If you didn’t catch my appearance on The Spud Goodman Show, you can watch my performance of “The Dying Days of Lois Lane” now! Or download the podcast and hear “Pull the Pin”, “Center of Command” and “Arsonist” as well. Thanks to Ian Harper of DirtyDirty and Matt Sharp for joining me!
Note: I try to keep things here music-related. With the recent news of Robin Williams’s suicide and the national discussion I am hopeful will emerge, I’ve decided to share my personal experience with you. If you are suicidal or believe someone you know is, call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org today.
It has been impossible to escape the news of Robin Williams’s death and the outpouring of grief from friends and fans that’s seemingly engulfed the internet. I was a fan, albeit a rainy day one. Robin was a talented and charismatic man, a great actor, comedian and humanitarian. I am a child of the 80’s and for many of us, he was a cultural icon. I wish him all the peace he could not find in this life. I wish his family the courage and the quiet they will need to pick up the pieces. I hope they will someday feel a semblance of normality in their lives without him here. That is far from assured.
I am one of the many who’ve experienced the harsh aftermath of suicide in my family. I have seen depression and addiction erase life from the eyes of someone I loved dearly. I have been the frustrated and angry family member who wished my suffering loved one would stop being such a pain in the ass and just “be normal”. I have lived in the afterglow…pondered the many times I could have been more compassionate…wondered whether my family could ever feel whole again…wondered when “the turning point” was when everything became unsalvageable, when there was no looking back. I’ve seen my family ravaged with grief and guilt, anger and denial…unending heartbreak and sadness.
There is no loss quite like suicide. It is a curse on the lives of those who remain; a black hole of regret and longing. It crosses the borders of reason and emotion. It disobeys the order of things. My life has never been the same since the day I lost my Aunt Julie. Julie was an energetic and outgoing young woman when I entered this world. She was one of the brightest lights in my life. She was beautiful, she was intelligent and she had a deliciously wicked sense of humor. She didn’t laugh, she cackled. I called her “Joo Joo”.
As the years went by, she seemed to have it all. She married a smart and charismatic man, had a baby, moved away (to my great heartbreak), had two more babies, and finally settled in Virginia. She went to school, got a great education, entered the workforce, got a great job. She was financially secure. She was in control of her destiny. She seemed unstoppable. None of us could have imagined that just a few years later she would lose nearly everything. Divorced amid much acrimony, she battled alcoholism and depression. She came to stay with us for a week at one point and I could see that this creature was not the woman I remembered. I remember the agony of seeing someone I loved struggling to find value and meaning in themselves like it was yesterday. She went home to fight for her life back. But the battle did not go as expected.
As her depression and alcoholism escalated, she alienated her children. She alienated her family. She refused to admit what was painfully obvious to all of us: her problems, her illness, her disease, whatever you believe it is, were far beyond her control. By 2005, almost entirely broken, she moved back to the west coast to be with us again. And I’ll be honest…I was fucking terrified. Terrified of her illness, terrified of the affect it would have on the stability in my family, terrified to see with my own two eyes what was only reported to me before.
It was every bit as bad as I’d feared and worse. The Julie I knew and loved as a child, Joo Joo, was gone. The spark, the glimmer, had faded. My family was divided. Some could simply not tolerate the horrid behavior that was now thrust into their lives. Some could not look away. But none of us wished anything bad for her. The illness, the Great Sick, had simply overtaken her. There would be flashes of the glory we had all grown to forget. A sinister smile, usually after a well-timed joke at one of our expense…a reminiscence of the Grand Ol’ Days…they were lovely times but all were fleeting. All were soon replaced by the darkness.
And then…something remarkable happened.
As 2005 turned to 2006, Julie finally began to take control of her affairs again. She talked often of her family back in Virginia, of wanting to be near them again. She, very slowly but surely, regained a foothold in her own life. She heard of a job in Washington DC that she was qualified for and, at one time, would have been a shoe-in to get. She applied. None of us had any expectation that she would receive a job offer…until she did. Her professional reputation had withstood the test of time and her value was acknowledged. She excitedly prepared to move home, new hope and inspiration in her eyes. She was excited to see her daughters, hopeful that the past may someday be forgiven and determined to write a new chapter that all of them would be proud of.
Before she left, my family threw her a party to celebrate this new beginning. Her brothers and sister were there, even the few who had grown to detest her behavior so greatly over the last year made it. But there were a few people missing. I was missing. Much as I loved my Aunt, as much as I tried to understand, I was simply exhausted of her. I said I couldn’t go, I gave a reason. It was a lie. I didn’t even consider it. Being around Julie broke something inside of me. I was angry at the creature who’d replaced her. I was angry for the pain she caused. I was not ready to celebrate because I had very little hope that any change in her life could last.
