HOUSE ON FIRE
We came into our marriage with very different ideas about conflict. Chris operated under a “no news is good news” mentality. If we weren’t disagreeing, then our relationship was good. The inverse, then, meant that if we were disagreeing, the relationship was not good. Worse, he didn’t have a picture of how to engage with disagreement. If “fight or flight” is our animalistic reaction to danger, fighting felt wrong and scary, and flight became his default way of handling it every time. His flight, though, meant that when inevitable conflict arose, we each felt alone - me trying to fight through the problem with no reciprocal response, Chris trying to run and preserve the relationship on his own. One night after another failed attempt at hashing through a dispute, I shared that what I really wanted in the heat of the moment was for him to reach out and put his arm around me - to be physically present in the painful conversation and let me know that he loved me in spite of the circumstance. To at least sit on the couch with me, to show we were in it together. Chris, wide-eyed, said that what I wanted was quite the opposite of what he assumed, judging by the angry signals he was picking up from me. He interpreted my tone and words as a signal to run away. We have seen this counterintuitive notion play out in many of our relationships with friends and family. It’s scary to move towards something or someone that could hurt you. Yet that movement is where the goodness eventually happens. The conflict stings, but moving toward it brings a salve that heals. Peace follows. Running away from it only lets the wound fester, never fully healing, creating a painful place where the next conflict will hurt even more. When asked when he feels closest to me now, Chris says “when we fight.” Not the answer I would expect. But braving the conflict more and more has given us confidence that even when it feels unpleasant and frightening, we’re in it together, and we will hold on until we’re through it. I’m best at this with him, but I desperately need to keep up that practice with the other people in my life whom I love. Interestingly, writing “House on Fire” became a microcosm of the song's sentiment. It’s hard work to write songs together - it is faster and less painful to do it separately. Collaborating takes careful communication that can be exhausting. This song was the first one we wrote for the album, the song that sparked our journey toward becoming Wild Harbors. It took a long time and a lot of disagreement. But at the end of it, when we played it for others, we knew we were onto something important. People who were familiar with our previous work said, “Wait, what song is THAT? It's totally different - I need that one!” The willingness to run into the harder territory of cowriting produced a song that was stronger and more refined than anything we’d written before. It was our signal to continue down that hard, fruitful road and see what else we could harvest. We live in an age where communication is quick and cheap. People can say whatever they want on the internet and avoid face-to-face contact through texts and emails. They can get away with liking a post as a sign of goodwill and never address the elephants in the room. This willingness to run toward conflict, in truth in love - we need more of it. The commitment to stay and fight a good fight. The bravery to reach out to the people you care about when your fear tells you to run or shut down. The people we love and want most can seem fearsome in times of distress. But they are the very ones worth pursuing. Brave the conflict for them. They need you, and the world needs more people willing to press into harder things.
House on Fire I was raised to run away from anything on fire And never told that everything gold was refined in flame When it came to friction I fixed my eyes onto the floor And when they closed the door, I learned to do the same I was taught that love was always easy, always fine It never crossed my mind that we could ever be so far gone The more I bite my tongue, the more we seem to fall apart The more I start to think that maybe I was wrong This is like running headlong straight into a hurricane It’s breaking down the door to a house on fire All you wanted was to know that I was on your side All I wanted was to keep the wolves at bay I kept myself protected at the cost of being true Oh, but I won’t make you pay that price today This is like running headlong straight into a hurricane It’s breaking down the door to a house on fire It’s closing in to panic in the pouring rain It’s fighting for the thing I most desire Come what may, we’ll find a way to make it all work out I gave you my word, and you gave me your solemn vow It’s funny, I know, but what I wanna know right now Is would you say it again when the world is burning down? Would you say it again when the world is burning down? This is like running headlong straight into a hurricane It’s breaking down the door to a house on fire It’s closing in to panic in the pouring rain It’s fighting for the thing I most desire