Monday, April 07, 2008
The Power and the Gory
So, I wrote a memoir.
I figured by now that this statement -- the knowledge of such an accomplishment -- would've lost some of its heft. The intial draft of the thing was completed more than a year-and-a-half ago, after all; I should probably be used to the fact that this story exists on paper, even if very few have actually seen it. The truth is that I actually had allowed myself to become somewhat blithe about what happened to me back in 2000/2001 and my decision to write about it. So much has happened since the time period depicted in Dead Star Twilight -- so many new triumphs and traumas have come along to push the events of seven years ago to the back of my mind -- that I'd just about forgotten how epochal it all seemed at the time.
It wasn't until I made the decision to release the story via this website -- that I revisited the manuscript I'd mentally slaved over just a couple of years back -- that the weight of what I went through and what I put myself through writing about it came flooding back into my consciousness. To look back not simply on the era described in my memoir but on the act of getting it all out was a staggeringly difficult experience. Hindsight, as it turns out, can be both a blessing and a curse. Being removed from the manuscript for a year or so allowed me to recognize my motives for writing it in the first place, and they weren't necessarily honorable. I realize now that I wrote my story more out of anger and a need for vindication than anything else. I went through hell -- a hell that I took my fair share of responsibility for creating, but one for which I was still eager to deflect a good portion of the blame. I admit that the unimaginable confluence of events which provide the backdrop for Dead Star Twilight -- the culmination of my debilitating drug addiction colliding head-on with 9/11 -- made for a story that was simply too incredible not to tell. But I'm still not sure if relaying the surreal details of my experience were as important to me as lashing out at those who I felt had wronged me during that period. I can't honestly say to myself that revenge wasn't my primary motivation, at least initially. It's for this reason that I'm glad I had the chance to go back over the manuscript and edit it with a pair of fresh eyes and some newfound objectivity. I never believed that I was the hero of the story I'd written -- far from it, in fact -- but by the same token, I'm not sure the villains were those I'd originally thought. When you look back on a traumatic event, putting the anger and hurt out of your mind, you begin to understand that there's very little black-and-white or right-and-wrong in this world. Most people just do the best they can with the cards they're given; sometimes they respond to difficult situations in unthinkable ways, but rarely is there outright malice on anyone's part. The relativity of our actions and intentions was always one of the primary themes of the book, but it's now taken on a whole new meaning for me.
Another leitmotif within the story involves the cyclical nature of what we do and who we are -- the seemingly inescapable tendency, burned into us at childhood, to repeat the same actions again and again, bringing everything in our lives full circle. There can be positive and negative consequences to this inclination, depending on the circumstance. I made a lot of mistakes in the past -- mistakes I repeated to the point where I could no longer distinguish between good and bad. As I hinted at a moment ago, I began to look at everything in shades of gray; I could rationalize anything. That said, looking back on the person I was during the year-and-a-half detailed in the memoir, I'm sickened by both my actions and the belief system that led to them. I did things during my drug addiction that were unforgivable. Reprehensible. I can't deny that if you choose to read Dead Star Twilight you will learn things about me that may very well strain and possibly break your willingness to suspend judgment against me. I held nothing back, and as I said, I'm not sure if even my virtuous moments carried much weight or will provide much consolation. I make no excuses for what I did or for who I was. I can only say that it's taken a lot of work to move beyond some of my more arrogant, hedonistic and despicable tendencies -- to break the circle, as it were. I'm still not perfect, but I'm hoping that the outright shock and horror I experienced holding a mirror to my former self during both the writing and recent editing process is a sign that I've at least moved forward.
It's been a really tough journey -- certainly an interesting one -- and as of tomorrow, you'll be able to read about it for yourself.
I'm terrified to finally be putting my story out there, but I do hope you enjoy it.