6.16.2006

Secrets and Omissions

I come from a family of secrecy, and as a result have grown into a person of profound privacy. For those getting to know me through my writing, that may be a grand surprise, but trust me, when friends come here and read, they’re completely startled by my disclosures.

Last night I attended a tribute to Spalding Gray entitled ‘Leftover Stories to Tell.’ If ever I wanted to reach out to the grave and thank someone, last night was that time.

The first time I saw Spalding Gray deliver a monologue, I decided he had the best job in the world. That should have given me a hint of where I was headed, but it was years and years ago and writing was far from my mind. I know he’s not for everyone. When telling a few friends I was going to his tribute, I heard more grunts than expressions of ‘Lucky you.’

There have been times when Spalding made me uncomfortable, when I thought the performance of his life took precedence over his concern for those he was living with. I wanted to inject a bit more guilt into his proclamations of hurtful infidelity. I wanted him to demonstrate more remorse for the bodies he left buried behind. But ultimately, I loved him. I loved his courage, his willingness to laugh at himself, to be human, to be scared and neurotic. I loved how he could shift me from tears of laughter to fighting back tears that understood his pain.

Spalding was the first to show me the beauty of bleeding in public, to teach me the power of sharing, quite a contrast to my upbringing where whispers in the shadows dominated the atmosphere. Those whispers still haunt me as I realize how many conversations were hidden, deemed inappropriate for a child. Sadly, what took their place were secrets and omissions and a sense of isolation. Through the years, by banishing uncomfortable discussions, my family members grew disconnected from one another. And now, when tense moments arise, everyone retreats either via a staccato outburst or by slinking away, leaving the impression that honest dialogue is a sin.

My upbringing robbed me of the ability to navigate difficult relationships. I’m best at the strong fa├žade and a quick retreat. I wish I’d seen my parents fighting and arguing and then moving through resolution. While our house may have been quiet, it was like the living room set aside for everything but living. Artificial. Unreal.

So maybe that’s why I love Spalding Gray. He left nothing unsaid, unless for dramatic effect. He hung life out for display and dissection. I learned from him.

If we all peel away the veneer on our secrets, I figure we can come together in a bigger and better way. And while I will always run my writing through the filter of ‘Would this revelation hurt my son?’, I want him to see his parents as real people with real lives and real challenges. I don’t want to make life scary, but I don’t want to portray it as artificially safe, because I know from my own experience, that hardly did me a favor.

So, thank you, Spalding Gray, for your courageous – even disturbing – disclosures. You will be missed.

3 comments:

Rrramone said...

I will miss him too. So tragic to me.

Thomas said...

Hmh, beautiful post. I can very much relate to growing up behind this curtain of secrecy. I still tease my parents that we come from families who are diligently hiding things that nobody would care to know in the first place... Spalding Gray managed to end this chain for a while. Still can't get over the inevitability of his death looming over the entire evening of performances, though. I can only imagine his growing despair towards the end, whether he became secretive about it or not. Very sad indeed.

m said...

I loved Spalding Gray as well. Loved him,loved him,loved him and I don't understand what happened.

He dissappeared.Then, I hear he killed himself.Why??

Here in the mid-west, NO ONE seems to know who he is! Too bad. He was a genius and I wish he would have stuck around longer.

PS Why does the media tell us about the personal lives of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston in excruciating detail yet ignores the life of a genius like Spalding Gray?