Song #21 // First Aid Kit, “My Silver Lining” [Stay Gold]

First Aid KitIt’s an awful feeling: the travel, the sacrifice, the pressure, the awkwardness, the expectation, the hopes, the waiting, the news, the disappointment, the guilt. And it’s become an annual tradition.

Last year I flew to Chicago in the middle of the infamous Polar Vortex. Interviewed with one school in a cramped hotel room, my chair, mismatched, placed in front of the hallway in which I came. I thought it went well. I really did. I didn’t. A few days later, back in San Francisco, I received the news and literally thought my life was ending. I had no hope. No future.

This year, just this week, I repeated the same process in a new place: Vancouver, different school, chair in the corner this time. Though I didn’t think it went well. The people, well, it just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t tell if it was ignorance or arrogance that had someone from a different field currently doing the job they’d want me to do. I kinda knew. But I didn’t. But then I did. My daughter was on my lap as I opened the message on my laptop.

But this year felt a bit different. No immediate loss of hope. No immediate sense of doom or a lack of future. Maybe the drugs help. Maybe I’ve matured to realize it’s not the end. Or maybe I’m just used to it.

What’s most striking about this process during this time of year is that it’s a new year with new classes. Optimism should reign, and instead I have to fake it. And it’s cold. And the sun comes down in slanted rays. Last year we introduced our daughter to a new nanny, her first. This year a new nanny, with my same mix of guilt and anxiety and fear. Last year I drove around listening to The Tragically Hip’s “Nautical Disaster” on repeat. It sorta helped. This year I’m just gonna keep reading, and playing, and moving forward. As I’ve said in a past post: what other choice do I have?

Almost exactly one year ago I also penned this poem. It’s gone unrevised so it’s not in the best of shape. But the sentiment is there. I think that’s worth something.

“January Triptych”

I.

Unusual
for this time of year
the temperatures so cold
well, that,
and the wind-
chill (to say nothing of the blowing snow)
they cancelled school
and work and special events
It’s only the first week
of the new year, not even,
and the snow has surpassed
last year’s totals

No one went out
and no one was happy

At just over 5”
it was the driest year
on record in San Francisco
unusual
and this time of year
the street corners look
like Christmas tree lots, or
miniature manicured forests
Some you pass and you
get the scent of sweet sap
Some you pass and they
just look dead, not even dying
I took ours to the corner
in broad daylight
which may be against some code
I abandoned it, didn’t
look back
When I got home there was
a hole where it used to be
and pine needles
everywhere
I tried to forget it
did errands
throughout the neighborhood
but each time I circled
our block I’d see it
standing alone still
with its familiar shape
and spaces
where we hung our memories

II.

I walked home crying
in broad daylight
breaking some unwritten code
of how men should act
We’d been together
for over six months
some days
every waking hour, literally,
and when my disappointments came
as they tend to do
this time of year
she made it not matter
even though
I knew it mattered more
for her
than me
eventually, but I gave her away
left before the goodbyes
because I knew I couldn’t take it
Took a picture of her
and Shannon walking
down the street
like some first day of school
like a happy time
like we all agreed to this

When I got home
I wiped my eyes and read
an email notifying me of another
rejection, no explanation
as if the entire world
and all those within it
are telling me something
telling me the same thing
about how what I’m doing
isn’t working

III.

Tomorrow I teach again
and hide my eyes
I filled up the car
saw our tree
hoping expecting that maybe
someone would take it home
so it would no longer be
my problem my guilt
Scanning then I hear
the worst song about missing someone
“I ain’t missing you”
or something like that
the song that dawned on me
years after first hearing it
as a child
that he did miss her, it was ironic
but there’s nothing metaphoric
about a line
“like a telegraph to your soul”
and still I keep listening
like in that first time
suddenly ashamed that I
let it speak to me
so obvious
so literal
such arbitrary breaks

Of course
this is not my story
but it was
and no one
not anything
is working today
except this stupid song