I recently watched seasons 1-5 of “Weeds” on Netflix streaming. SPOILER ALERT: When U-Turn dies and Nancy gets a U-Turn sign tattooed on her ass, I was inspired. I actually considered doing the same. It just seemed like a funny message, and a clever/convenient double entendre. Similarly, I’ve always been moved and energized by the (now classic) “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake. You know… Here I go again on my own! Going down the only road I’ve ever known! Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone… You get the point, there’s a lot to be said for travel euphemisms? I don’t know. I figured I should start my first post in a while with something nonchalant and silly. But the truth is, I’m writing tonight because of a realization I had today. I figured, at this point, if I have an audience, I don’t know who they are, and I’m a lot less concerned about that. I don’t have an agenda, besides telling my story. For a moment there, I got so caught up in delivering a hopeful message, and doing it a certain way, that I lost myself, and stopped writing.
This morning, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead. The rumor is that an overdose is what finally did her in, at the ripe ol’ age of 27. It startled me for a second when I realized she was 27, and then saw her birth year. I’m 27. I too, was born in 1983. We all know the rock star references that are made here… Jimi, Janis, Jim, Kurt, etc. I’m no rock star, but I’ve been calling myself one for about a year now. I grew a little worried after proclaiming such a title and then realizing my age. My blog before this one was called “Musings of a Self-Proclaimed Rock Star.” It was amusing, but also cathartic, and often raw. I’ve decided to make it public again and you can find it. Even since closing the blog, I’ve been tweeting under the name @RockStarMusisings. Yes, I’m coming out. I’ve come to realize you either hide nothing, or you hide it all. Hiding shit is far too much work, and I’m far too lazy to work that hard to keep other people comfortable.
Amy’s death jolted me into this moment in a way nothing else has. I read the parts of Russell Brand’s blog post on her, that were shared on msnbc.com, and I realized that Winehouse and I have a lot in common. As for addictions, mine have come and gone, and the only one that has ever REALLY threatened my life, is food. Mainly because cocaine is expensive; alcohol can be miserable; and sex become tedious. Man! Whew! I had forgotten how refreshing honesty can be.
All that aside, I felt like Brand was really making an appeal to non-addicts to realize that addiction is a serious illness that kills people, and otherwise saying little about Winehouse besides the fact that she was distant, and a genius that we only saw at a glimpse. Now, I know you’re wondering where I am in that description, but I’ll elaborate. I don’t think I am a genius, but even now, it breaks my heart to realize that I, much like Winehouse, have held the world at such a distance that if I died, the world wouldn’t realize what it had lost. I agree with Brand. I think Amy Winehouse was incredible, and the media reveled in her slow demise, and mostly missed the light that she brought to the world. And this is our world. It is shitty. But what hurts me about what we have lost with the death of Amy Winehouse, is that we have no idea. That sultry voice, that deeply rich, dark soul. She had such a wealth within her, and we will never get to know it. We can joke all we want. When I first heard of her death, I blah blah blahed about who was next, Lindsay or Charlie. But Amy wasn’t just another troubled soul, and musical genius aside, she was a human being.
I’ve heard through social networking that Amy’s mom commented about making mental preparations for this day, knowing it would (or thinking it might) come. This takes me back to the days after my suicide attempt, when my mother was staying with me. During a heated argument one day, she admitted that it is hard to move forward, and stay involved, because on some level she knew I would do it again, and I might just be successful next time. She voiced to me that her distance was an attempt to keep herself safe, and to cope with that remaining chance that I won’t survive. As inexcusable as that may be to many of you out there, who have no idea, I understand it. Amy probably understood that. As much as she probably wanted to be sober, and not let herself and her loved ones down over and over again, she probably understood their distance. She probably knew that they had to keep themselves safe.
Tonight I was reflecting on addiction and I realized that it is a thin line between giving up on, sticking by, and enabling an addict. You have to love them unconditionally, but you have to set boundaries. You have to draw a line, but you have to let them know that you always want what’s best. I know that a lot of times, to an addict it looks like loved ones are walking away, when in reality, they’re doing all that they can to save the addict’s life, and maintain their own sanity/safety.
