Friday, November 10, 2006

Glad and Sorry

I often think, and sometimes write about the pained duality of existence. How it is possible to experience amazing things while at the same time feeling tortured. After seeing my favorite band (Drive By Truckers) a couple of weeks back cover the song Glad and Sorry by The Faces the familiar bittersweet ache returned to prominence in my thought cycle. Here are the lyrics:

Thank you kindly
For thinking of me
If I’m not smiling
I’m just thinking

Glad and sorry
Happy or sad
When all is done and spoken
You’re up or I’m down

Can you show me a dream
Can you show me one that’s better than mine
Can you stand it in the cold light of day
Neither can I

I certainly understand that to live is to feel pain and that life is not fair and that bad things happen to good people and every other cliché is appropriate, but I still cannot accept them as valid. I believe that it is this level of understanding that validates my atheist beliefs. Why is my relationship with Jill better than it ever was when we were married? Why is every moment I spend with my children agonizingly beautiful yet stunningly painful?

The last week of my life has been a portrait of this “Glad and Sorry” type thought cycle. I saw the kids and Jill for the first time in several months and we had a great dinner. We all drove back to their house singing songs from a favorite album (Son Volt-Trace) whether or not we knew the words. The next day I took my son to buy hockey gear which to me was infinitely satisfying because of my love for the sport. But, several hours later I was driving away from their house, north on I-75 with tears streaming down my face. Glad and sorry.

Later that afternoon I arrived in the garden spot known as Ft. Wayne, Indiana for the wedding of an old friend. As I got off the elevator trying to find my room, I came face to face with an old friend from San Francisco and instantaneously life was “glad” again. Over the course of the next two days I enjoyed numerous meaningful conversations with like minded individuals and honest discourse about the state of our country and our place in the world. The wedding ceremony was surreal as I sat in a Catholic church and watched as virtually no one participated in the songs and prayers. Maybe things in this country are not as bleak as they seem? Then my eyes were drawn to the woman in front of me who had been shaking with the tics and quivers of Parkinson’s for the last 45 minutes. I nudged my friend Mike and offered that Dear Leader should be forced to sit next to her and then somehow justify his fundamentalist beliefs that disallow stem cell research and discount science. “Sorry” returned. After the ceremony I saw Jill’s college roommate for the first time in several years. She looked great and seemed so grounded and self-assured. Back to “Glad”. The evening ended far too quickly and the hangover started way too early. Goodbyes were brief and the drive back to Mom’s basement was long. Of course I left feeling both glad and sorry.

FYI-Photo is a wreath of Bittersweet