Sometime last year, my cousin was driving me to a doctor’s appointment. While we searched for music for the road, I mentioned that I’d never listened to a single John Mayer song and he sought to change that. We listened to an entire album that I couldn’t tell you anything else about other than it has a song about slow dancing in a burning room. I could look it up and be more specific but I still refuse to listen to John Mayer. We talked about this song; I mostly teased him about relating to this song. Surely, by the time a room is burning down, there were signs that it was catching fire and you should have enough a sense of self preservation to exit that room.
But I knew what he meant. My teasing was a mask over my self-chiding. I, like a lot of people, understand the idea of slow dancing in a burning room hoping that maybe if you get that dance right, the flames will somewhat extinguish themselves. A lot of us also understand that more often than not, there’s no saving that room. A lot of times you’re aware that you’re on fire—it’s in the sizzling of your skin, the parching in your throat, the tears in your eyes. But you stay and dance anyway. You convince yourself you can take it, just a while longer.
I’ve since learnt that burning things down is like an overdraft; a warped act of kindness to oneself. It burns for a while after but it gets you out of a bind. Because sometimes the only way you get yourself out of a room is with smoke in your lungs, your skin chafed and bleeding.
So I don’t know, send that harsh email. Burn that bridge. Leave nothing to go back to. And when you find yourself in the grass crying and heaving, don’t fight it. Let the fresh air into your lungs. Notice it stings differently.
You will rebuild. And if you ever need to, you’ll burn it all down again.
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