“When the walls close in and it’s hard to breathe, may the ones you love be the ones you keep”Â – New Frontiers The Ones You Keep
I adore this lyric. It hails from one of those songs that hollows you out inside. If you’ve got some grief you’re aching to purge, click the link above and just try to stay out of the fetal position. Each time I let this one resonate in the cavern it dug in my chest, I feel breathless and weak. I shake with shame, knowing that I’ve violated its simple principle – I’ve allowed the earthly clamors to veil the very fundamental treasure that is so easy to capture, but only in hindsight – the premise that our existence here is fleeting, and that our relationships, no matter how defective, are really the only things that matter.
This song came to me at the perfect time in my life – I’d just lost a very dear friend and ex-love. This friend was one of those people you remember as “always being there for you.” And I mean in the dirtiest of hellholes. His very presence was one that invoked joy, peace, comfort. And I don’t think he ever knew this. No matter what we’d put each other through, we always connected at that visceral desperate place that only the dying can reach. It’s a terrifying mute region of hell that becomes a little less scary when you’ve got someone there with you. We took turns pulling each other out, then dragging each other down again. Nothing is more poignant than the moment you realize that the one you loved is the one that may end up destroying you… if you don’t destroy them first. Unless of course it’s the moment you realize that under all the destruction and fear lived a guardian and a saviour, if only human eyes could have seen it.
His death might have been my rebirth. It was him I prayed to when I didn’t know how to pray. It was him I called to when life was a tarpit of anguish, sorrow, and confusion. It was him I relied on in death, as I did albeit unsuccessfully in life, to save me. Why did I wait until he was gone to acquiesce to the patronage of a friend?
In the new chapters of my life, I have the chance to love again… for real this time. Not just sweet romantic flowery sentiment, but that deep corporeal yet chaste affection and surrender to something timeless and consequential. Taking people and life and circumstances for granted is not an option for me today. There’s no more “I’ll just try better tomorrow.” In the cracks between being gentle with myself and accepting nothing less than daily vigilance there lies a choice. And The New Frontiers’ wish for all of us feels clear:
“When you’re standing tall… when you’re cut off at the knees… may the ones you love be the ones you keep.”