Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Well, hellhounds on your tail now, once again, Boy.
It's groping on your leg until it sleeps.
The emptiness will fill your heart with sorrow.
'Cause it's not what you make, it's what you leave."

In these words from the song "Misery", Green Day demonstrates an unsettlingly insightful knowledge of one of those fundamental truths of life that so many people lose sight of: too often, the circumstances of your life will not be driven by the effort you put in, day after day, to foster relationships, shape careers, and make what you want of your life. Too often, they will be determined by the moments where you think, feel, or pretend that these things aren't important to you.

Take a relationship that's had it's ups and downs, one that has proven it can weather frustration, anger and sorrow. But sprinkle in a dash of indignation, and you have a recipe for disaster. Take a lifelong goal, one that's driven you around every curve of your life, and see what happens when you let go of the wheel.

Take a friendship, one that's seen better days. Two people. A connection. Maybe one or both of them has gotten off the track. Maybe one of them seems to have stopped trying to find it again. And maybe the other says some things that she can't frankly remember whether or not she was right to say.

What he needs to understand is the way it feels to watch from the sidelines as something you care about lets go. What he needs to understand is that not putting forth that effort is like spitting in her face, telling her that something she loves isn't worth his time.

"Tough Love" is kind of the ugly stepchild of love. It's underappreciated, it looks different, and people act like it's not even a part of the family. There's this criteria to love that we, the media-minded, have put in play. It's gotta be soft yet supportive. It's gotta be intense but joyful. It's gotta be Barbie Dreamhouse pink and in frilly cursive lettering. It's gotta be a hallmark card or a teddy bear or a hug.

Whatever it is, it's certainly got nothing to do with concepts like "the truth hurts" or "it takes someone who cares about you to tell you what you don't want to hear." It's not about making someone take their medicine when they're sick, even if it tastes bad; making them clean up a mess when it's theirs. It's about politely ignoring someone's faults, even if they're more like fault lines. Whatever it is, it's definitely can't be looking someone straight in the eye and telling them they not only can do better, it's their responsibility to.

"Step one, you say 'We need to talk.'
He walks; you say 'Sit down. It's just a talk.'
He smiles politely back at you,
You stare politely right on through.
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame.
You begin to wonder why you came."

Later, if she is alone, she will wonder about all the things she was supposed to understand: how much he was hurting, how lost he felt. She'll have plenty of time to think about all the years between them and plenty of reminders in case she's not inclined: christmas songs they used to dance in the street to; phrases they used to use with each other over and over again, movies they watch, plans they made. Promises they made. She'll have plenty of time to think about those, and, without him there to force her to be defensive, she'll wonder. How much of what she said was below the belt, how much of what she did was in his best interest. How much of what she felt was really about him.

She won't have answers. Without him there, all she has is the questions.

"Where did I go wrong?
I lost a friend somewhere along in the bitterness."

There are no answers, probably, just a hundred different sides to the story and too many feelings too remember. His, hers, the poor unwanted stepchild's, and the seemingly absent viewpoint of Hallmark card love. In the end, there are only two things floating around her mind at night, when she's alone, that really ring true. It was both of our responsibility to do better. And this, this is what happens if you go too long letting yourself believe you don't care.

"I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life."
~The Fray, How to Save a Life

On with it.