Ironic Advent 2017 Meditation Approximately #17:
Ben Camino's Behind*
Ben Camino has gotten behind on everything, due to his inability to stay ahead or even keep up with everything. It sort of reminds me of the end of that Renaissance poem by Andrew Marvell called "Running on Empty."
Wait, no. That was Jackson Browne, who had a habit of doing upbeat songs about being downbeat (see, or hear, his bouncy little tune called "Fountain of Sorrow"). I used to have that problem. Not any more.
Last night I saw a guy who had previously only ever heard one of my songs, but had heard it multiple times. After the last time, he told me it was the saddest song ever written. It's a compliment, he said. In truth, I used to have to wrestle with that song to keep it from being bouncy (as I said, see, or hear, Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" and "Fountain of Sorrow" in which the poet/composer failed to wrestle well).
Anyway, or anyway(s) as we say in the Ben Camino universe, I told the guy that I took it not so much as a compliment but as a challenge. Then last night I played another pretty sad song (both pretty sad and pretty and sad, I hope). But first I introduced it with the story of his compliment, my challenge. That, by the way, is a personality type not inventoried by any of the personality type inventory thingees thus-far dreamed up by people who make money off stuff like that. The type of person(ality) that takes compliments as challenges. My type.
He listened. He liked it. He said it was beautiful and sad. I'm trying to figure out if I can use that as a challenge or not.
In the meantime, and I do mean mean, I've been suffering through something that might be a spirtual malaise, it might be emotional exhaustion. Burnout, was a friend's ugly word choice, but when I said so, she came back with: since when is Ben Camino afraid of ugly words?
I responded: since when is Ben Camino afraid of . . . italics? or . . . parantheses? or . . . ellipses?
As I say, Andrew Marvell did NOT write "Running on Empty." He wrote "To His Coy Mistress," which every student of Renaissance Literature (who paid attention at least) knows is NOT about the poet's mistress or about love or even about being coy. It's about time and our exhausting, losing race against it. And the gargantuan will in some of us to exhaust ourselves in a race we are doomed to lose.
Anyway(s), I got tired and sort of fell apart for a few days. My dog was dying, my Christmas plans were a little confusing, my focus was wandering, I spent long periods staring out at blank wintry landscapes. And I forgot to eat anything except holiday sugar and dough.
So then, Rorie, the lovely crazy little dog died. Jenny, my beautiful daughter beautifully held her in her arms for the last few days of her life and was with her as she gasped her last breaths. Her last bits of breath/life were drained out. Which, by the way, is the root meaning of ex-hausted.
I sighed deeply, breath draining out of my body. Without planning to, I sobbed for awhile, water draining out of my body through my eyes. I made some split pea soup and remembered to eat some of it. I finished my grading. Worked on the newest saddest song ever written (my response to the compliment/challenge). Booked my daughter a ticket to Texas to celebrate Christmas with family and, I hope, rest from her own physical and emotional exhaustion.
My friend texted, trying to help, apologizing for the literal world of hurt. Agreeing with me and every other child born into this world as sparks fly upwards that it's. not. fair. I appreciated that. But, in a rare moment of sanity, I replied:
Short version. People are fleeing for their lives, living in refugee camps, being martyred, losing every damn thing they have. At some point, we have to conclude that my whimpering means that I am a wimp.
Also, some people chose to care about my little pain, though it does them no specific good. I am blessed, but my blessing detection radar is malfunctioning.
This may be what we mean by emotional exhaustion.
Of course, this is supposed to be an Ironic Advent Meditation, so, structurally, we have necessarily come to the spot when Ben Camino turns a thousand words or so on the fulcrum of meaning known as the and yet, and yet trope (Toth, Veronica 2017) and explains how this is all connected to the Third Sunday of Advent and the prophecy of Isaiah and the preaching of John the Baptist and how they ran out of communion wine at church on Sunday and so forth.
To tell you the truth, which is all Ben Camino has ever tried to do (don't look me in the eyes), Adventing this piece hasn't been in the front of my mind up until now (OK, if you know me, you know that I am hoping that somebody out there admires my ironic gerunding of the liturgical year).
Really, I just thought I would write an update explaining why I have fallen behind on these meditations. I didn't want the Jennifers and my two readers in Scotland to fear that I had forsaken them. We can agree that the world is a fearful place enough already without that.
And THEN (exhausted yet?) I was going to link that brief (oops!) apology to a meditation I actually wrote the other day but never published for reasons I have explained above. Or perhaps they are inexplicable (a word much less ugly than burnout).
Had we but world enough and time,
I would still do so guys.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity. (italicized stuff is from Marvell's poem)
Also, this meditation is already kuhrazy long, and I have GOT to pack up (five guitars, check; mandolin and banjo, check; box of Clif Bars, check; Guadalupe candle, check) and head for Texas because timeisrunningoutfolks.
I had already promised, pre-burnout that I would be down there in time for my brother Noel's birthday. That ain't gon' happen as they say in Dallas. The new goal is to be there at least in time to pick up Jenny from the airport in Austin on the morning of the 22nd.
If I'm still around and, as granny used to say, if the Lord's coming tarries . . . (WHAAAAT? THAT is my connection to Advent!), I will meet you here tomorrow.
Seriously, love you guys. You are so worth my time, but, like Andrew Marvell's narrator, I'm running out of it. If you promise to be good, OK if you just promise to click on the appropriate link (which is sometimes as much as we can expect), tomorrow I will share something pretty and sad (and pretty sad) about my brother Noel. He was born on December 2oth and brought home to our little house in McAllen, Texas on Christmas morning. One of my earliest memories.
Imagine that for a Christmas gift! Well, I guess that's pretty much what all the commotion is about at Christmas anyway(s). The baby. And the telling about the baby. And the singing about the baby. And the exhausted people waiting for the baby (sometimes singing pretty sad songs).
In the meantime, and I do mean mean, I'm using the weirdly perfect journal which I wrote my still unpublished meditation about (and in) last week to keep track of some things.
I'm filling it with good things, mostly. Not necessarily happy things. Because many of the best things include the possibility and/or reality of hurt. Mary had a baby, yes lord. And a sword in her heart.
I'm also tracking you folks out there. You do some amazing stuff. You reach out and give, sometimes in difficult situations. That's a beautiful thing. Pretty and sad. Just so you know, I'm keeping track. In my weirdly perfect journal (yes, yes, I will explain).
I'm writing it down because, as I said, I am blessed, but my blessing detection radar is malfunctioning.
Yes, I probably need a few days off. maybe longer. But for now, I'm picturing my exhausted daughter holding her little dog as her little dog soul literally exhausts.
I'm picturing kind people who care about the little hurts of wimps like me. I'm picturing the people, some I know and some I don't know, who are caring about and doing something about the more difficult, complicated sufferings of those for whom the world has become hell.
You bring them comfort and joy and language skills and food and shelter and hope and sometimes just a voice on the other end of the hotline.
And I'm picturing the day when the saddest song ever written intertwines with the dance song of the universe, a bouncy tune co-written by yours truly, Andrew Marvell, Jackson Browne, and a square cat some folks call Gabriel.
Here's a pretty but now pretty and sad picture of Jenny and Rorie at a music festival in Nashville a few months ago.
*Wait, you thought I meant, Ben Camino's . . . beehind (as they say in Dallas)? Who are you? I don't even know you?