John Stuart Mill spoke and wrote often about the problems that come with what he called "chronic boredom." I think about that an awful lot. I think about the luxury of living in a society and participating in a culture that gives us time. Think about it. Imagine you have all of the different cultures that make up the civilization (human) on our planet, in a deck of cards. Each card represents one culture. If you shuffle the deck, and lay them out on a table in front of you, what do you see? How do we fare? We fare pretty well. Sure we have poverty and crime. We have suicide and depression. We suffer from greed and selfishness... but we are able to survive, right? Our society does the best it can when it comes to social programming and infrastructure. Sometimes too much.
Because our day to day lives are not taken up with the real demands of true struggle... I mean the forage for food, make sure there is a roof over your head kind of struggle....we have the time to sit and ponder. Time to sit and regret. Time to wallow. Time to rationalize. Time to revamp our plans, and revamp again to plans c,d and e. Too much time? Maybe... but it is what it is, and we are who we are. We Americans, as well as most other developed nations with a decent set of social programming, have the luxury to wail and bemoan our existence. To study ourselves and begin the task of fixing what we find is broken.
During my lost years I fell into a nasty kind of love. The kind that bites you and is venomous. The poison ran through me for a year. At the end, I was broken. The day I am recalling is the day my world blew apart and fell back together in the course of an afternoon.
She (my dear friend who shall remain nameless) was in love with him too. She told me, crying at my kitchen table that there had been a kiss, and murmurings of sweet nothings, and dramatic evenings with him that never led to anything but intrigue. And now? In the moment of my discontent, with the boy gone and run off with someone who was not one of us, she was ashamed. She was hurting too... but the longing was for him, not for me, and that confused and confounded both of us. She was afraid she'd lost a friend, she was sorry. I wasn't mad. Really. This made her cry harder.
I wasn't mad for so many reasons. None of them came from a place of strength or even friendship. I wasn't mad because I was exhausted. I wasn't mad because I was missing. I wasn't mad because I was broken and couldn't gather the pieces of myself back together long enough to hurl any kind of anger towards her. I just wasn't.
We stood there, in that tiny apartment, trying to walk a fine line that made a tightrope that spanned from one slippery slope to another. Not fun. And then we couldn't breathe. One of us, I don't remember who, decided we needed to get out. I would like to take the credit, but I think it may have been my friend. It was fall. October, peak tree watching season and the air had the first bite of winter in it.
We donned heavy, over-sized sweaters and jeans and we headed out into the early afternoon in my beat up ford tempo (dark blue with light blue fuzzy interior..sweet!)
We took the back roads, glorious in Connecticut, and headed for the ocean. We stopped at a small mom and pop liquor store and bought a big jug of white zinfandel wine(Yes the pink stuff... cut us some slack, what did we know of wine at 21 years old? Sheesh.)
My friend knew a place to go. A private dock on a calm inlet of the long island sound that some parent of some other girl owned. I think we stopped inside the house to ask permission, and once granted the dock was ours for the remainder of the afternoon.
We brought a boom box (I am SO dating myself here) with one cassette playing over and over again on that dock. Joni Mitchel: Blue. And we sat. We drank. We took comfort in the gentle rocking of the floating dock and the blue sky against the majesty that is the colored foliage in New England. We held the cold, salty air in our lungs. We reminisced about our lives before he came along. We remembered how much we loved one another. We took time.
Night came. It got cold. We stood up and began our walk back to the Tempo. And for me, something miraculous happened. I walked away from that dock, and left that broken girl behind. It was so real I felt that if I turned around I would be able to see her, that broken me. So I didn't. I didn't turn around to look. I walked taller.
A primal scream began in my toes that day. A primal scream that would take years to come up and warm my legs, linger in my belly, simmer in my heart and eventually come shrieking out of my fingertips and eyes and ears and nose.... It was the start of the bounce back.
I left behind the girl whose path was murky, at best, and learned a lesson about what to pursue and what to leave behind. Through the pain and confusion that arose out of my own human experience of love and loss, I was able to make a decision to move ahead into uncharted territory. A path that led me to fine and magnificently ordinary things. A path I wouldn't trade.
We are resilient, we humans. We can scrounge food and water and shelter. We can break and reform. We may not be able to re-grow limbs, but we can re-grow spirit. (Take that, Mr. Starfish!)
So why is it that so many of us spend our time in pursuit of things that are spirit killers? Why can't we break our addiction to drugs, to food, to people, to sorrow? Why do we get stuck? Why do we wallow?
I don't know. I only know that I was lucky enough to get broken and lucky enough to have a friend, an autumn, a drive and a blue...that led me through, and nothing was ever the same again.