“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend….”
My SPACIOUS partner Joey and I have had some good conversations about fire, reflecting on what it means to be on fire and to need to be on fire because there are icebergs to melt (a favorite quote of mine from abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison). Fire is an apt metaphor for me for energy, passion, and warmth especially as directed into relationships and the needs of the world.
I’m working on a memoir about my own personal movement from being a person who locked myself away emotionally from engagement with others, preferring to live in a metaphorical fireproof building, to a person who gets involved with others and risks getting burned. I’ve come to appreciate the need for fire in my life if I am going to move beyond my own concerns and try to live a life that will benefit others.
Conversations with Joey and others indirectly led to the creation of SPACIOUS as we talked about how we wanted to be people of action in our circles of friends and communities, people who did something, created something for people.
I get particularly riled up about people feeling lonely, not noticed, not seen. And of course society encourages us all to act cool, to never let anyone see us sweat, to give off the impression that we’re self-sufficient, happy and “fine,” (the ultimate four-letter word when it contributes to our staying stuck). That pretension contributes to loneliness because it leaves each of us thinking we are the only one who ever feels that way, some sort of freak-show of a person who must not have a single good relationship.
I have amazing relationships with good people…more than anyone should be blessed with if these things are equally distributed. Yet sometimes I feel deeply lonely and life feels like more rain than fire. And I sing a chorus of good old “Fire and Rain”: “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend….”
No melodrama intended. I’m content. But I’m sitting with the reality of life… of the shadow side of all the bright and shiny striving and hoping and longing; I acknowledge the rain that balances the fire or even douses it sometimes.
I’m thinking about cruising along recently on one of my favorite DC streets with an incredible view of the city, looking forward to meeting a friend for lunch and then an afternoon and evening with other great people and good work. All was well with the world and with me, and then I felt tearfulness and sadness pull up alongside the optimism.
It may have had something to do with passing a group of toddlers wearing t-shirts indicating they were part of a program in one of our local shelters for homeless families. And though they were adorable and freshly scrubbed and happy looking as they toddled along, my heart did throb a bit over the inequity in this city, in this world, between those kids and the ones a few miles west who will spend their days (and, actually, lives) with vastly different prospects.
It may have had something to do with the news of 49 torsos found along a Mexican highway.
It may have had something to do with a writing group I’m in and this week’s assignment to contemplate “shalom shattered.”
And I was struck with how poignant life can be, even in the best of circumstances. We don’t have to have tragedy for reality to touch us with its intrusive tentacles.
We can have mountaintop experiences and then descend to normalcy with such speed that we get a case of the bends. We can have such a deep connection with dear people that, when our time with them is over, we just long for more as if we were gasping for oxygen. We can have all we ever wanted and somehow know there’s even more to be had.
On my good days, I cling to God and find peace; you have your own beliefs and mechanisms for processing life’s biggest challenges and gaps. But do you agree that the challenges really are there some days?
I feel it even as my fun car propels me to beautiful people. I feel it even though my desk looks out over a gorgeous tree in which two cardinals have landed to cheer me as I type this. I know that ache even as I have good and meaningful work to do in a comfortable house with air conditioning and fresh water and enough food.
I admit the loneliness even as I am one fortunate woman, on fire and excited about my life, energized to do things that I hope will matter.
“I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain.” And they both have their place in a life in touch with reality. I just think it matters deeply how we relate to each other with our questions, with our ponderings, with our desire to connect.
Because none of us are alone in this.
Giving credit where due, our illustration was drawn by actor/dancer Gene Kelley. I found it framed on a restaurant bathroom wall in Los Angeles.