“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Oh boy…that one really hits me hard! I find that every move I make is a vulnerable move and often wish I had locked my heart up. Just the simple act of breathing in, then exhaling, can be a vulnerable force that sends my heart into a state of anguish. One vulnerable move - whatever it may have been triggered by - sends me down a path that I should avoid. Today it was triggered at a meeting I had to attend for work. In the venue where it was held, there was Christmas music playing as the crowds streamed in. I saw families smiling and hugging. I saw husbands and wives holding hands. I saw children hugging grandparents. Holidays make me that much more vulnerable to an undesired depression that sparks thoughts about things like:
I’ll never hold her hand again. I’ll never see Christmas lights glimmer in her eyes as she looks at me in real adoration again. I’ll never hear her call me by my nickname again. I’ll never feel her snuggle up beside me again. I’ll never see her tuck the kids in bed again. I’ll never watch the cute way she'd cover her mouth with her hand when she’d eat or laugh again. I’ll never hear her give voices to our pets again. I’ll never walk through the snow with her again. I’ll never kiss her freckled cheeks again. I’ll never witness the onset of fall with her again, or watch a sunset with our toes in the Great Pacific, or travel to places we had yet to go...and that list could go on and on. And, that list does go on and on incessantly, in my head. I know it’s unhealthy. I know it is borderline idolatrous. But, it is what I am living right now.
After the divorce, I tried to do things and buy things to make her like me again. This was looked down on and discouraged by just about everyone I know - from my therapist to my children. But I loved her - still do - and did not heed John, Paul, George, and Ringo when they’d scream, “Can’t Buy Me Love”. Flowers, paintings, poems, all sorts of (now, seemingly pathetic) attempts to woo her. It didn’t work. It was perceived as begging and, therefore, unattractive. I wasn’t willing to play the ‘I-don’t-care-about-you’ game though because I really did care and wanted nothing more than to fix the problem, reconcile our love, and get on with living a beautiful life together. I have a friend who doesn’t go to funerals or send flowers to the grave. He says that flowers should be given when someone is alive. He’s not wrong. I’m afraid all of my attempts were very much like leaving flowers on a grave.
All of those actions really held me back. I was warned of this but I didn’t care. I still don’t care. I’m glad I could give gifts to her. She was still worthy of them to me. But, I’m guessing it slowed my healing. I am getting a little better. I used to cry all day every day. Now I just cry a few times a day.
Expect music offerings to dominate Hoarsely Cry. This is another tune that I wish I had written and perfectly expresses how I feel at this moment. Cheers to Elliott Smith for this heart breaking song, “Better Be Quiet Now.” Enjoy.
Kahlo, The Wounded Deer (1946) Oil on masonite. Collection of Carolyn Farb, Houston.
“I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim…”
I was passing through Nashville, Tennessee this summer and saw a billboard advertising the “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection” exhibit so, I took the exit for the Frist Art Museum. I was not disappointed.
The moment I walked into the gallery space and stared into the eyes of a Kahlo self-portrait, I began to cry. It wasn’t just tearing up, it was a full on gusher. I wasn’t wailing but I was gasping to hold the noise in. Her self-portraits displayed with photos, home movies, and her dresses filled me with grief and a need to involve myself the way a dying hero in a good movie does for me - being full of empathy and wanting to fix the problem since I can see what's around the corner. She is larger than life and her work is so loaded with her pain, struggle, and Diego-driven frustration. I’m not an art critic or a historian but you can easily access that information elsewhere. A really great article by Kelly Grovier reads, “But if you really want to comprehend the passions and resentments, adoration and pain that defined the intense entanglement of Kahlo’s and Rivera’s lives, stop reading and start looking.” (Read the full article at this link). Kahlo was often called a surrealist but she balked at the idea, stating that she painted her reality - not her dreams.
The Kahlo/Rivera relationship is not the best example of comparison. I was often hard to live with but I was faithful and proud of my fidelity. However, the ever present need to have my desires, needs, and wishes filled before considering her’s was always there.
Selflessness will be an often considered topic in my daily thoughts because selfishness is what destroys relationships like Kahlo and Rivera or me and my love. I’ll quote Ephesians again today. Chapter 2:3 reads, “…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.” We are just born selfish. What is one of the first words you hear a kid speak after ‘mama’ or ‘dada’? It’s often the word ‘no’. I really do remember making plans to rebel when I could hardly talk. The concept of what is right or wrong can bring up hours of debate but without God to direct my morality, what will? My personal morality puts me first always and what is “good” or “wholesome” to me might not be to you. Loving someone is never about what you get in return but what you do to bring a wholeness to that other person. I would sometimes get angry with my wife over something pretty small and have this need for her to acknowledge that I’d been “hurt”. I’d want her to correct it and so I would wait for that correction through silence for a ridiculous length of time. It was psychological and spiritual warfare. I was building an unseen army and she was too. I’d finally break down and apologize for my childish behavior, but the battle had been fault and casualties were counted and scars were forming on the living. I thought silence was such a good weapon. I only persuaded the other to reinforce her frontlines.
Poet and essayist Criss Jami wrote, "Those who live as though God sets the rules are not going by their own rules. That is the self-sacrifice, or selflessness, that peace more often than not requires. Those who insist on going by their own rules cannot make that sacrifice. They are the steady adherents of conflict because they are forever fighting both themselves and others to do whatever they think that they want to do."
