A few months ago, my mentor told me to stop worrying about what the market wants, to write what was in my heart and see what happened. I’ve gotten this advice before, but this time, it was a right mentor/right place/right time thing, and it finally really sank in. I started writing a book of poems called Kerosene Dreams (among other things—I’ve been a writing fiend). At first, the poems were addressed to dead geniuses, and then, they became poems addressed to dead rock stars. (There are also poems about Bigfoot and aliens involved, because I’m a freak like that.)
I’m obsessed with rock-n-roll. I think it is the most powerful artistic medium there is. I probably should have been a musician, but I became a writer instead. (Well, first I became a groupie who wrote poems at truck stops after rock shows. Then I became a writer. It’s easier to carry a pen than a piano when traipsing around the world.) I don’t know how much of a market there is for wonky rock-n-roll/alien/Bigfoot poems, but I don’t give a shit. Trying to write for the market almost killed my muse for good. I’d rather live forever without another publication than live a life devoid of color. For me, writing has never been a job. It’s always been the most sacred, living expression of my soul I could muster. Losing my muse was losing me.
A few midnights ago, I felt totally inspired to write a poem called “A LOVE SONG FOR JANIS JOPLIN.” (I write my best work at night, when the moon is high, and the whole world is sleeping, except for the things that matter–the stars and the crickets and the feral dogs.) I pinky swear, I felt that crazy-beautiful soul with me as I wrote her song. I never know if what I’ve written is any good until I sleep on it, but the next day, I decided it was one of my favorite things I’d ever written. I got on Facebook after reading it and saw a post from the day before wishing Janis a happy birthday. I’d had no idea it was her birthday when I wrote about her. I decided it was a wink from the universe. “Yep, you’re on the right track now,” She said. And I believed her.
In other news, if you follow my crazy little life, you know I had a psychotic break while withdrawing from Xanax in July. (I was taking it as prescribed, tried to go off cold turkey, blah, blah, blah. Now that I’m writing that sentence, it feels like I’m defending what happened to me, and I’m tired of defending it, so I’ll just leave it at blah, blah, blah. If people judge me, there ain’t one pretty word I can write that will change that.) I’ve talked about it openly in interviews (here’s one) and on social media because I don’t believe in living lies, and whether I like it or not, it happened to me. Also, lots and lots of people suffer from mental illness and don’t get the luxury of coming back from it, as I did. I owe it to them to tell the truth, to not treat this thing as shameful, and in so doing, further the shame that is (shamefully) heaped on all who suffer from mental illness in our culture.
Long story short, I recovered inordinately quickly and miraculously, with the help of God and a good doctor and my beautiful family and a few dear friends, but the long term effect of that event seems to be that the chains that held my muse in place shattered. I write things I couldn’t write before—things I wanted to but didn’t know how to write. It’s like whole new avenues of creative expression broke free in my brain when I lost logic for a while. I don’t know if the writing is better. We are all such shitty judges of the value of our own work. But I know for sure it is more true than anything I’ve ever written.
Also, I’ve always been a huge weirdo and rebel. I tried normal life in my younger years, and it didn’t suit me. But when you live a weird life, people tend to misunderstand and judge you, and as much as I tried not to care what people thought of freak-o me, I always did (to lesser and lesser degrees as I got older, but still I cared). Losing my mind for a day seems to have saved me from that particular brand of bullshit. I really don’t care what people think. I’m gonna be me, and those who disagree can kiss my bountiful goddess ass. (Or go pour themselves a glass of nice cool lemonade, far, far away from me. I don’t wish them ill. I just wish them gone from my sphere of existence.)
And focusing on my mental health also meant focusing on my physical health, so I’ve lost 40 pounds, and I’m healthier than I’ve been since my 20s. Silver linings, kids. Silver linings.
I’ve come to see that nasty day that seemed like the worst of my life as the greatest gift I have ever been given. It saved my soul in so many way. Everything I lost as a result of it was never mine to begin with. (You can never lose anything that’s truly yours.) And what I gained in exchange for a little short lived trauma and humiliation was me.
I don’t know what the point of all that was, except I figured I should check in here, as it’s been months. And I know I’ve been a bit of a hermit, but I was working hard on me, and I needed solitude to do it. I’m excited about writing again, and that thrills me. I feel more alive than ever before. Also, new avenues are opening up for my teaching, avenues that are very suited to my passion, which is teaching spiritual, vulnerable, authentic writing from a generous, life-giving place (rather than teaching formulaic writing from a judgmental, critical place.) These two retreats are approaching fast, and I’m stoked.
Anyway, here’s me dressed as Janis Joplin for Halloween with my little girl a few years back. You know, to give this rambling some (admittedly flimsy) cohesion.
Namrockste, crazy-beautiful mo fos. I see the rock god in you.