this is the time of night that's designed for smoking cigarettes, drinking bourbon and being alone. i am doing one of those things. (i'm more of a vodka girl myself.) it's times like this when i start thinking about my family, about my choices, and about how i got to be who i am.
i am the daughter of a music man and a tortured genius. that's probably the most succinct way to put it. my daddy (all southern-raised girls have a "daddy") is a brilliant guitarist. he was a professional musician for a very long time. but for a couple of intervening circumstances - my birth, mainly - daddy would be bad blake. basically, he curtailed that dream to be my dad. and seriously, i am my father's daughter. a lot of women worry that they're growing up to be their mothers. i am PROUD to grow more like my daddy every year. i am so, so grateful that he changed his life to raise me. despite some of my failings, he did a damn good job. i got my work ethic, my sarcasm, and my tenacity from him. all good things to possess, in my mind.
but there are two sides to every coin, two halves to every lineage. every kid has a mother. my mother was a force of nature. i get my passion, my politics and my intellect from her. this is a woman who, as a teenager, faced down the klan in rural georgia to make sure little black kids got to preschool. she was beautiful and she was BRILLIANT. but, as is so common with the gifted, she was also troubled. she had addictions. she had demons. her brain, her greatest asset, turned out to be her worst enemy, and her mental illness took her down HARD. i suffered for that, but nothing at all like how she suffered. the demons kept us apart for years. i couldn't deal with it. and, just like some kind of movie, that's the way things ended. i got a call one super bowl sunday, letting me know she was gone. it's still hard to think that. so much was left unsaid. i played "fire and rain" on repeat for days, weeks, months, trying to wrap my mind around it.
mental illness is the worst kind of illness. it's so hard to understand, so hard to watch. i occasionally wonder if that might be my mother's biggest legacy to me; i, too, swing wildly from one extreme to the other. but i keep coming back to the center. the tenacity of my daddy, tempering the passion of my mother. breathe in, breathe out, move on. one foot in front of the other. i think, in the darker moments, that my parents' twin legacies to me will be my saving grace through the insanity of my life. i had the good fortune to be born of two rather extraordinary people. i just hope i can live up to my bloodline...
Letter 70: Be Louder
4 weeks ago