I was truly blessed to have dodged hard addictions, but as I type this, I’m sitting in a chair in the corner of my room, next to a stain on my wall. The stain is from my last suicide attempt, and the vomit left behind. My walls are a pale purple, but around the stain, you can see an aura of pale blue, where friends came and tried to wipe away the evidence before I got out of the hospital.
I get that Amy Winehouse was one of those whose death was “bound to happen,” out of all of us… I get that. But I also agree with Russell Brand: She didn’t have to be. I know there is a misunderstanding about artists. Most people think that your best work is done while you’re in the pits of despair, but one can only survive down there so long. I get that you can’t enable, but I wonder who was fighting for her. From where I’m sitting, there were jokes about her condition, just as there continue to be, but little else. Of course, I don’t know about her personal life, but usually the people who are consistently surrounding an addict, are also addicts. Generally speaking, addicts, when battling head-to-head with their condition, have one priority, the drug. All others are simply extras in the movie reel of their lives, just background music. Life isn’t lived as a series of moments, goals, accomplishments… life is composed of getting high, and the plans that you devise between highs to achieve the next high. Funny how something so simple can completely consume you.
So, I’m not a musical genius. So, I’m not in the public eye. So, I’m not wealthy or producing records that are going platinum, or performing in front of thousands. So, I’m not hooked on heroin. So, I’m not caught by the paparazzi, wandering the streets at night, disheveled and distraught. Do I need to be? Frankly, I feel that this world knows more of me than it did of her, despite her fame and notoriety. She was a ghost to us, and now the presence that we felt subtly, though oft ignored, is gone. Will we realize the void, no matter how quiet, that remains in her absence? Perhaps, not. But this little earthquake that has left me thinking, and sometimes speaking out loud, to myself and those around me, “I can’t believe Amy Winehouse is dead,” perhaps there is something to be said for that. I believe it is possible for our souls to ache for something that we don’t even realize that we’ve lost. When someone accomplishes so far below their potential, we all lose something very great, especially in the way of art, which can inspire us so deeply and undoubtedly change the world.
I am 27. For so long, but especially so over the past few months, I have held the world at a distance. I am uncertain of why. I suppose it is mostly out of fear. There is always the fear of what people will think, and fear of failure. As a survivor of sexual violence, there is also a fear of being revicitimized. We fear trying, but not reaching our potential. And to the contrary, there is a fear of reaching your potential and being disappointed. I’ve feared losing people, only to push them away in the end anyway. There is a fear of living, and all that “living” entails. The rush of love, and the pain of loss; two things that, as hard as we try to force them apart, are always packaged together. And there is a lot of pain, and certainly plenty of loss to be experienced out there. People leave because they want to, or leave because time rips them away from us. There are stubbed toes, broken bones, burns, cuts, and bruises. There’s rejection, and dismay. There’s fear. Oh! The crippling fear. It all comes full circle.
I realize now that there are people out there, who are so gifted, constantly stuffing down their potential, for whatever reason. I imagine Amy had something inside of her that haunted her. It could’ve been huge, or just a twinge of pain that she couldn’t stand to feel. She wanted to shut it up, numb it out, or kill it. And eventually she succeeded, but for that, what did she lose? And on a universal level, what have we lost? Another little bit of hope that could’ve inspired the next step in improving this damned world? Perhaps it was her voice on a tattered CD out there, that was playing on repeat for the kid who would grow up to do something great for this world, simply because her voice kept her/him going. What voice will that kid hear now? Or maybe Winehouse’s voice was the last of its kind, an endangered soulful echo that has now become extinct; and because of our blatant lack of appreciation, the voices of generations to come will resemble that of Ke$ha or Rebecca Black. Dear God, the horror.
I understand that there are parts of my spirit that ache, but I’m willing to withstand it for the sake of something good. If I have anything to offer, no matter how great or small, I do not feel it is my right to destroy any remnants of hope this world may have. For all the fear, for all the pain, I have to believe that there is purpose.
