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It's not easy to sit back and watch our loved ones encounter struggles or experience pain. When things get really bad, there are always ways out. Sometimes people are in abusive relationships and have a strong fear that if they leave, they will be harmed. I'm mostly referring to choices we can make when we complain about life situations that don't involve violence, abuse, or neglect. You can be an open ear and validate their concerns. I was getting ready to drain the spaghetti when Steven's voice cracked the deafening silence between us. Alice said I don't have to change just because you want me to. She said I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to. She also said I have a right to feel any way I want. Other times I come home and fall into my wife's arms. I want to be held, I want to be fully human, I want to care, to really embrace and really learn and really face the truth of death. I listen to the song in order to thaw, to release, to feel. After I listen to the song a few times, teary-eyed, I travel down the Warren Zevon Google rabbit hole. First I search images, then Wikipedia, and then a dozen or so YouTube videos. Or, if you are tired of hearing about it, you can gently say something like, I am here to listen whenever you're dealing with struggles. We've had this conversation a few times and it's sometimes hard for me to not become emotional for you. Unless you tell someone, they won't know, and they'll keep complaining. You aren't a vessel for other people to use for their stressful moments. Ed had suggested that I learn to hold on to myself whenever I was around someone I feared. I practiced not reacting to what Steven was saying, and instead chose to just let it sink in.

Steven asked, as he stood eerily close, almost whispering in my ear. I stood still for a few moments, as the steam from the pasta that was rising out of the sink moistened the back of my t-shirt. It was Zevon's last appearance on The David Letterman Show. Letterman was, as Zevon himself said, my music's greatest friend. Letterman gave Zevon great airtime over twenty years and was clearly in awe of his humor and talent as a songwriter. This particular interview would be the last time Zevon was a guest on Letterman's show and they both knew it. I continue to marvel at Letterman's extraordinary courage and skill in conducting the interview. Letterman: I guess a couple of months ago we all learned that your life has changed radically, hasn't it? Every now and then this is helpful for people but with no progress it can become exhausting. Similar to the previous lessons, you may notice a few friendships change. When new put up boundaries, people act accordingly. Or, they let us know they don't like them by distancing themselves. We are putting emphasis on our needs, too, which is very important for self-preservation. The benefits for your emotional functioning are undeniable. You'll spend less time feeling resentful and more time experiencing the positive parts of the relationship or friendship. You won't dread seeing the person because you think they'll talk about that one subject the entire time. You feel a sense of control over the conversations. I searched for a hint of the man that I knew existed somewhere behind his eyes. I glanced over at my three babies sitting there on our maroon leather couch. They had grown tired of listening to their father and mother bicker.

These days, they lost themselves in lands of make- believe on cable television. I could no longer ignore the reality of what I had done. In that moment, I knew I needed to put the brakes on the momentum of my life. You know what's gonna happen if you keep this shit up, Lisa? We're gonna end up getting a divorce because you won't drop this crazy bullshit of yours. Letterman: How did you learn about it and how have things been since? Zevon: Well, first of all, let me say that I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for twenty years . The only person that I ever go to is Dr Stan, you know, Dr Stan the dentist. I told Dr Stan that I was having shortness of breath. When Dr Stan heard about it, he said, It sounds like congestive heart failure. Letterman: And it turned out not to be congestive heart failure? Zevon: Well, it means you better get your dry cleaning done on special. You feel invigorated after conversations with these people because you've been putting up boundaries. You might begin to look forward to seeing them again, just like you did before they started complaining about their situation. You'll resist your urges to try to change them because you know the effort will go unnoticed or it won't be helpful. Have you ever gotten so mad at someone for what they did to you? Everything is about your feelings, your feelings, your feelings. Steven prodded, his voice growing more intimidating with every syllable. As if my spirit were speaking, I replied, No, Steven I don't want a divorce. Letterman: You have spent a lot of time recently working very hard, haven't you--working on another project?

Zevon: Yeah, they certainly don't discourage you from doing whatever you want. It's not like bed rest and a lot of water will straighten you out. Letterman: And how is that work now under this circumstance, living with this diagnosis? How is the work now [compared to] when you assumed you were healthy? I really always enjoyed myself, but it's more valuable now. You're reminded to enjoy every sandwich and every minute playing with the guys and being with the kids and everything. Yes, this person has control over their own actions. And you are responsible for your feelings and thoughts, every single time. People and situations influence your behavior they don't cause it. When you feel angry at someone for a long period of time, it usually result from not taking accountability for your feelings or not accepting the situation wholeheartedly. Nobody has the power to control your feelings or emotions. Yes, certain situations may upset us, but someone does not have the power to control your feelings. When you allow yourself to say, this person made me mad, you relinquish all control you have, and you give it to them. I stared deeply into his milk-chocolate-brown eyes. And I have the right to want more out of a marriage. Letterman: I'm stricken now, and I guess this is the way things like this work, by the irony of your work now--when we look at it and knowing about the diagnosis. Zevon: That's the strangest part to me, certainly. Letterman: For example, the title of the new CD, My Ride's Here. And another song, the one Paul played, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, and the previous album is called Life'll Kill Ya. Zevon: I guess artists have some kind of instincts or, you know, feelings about things that can't be put into words;

Otherwise how would you get away with having a job so easy and so much fun? Letterman: So you're saying that you think maybe somewhere this comes as not so much a surprise to you. Zevon: I did take the copies of the albums to my doctors and say, This is why I'm not so shocked. Now they're in the driver's seat, which only fuels our negative emotions. I noticed when people begin to take accountability for the situation it makes emotions a little easier to deal with. They realize that their reaction or emotional response is part of the situation, not just the person's action. Think about it: The same situation might happen to someone else and they might have a different emotional response. That means that the person who acted in a way that hurt your feelings, isn't necessarily the one controlling the emotions. This lesson is all about reframing and taking accountability. The grocery store clerk made me so angry, I can't believe they told me I'm too young to be here. And I am sorry, but you are not what I want you to be. I am sorry I worried so much about what you thought about me. I should have not made you responsible for my happiness. It was never your job to give me what I should have been able to give my self. Letterman: From your perspective now, do you know something about life and death that maybe I don't know now? This was Letterman's equivalent to my question for Franny and for my dad and so many others. These sorts of questions almost always elicit, in the simplest terms, the wisdom of a lifetime perfectly revealed by impending death. I know how much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich. After the show, it was heartbreaking, Letterman told Rolling Stone in 2008 about that last interview with Zevon. How does he even have a job there if he is that rude to people?