in Notes of Encouragement, Resilience

When there’s nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire. — Stars, “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”

When I owned my shoe shop, we listened to Pandora every day. The songs eventually would become white noise, but occasionally, one would seem to blare louder than the rest. One day I stopped in my tracks, hearing: “When there’s nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire.” This haunting song by Stars describes the shock of encountering a former lover for the first time; and it was the echoing lead-in that resonated with me, along with the thrice-repeated refrain: “Live through this and you won’t look back.”  

I couldn’t get that song out of my head and listened to it on repeat for days. The words were so haunting to me but also a comfort, as I so connected with the idea of setting myself on fire and not looking back.

I distinctly remember driving to meet a girlfriend for lunch, playing that song in the car, and would you believe that, on that very day, for the first time in the four years since our divorce, in that little, big town of Nashville, I ran into The Former. It all happened in a flash. I think we were both so stunned to be confronted with one another that we merely said a short “hi,” and he moved on like a passing fog. And just like that, a moment I had dreaded happened without emotion or fanfare. I turned back to my turkey burger and my lunch companion, like someone had bumped into me from behind, more a distraction than a devastation.

When I got in the car, I did as most would in such a poignant moment – I called my Mom. “Well, you didn’t turn into a pillar of salt,” she said. Again, just like the song said: “Live through this and you won’t look back.”

I don’t believe I have ever looked back, but I have needed reflection so I could build a new foundation after all that burning. A man once educated me on the controlled burning he practices on his property every so often. You see, fire is a necessary part of nature. When grasslands or woodlands become overgrown and choked with nonnative plants, a carefully controlled burn will kill the invaders and leave native vegetation to thrive, as their deep roots are strong and capable of withstanding the heat.   

I began the Practice of Resilience when I was willing to submit to a period of intense self-examination and reflection to understand just how the hell I had found myself in this mess. I then had to take that incredibly naive young woman, who lived in complete denial of the truth of her reality, and metaphorically set her on fire so I could become the woman I was meant to be.

You will begin The Practice of Resilience when you commence the scariest part: striking the match, the first step over the threshold of possibility. Live through this, and you won’t look back.

You are loved.