Unfortunately, pain and grief and sorrow and struggle can often lead to great art. I’ve always created work out of a dark place and don’t necessarily want to do that any more. I’m not sure how to do that yet. As for life’s imitation, I wish I had curated the first half of the marriage and had the perspective that would’ve caused me to sympathize with the dying hero. I wonder what kind of work Kahlo and Rivera would’ve made had they not been broken. I wonder what kind of work my wife and I could have made if we had been selfless. Of course, if I could hang the show again, my life’s gallery would look so different. It would be bright and joyful - full of hope and wonder. If I could direct the film once more, the hero wouldn’t die. She’d meet the man of her dreams and they’d live happily ever after.
I’m always looking back. It’s a pointless exercise. Since acquiring the providence of excess alone time I tend to do that. In my marriage, I was quite an ass - very stubborn. Advice for you if you are looking to pursue a relationship: Don’t be an ass. Everyone is individual and those nuances should be observed, listened to, navigated, celebrated, and included in the orchestra of a loving relationship. I refused to budge. I felt like she should think exactly the way I thought. To me, she was as much me as I was me…and she really was but I didn’t recognize that she was also her. I’ll often sound like I was the bad guy who caused all of the problems in our marriage. It wasn’t just me. But I’m reflecting on me and have no intention to be an accuser.
There is a verse in the Bible that many religious types often take out of context, or rather don’t expose the complete context. Ephesians 5:24 reads, “…wives should submit to their husbands.” That’s usually the only quoted section of that text I hear from people embracing that passage. What they don’t quote is the next verse that reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church…”. This is an equal, if not greater, charge of submitting to a spouse. My take is that both people in a relationship should ‘submit’ to each other. This isn’t sadistic or about power at all. It is about pure love and understanding and the completion of the four loves (Check out The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis).
Although I’ve heard a lot of people abusing that passage, I’ve been aware of what comes before and after “wives submit to your husbands” my entire life. That’s one of the reasons why it is so very hard not to look back. Because if I had loved her as Christ loved the church, I’d still be with her. Be loving, be giving, be a understanding, be a servant, be selfless.
All of that rambling to lead up to today’s offering. In my early teens, I’d listen to nothing but punk rock and I was a snob about it. One of the bands in my rotation were the Dead Kennedys. Their bass player (Klaus Fluoride) put out his second solo record (Because I Say So) in 1988. This album is so amazing. Not a bad tune on it. It’s strange and disjointed but fluid and was ahead of its time. The 6th song on Side A is titled “Keep On Walking”. It’s a strange addition to some very experimental music. A punk god throws in this street-level ballad, reminiscent of the Beatles or Graham Parsons, that challenges the downtrodden to hold their head high. For the first year of my separation, this was my anthem. I’d sing it like a prayer repeating the very repetitive chorus over and over again: “How ya gonna keep your head off the ground? Keep on walking…keep on walking.”
And that’s my encouragement to the broken-hearted today. Try to stop dwelling on the past - easier said than done, I know. Do all of those things I previously mentioned (be loving, giving, understanding, a servant, selfless). Gaze to the future. Keep on walking.
If you are broken-hearted, you know that there are things worse than death. This is exactly like experiencing a death but, that dead individual goes on living. My wake has been quite unbearable. I went from arrogance to frustration to remorse to sadness to anger to fury to the deepest sadness to jealousy to nothing - back to sadness and then down to unfathomable sadness.
Some days I cried so hard I could not understand how my heart could go on beating.
After two and a half years, I’m still sad. More than anything I am perplexed and frustrated that the problems that existed in our relationship outweighed the good and the potential that was there. Some things will never be understood and some things never get answered. I have to learn to live with that. Although I am still sad, there is a numbness with the sadness. I’m not really sure if that’s a good or bad thing. The other is becoming a ghost - I’m even forgetting what she looks like. When I have seen her, it’s like seeing a stranger. The bigger issue is that I’m becoming a ghost also.
Alas! My heart still beats and I try to occupy those beats with passions and distractions. Hopefully those passions and distractions will eventually allow my ghost to live a life unhaunted. At least I am still aware that my heart is beating. I am certain that those beats will never be shared with another. Who better to express this than W.B. Yeats:
Never Give All the Heart
Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.
Everyone eventually realizes how quickly life goes by. You don’t have much time and when you reach the mark I’ve reached, you panic a little. There are things you want to accomplish, places you want to see, knowledge you want to obtain, people you want to spend time with. Worst of all, there are regrets. I was in a relationship for 26 years - married for 23 of those years. Two and a half years later, I still lament love lost. I find it hard to seek out all of those things I want to get done because of things I didn’t do and, because of not having the most important human in the world to me by my side when I pursue those dreams.
This site doesn't aim to do much of anything other than give me a place to reflect. It'll be full of songs, poems, writings, videos, and images of "gloom, despair, and agony on me". I can’t fix you, but I can certainly tell you what I did wrong. I can only hope you’ll examine yourself and make changes that ensure that you realize how special those icy feet on the person lying beside you on a cold winter night really are. You’ll miss them when they are gone.
Come back often for posts that will magnify your sorrow if you’ve made the same mistakes I have, or make you rejoice that you’ll never truly understand the heartbreak represented in the content.
"How to make someone fall out of love with you" was to be the title of my blog but it was too long. "Hoarsely Cry" is borrowed from a song by The Smiths (yes, they are the greatest band ever) and is quite appropriate. I give you, "Well I Wonder".