Love Outlasts

Last Wednesday was Day 1 of the {Caged Bird} recording sessions. Ana and I frequently have conversations about what it means to be “in it” (aka emotionally present) during a performance. Having never formally studied acting techniques, those “in it” moments are rare & still have a mystical, stars-aligning quality for me. It’s not luck, it’s not sheer will. It feels more like surrender.

almost there3

I had a moment like that as we recorded our song “Almost There.” All of a sudden, I watched scenes of my life play out like a movie. I could see myself curled in the fetal position in my friend’s car, crying my eyes out after I found out that our home was being sold out from under us. I felt the walls closing in around me after we moved in with my in-laws, from a gorgeous condo into an 8×10 space. I saw my husband’s depression peak, and my despair as he couldn’t get out of bed. I re-experienced my own paralyzation and fear as I asked him to help sort the laundry and it was too overwhelming for him. All of these memories flooded my landscape as I sang:

We’re almost there, baby

We barely held our ground through this

I must admit I didn’t think we’d make it

But we’re still here

We’re almost there, baby

It’s time for superman to rest

Atlas, take the world down off your shoulders

Take a breath

almost there

When I wrote Almost There, I was at the end (or so I thought) of a painful and disorienting season of our life. Our plan was for Tim to finish his CPA and then we’d start our family. We rented a gorgeous condo with a lush waterscape, and I started dreaming about moving my grandmother’s piano into the living room so I could play for our babies. It was 7 months of struggle as Tim studied for his CPA exams, spending late nights at Taco Bell and the library. He became increasingly isolated as he tried to push through his own resistance to get the tests done. He passed the first two, but failed the 3rd and 4th ones by just a few points multiple times. Our marriage was messy, riddled with disconnection and neglect. I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth, telling myself: “It’s just another month. He’ll pass this time and we’ll have our life back.” Meanwhile, our newlywed (and overtly emotionally connected) housemates discovered they were pregnant. (Surprise!)

The CPA board gives candidates 18 months to finish all 4 exams, and then they start to expire. We were down to the wire, month 16. Tim studied through Christmas and finally passed the 3rd out of 4 exams. He took his final test on January 1st and we waited with bated breath for his results. Then on January 31st, we learned that he failed the last exam by 6 points. Tax season was upon us & would prohibit him from studying further, so the exams he already passed were going to expire. All of the work, sacrifice, and pain was for nothing. UGH.

In the midst of that grief and disappointment and Tim working tax season overtime hours, our landlord sold the condo I loved so much, and we had to be out by April 30. The entire world came crashing down. The life we had planned seemed to evaporate.

We’re almost there, baby

You know I’ve had your back through this

If we go down, we’re going down together

Cause that’s what love is.

Honestly, I didn’t think it could possibly get worse. (Famous last words.)

Then we temporarily moved in with Tim’s parents, his sister and brother-in-law and our two adorable and noisy toddlers into a 3 bedroom house in Irvine. (Basically, like Stepford. But really…) We squashed our household, our separateness, and our life into a storage unit and moved into Tim’s childhood bedroom, complete with the same baby blue and white striped wall paper. A few weeks later, Tim started having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I was so used to the gradual decline in his energy, I didn’t even recognize major depression when it started punching us in the face. He virtually stopped talking and eating before a friend helped me recognize that he needed support.

Needless to say, that summer was hell.

nervous breakdown

I held it together as Tim seemed to get worse and worse. I tried to be strong, make the necessary appointments. I shoved my needs down HARD. I kept it zipped up:

Until I couldn’t.

I was exhausted with holding in all the grief. A couple good friends asked me, “What do you want in life?” and I just couldn’t keep it together anymore. They held me as I wailed like a banshee for all the time lost, the dreams shattered, the disconnection in my marriage, the desires of my heart submerged in fathoms of hopelessness & resignation. I cried for hours about the sheer out-of-control hell that was life. I wept and wept and it was cleansing. It didn’t fix a damn thing, but it helped me hang on.

“What do we do when there’s nothing left to give?

Do we reach down deeper?

Do we look up higher?

When we just can’t hold it together:

Love outlasts.”

I didn’t think I was going to make it, or that we were going to make it, honestly. But we’re still here. Why?

Because love outlasts everything.

almost there sign

I don’t really know how it works. I only know that I gave up 4 million times, and Love was like the force of gravity, holding our life in orbit.  I don’t mean gushy, Rom Com I-feel-so-in-love-with-you “love”… I mean “i-hate-everything-including-you-and-everything-I’m-feeling-and-goddamnit-I’m-not-going-anywhere-even-though-I-want-to-because-I-said-I-wouldn’t” LOVE. Love that’s outside of us, when we don’t have anything inside of us to give.

We forgot what it’s like to smile

We forgot what it’s like to laugh

We don’t know why we’re on this goddamn planet

We forgot our better halves

But love outlasts

Love outlasts

Love outlasts.

That’s the punch line of human history, a truth that will one day baptize every personal tragedy. I got lost yesterday as I was singing. I guess you could say I was “in it.” The room disappeared, the musicians were in the zone, and I got swept up in the anthem. As the music swelled, I swear, I could hear angels singing along:

“Love outlasts… Love outlasts…”

 

 

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