One of the reasons I love metal is that it expresses my feelings in ways that are honest and raw. Metal helps me wrestle my shadows, my inner demons that prevent me being me true self.
For example, the song "Coming Undone" by Korn accurately sums up how I've felt this summer:
I spent some time meditating on the lyrics:
Keep holding on / When my brains tickin' like a bomb / Guess the black thoughts have come again to get me
I'm consumed by my thoughts, worries, and anxieties. I just don't know how I can deal with the pressures of work, family, faith, and life. Whatever the metaphor--I'm burning the candle at both ends; I've got too much on my plate; too many balls in the air--I feel like I'm being crushed by the pressures of life.
Sweet bitter words / Unlike nothing I have heard / Sing along Mocking bird / You don't affect me
And prayers don't seem to work. There is no sanctuary, no solace. My prayers are bitter words that seem to mock my desire for peace.
That's right! / Deliver it to my heart! / Please strike! / Be deliberate
So my prayer becomes a simple request: Make it end. I don't really care how. All I know is that I want this pressure to end.
Wait / I'm coming undone / Irate / I'm coming undone / Too late / I'm coming undone / What looks so strong, so delicate
Wait / I'm starting to suffocate / And soon I anticipate / I'm coming undone / What looks so strong, so delicate
And I am fragile. I could snap at any moment, like I'm going to crash and it's not going to be pretty. The only question is when, and I am terrified of that prospect.
Choke, choke again / I thought my demons were my friends / Pity me in the end / They're out to get me
I'm choking on that fear. The real temptation is to put on a mask so that no one can see how fragile and delicate I am right now. But that mask is simply an aversion that prevents me from seeing reality as it is: I'm tired, I'm overwhelmed, and I do not know how to cope. Unfortunately, the more I wear it, the more I suffer.
Since I was young / I tasted sorrow on my tongue / And this sweet chocolate gun does not protect me
Perhaps that is the source of my suffering: wearing a mask to pretend that I'm someone I'm not. But that mask, as attractive as I think it makes me look to myself and others, doesn't protect me at all from my sorrow and suffering, it only amplifies it.
A thought occurs to me: what if I'm not coming undone? What if I'm simply being stripped of this mask? The question then becomes: What is this mask I'm wearing? What does this mask hide?
The mask might be how I've defined myself lately: a Franciscan, a spiritual director, a writer. And while these labels seem to help give me some sort of identity, they also come with the suffocating responsibilities of fraternal life, the needs of my directees, project deadlines, etc.
But these labels do not define who I am, nor do the responsibilities that naturally come with those labels. They define some of the things that I do. Who would I see if I took away that mask? Maybe that's what really terrifies me: I'm afraid of the person I will see behind it.
That's the thing with masks: while they give me a clear image of who I think I am, they will, in the end, suffocate me. Yet, taking off the mask is equally terrifying: I've put a lot of work in crafting it, decorating it; I know what I look like when I wear it, and I can control what people see. If I take it off, will I even recognize who I am? What if I don't like what I see?
This is the hard work of faith. To seek God and breathe in the Holy Spirit, we will have to take off the masks that we wear, for they obscure our vision and constrict our breathing. And maybe that's why hope--true hope--is so important: it reminds us that it is not that mask that God loves, but the person behind the mask.
As I listen to "Coming Undone" again, I realize that there's a better way to respond to my feelings: My response to the feeling that I'm coming undone is not to try to hold it all together. Rather, the right response is to let go, not of the responsibilities that are suffocating me, but of the image of the person that has been defined by those responsibilities.
I find this all very liberating: By coming undone, I'll be free of the mask that I've crafted to define my false self but has only suffocated my true self.
I'll be free to breathe again.