You Know, Her Life Was Saved By Rock & Roll

Lou Reed passed away today. He had a liver transplant earlier in the year, and I was so relieved to read an article where his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson, said he was recovering nicely. Not only was I worried about Lou Reed’s own health, but the thought of the two of them being separated broke my heart.

Lou and Laurie

Lou and Laurie had been an influence on me with their individual careers, long before I even knew about their long-term relationship. But since their marriage in 2008, when I learned that they had been together since the 1990s, I have always been filled with immense love and hope just thinking about the fact that they were a couple. Two amazingly talented and perceptive people, who may not go by other people’s standards of “normal,” but are beautifully intertwined by their confidence in and respect for themselves and each other.

While I am saddened by this great loss, I am encouraged by the thought that there even existed an artist and human being who could be such a profound influence on the world, and this very Creeter.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna start dancing to that fine, fine music.

-Rachel Creeter

Oh Hi, Neighbor!

Well, now, it’s been a little over two years since one of us Creeters has clicked on that “Publish” button. I have a draft in here that has been sitting since December 2010. It was about the (then) recent passing of artist and musician Don Van Vliet, known as Captain Beefheart. I suppose it isn’t relevant anymore. But since I never did get to put up a fitting tribute, I’ll go ahead and set this video right here:

I don’t even remember how to format these posts. Not to mention WordPress has changed a bit since a couple years ago.

I’d like to say that I’ll be posting every week again, and my other Creeters will join me so that we can have an update almost every day, but let’s not go chasing waterfalls. Amiright, TLC? You know.

This is just a check-in post, to see if this thing is still running. I miss writing. So much has gone on since I last wrote on here, I almost don’t know where to begin.

I’m engaged to be married. There’s a start. The last post by any of us was dear Sara Creeter simply glowing about her upcoming wedding (which has of course come and gone and been anniversaried already). I suppose it’s only fitting that the return of the prodigal post should announce my impending nuptials.

My fiancé is a sharp chap, and I’m very happy to have found him. To put it more accurately, I’m very happy to have had Erin Creeter introduce me to him. That’s right, it was a match made in Creeter heaven. He’s a writer too, which is lovely on so many levels. We talk about writing, he writes and I feel deep pride in him, then he laments that I don’t write much anymore. I lament, too, I just wish I would do something about it. Well, this isn’t much, but it is at least a start. You can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t, you know, write. I’ve had snippets of ideas or inspiration; fat lot of good they do if they stay on a sticky note on your bedstand.

Been trying to give it that good ol’ Writing Down the Bones push, keeping a journal to just get in the habit of writing something–anything–every day. Yeah, let’s not tell anyone I haven’t been keeping up with that. I have, however, been studying to get a license for my first-ever fulltime job (I’m an adult!). I’ve had the job for a year, now, and soon it will be time to take on more responsibility, to which I say, “Bring it on!” It’s a great job, too, and I’m very happy to have found it, as well. To put it more accurately, I’m very happy to have had my fiancé send me their job posting. It seems I thrive on recommendations.

Well, it’s back to studying for me, then off to work. If I don’t see you next Wednesday, don’t send out a search party. I’m probably just watching Doctor Who.

Signing off,

Rachel Creeter

P.S. I now contribute as a guest writer on my friends’ film blog, This Cinematic Life. (It was originally called The Cinema Nerds, but apparently someone claimed that name as theirs, so the title has changed although the domain is the same). We are currently hosting a poll of people’s Top 10 Movies released in the 1980s. You still have a chance to submit your list, until 10pm Sunday July 7th! I highly recommend both their blog as a whole and participating in the polls. It’s so fun seeing how different and how similar people’s lists are.

They go together like a horse and a carriage.

When you have to go back into your secret email archives to find your username, you know it’s been too long since your last post.

Little has changed, in some respects, since my last post – I’m still at the same job, with the same degree, with the same chum at my side and the same cat on my lap. I still think I’m too short, my back still hurts inexplicably, and I still sing to myself when I’m looking for things or running late.

But creeter-readers, in other respects, everything, everything, has changed.

My mom got married last summer. In 2007, my mom, alone and bored and feeling sorry for herself, did what every bored-alone-self-pitying creature does: started Facebook-creeping old friends to see if she could find someone more boring and less pretty than she was. Instead, she found her old high school boyfriend (whose heart she broke when she ran away from their relationship). 6 months later, I came home from Rome to find her ami in our kitchen.

“Hello,” said jet-lagged, freaked-out moi.

“Hello,” said OhnoI’mmeetingthehostileyoungestdaughter! him.

1 year later, I spent many an evening waiting impatiently for my mom to get off the phone with her boyfriend so that I could use the phone to call mine. Another year after that, I sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” at their wedding, the song standing next to my mom’s extravagant happiness.

My mom is one of my very best friends (oh, go ahead and boo my clichédness, it’s true). We’ve shared so many ridiculous life moments together, but one I never anticipated sharing was the awkward giddiness of a first date. My chum and I have known each other since 2003, been best friends since 2006, and dating since 2008. Simplified version. I’m missing out on whole lifetimes of one-sided obsessions and non-break-ups and time spent together in the backseat and time spent alone in Mexico. But the point is, my first “boyfriend” (ha! I find that word ridiculous) coincided with my Mom’s (reunion with her) first boyfriend, and it made our relationship into something more than mom & daughter, more than friend & friend. For the first time, I realized my mom was a woman just like I was, and it has forever, beautifully changed us.

When I told my mom that le chum and I were dating, that after 2 years of being friends and awkward friends and then not friends at all, I had realised I didn’t want to live without him, she turned to me and said, “I’m so glad you were braver than I was.”

