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Archive for July, 2011

HUGS NOT DRUGS

I was never a huge fan of Amy Winehouse, but her death certainly got me thinking. She had a wonderful voice of course, but I wasn’t a dedicated listener. However, it was hard to avoid the continual train-wreck of her life being broadcast via web, print and TV on a seemingly-weekly basis for the last 5 years or so. The juxtapose of her fag-ash Lil-gin-hand-beehived figure sprawling catch-phrases and curses to all and sundry made her seem curiously close, the sort of girl we all either knew or had known. Headlines of her latest antics would be accompanied by tuts, sighs and eye-rolls. We’d occasionally see photos of her flat in Camden, it’s Tracy Emin-meets-teenage-sloth debris raising a chuckle.

She was obviously not well. When you drink that much and take heroin, you’re not looking for the party you’re looking for the walls to wrap you up in a velvet cloak of anonymity, peace and quiet. You’re looking to escape not just the world but your own demons. Show me a heroin user who doesn’t have issues and I’ll show you a myth who’s pain and wounds you haven’t yet discovered.

I became very interested in her parents, Janis and Mitch Winehouse. Their efforts to help her, whether with health or career, became increasingly vague. For the last year or so they seemed to be nowhere. But hat can you do? What can you do for child who cannot help themselves? What can you do for a child who is so obviously ill? What can you do when you see the very thing they’re good at being a major factor in exacerbating the illnesses which would eventually overcome them? Where’s the balance and what’s the answer? Is there an answer? When was there an answer which would’ve worked? At what age? Was there ever really an answer at any age?

I don’t know how Amy Winehouse grew up, few of us do. But from what I can tell, it was a with the added spice of a Dad who sang Sinatra and played jazz around the house, and one which also had a Dad who cheated on his wife/her mother for 8 years, leaving the family home when Winehouse was 10. If the child was already of a delicate nature, the egocentricities of children dictate that such a prolonged situation culminating in departure would not have helped. When parents are having trouble with each other, their attendant moods and attitudes filter into all around them; children are sponges for unseen but fully-felt emotional waves. Wounds develop in places we cannot see, scars remain internally forever.

No childhood is perfect, but there can be little doubt that oftentimes, parents don’t consider the long-term impact of their choices. I am not slamming Mitch Winehouse, God knows he had his reasons and they certainly would not have been rooted in malice or intentional harm, indeed, the sadness and pain he and Janis Winehouse must feel can only be tempered but the relief which must’ve come from knowing their daughter’s pain was finally over. But I am saying that as a parent, your choices are important messages. And if you send the wrong message, especially if you have a sensitive child, you might well be adding to their subconsciously increasing doubts, confusions and pain.

One thing I know I don’t do enough for the front woman/main songwriter of Peace Ruler (aka my 1st grader) is hug her. I mean, I hug her a lot but I need to hug her more. It’s even worse with the 19 year old. I’ve written before of how difficult I’ve found it in the latter teenage years of his life to hug him, and this is doubtless tied up in some convoluted feeling with regards to my own dear Dad, who cherishes our occasional hugs having given few of them during my childhood, because he has no-one else to hug him in his life anymore. Just last night, before he went off back to his friend’s house so as they could continue working at soccer camp this week, I said ‘see ya later’ and sort of stood there like some emotional incontinent. He laughed and said, “Err, OK then, see ya…this is kind of awkward feeling.” And it was. And it was my fault. I’m not sure why it’s so tough sometimes, but it is. I love him but, well, he’s a 19 year old dude. And sometimes he says dumb stuff which annoys me. But I sometimes say dumb stuff which annoys me, and I’d still like a hug myself, so it’s not a good enough reason.

And the first-grader is a bumper packet of hugs and squeezes, her energy and light and sheer electricity fizzing and fuzzing and crackling for them, enough to make me selfishly realize that I NEED some of that juice, I NEED to absurd some of that currency, and that more than anything I need to take a deeeeeeeep breathe and fold into the hugs and squeezes, allow her words and limbs to envelope me and charge me full of good.

I don’t know why Amy Winehouse died, and I don’t know how much her parents could’ve really done in the end because it was a one-way ticket their daughter’s mental health booked a long-time ago, one which stripped her of rational choice and only left her with ways to self-medicate a pain she couldn’t stop. But I do know that simple hugs on a much more regular basis would make my children, and myself, happier.

The singer of Peace Ruler can look forward to a lot more squeezes for the foreseeable future and beyond, as can the coach…

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