One year ago today, I was on my way to London.
The midnight after “Notes on a Conditional Form” was released, I texted Kailin, “How we feeling about the new 1975 album?” and thus ensued an intense conversation about postmodernism, lyrics, intimacy, all the “behind the song” cards included with each track in Spotify, interpretation, and the all-over-the-place nature of the album’s production.
We spent the most time on “If You’re Too Shy,” a song about which we have mixed feelings. I am sorry about the swear word. It happens, sometimes.
K: That’s probably gonna be the best song of 2020. But then I read his notes on it and liked it less.
E: I feel like he was about to get somewhere good, with critiquing internet substitutes for real-life connection, but then he lost me when he said there was no real connection with real-life intimacy. Like huh?
K: And then he said, how do we figure out internet intimacy and sexuality? And I’m like um?? We don’t?? Because it sucks??
E: Right!! He has some damn good observations but does the wrong thing with them.
K: Yes. Exactly. Not that I thought the lyrics “maybe I’d like you better if you took of your clothes” were super deep and special. The song is just fun.
I have tried and tried to write something, anything, about how difficult relational intimacy is, yet it always gets too personal too fast and I’m afraid of putting those things on the line. Which, I suppose, is the very problem I’m trying to articulate.
Once trust has been betrayed, in any number of potential forms, it takes a long, long time to remember what it means to trust somebody again. And I am thankful for the people who have helped me rebuild, but it’s hard, and there are always things that take me by surprise and send me right back to anger and regret and sorrow.
Maybe that’s what this whole life thing is: helping to rebuild each other.
Lord, I have spent more time thinking about my sin than about your mercy.
Lord, I have spent more time wallowing in my wounds than helping others heal.
Writing feels like spitting words out into the world and never knowing if people read them. Especially in an era of non-existent attention spans — where everybody is “famous” or wants to be, where most of the words spoken are not spoken in love, where it’s impossible to know who to believe or who to listen to — writing on the internet feels like a futile task. I’ve been reluctant to put together another blog post when it seems there are so many other things I should be saying or not saying.
And yet writing is a spiritual endeavor. It’s an attempt at putting broken pieces together, of paying attention to things that are difficult to notice unless we slow down, of sharing my little piece of earth with whoever happens to come alone.
I don’t want to write for the acclaim. There are many more, including my friends, who are far more worthy of publication and I will advocate and applaud for all their accomplishments. But sometimes I wonder what or who I write for. To write for myself seems pretentious or indulgent, yet necessary much of the time. To write for others so easily falls into the search for affirmation from places that can’t truly satisfy the depth of emptiness in my soul, which thirsts most of all for God.
Writing often feels like a form of vulnerability that I am afraid of in most other circumstances. It affords me and the reader some distance: I from the weight on the page and them from a response. The written word is a vessel of time suspended, and we need more and more of that in this fast-paced world.
I’ve been working on compiling a playlist called “Suburban Fatigue.” It sounds like smiles and dancing and wind and honesty. And hope. Always hope.
I am thankful for warmth, for summer days that stretch into evenings, for sleeping in on the weekends and waking up for work on the weekdays, for FaceTimes with friends that last for hours, for trees arching over a walking trail, for wide open spaces, for Haribo gummy bears, for used books that have stories besides the ones in their pages, for cold brew, for sending and receiving letters, for the neighbor’s cat that spends more time in our yard than theirs, for new music, for knowing that no matter where we are in the world our souls are still, somehow, connected.