There’s a lot you don’t know. It’s not because I don’t trust you–I’m just not ready to tell you, not yet but not never.
I’m not pushing you away, I promise. I just haven’t quite processed all my feelings to the point where I can distill my own truths, like when I wrote, “My own mortality becomes realer when I realize I’m no longer living for myself” or “I’m… happy, content with the man I am, one at peace with his imperfections, which makes failure easier to cope with and finding the motivation to continue on towards excellence easier, too.”
I knew how I felt when I wrote those posts, when I turned off the “No Vacancy” sign above my heart and let you in, showed you to a room maybe you’d only pay for by the hour if you didn’t know it was my motel, if you didn’t know those stains on the sheets were tears, not something gross and detectable with a black light or a CSI.
I’m telling you this now because the other day two of my best friends asked about my mother, who, after almost five years of unreturned phone calls and letters, finally wrote me back, a short note with a huge package of baby clothes, all boy’s clothing because she wrote, “McGuigan’s make boys.” She didn’t even know we had a son.
Despite all the beer, which normally turns my filter into an open spigot, I couldn’t say much about my mother, still can’t really (Again, not never–just not now.), but I’ve already said more here, on this blog, to people I may or may not even know, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, a contestant on “Heavy”, than to two people who’ve seen me at my worst–and promised not to put those photos on Facebook! (On a side-note: If you’re a regular here, leave me a comment. Say hello. I’m curious who YOU are now that you know so much about me. Please?)
I have always had difficulty letting people in, or, probably more appropriately, I have always done well at pushing people away. Throughout my childhood, the closest people to me disappeared, the explanations of why, if I ever received them, too vague for my Ninja Turtle- and baseball-obsessed brain to understand. So I withdrew–food, rap music and sitcoms coached me into high school where I kept my relationships on the surface. The few people, mostly girlfriends, I didn’t push away hurt me anyway, and the ones who didn’t I cut off once I moved to California, knowing it was easier to forget what I had than pine for what could be. My adult relationships have been no different. Get too close, and I shut down–I assume you’ll just leave anyway–so instead, I keep everyone within earshot, a proximity where you can hear me, feel like you know me, but far enough away that when I do feel exposed you won’t see, like walking around the house in your underwear with all the windows open when you know all your neighbors are at work.
Recently, I was talking with Dave Schmader, whose new solo play, commissioned by Hugo House, explores his HIV-positive diagnosis, gay marriage and how Prop 8 divided his husband’s Mormon family, about letting people into your stories, into parts of your life you’d just as soon forget if your mind allowed it, and Dave said, “I have to get used to feeling naked on stage in front of everyone.” The nudity overwhelmed him, yet Dave knew that feeling meant he was onto something as an artist.
Oddly, it’s easier for me to blog or get up on stage and share these intimate, emotional and embarrassing stories of my life than to tell my closest friends, or sometimes even my wife. For me, telling the deeply personal through writing and performing clothes me, but to sit before you, looking into your eyes, and say, “I lived a life of self-doubt and anger, regularly allowing fear of failure to prevent me from taking on a challenge and then being mad at myself for quitting or not even trying” seems too personal, like I’m sharing a secret. To tell you myself, one-on-one, is basically stripping, bearing it all in one of those private rooms where you look anywhere but the floor.
Now that I have Sonny, I don’t want to push people away anymore. I want the relationships, the closeness, I’ve never allowed myself to have, and I know that means being as vulnerable in my life as I allow myself to be through my art, and accepting the inherent risk of loss and hurt that comes with loving people.
Eventually, I’d like to tell you more, too, about my mother and my father–at least what I actually know about him–more about my childhood, how there were times when I didn’t want to live, more about my family and the one night when it all changed, about the nightmares that shook me awake for two years, the burglaries and stick-ups, the job that ultimately taught me how to be a hustler, or what I call an “arts-get-shit-doner.”
I’m just not ready to share these stories. Bear with me. I need more time. I only ask that you be there for me when I’m ready. Don’t disappear.