The Things We Give Away...
I have been the one to give them away, and I have been the thing given. It is painful either way. I think in love it is more painful to be the one given away, at least that has been my experience, so far. I have learned to live with the heartbreak, but I have not gotten over it. It is just one of the many things I grieve every day. It fades with time, but some days, for no reason whatsoever, or on other days with good reason enough, I am back at the place where he cleaved my heart in two.
I saw the movie about Elvis’ life tonight. It was a heartbreaking story that started off with such promise. But fame, fame has a cost that no one seeking it could ever fathom. No one could ever know the price of becoming someone like Elvis. Not anyone, not ever.
All the jackals, willing to sell you out for their own gain, everyone all around. Never being sure who to trust, and who not to and getting it more wrong than you get right.
It hurt my heart that Elvis gave away his family. He loved his wife and daughter. He really did and they loved him. Really. But fame required that they be relegated to the scrap heap of humanity, the leftovers of fame. Priscilla had to leave, or consent to be consumed by the fickle, but deadly monster that is fame and fortune.
I know nothing of either really. And what I have seen of it, really make me quite relieved. I have totally given things away, people that I loved, people that mattered to me, for things or people that were not worth my effort. So I know a little about that.
And I also know about addiction and the hopeless spiral of despair that settles in and down upon you. The blackness creeping all around, so that all that it feels like all you have left is your ego and your desire to kill that part of you that never shuts up. That part that just chews on you all day long, comparing, judging, calling out. That part of you that seems, from the dialog you hear anyway, that part of you that really wants you dead. And you are only too wiling to oblige because the secrets you keep, the traumas you suffered, the pain you are in and cause, is just too much. Just too fucking much to make any positive, self affirming path possible. Oh, I know that road all too well.
I felt so sad for Elvis tonight. Heartbreaking what became of him, someone with a good heart, so talented, so kind, so loving. That his life became something that was so much larger than him, and he the slaughtered beast at the table upon which others fed, telling him all the while, that he was fine, he was not the main course. To just sit down and they would take care of everything. Only to find, in the end, that he was in fact what was always being served. And even when you are the king of fucking rock and roll, you can’t avoid or evade the fact that everyone wants a piece of you, and they will take it until there is nothing left for you, or anyone you love.
How does it happen that life sometimes makes us a tourist in our own lives, life proceeding on without us. And we too consumed with self to see exactly what is going on.
It broke my heart really. He is long dead. I know this, his suffering ended August 16, 1977. That was a long time ago. I wonder how so many other people make it out and seem to live normal lives: Johnny Cash seemed to figure it out after a very rough start. Paul Newman seems to have been able to figure it out. How not to let fame and fortune turn you into something you never wanted to be.
I found myself wondering just what constitution one must have to not give away ourselves, our loved ones, the things that matter to us most, in our pursuit of all that glitters. Elvis didn’t have it. Neither did Michael Jackson. Or John Belushi. Or Chris McFarland. So many talented, ridiculously talented people crashed and burned on the shores of their own success.
Addiction is a taker, who is completely capable of getting us to give away the things we love, and feel totally fine about it. I heard a man one time say, “I lost my family, my career, my material success to my addiction...” And I heard another man say, “well, I don’t think you lost them, so much as you gave them away...” God that killed me. I saw the difference in perspective. The first man being a victim in his own story, the second, seeing that he was the cause, and the only thing that could and would ever stop the forward march to his own grave...well, that and God I suppose.
But as I wrote yesterday, without cooperating with grace, we don’t stand a chance. Not even a tiny one.
God can and usually does allow for great events to come to pass, treatment opportunities, recovery options, but we so frequently refuse to cooperate because we don’t want to be without our phones or cars for a little while. We don’t want to follow rules that make us feel like children, even though, we behave more like little children than adults on any given day.
One of the last scenes of the movie, shows the estranged Priscilla begging Elvis to get treatment, having it all arranged, having it all secured and planned out for him. All he had to do was say yes. And he would have been spirited away to a place where maybe, just maybe, he could have lived a different ending. But I think Elvis had given up by then. That rebellious streak working against him instead of with him. He daunted by the years of abuse from the Colonel. The grief over his mother’s passing that he never really got over. His ego needing to be fed a steady diet of pills, drugs, women and adoration. No, in that scene I think Elvis had already left the building, we all just didn’t know it for another two years.
So another soul claimed. Another talented life force snuffed out too soon. Another family wasted on the perilous shores of addiction. Just another version of giving things away, the things we love, the people we depend upon, the lives that were once so full of promise, gone to a solution that only robs us blind. I know it seems hopeless. It is. Every single time.
I think of my own son today. Think of the fact that he will not have a senior photo to reflect back upon. That he will not live the rest of his minority with his family. That he has given away the love that we have shared, thrown it in my face, repeatedly. It used to make me angry, and perhaps, one day it will again. However, today I am just sad. Grieving the loss of my son, the son that shows so much promise. The handsome boy that is almost a man, chronologically, but still lives as if he is much younger. Unable to control his impulses, or mouth. Always, forever, believing everything he thinks. Giving away the things that he will likely only realize way too late are important, life affirming things like the love of his family, respect, a lovely place to grow up and call home, a school that loves him and stands willing to help him, grandparents who dote on him and are always there for him, a sister who has given him chance after chance, and a mother who loves him but can no longer afford to not see that all of these things, to include her, are likely just more of the things he will give away, repeatedly.
I pray that he wises up before he is dead. I pray that he finds himself in Alaska and can see all that he is missing. I can only pray for him and turn him over to his own version of God. His own personal Jesus if you will. Whatever benevolence there is in this world, I pray that you can do what I could not, stop him from giving away all the things he loves, to include me.
“Wise men say, only fools rush in, but I can’t help, falling in love with you...”
Kind of seems like the Alanon’s theme song, does it not?