"This shirt is old and faded,
all the color's washed away.
I've had it now for more damn years
than I can count anyway.
I wear it beneath my jacket,
With the collar turned up high.
So old I should replace it,
But I'm not about to try."
I love this song. Mary Chapin Carpenter's "This Shirt" has walked me through some very long nights where I lay curled in a ball cuddling up with my memories...the good ones...as well as the ones I just felt like snuggling with because they gave me a justifiable reason for my tears.
But as Sara Renner asks in "Forgive" from an earlier post:
"Do you wanna be strong?
Get up on your feet and walk?
Do you wanna rise above
the comfort of this curse?"
I've long known that curling up with the artifacts of my sorrow, and stroking them into a gentle purr, is not the way to move forward towards today's promise of happiness and wholeness. Clutching the tattered relics of a life "once lived" was my way of being comforted by the curse of rich details...a not-forgotten scent, colors that send me reeling down Memory Lane, a song that pulls me deeper and deeper into an emotional death spiral that is void of Life...of active, present tense living...and therefore, is fruitless. In fact, these adventures into the past, unless they are visited with the intent of an archeological dig for lessons learned about how to live, right now, with more purpose and vision today, are nothing. Zip, zero, valueless. And unless they serve as waymarks for a fellow traveler, they are actually of no worth, at all.
And about that shirt, yes, I do have a life-softened blue denim shirt, with silver buttons...one that I really have used as a pillow beneath a pine tree with my faithful staff-horse, Espresso, nibbling on high prairie grass nearby...but it is not blue chambray I need to discard. What I really need to throw into the pyre of Love's hunger for the expression of Itself, in order for me to live, live, live a life rich with wonder and purpose, are those thoughts and memories that suggestively beckon me towards sorrow or guilt, through the gate of nostalgia's intoxication. And believe me, I've stroked my reasons for regret with more tenderness than Espresso's nose. And I knew without question that it had to stop.
I saw a movie this past weekend that I highly recommend for anyone who needs a reminder of how our view of others' delusions can be more illusory than the delusions themselves...and how our view can then deprive us both of life...real, pulsing, joy-filled, crazy, ridiculously wonderful life. It's a movie that I assumed would be silly and not worth seeing when I saw the trailer a few years ago. Boy was I wrong! Thanks Sandy! It is now one of my top five films ever! The movie is "Lars and the Real Girl." That is all I will say about the story. It is a film so chock full of redemption and forgiveness that I laughed, then I cried, then I laughed through my tears, and now, I haven't stopped thinking about it for three days...at all.
Like Lars, I am so ready to put my "This Shirt" reasons for being sad, tentative, blameworthy, apologetic, angry, self-justified, unworthy, in the fire of God's living breathing purpose-filled promise for my life's "great sanity" of living! I love the way Mary Baker Eddy puts it:
"A great sanity, a mighty something buried in the depths of the unseen, has wrought a resurrection among you, and has leaped into living love. What is this something, this phoenix fire, this pillar by day, kindling, guiding, and guarding your way? It is unity, the bond of perfectness, the thousandfold expansion that will engirdle the world, - unity, which unfolds the thought most within us into the greater and better, the sum of all reality and good.
This unity is reserved wisdom and strength. It builds upon the rock, against which envy, enmity, or malice beat in vain. Man lives, moves, and has his being in God, Love. Then man must live, he cannot die; and Love must necessarily promote and pervade all his success. Of two things fate cannot rob us; namely, of choosing the best, and of helping others thus to choose."
I am learning, from the vantage point of my own "remembering," that the loved shirt we cherish--with its silver buttons, and memories of another time, another place, another story, always softly lit through the filtered light of memory--often carries with it the sharp scent of hurt, and the bone-deep chill of heartbreak.
But, real love doesn't need to live in the past. Real love LIVES...it is alive with loving, not remembering loving. Real love continues, day by day, to inspire, encourage, invigorate us to live our loving, out loud, each day. To live in the now of our loving, and to live it with a ridiculous abandoning of convention, unaware of disapproval, or fear of society's "frown," is to kick the past squarely into the flames of the hell it tries to threaten us with, and let the heat of our deeply moral human affection thoroughly consume the dry husks of regret and "what once was." And from this self-immolation of our past, leaps a brave innocence that sings, and laughs, and dances with angels.
Elsewhere Mary Baker Eddy promises:
"The mounting sense gathers fresh forms and strange fire from the ashes of dissolving self, and drops the world."
I want to drop "the world" view of what my life's journey must have resulted in...fear, sorrow, bittersweetness, suffering, sadness. It no longer IS. What once was, IS no longer. And I want to be all about what IS. This old "shirt" is faded...it may have once been wonderful, or deeply meaningful, but if it has lost its warmth, its tencile strength, and its capacity to comfort and console...I am ready to let it go. Like the phoenix, I am eager for new feathers...ones that I can use to soar above the past, and yet see its lessons in a new light, in the context of how what I have experienced will bless today's opportunities for living a more perfectly, outrageously, ridiculously love-filled and purposeful present...moment by extraordinary moment.
Or as Harry Potter's wise teacher, Dumbledore, states in the second volume Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets following his phoenix, Fawke's immolation, and almost instantaneous resurrection as a sweet new chick:
"Fascinating creatures, phoenixes.
They can carry immensely heavy loads.
Their tears have healing powers."
Ahhh...to have tears that heal....
Kate Robertson, CS