‘Take away this ball and chain…’

Mike Ness of Social Distortion wrote ‘Ball and Chain’ in 1987, and has described the song as a ‘hard luck story’. For Ness, his ‘ball and chain’ was heroin addition, although when asked about the lyrics he said an individual’s ‘ball and chain’ may take many forms. Mine is living in the past.

Thoughts from my past constantly intrude into the present, and it’s not the memories of good times that push their way to the forefront of my mind. When I sleep, my subconscious also returns to the past, where recurring dreams place me back in my old job, old life, old struggles and old regrets.

‘I’m sick, and I’m tired, and I can’t take any more pain’

Now I can hear the well-meaning enlightened say ‘you just have to be present, you have to live in the moment’ and truisms like ‘you can’t change the past’ and ‘you just have to let go’. Yes, I know. I know all these things are true. However it isn’t that easy. Try telling an addict to give up their poison and see how far it gets you.

Waking distractions, and particularly new experiences, help keep the past from overwhelming the present. Leaving New Zealand after a seven-month Corona-enforced layover, finally free to kick-start my odyssey again, has definitely helped. However the quiet, unguarded moments still bring unease.

‘Wherever I have gone, I would always find myself there, you can run all your life, but not go anywhere’

Perhaps my travels will help me put the past away for good. Or maybe when I stop I will be drawn back again to fight long lost battles, relive mistakes, and be sentenced by the one who judges me the hardest: myself.

‘Take away, take away, never to return again…take away this ball and chain.’

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