"You treat people like they're minor characters in your story, extras," a friend once accused me... More than once.
I contend quite the opposite. I believe everyone is the main character of their own stories... That I am very fortunate to have many opportunities to play small roles in the lives of others. Guest appearances. I have rarely thought of my own life as anything so important as to deserve publication or acknowledgement... and yet, here I am, posting it on the internet and sharing it with whoever will read.
More than a year ago my great aunt Viola died. She was 100 year old. As I prepared myself for an early morning departure for her funeral, I wanted to play at the Lickety Split open mic... The list was long by the time I arrived, and I knew I could not stay late into the night.
Bunny Savage walked in... I rambled the situation to him, "I just want to sing this one new tune, but I don't want to ask to bump ahead in line... I don't like to act like I'm so important."
Bunny smiled, "You might as well ask... You never know, you might be that important."
I did ask, and the host graciously let me play one tune and leave early... Those words, "You might be that important," rang in my ears. What else had I been too afraid to ask? What else was possible that I considered impossible?
...I have exposed myself a great deal so far on this blog... a friend who is literature professor advised me, helping me to find the gall to publish these posts, "You have to write as though your parents are dead."
I told her, "Parts of my story aren't mine to share." I still find myself questioning whether I should remove certain posts or details... In the end I made this resolution- I'm going to write like I'm dead. Maybe this sounds ridiculous, but as an individual who has wasted a great deal of time thinking suicidal thoughts, the idea that these words may be my lasting legacy makes the risk worth taking. I may offend some people, particularly those friends and family members mentioned...
I have spoken to my mother about disclosing her secret. She was not terribly surprised, albeit disappointed. "You're going to do whatever you want to do- Now there's no taking it back," she sighed.
So far she has refused to read it. I wish she would- I wish I could help her gain a new perspective on the situation, one in which she bares no blame... But "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". How to convince her that she does not need to hide the bad things that happened to her, that they are not her fault... To set her free from her memories.
A couple of my cousins have expressed concerns as well... they invalidate my experiences, telling me that I need to stop being so negative. Although we grew up with the same last name, they do not accept that my perspective has been a very different one from theirs. I am not trying to shed a negative light on my family or hometown, I am simply processing my memories through my writing... and this is a gift that I will not take for granted. I know that as I continue to expand the stories, the more the positive will surface. It takes time.
Sharing the process is what this blog is about... I know so many artists, musicians, and writers who are practicing, waiting to feel adequate to perform and make their work public. I am confident that within months I will look back at some of what I have created, blushing with embarrassment... But I will recognize that work for what it is- part of a process.
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the rest of the staircase," Martin Luther King, Jr.
...My eldest brother is gay. This has not been a secret for nearly ten years. I was living in New York, struggling, when he sent me, my parents, and our other brother letters. It did not come as a surprise to any of us... except my mother, who promptly bought a plane ticket and lived off the grid for a month in a small town in Mexico with missionary friends.
"It's my fault. I was never around babies. I didn't know what I was doing," my mother cried.
My brothers are eleven months apart in age. I doubt there is any data, even in the most homophobic of beliefs that would assert that my mother could have done anything to influence his sexuality within his first year of life. Nevertheless, she wanted to take credit somehow. In her house, I was horrified to find books given to her by the church entitled things like So Your Child Thinks He is Gay. I often think to myself I should write her a self-help book to handle who I am was well; So Your Child Thinks She's a Musician... an Artist... a Writer... Unmarried at 30 and not giving you grandchildren... At least my brother and his partner both have stable careers and two beautiful adopted daughters.
...It has been many years since my brother and his partner made their union legally binding, and they have a good relationship with all of my family, including my mother. She underwent a lot of humbling and accepted that she did not have that much influence over who her children grew up to be. She has become a better listener. She pays more attention to the words that she uses to talk to us rather than expecting us to read her mind. She has really blossomed as a mother, in a way that I never expected she would...
Someday I will have children, and when I do, I will be grateful that I waited until after I learned these lessons through her. She did most of the hard work, and someday it will be up to me to remember and act accordingly...
Tomorrow I will not be who I am today, and yet I am always the same little girl I was in my youth...
Today I simply have to trust myself... The people who have been in my life many years are surprised to see who I have become. I needed a great deal of distance away from them before I could begin to emerge from my shell and reveal the person I am now. I can not return to that shell. I can not regress into that person who was so afraid to be noticed.
I am apologetic that certain details may not flatter certain friends... But they are true, and they are integral to my state of mind and story. There is so much more information that I have avoided publishing- because it is not essential. Stories that are not my own to share- and I hope that fact can give some consolation to anyone offended.
...I am extremely grateful to Victor for allowing me to publish recent events. In retrospect, a few of my last posts were really testing his sincerity in giving me permission. But it is such experience that will help me learn to not act manipulatively in the future.
When I gave speech therapy to babies under three years old, I would watch them struggle to express their needs and wants. In the process, they would often throw enough of a tantrum to receive some sort of reinforcing reward; food, toys, attention... As this process repeated, again and again, the child would learn the fastest way to receive something good was to throw a fit. I never realized it until recently... But that is how my behavior had become manipulative. I knew I was rigid and irritable. I did not know I was manipulative. I simply got my way a lot, and I assumed things should be my way- a lot. While I can not undo what I did in the past, unknowingly, I can not go on making those mistakes again in the future, knowing what I do now.
There is so much more than the words I say/write. I want my thoughts, actions, feelings, and words to be congruent. I want my intentions to be purely stated... but sometimes my mind plays tricks on me, and I do not know its ulterior motives until later. I am trying to believe I am important but not any more important than anyone else. So, please, be patient with me, as I learn... I do learn.