Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Art of Pain

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Earlier on this year I kept hearing this song by Adele which I later discovered was named “Rolling in the Deep”. It starts with the lyrics “there’s a fire starting in my heart….” It continues into the chorus which says “We could have had it all, now you gonna wish you never had met me, rolling in the deep, tears are gonna fall rolling in the deep, you held my heart inside your hand, now you gonna wish you never had met me and you played, you played it to the beat yes you played it” (the italicised words are the echo). When I heard this song I was really curious because it has this brutal honesty which is so refreshing. After hearing the song for weeks without knowing its origin I was introduced to Adele.. I was introduced to Adele when Mnet Series sampled her album. She sang this song among many others in her Album 21. The interesting thing about the album 21 is that it is really sad and angry. Most of the songs talk about getting your heart broken and getting past it or just being plain depressed about it. Other songs are nostalgic of a love that is done and dusted while others cling to hope like it is a life line. What can I say, I loved it! The album reinforced what I knew all along; I love sad songs, angry songs, recovering from a bad situation songs because those songs are works of art. Don’t get me wrong I am not cynical. I believe in love and the beauty that comes with it; I really, really do. On the other hand, I believe that life brings with it painful situations and there is no need to gloss over pain. Glossing over pain does not make it go away; the same way bandaging an open wound does not make the wound disappear.
The lesson for today is the art of pain. I will describe situations and give illustrations of songs that best bring out these situations. We sometimes find ourselves in situations where we have been in a relationship and towards the end we realize that the person we were with is not who we thought they were. We feel deceived and it makes us want to set fire to the rain.
Bridge: But there’s a side to you, that I never knew, never knew
All the things you’d say they were never true, never true
All of the games you played, you would always win, always win
Chorus: I set fire to the rain, I watched it pour as I touched your face
Let it burn while I cried
Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name….
(Adele-Set fire to the rain, off the album 21)
This is a terrible situation to be in. Deception is never easy to deal with. The best thing is to learn your lessons and ran with them. The old adage goes, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”.
Then there is that time when you have been seeing someone, you have gone on a couple of dates but there is nothing concrete and you are not quite sure where you stand (pun intended). You feel like you are chasing something you can’t catch like you are chasing pavements. The chorus goes:
Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements,
Even if they lead nowhere,
Would it be a waste even if I knew my place, should I keep it there…
Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements,
Even if they lead nowhere
(Adele-Chasing pavements, off the album 21)
In such a situation my advice is don’t get ahead of yourself. If you know your place is friendship keep it there. Accountants will tell you “when in doubt, assume the worst”. A non-cynical way of looking at it is lower your expectations.
Have you been in a situation where the person you fancy is emotionally unavailable? The person could be emotionally unavailable because they are reeling from a past hurt. On the other hand you have been in this situation before where you spent your emotions on someone who was hurting and your heart was broken in the process. This time around you are gun shy and so you think:
Chorus: I won’t let you close enough to hurt me,
I won’t rescue you to just desert me,
I can’t give you the heart you think you’ve given me
So I’m saying goodbye to turning tables….
(Adele-Turning Tables, off the album 21)
What do you do when you’re in a situation where your heart has been battered, your self esteem bruised and your spirit broken? You take your heart and you get out!
Chorus: So I’m taking my heart and getting me out
And love’s something that I wouldn’t want to live without
So I’m taking my heart and I’m getting me out of
My own, my own, my own
I am taking my heart and I’m setting me free
And baby you are just another song to me
And the edge of your sword isn’t sharp enough for me to bleed
(Anna Nalick-Bleed, off the album Wreck of the day)
In the song she says she realised love wasn’t a good enough reason for her to stay. Sometimes people put up with a lot of things in the name of love. They endure physical and psychological abuse among other things but sometimes love isn’t reason enough and the only person who can set you free is yourself.
You might be wondering why the interest in sad, angry songs. In psychology class we learnt that when someone experiences trauma, the first course of therapy is called debriefing. Debriefing involves telling the story of the traumatic experience. Debriefing is one of the ways of processing the pain because as you tell the story of your trauma you re-experience the pain. With every subsequent re-experiencing the pain dissipates. Other ways of processing the pain include: journaling, singing, painting, letter writing etc. Given that not everyone is blessed with the ability to put their pain into words sad, angry songs come in handy. When you hear the words and you identify with them you get to re-experience the pain. With every subsequent re-experiencing the pain lessens and the bitterness dissipates and you heal with time.
Sometimes the pain of losing in love is insurmountable and you feel like you are driving away from the wreck of the day, but there’s someone you can turn to:
Driving away from the wreck of the day,
I am thinking of calling on Jesus,
Love doesn’t hurt so I cannot be falling in love
I am falling to pieces…
(Anna Nalick-Wreck of the day, off the album Wreck of the day)
At the end of the day when you have experienced more pain than you can handle, the one person you can really turn to is Jesus Christ. He is the God of all comfort, he is the friend who sticks closer than a brother and when your esteem has taken a beating he is the lifter up of your head.

