Only a broken heart

Yesterday was an intense day.

The Muse had my attention by 4:40 AM.  My eyes opened, and it felt like the Muse was filling up my whole room. I said to him (in my head): You can’t be serious.

I was facing one of my big bedroom windows, all of which are now always open, the blinds always raised. I was looking right at the huge maple tree. I could see that it was going to be a beautiful morning.  Just the kind of morning I would want to be awake for — but the Muse had kept me up until 1 AM. I’d hardly slept. I’d forgotten how, when the Muse is in my life, I hardly eat, I hardly sleep.

I know that some artists are practically haunted by the Muse. Van Gogh, of course, springs to mind.  I don’t feel haunted; but I do become sort of enveloped by a euphoric swoon. The Muse has its own energy. I feel it when it flows in — almost like a tide– and when it recedes. And when it does flow in, it is the most beautiful thing. It’s the essence of true inspiration  — as if it’s breathed into me by an angel on a mission from the Divine.

Ideas will come that seem heightened somehow; visions come that have a peculiar clarity or quality of color. And then certain words come; words that have a more intense feeling about them over other words, and I know that if I put those specific words together in a particular sentence, form paragraphs that turn into pages — I know that at that point, I can make love to the whole world.

If you aren’t a writer, this probably isn’t making any sense at all.  But it is the most beautiful feeling. And for me, the Muse always takes up residence in my bedroom, which is why I always end up with my writing desk in my room — try as I did, in the past, to keep my writing life separate from my bedroom. Eventually I just gave up, because I need my desk to be wherever the energy is. But then all my papers, all my notes, research books, photos, whatever, makes its way into my room , as well, since it becomes the only place where I can tap into the Muse. My room always ends up looking like a cyclone hit it, but it isn’t my fault. I want to tell people, “I didn’t make this crazy mess, the Muse did that!”

When writers sit and stare, seemingly for hours, it always looks to outsiders as if they aren’t doing anything at all. But, actually, when a writer sits and stares, the creative act is in process.  For the past 2 days, I have sat and stared a lot, deep in that euphoric swoon. It’s why I can’t sleep and why I forget to eat — I can’t tear myself away from my room and from how fucking beautiful everything in the world seems when I’m awake and in there.

For me, those beautiful images have to build up, until they burst through the barricade between that nonphysical place into the physical, where the words then, finally, pour out all over the page.

But while the images are building, while I’m stuck in that euphoria, life still happens. I still have to sort of “tend to things,” but it’s all filtered through that intensity and it makes my life feel very keen– aching, bittersweet.  All-consuming.  Simple things take on a momentous depth.  For instance: A birthday present arrived in the mail from one of my ex-husbands yesterday.

BTW, I am totally blessed. I have 2 ex-husbands, both of whom called me on my birthday to wish me all kinds of good things. If you consider just this blog post alone, you can readily see how being married to me is not any kind of a picnic. And if you factor in other blog posts, or most of what I’ve written in my entire life, well, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that I had a serious problem in the fidelity department. And my 2nd ex-husband endured the worst of it. He had an inkling of what I was like before we actually got legally married, but I don’t think he was prepared at all for the complete maelstrom of my personality and for everything else that came along with being married to me.

In fact, it took the guy who came after my 2nd husband for me to finally figure out that not everyone was going to put up with my shit. I was already 40!! — it took me that long to grow up. That guy and I fell in love the night we met — on a crowded dance floor in a tiny Puerto Rican hole-in-wall in lower Manhattan — and by our second meeting, he had me figured out. He said, “I really want you for my girl, Marilyn, but if you play me and start fucking around with dykes, I am going to mess you up. Do you understand me?” Whoa. Yes I did. (And my novel Freak Parade was born, gang. Currently free to download from Smashwords until July 31st! )

It was from my 2nd ex-husband that this birthday gift had been sent. It was a tee shirt he’d had designed specifically for me.  Neptune & Surf was my first book, and while I love pretty much everything I’ve ever had published, Neptune & Surf is my baby, my pearl, my gem. I love that book so much. And I am so grateful to the Universe that it has remained in print for 19 years already. A book that no one on Earth thought I could ever get published because they thought it was filthy porn. But I did get it published, to glowing reviews, in fact, all over the world. Neptune & Surf had been inspired by Hubert Selby Jr’s infamous novel, Last Exit to Brooklyn. I loved that book, and Neptune & Surf (named after 2 main avenues in Coney Island, in Brooklyn, NY) was a decidedly X-rated homage to that novel.

When my book came out, I sent a copy of it, along with a fan letter, to Hubert Selby Jr (nicknamed “Cubby”), out in LA. And not only did he write me back with a truly glowing opinion of Neptune & Surf, he told me that when I was out in LA again, to call him and we would have lunch.

When I was next out in LA, it was a truly high point in my life, in my career.  All the book stores there were carrying Neptune & Surfmy book, my filthy pornographic book — including Tower Books, right there on Sunset Boulevard. And with the cover facing front, not just the spine of the book showing among a million other books. I did call Cubby and he took my call right away. He was so enthusiastic about getting together. He said, “Meet me at the House of Pies.” So I did. We wound up keeping in touch until he died in 2004.

Well, this tee shirt my ex had designed for me had a picture of Cubby’s face on the front of it, and it said “Meet me at the House of Pies” and on the back, it says: Last Exit to Brooklyn.

I nearly cried. It meant so much to me. I called him right away to thank him, to tell him how much I loved it.  He said, “I’m glad. Be well, Marilyn. Work hard, okay? Keep writing. I want you to have a really good year.”

All of this happened while the Muse was hanging out with me, so my feelings about all of it swelled into a sort of fever. It felt staggering, really, that my ex could still care that much about me. That instead of dwelling on the really horrible times — things like throwing the phone at me in our beautiful Upper West Side apartment and shouting, “If you don’t call her right now and tell her it’s over, that you’re never fucking her again, you are out on your ass tomorrow” — instead of all those kinds of memories that, unfortunately, I remember really well and am not proud of; instead of that, he chose to remember one of the happiest moments in my life and to celebrate that for me.

I spent the rest of the day listening to Only A Broken Heart. I had it on repeat, and streamed it over & over & over, literally for hours, long into the night. Such a simple yet devastating song. I hung out with the Muse and just sort of looked at the truth of myself, at that marriage, and seeing finally how hard he had tried to take care of me, and how after 15 years, he just couldn’t put up with any more of my shit. Intense day.

Here comes that feeling I’ve seen in your eyes
Back in the old days before the hard times
But I’m not afraid anymore
It’s only a broken heart

I know the place where you keep your secrets
Out of the sunshine, down in the Valley
But I’m not afraid anymore
It’s only a broken heart

What would I give to start all over again
To clean up my mistakes

Stand in the moonlight, stand under heaven
Wait for an answer, hold out forever
But don’t be afraid anymore
It’s only a broken heart

What would I give to start all over again
To clean up my mistakes

I know your weakness, you’ve seen my dark side
The end of the rainbow is always a long ride
But don’t be afraid anymore
It’s only a broken heart

“Only a Broken Heart”  by Tom Petty,

© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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