Saturday, March 03, 2007

out of the ground…into the sky…out of the sky…into the ground...


This is a really interesting quote, I think…

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.” - Albert Schweitzer

I remember the first time this notion entered my consciousness…via the person who was, herself, an enormous “rekindler” for me. To make a long story a little less long (which we all know I suck at), she and I had gone to see the movie American Beauty not long after we’d reunited after our first breakup, which occurred when she decided to start seeing some other guy (ouch). After things with the other guy didn’t work out, we more or less reconciled. She had told me she wanted to see the film with me because it depicted what she thought was a good analog for what we had just been through (our very unceremonious breakup followed by our mother-of-all-bad-ideas reunion), though she wouldn’t tell me which character was the “me” and which was the “him” – or the “her” for that matter – because she wanted to see if I came away with the same conclusion. I didn’t, of course, thanks to my ever-reliable pessimism...but, whatever. Her point was that Angela, the cheerleader that Lester pitched a tent for, was the “other guy” by serving as a “catalyst” for Lester (who was “the ex”) by waking him up to the state of his life and allowing him to see and live more freely thereafter. (Nevermind what happens to Lester at the end of the movie. Oh, and to make things more convoluted, the ex was also Jane – Lester’s daughter, played by the totally hot Thora Birch {see gratuitous image} – and I was Ricky, the weed-selling neighbor boy Jane ran away with. At least that part of the ending was sort of happy for them/us…)

(Digression…There was a painting I saw when the girlfriend and I were touring the wonderful Canyon Road gallery district in Santa Fe* called “Spleen.” I wish like hell I’d at least have written the name of the artist down because I recognized immediately that the scene depicted was a perfect representation of my life: a frail, cowardly creature peers out a tiny window to catch a glimpse of the outside world with an expression of shame and fear, making sure to stay hidden from the view of anyone who might be looking back. It was a work of utter genius that I’ve regretted not snatching up immediately – no matter the cost – ever since.)

(*Interdigression digression…The trip was her Christmas present from me because she’d never been, and I wanted to knock her socks off with generosity even though we’d only been going out a couple months. But it was indicative of the kinds of hoops I’d continually jump through in a vain attempt to gain some sense of approval, worthiness and security…which I never did attain with her. I’ve also often wondered how much those constant feelings of inadequacy and lack of control back then now play into the problems I have now maintaining relationships. But that’s probably best left to discuss with the therapist, I suppose…)

Anyway, the “she” in question was the girl I was dating during the last two years of my career as a drunk. Probably the worst two years of my life but, as Dr. Schweitzer implies, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them…and her. I’ve always thought it wasn’t especially germane to that period of my life that the girl in question be her…that it really could have been anyone. I know most of the motivation for that sentiment is just the simple fact that I didn’t want to give her credit for anything. She didn’t deserve it, didn’t earn it…it remains the most tortuous relationship I’ve ever had with another person. But the further removed I become from that era, the more I’m starting to question whether that’s really true. The relationship itself gradually (d)evolved into the clichéd “rock bottom” that every substance abuser must hit before they can begin to repair themselves. Frankly, I’m not sure the sheer nastiness of everything that happened with her could have been achieved with anyone else. If I’d dated anyone less self-absorbed or inconsiderate or insincere, it’s entirely possible that I might have just felt enabled and cared for. As opposed to enabled and not cared for, which was the reality. I wonder if I needed for someone else to treat me as badly as I was trying to treat myself in order to reach that weird equilibrium of internal and external misery…the morning I woke up and said to myself and whatever world I was in, “I can’t live like this.” It was a statement that would evolve organically into a sort of existential fork in the road: I could either continue what I was doing, follow or ignore the descent and eventually die out of necessity or choice (much sooner rather than later); or I could make some sort of effort to decide whether I really wanted to take possession of my own life. It sounds melodramatic and hokey, but I’d never really had the need for a life to call my own. I lived through other people’s experiences in perpetual escapism. And some level of inebriation, needless to say.

I still find the concept of moderation absolutely fascinating…like, in a Discovery Channel way. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that some people can actually choose whether to drink or get high…and choose not to. Or that those people can do those sorts of things “socially” (one or two beers, etc.). Boggles my mind. I consider moderation the equivalent of Buddhahood, or at least nirvana. The fact that moderation so completely stymies me to this day is probably a good indication of my mindset back then…

However, as is my tendency in self-involved exercises like this one, I’ve gotten badly off-track. So back to the referenced quote at the beginning…

So the “American Beauty” story, while not being particularly interesting, hopefully communicates the lesson in Schweitzer’s words…and it’s a damn good lesson, however insincerely it may have first been presented to me. Since then I’ve met and become close to (in varying degrees) quite a few people who have been that kind of catalyst for me. The first being Amber, who taught me the true meaning of unconditional love and friendship…something I absolutely needed coming on the heels of the preceding two years of unpleasantness. And there’s Valerie, who has more history with me than any other friend and whose friendship with me seems constantly enriching and evolving in various ways. Another obvious – and much more literal – choice, would be Amanda. I don’t know Amanda anywhere near as well as my other friends, but that’s okay and is probably the way it needs to be for the time being. Amanda’s pushed and inspired me in countless ways, not the least of which has been my increasing involvement in the world of blogging (lucky you!) and the local music scene. She’s inspired me to speak my mind more often, and to approach writing and other endeavors with a bit more damn-the-torpedoes-and-just-be-me attitude. Sometimes I bomb, sometimes I do okay. But Amanda has been incredibly inspirational to me almost from the moment I met her, and I simply cannot thank her enough.

