16,790. I've crawled on this earth for 16,790 days. 16,790 days strapped to what Kay Redfield Jamison calls "this Catherine Wheel* of a planet". Thirty two of those years were an agitated blur of unhappiness, doubt, and self destruction. They were also the years that gave me punk rock, that brought Michelle into and then out of my life, and were years that I shared the stage and studio with the 3 core members of my tribe. It's true that time burnishes the burrs and broken glass, but I keep my fractures close at hand.
I was listening to talk radio late, late one night driving back from Philadelphia and there was a discussion about what motivates people. The guest on the show talked about how people that use anger and resentment to fuel the sometimes remarkable things that they do become trapped; they become tangled in a vicious cycle of anger and accomplishment. Every attempt at greatness has to be forged by hatred until hatred is all that's left. It is, I have learned, exhausting and nearly unsustainable. For 45 of my years on this spinning stone hatred and a fear of failure have driven me, and, if I'm honest, driven me into the fucking gutter.
I don't know exactly when the switch flipped. Was it the night in Union City where I laid to rest Michelle and I? Was it some gentle foot-fall in the woods of Bennett's Pond? Was it one of those transcendent moments of volume and psychic fury that took place one night in the rehearsal room? I suppose I'll never know.
My fear has always been that without the well of misery I've always drawn from I would never write another word, never assemble another Starkweather song; that the creativity that has defined me for most of my life would abandon me. I was wrong. There is a seemingly endless well of pain to draw from and I'm finally able to draw from that source without being nearly killed by it. There always seemed to me to be something inauthentic about finding inspiration from past events, rather than being creative as I was setting myself on fire. Randall Jarrell, an American poet, understood that this was a lie. Unfortunately one day he decided he'd reached his end and stepped in front of a moving car while walking alone in the dark. This quote is from his poem 90 North:
" ...Pain comes from the darkness
And we call it wisdom. It is pain."
16,790 days tethered to this stone and I've finally found some peace.
* • Catherine Wheel or breaking wheel, an instrument of torturous execution associated with Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
• Catherine Wheel (firework), a type of spinning firework.