Do I believe that there’s a reason that I (or any other troubled talents out there) am alive and she isn’t? Well, besides the fact that heroin is like playing russian roulette with a nearly fully loaded gun, no. Eating yourself to death takes more time. I attribute my failure to stick with addictions to a short attention span, an empty wallet, the fact that I’m easily bored, and a fear of commitment. In the grand scheme of things though, she and I have both toyed with our mortality, and any way you look at it, the game can only end one way. When the game is over, one fact becomes blazingly obvious, there was a human being who is now gone. On top of that, she was a human being who held a wealth of talent, the depth of which we can never know. I think that’s what frightens me the most. If I have more to offer, as I believe I do, it is scary to think that being entangled in fear and doubt could stifle that gift. I too, could die without having shared of myself, or utilized my opportunity to contribute goodness to this desperate world.
We all have the potential to offer beauty to this world; in the end the big question is whether we will fight it or let it flourish. I’d like to think that this realization is a bit of something good coming from tragedy, but I suppose only time will tell. It is nice to believe that every screeching halt in one life’s potential, can cause a u-turn in another. If someone was headed towards an early end, another sudden silencing of greatness, maybe Amy can be a reminder that there are other options, and so much more to see along life’s detours.
My deepest prayer for you, Ms. Winehouse, is that somewhere out there, you’ve been blessed with a peace that you never managed to discover on earth. And if you’re down, I’m hoping that even on your cloud, you’ll still step up to the mic from time to time.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Look, as an artist, I respect Lady Gaga (her voice, the music, the lyrics), and I get what she trying to do… but the whole concept of being “born this way” is kind of ironic to me coming from her, because I want to be like “No… honey, no you weren’t. You were not born from an egg that was being carried by an entourage, from which you emerged with a flashy-ever changing wardrobe and a totally smokin’ bod.”
Over the top? Maybe. I think I was born resistant and rebellious. I mean, I refused to come out for quite some time before they cut my mom open and drug me out.
I think it is great to encourage people to be themselves, but these artists need to be a little more honest with the mirror when they claim they’re being themselves. Jessie J’s song “Who You Are” is AMAZING, it says “its ok not to be ok.” Which is a line I really appreciate, and it really helps me when I’m dealing with raw emotions. But there is one line where she says, “Brushing my hair, do i look perfect? I forgot what to do to fit the mold,” which kind of irks me. For those of you who have seen Jessie J, her hair IS perfect. She may be a little unique, but she fits the mold quite well: tall, skinny, pretty. That is why I appreciate the YouTube cover of the song by Meghan Tonjes. She’s a big girl, with an amazing voice, and she’s gorgeous… but everything about her is just more REAL. (And her voice is better than Jessie J’s anyway) And when SHE sings “its ok not to be ok” I believe it so much more
Why can’t we have artists like that? Artists who are real, and natural, and embracing it??? When I look at Lady Gaga, I always think that. It is easy to say that you’re different, and you want people to be themselves, but they can’t really look to you to as a role model of how to do that… when you are very typically beautiful, but you throw on a mask, some wigs, and a WILDLY OUTRAGEOUS garb to simultaneously negotiate and highlight the ways you fit into heteronormative beauty standards. You want to REALLY challenge us? Go get fat, or something.
This also applies to Beyoncé, who has put out songs like “If I Were a Boy,” and “Run the World.” I feel like those songs are so manipulative, because they reinforce pretty horrible things while trying to play it off as though they are are challenging them. Also, Beyoncé… I saw you recently. You were blond. Please, stop sending the message that young black girls would be prettier if their hair was blonder and straighter. If you want to blow our minds for a minute… go all Erykah Badu with that shiz. I’m not saying all black women should go “au naturel,” but there are far more famous black women out there who look whiter and whiter every time I see them, and that’s not fair.
Here is a great analysis of the Beyoncé phenomenon:
Gaga, your voice is pretty incredible… but I often feel like your music and your entire performance really play down your talent, when you should be embracing it. That’s why I always appreciate your performances on SNL more. You tend to start songs with a piano and just you, in a flashy costume, REALLY SINGING. Once you move on to the PERFORMANCE of it, though… YOU get lost, and all I hear is “blah blah blah.”
I don’t even want to buy your CD, even though I think I’d enjoy it. I feel like I’d be buying into this whole market of people who DO know how to “fit into the mold” while claiming they don’t; or telling me to be myself, when I have no way of knowing the difference between who they really are, and what they portray.
