I vividly remember lying in my bed at about seven or eight years old, in my favoritest (I had many favorites) Wonder Woman jammie jams, staring up at the chunky wooden support slats of the top bunk from my well-worn and much safer bottom bunk, as I clutched my blue and black striped friend, Eeyore. The visceral memory of chilling realization washing over my tiny body that my life was going to be spectacularly challenging had kept me up long into the night. I had made the profound mistake several years earlier of painting my room a deep, dark purple, so the only glimmer of light in my room came from the two windows next to the bed and the brightly painted yellow stairwell that led directly into our dining room where my parents and their friends were sitting, drinking wine, and laughing with an obscene lack of consideration- with the door wide open. With each laugh, the reality was driven more deeply into my gut that my life would be a tormented one, at best.
My room, as it was, was actually a large passing-through space not contained by any but the outside walls, on the way to my brother’s bedroom. The upstairs bathroom was also joyously situated just off this room and at the head of the stairs, so that every time my brother did anything in there, I heard it. Sometimes, when the breeze blew through, I even smelled it. Without going into too much detail, I will merely say that the proximity my room had to the bathroom was quite….unfortunate.
Both of my parents had obnoxiously loud and untempered laughs, and by the sound of it, they did not seem a bit concerned that they might be keeping their small children awake on this late night with their antics. Of course, I could hear my brother snoring from behind his bedroom door just as plainly as I could hear my parents’ laughter, but I knew, as surely as I knew that the deep dark purple had been a mistake, that my young life would most likely be riddled with one embarrassing event after another, unless I took matters into my own hands. I would feel and act on this same sense of responsibility many more times in my life as I dealt with harassment in the workplace, inconsiderate boyfriends, and social injustice, and keep coming up with creative plans, sometimes in a moment’s notice, sometimes after months of plotting and planning, to change the course of events for myself and those around me. Not always successfully, but as you might expect, as I grew older, my priorities and goals changed.
This is the dark but glorious moment I remember most clearly as the gleaming point of inspiration where I was motivated to change my fate by creatively conspiring to throw my parents from their usual obnoxious and embarrassing behavior by distracting them with my own. I will never forget the electrifying surge of hope I felt in my tiny body when I came up with my plan to derail their social behavior. This feeling, this revelation, was such a welcome reprieve from the usual heavily anxious sour stomach I had developed as a toddler, that it became something I would reach for over and over throughout the many years of my creatively maladjusted life. Prior to this moment, my greatest fear had been that as time went on, their behavior would get worse if I didn’t do something to divert their attention in some way, so this idea was truly something that I thought might save me from years of parental aggravation. In that moment, I had no idea that even the most carefully laid plans, made with the best of intentions and the most cautious of plotting, can go wildly and quite disturbingly wrong.
You might wonder why a young girl, lying within the darkened walls of one of her first great creative failures, (it would live on forever in my mind as the great purple failure), would ever dream of coming up with a way to change her parent’s behavior so that it might suit her own better, and I can only tell you, these forty-plus years later, that it was a hearty combination of innocent youth, reckless desperation, and unbridled energy that propelled me forward into a space where I believed I could actually change the behavior of my parents to suit my needs. I had been having a deep, gnawing feeling for several months by that time that things were just going to keep getting worse, so I felt it was my responsibility, neigh, my duty, to do something to avert certain disaster. When I felt the sudden and unexpected relief from the pain of my anxiety combined with the pure and joyous beauty of creative inspiration run through my body, I knew it was the answer I needed to elevate my existence and put me on the path towards what I assumed was my potential greatness.
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