I saw Country Strong with my mom this afternoon. I am not a movie snob in the least, but I thought it was a great movie...and as with anything in my life that impacts me on a deep level, I have been lost in thought for hours.
The main female character (Gwyneth Paltrow) had just gotten out of rehab for alcohol abuse. She was a country music superstar and had gotten wasted before a show while she was on tour. She fell off stage while she was performing and lost her baby 5 months into her pregnancy. Obviously, this was a huge scandal and it was a very big deal for her to go on tour again a year later.
This character, Kelly, grabbed me. She was beautiful and talented with millions of adoring fans. There was a frailty to her that was devastating. She needed constant affirmation from the people who loved her and was constantly asking them how talented she was, how sexy she was, how she "still had it" in light of younger, more beautiful singers that had come on the scene in her elongated absence. She was desperately trying to hang onto her marriage, but going about it the completely wrong way. She continued to drink when she got out of rehab, despite the efforts by her husband and her friends to monitor her actions. She choked onstage multiple times, slept around and was ultimately so messed up, confused and unhappy by the end that she killed herself. It was awful.
What made it more horrific was that when she had gotten to Dallas, the city where the scandal went down, she was petrified to perform but really wanted to show everyone that she could face her demons and kill it...be the Kelly she wanted to be. And she put on an amazing performance there...she sparkled and came to life and just OWNED the stage. It was just after this that she went into her dressing room and took a bottle of pills.
Thing is, she had people around her that spoke truth to her. People that tried to "get in" and lend her support. She wanted to be better and tried multiple times to tell herself positive things she could hang onto, but in the end it just wasn't enough. Her entire self worth was wrapped into an image, put on her by the general population, but ultimately by herself.
Image is a dangerous thing to hold closely to one's self. Internal expectations are tricky. If you can't be yourself at the end of the day and really love who you are, what happens to you? People thought Kelly was crazy...SHE thought she was crazy. Was she? All I know is that I wonder if I am crazy all the time and haven't come up with an answer. What if MOST people feel crazy but never talk about it, and as a result the people who actually DO talk about it end up feeling so isolated and alone and weird in their thoughts all the time they can never be brought up from the dark place? That is profoundly sad to me...that there could be support and comfort for people in bad places if everyone could just stop being afraid, be honest and know how to talk to each other.
At the end of the day, don't we all just want to be OK? To be ourselves and to have that be enough? To be allowed to feel and respond to life in a way that can be shared with those we love? What would it be like to feel safe? I imagine it would feel like you're on a stage with thousands of people cheering you on, celebrating your successes with you while you do the thing you love most in the world. But instead of going into your room by yourself at the end of the night to cry alone in the darkness, someone will come to beat down the door 'til you let them in.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
In the summer, we woke with the sun. Our time together had given way to systematic behavior and routine. We loved each other well – deeply and unconditionally. Runs in the neighborhood and my undivided attentions were things you loved best about your life. I planned my days and nights around you and your needs, never desiring any other way of life.
You were there to love me through relocations and the loneliness that came with that. Foreign people and places were dealt with together. Our close friends used to tell me that you were a direct manifestation of who I am at the core – strong and stubborn, proud and private, loving and cynical all at the same time. We were complicated and multidimensional and liked to dare people to understand and love us in spite of these things.
You were there to love me through broken hearts and relationships, of which there were many. I cried on you in the privacy of our room as you looked on with sad eyes, not understanding but accepting of where I was at. You gave me purpose in these times each morning we woke, even on the days I wished I had slept forever and never seen our sun again. Your happy face and eagerness to attack the day was contagious and impossible to ignore. I wanted you to be happy.
We hated the rain. California girls at heart, we battled the Portland elements together with countdowns to a different season. You never wanted to run in anything but the sun and I made you anyway – I told you we couldn’t stop doing the things we loved just because it was hard. I wouldn’t allow it.
It has been a year since you died. A hard, unbearable year of pain I have not believed could ever be different. When you left, you took a piece of my fragmented heart with you. People who knew you told me in love that I would never be the same, and I now know this to be true. I want to believe that our sun will come out again, but it has yet to show itself. And what of my broken heart and the shell of a person I look at in the mirror? I have lost myself in pain and fear and no longer remember who I used to be – no longer remember who I wanted to be. I only know that I want to be in a different place but come up short when I try. I want to wake again with our sun and smile, but no longer have you to hide behind. I am exposed and vulnerable; completely without control.
I carry your memory with me daily and hear you telling me I can’t stop doing the things I love just because it’s hard. You won’t allow it. And I laugh in your face and say “watch me” through my tears.