Where The Wild Things Are vs. Dave Matthews Band

Photo by K. Parmele

I’ve been asked lately how I manage to keep an open heart. How is it that despite crushing heartbreak I can find love in the world over and over again? How is it that when the pain comes I let it flood me with emotion and compassion but (try to) avoid retaliation, anger and misery?

It’s not easy. I was not always this way. I’ve been known to be a “hot-blooded Greek.” Years of being poor, nerdy, and made-fun-of added up to a thick defensive shell of armor with a (metaphorical) well-hidden arsenal of explosives and a short wick, ready to spark and light at a moment’s notice. It didn’t help that I am of two sides; a shy, introverted, late-blooming, rule-following side and a wild, adventurous, speed-loving adrenalin-junkie side. This blended together to make a perfect Type-A personality; one that needed to do what’s right and that always pushed the limits on what was achievable. This got me very far. I had the immigrant-turned-High School Valedictorian-turned-Harvard Grad-turned-Emergency Physician-turned-wife-and-mom storybook credentials. I thought that I had the perfect life and I knew how it would turn out. I was wrong.

Apparently all good things eventually come to an end. The storyline is often not of your choosing. What do you do when life throws a curveball at you and what you thought your future looked like for the next 20+ years shifts instantaneously in front of your very eyes and there’s nothing you can do? What can you do? My old me would have RAGED. Like “Where the Wild Things Are” I would have Roared my Terrible Roars and Gnashed my Terrible Teeth and Rolled my Terrible Eyes and Showed my Terrible Claws … but my current me didn’t.  I just didn’t. And frankly I was kind of shocked at my reaction.

Of course I was sad and devastated. Of course the tears took forever to stop pouring out. But anger and retaliation, interestingly, were never part of my emotional package. Instead I felt compassion, forgiveness and love. My reaction actually took me by extreme ninja-like surprise. My heart, at the very moment of breaking apart, fractured open in unimaginable ways. I could feel the pain of another as acutely as I could feel my own.  This was not about something being done TO ME. This was about two people each struggling to find love, meaning, and belonging.

Suddenly the goal of all people became clear. We ALL desire and need love, meaning, and belonging.

So why am I talking about this? It has been talked about before… why again?

I, like some of you, deal with illness and death on a regular basis. Unfortunately in the Emergency Department I see it more often than most. Loved ones leave our lives when least expected. After they’re gone you suddenly realize that arguments and resentments meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. I wish I could turn the clock back and give a mom another chance to tell her 3 year-old how much she loves her, or a son the chance to reminisce with his dad. Our lives and the lives of our loved ones are finite. We are never promised another day. Your last day may come completely out of the blue.  Why wait to show your love? Why waste time mucking around in pity and misery and anger and resentment? Why not enjoy THIS VERY MOMENT with all who surround you?

“Love, love, what more is there?”

Probably what helped me get out of the “hot-blooded Greek” mind-frame was running and meditation. And Dave Matthews Band.

Running and meditation are basically the two sides of the same coin in my opinion. The only difference is that running works your physical body in addition to your mental, spiritual and emotional body. Yet for me running wasn’t enough. Somehow that just added endurance to my energy, although it surely helped to ground it. I needed something that I could access at a moment’s notice. I needed the ability to instantaneously ground during any stressful moment, like when dealing with a frustrated family member in the ER or waiting in an endless line at a store during the holidays. Meditation and mindfulness were the key. If it wasn’t for having practiced meditation I doubt that I would have been able to approach this challenge in the open-hearted way that I did. I didn’t choose to react that way, it chose me. It has become natural and second-nature. There is no other way.

When you find yourself stressed, angry or resentful stop and reassess. What if you could see from the perspective of the other? We all perceive what we project. Project love and forgiveness and compassion and that is what you will see in return. Once you see it you can not unsee it.

Dave Matthews gets it. He reminds me to leave Where The Wild Things Are and to come back to where I want to be; surrounded by love. Because love, love… what more is there?

Pig

Dave Matthews Band

Isn’t it strange
How we move our lives for another day
Like skipping a beat
What if a great wave should wash us all away
Just thinking out loud
Don’t mean to dwell on this dying thing
But looking at blood
It’s alive right now deep and sweet within
Pouring through our veins
Intoxicate moving wine to tears
Drinking it deep
Then an evening spent dancing it’s you and me

This love will open our world
From the dark side we can see a glow of something bright
There’s much more than we see here
Don’t burn the day away

Is this not enough?
This blessed sip of life, is it not enough?
Staring down at the ground
And then complain and pray for more from above

You greedy little pig
Stop, just watch your world trickle away
Oh it’s your problem now
It’ll all be dead and gone in a few short years

Just love will open our eyes
Just love will put the hope back in our minds
Much more than we could ever know
Don’t burn the day away

Come Sister, my Brother
Shake up your bones, shake up your feet
I’m saying, open up and let the rain come pouring in
Wash out this tired notion that the best is yet to come
But while you’re dancing on the ground don’t think of when you’re gone

Love! Love! What more is there?
’cause we need the light of love in here
Don’t beat your head
Dry your eyes
Let the love in there
There are bad times
But that’s ok
Just look for the love in it

Don’t burn the day away

Look…
Here are we,
On this starry night staring into space
And I must say I feel as small as dust lying down here

What point could there be troubling
Head down wondering what will become of me
Why concern, we cannot see
But no reason to abandon it
Time is short but that’s all right
Maybe I’ll go in the middle of the night
Take your hands from your eyes, my love
All good things must come to an end sometime, but
Don’t burn the day away…

Come Sister, my Brother
Shake up your bones, shake up your feet
I’m saying, open up and let the rain come flooding in
Wash out this tired notion that the best is yet to come
But while you’re dancing on the ground don’t think of when you’re gone

Love! Love! What more is there?
Cause we need the light of love in here
Don’t beat your head
Dry your eyes
Let the love in there
There are bad times
But that’s ok
Just look for love in it

And don’t burn the day away

Don’t burn the day