Yeah, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah, we all shine on
On and on and on
On and on
– Instant Karma! by John Lennon
It was my birthday weekend. I was 23, which rounds up to 25, which made me solidly an adult – a feeling I liked very much. We were taking four whole days in the mountains at a cozy, romantic, little place. Driving up in my newly-acquired, fast, sleek, and shiny sports car, there was a sense of happy anticipation.
Which dissolved almost instantly upon arrival.
“Check the address again,” he said. “I don’t think this is the right place.” He got out, looked around, and slammed the car door.
I can honestly say that I really didn’t care what the place looked like or what the amenities were. But I did care that he cared and he was upset. He’d gone to a lot of trouble planning this big weekend and it was clearly not what he’d imagined for us. It was not a quaint cabin in the resort area, it was a regular house in a regular neighborhood away from all of the fun stuff. The walls were not knotty pine, they were dull paint with 20-year old wallpaper. Instead of a cozy fireplace, there was a smelly wall heater. At every turn, every new discovery, his jaw tightened. Me? I just kept my mouth shut. By that time, I was getting pretty good at keeping my mouth shut.
And then I tried making it better.
“You know, this will be OK. Maybe it’s not what the rental agency promised, but it’s kinda cute.”
“It’s a dump,” he said. “They ripped me off.”
“Well, let’s make the best of it. We’re here in the mountains and there’s snow and we can still do everything we’d planned.”
“Yeah, I guess.” A bit less tension. It’ll be OK.
Then we got in the car, went out for pizza, and stopped to pick up a few groceries for breakfast. The mood was lighter and we laughed and romance blossomed for a while.
The mattress was thin and lumpy and the heater went out in the middle of the night and neither of us slept much, but we were determined to ignore the inconveniences and got dressed to go skiing.
And then my car wouldn’t start.
Yeah, those British imports are finicky. So instead of skiing, we spent the day finding someone who could work on my somewhat rare little car. Eventually, a tow truck came and we got the estimate (ouch!) and the news that we’d be without a car two whole days. So we took a taxi to the casino where he had too many free drinks and spent too much money trying to win enough to pay for the trip and fix my car.
And then it all became my fault. If you’ve ever had this kind of argument, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you can’t imagine how crazy and frustrating it is. Your partner has messed up. He’s embarrassed. He feels bad. He feels wrong. He doesn’t like feeling wrong, therefore someone else must be to blame. The logical people, like rental agents and British sports car manufacturers, aren’t to blame – you are to blame. In ways that are too ridiculous to repeat. But it is a no-win situation.
On Monday night we find out the car is ready and decide to drive home early Tuesday since a storm’s coming so we probably shouldn’t plan on skiing. So he takes off in a cab early Tuesday morning to pick up my car. I finish packing our things and then turn on the television.
John Lennon is dead.
I’m only 23 and the whole world sucks. I’m cold. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep three nights in a row. It’s my birthday, he’s is mad at me, and I didn’t do anything wrong, dammit. And John Lennon is dead and the whole world is crazy and some maniac killed the great creative genius of our time and what made me think a relationship with this insane person was ever a good idea? We drive home in silence and I have a horrible thought: If God were to come to me right this second and say that He’d bring John Lennon back if I’d trade in this guy’s life, I would do it right now.
It was a going to the Dark Side moment for me. I’d been angry before, but I’d never really wished someone would just disappear forever.
Looking back, he was actually quite a bit like John Lennon. Outrageously creative, wickedly funny, charming, provocative and all of those good things…and ill-tempered, jealous, petty and all of those not-so-good things. In the end, I found it impossible to be his Yoko Ono (love that BNL song) but I applaud the woman who could because we all need love. In fact, John reminded us love is all you need.
And the point is this: bad things happen in life. Some you cause. Some you don’t. Maybe you’ve made some mistakes in life. But those mistakes don’t have to mess up the rest of your life. Every day is a new chance to do things right. It can be (Just Like) Starting Over. And if you really look at things, the good still outweighs the bad and life is still worth living. And it gets a little better all the time.
So don’t mourn the death of John Lennon and the 30 years that we’ve missed – celebrate that there was a John Lennon in the world in the first place and all that he gave us.
Because life is art and art is life, and being alive is a good thing. It’s crazy, messy, disappointing, mean, ugly, and pointless while at the same time being joyous, clear, beautiful, fulfilling, and deeply meaningful. And to really live it, you have to learn to be there with every part of it, savor every bit, and be truly alive.
So shine on, my friends.