When I first started writing songs, I wrote a lot about my family, G-d, and righteousness in a sense. I didn’t think much about showing other people, or if it would be embarrassing to my family. I would just write in real time what I was feeling. Towards the end of my “high school career”, I had a lot to write about.
Feeling overwhelmed by my parent’s relationship, I was in a constant state of anxiety. After years of visitation and missed alimony, our family was finally beginning to look and sound normal. Being the oldest, I felt like the only one who held the truest picture of a nuclear (and at the time, white) family in my head. I tried to will this future into my own mind minute by minute. As long as I could see a progression towards a balanced and sane relationship between my parents, I felt as though my life was somehow changing for the better. The unfortunate truth: I’ve never had any control over my parent’s marriage. I’ve had no control over how “well” my family does, or even how we’re perceived.
And one day, my father chose out of the marriage for a second time. This time, I created an elaborate sense of internal guilt over my parents’ failing marriage which lead to a denial that my parents would ever want to have a normal nuclear family.
“All I am is your idea, I gotta get up out of here”
I have said just about everything besides these words to my father. But they are the words I reserved for him in this song. As an eighteen year old, I felt like my dad’s reasons for continuing on in our family was to preserve his image. I needed to release the image into something, like when Jesus cast the demons into swine. I had no intention of relating to anyone, but simply process this idea.
But for all of my processing, I’ve never had the courage to share these words with my father. And I’ve continued to struggle with the idea that my words or internal images could hold any water. And every time I’ve played this song, it has been like shooting mirrors at my father. Like an alcoholic, I felt the need to hold it all together. The colors of my inner images should never run, should never be blurred. And when I failed, I felt like the world was on fire; I couldn’t take it. I longed for an invisible G-d to cover my shame like the Drapes across a window. I longed for someone to tell me that I was still okay.
There’s no pretty ending to this story. There is a phrase that stuck with this boy trying to forget his blackness and finding the same pain that created the blues. The phrase was “lie de die”. I’d put it at the end as an inexpressible woe, hoping that grace might fall on me like a sad song in a church for black people.