Without a doubt, though, there has been one event that transformed my life and the way I approach it (albeit somewhat arguably) more than anything else, and in ways still too numerous for me to comprehend: my experiences in Tylertown, Mississippi. A catalyst in and of itself by being the embodiment of one of my own favorite philosophies – that you evolve as you involve” (which I admit I stole from David James Duncan’s wonderful book, The River Why*) – I have come to refer to the experience kind of collectively as “the lesson of Tylertown.” And by way of Tylertown, I was able to meet my very best friend and the greatest person I’ve ever known…Wendy. I learn something new about myself or life in general every day because of her. And while I’m fortunate that Wendy knows how I feel, it certainly won’t hurt to lay another “thank you for everything” at her feet. So, Wendy…thank you once again for everything.

*It should probably also be noted that this book was given to me as a gift from yet another friend, Shonda. Shonda feels so strongly about that book that she literally gives copies of it to anyone she thinks can benefit from reading it, just as she did with me. Which, in a backdoor way I hadn’t considered until just now, makes Shonda a bit of a catalyst as well. So thank you, Shonda.

At any rate, the timing of the comment that kicks off this monster post (it was my emailed “daily inspirational quote” or some such) is funny because Val and I were talking just the other day about this very thing. How we’re drawn to certain people, and how some folks can serve as a catalyst for us…shake us out of our doldrums, dig us out of a rut, wake us up to whatever we might be sleeping through…change our lives forever, basically. No small feat, when you stop to think about it.

Plus, I finally got to see Fallen Angel, the documentary about Gram Parsons Wednesday night at the AllGood Café. The most striking thing about the movie was seeing two stark and fascinating examples of people acting as catalysts for each other…Gram’s relationships with Emmylou Harris and with Keith Richards. In both cases, the parties involved were profoundly and permanently changed by the new friendships…creatively and personally. It was also a good illustration of how random life can be and how none of us can ever know how or when we will meet the next person who has the potential to alter the course of our lives, positively or negatively. The saddest part of Gram’s story is that no one will ever know what could have come from the continuing collaborations between Parsons/Harris and Parsons/Richards. The mind reels at the thought of what could have been, were it not for Gram’s premature demise. Mine does, anyway. Not unlike the melancholy I feel whenever I think of Kurt Cobain. (“I miss the comfort in being sad…”)

At any rate, to those people who have “rekindled” something within me…most of you know how grateful I am to you. But my deepest thanks bear repeating. Repeatedly. (Seriously.)

(By the same token, can you kindle something? Or unkindle something? There have definitely been some motherfuckers who have unkindled some shit in my lifetime…)

And to the one person who perhaps served as the most significant catalyst…

You gave whatever kindness you were capable of at that time, and for some inexplicable reason expressed an affection for a very lonely and isolated person who had become so accustomed to feeling hurt and alone that he didn’t know there was a reality in which you could experience anything else…someone who had numbed himself for so long that he became that figure in the painting who simply didn’t know how to handle the sting of any sort of sensation.

And for that, I offer a long-overdue, not entirely without bitterness, but nevertheless heartfelt and sincere “thank you.” Your actions helped me recreate my life…to literally live to see the opportunity for other catalysts to change who and what I am in so many ways. It’s a kick in the nuts to say it, but I honestly would not be here without you. Very humbling to admit, but also somewhat liberating. Thank you. Hopefully, it’s better to have said it late than never.

Finally, in keeping with my personal (and blog) shtick, and since I’ve already referenced Kurt Cobain more than once here, I think I’ll close this with what may be my favorite of his lyrics. Which, coincidentally, I recall emailing once years ago to that same, first catalyst…

I'm not like them, but I can pretend
The sun is gone, but I have a light
The day is done, but I'm having fun
I think I'm dumb, or maybe just happy…
Think I'm just happy

My heart is broke, but I have some glue
Help me inhale, and mend it with you
We'll float around, and hang out on clouds
Then we'll come down, and have a hangover...
Have a hangover

Skin the sun…fall asleep
Wish away…the soul is cheap
Lesson learned…wish me luck
Soothe the burn…wake me up

I'm not like them, but I can pretend
The sun is gone, but I have a light
The day is done, but I'm having fun
I think I'm dumb, or maybe just happy…
Think I'm just happy

I think I’m dumb

Love, peace, namaste…all that shit. Oh, and thank you.


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Anonymous wendy said...

Love you, hon.

2:09 PM  

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