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This is my 100th published post in the blog! Huzzah!
19 January 2012
How to let go is a skill that I have not mastered.
At times it seems easy, much like good parenting. These are the times I am not the one who needs to be in charge of the action. When someone else is upset and is starting to lose their cool, it is as easy to jump in and try to soothe their nerves, to tell them to take deep breaths and walk away, that it isn’t worth it, as it is to know that the parents of those misbehaving kids just need to have a little more discipline.
At times it is functional, maybe even bordering on good, much like cooking. These are the times when something happens that for some reason doesn’t really get under my skin. Maybe I just missed a train, but another one will be along in five minutes. Maybe the movie I wasn’t really sure I wanted to see turned out to be sold out. Maybe that drunk idiot at the bar tried to start picking a fight and I just walked away. The loss is usually not a big one for various reasons. I didn’t really care, there is an almost as good substitution, the situation was laughable, it will make for a good story. These are situations when I can pause, look at it rationally from a detached perspective, say a disinterested “meh” and move on. I may get a chuckle, or maybe just a shrug that it doesn’t matter. These times are getting more frequent, and for the years of conscious effort I am glad that they are.
But there are other times where the skill of how to let go is as foreign to me as speaking Mandarin. These are the times when something happens to me that I cannot seem to detach myself from. These are the slivers under my fingernail where the pain doesn’t seem to dull enough for me to forget, where I’m constantly reminded and the feeling eats away at me. Usually these are the situations where someone has bested me, or where I’m seeing an unfair universe in action, watching someone and hoping that karma will swoop in and cause horrible things to happen to them, knowing that it won’t act in such a gratifyingly obvious manner.
At the Dresden Dolls show I had secured myself a front row spot on the barrier, a perfect outpost from which to watch and take pictures, to fully immerse myself in the spectacle that is the Dolls. In the show lead-up I had talked with the women behind me, one of whom was about five feet tall and would be heading out after only four songs. Knowing that I would have far more to see, I traded her spots and started talking with the folks now behind me. It was friendly conversation up till the lights went down. After the four songs, the woman gave me the cue she was about to head out. In the process of stepping out, the girl I had been talking to elbowed me and dove for the front. I managed to get half of my body in there but so had she. We were deadlocked, neither one of us winning the spot, but with me having clearly lost. I offered a, “Come on, this is my spot.” She shot back a vitriolic, “Go get fucked!”
At this point security approached and, looking directly at me, instructed, “Don’t start anything.” When I informed him it was my spot, he said that we had both gone for it. When the people around confirmed it was mine and I had been nice enough to let the previous woman in, he just walked away.
Looking at the situation, I realized that I was in as good a position as I was going to get. I had some front row, access to the bar narrowly, and could use it to brace for pictures. I had my camera. And I had a clear shot of the band. But I couldn’t straighten my left leg and I was slightly off-balance. After about 45 minutes in that position, I would eventually have to relent and move back before my hips gave out.
Deep breaths. I’m still up here. I can still see. Not working. This is a show I really wanted to immerse myself in, to be in my own world, to focus on what is happening on stage. Nope. This bitch in front of me was still here, and her very presence was the thorn in my side (as was her elbow in my ribs), the constant reminder that she had wronged me and I could do nothing about it. The negative feedback loop kicked in. She made me angry. I wanted to ignore it and focus on the music. My failure to do so made me angry at myself. This anger couldn’t squelch the initial anger, and so it built. I couldn’t move on, I couldn’t let go.
The Dresden Dolls set was supposed to be a very personal experience for me. They are the favorite band of one of the most important people in my life. By immersing myself in the show, by seeing the set through adoring eyes, I might be able to better understand my friend. This show wasn’t just a performance, it was a bonding experience with someone ten thousand miles away, a glimpse into their mind, and a chance to get to know them in ways that they couldn’t put into words. This was to be transcendent. And instead I stood here fighting with myself about my inability to just let go and move on from a wrong. The show turned out to be a very personal experience, just on the very dark side of the spectrum.
Being out of the show emotionally, I spent the majority taking pictures, focusing on photography, hoping that I could redeem the night at a later date with good shots and improved skill. In that regard at least it worked. I’m quite happy with how the shots look overall and specifically with a few of them that came out brilliantly. (They are up at http://www.itinerantics.com in the MONA FOMA 2012 galleries.) This is also why I ran myself into the ground seeing the Dresden Dolls’ other performances. With future shows would come future opportunities to see through another’s eyes. But at every event where I saw the thief again, which was nearly all of them, my blood boiled just a bit and tinges of my inability to let go resurfaced.
I am still just a man who is not completely in charge of his thoughts or his emotions.
(ENDNOTE to readers: Seriously, I really don’t have any clue as to where to start in a situation like this. I so want to be able to just move on, accept the losses and salvage what I can. If you have suggestions, advice, techniques, or words of wisdom please do let me know.)