"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“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 or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


June 9, 2010

Today's my dad's birthday.  June 9, 1945 - he would have been 64, like the Beatles' song.  It's hard to imagine how he would be now, his older self, just as it's hard to imagine sometimes that my mother is almost 63.  In my mind's eye, she is always 35.

My dad is Gregory Bennion Smith.  He killed himself when he was 47, less than one month before his 48th birthday.  He hung himself with a rope off his balcony after an episode of using.  A drug addict and alcoholic, he ws supposedly in recovery, but I realize now that he was actually in the midst of relapse.  He used alcohol the most, but he also smoked weed and took any pills that were around.  Crack cocaine was his favorite next to alcohol.  The only thing he didn't ever try - to my knowledge - was heroin, and as far as I know he never shot up.  Not that that really means anything; what I think I know or whether he shot up, that is.  Smoking crack is one of the most addictive forms of drug use there is.

I don't really know why he did it, other than the obvious reasons of just not wanting to live anymore.  Depression had hold of him early on, and, I would bet, from a very young age.  But the only remedy available to him really at the time was talk therapy, which he tried.  Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications that are so readily available now just weren't back then, and by that I mean the early 80's and 90's.

The problem with the 80's, too, was that no one started the decade out thinking that cocaine was addictive.  I know, it's ridiculous to think tha tnow when we've seen how it destroys lives.  Even later in the 80's when the "crack epidemic" revealed itself, it seemed to a problem relegated to urban areas, to low income people.  It was a poor class, non-white problem.  (Remember the movie, "New Jack City"?)  And trust me, crack is no different that powder cocaine, other than how it's processed and used (you "freebase cocaine" but you smoke crack; big deal).  My dad was a white collar, white attorney and so were many other users, as we know today.  As a culture, as a country, we were so naive back then - in the 70's and 80's.  We were like children, experimenting as a whole, because we just didn't know any better.

And then there was AIDS.  I remember somewhere around 1981 or 1982 my dad reading the newspaper and being totally freaked out about this "new" disease that you can catch by having sex or even kissing or any exchange of bodily fluids.  And worse, there was no cure.  As a child it disturbed me, this idea that there was this disease that couldn't be fixed.  (What did I know then about all the diseases out there that can't be fixed, especially cancer?)  And it seemed no one was safe from it.  I had  never been faced with such a reality of life before, it seemed.  I don't know why, but I felt I needed some reassurance that we, my family, were all safe from AIDS.  I know why my dad was freaked out now - all the sleeping around he did after the divorce without a condom, I'm sure.  For that matter, my mom, too, should have been at least a little worried.

I inherited my father's depression, I believe.  You'll see later that there are a lot of reasons why it makes sense I developed depression, but I have always been like my father in the way of feeling things.  I have never wanted to actually kill myself, but I have definitely been in the dark space of "I just wish I wasn't alive."  Like the line in Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody":  "Mama, I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all."

I don't feel that way today, and don't worry, I'm medicated :)  But it's a demon I'll always have with me.  Or a legacy, if that sounds better.  I imagine that is partly why I am the eternal optimist.  I carry hope everywhere I go, hope for myself, for the world, for a better future.  My glass is half full all the time, and if I take a drink, you'd better be sure I'll fill it back up.

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