I had to find it. — All things go.
In 2012, when I first got sober, I played Sufjan Steven’s album, The Avalanche, upwards of a thousand of times while I drove my car all over Portland, inhaling and exhaling countless Parliament cigarettes. Smoke trailed from my nicotine stained fingers, out of the rain-spotted-car-window, into the wet Oregon air. The song “Chicago,” in one of its three album versions, was always on repeat — singing out an impossible promise — “All things go.”
Back then, I was sure — nothing was ever going to go. Not the feeling of dread, or the pain, or the loss. And, certainly not the heaviness of that world. In the early days of sobriety, everything felt so permanent. But, in my car, with my windows rolled down and my cigarettes and my Sufjan, I clung to the few, small things I did have. And, those little bits allowed me to hold the small belief that, if I just kept driving — eventually — I’d arrive somewhere.
Two days ago, and nearly three years later, it happened. — All things went.
I felt some kind of magic pulse through the concrete under my boots. The sky shone a strange hue I’d never seen before. And, in a second, after years of waiting for something I was certain would never come, I returned to a place of surety I’d left behind long, long ago.
After three years of stepping in and out of the same puddle, I stood there, on the sidewalk, in my muddy shoes and I let an unseasonal sun, warm my tired, soggy feet. Inexplicably free from all my old chains, I felt it. — I was no longer waiting. Not for anything or anyone. Not anymore.
It’s all arrived. Everything. And, the things that I thought would never go — went.
The pain dulls slowly. But, its memory is now the innocuous thing that reminds me that I am stronger and more beautiful than ever before. I don’t let tiny words hit me like big arrows. I’ve worked hard. I’ve earned my place. And, in this place — I’m free to just let go.
Of course, there’s the actual letting go. The act of releasing all the crap that holds us captive. — The meaning we’ve assigned to things and people. And, that shit takes time. Time that moves slower than any clock or calendar would have you believe. It requires blood. And, your heart will bleed. My heart bled. For years, red trails followed me from my apartment to my car to my office and back to my bar stool. But, more than ever, here, now, I know — wounds will heal. Blood, clots.
The people and the places I lost along the way — I was meant to lose them. But, every faded face and weathered park bench gave me something. They are the rings of my tree. The substance of my bark. All that time is built into my body and allows me to stand, unmoving, when the wind would beg me sway. And all that blood I spilled — it’s just the old sap I pulled up from an almost-dry land.
Clouds move with the wind off the Cascades. Some days, we are gifted an unseasonal sun. And, on those days — I drive. I roll down my car windows, and, with almost two years cigarette-free, I blast Sufjan at max-volume. I put my arm out the window and I cut the warm air on the Burnside Bridge with the side of my flattened, airplane hand.
I had to find it.
All things go.