Every artist working is dealing with some sort of emotional damage. Something in our lives has deeply affected us along the way. Some of us are not even aware of it. I think if you read something or hear a song by someone that cuts into you, it’s that artist’s hurt coming through and chances are if you felt it you probably have experienced that sort of pain, too. It’s that raw truth and the willingness to share that experience that makes art resonate. As both a songwriter and as an author, I find myself venturing back to old memories, moments in time that impacted me, for better or worse. For my new book, UNTIL SUMMER COMES AROUND, it was mostly fun. I got to go back to the 80s and put myself in what was a mostly happy time in my life. The music, the beach, no cell phones, no internet…ah, a simpler time indeed. But there’s also loss that slithered its way in there. I won’t go into details (no spoilers here). The “yin and yang”, right? The light and the dark.
Two years ago, my wife was going to therapy and suggested that I should give it a shot. I said, what the hell, and signed up. Well, let me tell you something, I only went to about four sessions. That was pretty much just going through my life, a semi-brief overview of the things from my earliest memories up to now. I tell you this because in those limited sessions I learned so much more about myself. And honestly, it was enlightening and heartbreaking. I’d love to go back and see my therapist again, but I’ll have to prepare myself a little better next time around.
Going back over my life from what I assumed was a safe place-Glenn here and now- I was surprised by how much stuff I’d just compartmentalized and filed away between the ages of 14 and 25. I mean, for a decade I was adrift. My parent’s divorce was a heck of a lot heavier than I thought. When you’re in the moment, when it’s all happening, you don’t really have a choice to stop and examine it and explore how it makes you feel. You’re just stuck on survive. Now, I always swept all that aside, because my childhood drama or trauma, was insignificant compared to say someone who was molested or lost a parent or something tragic like that, but as it turns out, my life trajectory at 14 wasn’t normal or safe, either.
My parent’s got divorced and moved to different cities and homes. Mind you, we lived in the same town and trailer since before I was born. And they allowed me at 15 or 16 to move in with my brother, who at 19 or 20, was just a freaking kid still himself. That began my life of sort of drifting from couch to couch, and while I felt like I was making it from day to day okay, I never realized just how lonely and scary that way of life was. It was my normal. I simply accepted it and pushed on. As a parent now, I know that it’s not supposed to be that way, that your parents are supposed to take care of you. Your parents are supposed to keep you safe. Your parents are supposed to be there for you when you’re going through those all too tumultuous teenage feelings and searching for who you’re supposed to be. While my parents didn’t kick me out, they certainly didn’t step up and parent me. They were dealing with their own personal drama, and I guess they thought I was grown up enough to be able to take care of myself. They did check up on me and buy me groceries, but that wasn’t totally consistent, either. There were days of living off fruit pies (those crappy cheap treats at 7-11) and packets of picante sauce I’d take from McDonald’s. Now, my mom would have taken me back in at any time, and I did return when I needed to. I had spinal fusion surgery at 16 because of my scoliosis. Within six months, I was back out surfing the couches of friends.
So, what got this piece started? Well, I was listening to the song “Wonderful” by Everclear. It is truly a fantastic track. I always thought that. But after my therapy sessions and not hearing the song in a bazillion years, yesterday all those emotions of fear, frustration, and loneliness came flooding back. It was like I was hearing the song for the first time. I was driving in my van, crying as I sang along. It must have been a sight to behold for people passing by, but I’ve never really worried about such things. I’m an artist. I like to feel. And I felt Art Alexakis’s pain. And it was my pain, too.
My advice for my friends out there with hopes and aspirations to become writers: you should always dare to dip into that pain. It’s very, very cathartic. And not just for you, but for that person out there like you that never knew they needed your words so very much.
Sorry if this was a little all over the place, but I just needed to write it down. Also, I’m bummed to have learned that Art Alexakis was diagnosed with MS last year. I hope the best for him.
Be good to one another, my friends.
“SLEEP” I wrote this song in 1998.