Track 78 — Where the Streets Have No Name

A while back, when I was blogging a little more regularly, I wrote of faith. (See Track 73 – Faith) Faith, I said, is a belief in something without proof. It is an intangible force that gives us the strength to push forward during the most difficult of times. Today, I find myself clinging to that same faith and I pray that you, Mom, have it in you to do the same.

Dear Mom,

As I sat beside your hospital bed last Saturday morning, peering at you from over the side-safety-rail, I couldn’t help but think how cruel life can be. As Dad continues to say, it’s heartbreaking. Seeing you laying there curled up in your hospital gown, so fragile, so weak, was a scene for which I was not fully prepared. A salty moisture began to coat my eyes and tears began to form. I didn’t cry though, Mom. I held back my sorrow, fearing that my teardrops might steal away the faith to which I was so desperately holding on. The hope that you were simply on ‘vacation,’ and that you weren’t completely gone. I swallowed hard and pushed my sadness deep into the lump which still sits at the back of my throat. A stone that began to grow the first time I saw you in this state. Head shaven. Eye sunken. Energy stolen. A sight, knowing how strong and independent you once were, that shook me and my faith to the breaking point. I had to find a way to believe that you were coming back from this. Seeing you there, that morning, however, made it hard.

And how could it not? I mean, how could I be there doing what I was? How could you need me to be doing it? Helping you get to and go to the bathroom. Helping your get your meals ready and watching you fumble as you ate. Clarifying, constantly clarifying, what you were doing and why you were doing it. Reminding you not only about where your grandkids were, but who they were. Quizzing you about names, dates, numbers and events. How could I be there doing that for you? You?

You. The woman who changed my first diaper and washed my soiled sheets. You who kept my napkin folded neatly on my lap and my elbows well off the table. You who never had a problem telling me what to do, when to do it and how long it needed to be done. In no uncertain terms. You knew. You, Mom. The woman who remembered every date, every name and never forgot a face. You who sat with Scott and I before tests and while we wrote reports. You, Mom. You. How could I be there doing what I was doing for you?

And yet, I was.

I was sitting there. Heartbroken. Waiting to push you. To help you. Wanting you to struggle harder to keep anything trapped in your memory for more than a moment. Your room number. My phone number. Any number. I sat there, willing you to fight harder to reclaim the independence which was so suddenly and unexpectedly ripped from your spirit. I needed to see you improve.

And I did. You did. You made it to the bathroom. You used your knife and fork. For moments stacked together you knew where you were going and what you were doing. You rolled off the names of your grandkids and where they lived. You retained the name of your doctor and even the number to your room. You made progress. You began to take baby steps towards recovery, towards going home. In the week that I sat by your bedside, every heartbreaking instance seemed to be matched with a tiny step forward. Small baby steps that have helped me to maintain my faith. Something which you seem to have misplaced.

You explained to me on numerous occasions, Mom, the frustration that you felt. The sadness that overwhelmed you as you stared through a blank fog of mixed-up confusion. You said that you lost the ability to focus and completely understand your surroundings. It was as though you were trapped under a wet blanket of uncertainty and timid fear. You told me once that you that you were beaten. I cannot and will not agree. Not for a moment. Not you.

You, my mother, are strong. You are independent. At your core. In your heart. You have not changed. There is no denying that you are damaged; however, do not believe for a second that you are broken. You aren’t. Listen to me as I tell you to pick up your feet and fight through the sluggish fog that surrounds you. Don’t shuffle. Push. Believe in yourself as we all do, and understand that each small victory is a triumph in the making. Don’t for a second think that your baby steps are anything but amazing. You are in a battle and nothing is quick. Nothing is easy. But for you. For you, it is possible. All you need to do is to believe. All you need to do is struggle. It will come back. Have faith.

Do you remember the present I gave you for Mother’s Day when I was in grade 8? (Or 9) It was a record single. I wonder if you can remember the song. The band who sang it. Think for a moment before you continue. Struggle to remember. I don’t think that I ever told you this, but I ‘found’ that single in a video arcade at the mall a few days before. Instead of leaving it there, or handing it into the coin clerk, I silently picked it up and slid it beneath my jacket to take home. Not honest, I know, but this find couldn’t have come at a better time. I had no money and I wanted to give you something for your birthday. This isn’t a lesson that I would teach my children; however, I can’t help (hope) but think that I found that record for a reason. That that gift was more for now than it was for then. Maybe it’s the title. Possibly the lyrics. Or maybe it’s just one more piece of the past that will help bring you back to the present.

