"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

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Playing Pretend

From an early age, I learned to tell people that I didn't mind my parents being divorced.  Maybe it's because my parents were very good at making sure that we knew we were loved.  I think that they also took great care early on to hide any animosity from us.  I told friends that I would rather have my parents apart and friendly than together and fighting.  I suppose it was a defense mechanism.  I was completely unaware of how any of it affected Matthew or Julie.  Matthew was quiet, kept a lot to himself.  I only remember that on Sunday nights in particular, I would sometimes cry and tell my Dad that I just wasn't used to this.  In fact, now that I think about it, I remember lots of times when I would get up out of bed and tell my dad (and later my mom) that I just felt like crying.  Dad was good about listening and talking to me and encouraging me to express my feelings.  He liked to try to help and solve problems.  He was that way my whole life, always someone I could turn to if I was having a rough time.  He was a really good father in that way.

The early years - before all the heavy drug use began - they were good ones for us as far as parenting went.  I did learn to become pretty self-sufficient at that point.  I mean, I dressed myself, brushed my own hair, got myself to school.  But then again, I always was sort of the writer/director of my own life.

My dad had girlfriends almost as soon as my parents separated.  His first one was Karen, with whom my mom had thought Dad was having an affair, even if it was just an emotional one.  They never lived together but eventually when my dad moved out and my mom moved in, he moved into Karen's apartment building in Montrose, California.

I guess, though, I still wanted "The Brady Bunch" lifestyle.  When I was in third grade, I made up a story to my parents about the school having tryouts for cheerleaders for kickball games.  Can you even imagine?  They believed me!  I took boxes of Kleenex and shredded them and used rubber bands to hold the pieces together to look like pom poms, and then I made up cheers - probably cheers I'd heard on "The Brady Bunch" because what did I know about cheerleading?  I would perform for them under the pretense that I was practicing for the tryouts.  Finally, I decided the day for tryouts would come and I came running home, drumming up excitement (to the point that maybe I even believed this little story myself) and told them I made it!  I was living the dream life, life in pretend.  Oh, if all life could be lived in pretend.  I would be a princess in a fairy tale, Cinderella rescued by her Prince Deril or Rapunzel throwing her hair down to Sir Deril who would whisk me away to a castle.

Eventually, I realized that I had to come clean, that I couldn't make up this story forever, especially because Mom and Dad were hinting at coming to see me.  Plus, where were the real pom poms (oh, we have to leave them at school).  Where was my uniform?  I mustered the courage to tell them that I made the whole thing up.  I think they were amused, possibly concerned by my need for attention and my easy predisposition for lying for so long.

After that, there were no more made up stories - except for one as an adult, to which I had to confess again and it was much more embarrassing.  But all I ever wanted to do as a child was put on plays, write plays, make up shows, be on display; and yet, I was the shyest kid around.  At least that's how I think of myself in retrospect.  Maybe the shyness didn't kick in until we left La Crescenta.  But that's for later.  On to more babysitters!

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