me some reason to believe there was a purpose in continuing on. That didn’t work, either.
It screams at me from the pages of my mis-remembered college paper drafts. It unlocks so many things that I never quite connected, never quite understood. Even though I know I’ve mentioned it, I know I’ve said the words, even though I’ve acknowledged it as a factor, I’ve never realized that it was the driving, central factor.
I wanted it. I needed it. I genuinely believed she could provide it.
It’s why I left the church behind, but I tried to stay with her. It’s why I recognized that nothing would ever happen but still tried. It’s why I finally realized that there would have to be a final split but still kept myself tethered to the idea of her. I couldn’t figure out anything else to do.
It’s been more than two years. I’ve been on quite a few first dates, approximately zero second dates. I began to wonder a while ago if that was it, if I would never again be able to make a connection to anyone, never again meet someone and actually want her in my life again. I began to wonder if I was emotionally crippled, doomed to relive a shitty, stillborn relationship endlessly because it was the best I’d be able to do ever again.
In one night that question was answered. I may never see that girl in red again (and, I must begrudgingly admit, the prospects don’t look too good at the moment, which makes me a sad panda), but no matter what happens I now know one thing: I’m still capable of having all those feelings. I want to have all those feelings.
I repeated a line I’d recently come up with to a friend of mine recently. “I’m as warm and fluffy as a Brillo pad.” She told me that she doesn’t buy it, that she thinks I protest too much, that I’m just trying to cover.
I argued the point, but I’m pretty sure she’s right.
Never thought I’d need someone to save me
Now I’ll be free as soon as you enslave me
--RCPM, “I Don’t Need Another Thrill”
It seems strange to disagree with a Peacemakers song. But at some point over the last week I heard that line and realized that no, no it doesn’t work that way.
I heard a lot about it in church, you see. We were supposed to hand over our sovereignty to Jesus, let him take control. Only then could we be freed from the world. Slavery described as freedom.
Of course one doesn’t just hand over their freedom to another without repercussion. There’s rebellion. Within the Christian context it’s the flesh striking back in its sinful, horrible way. At least, that’s the general story.
It’s impossible to live that perfect, godly life. Because those who try have to stop being themselves to a certain extent. There is a part of the enslaved soul that longs to be free.
There is a part of the newly freed soul that seeks re-enslavement.
It’s a vicious cycle.
That story of Jesus as perfect sovereign is a myth we keep telling ourselves. Jesus doesn’t save.
Jesus can’t save.
Any more than she could. Any more than anyone can.
I hate the way the story writes itself.
Boy does a bunch of stupid, idiotic, self-defeating things. Fate sends boy to a place he doesn’t want to live. Boy finally starts to accept that this is his life. Boy finally starts to have fun.
Girl walks in to boy’s life at that exact moment. Girl has had her own pain, her own heartache, her own happiness.
Girl tells boy she’ll break his heart in six months. Boy takes girl up on the offer because he’s finally learned that tomorrow can take care of itself, it’s only today that matters.
And, of course, they live happily ever after.
But it’s too neat, too tidy.
That story doesn’t exist.
It’s not what is that’s the killer. It’s what could have been.
But at least I now know the thing I’ve most needed to learn. There’s something in between a life unfettered and a life enslaved. Neither extreme leads to true healthiness or happiness.
It’s that in between spot I need to find.
And that story is still writing itself.