Friday, September 07, 2007

Truth & Consequences


This will be the most personally important thing I've ever written.

I should immediately apologize for the sense of melodramatic foreboding that such a statement no doubt casts over what I feel I need to say. The truth is that, despite the apparent heavy-handedness, I haven't rehearsed my words, I haven't studied and perfected my lines, and I really have no idea how to approach the way I'm feeling right now, wrestle it to the ground and put it on the page. Long story short, this will be stream of consciousness. A bumpy ride.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've gone into great detail about a past of which -- as much as I've needed to own up to it -- I've never been particularly fond. I've done things in my life that in no way make me proud. I hurt people who cared about me and did so for purely selfish and rotten reasons. I once lived my life in ways that would shame any decent and sane person, and when it was all over I was left broken, devastated, helpless.

It was at that point -- with my heart and my soul beaten to hell -- that I wanted only one thing: A second chance.

I got it.

I found Jayne, or maybe she found me.

I've written about her plenty on these pages; I've held nothing back when it comes to the strength of my feelings for my wife, and yet I have absolutely no doubt that even with a semi-decent way with words, I have yet to do her or my love for her justice in any real sense. I don't know how to express what I feel -- the depth of my emotion. They haven't invented a language yet that fits.

Jayne has always encouraged me to write honestly, fearlessly. She knows my past -- every dark secret -- and although it's hurt her tremendously and left her more often than not wondering what she got herself into, she's always pushed me to use it to a good end, by writing it down. The level of confidence that she's displayed in that regard is nothing short of astonishing; I don't know if I could've done it, or if I would have. Unfortunately, by constantly writing about it, both in the memoir I've completed and have been shopping to publishers, and here on this site (two of the last three extended posts have been excerpts from my manuscript) I've proven what W. Somerset Maugham once beautifully insinuated -- that there is no past, only an "Everlasting Present."

By writing about the past, I've kept it alive -- maybe even glorified it. I never intended to do either.

I've said on more than one occasion that if I had one wish, it would be that I were "normal." I'd like to wake up one morning to find that the thing I'm decent at doesn't involve sitting alone at a computer for hours on end, vomiting my anger, cynicism, sadness, passion, weirdness and general neuroses all over the place. I know that a person who does this -- who feels this -- isn't always easy to be around. I've admitted before that my wife has put up with a lot, and has never complained. But by the same token, I've tried not to abuse the privilege she's given me and not take her love and respect for what I do for granted.

Have I though?

I'm not sure -- she won't say and may not ever.

Regardless however, I've come to a conclusion. In the immortal words of Randal Graves, it's time to let the past be the past. My life, my love, is so much better now than it ever was -- and to even speak of my difficult history is to lend it more credence, to give it more unfortunate authority, than it deserves.

So, I'm shelving the memoir.

It's been circulated to a few publishers, although admittedly it hasn't been pushed as hard as it could have -- the reason was never a lack of faith in my abilities or in its quality, I just always secretly worried about the damage it might cause in my own life and the lives of those mentioned in it. Those who've read it have responded very favorably, the editors at Gotham/Penguin in particular sent me several glowing e-mails recently, and I honestly have no doubt that it was headed for publication.

You know what though, it's not going anywhere. I wrote a book. It'll always be around should, at some later date, I decide that it's a story worth telling -- when there's even more space than there is now between the life I'm living and the past that seems like nothing but a bad dream.

I will however tell you how the book ends.

It ends with me meeting Jayne.

Because that was the close of a very bad period of my life, and the beginning of a wonderful new one.

End of story.

18 comments:

lakelady said...

End of story? hmmmmm. maybe. or just beginnning of the next. Looking forward to reading about the new adventures and watching you find - er not find, you've found it already - grow that same vivid passionate powerful voice to describe them. Please don't "end" your story. We need more voices like yours.

James said...

I want to say something pertaining to your writing, but i'm not sure how. I don't want to say I've "enjoyed" it because I don't want you to believe that you've glorified what's happened to you, but at the same time, I am always drawn into the world you created from your memoirs.

