“Back on the Chain Gang”


It turns out getting back into the swing of posting regularly is harder than I thought.  I feel like I don’t really have much to say, even though I know there’s a bunch of stuff bubbling under the surface.  So I’m just gonna buckle down and post something.

It helps that this happens to be one of my favorite Pretenders’ songs.  (My dad always got a kick out of the line “got in the house like a pigeon from hell.”)  Chrissie Hynde wrote this sad tune about life going on after the death of James Honeyman-Scott.  Because no matter how hard it is, no matter how much you just want to crawl back into bed and pretend the world doesn’t exist, sometimes you just have to get up and get back to work.

I learned that after Dad died.  I guess I always knew it.  Whenever there was a major earthquake here in SoCal, I always marveled at the way everyone who was mostly unaffected continued on with their lives as if the ground beneath their feet had not just moved.  After 9/11, it was stunning to see traffic and people eating in restaurants (I was one of those people eating a restaurant).  I would settle down after a day or two myself, and move on with things.  After Daddy died, I found myself forced to do stuff.  I wanted to just curl up and sob myself into oblivion.  But arrangements needed to be made, the house taken care of, the proper authorities and creditors called.  My mother was terribly ill at the time, too, so I also needed to take care of her.  There was just this overwhelming amount of stuff to do.  And I coped by doing more stuff– cleaning out closets and drawers at midnight, desperate to keep busy.

I wanted the world to stop turning every time I felt thrown, but that’s not how the world works.  I’m just a tiny part of the universe, not the center of it.  I’m okay with that now.  This latest crisis has thrown me for quite a loop, but it isn’t even the end of my own world; it’s just a temporary detour.  Stuff still needs doing.  You just pick yourself up and do it.

There’s a Buddhist saying: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”  That’s kind of what this song means to me.  You always carry the memories of whatever you lost; in that way, it’s never really lost.  But you still need wood and water.  There’s another quote I picked up from Welcome to Night Vale recently that I think says something similar: “Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.”