I was in the middle of managing an NFL Sunday iPad media center when I came across the news item. The 21st Century’s answer to the society pages, Facebook, unveiled the conclusion to a suspenseful mystery I wasn’t necessarily looking to solve. For a split second, time and reality were suspended. I broke out in a flush and gave in to the stomach drop, the momentary equilibrium imbalance.
I suppose that the acceptance of an event as inevitable is not quite the same as being prepared for it when it actually arrives. As I started to reclaim my bearings, I admitted I’d been nursing a delusion that I was unforgettable. There might be a second act but it would never be the same. Staring at the photographic evidence, I realized I’d been right in ways unimagined. Whatever else it is, it’s more than cultural expediency. There’s an ease and confidence we never had.
I’m trying on some new ideas in 2014. One is a world in shades of gray as opposed to the black/white, right/wrong, good/evil conceits that long served as a ready, but terribly flawed approach to categorizing human decisions and behavior. Including my own.
The second concept I’m engaging is that accepting tumult and working through it organically causes a lot less longterm damage than pretending, of trying to enforce arbitrary logic. Soldiering through like a drone until reality catches up and the inevitable breakdown ensues is the sad, tired narrative arc of a repetitive emotional story. Finally seeing that strategy as the loser it is created some fear. I have to be OK with not feeling the “right” things, perhaps even laying down and rolling around in the ugliest ones for longer than feels morally comfortable.
But a little experience in staying still and letting the storm blow through, as opposed to running futilely away from the inevitable, has proven a painfully reliable precursor to recovery. So I took the album out and showed it to all the people who’d been asking for three years or longer to see it.
I told the stories that go with the pictures over and over again, and didn’t try to tidy observances that I looked unhappy, lonely and lost. I didn’t wear the shame of secrets and untruths surrounding those days, and refused to cringe from a highlight reel of denial. We all did the best we could with what we had at the time. It was a tour de force effort in trying to fit mismatched pieces. That was what we needed to do then. There was also genuine love.
I opened the suitcase and consulted someone with experience in this sort of thing. It’s time to unwrap, to quite literally unload the remaining baggage. Those colors were never mine and I’ve stopped letting people dress me. But as I smelled the uncased scents of the past, I had to own that I was more than willing to serve as mannequin, a tabula rasa, and a good deal of my previous resentment was unjustified. How I expected people to know what I’d want and fight for it under pressure, when I was clearly unable to articulate and defend those needs. It was too much to ask.
It’s a fuller, more hurtful and dizzying view when I look at the world in 360 degrees. But when the spinning stops, its easier to shake off the vertigo and notice other opportunities. To see a different path that I couldn’t before, one that’s crooked and unconventional, but apparently the right road for this journey.
Two weeks of funnel clouds and the storm receded. Things are as they should be, as they must always have been. The next time we meet could be the last. With no regret, snark or ill-will, and as briefly as possible, genuine good wishes. Then keep moving.