It was October of 2001. The infamous Sept 11th had just happened. I found myself really terribly alone for the first time in my life in Los Angeles of all places, where one can feel the most alone in the most crowded of rooms. I decided to pack up what I could fit in my car and drive to Denver where my brother was attending grad school at Denver Seminary. I was mostly planning to stay with him a few days and regroup – possibly going back to LA but leaning toward going back to NY. That trip was just about the shortest 24 hour period in my life. I was so wired, from caffeine, angst, despair, longing and aching, that I drove probably at the fastest speeds I have ever driven up to and since then, and I made record time.
And the entire trip I listened to one album start to finish over and over and over. Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory.
I look back on it now and smile. What a dork. But it makes total sense. Listening to the whole album again years later, I would realize that I was fixated on the angst and pain of the lyrics, blended with noise and dissonance and everything I was feeling.
I don’t know what set me off first
But I know what I can’t stand
Everybody acts like the fact of the matter is
I can’t add up to what you can
Everything you say to me
Takes me one step closer to the edge
And I’m about to break
I need a little room to breathe
Cause I’m one step closer to the edge
I’m about to break
– One Step Closer
When things go wrong I pretend the past isn’t real
Now I’m trapped in this memory
And I’m left in the wake of the mistake, slow to react
So even though you’re close to me
You’re still so distant
And I can’t bring you back
– With You
There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface
This lack of self-control I fear is never ending
Controlling/I can’t seem
To find myself again
My walls are closing in
(without a sense of confidence and I’m convinced that there’s just too much pressure to take)
I’ve felt this way before
I could probably post the entire album’s lyrics and you’d go, dear God, help this girl!! It was that kind of drive. I drove straight through the night, watched the sunset and the sunrise. Just me and some truckers and the occasional cop. And I sang at the top of my lungs, sometimes smiling, sometimes crying. If anyone was watching, it would have been a case study in lunacy.
Or not at all. It was textbook grieving. Grieving for people I didn’t even know or people I didn’t know were gone yet. An ex boyfriend I couldn’t get in touch with, people who may or may not have made it out of the towers. I was grieving for a general sense of loss and a specific sense of my personal loss of what you think will always be there. Something as seemingly permanent as the Manhattan skyline. Gone in a matter of moments.
And we know nothing is permanent. I attended a service in Denver where the speaker said something quite profound and beautiful. She talked about how this kind of destruction and chaos was a WAY OF LIFE for many people in the world and that we as Americans are so sheltered from it. Not as an excuse to just deal with the violence or as a kind of suck it up, don’t cry over spilled milk exhortation. But rather she was pointing out how countless others rise above on a daily basis, overcoming evil with good. That no matter what happens, our spirit will prevail because we are strong and resilient.
At the time, I thought here! here! huzzah and stuff! Say yes to the human spirit! We are invincible! hip hip hooray! Pass me a beer!
Years later though, her words would echo. Years later I would realize that it is the single greatest lie we tell ourselves – everything will be ok because we’ll make it ok. I learned the hard way – not so much. I was going to fail and that miserably. I was going to make colossal mistakes. I was going to screw up and fall flat on my face and sit with the pigs thinking even these pigs eat better than me. And just like the story Jesus told of that son who ran from home, a son of a wealthy man who gave him all he could ever need and want, I knew all I needed to do was go home and just try to serve my Father.
“I tried so hard and got so far
In the end it doesn’t even matter.
I had to fall to lose it all
In the end it doesn’t even matter.”
– In the end
The words can seem like a cop out. I’m giving up because it doesn’t matter. That’s how I felt at the time of that drive. That’s what I meant by it when I sang it at the top of my lungs driving down the interstate at 90 some mph in the middle of the night.
But fast forward to now and the words change their tune. The words become not a resignation to despair and meaninglessness, but rather an admittance of a larger truth that there is nothing, in the end, that matters. We build, we accomplish, we conquer, we achieve, we try. But in the end the things that last into eternity are simply what we have learned and how we have grown and whose lives we have touched.
But more than that, the words became this rallying cry of relinquishing my life to a Father who truly knows best. To a Father who cares about me, my soul, my body, my mind, my health, my ambitions, my dreams, much more than I do and much more than I used to give Him credit for. The truth of the matter was I realized I needed to stop trying so damn hard and to admit and accept the work HE has done on my behalf – to know that nothing I do will ever be enough, and that my only contribution is to admit my need of Him.
It hasn’t been and won’t ever be smooth sailing from here out. I pray that I won’t have that kind of epic drive any time soon, if ever. I was reminded of that drive as I was driving to the ER recently, but there was an overwhelming sense of hope where the Linkin Park album would not have had the same ring to it. Instead, I was singing “I need Thee every hour” and “There is a Peace that settles your soul” and in the midst of crisis and fear, I hear a still small voice instead of a screaming slightly off pitch one.
That’s not to say I don’t still love this song 🙂