It was the last time I could’ve spoken to her. It was the only opportunity I’d ever have to say goodbye or simply “I love you”. I would never see her or speak to her again.
Julie’s new life was a big topic of discussion on Thanksgiving Day, 2006. She had started her job and renewed contact with her oldest daughter, who would be joining her for dinner that night. She had called my mom and expressed hope that life could be truly different. It was an infectious feeling, I was excited listening to my mother talk about it. Optimism, nearly my enemy throughout this decade of grief, was starting to seem a little safer. I went home, I had a relaxing night.
I received a call the following afternoon. It was my mother. I answered “Hello?” and could hear her breathing heavily, in great distress. “Mom?”….”Mom what’s going on?”…”Mom are you ok?” She finally replied “Pat…it’s your…it’s Julie…she…” and then trailed off. More breathing, which I now realized was an effort to fight back tears. Suddenly, my father picked up the phone in the other room. His words will live in my mind the rest of my life. “Patrick, Julie shot herself last night. She’s dead.” A wave of shock and utter disbelief ripped through me. I couldn’t believe it was real. I had always feared this. I had always known it was possible. Probable, even. But I never believed it would happen. Somewhere inside I believed my Joo Joo, my Aunt, my friend would ultimately prevail.
12 hours later I was on a plane with my Mom to Virginia. 24 hours after that I was in Julie’s apartment, surveying the scene of her final night. I could see her path through the apartment, I could almost see her thoughts as they had unfolded. I held the enormous glass jar of wine she had consumed to herself that evening. I sat at her computer and looked for anything that could provide insight into her thinking. I got more insight than I could have imagined.
There were many half-written suicide notes on her computer, maybe a dozen, written as far back as 5 years prior. Almost all of them started the same. She had simply updated them every few weeks or months for years. None were complete. But one sentence changed everything about how I saw my Aunt, how I saw myself, how I saw suicide, addiction, and mental illness. “I’ve always known it would end like this.” To this day, as I type this, my eyes well with tears. This woman who I’d grown to resent, held in outright contempt for her inability to “get it together” and given up on, was in the deepest throes of depression and addiction. She had no hope. She dreamed of ending her life for many years before she finally did. Her illness had destroyed her reason, her ability to cope, and her ability to love, either herself or others. She was consumed by darkness, by the Great Sick, a living hell that I cannot fathom even to this day.
The years that followed were not kind. My family grieved…I questioned my humanity…I mourned the loss of my cousins’ innocence and the tremendous struggle they would have to endure as young women learning to live without their mother. It was their strength, not mine, that ultimately settled my heart. All three of them have become amazingly powerful, intelligent and compassionate women whom I admire and adore to no end. The knowledge that they have overcome that loss is the only thing that could bring me a measure of peace.
I don’t know what drove Robin Williams to commit suicide. I don’t know what could have been done to prevent it. What I do know is that there are millions of people on Earth, walking among us right now, who feel that there is no other answer. There are people who silently pray for the end to come every day that they open their eyes. Every night they go to sleep. Suicide feeds on loneliness, on mental illness, on addiction. It feasts on isolation. The only cure for this many-headed beast is compassion…kindness…and action. Anger and apathy only feed the divide.
If you are suicidal, call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org today. If you know someone who is depressed and may be suicidal, do not wait. Have the compassion to tell them you care and offer to help. No matter how difficult it may seem, put aside your pride or your fears of seeming “too dramatic” and step up today. There may not be a tomorrow.
Suicide is not an answer.There is always a better way. No depth of depression, angst, or addiction is untreatable.
Here’s my first solo track, “Dumb Luck”. You can download it for free now on Bandcamp. If you dig it, please share the song with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or wherever the hell else these things can be played…thank you!
I try to keep my posts apolitical here because politics in America has devolved into a celebrity worshipping, sports-like experience. Everyone’s rooting for their “team”. The ones who say the right things in front of a camera. The glorified public personalities we’ve chosen to physically embody our values.
And everybody hates them. Everyone. Congress’s approval rating is what? 10%? Less? But didn’t we vote for them? Aren’t these the same fools we just vouched for and blasted our Facebook friends for ridiculing…less than a year ago?! No matter what side of the coin you’re on, everyone is pissed about the government shutdown. It is emblematic of everything we hate about our political discourse. And it’s THE OTHER SIDE’S FAULT! ALL THEIR FAULT!
