Live enough years, and you begin to understand that there is no measuring, no charting the immense distances between who you once were, who you have become, and who you will be. I distinctly remember hearing David Bowie for the first time when I was twelve years old, and even then having a dim inkling that, mid-way through “Golden Years,” things had changed, some neural connection had been made that would cause me to forever see the world in just a slightly different way. When I was fifteen years old, I checked out a copy of A Clockwork Orange from the school library(!). The person who closed that book was not quite the same person who had first opened it. At a rough calculation, I would say I have had my heart broken seven or eight times over the years. Each time, two different versions of myself stood contemplating each other from opposite sides of the that fracture – a thin, jagged line, perhaps, but it may as well have been a canyon.
For the past few months, my life has been turned upside down by personal loss and all manner of discord, including terminal illness of a close family member, conflict at work, and the sudden death of a beloved pet. Please believe me, I am not looking for or in need of sympathy. I am fully aware that there is absolutely no one who does not have their share of pain and loss. As the great Sam Roberts has pointed out, “there’s no road that ain’t a hard road to travel on.” And, to counterbalance the bad stuff, there’s been a ridiculous amount of sweet magic: lovemaking, friendships enduring, laughing, dancing, crying, breathing. Pleasures to wonder at are always there, if we take the effort and time to notice and appreciate.
One thing I am absolutely sure of in this life is that all my experiences, good and bad, have made me a richer, more complicated, more interesting person. Like you, dear reader, I am reckless, afraid, jubilant, tragic, absurd, delighted, inconsolable, carefree, and doomed. I am hopelessly flawed; I am practically perfect. It’s a wild, bloody, bare-knuckle kind of world, and it takes a tough skin and a tender heart to get by. Even though I have scars inside and out, and don’t sleep so well, I would never choose to trade my hard-won toughness and savvy for some version of an earlier innocence. I want to keep experiencing the fullness of the world, for all its devastation and all its beauty. I do not wish to run from hurt, or pretend it doesn’t exist. I won’t numb my brain with the novocaine of idle distractions and petty denials.
The magic and the pain of life are two sides of the same bright coin, the currency of experience. Let’s plug it into the great cosmic vending machine; it’s well-stocked with trinkets and poetry; press the buttons and watch the hours and days come tumbling down. Let’s spend it at the turnstiles, step out onto the platform, feel the energy of the crowd surging around us, and ride that future-bound monorail train, no matter what its future destination may be.