Posted by: facetothewind | March 5, 2010

Trading in Tragic…or how I opened the door to an old friend

From Bruce Hornsby’s Mandolin Rain:

I’ll do my time
Keeping you off my mind but there’s moments
That I find, I’m not feeling so strong
Listen to the mandolin rain
Listen to the music on the lake
Listen to my heart break every time she runs away

Several years ago, when the enneagram was enjoying its brief moment on the main stage of the self-help movement, I determined that I was a 4: the ‘Tragic Romantic.’ So was Adolf Hitler. I don’t find this a particularly comforting discovery as I sit on the verge of a summer spent in Deutschland Deutschland. (I guess I can see how Hitler created the tragic opportunities for so many millions, but the ROMANTIC? He married his bride and then promptly committed suicide with her. How romantic.)

Ah but I digress. My point is that I’m about to face 2 months without my diminutive (but not insignificant) Sebastian as he heads back to his Teutonic homeland. Really, I know people have had to endure worse. But as a Tragic-Romantic I find it easy to focus on the sadness, slipping into prolonged melancholic states at the piano singing Taize for one, staring at Sebastian’s empty desk, clutching a t-shirt left behind to inhale any remnants of his scent while blotting my tears.

It dawned on me the other day that perhaps I didn’t need to go there. Wirklich? Let me explain. I am surrounded by new age doctrine — my best friends, my housemate, my tenants. They all subscribe to a philosophy that I don’t: the one that says you can choose your feelings…that you can choose to react a certain way and if you can choose tragedy, then you could also choose joy. There’s even a calendar placed in the kitchen by my delightful housemate that reminds us all each month about living in the present.

I tend to think more along the lines of the great Eastern European and Jewish traditions: react with as much drama as possible and always see the worst possible outcome. And don’t forget about the past while simultaneously dreaming of the future. The present? Bah! ‘Melting into the present moment’ is nothing more than a platitude used to keep the masses from raging against their unpleasant circumstance.

And so, each month I look at the calendar while frying up my turkey bacon and roll my eyes, worrying about the future and lamenting the past.

Let me now go read March’s posting. Wait, wait just a moment. Here it is the first week of March and someone forgot to flip it from February’s dictum of living in the present. Perhaps someone was living in the past and fearing the present? Ahem.

OK, so I turn the page to March and here’s what it says:

“Most people find it difficult to believe that a state of consciousness totally free of all negativity is possible. And yet this is the liberated state to which all spiritual teachings point.”

OK. Let me step into the spiritual fitting room and try this on for size. You mean to tell me that two months without Sebastian could be spun in a positive way? When Sebastian leaves on March 16, if I were to choose a positive outlook I wouldn’t get to sing by myself at the piano, I wouldn’t have melancholy meanderings in the desert at sunset, I wouldn’t have prolonged periods of self-reflection and creativity. I wouldn’t have the much-needed emotional release of a good cry. Now, why would I do THAT? Why would I deprive myself of that richness?

There is nothing more insufferable than someone (usually an American) who puts on the same blank, happy face for all occasions. “Oh my house just burned down and my kid got run over — Great! This is an opportunity for me to avoid my negative thinking.” No it’s not. It’s an opportunity to be real. I think this is where we in the West stand to learn a thing or two from the veiled grieving women of the Middle East we see each night on the news wailing over their dead sons and husbands. Isn’t that the essence of being present?

That romantic loneliness I will soon be revisiting has been my steadfast and loyal companion my whole life, only briefly interrupted by the arrival of Sebastian a year ago. Would I turn my back on my old friend for the placating pleasantries of constant companionship? HELL yes! But am I afraid to welcome back my sad-faced friend? I’m trying to not be.

Still, I’m willing to consider re-contextualization — more out of compassion for my friends who might feel burdened by my melancholy. We all love the creative output of depressed people but let’s face it, no one loves a sad bag as dinner company. But to take that new age doctrine and spin it my own direction, being present is in fact ‘honoring’ (to use their word) my sadness and living authentically. It would be disingenuous of me to put on a happy face and pretend that I don’t profoundly miss my little German boyfriend. And so being present to the sadness is in fact a creative, if circuitous path toward happiness. In fact, I know of no other way. Being present sometimes means facing the harshness of a moment and embracing it.

And so as we count down the days to my beloved’s departure and plan our tradition of saying goodbye in high places, this time I know that come March 16, it means a return to an old self for a while…an all too familiar one. When that old sad bag shows up at the door, I plan to be present.

And what will I do the minute my little boyfriend leaves? Raise the bicycle seat.



  1. David, what a beautiful, tender tribute to the lovely Sebastian and the wonderful life you two have crafted together.

    Of course you will be sad (I’m totally with you on the philosophy stuff). But you will also see him again, and will be able to cross off those dates on the calendar, as well, the ones that lead you closer to him.

    What a gift when we find love. We want to hold onto it, as we should. But there is wisdom in some of those old platitudes . . . such as, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

    Indeed it does. And indeed it will.

    (P.S. Get rid of the turkey bacon! Bad stuff. No kidding. It’s way less nutritious and way full of more crapola than the real thing.)

  2. Dear David, love your blog! I feel for your impending separation from the lovely Sebastian. I know only too well what it is like. Gillian is currently preparing to move back to FL as we speak. Her departure date is April 6th and we don’t actually know when we’ll see each other again! She’s going back indefinitely. If only we knew it was only 2 months – that would be easy! As you know, I am not able to live in the US of A due to your government’s archaic and discriminatory immigration policy.
    The house is currently a wreck of boxes – we’ve lived together here for close to 10 years so there is a lot of stuff to sort through and April the 6th looms ever closer. We are trying to find the positive’s but it is really not easy. It’s really not easy to wave goodbye to the one you have loved and cared for and adored for the past 10 years. We pray for a miracle and I am not a praying kind a gal!
    Much love xx
    Nic in Australia

  3. What a wonderfully poetic tribute to love, David. It makes your writing glisten!

  4. I m typing this with tears in my eyes Beanie! You are so beautiful and I am always amazed of how you can put into words what is so authentic for you!
    I will honor having many dinners with a sad bag if it’s you David!
    When are you coming here?
    Give Sebastian a big hug.

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