I am a grunge-era Gen-X kid. As such, Red Hot Chili Peppers are a foundational part of my psyche. Recently, I was listening to their song “My Friends” from their 1995 studio album “One Hot Minute” and, as I have been prone to do, I broke down sobbing when I tried to sing the line “imagine me, torn by tragedy” because it punched me right in the fucking gut. I can’t even say the words “torn by tragedy” because it’s too real.
Listening to music we’ve loved for most of our lives hits differently in different eras of our time on this planet. A song can morph and change to speak to different experiences even as we are transformed by the experiences we have. Love songs take on a whole new meaning after you’ve known love. Breakup songs hit differently when your heart has been ripped out and stomped on. Songs about loss, they burn with white-hot fire after you’ve known loss. And so it goes.
Losing a child re-calibrates your entire sense of what’s challenging, what’s painful, and what’s tragic. I keep going back to an article I read last month, in which the author (who has also lost a child), talks about the obsessive need to tell people that her daughter was dead. For me, it’s a madness that lurks under the surface—a madness that makes me want to shake everybody, spitting and raving mad, foaming at the mouth, and scream like a demon unleashed: “NONE OF THIS MATTERS, NONE OF IT. MY SON IS DEAD.”
This week, my friends are so depressed. I feel bad for so many people who are dealing with things they’ve never had to deal with before. I haven’t talked about the Covid-19 pandemic much because, to be honest, it just isn’t registering with me. There is a lot of freaking out about things that, to me, just aren’t that serious. Where one person sees fear and anxiety in an empty grocery store or vacant streets, I see whimsy and opportunity. The canals of Venice are running clear, if that makes sense.
That’s not me trying to be dismissive; I understand that people aren’t as equipped as I am to, well, deal. I also understand that there are people who truly are experiencing difficulty, danger, and possibly death. I am not making light of the seriousness of covid-19 exposure or the risk to our population with compromised immune systems. I also fully understand and sympathize with the disproportionate impact this has on those who will become under- or unemployed because of this. Our system is fatally flawed, and once again we see that the underprivileged will be made to suffer the most, when it doesn’t have to be that way.
But as it stands, right now, all we can do is to make do with what happens to us in this chaos-fueled existence. That’s where the real beauty happens; when people step up, change, grow, blossom, and learn. Sometimes it takes a small shake-up or inconvenience to make that happen. Sometimes, an earth-shattering tragedy.
At any rate, I offer this song today as an invocation to my fellow humans; to those who are afraid, who are anxious. May you feel the peace that is within your reach. I wish I could give my peace to you, my friends. I wish I could share it all.
I love all of you.