Mental Health Awareness Month
In August 2012, at the age of 28, I was reconnected with the biological family I never knew. At that time, I learned that my father, also named Michael, did not die in a car accident as I had always been told. Rather, I came to find out that he took his own life on my mother’s 21st Birthday, just shortly before I turned a year old. He did not leave a note. Almost 30 years later, in my most personal and emotional creation to date, I wrote that note for my father. Written through our collective heart, eyes, and hand, that piece of our soul is “Michael’s Note.”
“Michael’s Note” was followed by half a decade of critical introspection, reflection, and expression in the form of a visual history paradoxically representing a singular moment, time, and experience as well as momentum, time, and experience in their totality. Completed in the Spring at the age of 33 and given life in conjunction with the Summer Solstice, “Reign Upon Sonrise” is a five year meditative reflection of a simple complexity, or “simplexity.” A 49 canvas polyptych with a myriad of possibilities and experiences, this meditation is a personal and elemental narrative veiled under the umbrella of a fractalized spectrum of sub-narratives called “Reigndrops.” Peering into the human soul with no definitive beginning or end, may you enjoy your journey across the “Reignbough” and discover the enlightenment you seek in the “Reign Upon Sonrise.”
Dedicated to the father I never had the honor and privilege to know-
Though I have publicly exhibited "Michael's Note," I don't believe I have ever transcribed and posted its content. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to share that with you for the first time because I know it can be difficult to read from the painting images. Please note that this was written as a process of stream of consciousness and in one continuous sitting. To maintain authenticity and the necessary energy, I wrote it at a very low point when I was considering giving up. When I had previously considered giving up, I don't believe I had ever intended to leave a note either. This experience allowed me to write the note my father never left and give his family a bit of peace, as I chose to give them the painting. At the same time, it was as if I was writing my own suicide note. This painting, in a sense, represented the death of a piece of myself so I could be reborn.
Who we are and what we become are not always, or even often, what others see in us. Sometimes those that seem the happiest on the outside are the ones struggling the most on the inside. For as long as I can recall, I have felt more pain in a single instant than I would wish upon my greatest enemy in a lifetime. For a great while, pain was the only thing that could mask the hurt. I find that now, even that is not enough and I know all too well that nobody can save me from myself. I know there are those that love me, but how could I possibly accept that love when I could never love myself? There is a perpetual emptiness deep within me that I could never fill. I tried. I really tried. Please know that I tried. I gave everything I had to give until there was nothing left. You will be told that I died in a car accident…a partial truth as I will indeed die inside this car. It will be no accident, however, but rather a tragedy. In time, you will discover the secrets that lie in truth. As much as it kills me, you will one day understand my departure far greater than I would ever wish for you. It is with great anguish and sorrow that I must acknowledge that this, my first letter to my one and only son, will also be my last. Although I cannot give a proper goodbye (if there is such a thing), I hope that you will please forgive me. Please find it in your heart to release me. Less than a year old, I leave you almost as swiftly as you have entered my life, and on your mother’s 21st Birthday no less. From this day forward, every time your mother looks at you she will feel both joy and pain. She will feel joy as she looks upon her first born son and remembers the man she loves and will never forget. At the same time, she will see my face in yours and it will cause a pain you will feel, but not understand until you are older than I am. The two of us are destined to share a name and the same face… the same face that hides the same pain which will be carved into your flesh. We must not, however, share the same fate. Destiny, after all, is only what you are willing to accept. You are bound only by the limits of infinite possibility my son. You will be born into a world that will have no place for you…and so you shall create your own. Never apologize for being yourself Michael. You should only apologize for the times that you are not. You will not be like those by whom you will be surrounded. You will be an outcast, even in your own mind. Your mind and body will be in a constant struggle and it will be a source of constant pain. You will be adopted when you are a young boy, and you will constantly be reminded that I am no longer by your side for reasons you will not yet understand. You will come to understand death before you even have an opportunity to understand life. You will be mocked for the fact that you and your new father do not appear to be of the same color. It will phase you not in the slightest and you will learn in time that being invisible for so long will afford you the opportunity to become any color you feel or choose to be. Thus you shall emerge a master of color, constantly blending the lines drawn by others. You will simply erase what you don’t like and rebuild it as you see fit. You will be a master of your own universe. You are going to raised a Catholic. As such, you will be taught that my decision to take my life on my terms will lead my soul down a path of eternal damnation. This means you will be left with the impossible task of choosing between heaven and seeing me again. Even if I was to tell you which choice to make, I know you will make your own. Your heaven will always be your hell and your hell will always be your heaven. Perhaps true hell is when you die and meet the person you could have been. You are the person I could have been and I will watch over you each and every breath until the breath after last. If I had stayed, you may have become a different man…perhaps even a happy man…but you wouldn’t have been that man that you could have been…the man you are becoming. You have learned to transform your pain into strength. More so, you have chosen to share that strength with those in need…even those that were not willing to share with you along the way. In my eyes, there could be no greater a man. For 30 years you will wander through darkness naked and alone…a lost shepherd. Scraping and crawling along the way, most will look right through you. As you carve your own path against insurmountable odds, you will discover the up-side of down and you will discover yourself. As young young boys and girls, we find ourselves imprisoned within boxes that contain us and diminish our potential. You will break free from every box in which you are placed as only you can…and you will discover that lost is merely a step away from found. After almost befalling a similar end, you will rediscover your missing family almost 30 years from now. That is when you will discover your buried truth. You will also discover this letter, for it will be written by your hand…locked inside your soul for 30 years until a door was unlocked. I did not, in fact, write my own letter. You wrote it for me, Michael. For 30 years you have have slept only to be chased by the vivid nightmares of a creator. Go now and find your peace. Rest peacefully my son, for tomorrow is another day. As you sleep tonight, capture your wildest dreams. Capture your dreams so that when you wake, you may illuminate the path of those surrounded by darkness. Though you may never truly find the closure and serenity you seek, you can write the next chapter of your life, becoming a chapter in the lives of those you may touch along the way. While inspiring those promising new chapters, may you spare others from writing this very letter…for themselves and for those that love them.