Observations, personal


Watch this video of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was proud of himself. He was a man in possession of the rare knowledge that the work he had done made an impact. Few get to experience that at the level he did.

Yet he died of a heroin overdose with a needle hanging out of his arm.

His people came looking for him because he didn’t show up to pick up his children.

The net is plastered with photos of him looking some variation of sensitive. There are a thousand articles and interviews where it is pointed out how remarkably talented he was. What a great actor he was. “One of the best we’ll ever have and now he’s gone” one article said. Sorry I can’t find the link now but it’s not needed. The sentiment of that statement is very popular. Yes, he was a damn fine actor.

He was troubled. He had to have been, right? To have put himself in the position to be found in his underwear, dead? It’s true, we will never know for certain if he meant to die or if he was just out to experience a good high.

The outpouring of love and sympathy is touching. Hoffman did such a remarkable job of making himself so very vulnerably human on screen, it seems blasphemous to utter anything but praise for the man.

He was troubled.
An addict suffering a relapse.
He was in pain.

Well… aren’t we all? In pain? At some point in every human’s life, suffering is endured.

I have suffered too. But – and I say this with all manner of righteous indignation – I never shoved a needle up my arm. I’m a prime candidate for addictive behaviors according to the science. I smoked. I quit. Some say cigarettes are harder to kick than heroin. I don’t know if that’s true. Nor do I care. Given all the predictive criteria, I should have been an addict too. But I wasn’t. I was stronger than that – again, cue the righteous stuff. Because I haven’t been an addict and I don’t know what I don’t know.

My father was not. Stronger, that is. He was an addict. It is my understanding that he was troubled as well. Because of his childhood. I don’t know for sure and I can’t ask him now because he’s dead. But I do remember his face. How, unless he was high, he looked like he felt like a person damned. There was one time he played a song for me on a reel to reel tape. A duet he’d performed with some woman. He sang in it. Maybe he also played the guitar. It was the only time I had ever seen my daddy proud. In my memory of that moment, he was not high or drunk. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I like to think he was sober.

What does this have to do with Philip Seymour Hoffman? Nothing. Except that every time I saw an article or a picture, I felt a little prick in my psyche. A thorn in my side. All the media made me look at stuff I thought was put to rest but surprise! there’s still some hurt there. Hurt that manifested as irritation with every damn photo and article I found posted in my Facebook feed.

As the daughter of an addict, I want to know why he didn’t try harder? Why was he so weak? How come he didn’t step up do the work to heal himself so he could be the dad I wanted and needed him to be? All the questions one wants to shout at someone who is unforgiven.

And listen, I know the drill about forgiveness. How I hurt me more than I hurt the one unforgiven by holding a grudge. So they say. But here’s what I have come to. Here is the thing that delivers peace. There is not a grudge, not anymore. Mr. Hoffman is making me look at this anew and I imagine somebody else will inspire me to shed light on past hurts again. Eventually. It’s neat how our collective human experience offers these opportunities.

Today I know that my dad struggled. I choose to think he did the best he could despite the demons he wrestled. I think he loved me to the extent he was able. He thought it was neat that I made stuff out of the discarded diodes and whatnot from the electronics he repaired for extra cash. And I like to think that meant he was proud of his daughter’s creativity.

He was also a dick, capable of really awful things.

That he did his best and he was an awful father – I get to keep both of those attitudes without adopting the idea that I have some flaw in my character. And that’s just the way of it as far as I am concerned.

As for Philip Seymour Hoffman… I offer thanks to his spirit for his brilliant treatment of his craft. He really pulled it off well. I offer thanks to his spirit for helping me see some things with a little more clarity. I offer my best wishes that he rest in peace for as long as he needs to and because I think we spirits recycle ourselves, I hope he has a better go of it next time around. His children are suffering. To them, I offer love and strength.


One thought on “PSH RIP

  1. Karen says:

    Great comments, Ellen. I share your mixed reaction. Is he being praised because he is artistic avant gardish white male actor? Are the same excuses used for the same people suffering from addiction or choosing to use drugs that have our jails and prisons packed?

    Self determination is a lifelong process. No matter how rich or successful you are. And yes, a certain percentage of the population has a genetic leaning towards dependency (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, exercise, gambling). Suck it up. Find a semi – healthy coping mechanism and get on with living life.

    My two cents!

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