Thursday, February 08, 2007

Kick At The Darkness 'Til It Bleeds Daylight

It’s been twenty years since I walked into the classroom and saw her. You know, the girl every other girl hates. My god, she had a beautiful face, perfect hair. There I was, the new kid, didn’t know a single soul in the room, feeling horridly self-conscious.

I didn’t have to know any of them to know one thing: She was in the popular crowd.

And she gave me such a warm smile. She was the first person at my new high school to acknowledge my existence.

I was too intimidated to say hi to her. In my own head all those clique lines of high school were already drawn and the computations had been done. I didn’t belong in her crowd.

It’s so easy to look at things from the outside and see what you want to see. I looked at Susan Mitchell and I’m ashamed to say I was jealous. I carry that shame with guilt, because of what I didn’t know then.

That the warm smile was a testament to her courage.

That even being in school that day had taken an enormous toll.

That the perfect hair was a wig she started wearing when she lost her own hair to the chemo.

It wasn’t so long before Susan was at school less and less. The odd time when she came friends often carried her up the stairs.

But I don’t ever remember seeing Susan without seeing her smile.

I got thinking about it all today. What’s that they say? God takes the good ones young. How is it we lose Anne Frank and someone like Saddam Hussein should live to see so many days?

How do we not lose faith? Hope in some degree of justice?

** In a drawer there's a key with an old wooden box
Sometimes Jesus and me, sit down and unlock another time
When you were mine

Rose petals and a letter, a piece of baby's breath
A single white feather you found the day we met
You said it came from an Angel's wings.

I saved everything that ever meant anything
precious moments in time, I kept them all alive
These pieces of the past take me back
To the greatest love I ever knew
I saved everything but you.

In the early part of Autumn you were slippin' out of reach
I was running out of options
so I went to see the preacher and we prayed
Lord, take her chains away.

and I never stopped believin' right up til' the end
I know God must have his reasons,
but nothin’ makes much sense without you here...
there's only souvenirs.

...a single white feather I found the day you left
I knew it came from an Angel's wing

One thing I’ll always remember is Deric (Ruttan) saying is that when he wrote that song it was meant to refer to someone who’d been lost. It could just as easily mean lost to an addiction or lost to death.

We lose people in so many ways in our lives. Who amongst us has not been touched by someone who struggles with alcohol or drugs or a mental illness or a chronic illness, or who has been taken from us in another way? We don’t just lose people to death, but also sometimes to a living hell that consumes them.

There are dark paths some people walk. Some by choice, some by force. And there are a lot of people who run at the first sign of trouble, fair-weather friends who don’t stand by those plagued with afflictions, be they of the mind, soul or flesh.

I look back on my self-centeredness with shame. That I was too afraid to confront mortality and didn’t spend more time at the bedside of my great aunt when she was dying. That when a friend lost her child I was trying to placate her with hollow sentiments instead of just holding her while she cried.

And what seems horridly perverse is that back in high school, deep down I thought death might be a welcome release from all of the things I was struggling with. While there was someone a row over in computer class who was savouring every second she had.

In our yearbook Susan was quoted saying, “I used to take a lot of things for granted before, but now I live out each day to the fullest. Each day is a new challenge and, if I just keep my spirits up and my hopes high, I know I can beat this cancer once and for all.”

Susan died in March, 1988.

Life isn’t fair. Yeah, there’s a startling revelation.

Whenever I feel low I look at the photos on my wall. The comments on my blog. The three-digit phone bill. Sometimes it takes a few days. Sometimes longer. I’m not going to discount the legitimate things we all go through that take a toll on us.

But for as long as we draw breath we have a chance to make our lives what we would want them to be. ***But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight -- Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight.

Maybe that’s why I love noir. It’s about people who get the crap kicked out of them over and over again, and somehow find the strength to go on. People wonder how a Bible school grad could cross over to the darkest crime fiction, but think of it this way: In the Book of Job God took everything good from that man and left him with that bitch of a wife. If that isn’t noir I don’t know what is.

There are still those moments when I can look to the positive. Call it faith, call it optimism, call it a grand delusion. It’s a line from an 80s Christian song - He didn’t pull you from the river to drown you in the street.^

In comparison to many the trials of my life have been few. In comparison to many others my trials have been great. There is no measure for sorrow. No allotment – you’ve been abused, you get three years to grieve. You’ve been raped, you get five. You lost a family member, one year for you. Not all grief is created equal. Not all pain lessens with time.