Braver? I don’t know. I suppose it did only take me 2 years, compared to 35, to realize I was willing to risk changing my known life for one that included le chum. But then again, I didn’t have 4 kids and 30 years of assorted relationship history to take responsibility for, which takes a kind of courage that is only watched on a screen, not witnessed in your own home.

Every relationship takes extraordinary courage. Relationships are about trust, which is about risk, which requires an unusual confidence in both you and in the other party involved; a confidence that is a choice, an exercise, a perspective, and sometimes, an act of faith. Always, an act of humility.

Wish me luck, wish me grace, wish me supernatural courage and stamina. August 13 2011, five years to the day that we became best friends, le chum and I are getting married.

And I’ve never been so excited about where life is going next.

ROAR

I feel like I’m in a mud puddle.

Breaking news this morning on CBC was the shocking to some; saddening to others; heartening to yet others; and completely nonplussing news to many that Robert Munsch, beloved Canadian children’s author, admitted to mental illness and drug addictions.

At first I was shocked, and then I was saddened, and now… now I feel like I’m in a mud puddle.

The first burble in the mud puddle was the thought that addictions and illness have absolutely nothing to do with this man’s art. He’s not writing self-help books on battling cocaine abuse. He’s writing quirky tales of paper-bag princesses and sleep-walking fathers. If the end result is a satisfactorily tongue-twistingly chewy bedtime story, should the personal process that may have accompanied the writing really matter?

The second blip in my puddle was the realisation that today’s CBC story was not, in fact, a shocking new discovery. Munsch has talked about his battle with mental illness before, in interviews in The Globe & Mail and Global Television Network. In fact, I would far more readily describe the story in G&M as beautiful and inspiring instead of “shocking.”

Excerpt: How Robert Munsch grabbed a lifeline (The Globe & Mail, October 09 2009)

“ Purple, Green and Yellow is my take on depression,” the real-life Mr. Munsch says in an interview. “That’s what it was like for me: You want to kill yourself, but you have to be funny. You colour yourself for the world.”

Known as much for his hyperkinetic performances as his funny-with-an-edge children’s books, Mr. Munsch, 64, has struggled his entire life with bipolar disorder.

From his “wild and wonky” behaviour as a teenager, through to his years studying to be a priest, then as a daycare worker with a gift for storytelling, he largely suffered in silence and accepted the wild mood swings: “When you grow up with it, it seems like the way life is,” he says.

But the bouts of depression and related alcoholism grew ever worse, and Mr. Munsch finally got help – therapy and antidepressants – when he was close to 50.

While many artists fear that treatment for mental illness will rob them of their magical je ne sais quoi , Mr. Munsch had the opposite result: “Taking antidepressants didn’t interfere with my creativity, the depression interfered with my creativity.”

Better still, instead of having to paint himself happy, he actually began to enjoy the performances. “After treatment, it became more fun to do the shows – it made me better.”

And yet, the question must be asked…

What was Mr. Munsch attempting to accomplish by posting the following “Note to Parents” on his website?

And was it accomplished?

NOTE TO PARENTS

I am a storyteller. I write books for kids, I talk to kids, and I listen to kids.

But that is not all that I am. Several years ago I was diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive and manic-depressive. Those challenges have led me to make some big mistakes.

I have worked hard to overcome my problems, and I have done my best. I have attended twelve-step recovery meetings for more than 25 years.

My mental health and addiction problems are not a secret to my friends and family. They have been a big support to me over the years, and I would not have been able to do this without their love and understanding.

I hope that others will also understand. I hope that everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges.

Simple songs

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend a Steve Bell house concert, planned by le chum‘s stepmom as a surprise birthday party for le chum‘s padre.

Steve Bell (or check out here), for those of you who are unfamiliar with the name, is a Canadian singer, songwriter and storyteller… and trust me when I tell you that he needs all three nouns to properly describe him as an artist. Steve is an incredibly talented musician (as evidenced by the two JUNOs that rest in his possession; if you’re still in doubt, listen to the guitar instrumental on Simple Songs and keep in mind that he is not using multiple guitars, as he was kind enough to prove to me on Thursday), but what sets him apart from other folksy/bluegrassy/jazzy/acoustic artists is the natural humour and wisdom that seep through his gifted storytelling that provide the backbone and lifeblood to his music.

Le chum and I arrived early at his padre’s house to help set up for the concert, but once the party punch had been mixed and the coffee carafes set out, there was little for us to do but sit down in the living room and get out of the way. So we cautiously sat at the end of one of the makeshift rows of chairs and listened to Steve finish up his sound check. After he was done, he came and sat down by us.

“Hey,” he said easily. “I’m Steve.”

Oh, really?

We got to talking about school and work and travel, and soon Steve was regaling us with tales of Istanbul and Galilee, of monasteries and mountains. More guests had started arriving, but he stayed where he was and kept on chatting. I assumed at first it was out of politeness (surely he had more impressive people to greet than a couple of twenty-something shmucks?), but even as the crowd grew around him, and some guests hovered awkwardly close over his shoulders, Steve continued to engage us in conversation, holding eye contact, and maintaining a sense of genuine interest in us and our dreams for our twenty-something lives.

Eventually, le chum and I bowed out of the way to allow the expanding crush of people to gain access to Steve, but later that evening, standing around in the kitchen, Steve sought us out and enthusiastically continued our conversation, insisting that when (not if) we head overseas, to call him first to get in contact with friends of his we needed to meet and stay with.

The concert? was wonderful, the music inspiring, the banter entertaining. But what made a lasting impression on me was Steve’s genuine love for people, manifested first in the sincere moments he spent with us; then in the passion of his music; and finally through the stories he wove between and among songs, stories stitched from bits and pieces of lessons learned while living life.