I've lurked around for a while on this site, and have found that there's always someone to point out that you must not be over whatever installment you've put up, but i see differently. Of all things, you have a talent with words, and as a writer, you have the ability to become characters. The difference is, I think with you, is that you have the ability to become yourself, only younger. At the same time, though, you're still who you are presently and can look at who you were from the outside in, and make brutally honest observations.

Maybe you're keeping your past alive this way, maybe you're glorifying it, it's not within my power to say. What i can tell you is that from the things I've read, I feel like i've been pulled into what your world was, the ways it broke apart, and could identify with your journey. I feel like i read something that mattered.

Whatever happens next with your memoirs, i wanted to let you know that.

Kell said...

I was thinking to myself while reading about the adorable Abby and the down right terrifying Kara, that it must be really hard for Jayne to read it.
As it would be for any woman whose other partner carries around his past loves. Keeping them close and alive.
I know, as a soon to be former wife of a brilliant writer, that no matter how supportive I want to be and am of his work, that it always does hurt a little to read of past loves.
Its unfortunate for my marriage that we havent been able to let go of these and other hurts completely, so I am really happy to hear that you and Jayne will. You both deserve better.

Though I am sad to know Ill never get to read you memoir...I am thrilled with the ending of your story.

choenbone said...

So will the second book start with you meeting Jayne? Would it end with the discovery of the tumor in your head? Inquiring minds wanna know. Besides, the cast of kooky characters in the second book would make for a great t.v. novella.
just a random thought

Al said...

Chez,

I'm more than a little surprised to be the first to comment on this.

One thing I've learned about you since our paths crossed was that you have a well-honed ability for not just introspection but the touch to convery it through words effectively. I recall meeting Spalding Grey and asking him how he came up with some of the events in his books. He looked at me as if I were speaking some alien language and replied "it's just what happened"... I replied "no, no, I know it's based on things - but the brutal sexuality of it, the absurdity, how do you come up with THAT?". He again replied "it's just what happened..." and studied me for what he seemed certain was a punchline yet to come.

The thing was, I simply couldn't conceive of anyone opening their soul and letting it ALL out for the world see and not embellishing or obfuscating to keep something hidden, to keep the moment theirs and theirs alone.

You have the gift, but as with everything there is a flip side. I don't know whether you should mourn or celebrate walking away from the book but what the hell, more stories await tomorrow.

Thanks for what you've given - it's been a hell of a read.

Lauren said...

Congratulations on your closure. I hope to one day have the same. You have, through nothing but your bravery and strength in examining your own past, inspired me to confront my own history. Thank you for that and I'll see you on the other side.

girl with curious hair said...

Shortly after I discovered your blog and caught up on all the posts, I was giddily anticipating your book. I love your writing for its brutal honesty. You protected no one. Yet, I had to wonder how that effected your loved ones.

I'm selfishly going to miss reading your book. But I am impressed, and very happy with the ending you chose. I hope it is your 'happily ever after'.

A. Auais said...

My boy Cheeezrack....

I agree that it must be a painful process. You have been very courageous to share this with the world. I am not sure what has caused you more pain: 1) the process of reliving it while writing or 2) the decision to no longer share it.

However, it is out there already for everyone - or at least the ones that care most about you -to read. Why not publish it in print?

I agree that there is a very special someone in your life and that it isn't easy for her to read some of it. It is not like she happened to have found this in a shoebox in the closet. She knows your past and she accepts you - knowing full well where you have been. That my friend is a beautiful thing!

Your last chapter should not be when you meet Jane but rather that should be the penultimate chapter. Your final chapter should be a description of the love and bond you have formed and how that has given you purpose, direction, and meaning. It is the medicine that has allowed you to survive addiction, a tumor, mended the holes in your heart, and allowed you to appreciate human life - starting with your own. You are a better human being because of the love she has freely given to you. Celebrate that in your memoir's final chapter!