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Relational Laziness

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There this guy who goes to my church, he sometimes disappears for weeks on end and obviously we don’t get to see him. When he shows up for church people always say hello and say “you’ve been so lost”! I noticed that he sort of used to take offence at this and he would retort “you’ve been lost too”! After observing these social interactions for a bit I realized if we could put what annoyed him in a sentence it would read “if you care so much about my being lost, why have you not done a thing about it?” Let’s think about it, when something is lost the natural (common sense) thing to do is to find it. I mean does it make sense that you misplace your keys and you sit around until they turn up and then you say “hey you’ve been lost”. Yet that is what we do with people we like and/or love. Last I checked a friend or relative is worth more than a bunch of keys yet we will seek the latter out with more gusto when lost.

I have to say it also bothers me when someone tells me I have been lost and they haven’t made an attempt to find me. Some days it bothers me more and I coined a phrase to describe such people. On other days it doesn’t bother me so much because I dismiss the comment (in my head) by calling the phrase “you’ve been lost” a conversational cliché, but that is a topic for another day. The phrase I coined is: relationally laziness. I came to the conclusion that some people are just relationally lazy.

I hadn’t heard the phrase being used before but when I started to use it (in my head) I knew it must exist.  Then I recently googled it and found an article about it and it described the phrase just as I thought it should be used. Relationally lazy people are people who barely ever (I’m really restraining myself from using never) initiate contact. They don’t ever call but they are so glad to hear your voice when you do and they wonder why you haven’t talked in such a long while. They don’t ever text (even in this day of 1 bob texts) yet they are sure glad to receive. They forever talk about having dates but would never suggest a time and place until (you guessed it) you do. I don’t know about you but is this annoying or is this annoying. Human beings are wired to give and to receive.  In social interaction it is no different; give and take is supposed to be the norm rather than the exception. If someone takes time to call you, text you, visit you, meet up with you etc it means they like you (no surprises there). What do they expect in return? They expect you to initiate any number of the above to show that you like them back. The question is: do you like them back? If you do then busyness is no excuse.

I recently read an article written by a woman dying of cancer and she talk about counting her real friends on one hand. She said she would like to understand the rest who claim to be her friend yet they don’t call, or email or text or drop by to say hello; because in reality they don’t know how to deal with the fact that their friend is dying and they don’t know what to say to her so they try to hide their discomfort by feigning busyness. She said she did not understand them. She went on to say she runs into some of them and they tell her they are praying for her. Then she wondered what their God, who is so compassionate, would say to their not making time for her. She went on to say her real friends call her, text her, show up at her door and they talk about the weather, their children, work and all the things they used to talk about when she didn’t have cancer. This really got to me so I wrote to her and said God wouldn’t take busyness as a good excuse for doing nothing to keep a friendship going. God would want her friends (any friend) to call, text, email, go for coffee, pay a visit and talk about nothing, and everything and to laugh and cry and sit smiling saying nothing over a hot cup of tea or coffee. The sad thing is if you are too lazy to reach out to your friends when they are good and healthy you risk your friend dismissing you as not a true friend when he/she is dying.

I know most people have these relationally lazy people in their lives and you wonder what to do with them. Do you keep trying, cut them loose and concentrate on your active friendships or commission a fly-by sign in ginormous letters saying “I would feel better if I knew you cared for me as much as I do you! Call me sometime?” That’s a tough question. From personal experience I have learnt that relational laziness is infectious. It will get to a point and you will burn out and you will even stop reaching out to your active friends. At that point you start to become relationally lazy too. I would encourage us all to fight it. Think about it, Jesus who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped is continually seeking out sinners despite the number of times the door is slammed in his face. If you consider a friendship worth saving you need to continually seek this person out. If you find you are tired go ahead and let out an exasperated sigh, take a break for a month or two and reach out to the person once again. If you realize that you fit the relationally lazy description-get a clue!