Patti and Perspective

On Saturday, I met my Living Idol,   Patti Smith, and I was crushed that she didn’t ask to be my best friend.   She was actually perfectly nice, and autographed an old book of her poetry for me, but the distance between my fantasy and reality was intolerable for the rest of the day. I was overwhelmed by a feeling that   my life was totally pointless. I wished someone would shoot me in the head.   I felt a little like Mark David Chapman.

Today, I described the experience to my psychiatrist, who said, “Who’s Patti Smith?”

But he understood my feeling, because he is a good psychiatrist. My  disappointment at not being recognized as the Chosen One had already settled down; I am grateful to Patti for all the joy and inspiration she’s given me for 35 years. When I replay the encounter in my head, it is pleasant and fulfilling.

Your whole life is a narrative that you create in your head, and it is subject to emotional states, varying needs, perspective and the passage of time.

Some people need drugs to shift the narrative from unendurable darkness to something more moderate.   Other people seem to operate from a narrative that has little to do with reality but casts everything in a favorable light.

At my grief group tonight, I cried at every single story of loss, and wondered how all of us parents can create a narrative that will allow us to find meaning in our lives, not to mention acceptance of finality. I think the idea is to trudge through every day and month and year until you believe you’re something more than a grieving mother.

I think I use this blog as a way to shape my ongoing narrative.   It helps to structure my thoughts and feelings. I’m gradually learning not to be rattled when someone doesn’t like what I write. I’m even going to ignore a new outburst from that Crazy Russian Lady. I think this proves that I’m mellowing with old age. Or maybe I’m just  exhausted.

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23 Responses to Patti and Perspective

  1. Heidi says:

    Oh, she rattles the best of us! I was speechless when I came face to face with her in 1995. I’m just glad I didn’t throw up from nerves.

    The wonderful thing about Patti Smith is she has made so many of our lives just that much more bearable for having been around.

    Your whole life is a narrative that you create in your head, and it is subject to emotional states, varying needs, perspective and the passage of time.
    Yes! I’m glad you wrote that, because I always feel like such a nitwit when I stop and recognize that I’m doing the narrative again.

  2. sam says:

    I think its a combination of mellowing and exhaustion; its called ‘can’t be arsed’

  3. Dru says:

    I’ve always thought it must be strange to come face to face with our idols, and to realise that they’re not in fact gods or whatever we want them to be.

    On a side note: Patti in that photograph looks like Charlotte Gainsbourg. I wonder what she was glaring at?

  4. Ann says:

    “Your whole life is a narrative that you create in your head, and it is subject to emotional states, varying needs, perspective and the passage of time.”

    Yes. This.

  5. Wonderful post. xxx

  6. Juli says:

    This really hits home to how I’ve been feeling as of late. Thanks Sister. xo

  7. Kelly says:

    My son and I were talking yesterday about that standard parent-to-kid question, “If all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff too?” My son said he’d rather jump than live with the depression of losing all his friends.

    I love it that your psychiatrist said, “Who’s Patti Smith?” —because the point is ‘who is Patti Smith to you.’ I’m glad you got to meet her. xo

  8. Marky says:

    I wish I had an idol. I think I’m too jaded now, and I wish I weren’t, because idols (especially artists of any sort) help shape our narratives, don’t you think?

  9. Because I love Anna Wintour (yes I know it is perverse) I know I will never be disappointed if I met her. I’m sure her look and clipped remark would give me joy!

    Mind you if I met Patti Smith I’d be a wreck as she really is top drawer. I am forever indebted to Horses and the cover for opening my world. And also to you because your prose is phenomenal – you influenced me at another point in my life and I love how women do this.

    As for the Russian Lady how the fuck has she turned up again! That seems like years ago – wait it was years ago. Has she been on the cheap vodka again?

  10. tartantreacly says:

    I’m a fantasist, so I can relate to being inevitably disappointed when the reality doesn’t live up to the fiction. BUT, you know, sometimes I’d rather take the warm embrace of delusion over the cold comfort of the quotidian. ;-D

    I’ve noticed that a lot of my favourite books and films (e.g. Atonement, The Blind Assassin, “Millennium Actress”) are, at their heart, about the transformative, even redemptive power of the narratives we create for ourselves, so that’s something that definitely strikes a chord within me as well.

