This may be hard for some of you to believe but in my teenage years, I was a bit of an introvert. In fact, it was not uncommon for a 15 year old Mike Carlon to retreat to his bedroom, turn off all the lights, and lose himself in music. This was particularly true if my heart wound up broken. Music was a huge part of my life back then just as it remains today. Back then I would turn off all the lights, unplug (not turn off) my phone, make sure there were fresh AA batteries in my Walkman, and get lost in something deep.
I have such a connection with music that I would spend hours making mix tapes for whoever I was dating at the time. Kids these days talk about playlists but there is no skill in being able to “drag and drop.” Real skill is in mastering the pause button so that songs flow into each other. If you wound up not liking the order of songs on your mix tape, you had three options; erase it and start over, settle for imperfection, or just throw it out altogether. I was a perfectionist; it was always back to the drawing board for me.
Tonight my wife and I had a “date night.” We were listening to Coldplay on the way home and their song Fix You came on when we pulled into the driveway. Instead of rushing in to see the kids, Nicole asked me to sit in the car with her and listen to the song; talk about a woman after my own heart!
When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Back in my younger days, I would spend hours (and I am not kidding, hours) trying to decipher what a songwriter meant by his or her lyrics. However, like trying to interpret any other form of art, I wound up projecting something of my own into another’s work. As my wife and I sat in the driveway listening to this song, I pondered over the last line above; and I will try to fix you. Although it is humbling to admit, we are all in need of a little fixing. As I sit reflecting on these 7 syllables, I find myself questioning two important details; does the person the singer is singing to realize that they are in need of “fixing,” and how much of an ability does the singer have to actually “fix” the person he is singing to?
The first point is not small; in order to benefit from the help that another person is offering, we need to accept the fact that we indeed require help. This is contrarian to the messages most of us (regardless of gender) are told by society. Be tough. Suck it up. Truth hurts. Life isn’t fair. It seems we are constantly being told that we have to remain strong and not let our emotions show; after all that is a sign of weakness isn’t it? I am as guilty as anyone else – when my emotions get the best of me, I wind up “losing it” at random intervals and at random places. Chances are, if someone came up to me suggesting that they would fix me, I just might run the other way.
From the other side, is it egotistical to believe that we have some ability to actually “fix” another human being? It’s nice to believe that we have such power and influence but the truth is sobering. We can support those who are broken and inspire them to “get better,” but we cannot “fix” anyone. When my children are sick, I can hold them in my arms, give them something to make them feel better, but in no way shape or form can I “fix” them.
As the song finished, my wife and I had tears running down our faces (although I tried hard to prevent mine from showing). The notion that someone can recognize another’s flaws and love them enough to want to fix them is quite beautiful. On some level, those of us who celebrate Easter can make a faith-in-culture connection to these lyrics. Yet the reasons for our tears were likely quite different. Nicole was reflecting on a close friend who is badly broken and in need of fixing. Admittedly, I was thinking of this person as well but they was not the source of my tears. I was thinking of a 15 year old boy alone in his room getting lost in side 2 of The Joshua Tree.