You will in the end help a lot more people through your words in print than just those who happen to stumble upon your blog.

Chez, your life has been full of the real temptations and pitfalls that many people encounter - and it provides a roadmap out of the darkness.

Trust me this is more real world will impact more than having some fucking Johnny Winters come talk to you at Pace or some wheelchair bound guy moving his wheelchair with his mouth about a gymnasium floor telling kids not to drink and drive during prom night.

Also, there is a pay day involved. I know you are not delivering water for Zephyrhills nor are you laying down floor tiles with your uncle in Hialeah. While the writing was part of your healing and catharsis - there is no reason you could not add more security to your future, Jayne's future and the little Jaynes and Cheezracks that will someday be about.

Another reason albeit minor is that Mayte would love to see you sitting next to Oprah some day!

I would like the end to be not the last memoir post on the site but to be able to turn the last physical page. Afterwards, upon placing the book back on bookshelf and taking the last drop of my Pinot Noir I would smile and say that boy's going to be alright now.

Stay well and I'll see you in a couple of weeks. Oh and I'll be waiting for my autographed copy.

Alex

rayray said...

I've been thinking about how to respond to this, what to say, and it seems like it's been covered well by the previous comments.

While I greatly enjoyed your memoirs, I'm glad that you decided to let them go. I understand the need to tell a story, your story, because doing so makes you come to terms with how shitty and awful you've been in your past. And no one ever really knows, but you always do. You remember every slight, every time you selfishly chose yourself over others, every person you hurt for no good reason. (I'm talking about myself here, just for clarification).

And even though Jayne knows, having that all laid out in print for everyone to read, parents, neighbors, friends, acquaintances, etc., that can be extremely painful.

Reading your story has really helped me myself come to terms with what a complete arse I've been to many people in my life. And how unfair I've been to myself. So thank you and good luck.

RottweilerTOM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
namron said...

Chez, I am 1 and 1/2 times older than you, and I have said this to you before: It is called "growing up." My Jayne lead me to what we call "adulthood." It has been a great place. Congratulations.

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

Okay, it's been a while since I've commented (here and other places on my 'blog circuit', for reasons of which I know you are aware).

I'm not sure if you've seen any of my posts in the last few months, or for that matter, if I ever really discussed there my changed feelings as to writing (which we've discussed) -- but frankly, at this point, my actions probably speak louder than words.

I find it ironic that you pick this time to 'shelve' your memoirs, considering I personally have 'demoted' the priority of writing in depth about my own life -- again, for what you know are obvious

Much like a tourist who wastes his or her holiday time taking pictures of a sunset rather than experiencing it, I similarly now think that life is better living than simply describing for someone else's amusement.

I don't care how gifted of a writer you or I may be (which we are) -- don't lose yourself to the sound. You gotta be as blind as Anne Frank not to see that.

But I could be wrong. Really, what the fuck do I know, I having had indoor plumbing in a month.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I've enjoyed reading your blog, and I know you sometimes don't react politely to those whom you take to be criticizing you, but I'll say this anyway. This sounds like a cop out to me. If you've written the thing, your wife already knows the content, and you've actually published "purple passages" from it here anyway, then what harm is there in publishing the whole thing? I'm fully cognizant of the fact that people's online persona may be entirely different from what they're "really" like, so perhaps my assessment is off the mark, but something here doesn't ring true. Sure, maybe recounting a story about negative behavior "glorifies" it (and who isn't in some way stupidly proud of the idiot things we've done in the past and can recount with a sort of rueful bravado?), but a properly told story can be engaging and admonitory at the same time (witness "Godfather"). Anyway, this doesn't add up for me. Why go to all that trouble of writing a book-length manuscript, lead people on with samples, and then dump the project on the grounds that it's keeping the past alive? You're a bit late if that's the criterion. If what you want is catharsis (which would be my guess about this exercise), then send the whole story out into the world. The past is by definition past, and can only hurt us if we chose to let it. And in this day and age, who needs hard copy publishers (unless you want royalties, of course!)? You can always go the PDF route online.