  11. WendyB says:

    Ah, yes, the narrative that can be so helpful to me most of the time definitely leads to huge disappointment when reality kicks its ass. Great post. Sorry about the Russian.

  12. Liz!! says:

    Sometimes I feel like the richest part of my life is the narrative I’m constantly writing in my mind. On many things, it doesn’t resemble real life in the faintest, but draws a more accurate description of my desires than anyone or anything could.

    I’ve had that narrative almost come true once, and it blew my mind (not in a good way). Sometimes it’s better to let the story remain just a story.

    And in grief, the narrative can be a reliving of the past, of the good memories. I always imagine that I’m talking to my godmother who passed away last year. She’s not gone. In my narrative she’s still in her hospital bed, smiling, and I’m telling her about the wedding that she wasn’t there to see. It’s beautiful to know that i can imagine such a scenario and almost feel like it’s true.

  13. David Duff says:

    So who is Patti Smith?

    Or better still who is your shrink, he sounds rather sensible to me!

  14. Andra says:

    See, we never stop growing no matter how old we are.
    This is a wonderful story and you have narrated it beautifully.
    And, being another peasant like Mr Duff, I only know who Patti Smith is because of your previous stories.
    One man’s idol is another man’s cup of tea, or something.

  15. Aja says:

    I had no idea the Russian Lady was still poking around, harassing you. Shame on her! I hope you get to meet Patti Smith again in a more intimate setting, like a party and that you get to have a decent chat with her. Though you might be disappointed that she’s not more fun than you had hoped. There’s a good chapter in the book Hypocrite in a Pink Dress where the author talks about meeting Mick Jagger. I laughed aloud while reading it. This post is really uplifting and it makes me smile that life is starting to make sense to you again.

  16. sonja says:

    what I want to know is HOW DID YOU MEET PATTI SMITH??

  17. Taylor says:

    I really needed to read this right now. I have been operating in a “narrative that has little to do with reality” for awhile now. Reality sucks, and some fantasies should stay in your head. I created a nasty one for myself, and once it became a reality, it crushed me.

    Your blog is amazing and one of my favorites to read. Learning not to be rattled by crazies is hard. Especially when you yourself feel crazy (I do).

  18. Debbie says:

    Sister, you are way more than a grieving mother. That comment you made about life being a narrative etc. was brilliant. The simple fact that you can get past the crap rolling around in our heads to come up with that statement is so helpful to the rest of us.

  19. Ah-duh says:

    I just read how Patti Smith hated her mother’s red lipstick and felt betrayed by her mother telling her that she had stop running around the neighborhood shirtless because she was 10 and would soon become a young lady. I think Patti may have been distracted by you hot red lips.

    P.S. You are light, love and inspiration.

  20. Erika says:

    Aww I love Patti Smith. She is like a super goddess witch momma. I saw her at the Nluegrass festival last year and she was so awesome. Shared all of these great words and blessings over us, like incantations.

    Who could blame you for feeling that way about her.

  21. Kay says:

    Good grief, SW, I feel you. I’m 20 years old, and blessed enough to live in New York so I’ve managed to see her 22 times in the past 13 months. I’ve met her on a couple of occasions, but can’t find words more than “hi” and a shy half smile. She’s my absolute idol. Horses changed my life profoundly when I was 14 and I just can’t even… Some day, the words will come, though…Or so I tell myself.

    Thank you so much for the words you share with us.

  22. Srenna says:

    I had a similar experience with one of the red hot chili peppers. Don’t laugh! He was the genius one who has now since quit the band. He was perfectly nice, but I was very diasappointed when he didn’t ask me to marry him.

  23. Jane says:

    Sister Wolf, I’m a University student. In New Zealand. So far away from you, but i love your blog. I find it interesting and challenging. And today supremely helpful. I am taking an English literature paper on the theory of narrative discourse, and the classes have been getting abstract and (a bit over my head) and asking what reality is. This blog has helped me understand the connection ‘narrative’ has to life. Thank you.

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