I’m Gonna Phoenix

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It happened in a single day.

On my way to work, the building was standing. On my way back home, the building had turned to rubble. 

That was the building I had dreamed about inhabiting. When I first saw it, I could hardly contain the excitement. It was the perfect location for the movement I wanted to start–a movement that would go global and change tens of thousands of people as it spread all over the place. 

But now four years later it was just a pile of mold-infested concrete blocks and sand and dirt.

Just like the vision I had once had.


Sometimes dreams die. Sometimes the foundation crumbles. 

When I saw that building for the first time, it had a for-sale sign to go with the sagging Cabana Jo’s shingle. From what I’m told, the owner had hauled tons of sand into the building to turn the floor into a beach. Shortly after, the bar went belly-up and the building stood vacant, accumulating moisture and mold. For decades before Cabana Jo’s dream died (or had even started), the building had served as a landmark for tourists from around the Twin Cities. They’d flock to the Steamboat Inn. The third generation of family owners couldn’t keep it going. Some fans tried to resurrect it after the building was abandoned. But the dream had already died too many deaths. 

It’s not supposed to work that way. We’re supposed to be able to work hard, make good decisions, forgive, change, become better people and then have things go our way because we did the right things. It’s the action-consequence matrix that most of us unconsciously follow: do good stuff and good things will happen to you, do bad stuff and bad things will happen to you. Karma. 

When the bad guy wins, when our dreams shatter, when we think we’ve done everything right, but things still turn out terrible–that’s pretty disorienting for most of us. 

Have you ever watched “Apocalypse Now”? I saw it when my kids were at their mom’s for the first time after the separation-that-ended-in-divorce. I was all alone in a big, empty house. I watched in full identification. Brutal violence, betrayal, hopelessness in the jungles of Vietnam. And then the end, the final whispered words: “The horror, the horror.” I felt that. I resonated with that. 

In the ensuing months, nihilistic horror turned into comfortably numb. The grace of a corpse in the riptide of life, as Smog puts it.

I didn’t think I would ever feel again. Or hope. Or love. But Melinda changed all that. Patiently pursuing me, loving me, showing me life isn’t as bad as I thought. 

She came into the ruins of my life, and I phoenixed. 

So bury me in wood

And I will splinter

Bury me in stone

And I will quake

Bury me in water

And I will geyser

Bury me in fire

And I’m gonna phoenix

(Smog, “Say Valley Maker”)

Thanks, Smog, for giving me words. 

Thanks, Melinda, for helping me phoenix.

(Remember this one, Melinda? It’s when I phoenixed.)

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