An unillustrated life.
My daughters were grown, their rooms were vacated, and the possibilities of developing a creative life again inspired me to consider how I might decorate one of the rooms to make a dedicated space for writing. Seeking inspiration for my newly acquired home office, I had scoured old boxes and files and crudely stapled and pinned evidence of my former life as a musician and songwriter on an entire wall of the room.
But I was still deep into my real life of teaching, and rather than encouragement, staring at that wall haunted me with a pressure to create I could not muster. I remember standing in front of that wall of memories and having a “Come to Jesus” moment with myself.
That life was my past.
Those memories were too raw for me. To move forward and not live in a constant state of discontent, I had to exorcise that former life from my heart. I stared at the images and letters on the wall one last time. Then, one by one, I slowly ripped every memory from that wall, shredding them as I did, leaving a blank wall dotted with the tiny remnants of push pin holes and staples.
And I said goodbye to my old life.
But somewhere in the back of my brain, I took comfort in knowing that there were keepers
of those shared memories living their lives in places throughout the country. Perhaps, they, like I, had moments in their mundane lives where they recalled those days of life filled with with creativity and laughter.
Perhaps they, like I, recalled days filled with the dark shadows of lives lived without common sense and boundaries, which often left a trail of human misery in its wake.
But you know how it is.
Mostly the memory of misery dilutes with time, and so, over the years, I had been sporadically trying to locate old band mates through social media, usually in moments of boredom or discontent with the daily grind of life. I wanted to reconnect to those memories…to find someone to relive the stories with.
Of all the musicians I had worked with, there was one whose image loomed large. He was inordinately talented and sadly addicted, a flaw that had kept him from true greatness. He was charismatic on stage, unless the alcohol took over. His passion ran deep for music, for drugs, for alcohol, and for just about any other vice.
But I loved that guy.
Over the years, Tim and I talked about how cool it would be for them to meet. My husband had heard some of his work on recordings and came to view him with the same admiration I did. I envisioned our getting together, playing music, and getting caught up on decades of lives apart.
My research was sporadic over the years as work consumed all my energy. But one Saturday in my fifties, I decided to actively pursue finding him so Tim and I could plan a reunion trip. The rabbit trail I followed was time consuming, hitting dead end after dead end until I saw one article with his name in the headline.
The headline, dated three years prior, announced to the world that he had died at 58.
My heart exploded. A chasm opened up and into it dropped all the corroborating evidence of that old life, the life that floated in a sea of possibilities and the life lived outside the lines. Gone was the corroboration of nights of music in biker bars and drinking vats of cigarette flavored coffee at the local IHOP while the sun rose over the plains of Colorado. Gone was the corroboration of long drives with a car crammed full of sleepy musicians and instruments, just me and the moon awake and a trucker's radio station blaring to cover the sound of their snores.
Gone the corroboration that there was a time when the music was all that mattered and being broke for the love of the muse was a badge of honor.
It's a bit like going to your high school reunion and finding out you are the last one standing. With whom do you swap tales of memorable moments? With whom will you muse, "remember when” and then share the tears and laughter such reminiscing brings? With whom will you imagine that you still have what it takes to do that again?
At the time, I wished I could go back and piece together those torn photographs and memorabilia ripped from the walls of my home office. The pictures told the tale of a life lived passionately and, sometimes, recklessly in the pursuit of creativity.
But, as Thomas Wolfe stated, you can’t go home again. That was a home that lived its purpose. And my life now is lived not in the memories of what was, but in moments of what is…
A quieter creativity floods my life now, free of the tyranny of schedules and unembumbered by the weight of bad decisions. It is soaked in a desert landscape that fills my life with inescapable beauty and inspiration.
And for that, I need no pictures on the walls.