When you have a writer/performer/artist born into your family, or you get married to, or you’re the child of, you don’t sign up for being fodder for their writing: it not something you think about . . . you just want that relationship with them, or in some cases you’re stuck with that relationship. You don’t ask for the world to hear about your ups and downs, your most private and painful moments; but as an artist, that’s what we do.
The personal becomes political, the private becomes a public display. And joy, anger, and heartbreak, can become a song the whole world sings or, at the very least, knows. And so this disclaimer is to you, the reader. This story I’m about to tell is deeply personal, and to protect the innocent, I’m leaving out a lot, and obscuring some things. This disclaimer is also to my family: If I reveal something here you’d rather I didn’t talk about, I’m sorry. Personally, I think this is fine, because I’ve talked to all of you ad nauseum about it. So if you feel uncomfortable with it, I’m sorry.
Not too long ago, there was a death in the family. It wasn’t your typical death, it was a hard one. They are all hard, right? But this one felt harder, because in life this family member had a difficult past; with myself to a lesser degree, but big time with other members of my family. There was a lot of hurt and hard feelings, and closure seems elusive. It’s hard to mourn with these issues surrounding you, because you’re left with questions you will never get the answers to.
This is the second death of someone close to me this year. In March, a dear friend of mine, Dan, committed suicide, and it tore me up. It still tears me up. And now a family member. Death is one of those circumstances in life that uncovers things – the stuff you don’t talk about; the lies you tell yourself, the holes you carry with you.
We all have these holes right? Someplace or somewhere that hurts, that never got filled. As we get older those holes become bigger, and we create work-around methods of coping and filling those holes.
I know what my holes are. Some of them are way too private to talk about here, but one I’ve shared on other platforms is the story of my daughter, Laurynn, who passed away. I won’t get into it here, but I told the story with the Moth. You can find it online. But when the sadness of losing her begins to overwhelm me, as it sometimes does, I work. It’s what I do when I’m feeling bad, insecure, angry, or hurt. I turn it into work. It eases me. The work loves me back, because out of my pain or hurt I can make something beautiful. And there are much worse ways to fill the hole right? I’m not drinking, drugging, or using anonymous sex: Trust me, I tried some that in my youth, and working feels like a safer and smarter alternative.
By Al Letson