This morning I was thinking about the trajectory and the history of my life, as I make my plans to write, 'the book'. I was inspired all over again, even though most of the time it seems to me I am a small speck on a vast mass of rock tumbling through the solar system. I do, however, have a firmly rooted belief in the collaboration of the past, the present, and the future in an attempt to give life a face that I can look at. I was also thinking about the history of my family, and the friends and acquaintances I have known, and the intersections and experiences we have that unite us in a universal journey to our destinations. My God, I'm starting to sound like Proust, who I could not even follow! I pray God, that I will not bore the world with my story!
What gives meaning to a life lived? Perhaps I'll make an attempt to find out, at least some of it in part.
I heard this quote this morning: "The success of a life is not measured on how much we are loved, but how well we loved others." Its very easy to get self consumed in our own desire to be accepted and loved, and for me, self indulgence sometimes seems so normal. Still, I suppose there is a balance that must be obtained, it's a cliche, but one must love one's self to be able to love others. My God, that sounds so cheesy! Probably, because I watched the film, 'Rachel Getting Married' for the second time this morning, (where I heard the quote). What a brilliant film, It is the perfect Christmas movie for me today. I would encourage you to watch it, (especially if you are dealing with a family member who is the very marrow of your family's dysfunction).
There are so many who have difficulty this time of year. I know that the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings here are full, as many fear the triggers that will create the climate for a relapse. It was only two years ago at Christmas that I found myself in a detox unit, and after watching this film, realized how self centered it must have seemed to some--to have the 'drama' of Raymond in detox at Christmas. You think I could have waited until at least the middle of January until things quieted down, but in retrospect, I might not have made it to the middle of January. That, unfortunately, is the harsh truth of the matter. Although I don't always write down everything that is happening to me, I am having the gradual revelation that I must tell the truth, after all, if a writer cannot be honest, well, I guess he can write fiction. I have begun to tell my audiences at the beginning of the play (Bohemian Cowboy) that the story they are going to hear is true. Even though there are things in the play that did not happen in a stark reality, the marvel of theatre is that you can get to a deeper truth by finding living analogies, fractured dimensions, and alternative universes which in many ways, are miraculous truths in comparison to reality. The last night I was performing the show here, as I was kneeling in front of the audience with my arms outstretched saying, "I laid there on that desert floor and I finally wanted to live! I laid there on that desert floor and I wanted to live forever!" I thought, gee, this is pretty vulnerable material to be displaying for a bunch of strangers to see, they must feel so uncomfortable for me. But really, why should I hold anything back? Who am I trying to conform for? I think the more I write, the less I feel the need to hold things back, (that may scare the hell out of some of you out there!) Don't worry, I can still keep a secret, or can I?
I know that the conception of the play I'm doing now, was initially written down in a composition book at AA meetings. I was going at that time, to two or three a day, and furiously writing everything that came into my head. I had a realization at the time, that if I was ever going to get beyond a vanished father, along with "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to..." I was going to have to get honest with what was going on inside of me. For weeks I wrote down these entries, some that could only be written in the state of mind and heart that I was in. As I go back to these entries presently, I realized that they may have saved my life. Through the writings and the experiences of being a theatre creature, I was able to find its outlet, another play. Playwriting is a process of extremes, more grueling and gut wrenching I think, than most people understand. There have been several instances in my life when someone has come to me with the 'idea' for a play, as if I will stop everything and write it for them. I have always been polite in the circumstance, but in mind I was thinking, "You have know idea..." In writing a play, in my opinion, it must cost you something, sometimes more and sometimes less, but the price is high and the pay is low. I love the story of De Kooning, who was living in a small studio in NYC, in the dead of winter, while burning some old frames for firewood, knew he needed to paint his way through the winter somehow. He scraped up enough money for some black paint, (which was the cheapest) and painted his 'black paintings'. Today, they are worth millions of dollars. Luckily, he did achieve some status as a painter before he died, but his life and his art cost him everything. Although, those who wish I had a better sense and some security, (and there are days when I wished it too!) I am not the first nor the last who had to find the art of confession and honesty, the sacrifice of worldly goods, and face the possibility of dying in obscurity.
For my family, let me assure you that even though some of you may not understand what I have had to go through these last few years, know that I am coming out of a dark tunnel, and I emerged with a play. I also emerged with some sort of reconciliation with my connection to the universe, and I found peace between me and my father. Granted, not all plays cost the same, but the ones that tell the truth do, and those are the plays that will create an interesting piece of art. They are also the ones that will make some people uncomfortable. I have always been willing to take that risk, and now the craft of executing it is catching up with the story.
A Merry Christmas to you all!