I miss more genuine representations of rawness and humility in music… the ones that don’t just claim things without the substance to back it up. That’s what I like about India Arie, Janis Joplin, Lauryn Hill, and Ani DiFranco… (sometimes p!nk, although she gets caught up in the marketing of it all too).
I get that marketing plays that game of “Buy this, because you’re not good enough, and this will make you better,” but can’t we reserve that technique for make up, diet products, and plastic surgery? Can’t we let the voices and the music speak for themselves when selling MUSIC?!?! I don’t care what you look like, the only thing I want from music is inspiration.
Music is SOOOOOOO POWERFUL. I get that it is a commodity, but can’t we just PLEASE get away from that for a while???
I want to look at musicians as ARTISTS, not just PERFORMERS. And I need to see women turn towards this model so much more, because the male artists out there have way more freedom to do it already.
I want to see female artists who ARE themselves. Where is the market for that? I want someone who looks something other than perfect singing me a song that tells me that she loves herself as is, and wants others to do the same. You can say it all you want, but actions speak louder than words. I get that you want people to see YOU, Gaga… I get that you’re into the flashy thing… but a few minutes of crying about being bullied as a kid in a documentary doesn’t convince me. I’m not saying walk around all the time crying about it… I’m just saying that I need more time of real YOU, not masked, costumed you… just you. And yes, I realize that you naturally fit into a lot of preset beauty standards, and maybe the flashy garb is an attempt to negotiate that… I get that, and I can respect it. But, I KNOW you have days where you aren’t made up and costumed. I WOULD LOVE to see you like… in some effing PJ’s or something!!! Just relax!!!
Russel Brand recently tweeted a pic of wife, Katy Perry without make up. She was horrified, and made him take it down, but I don’t know why. She was obviously caught off guard in the pic, but she was natural… and beautiful. I’m telling you, dear celeb women, you’re celebrities for a reason… you have something naturally already. Don’t feel so hard-pressed to dress it up and make it up like you aren’t good enough as is. How horrible do you think it makes us feel to see that even the most beautiful of women feel the need to hide within costume of what others think we should be?
You know how they have those “DON’T GET GAS DAYS” when gas prices spike, as sort of a protest??? I would LOVE to challenge ALL CELEBRITY WOMEN to go out one day, and walk the streets with the paparazzi entourage following… in nothing but pajamas. No make up. LET US SEE YOU!!! OWN IT. Hiding yourselves doesn’t help you, and it doesn’t help other young women out there who look up to you. I know some of you have tried it in a photo shoot here or there, but it is safer to be without clothes and make up when you have lighting and a good photographer. Just saying.
And yes, I realize that looking up to celebrities is stupid as it is. I GET THAT. Most people DO NOT.
AND CELEBRITIES ARE IN OUR FACES ALL THE TIME… and I guess I’m just as sick of people selling lies as I am by the fact that we actually buy them.
I’m done with my main point. But I’ll add a few perspectives, to open your mind.
Here is a recent vloggity by Philip DeFranco (love of my life). I really appreciate this message, and I totally think more men need to say it just as much as women need to say it (and mean it). I do also realize, though, that it is very valuable coming from women who say it and live it… Mainly because so many of us, too often, look to men to validate our worth.
Also, I realize that I’m not a musical person, and lyrics always hit me more, but I also appreciate the honesty of slam poetry… it is like music to me. Just a beat, and words. I know honesty isn’t totally marketable, but I wish it could be. I’ve posted my favorite slam poet, Buddy Wakefield here before, so this time, I want to share some slam poetry from an eclectic group of youths who are featured on HBO’s series “BRAVE NEW VOICES” which is presented by Russel Simmons.
“1893” by Jamaica
“That Girl” by Alysia
on the lighter side, but still completely raw:
“Ode to Philip Seymour Hoffman” by Aimée
I’ll end with my recent revamp of the commonly used Marilyn Monroe quotation:
“It is true that you don’t deserve me at my best, if u can’t handle me at my worst, but you should probably know that my worst is intense and my best is brief.”
~Noelle Aviña 🙂