“One Step Up”


This pretty much describes how I feel right now.  Not the crumbling marriage part, but the bone tired weariness.  The feeling that you’re just going around and around in circles, and nothing ever seems to change.

Dad’s still in the hospital.  They couldn’t do the procedure they wanted today, but they did make some changes that will hopefully have him home in a few days.  Which would be great because I haven’t been sleeping too well.  I’m calling my mother all the time to make sure she’s eating and drinking properly (and I know I’m annoying her, but she wasn’t taking care of herself).  I just want someone to wave a magic wand and make it all better.  I know that’s not really possible, but that’s how I feel.

This song is like that.  Bruce Springsteen is unique in that he wrote his divorce album before he got a divorce (from first wife Julianne Phillips).  Hindsight is 20/20, and this one seemed pretty doomed right from the beginning.  The working class hero rock star and the young model/actress never seemed to have anything in common.  They married in 1985 after a whirlwind romance, less than a year after they met.  Springsteen was still high on his Born in the U.S.A. mega-stardom.  His constant touring probably did not help the marriage; neither did his affair with back-up singer Patti Scialfa.  He and Phillips divorced in 1988.  (To be fair, he got it right the second time.  Scialfa was a much better match.  That doesn’t excuse his behavior, but at least he learned from his mistake.)  The whole Tunnel of Love album chronicled the self-doubt, fear and regret he seemed to feel in his marriage.  “One Step Up” is one of the saddest songs from that album.  There’s no bravado or blame here, just resignation:  “I’m the same old story, same old act.  One step up and two steps back.”  Springsteen seems to be well aware that he carries a lot of the blame for the frustration of their relationship, but it’s equally clear that he’s got no idea how to fix what’s broken.  That maybe it’s time to admit the relationship is already beyond repair.

I’m not beyond repair right now, and I don’t think my father is either.  It’s just going to take a little longer.


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