America, I got something to say. This clusterfuck of irresponsibility and disapproval is OUR fault. We may be at the mercy of congress but we are the ones who made it that way. Our elected officials are a reflection of the people who elected them. We are a fractured society pushing each other to the fringes because we are no longer willing to respectfully disagree or compromise. Or talk to each other.
It’s extremely easy to judge a situation from the comfort of your couch. It’s uncomplicated, there is no one to debate with. That is the nature of television. But television is entertainment and if you think the news is not intended to entertain, go watch a network broadcast from 1975 and tell me if they haven’t punched it up a bit? CNN anyone?
If you believe that you are capable of understanding a different perspective by watching television or cable news, you are sadly mistaken. There is no nuance on Fox News or MSNBC. If you think you can learn everything about someone’s circumstances or viewpoints by hearing a 15 second sound byte, you are wrong. Could you tell your life story, or your own point of view intelligibly in that amount of time? Spoiler: no, you couldn’t. Why would you think you could make heads or tails of a complicated political situation the same way?
OWN YOUR APATHY.
No one benefits more from our prejudices and our apathy than the political class. Yes, congress knows you hate them. Yes, they don’t care. The less you care, the less you pay attention. The less attention you pay, the more power they have. The more polarized we become, the less they have to do. Because they “can’t”. The other guys on the other side with the equally-extreme-but-opposite viewpoint won’t let them. Their team is the “good guys” and they are fighting the conspiratorial efforts of the “bad guys”.
This ain’t a John Wayne movie. This is our LIVES! Are you really willing to let others suffer for your prejudices and lack of tolerance for the viewpoints of others? Ask yourself that question. What are your values worth when you have no idea how they affect people outside of your own head? What are your beliefs worth when they are exerted with no tolerance for the beliefs of others? Liberals? Conservatives? What are they worth?
If we want to “fix” our government, we need to “fix” ourselves first.
Hellooooooo from the Ether Space! It’s Patrick Galactic, alive and ready to opine! I hope everyone’s had a good summer. Mine was awful…ly interesting. I am living in a new place with new people. It’s been a fascinating shift in perspective that I will share with you in the following weeks….
That said, the music hasn’t stopped and I hope it never does! This devil’s got me good and I don’t want it to let go. I’ve played a bunch of shows, including Death By Stars’ debut performance at Hempfest, which was an incredible experience (video link). We’re in the final stages of recording our EP with CTPAK Records, we’ve got big shows coming up and we’re about to get even busier.
Anyone who thinks that being a musician is more fun than a desk job is right. But they’re right for the wrong reasons. It IS more fun. But it’s also more work. THAT’S RIGHT I SAID IT! I’ve done both for most of my career years and the difference is pretty simple. At a 9-5, you have a boss who has a boss who has a boss who tells them what to tell you to do. In a band, you are responsible for telling yourself what to do. It’s on you and only you. The music, the promotion, attendance at shows…it’s daunting. And it’s thankless sometimes. And it’s worth every second to certain sickos like myself.
I say that to say this…in those thankless moments, be happy you have something to sacrifice for. I have had the disease since I was a babe. I’ve played in bands since I was 14. I’ve marched toward music with a singular focus that so-spectacularly defied logic…it defined anti-logic! I’ve hurt over it. I’ve hated myself over it. I’ve had more pride in myself for it. It’s colored me with curiosity, insight, self-reflection…it’s elevated my consciousness to indescribable heights in the best of times.
It’s a fuckin’ rollercoaster. But in all that, no matter the feelings of the moment, no matter the results of a gig…I always knew what I wanted. Always. In this vastly evolving techno-culture we call home, certainty is hard to come by. In fact it’s impossible. But knowing what you want in life adds a sense of continual purpose, continuity that brings security to the soul. And I’ve had THAT since I was 14. I know who I am. I have me, at the very least.
That didn’t strike me as odd until I got older. But now I’ve met so many people along the way who swear they’ve never had a strong passion for one thing or the other. None of them were passionless…they just couldn’t decide or maybe they thought they only got to try once…or perhaps they never felt that passion stirred inside of them before? Whatever the case may be, I know that many people on this Earth struggle to find purpose in their being each and every day.
And that is a fate I will never succumb to. I may not make the greatest money. I may not always play the best nights at a club. But I will fall to my fucking death trying. I will give up my possessions. I will abandon my comforts to feel that spark. I am stirred inside by a force I would call celestial, universal, cosmic. So are you. Don’t ever forget it. Within us all lives the soul of a single note. No matter your circumstances, it vibrates within you at the same pitch day in and day out. There is no government or monetary policy in the world that can change it. There is no corporate master or landlord or drug dealer or school shooter in the world that can affect that vibration. It’s the “you” part of you.