The only thing I know is that it is the moments where I have faced desperation that have made me see beauty in the world, in the kindness of a friend, in simple words that lift my spirits, in reading a book that speaks to my heart.

No matter how bad things are, it could always be worse. There’s something to be said for counting your blessings, looking on what you have instead of what you don’t have.

we are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.

Stand for those who stay with you, even if that’s just the one true friend you’re blessed to have. One true friend is more than most people will ever know the joy of having.

****Spend all your time waiting

For that second chance

For a break that would make it okay

There's always some reason

To feel not good enough

And it's hard at the end of the day

I need some distraction

Oh a beautiful release

Memory seeps from my veins

Let me be empty

And weightless and maybe

I'll find some peace tonight

In the arms of an angel

Fly away from here

From this dark cold hotel room

And the endlessness that you fear

You are pulled from the wreckage

Of your silent reverie

You're in the arms of the angel

May you find some comfort here

So tired of the straight line

And everywhere you turn

There's vultures and thieves at your back

And the storm keeps on twisting

You keep on building the lie

That you make up for all that you lack

It don't make no difference

Escaping one last time

It's easier to believe in this sweet madness oh

This glorious sadness that brings me to my knees

In the arms of an angel

Fly away from here

From this dark cold hotel room

And the endlessness that you fear

You are pulled from the wreckage

Of your silent reverie

You're in the arms of the angel

May you find some comfort here

You’re in the arms of the angel

May you find some comfort here

** Deric Ruttan, I Saved Everything
*** Bruce Cockburn, Lovers In A Dangerous Time
^ Russ Taff, Go On
**** Sarah McLachlan, Angel


angie said...

Amen, sistah!

I love noir for exactly that same reason. In an incredibly perverse way, I find it uplifting to read about characters who keep going even when it all goes horribly, horribly wrong, when there's absolutely no logical reason to continue. I love that, makes my heart a little bigger.

I've been thinking a lot about focusing on the fab stuff I've got going on. It's easy for me to get obsessed with what's going wrong - I've worked hard on that, but it's always a struggle. Still, a little laughter can bring a lot of light. When it's truly god-awful, I just stop and take a step back. Inevitably I find some part, no matter how tiny, of the situation/problem/whatever to be really, really ridiculous and funny. Guess I'm just sick that way.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh Angie, I think that's beautiful. I mean, to find the thing that will make you smile through the tears... It's a gift. Truly, a gift.

Without the sorrows of life the joys would not exist.

Jersey Jack said...

Spent most of my years seeing the glass as half empty. But now that I've learned to rise each morning with a prayer, thankful to be above ground instead of under it, my cup seems half full.

JamesO said...

Thanks for the reminder, Sandra. It's so easy to stare at the window display with all those shiny things we don't really need, and forget about the good things we already have.

And no matter how shit you feel, there's always someone who's worse off than you.

Except that poor guy at the bottom of the heap, of course;}#

Sandra Ruttan said...

Jersey Jack, I'm still a bit of a glass half empty person, but that's a wonderful attitude.

LOL James. Yeah, there (almost) always is someone worse off than you...

Gabriele C. said...

See, and Anne Frank and Saddam Hussein is one of the reasons I don't believe in God and divine justice. Rather a bunch of Greek or German gods and goddesses having fun at our expenses. :) No, I don't believe in those, either, but I can see how people shaped the gods after their own experiences. It must have taken an enormous step away from the polytheistic 'gods are like us only with power' to one God who's supposed to be strong, just, forgiving - in that order. Some of the stories in the old testament still show the roots.

Ops, don't want to take up your blog discussing theology.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I hear you Gabriele. And I have no problem myself with theological discussion. Part of the reason some believe in God is because they feel the need to hope for something better than the flawed being they are. And some believe in heaven just because they want to think this shitty world isn't all we've got.

No matter what anyone believes, I have much admiration for those fighters amongst us.

Erik Ivan James said...

There have been more than a couple of times that I have had to "reach up to touch bottom". But no matter how deep the hole, I always tried to keep looking up, and reaching up. By doing that, did I pull myself back up to daylight and good alone? No. Someone along the way would reach out and grab my hand. They saw I was reaching up, not falling further.

Yes, Samdra, we all need each other.

Wonderful post. Thank you.

Erik Ivan James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cornelia Read said...

Here's another one for you from Leonard Cohen (my second-favorite Canadian):

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in...