Of course, I was also hiding my depression and OCD behavior back then, as well as the dark goings-on at home, so I'm sure that added to my questions about the meaning of it all.issues and just general life, I always had a type of tape loop going in the back of my brain, wondering why any of us were here, and wondering why everyone else wasn't wondering the same.
But I was never able to just enjoy life with ease, as the plaguing questions about it seemed to thwart its pleasures. Don't get me wrong: I liked having fun, and had the detention notes to prove it. But there was this inner brooding during my teen years that could only be pierced by art, in any of its forms, and so my life-long love affair with music, painting, books and film began, as the artists in these fields were at least asking the same questions as I was, and in their work I could find a camaraderie of sorts.
My first true encounter with art as enlightenment came as a double-whammy in nearly identical experiences. In each case, I was sitting in my living room, my face just a few feet from the TV screen, during two different family affairs where noise and conversation made me sit close to the set.
The first film was Midnight Cowboy, and the second, The Graduate, the former being the more intense experience, as I recall.
During those difficult days, there was little in my world that I could connect to, as I knew I didn't want the life my parents and relatives had chosen, as no one in my world seemed very happy. I thought something was just fundamentally wrong with marriage as an institution, as opposed to what was the real culprit: everyone's inability to say what they were really thinking and feeling. In hindsight, a life mate and kids might have been wonderful experiences for me, but in the kids department, I think it's fair to say that ship has sailed. I do hope some wonderful romance is in my future.
That aside, I remember that by the end of Midnight Cowboy, I felt so moved, and perhaps for the first time, so connected to this strange earthly plane that beforehand had felt so meaningless. Here was a story about two people who felt so forsaken themselves, who had been cast off by society, living in their perspective dreamworlds that held little hope for anything more than what they could eek out on that particular day. They were outcasts, oddballs, losers and lost, just like me, no matter what my good grades, quick smile and bevy of friends might have suggested otherwise.
Suddenly I realized that a whole other world existed out there than the one I lived in...a world where people not only thought about the greater questions of life, but actually created something from them that made us all feel just a little closer, if only through our compassion for these characters and their plight.
Of course, The Graduate spoke loud and clear to me, as well, as what young person couldn't identify with Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock, who was also seeking something more meaningful than what the culture around him could offer. Even though his world was of the white collar variety (and mine, blue), the issues were universal, and I will be forever grateful to these filmmakers and screenwriters for doing whatever it took to get these stories to the screen.
I suppose it's not surprising that as I was to go on to become a singer/songwriter, my songs would be so story-based. As some reviewers would observe, the songs wouldn't so much tell the story as to suggest it; the lyrics were the words going through the characters' heads in "the brooding aftermath" of what had just occurred, according to one (thank you, Linus Gelber).
Of course, my music is behind me now, even though I still pick up the guitar now and then. Yet there seems to be some kind of curious irony happening that the questions I asked about life's meaning as a teenager are as profound as they ever were, only now the result of an untreatable pain condition. At its very core, the unfathomableness of this experience (and those like it) flies in the face of any argument that declares the human experience as one of destiny and inherent meaning.
The one thing I can truly believe, though, the one thing that has been so sustaining this past year, is that while the experience of pain may indeed be meaningless, I can choose to give it meaning, when I'm able, by writing this blog.
I've been gifted with the ability to write, to communicate, and while I haven't been able to muster up a single tune about this awful experience, I have been able to get it down here, to at least attempt an explanation of what it's like, if for no other reason than to give voice to an ordeal that has rendered too many mute, some permanently.
This condition carries the awful nickname of "the suicide disease," as so many patients simply give up when they exhaust all avenues for relief; that's how bad it is.
But there is something in me that feels compelled not to give in, to continue to be the private eye who will solve the case, if not to get out of pain, then to discover a means to gracefully weave it into my life, if that's even possible.
It's as though I can't let my pain-mates down, which in many ways has been the thrust of so many of my creative pursuits over the years, even before I found myself in these particular dire straits. I must at least try to speak for us, and try even harder to solve the riddle of how to live when the unthinkable happens. I'm not sure if that earns me a gold star, or just an inflated ego for a short while as yet another coping mechanism that, like so many others, will ultimately give way under the weight and wear of all things relentless.
I hurt so bad today, and I've got just one Vicodin left until tomorrow. And it's only 12:39 p.m. as I write this.
Artwork images are selections from my illustrated journal.