"A Sky Full of Lighters"
It's a song my son likes to listen to on the radio when we are in the car on our way to tennis... which seems like it's happening more and more frequently every week - but that's a-whole-nother blog. A few lines in that song by Eminem, Bruno Mars, and Royce Da 5'9 (don't ask; I have no idea who that is or what those words means) jarred me out of my "Oh, Lord, what is he listening to now?" stupor the first time I heard them. Here they are:
This one's for you and me, living out our dreams
We're all right where we should be
Lift my arms out wide I open my eyes
And now all I wanna see
Is a sky full of lighters
A sky full of lighters
I've often wondered what it felt like to stand on a stage in front of a swaying audience, looking out on a crowd of smiling faces, seeing people with one arm wrapped around the next person and the other arm raised up with that hand clutching a lighter. Every one of those twinkling flickers swaying to the left and to the right along to the beat of the song. Every one of those twinkling flickers representing a fan, a follower, someone who loves your music or your performance, your talent, your gift. I suppose the temptation is to believe that every one of those twinkling flickers represents someone who loves you. But that's unlikely, because most of the people holding those lighters don't know you.
They spent money on the ticket to come hear you sing, but they've never spent time to come hear you cry. They bought your cd online or a few songs in itunes, but they haven't bought the right to hold you close when you don't feel like singing. They wear your tee shirts, ball caps, and post links to your videos on youtube, but they have no idea how lonely you feel when the cameras are off and the fine clothes you wore on that stage are back in the tour bus armoire.
I won't lie; I've had my moments of wishing I could look out onto an appreciative, swooning crowd and watch them sway dreamily while I teach a soul-stirring session of journaling as a spiritual discipline, but so far, none of my classes has stood to its feet, lighters in hand. I've had my moments of wishing I could stand offstage at a James Taylor concert or an Oprah Winfrey event and watch the crowd sway to his bluegrass tunes and her belly laughter after a particularly lively exchange with her other friend, Gayle. I've even had dreams of being a personal friend of Roger Federer (who, in my dreams, was both easy to talk to and a joy to watch interacting with his wife and children) and Tiger Woods (who definitely did not take the sage advice I offered him in my dreams). To step into a limo with those two world-class athletes, to walk with them through crowds of screaming fans and know that they had chosen to confide in me - those fleeting, nocturnal mirages are about as close to looking out into "a sky full of lighters" as I am likely to get.
Earlier today as I listened to that song in the minivan for the umpteenth time, this time on the way to the chiropractor for mother and son spinal and cervical adjustments, I had another thought - what if a sky full of lighters is not necessary after all? What if a room full of lighters or, better yet, a Starbucks table full of lighters is all that is called for? Just two friends, two confidantes, each holding up the light of love, a listening ear, a non-judgmental spirit, even a few moments of silence, bathed in the light of mercy and forgiveness and soul prayer - that's about all the light anyone needs these days. Perhaps I should speak for myself.
During the past few weeks, I have had the high honor of walking through the valley of the shadow of many dark and ominous things with a handful of dearly beloved friends. Illusions lost. Relationships ending. Hope drained. Magical thinking abandoned. Loved ones sick or dying. Jobs lost. Futures uncertain. Fear. Doubt. Regret. Sorrow. Loneliness. Pain. Concern. Anguish. Questions, so many questions.
I have made time to sit with them, to write to them, to call them on the phone, to drink tea or coffee with them, to go for walks with them. I don't travel with a lighter, but at some point during each exchange with my dear ones, I have felt my heart light up, the warmth of soul heat rising up through my chest, into my mouth erupting in the form of a smile, into my eyes erupting in the form of a tear, or into my hands erupting as an email written through vision distorted by the aforementioned tears.
I know how lonely you feel because I have felt lonely myself. I know how fearful you feel because I too have been desperately afraid. I too have watched a loved one contorted with pain and suffering in the hospital. I too have been paralyzed with fear over the loss of an income. I too have despaired over the loss of love and companionship in a long-term relationship. My lips move involuntarily with yours as you cry aloud, "Why does this have to be so hard?" "Why does it have to end this way?" "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" "Why has she forsaken me?" "Why has he forsaken me?" My soul sways to the words of your lament.
And I salute your strength, your determination, your longing for another chance at peace, at wholeness, and at healing. I applaud you as you search for the job you need, a new place to live in quietness and rest, for taking the first, unsteady step towards a new horizon, for dreaming a bigger and broader dream, for not giving up on finding the refuge and fortress you desperately need to shield you from the harm and danger you have endured for too long.
To each of you, I raise a banana daiquiri and offer these rewritten lyrics as a toast, as a prayer:
You're right where you need to be
I lift my arms out wide
Now all I want you to see
Is me waving my lighter
Yes, I'm waving my lighter
Peace be with you. Deep peace.
All shall be well, my dear.