The Sum Of My Sorrows
This excerpt, written in Buenos Aires, is from my upcoming book:
Love, Death & Tango
It’s not so difficult to find joy in the natural environment; in traveling to the beaches and the mountains and the forests of the world. What’s not to love – to find happiness in – the sand beneath your toes, the sun on your face, the cool crunch of snow, the smell of pine needles, the sound of the waves? It’s easy to maintain a gentle flow of happiness when you’re on your own and your whole life is not overturned by someone else’s wishes. Or, to find joy and hope in the face of a newborn or a new love.
It’s not so easy to find joy in the squishing dog shit on broken pavement. Not so easy to sink peacefully into profound breathing meditation amongst constant traffic noise and exhaust fumes. It’s difficult to feel the natural flow of energy from the occasional tree trying to survive in a concrete jungle. It’s difficult to maintain joy when your friends are dying and your family is crying because you’re not there. New friends, you know, for the most part, are temporary as they drift through too. A new love, a strange and difficult new love, threatens to release its grip on the tenuous chord of life.
Moments of joy fleet by as you reach out to grasp and savor them while weighed down and held back by so many sorrows, so many ties to the past. You long for an unfettered future and a vigilance to maintain presence in the unmaintainable present. You desire to taste the joy, the happiness that comes so briefly like a kiss on the lips not leaving a trace, no scent. You are reminded always. If it were easy to be happy, easy to discover joy, there would be no search. It’s true that the search is essentially a journey inward and it is true that you can stay home and sit with your 20-year old surroundings and patterns and habits and search inside. No matter where you go – there you are – and the only thing that remains constant is what you have inside yourself. It is also true that with each new external adventure you gain new material to add to the inner mix. As you gain, so do you lose. The hardest thing to lose is someone you love. The hardest thing to let go of is a staunchly held belief. The hardest thing to release – is that which you want to keep.
So here I am, having made the journey to the end of the Earth to find something more. This time of mine for searching, for finding something new, for filling myself up has become a time of great loss and of emptying myself out. To lose what matters forces one to consider carefully that which really matters and only, only, only, focus on that. It becomes evident that there is no time to waste on the superficial and superfluous if one is to lead a conscious life. If one does not wish to touch that authenticity – by all means waste away – there is no shortage of ways to do so, no shortage of diversions and no shortage of people satisfied with going that route. I have engaged in diversions repeatedly, as living with sorrow requires regular escapes into fantasy or other forms of numbness.
But, so far, what I have found works best, the most honest, healthy and loving diversion, is dance; specifically the tango. It hasn’t always been easy to drag myself out of the abyss of self-pity and into a dance hall, but when I am successful I am rewarded for my effort. The load of my losses, not yet released from the shackles of my suffering and my restructuring, becomes lighter as I float across the dance floor in the embrace of my (sometimes anonymous) partner. I close my eyes and let him and the music take me to another place. It doesn’t matter who he is as long as he makes me feel safe, happy, young, and beautiful, even if only for one tanda. One short, sweet tanda after another and I make my slow journey back from the dead.