Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Redemption in a Skinned Knee


“Now there’s a loss that can never by replaced,

A destination that can never be reached,

A light you’ll never find in another’s face,

A sea whose distance cannot be breached



Well Jesus kissed his mother’s hands

Whispered, “Mother, still your tears,

For remember the soul of the universe

Willed a world and it appeared.”



(“Jesus Was an Only Son” by Bruce Springsteen, Devils and Dust Album)



“Just because you are no longer here, doesn’t mean that you are not with me.  Just because I can no longer see you, look into your eyes, reach out and touch your cheek or hear the lovely lilt of your voice, doesn’t mean that you no longer continue to reside in my thoughts.  You always have a place within my heart, for as long as I am.”



For sure, we all get caught up sometimes in the tumult of emotions and the play of our internal dramas.  I know myself I experienced weeks of intense emotion, reacting too quickly, forgetting to pay attention and pause for a deep breath, or even any breath at all, forgetting to collect myself and correct my emotional course.  Good and bad, joy and sadness, accomplishment and disappointment marked these last days for me.  I just pop like a firecracker at times, particularly with my adolescent teenage boys, like I cannot believe that the house is trashed, their clothes strewn all over, and dishes unwashed.  I just wonder when it will be easier, when someone will be with me to take some of the strain away.  Then I realize that may or may not ever happen.  All that there is, is what is at the moment, just as last night when I went to my bed, very much alone, and didn’t wish or dream about something being different.  I said my nighttime prayer, my reality mantra – “I am in my bed, I am alone, I am okay.”  Sleep arrived quickly, and I slept well that night.  

One minute I would feel some happiness like when The Buffalo News published my essay I had submitted.   The next moment, I would feel completely broken and sad about our humanity like this damn pointless shooting at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.  I feel frustrated and fatigued by my work and doubt about the job I am doing as a mom.  Then there's this perpetual disappointment in love; I recently had to say goodbye to someone and my attachment to a reality or outcome that would never be. 

And yet, through all of this sadness that continues to break my heart, I get the sense, however subtle and hard to pin down, that my heart actually is opening up more to others, to my world, to our world and it feels compassion for my fellow human beings. All of these feelings and concepts just seem to slip through my fingers like a fine dust of sand.  They arrive, then are gone.
Who isn’t afraid when life just gets too hard with our storylines and habitual patterns tucked in there next to the pearl of love and natural goodness?   The jewel surrounded by the watery, fluid muck of our lives and fears.  It is so dirty and stifling in there, in our hearts that break over and over and over again.

There is a great big hole; it is called the heart…gaping, open, and so tremendously alive.  It is alive because we are alive, still breathing, heart-beating, fearful, loving human beings.

And I know I just feel so much sadness right now deep to my core.  Sadness and wakefulness are constant companions residing side by side in my heart.  It is as if there is an imperative to follow why I came to this earth to begin with; not only finding the purpose, but excavating through all the muck and mire and following that purpose all the way to its end, to my end.

The New Yorker is releasing its latest edition and in it is a lengthy essay on Bruce Springsteen,  singer, songwriter, poet, with whom I have identified over half my life.  He is so affecting and impactful on my generation, and generations before and after, impacting literally millions and millions. All I know is that his songs, his words, his poetry defined me as a young woman and still hit the mark of my heart.  As a young woman so afraid yet completely trusting in love and connection of my raw inner being, I felt his words enter me and define my very young existence.  They never really let me go.  They still reside within the inner recesses of my humanity.  I knew even then that I had an embattled soul, a good soul that wanted to make a difference in this world.  The world I remember as a young person was a city in decline, steel industry shutting down all around us as I made my way through high school and college and first fell in love. 

His songs defined my first love and have never left me alone.  From that ride to my first Springsteen concert in my boyfriend’s Oldsmobile Firenza to The Aud to see Bruce sing, play and dance for over three hours in September 1984, my second year at Canisius College.  I can still see the two of us going through the drive--thru at Burger King in South Buffalo on South Park Avenue before the concert.  We arrived in our seats and danced and sang till we were soaked in sweat.  Nothing matter more than feeling that music, feeling our youth, feeling our love and feeling one another. 

Why relive all of this?  The reason is because there is no one like Bruce who gives all he has, takes himself to the edge, the edge of sanity, the edge of madness, the edge of love, the edge of his heart and hands it all back to us.  To those of us who really care, who are willing to break our own hearts open next to his brokenness and feel the collective love and beat of his verse and rhythm.  It means something to all of us who click with him; he is the bard of our generation.

I read the words of The New Yorker as a spiritual experience.  I identify with his depression as I identify with my own.  I feel the sadness, the brokenness, the redemption.  There is salvation in the madness; there is reconciliation in the rebellion.  There is no other way but forward and through our lives.

As the connection with another human being resonates and resounds through my own mortal existence, I acknowledge without shame how many times I keep the contact going because I really crave the human connection....it is out of loneliness, the desire to stay in contact and close communion with another, the desire to know another, to know myself.

As one chapter prepares to close, no matter how right it feels or how much we know it needs closing, it still stings.   A place in my driveway is empty; a place in my heart is empty. Just so empty and the truth is that no one gets it exactly how we feel but we have all felt it, the great big dry hole of emptiness in the center of our body.   The very act of emptying makes room, room in our hearts to be filled again, and possibly heartbroken once more. Just like fire clears away the scrub and underbrush and makes room for new growth in the forest, heartbreaks do the same; they make room for more love, for reaching into our hearts and handing them over to another.   There is a time for letting go and moving into the emptiness, and letting that emptiness come right back in.


Trying to ignore a broken heart is like trying to ignore the sting of a skinned knee.  It takes time to heal and little by little every day it begins to feel better.  But if you touch it too soon, it really smarts, a reminder to wait and give it some time to heal.  This is how Bruce and his music touch me, it is the balm on a stinging, living wound, perhaps the wounds and words of The Boss heal my own aching heart and for that I give thanks.





"Eight years in it feels like you're gonna die
But you get used to anything
Sooner or later it just becomes your life."

("Straight Time" by Bruce Springsteen from The Ghost of Tom Joad album)

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