Just Another Nervous Wreck

by Nola

I found my second-oldest brother in the garage filling a box. “Whachadoin?” “Moving out.” “No, really. What are you doing?” “Nola, really, I am moving out.” Back to that box being filled he went full of determination. He wasn’t remotely kidding. So what was an 11 year old girl to do? “Can I help?” He shrugged and allowed my help.

I never fully understood WHY he moved out. Something about disagreeing with my parents about religion and school and other teenaged-angst-filled issues. I remember most that no one in the family talked to each other about it. Just one day he was no longer living in the house. And I was the only one that seemed even affected by it. I am sure, in fact, I was NOT the only one affected. But with all that not-talking, it’s what it seemed like.

Weeks after he left, there were still things piling up that were his. And every so often, the pile would disappear as he’d return to claim those piles. One shoebox full of cassette tapes got added to a pile. In that shoebox was Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” album. When he came for his latest stash, I asked if I could have the Supertramp tape. He shrugged. And I plugged into that tape and have never unplugged.

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
oh joyfully, oh playfully watching me.
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, oh responsible, practical.
And then they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world’s asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.

I listened to the tape so much that first year that my third-oldest brother would tease me that when I died they’d bury the tape recorder and that album with me. And for the past 30 years, the thought of me alone in eternity with just “Breakfast in America” has given more comfort than I can explain logically.

I listened to it through high school, college, law school; the early days of my legal career; every romantic relationship I’ve had (when things got to the “Casual Conversations” level, it was always over); and now as a mother.

Ah, lately, I’m like a watch that’s over-wound.

Does it feel that your life’s become a catastrophe? Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy.

But the song that brings the very un-religious me to my knees, if I but let it, each time, every time is “Lord, is It Mine.”

I know that there’s a reason why I need to be alone
I need to find a silent place that I can call my own
Is it mine, Lord is it mine?

When everything’s dark and nothing seems right,
there’s nothing to win and there’s no need to fight

I never cease to wonder at the cruelty of this land
but it seems a time of sadness is a time to understand
Is it mine, Lord is it mine?

When everything’s dark and nothing seems right,
You don’t have to win and there’s no need to fight

If only I could find a way
to feel your sweetness through the day
The love that shines around me could be mine.
So give us an answer, won’t you,
We know what we have to do,
There must be a thousand voices trying to get through.

The song offers no answer. It’s really a cry for understanding. But there’s something immensely powerful to me—this collective need we all have to be able to claim a quiet place as our own; that we all get weary; that hope can be cut to nothing more than a sliver; that it isn’t about being right or wrong; that it’s just about getting through when everything’s dark. That really it’s about having the strength of harnessing all the love in this world that IS directed at us and allowing that to carry us through the darkness.

So as I struggle to find that strength to harness that love, folks, these days I’m Just Another Nervous Wreck. But that’s okay. Because I’ve got the proper theme music as my arsenal and I am armed to the teeth.

They’ll run for cover when they discover Everyone’s a nervous wreck now Life’s just a bummer; they got your number We’ll give as good as we get now

Rise from the gutter, stick with each other We’ll drive ‘em over the edge now They’re gonna bleed, that’s what they need We’ll get together and blow their cover

I’ve super-glued that little fuzzy square back to the tape a dozen times; the cassette has warped from the New Orleans’ summer heat and itself been super-glued back together a time or two; my car tape deck had eaten the tape another dozen times—and I devotedly straightened out the thin ribbon and rewound it back again and again. Of course, I bought the CD and then even the MP3 and now can listen without fear of needing to doctor the tape any longer. But that tape has endured. Yes, worse for the wear. But isn’t that what enduring is really about? Surviving upon great use and not staying pristine with non-use?

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