You know the phrase: “It ain’t rocket science.” Well, thank goodness, it’s not. But, you know, it is sort of like rocket science. First, you count down. You anticipate; you cogitate; you wait for things to break and delay everything. When that happens, you put on your left brain thinking cap, solve some problems, and begin again where you left off. Then, if in the final minutes you avoid mechanical mishaps and attitudinal accidents, you flip some kind of psychological switch. You commit to playing this sucker out to the end, or at least until disaster strikes. You know the possibilities: Challenger, Apollo 13, or, if you are lucky, all those run of the mill Mercury missions. The Countdown is the easy part. A little nerve wracking, perhaps, but it’s the engagement, not the marriage.
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So let’s say, you march yourself through the countdown, next it’s fire. Ignition. All your neurons dancing toward a bright explosion. Damn, it’s loud. Structures shake and rumble. The heat builds, focuses itself, aims itself and pushes off the dull stasis of your poor miserable, immoveable life. Do you remember watching this moment on television. The announcer finishing the countdown and for a brief moment, all we could see was this bomb exploding, golden fire and white heat, pouring like a flood of flames between rocket and platform. This is what it takes to escape, to break free. This is not jumping or skipping or leaping or hopping. Breaking free requires a bomb, understood and aimed perfectly to propel you into something beyond. What’s holding you back?
It’s gravity that stops you, the pull of earth, the place you live, the place where your feet sink into the ground so deeply you can’t yank them out. It’s the weight of your life in this one place, settled and settling in you somehow, packed inside in ways that you never imagined. Each fact, each experience, each success and each death. It gets so heavy. Wow, heavy, dude! Don’t let it get you down.
Gravity is history. Doesn’t matter what kind of history. Are you happy? Do you look around your beautifully decorated house with fresh flowers from your garden? Oh, how could you give that up? Why would you want to change? Are you grieving? Does every drive down Lamar Boulevard remind you of the times you went dancing with your estranged wife or that so desperately enticing girlfriend that got away? Don’t let them get away. Don’t say goodbye. Are you ashamed? Can you just not forgive yourself for the fact that somehow you haven’t achieved the success you assumed was yours for the taking? Are you just going to stay put until, by god, you finish whatever it was you set out to do, even though now it seems so impossible? Are you proud? Do you strut through the office aware that you have become the thing we all wish to become—needed, essential? You are the one we all turn to for the nod, the yes, the green light. How could you step aside? You’re important: people say so. You have stock in the company and its price is rising. Buy, buy, buy!
I am all these things. My history, in Central Texas and in Austin, is one big, fat greasy casserole of all the major food groups that we call emotions. I am happy and I am grieving; I am ashamed and I am proud. I am all these things right here smack dap in the middle of 100+ degree July. And if I let them, these emotions, these weighty nuggets of personal history, will bake themselves into some kind magnetized anchor (Yes, I know I have committed the poetical sin of mixed metaphor, but I don’t see any other way to express this. It is all so dreamlike and nightmarish). Magnetized because the good times make you want to stay, to attract, to attach, to remain. Anchor because the bad times are so heavy and immobilizing.
So it takes a bomb, a ball of fire, to rip your grip from your reality, your history, your identity, to overcome gravity. Yes, you can count down. But you have to flip the switch, strike the match, and ignite the fuel that you have been sitting on for decades. Are you ready to rumble?
Soundtrack: Billy Joel: We Didn't Start the Fire