The Journey …
In my early twenties, I kept making notes with the intention of writing a book proving the non-existence of God. After a difficult childhood, as many of my generation had experienced, with parents whose souls and psyches had been traumatized by the ripple effect of two world wars and more, and with my father dying when I was 13, I had slowly, almost imperceptibly become an atheist. I had lost all sight and hope of a benevolent creator God whom I had been taught about as a child.
In June of 1979 after returning to London from a modeling assignment in Mexico, where I had found it difficult to breathe unless parachuting up from the beach attached to a motorboat and raising my adrenalin, I felt I wanted to ‘overthrow my life’. I had taken the book Death of a Lady’s Man with me to Trinidad and Tobago a little earlier, where my anxiety and breathing difficulties which had been coming on for a couple of years, exacerbated. I was the Black & White Whisky Girl having made a commercial for them, and was invited to Trinidad to make a few promotional appearances as such. The book had been given to me in 1978 in Los Angeles, by my friend Leonard Cohen who wrote it and I was particularly drawn to his poem The Asthmatic, which kept ending sentences with….you cannot breathe. His art became my life with prophetic accuracy.
The day I arrived in Mexico I immediately sunbathed for far too long, trying to get a tan ready to model swim wear for a catalogue. In the middle of the night I awoke feeling very strange and looking in the bathroom mirror, to my horror, I had transmogrified into something similar to Kafka’s beetle in Metamorphosis. My eyes were completely puffed and swollen and I resembled an exotic beast rather than the swim wear ‘beauty’ the photographer had booked.
I was mortified. Fortunately one of the other models had done the same with a similar effect and so we had to ‘relax and recover’ for a few days before shooting could begin.
Rather than relax my life and I began to unravel on that trip and I stayed twice as long as planned, visiting the beautiful Yelapa and sharing a beach hut hotel room with two Iguanas I named Fred and Alice, for some reason. Some might call it a Nervous Breakdown but in retrospect I began to see it as my Nervous Breakthrough.
My father was a piano teacher by the time I was born and my mother who had buried herself alive in poetry books as a child, had had her voice trained by a famous teacher in Kensington as a young woman, before giving birth to four children, the first of whom was tragically still born. So I was born into music as a back drop to the psychological and emotional mayhem in which I found myself……. “The wars that rage without and within. Parents grappling with inherited sin. Victims of victims who set up home. Turning love in to war in the family zone” from my song Got to get it out of my mind.
So it was not really surprising that poetry and music would become my vehicle of expression for my journey through trauma to recovery and beyond.
After a few night’s grappling with a voice in my head that sounded remarkably like one would imagine Satan to sound, seducing me into the nihilistic suggestion of ending my life once and for all: “ Why don’t you just die, there is no God and life is pointless. If you surrender to me I will help you die.” The voice was sweet and pink and tempting but on the third consecutive night I decided to try and fight it. I thought “There must be something to overcome this negative inner voice.” And I thought to myself OK even if there is no God and life is pointless, if I can help one other person overcome their pain for just one second then my life will not be in vain. With that thought, the anxiety and ‘Satan’ left me and for the first time in months I slept like a baby. Empathy and compassion had been born in my heart.
The next day a friend of mine who had ‘found’ God a few years earlier and had had a dream to come to London from Holland and wait for my return from Mexico, led me out into the garden. She picked a blade of grass and showed it to me and said: “Show me a person who can make that.” I was crying and felt there was no hope for me. I wanted to call someone and get myself admitted. I had wandered so far from the Garden of Eden that I truly felt there was no way back for me. My transgressions were too great, too selfish, too embarrassing to ever be able to look myself in the mirror again without the veil of self-delusion.
My friend had gone back into the house and left me to contemplate her question. I got up from the grass where I had collapsed in a heap and believing myself to be alone I looked up into the sky and saw God. To quote from one of my songs Let It Be Known that I hope to record for my fourth album: Home
And it wasn’t face to face
But it sort of was by grace
And it wasn’t eye to eye
But I saw Glory in the sky.
I felt the power in God’s hand
Beheld the tying of the band
Saw the angels rise and fall
Responding quickly to the call for love
And I saw Love I saw Love
I saw Love
I felt its all-embracing power
Was given insight into flowers
And animals and everything that’s made
By a hand so deft and tender
It can fashion even grass into a blade.
Let it be known that Love will bind us
With its soft and silken thread
But be strong enough to catch us
Should we slip in to the pit of dread.
So over the next few weeks I asked God what I could do to serve; should I become a missionary or train as a nurse or both and God said no, see that guitar in the corner of the room that you have looked at with great ambivalence because of past wounds around music and your dad, pick it up and learn a few chords.
And so I did.