I suppose it comes as no surprise that the last few weeks for me have been surreal, a word implying a state of heightened non-reality, not unlike the sensation of a very weird dream.
Except you don’t awaken from it, to coffee and renewed clarity. Rather, popular culture moves in mysterious ways, and experiences bleed into each other. The real and the unreal collide.
By mid-February, we knew my mother was dying. Around the same time, owing to Leadership SI activities and topical local debates, I was being immersed in information about the opioid addiction epidemic in Southern Indiana and related public health issues.
In the middle of it, a friend proposed that we attend the U2 show in June at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Tickets were purchased, and for the first time in years, I listened to the band’s 1987 album, “The Joshua Tree,” which will be performed in its entirety at the gig.
With all these things percolating in my brain, one of the songs unexpectedly grabbed me.
“Running to Stand Still” is a song by rock band U2, and it is the fifth track from their 1987 album, The Joshua Tree. A slow ballad based on piano and guitar, it describes a heroin-addicted couple living in Dublin’s Ballymun flats; the towers have since become associated with the song.
I’ve known the story for years, and at first there was an obvious connection with the opioid discussion. The song kept floating back to me when prompted by news items about the proposed halfway house on Spring Street, or the city council’s efforts to segregate treatment.
It’s been a week since mom died, and yesterday the song started playing again in my head, as though somehow possessing renewed relevance. It occurs to me that “running to stand still” aptly describes what I’ve been doing to myself these past seven days.
Without thinking about it, I’ve responded to my mother’s death just as she’d have done herself, by trying to wrestle mortality to the ground through sheer organization — the communications, the notifications, the arrangements, the obituary, and the collating of archives.
All the while, I’ve been obsessing over all sorts of personal deadlines to finish this, read that, learn twice as much as before, and begin whole new projects without any clear plan to finish them.
Hamster, meet wheel.
The obvious problem with me trying to organize my way out of grief is that while she easily could manage it, I’m just lost in the weeds. My standard joke is that it’s never been a problem for me to get organized, just to remain organized.
There is no neat and tidy conclusion to this rumination. I imagine that we all cope with loss as best we can, each in his or her own way. As such, I’m deeply thankful for your comments and condolences, especially from those who have recounted tales from the home economics classroom.
These resonate with me.
That’s all for now.