Another gorgeous day here in Crazeysburg! You would not believe it had been so unbearable only a couple of days ago.
And because it’s so beautiful, I think I’ll spend the next 8 hours, yes, sitting at my desk!
Even while I am actually excited about making the drastic revisions to Tell My Bones — because I believe in the director and I believe that whatever he feels so strongly about is the path to follow here — I do sort of lament that I spent my entire birthday (Monday) at my desk, working on the (old & now useless) revisions of the play.
I was at my desk for over 12 hours on my birthday. And it really was a struggle, because I wasn’t sure the revisions were working, either. I wish the director had read the screenplay earlier (I sent him the screenplay at his request 6 weeks ago) and had discovered earlier that we needed to stop and go back down the previous path.
But it’s futile to wish that too hard, right? For whatever reason, we’re on the path right now. So I try to let go of it and focus on what’s in front of me. And next year, maybe I will spend my birthday doing something wonderful.
Yesterday, I added a new segment to In the Shadow of Narcissa. It’s a work in progress, for sure. It’s not what I would call an actual struggle to write it, but it’s a challenge to find balance there, and to tell the story through the eyes of my actual childhood and not tell the story as my grown self, who knows all the awful stuff that came later.
I’m not exactly sure what years the memoir will encompass. I want it to remain in the realm of my childhood in Cleveland. My happiest childhood memories are of Cleveland, but that’s because my paternal (adoptive) grandmother lived there and she was the very best part of my life.
But I do also have some happy memories about my adoptive mother from the years in Cleveland, even though I was already terrified of her by age 2, when she first lost control and mercilessly abused me. She tried really hard to regain her footing with me after that — and sadly, I believe it was to the detriment of my older brother. This is my own opinion about what happened. But I think that she was so afraid of herself, and of losing her control again with me and then having my dad find out that it had happened again, that she wound up redirecting all her rage toward my entirely defenseless brother.
As if her rage only counted if it was aimed at me, and that my brother didn’t matter. It was horrible, the stuff she did to my brother and I don’t even really know what happened, because she was always dragging him off to his room and I was always told to sit in a chair and shut up and not move.
Once, she tied his hands together and dragged him off to his room, and a lot of screaming, from him, ensued. He was 5 years old. It had started because he wouldn’t stop biting his nails. I was overwhelmed with anxiety, having to sit there and shut up and hearing him scream and not be able to help him.
I do remember one time being unable to control myself and pleading with her to leave my brother alone. “Mommy, stop!” you know, just inconsolable screaming, wanting to help him. And she actually told me to calm down because he was a boy and boys had to learn how to handle it. (As a footnote, my older brother stopped any contact with our adoptive mother back in 1982 and I haven’t seen my older brother since 1995.)
She said this. I remember it so clearly. I had a hard time processing that, for sure. Even at age 4, I could not believe that anyone who was suffering for any reason whatsoever, was meant to learn how to handle it.
Anyway, I’m trying to find balance as I tell In the Shadow of Narcissa. Because I do remember her trying very hard to be kind to me when I was very little, while she was in her early 30s. As the years went on, she became pretty much uncontrollable, 24/7. But I don’t think this memoir is going to be about that. This memoir is going to be about her seeming battle early on to be kind and yet to be filled with rage — a truly unhappy young 1960s American housewife who was also a narcissist. And how disruptive it was to me psychologically, and how, because I knew I’d been adopted, I began very early on, wishing that my “real” mother would come back and get me.
And then that very real fear of realizing that my “real” mother did not know where I was and that I was on my own.
Regarding the play, though. I decided to take last evening off. It was such a lovely night. I played my guitar up in my room for awhile and I even got out this Tom Petty songbook that someone gave me as a gift, recently.
I have never played a single Tom Petty song on my guitar in all these decades. I am strictly an acoustic rhythm player and so electric guitar stuff has never really called out to me, you know? Even though I know that Tom Petty felt very strongly about his songs staying as simple as possible, so that everyone could play it on an acoustic guitar around a camp fire, right? He believed this. I think it worked for him, too, because he was worth something like $95 million when he died. Keep it simple.
(As an aside, I saw a video on Youtube recently, by way of the AThousandMistakes blog in Australia. It was Warren Ellis and the Dirty 3 playing a recent concert in Sydney, I think. And he was introducing a specific song as their version of a camp fire song that people were supposed to be able to play on their acoustic guitars. It was so funny, because no way on earth could anyone else have been able to even attempt to play that thing.)
Anyway, I was looking at some of those Tom Petty songs in the songbook and I was actually astounded to see that some of my favorites from his early days always had about 3 chords. They were so simple to play. Even Free Fallin‘ — I had no idea it had 2 chords in the whole song. In fact, the melody itself is comprised of 3 notes, sometimes sang an octave higher, but 3 notes!! In the whole song.
That tells you a lot about how to become a wealthy songwriter in America, doesn’t it? Where we prefer things to be emotionally simple. We really do. I’m not knocking it, either, because I love that song Free Fallin.’ But we want our songs simple. We’re either happy, sad, or angry. That’s about it.
(As another aside, I remember coming out of Mel’s Diner on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. It was late at night. I was with Peitor and I was talking about a song Nick Cave had written, “We Call upon the Author to Explain.” I just love that song, you know. And I said something to Peitor, like, “I just don’t understand why Americans don’t love Nick Cave.” And Peitor looked at me like I was from Jupiter and he said, “Nick Cave is too smart. Americans like things to be stupid.”)
I don’t want that to sound like an indirect way of saying Tom Petty was stupid, because he wasn’t. He just saw the value in keeping it really simple. And yesterday, as I marveled at the 2-chord, 3-note structure of Free Fallin‘ and, you know, considered the state of my own bank account, and I wondered if simplicity wasn’t in fact the way to go…
Okay, gang! I gotta get started here!! As you know, I have a lot of work to do on Tell My Bones in the next 2 weeks. To put it mildly.
Thanks for visiting, though. I love you guys! And I leave you with your right to choose!! Simple, or not so simple. Okay. I love you guys. See ya!