The Release of Death

The Release of Death

My mother and I before she said, “I’m sorry.”

I can only speak of my own experience now that someone with enormous influence over my life has died. I could write about the horrors of those last two weeks or how I cried when I made one of the most harrowing decisions of my life.

Instead, I’m going to write about the last two years since the death.

I had a love-hate relationship with my mother. It was a two-way cycle of yelling for most of my life based on misunderstandings that can only arise from two incompatible perspectives violently clashing. She believed that everyone, including myself, lied to get attention. I believed that honesty was the best policy, sometimes to my detriment.

My mother had Bipolar II with a co-morbidity of closet narcissism. The world revolved around her and the vagaries of her manic-depression. She refused to get help and she refused to acknowledge my illness as anything other than histrionics and attention-seeking.

I can’t hold her illness against her now. Not since my diagnosis with Bipolar II, which was only valid in psychiatric circles with the release of the DSM-V in 2013. The medical community had betrayed her with their shoddy treatment of her breast cancer. The psychiatric community could only do the same.

She was right. Many times, she was right about people and situations. How she conveyed these insights was the problem, because she cast her sense of self-importance and “superior” intellect into the telling.

I don’t care for that kind of conveying. It smells of deceit. But how could my mother deceive me? I was her first-born and only daughter. I was her miracle when she gave birth to me.

These insights are the aftermath of death. You don’t only grieve the loss. You grieve for the relationship and the moments. All of them.

You get angry that you were left behind. You lament over unresolved grievances. You regret the future that will never be.

It’s all about you now.

You might hate the person who died, and if the ties were half a strand of DNA and/or all the interactions implied in that sort of relationship, you are torn up inside. Love and/or hate. Mixed emotions that you must resolve.

But here’s the other side of the coin. Whatever awful relationship you had with this person who influenced your life, the death sets you free.

Whatever aspect of your life this person dominated is now open for you to explore. Sometimes, it’s your entire life, but usually it’s a shedding of judgments that infected you through criticisms. It’s the letting go of someone else’s perspective. If you want to, you can see clearly.

The weight that lifted from my shoulders after my mother died was enormous. Here I was thinking I was my own person and I’ve discovered that I wasn’t. My mother’s influence touched the most important aspects of my life and colored them with the idea that I always made poor decisions, that I was nothing compared to her. That’s a weight I was willing to lose.

I’m relieved she died.

There. I said it. As much as I loved my mother, I hated her more. Her decisions deprived me of a potentially healthier life.

Because that’s what abuse does. It gives you a greater potential for illness. It gives the abuser a greater potential for illness. Emotional, mental, and physical violence take its toll on both parties involved in the transaction.

I can’t change what happened, but I wonder if I would have been a more productive contributor to society without her influence. I wonder if I would have developed my predisposition for Bipolar. There was a time when I wasn’t ill. I was just frightened and conflicted. Hypervigilant.

Sometimes I miss you, Mom. We had some good times, but only after I “divorced” you. You couldn’t undo my childhood, but at the end, it meant so much that you wished you could. That you learned how to say, “I’m sorry.”

But most importantly, you said, “I believe you.”

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

And Have A Plan To Kill Everyone In the Room

My son posted a rant on his FaceBook. Of course we’re friends on FaceBook. I have him designated as a Close Friend, so if he so much as farts in cyberspace, I get a notification.

No, I’m not that kind of mother. I’m the kind who cares enough to say something like this (after covering my eyes and peering through my fingers to read every word):

“Boy, there are two things you should avoid doing throughout the course of your life if you want to succeed. First, don’t burn bridges in haste. Choose with utmost care the bridges you burn for they may never be rebuilt. Second, don’t rant in public. It pisses people off and you look like an ungracious ass.” In other words:

Image

Words of wisdom to my son.

Granted, I only said something after he came to me complaining that some of his colleagues were offended by his less-than-professional post .  He’s twenty-one.  I think every young adult should get a pass on a gaffe like this as long as the error is corrected.  He was smart enough to come to me with his dilemma.

What my son ranted about is exactly how things are, but public, in-your-face rants don’t change things. Ask the politicians seeking our votes. They rant and rave on their soapboxes, but when they get elected, they quickly discover that their rants for change are up against a much bigger monster than rhetoric can conquer. They tow the party line after a while. Those who don’t disappear into obscurity.

After some careful explaining, and validating his feelings (hey, feelings are feelings and it isn’t my place to tell him not to have them), I instructed him on the best course of action. “Son, only rant to the choir and do it before the congregation arrives.” I also advised him to take down the post. No apologies necessary, just “don’t do it again or you’ll get a reputation for that kind of behavior.”

It’s okay to be angry about how the world is. It’s okay to want to change things. There are even places where rants are effective  (like in songs or comics or IDK, the arts in general – think Spaced Repetition), but you have to consider the audience. Subliminal messages work better. Subtlety will slay the biggest foes. And my personal favorite, kill them with kindness.

My son doesn’t realize it yet, but I’m managing his career. He will not get the opportunity to make mistakes with such spectacular regularity as his mother. I can crash and burn. My gaffes are expected, even anticipated, but he has a pristine field of opportunity out there and I want him to soar much higher than me before he takes another nose dive. Hopefully, I can head him off at the pass before he jumps.

Do You Have What It Takes?

5 Bitter Truths

Being an artist doesn’t pay—up front anyway.  You should have a good day job, one you can tolerate and that will allow you the freedom you need to pursue your art.  Because you’re going to have to put up with crappy turnouts, non-existent sales, and people always wanting something for nothing.

Let’s go over several Bitter Truths that an artist has to swallow to still hold the ol’ head up in society.

  1. Life owes you nothing. Work hard and do your very best even when no one appreciates your efforts.
  2. People only like you if you can do something for them. If you aren’t adding value to someone’s life, then they aren’t going to pay you mind, give you time, or shell out their hard earned dollar.
  3. People want you to let them in for free, give them a free copy, take them to dinner, and tell them what wonderful fans/promoters/producers/et al. they are.
  4. If you want to play at a venue, have a signing at a bookstore, hang your art in a gallery, or whatever, you’re going to have to shell out the cash to make it happen. Even if the promoter thinks you’re cool.

And if you don’t believe me about #4 then read this: How Much Does It Cost To Make A Hit Song?

Sometimes, it really does feel like this is an artist’s target audience…

Hard to swallow, isn’t it? But I think it’s always been this way underneath the surface. This is why sheer talent isn’t always an indication of stardom. Some people are wildly talented and never go anywhere, at least not until after they die. Some people are talentless to the point that they are anti-talent, but they are wildly successful while still alive.

Is it a matter of wanting it more? Yes, but that isn’t the whole of it. Some people are so charismatic, so cunning, and have just enough talent that it becomes a winning combination. Madonna comes to mind. There isn’t one way of doing this, but you have to ask yourself, is it the process or the end result that matters most to you?

If it’s the process, then you can’t help but make art. You will be making art until death puts you in the ground. It’s like a fever inside. Even if you aren’t generating the physical product, you will always be creating.

If it’s the end result, then you will be promoting yourself. You create to have something to promote and that too is its own fever. You may not have talent, but you know a lot of people and you can get the money you need to fund your projects.

If it’s both, that’s where I think the winning combination is. I’ve heard too many artists who are more process-oriented complain about the promotion necessary to get the work to the public. I’ve seen too many artists who are more end-result-oriented unable to generate truly moving creations. You have to have both fevers to be successful and even then:

Bitter Truth #5:  Success Isn’t Guaranteed