Today is four years since the accident that nearly took my daughter’s life; four years since the phone call that yanked me out of my Sunday routine, my idiotic notion that the day would go the way I wanted it to. It was a car crash. It could have been a bolt of lightning, Zeus showing off.
Patti Smith’s Journey From Rock Singer To Mother To Radical Icon
When it comes down to it, my personal identity, how I perceive myself as a human being, doesn’t have anything to do with how other people view me. I hope I’m seen as a good person, but I’m not like Judy Garland: I don’t need the applause. When I perform and the people are happy to see me, it’s a moving experience. Performing is a privilege. I always try to give it my all, no matter what the situation, no matter what kind of shit-hole I’m playing in. But I don’t count on it to reaffirm who I am. I don’t feel lost if I don’t have it.
I drifted in my kayak, listening for small sloshes and hushed voices behind me: the sounds of my college students launching their boats in the dark. The night was intensely quiet and dark, like a campsite after the fire goes cold, but the moon was preparing to rise over the mountains in the east, and the lake showed a slick of silver.
Christ embodied and lived the sum total of what I’ve learned in life, which is that the truth about things is hidden, it is small, and it is scorned and mocked by the world. Out of this poverty and want, this failure and humiliation, he created a temple “not made by human hands” to fulfill the deepest desire of every human heart, which is not to be so eternally, everlastingly alone.
Like Sherman, I have burned Atlanta. Or maybe Atlanta has burned me. Either way, I’ve been blackballed from every bar I ever frequented, and it took only a dozen years. Now I find myself married with child, sober, and moving on. My wife, pregnant again, wants to live in the heartland, Kansas City, where her family waits and I can stroll the streets in recovery without people whispering.
Middle-aged people shrink, crease, fade, and, if they’re lucky, slowly lose the desire to be noticed, the way we once lost our childhood taste for Necco Wafers or Pez. My desire to be seen is gradually being replaced by the desire to see: the faces of those I love, the cardinal in the bush, the socks of the woman with MS who swims at the Y.