This Week’s Theme: CRY
I wrote our last record about crying. I’ve spent nearly a year answering questions about what I was crying about, and I’ve rarely had a believable response. No one understands why someone like me would enjoy being upset.
I remember when I was six- or seven-years-old, my grandparents’ friend Claudette told me that crying was good for you. “It cleans out your eyes!” she shouted at me. She had a very loud voice, and I was intensely nervous and shy around loud voices — ironic considering how loudly I speak. I remember the carpet and wallpaper in my Grandma’s kitchen as if it were yesterday, and Claudette picking me up, putting me in her lap and telling me why crying was healthy.
Trembling in her arms, I shouted frantically but silently to my mother. “Help me,” I screamed inside my head. “I’m upset. Why are you letting this stranger console me? Pick me up! Shuttle me away to a back room to sob in your arms.” When I feel that way now, I often find myself remembering this childhood moment instantly. Sometimes it successfully distracts me from what I feel bad about; other times it ensures a good cry is on the way.
I wrote nearly every song for ‘The Con’ in the storage room of my old five-bedroom house. The carpet was new but cheap, so it was flat, hard and coarse. It was also white. Who puts white carpet in anymore? I was able to get a $250 subsidy from the company that I own with my sister to help pay the rent. And in exchange, I stored everything our band owned in that one room. I lived in that cavernous house for just under a year. I stayed to spite my newly ruined five-year relationship, and myself. I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I was OK, and that a hundred-year-old house in the worst part of town wasn’t even remotely scary for me to navigate alone.
I challenged myself to stay, and stay I did.
I rarely ventured downstairs, and when I did it was only to shower, use the washroom or cook. From time to time, I would eat my dinner on my red leather couch (luckily still mine, even after the divorce) and watch ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter.’ But typically after 20 minutes, my mind would wander and back upstairs I would settle again.
My office felt like an attic. The roof was the opposite of vaulted. What’s that called again? It had dark hardwood floors, and the sun rose in one window and set in another. I would lay on the floor in the afternoon in such a way that I could only see the sky and the treetops outside the window. I would imagine I was on the roof, or on a beach, or in a park. I would belt Bruce Springsteen and inevitably I would fall into tears. In the evenings, I would talk for hours on the phone with one friend or another. My mom and sister would check in with me around this time of day, too. I would squeeze myself between the boxes holding our band’s history, and wedge my feet against the road cases we had painstakingly squished up the stairs.
And I would cry.
Almost every time I would think about Claudette. I would remember my twin sister and I both having the same inability to say “sorry” as young children. We would sob, choosing to be locked away in our bedrooms rather than apologize. We didn’t understand why — if something was not purposely hurtful — it still demanded an apology. So as I laid in my storage room, dreaming up songs for what would soon be called ‘The Con,’ I imagined a lot of apologies for my behavior. I was newly single and so I indulged a very selfish and needy side of myself. I was demanding and lonely, while being aloof and flirty at the same time. I was rarely available to those that needed me if I didn’t need them. And I knew it. I imagined ways to get attention. How would I continue? Where would my support come from now, I wondered?
After months of hibernating in my storage closet, summer finally came. As I put the finishing touches on the last song I would write for ‘The Con’ (‘Hop a Plane’), I eventually packed up my cavernous five-bedroom house and put my remaining belongings into storage. I moved East to work with my sister, and I did considerably less crying there.
When Claudette passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease later that summer, I didn’t shed a tear. When I cry, I actually feel very much in control of my emotions. But Claudette’s death was one thing that I knew was very much out of my control. Just like when she would pick my small body up at Grandma’s house, away from my Mother’s arms, to tell me that crying was good for me.