Anyway, this advice isn't meant uncharitably. But a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, as they say on Monty Python, so you'll no doubt do what you think best...

Kevin Sawyer said...

I found your blog through the good folks over at Pajiba, and I've read every post. I'm sad to hear that you're shelving the memoir; I was looking forward to seeing it published. Either way, it's obvious you're a talented writer. Whether it's your own story or someone else's, I just hope that you keep up the good work. Best of luck.

John Kerry said...

I actually voted for the publishing of this book, before I voted against it.

Karl and Mia said...

Bowl of stupid kind of beat me to the point I was going to make...

You are a good writer. No, an excellent writer. But you know that already. If you didn't believe it you wouldn't continue doing it. Kudos to you.

But going on my 11th year of marriage I can say this: Words are cheap. And a woman in your life--especially your wife--can only hear "I love you" so many times in a day before it starts sounding automatic and unmeaningful. You really love her? Prove it to her. Actions speak louder than words. Sit down and talk to her about it. Make her understand that you understand that you've hurt her and offer to her that you seek marriage counseling together. If she refuses, then tell her you are still going to seek help for yourself. Because let's be honest, Chez...you could use some. Take it from a husband who's been through both marriage AND individual counseling.

If she sees you are making a genuine effort to improve upon and concentrate on YOUR relationship rather than focus on the ones of your past then perhaps she'll come around.

I understand you may have had to get your past out of your system, but a public blog may not have been the best choice. Sure, Jayne already knows your past, but now she has to contend with everyone else who reads your blog who now knows it to. That's not a desirable place to be. I inadvertantly do that to my wife, and have to pay the piper for it. I don't often realize the mistake I've made until it's too late. Relationships are very private things to women, I've found, and not to be crowed about.

Hell, you may as well publish the book. You've already exposed it here. How much more damage could it do? (Other than having to go through the same thing with Abbey and Kara.) But you yourself said

"I'd like to wake up one morning to find that the thing I'm decent at doesn't involve sitting alone at a computer for hours on end, vomiting my anger, cynicism, sadness, passion, weirdness and general neuroses all over the place."

Then do it.

It's not just "gonna happen." You have to make it happen. Write about something happy, for fuck's sake. Christ knows that we have enough sad, mad, bad shit to read about in the world--it's what sells. But you yourself have admitted that you hate it. So why not buck the system--your OWN system--and write about something that contains goodness and positivity? Are you afraid it wouldn't be as good? Too challenging? Maybe that's what you need...a challenge.

Hell, write a children's book. Let Jayne illustrate it. Market that motherfucker and see where it takes you.

And good luck. I wish you and Jayne all the best.

Dani said...

Warning: Girl Perspective! :-)

You mention that your memoir ends when you met Jayne. So, basically you’re saying "The parts of my life I feel is worth writing about does not include the love of my life." I’m sure that’s not what you meant, but that’s how I would take it. Your last blog entry, about Jayne, is beautiful and touching - but did she have to leave to inspire you? (That’s a question for you - I don’t need to know the answer)

Too bad the first chapter couldn’t have started with Jayne and how with her love and support you found the strength to write your memoir. “This can’t begin without mentioning the most amazing person in my life...” And it could’ve ended with “my memoir ends here because I’m no longer interested in sharing the intimate details about my life with the world. (maybe it does - I haven’t read it ;-)

Since your passion is writing and your best work comes from your life experiences (addiction, pain, loss, etc) and you get a lot of compliments for being so open, honest and raw… perhaps you perpetuate it.

For what it’s worth…
-Dani

Chez said...

If you're implying that I enjoy hurting because it makes for a good story later, you're way off base. I didn't start writing until a couple of years ago and have no desire to make any new "stories to tell."

And the book would've been dedicated to Jayne, for helping to save my soul and find my voice.

In essence, she would've been on the very first page.