I got a text message from a friend that said "Miranda Lambert's new record has a song about you!" With the gravitational pull of Facebook click bait, I immediately pushed play on Spotify. With her first line “hey Mr. Tin Man” it was like she was speaking directly to me. She was offering her Blake-Shelton-trampled heart in exchange for my armor. I had to respond. It didn't feel like a fair trade... for her.
I first took on the Tin Man moniker in 2014 after a period of intense heartbreak that left me feeling totally broken. At the time, I had just lost the two things I held most dear -- my company and the girl I thought I was going to marry. In the span of a month, the girl I loved broke up with me and my largest investor fired everyone, dissolving my company. Life pulled the carpet out from under my feet. The carpet I thought was magical. No more Prince Ali. Back to Aladdin.
My entire life up to that point had been premised on the belief that happiness was achieved by eliminating pain. If there was pain, I would do anything to kill it. Where's the Ibuprofen? Percocet? How much of the pharmaceutical industry is built on pain killers anyway?
But life doesn't work that way. It lets us perpetuate our own cycles until we finally stop and acknowledge what we're doing. Until we embrace the pain.
There's a line in Miranda's song that says "If you ever felt one breakin', you'd never want a heart." That used to be me. Willing to sacrifice anything to avoid pain. Even my own heart.
It wasn't until I fled to Northern Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago that I began to understand. DISCLAIMER: I am not a hiker. But I figured trekking through the Spanish country side in running shoes for 13 miles a day was no biggie. Until I woke up the next morning and couldn't walk. Every step was a flaming bed of needles. But I was on a schedule. I had to walk another 13 miles to arrive at my next waypoint.
After five days of this, I finally collapsed halfway up a mountain. I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't carry on a conversation with anyone around me much less appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. I prayed -- or rather pleaded -- with God to take the pain away. To let me continue my journey in peace and engage with the world around me.
Then it happened. For the third time in my life I heard that still, subtle voice that isn't my own. All it said was, "it doesn't go away."
Me: "Come again?"
Voice: "The pain doesn't go away."
Then unlike my pain, the voice went away and I was left to sit with this truth. If my efforts to eliminate pain will always be futile, what am I supposed to do? From that point forward I decided to embrace the pain instead. To welcome it into my life and simply let it be. That's when something interesting happened. Instead of pain being outside my door knocking loudly and persistently -- keeping me from sleeping -- it came in, sat down and just sorta smiled at me. It made itself comfortable and stopped bothering me so much. With the obnoxious knocking at the door to my soul gone, I turned my attention to the beautiful people and landscapes around me. Every step of the pilgrimage took on a richness I hadn't known before. A richness attainable only through pain.
I've been writing songs for twenty years. But it's only through pain that I've found the heart in my music. Like the Tin Man, I have been on a quest for a new heart. And just like the Wizard of Oz, I realized it was always there. Pain didn't destroy my heart. It revealed it.
So when I heard Miranda's offer at the end of her song, "You give me your armor, and you can have my heart," I had to reject it.
"You can have my suit of armored parts, but what's to guard if you don't have a heart?"
by: Marshall Seese, Jr. & Jean Kelley
Oh my dear Miranda
Tell me can ya feel my emptiness
Is this what you wish?
Ooo ooo ooo ooo Ooo ooo ooo ooo
I wish I was you
Cause what you don't know
Is I was once whole
Just like new
Once upon a time
I had a love of mine
These rusty parts held a beating heart
But she grew weak and weary
And in my grief I buried
My heart that night
Wish I could miss my wife
Oh to feel is such a beautiful gift
Yes what you feel is such a beautiful gift
I used to care what I did
I had a reason to live
I'm swinging steel at my brain
So I feel something at all
Oh my dear Miranda
You can have my suit of armored parts
But what's to guard if you don't have a heart?