Pompeii

Way back in the Wayback Machine, I used to post some entries called The Week in Song Lyrics.  It's exactly what it sounds like:  I'd share song lyrics that had been going through my head that seemed to summarize the week.

When you're training for a long-distance race, your runs last hours. Songs that you hear while you're running tend to get stuck in your head (whether they're on your MP3 player, the radio, whatever you listen to).  Because long runs really force you to get out of your head and zone out - and sometimes feel a lot of discomfort - that song may have the ability to freeze a particular moment during a run into your brain - whether it was the beginning, the end, the good or the bad.  It's almost like music has the ability to create a mental time capsule. I still think of 16-mile runs when I hear certain tunes.

Lately there's been a song running through my head that I didn't even realize I knew.  I guess music has the power to subliminally inject itself into our lives.  When I first found out Mister Arnie was dying, I was having a pretty hard time sleeping.  I'd wake up in the middle of the night crying and worried.  I'm not saying that still doesn't happen, or won't happen when he's finally gone, but in those first days it was the hardest

I recall one night in particular where I was lying there, with him sleeping wrapped around my head on my pillow like he always does, and it was as if someone had turned on a radio in the room and started me awake. And as the song flowed through my head I felt myself semi-consciously processing their personal meaning to me.

These are the lyrics . . .

I was left to my own devices
Many days fell away with nothing to show
And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love

 Great clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above


But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?

And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You've been here before?

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

This is how the actual conversation went . . .

I was left to my own devices
These are decisions I have to make, and burdens I have to carry, completely on my own.

Many days fell away with nothing to show
And man, have I been trying to put in my training, but for the first time in a long time, maybe, in my life, I legitimately don't have time, excuses, or the physical energy to "push through."  And it sure feels like I have nothing to show for the first two months of this year.

And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love

The bad news just kept flowing in.  First my brother, then mom, then dad, then me, then Girlie, then Arnie.

 Great clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above

And, just when I thought it had stabilized, Arnie and I were sucked in again. 
But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?

And I did close my eyes.  And I tried to go back to sleep.

And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You've been here before?

Wait, I have been here before. 
Last year, and 10 years ago when I first got sick.  And I got so sick. And I made it through. And here I am, awake at 4am, better off than I have ever been in so many ways.
But I'm sick. And Arnie's really sick.  And I don't know what I'm going to do.

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How the hell am I?

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
And I realized why this song (which is by Bastille, by the way; it's called Pompeii) was in my head.  It was because how am I gonna be an optimist about this? is the biggest - and possibly most important - question I ask myself on just about any day.

Candide's Voltaire. I bring this character up all the time.  Voltaire is a cynic, even a pessimist.  And his sidekick, Pangloss, is a real Pollyanna.  At one point during the book, probably annoyed by Pangloss's persistent positivity, Voltaire turns to Pangloss and tells Pangloss that optimism "is a mania for insisting things are good when they're wretched."

So here I am.  I'm afflicted with this mania, this mania for insisting things are good when they're . . . well  . . . pretty wretched.   And it has to be a mania.  I mean, it just has to.  Because, even as hard as it is going to be to drop Arnie off for his surgery tomorrow, and hope it goes well, and hope it buys him more years and not just miserable months, and even when I eventually lose him, some part of me can't help thinking that something, just something, absolutely beautiful is going to come out of this, and even while I'm thinking all of this another part of me knows that something already has.

And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You've been here before?

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