“I love you”. Followed by “farewell” were the last words I spoke to my former love. The sum of the last words she spoke to me were “goodbye”. It was a very clear charge to never contact her again. John Steinbeck broke it down beautifully in, "The Winter of Discontent":
“Farewell has a sweet sound of reluctance. Good-by is short and final, a word with teeth sharp to bite through the string that ties past to the future.”
My send-off was full of longing with that perpetual air of pathetic need, regret, and lament. Two days later, her’s was in a text - full of antipathy and a curt sense of loathing, finality, and satisfaction.
Without giving you all of the graphic details of the past two years, you might think, “Well, what the hell did he do to make her harbor this much disdain for him?” I would guess that my version of the story would have you sympathize with me. Perhaps her side of the story would make you sympathize with her. I just don’t know.
I do know that she was done with me 10 years before it ended. That added to the deplorable nature of my existence for the next 15 years. As I withdrew more and more I chose to ignore her blatant signs: No kissing, constant criticism, no appreciation, lack of interest in me, secrecy, discontent, and so on. But, we remained a great team. She was seriously my best friend. I know...it sounds so ridiculous and crazy in type, but that’s how it was - extremely dysfunctional. I suppose I just longed for what we had when we first gazed into each others souls and discovered something wonderful. I was still willing to fulfill the 'for better or worse' contract. She was not. There was nothing I would not have done for her and she knows it.
It is the last day of the year so, I’ll take the risk of overloading you:
William Ernest Henley, “A Love By The Sea”
Out of the starless night that covers me,
(O tribulation of the wind that rolls!)
Black as the cloud of some tremendous spell,
The susurration of the sighing sea
Sounds like the sobbing whisper of two souls
That tremble in a passion of farewell.
To the desires that trebled life in me,
(O melancholy of the wind that rolls!)
The dreams that seemed the future to foretell,
The hopes that mounted herward like the sea,
To all the sweet things sent on happy souls,
I cannot choose but bid a mute farewell.
And to the girl who was so much to me
(O lamentation of this wind that rolls!)
Since I may not the life of her compel,
Out of the night, beside the sounding sea,
Full of the love that might have blent our souls,
A sad, a last, a long, supreme farewell.
With all the drama, unresolved arguing, cold stares, and nights alone on the couch - I loved her through all of it. It was a privilege to know her. When it was good, God! Was it good! We were a pièce de résistance. We were Plath and Hughes, Rauschenberg and Jons, Charles and Ray, Stieglitz and O’Keeffe, Bonnie and Clyde, Cleopatra and Antony, Carter and Cash. Her gifts, talents, and insight were my balance and oh, how I miss it. Life is tough without her…Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Indeed, how lucky was I.
Farewell, my friend (Dennis Wilson)
"Without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all."
-Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life
One of the reasons I decided to create a blog was to preserve much of the aesthetic appropriation that has served as script and soundtrack to my life since 2017. I need to remember that this stuff was there for me when I was wordless or thoughtless - when I paced the floors under the protection of the Holy Ghost - babbling in tongues (Oh! God! Oh! God! What am I gonna do?! No! No! No! Oh! God! And so on). It is important for me to let much of this speak for itself instead of making attempts at being profound.
Today, I’m sharing a song that I’d go lift the tone arm and drop the stylus back down on over and over.
I conjured much weeping with “I Can’t Get Over You” by Damien Jurado.
“First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons — but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which had lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world — a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring — this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.
Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. A man may be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of Cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else — but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit. A most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.
It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain.”
Carson McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe´ and Other Stories
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised."
Song of Solomon 8:6-7
I don't want to love her anymore. I want to forget her the way she forgot me. I don't want her haunting my dreams. I don't want to cry when I see an image of her. I don't want to long for her when I smell white amber in the air. I want to despise her the way she despises me. But, I cannot. No matter how hard I try, and no matter how much people tell me that I need to move on, she is still a seal upon my heart. That is an uncomfortable spot to be in.
Just today, painting my kitchen walls, I wondered, "Would she like the color I picked?" She was my day and night. When I admit this, I realize that I must have placed her in god-status. That's probably part of the reason it didn't work out. Perhaps I expected god-like results from her. I had my idea of what she should be and did not allow her to just be her.
Regardless, I carry her heart with me. I still love her. To resist is futile. To deny it is a lie.
E.E. Cummings - "I Carry Your Heart With Me"
Do everything without grumbling or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation." Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky...
It was the little jabs that piled up over the years. I'm certain my former love drove down the road with the exact same thoughts running through her head as the damsel above has floating above hers.
She might ask, "How was your day?" And my exhausted self would say something like, "How do you think it was?! I was digging holes half the day and on a 32' extension ladder for the second half..." Or, "Hey (nickname)! Could you go to the store for me?" And my response was to always be the "humble servant" but I'd let out a "sigh" and go with a grudge - making it known that I was indeed a "humble servant". Perhaps she'd need help with a few steps on a computer program she was working with and I'd respond with, "You still can't do that on your own?" The odd thing is that, though I might have been exhausted at the end of the day, I was fine. I didn't even care to go to the store at all. I was happy to head to the store for whatever she needed. And, I loved being the person who could help her follow through with her project that she was organizing on the computer.
So what was it that made anger lead the way and my tongue lash out? Why didn't I listen to her requests, process those requests, and follow through with a grateful heart? It was pride and selfishness. It was me feeling sorry for myself. It was disappointment in who I was. Instead of following the Christ example that I had been raised to follow, I made a ridiculous amount of effort to make every situation about me. Internally it was, "What about what I need?", "What about what I want to be doing right now?", "What about how tired I am?" Me, me, me, me, me, me, me... It never seemed to be about, 'What can I do for you to build you up, to help you, to make your life easier, to bring you peace and joy.'