And before you bombard me with “there’s no single string in me” shit….listen harder. Where is the “you” in there? If you can’t hear it, keep listening…keep listening…and learn to pick up on metaphors, haha!
Time and place are the essential ingredients of memory. Memory is the essential ingredient in expression. Where and when we exist informs everything we believe, everything we accept, everything we cannot be without. Technology offers us a suspended state of being where time is nearly unnoticeable. Our inner state, roaming freely through the corridors of our grand digital motherland, is everywhere at once.
It’s a bit overwhelming, isn’t it? Sometimes I think we weren’t evolved enough as a species to handle the information superhighway we created. The sheer volume of foreign perspective, voices we didn’t know or never wanted to know, shocked and awed us. We couldn’t retreat and pretend not to notice anymore. Our paradigms, our beautiful myths about the world and our place in it, were rendered meaningless. I believe many people have been traumatized by the inescapability of this awareness.
So we get nostalgic. We think back to a time when things were different…better…well, simpler. But aren’t we really just thinking back to a time before we could see the truth with our own eyes? We’re longing for the open arms of ignorance. Complication often breeds strong feelings of regret. And nothing is more complicated than the truth. This kind of denial is not exclusive to any political party or agenda. We will tell ourselves anything to make reality more sensible.
I was born in 1980 so I am technically the last year of the Generation X era. But I’ve always identified with Millenials. I can’t speak for everyone, certainly, but I can speak for myself when I say we are the last generation born that can remember a time before the internet. We remember going outside and playing with sticks and dirt. I was 11 or 12 when I first heard of the internet. I was 13 or 14 the first time I used it. And life was never the same again.
This age of technological command, precision, and advancement ripped through the lives of every person I knew. It changed how we lived, how we communicated. Newspapers, schools, libraries, all considered gatekeepers of time-honored knowledge, were made irrelevant. Facts were out, perspective was in. And quickly we lost control.
Yes, we lost control. Our mechanized capabilities exceeded our capacity to understand the information, in my opinion. It was just…SO much. In the 90’s, what I call the “Wild West Days” we hadn’t adjusted to trolls, rumor-mongers, and other pranksters who delighted in misinforming their digital neighbors. We had never been able to watch a foreign newscast. Porn was everywhere (and still is, thank God). We no longer needed to heed to facts we didn’t support because there would always be someone out there with a different set of “facts” that agreed with our previously-held beliefs.
The internet created a false sense of safety. It allowed us to craft personal realities, separate from the realities of our physical time and space. Most notably, it gave rise to anger on a level we had never seen. I had no idea how pissed off Americans were until the internet and 24-hour cable news finally married each other. And with all these shades of perspective, facts were harder to agree on. And ratings don’t care who’s right about an issue. YouTube and other video sites made it clear that Americans wanted to be entertained, not informed. At least not until something horrible happened.
Since the turn of the century, we’ve endured several successful terrorist attacks committed on our soil. We have entered two wars, we have lost hundreds of thousands of lives (American military and foreign civilians), we have lost freedom by way of government legislation (all in the name of protection, of course) and we have watched our economy crash. We elected leaders who, despite proclamations to the contrary, have effectively carried out a single agenda over the course of several presidencies.
But have we ever received a definitive statement explaining our actions? Does anybody to this day really know what happened on 9/11? Many claim to, none offer an authoritative command of the facts. Has the government ever clearly explained why we were so wrong about WMDs in Iraq? Again, there are many theories and many explanations offered…but none offer definitive proof. The Patriot Act was signed and enacted almost universally in 2001. It explicitly authorized internet-monitoring actions by the NSA that were recently brought to light. That’s 12 years ago now. And we are just now aware of this?
If we are truly living in an information age, I have yet to see it. I believe we are overwhelmed by our capabilities. The amount of research it takes to prove/disprove a point has never been easier…but…cat memes are so much fun! I believe technology has slowly evolved the human race and the generation behind mine will be able to navigate this with much more certainty. I am continually astonished at the rate at which tech has evolved and love the capabilities and conveniences it provides, no matter the consequences.
But convenience, I’ve learned, is dangerous. Convenience, whether we admit it or not, breeds intellectual laziness. Nostalgia is dangerous when misapplied. It’s easy to pine for a simpler time when you aren’t willing to engage in your own time. I don’t regret the grand march to mechanized nirvana that we have embarked on. I don’t regret the life I left behind. It wasn’t better, it was just easier to understand…and even at that, it was not easy. Life is not meant to be easy. It is hard. It’s a journey. It can be wonderful. It can be awful. It will be both. But we have to do our part. Engaging with our world, regardless of our capabilities, remains essential.