Patti Smith Saved My Life/Mind, Twice (warning- contains God)

Recently, a family member fell ill. This is putting it in extreme generalizations and non-committal language. I was with that person in the hospital for about a month, during that time one does a lot of soul-searching, praying, bargaining and talking to oneself – that inner talk isn’t always productive, helpful or kind.

During this time, as a writer my first instinct was I need to be writing so I can breathe. But then I couldn’t focus on anything (because I’m human and focused on what needed to be done) so I let myself get to the point where I could. But then I still couldn’t.

As things were looking up, I could read and focus, but still couldn’t write. I couldn’t focus on fiction but could flip through magazines and then could read some non-fiction. It sustained my mind.

As we have now been out of the hospital I have read like a bat out of hell. I am hungry for the words, the escape, the meaning behind it all. The more the better. But not just any words will do.

Several years ago, I was laid off and my husband just so happened to be laid off, too. That was also a hell no one should ever have to deal with, but I digress. I picked up Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” and fell in love. I fell in love with how her words brought to life her life, their life, her struggles as an artist, and how it just was what it was. She was there to be an artist. She was there to absorb that world, and to bring it to life for others. It made me realize that you can’t deny who or what you are supposed to be. (Writer, artist, singer, ambassador, goddess of punk…).

This time I had “M Train” to finish reading. I had previously gotten through the first chapter and then life got in the way and I stopped reading. But again, Patti Smith’s book found me, with her grief of loss and fullness of life and words, and my reality of changes I wasn’t ready for coupled with my total gratefulness.

Her glorious words about her past made me recall my mean inner talk that I had with myself: how maybe every choice I ever made was wrong, if I only had done this, I would have this, and then this would be this way instead of this way… But I realized God doesn’t make accidents, He doesn’t keep putting the same things in front of me for no reason, He doesn’t tease the signs, the signs are there for a reason, we just have to pay attention and do what we’re supposed to do.

Again, I am reminded that writers are here to share their stories with the world, that is our service. It may not be something everyone understands, or rewards, or even notices half the time, but the stories are here to comfort us and to give us life…both my writing and Patti Smith’s writing. We can’t all be Patti Smith (no one can!) but we can learn, we can feel and we can relish in her words.

I notice she has a new book due out in September called “Why I Write.”

Also, went to a used book store and found a first edition hardback of “Just Kids.”

The signs, oh, the signs!

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