Where the Streets Have No Name was the song, U2 the band. Both were introduced to us the first time you put the needle to that vinyl, and a love for both became another bond that we would share. I wonder if you are listening to this song as you read my words. I hope you are. The music. The lyrics. Both seem to hit a chord. Maybe they will be the spark that you need. Not to help you remember. But rather, to help you ignite. I pray that they will be another catalyst that helps to set fire to the woman who lays dormant within. I know you are there. I believe you have the strength. Now it’s on you.

You, mom.

You are still there. Believe. Struggle. Stay positive. Have faith. You are there. You are all there. Listen to my words, listen to your song. Listen. Just listen.

I love you.

Love,
Shane
Where the Street Have No Name Youtube link

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Track 33 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

The evening of my law school convocation, I found myself in a university bar chatting with a woman from my graduating class. At one point during our conversation, she commented on how much more at peace I seemed to be. I laughed and remarked that the last time we had seen each other we were both in the throes of final exams. Everyone at the bar from our graduating class was feeling more relaxed and at peace. She shook her head and said it was more than that; I seemed more centered than I had ever been. I cocked my head to the side and looked at this woman very deeply for the first time since I had known her. I was intrigued. Here was a person with whom I had very little interaction during my three years of legal study, and yet she had somehow picked up on the difference that I had felt in my core. I thought that the ‘awakening’ that I had experienced during my journey across Canada and the States was something much more personal and discrete. Sure, I felt more at ease with myself and in my surroundings, but I didn’t think that it was something noticeable to other people. It never felt so good to be wrong!

 I told my friend about the journey I had taken and the profound sense of self-enlightenment that I had felt as I approached the Rockies (See track 5). I then quoted a line from “City Slickers” and told her that during my pilgrimage across the prairies, I had somehow stumbled upon the ‘one thing’ that brought peace and meaning to my life.

It was simple. But very true. Balance.

My friend looked at me for a moment, nodded and smiled. We began to talk about something else.  

Had she allowed me to continue, I would have told her that as my soul screamed to the towering peaks before me, the pressures, pain, anxieties and self doubt that I had allowed to consume me were being released. I simply let go of the personal baggage I was carrying – relationships, education, employment, feelings of failure, worries about disapproval and disappointment , everything– and allowed myself the possibility of a do over.

You see, for much of my life I tried to play every role that I lived to perfection – brother, son, student, friend, companion, lover, or worker. I dove into every character hoping to be and do what others expected of me. Unfortunately I never gave recognition to what I wanted. And thus, I rarely felt excited with or enthralled about whatever I was doing.

As I drove into the mountains, in an epiphany that changed my life, I realized that what I wanted was of the utmost importance and it alone had to rest on one scale while the needs of everyone else sat crowded on the other. For the first time since starting my road trip, I had felt that I wasn’t running away from my life, but rather racing towards it. The Rockies symbolized a fresh start where nothing was known, determined, or arranged. I could take off the weights of friends, family and my interpretation of their expectations and set my scales to zero. I finally felt in charge of my life and the only baggage I had left was packed with clothing and cosmetics. I felt and continue to feel balance.

I have come to realize, however, that balance is very difficult to maintain. As roles change and responsibilities become bigger different facets of me take on increasingly more weight. One way of maintaining a sense of equilibrium is through an understanding and acceptance of my own limitations.

It is for this reason that I must take a step back from my goal. I need to balance the journey on which I find myself with the needs of my family, friends and self. As I have said before, there are not enough hours in my day. I need to live life and enjoy the people I am priviliged to have in mine in order to write my reflections.I will still try to write three or four posts a week, but alas the publish button will not be hit every day.

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, is one of my favorite U2 songs. It takes me back to a party where three friends and I stood together and acted out every word to every song on the ‘Joshua Tree’ album. I also remember standing outside a friend’s house and quoting the title to a very dear friend of mine as I revealed the deep seeded sense of unsettled, discontentedness that haunted my soul.

Although I often stumble and still fall prey to the pressures of everyday life, and anxieties related to family, friends and work, I can honestly say that I have found what I was looking for many years ago. I have a better understanding of who I am and strive to maintain the sense of self that I found hiding in the mountains of Western Canada.

Everyone has that ‘one thing’, strive to find your own!

I Still Haven’t Found What I’mLooking For youtube link