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How to Let Go (Dresden Dolls)

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.)

3 comments on “How to Let Go (Dresden Dolls)

  1. Laura
    February 8, 2012

    I don’t think you’re going to like it, but sometimes, like what this sounds like, you’re put into a lose-lose situation through no action under any real control of your own. You can’t control the other person in this situation. You know you have basically two choices and you’re not going to like the outcome of either, and what usually bothers me the most is knowing that I will not like what it says about me when I choose one or the other. That’s where most of the frustration and anger that cling mentally seem to be, anyway. You’re right about realizing that it’s about letting go, but at the same time, part of you knows that letting go can be or at least feel like a slippery, dangerous slope, of weakness and apathy. It can feel like a rationalization of the easy road.

    I don’t think I always do this right. I’m starting to do it more, and sometimes it takes a little self-centered, correctly placed and righteous anger to push me out of that place that you describe. I can let the situation dictate to me how I have to act, and then be resigned to feeling resentful and self-critical, or I can put my chin up and refuse to let a one-time event define how I look at myself, my actions and my life. It IS just one time. It IS just one total stranger being an asshole. Who are THEY to make me get stuck in this funk and lose out on enjoying something I came to enjoy, and be stuck analyzing the situation, after all? It’s a form of corrective thinking, really. I feel like it takes longer for it to be more natural because it is a situational response, and really, one hopes those situations aren’t that common.

    Practice not letting that part of your brain tell you what to think and feel, if only because you don’t like feeling that way, and it’s not useful.

  2. dfab
    February 16, 2012

    This is part of your journey towards grace. and even though it’s most commonly thought of as a christian concept – in a spiritual context the very definition of grace is the giving of something to someone who doesn’t deserve it – it has everything to do with the Buddhist principle of letting go, which is clearly what you are searching for, and is what happened here.

    the giving part is actually the easy bit, it’s the next bit that’s hard – not holding on to the anger you feel when someone undeserving got something that you deserved more. that anger only hurts you, not her – as Buddha said (and yes it is one of his most oft-quoted teachings), ‘holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at your enemy; you’re the one who gets burned’.

    so perhaps try and think of it in terms of a victory, not a defeat. every time something like this happens, and you let it go, you become stronger. you become the better person, you grow, you stand tall because not only have you done the right thing, but you’re not angry towards the person who did the wrong thing (i know this might seem a bit deep over a disputed space at a gig but obviously we’re talking about a broader concept here!) and yes, you take a tiny little step closer to enlightenment (i’m sorry if that sounds a bit twee but i think it’s true). after all, this is about your growth, and your happiness – there is little or nothing you can do for the other person, who will so often be very sad inside. actually, there is something you can do for them… and in fact you’ve already done it. by extending that grace, you may well be giving that person a burst of positivity that is sadly missing from their life. and if enough people do that, she might change. and if we all do it, the world might change as well.

    letting go is not a sign of weakness… it is an exercise, and exercise makes you stronger. practice it whenever you can.

  3. endurogirl
    February 16, 2012

    hmm this sounds like what I witnessed at the Dresden Dolls Jan 8 concert. If it’s the one and same, that woman was a complete trash talking cow, and she made my blood boil also. Eventually, her extreme rudeness (and made more extreme when contrasted to the attitudes of others around) slipped away from me, and I enjoyed the show.

    You’ve had a learning experience – experiencing where your strengths, weaknesses lie. You are also able to see those edges of yourself, and that’s gotta be a good thing. Many people, including that woman, can’t even do that. It’s a journey, and a far from perfect one. We are spirits working at being humans!

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This entry was posted on February 8, 2012 by in Australia, Concert, Self Analysis, Tasmania (Hobart).

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