Axl Rose once quoted, “Life sucks, but in a beautiful kind of way.”
Say what you will about Axl Rose but I think he’s one of the more brilliant and inspirational musicians of our time. And y’all- did you SEE the Once In a Lifetime reunion tour? Axl, Duff, and Slash all on stage together… I never thought it would happen. But that’s another of life’s great reminders to never say never.
I have two dogs. They are technically family dogs but who’s kidding who? They are my dogs so I took the liberty of naming them. I knew I wanted names that I wouldn’t get sick of for the next 12-15 years and that would also reflect a part of my deepest self in an inspirational sort of way while also staying true to the dog’s personalities. A seemingly impossible task but… I think I nailed it. My (sorry, our) 101-pound yellow lab is named after my favorite character in my favorite book, Augustus “Gus” McCrae from Lonesome Dove, and our 21-pound Pug is named after my favorite rock star in my favorite, inarguably iconic band, Axl Rose.
So a literary classic Texas Ranger hero meets a deeply disturbed but crazy talented and possibly a bit bipolar red bandana-wearing rock star. I knew to bring these two together was a risk but I hoped they’d relate in that whole “opposites attract” thing. And if it didn’t work, there was the distinct possibility that Gus would think Axl was some sort of “major disturbance” that he’d need to take care of Texas Ranger style.
But it did work. See, when I myself was knocking on Heaven’s door, I very clearly saw the few things in my life that would top my bucket list, the “oh-my-gosh-that-was-the-greatest-thing-EVER-I-can-go-peacefully-now” list and one of mine was meeting Axl Rose. In my darkest moments, I’d fanaticize about our meeting and it was epic. Like- bring me up on stage to sing Patience on a shared mic- epic. And then the chemo started to work and my cancer started to shrink and the drugs started to wear off and I realized that if by some ridiculous twist of fate I were to ever meet Axl Rose, it would most likely be a huge disappointment. And it wouldn’t be his fault. It would be mine for wanting something so badly, hoping for something so desperately. Because, as Augustus McCrae quoted,
“If you want one thing too badly, it’s likely to be a disappointment”
We’ve all had the experience of wanting something, dreaming about it, hoping for it, clinging to it, only to be massively disappointed when we get it. Our expectations are so high, too high, impossibly high. When the thing we’ve dreamed up doesn’t solve all of our sorrows, we are left emptier, sadder than we were before. How could we not be- the highest hope sets us up to fall further down.
See, hope can be a tricky thing. I believe hope sustains us but hope also needs boundaries. Unbridled hope can lead us into deep despair. Hope needs to be lassoed, rounded up and herded in the right direction or else it can turn into a kind of Illusion.
So then how do we reconcile the two? How do expectations and hope coexist peacefully?
This morning, I was watching Augustus McCrae and Axl Rose “playing” together. Gus had Axl’s neck in his mouth and Axl was fighting like hell to break free. Once he did eventually make it out of Gus’s jaws of life grip, I saw Axl take a small step back and then skillfully leap onto Gus’s head and y’all- Axl Rose took Gus DOWN. I held my breath for a moment, worried that might be it for little Axl but Gus didn’t move. All was quiet for an expectant moment until I heard Gus’s tail begin to thump against the hardwood floor. Axl then started making his breathing/pig-like noises and the “play” resumed.
Gus was undoubtedly impressed. Even though Axl was probably feeling like he was at a distinct disadvantage against this dog who was five times his size, he didn’t dwell on the negative but instead used what he had to put up the best fight he could and the result was kinda awesome. Something that “sucked” in a “beautiful kind of way.”
And in turn, Augustus McCrae had given up the wanting to win and submitted to the play, to the joy, to the fun. Gus had understood the win would only bring disappointment- that the game would be over.
Hope vs. Illusion. Optimism vs. resignation. Cowboy bad-ass vs. rock star legend. Winning vs. submitting. Maybe there is room for both, room for all of it. Maybe, at the end of the day, our lives are the messy collection of all the colorful and opposite sides of our souls.
So it really shouldn’t have been a huge surprise when I picked Gus up from doggie daycare the other day and he strutted out with Axl Rose’s trademark red bandana tied around his yellow fur neck. I never thought I’d see the day.
But never say never….
In love and Hope,