I knew better.
My former wife has told me that around 2008 was the year she stopped loving me. I wish we had addressed it all then...this song came out in 2004. That was about 10 years into my marriage. I remember being at work, hearing this play in the background and thinking, "Good grief, this is about me. I need to quit grumbling and jabbing and having an attitude that creates strife..." Then I'd go home and forget all about my conviction.
The Delgados wrote several beautiful songs about relationships. In "I Fought the Angels", I can hear true sentiment in Emma Pollock's voice as she sings, "Run conversations in my head - Write my own scripts to dish the dread." If you are in the middle of a bad relationship, stop grumbling and stop arguing and stop 'writing scripts' to get the last word in. Love that wonderful person you are sharing your life with and do whatever it takes to secure joy in their soul.
So sorry if the holidays were a bit tough for you. I'm keeping today's post as short as yesterdays and letting the offerings stand for themselves. I pray that this coming new year brings you peace, hope, and better days. Enjoy this beautiful song from Graham Nash - "Better Days"
“If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.”
- Charles Bukowski, Factotum
Andy Warhol, Nativity Scene, ink on paper, c.1954
It is a day of reflection on the unfamiliar. It is a day to allow love to make that unfamiliarity tolerable.
(Unfortunately, I could not locate a version of Ginsberg reading the poem in its entirety. It remains beautiful regardless.)
"Song" by Allen Ginsberg (read by Tom O'Bedlam)
“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” - Anais Nin
I’ve always loved the mysterious, and the supernatural. I’ve always believed in ghosts - Holy or otherwise. When the book fair came to school, I’d get books on the Loch Ness Monster or Irish folk tales concerning banshees, ‘how-to-be-a-detective’ books. I memorized Revelation 13 at a young age after seeing the movie “The Omen” (I am not really sure why I saw that movie at such a young age. I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7). When my father was working on a master’s degree, I’d set myself up in the library where he was studying with a stack of volumes from the “Man, Myth, and Magic” collection. I loved strange and creepy - the unanswerable, the unknown, the unfathomable, the unexplained. What I’ve never been fond of is the unconscionable. With all of my mystic intrigue, I still root myself in logic and reason. Logic and reason tend to help you navigate mysterious waters and come to conclusions. They may be personal conclusions but that’s enough for me.
I was never able to have a logical or reasonable conversation with my former wife concerning the decision to divorce. That still confounds me. I think that I could lay out a number of reasons why she thought it a logical decision, but that would still be a speculative conclusion. This is, yet another, futile exercise that can’t do much more than amplify frustration and sorrow. It is best to leave it a mystery.
I believe some of the best songs to be those that are poetic, abstract, and force you into a commitment. Some songs are blatant, and that is perfectly fine. Today’s song (Bahamas, “All I’ve Ever Known”) forced me to listen over and over again. I immediately knew that it spoke truth to my situation but it made me dig deeper. That’s the wonderful thing about a good mystery - you go further in and further in and each step brings you closer to truth.
Heart break is certainly a mysterious and supernatural thing. On one hand I blatantly tell you that my former wife wasn't logical or reasonable. If I am honest, there was no real mystery. I pushed her away with pride and selfishness...but then I go back to confusion. No amount of grumpiness could've outweighed the good that existed. For me, it is a mystery that anything - outside of infidelity or abuse - would be grounds for breaking apart a family. No matter how much closer I get to healing, that pain still remains. And I’m guessing, of that mystery, there will always be more.
“Why was this bloody world created?"
"As a sewer for the stars," a voice in front of him said. "Alternatively to know God and to glorify Him forever."
" [...] The two answers are not, of course, necessarily alternative.”
- Charles Williams, War in Heaven
It is Sunday, December 22, 2019 - the Fourth Sunday of Advent. This is a day when I can focus on the mystery of Jesus. I can think on the name Emmanuel (God with us) and how some unfathomable mystery in this sewer of stars became a very human story about relationship - truly knowing God.
That relationship, for the first time in my defaulted religious life, has become tangible and real. I’m understanding grace, mercy, peace, wholeness, forgiveness, restoration, and the way God intended things to be. When you come to that understanding in a broken place you start to understand the nature of the Creator. That’s when the mystery starts to reveal itself to you and opens up the door for hope and healing.
I think that there is a universal agreement that the human race spends too much time reading blogs and staring at their phones in general. I’m as guilty as anyone else. When I was young, my parents made it a point to educate us on the location of constellations. I strayed from that practice but I’ve picked the habit back up again and love to be in situations without light pollution when I can bask in that haunted mystery of the heavens. I am not into astrology and believe it is a bastardized faith. I think the stars were a gift from God for navigation, signs, wonders, mysteries. I believe that the moon controls the tides. I believe that our personalities are quite different depending on the “signs” we were born under. I don’t believe you should baptize yourself in the faith of horoscopes - basing your day on what some oddball (like me) blogger sends you in an email every day. I believe the only way to unravel the mystery is through that effort to have a personal relationship.
(For an interesting speculation on the Star of Bethlehem click this link.)
I’ll leave you with a couple of things. First a poem. I fell victim to beat poetry as a young kid and still have an affinity for it. Prepare to read a heart breaking poem but also prepare to have a mystery revealed to you this season. Hear “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord…” (Isaiah 40:1-5, Luke 3:4)
An autumn morning in Shokoku-ji
Last night watching the Pleiades,
Breath smoking in the moonlight,
Bitter memory like vomit
Choked my throat.
I unrolled a sleeping bag
On mats on the porch
Under thick autumn stars.
In dream you appeared
(Three times in nine years)
Wild, cold, and accusing.
I woke shamed and angry:
The pointless wars of the heart.
Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter.
The first time I have
Ever seen them close.