Embracing Both Sides of the Coin
Confronting “My Hero, The Enemy”
I’ve seen better days
And brighter dreams
Even in the throes of desire before you
I’ve grown melodies and poetry
Higher than I ever thought I could grow
Still, you’re my hero
You’re my hero, the enemy
*Lyrics from “My Hero, The Enemy” by Gregory Douglass
Gregory Douglass, Category: Artist, Albums: Live from the Chapel, My Hero, The Enemy, Lucid, Battler, Up & Away…open.spotify.com
I use to make home movies when I was a kid before my life pivoted towards music. I loved suspense movies back then, so I applied what I learned and created amateur thrillers with my friends. Each one featured a villain with manipulative motives, violent tendencies — and of course, a surprise twist at the end (wait, he’s not really dead?!).
I wrote, directed, filmed, and starred in them all. I always played the villain so that I could threaten someone with a knife or beat the shit out of something with a shovel. Each one had a short 10 to 20-minute runtime and sported provocative titles like “Dangerous Love” and “Deadly Attraction.” It was adorable.
My mother was concerned with my use of sharp weapons on camera, but she allowed it because she didn’t want to stifle my creativity. She figured it was better I made fictional suspense movies than channel my anger through more potentially destructive means in real life. It might sound like radically liberal parenting to some, but I think her instincts were dead on (pun fully intended).
I needed an outlet to channel all that anger, and a creative outlet is a much better alternative to a self-destructive one.
I was drawn to the violence in all those thrillers back then. They sparked something new in me that needed some attention. I was angry, and I was unconsciously harnessing that anger in creative and productive ways.
The real question is: why was I so angry back then?
I was 12 years old at the height of my rage. I had lots of friends at school and a loving supportive family too. But my parents had just separated. My immediate family had downsized to just me, my mom, and my sister — and suddenly I was the man of the house.
I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to become the man of the house. I suddenly had to manage my mother’s emotional needs after her husband abruptly exited the building. I felt responsible for taking on a new hybrid role of being a father and a big brother to my baby sister. And I knew I had to keep my shit together so I could keep what was left of our family together. I felt I had no choice but to man up and take care of the two women who mattered most to me.
There wasn’t time to deal with my anger. I was too young to even grasp such a concept. My anger and resentment began to fester, and I became enthralled by every suspenseful movie trailer I saw on TV because they made my heart race with vengeance.
My favorite babysitter snuck me into the movie theater one night to see The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. It was my first R-rated thriller! It starred Rebecca De Mornay as Peyton Flanders — a killer nanny with a thirst for revenge. She had the perfect family until suddenly it was taken from her, so she wanted to get even with the people who ripped her family apart. She was a cunning, manipulative housewife with a garden shovel, and she wasn’t afraid to use it. She was my new heroine.
Everyone close to me was female at the time, so it’s no surprise that a female villain resonated with me so loudly. In fact, there wasn’t a single male in my community I felt comfortable with at that age. It seemed the entire male species of my hometown had no idea what to do with such a colorful, effeminate boy like me, so they didn’t feel comfortable around me either. I was just another one of the girls for the most part, but I didn’t care because I was a budding feminist with newly found rage in my heart.
The rage grew stronger, so I made more amateur movies. My sixth grade teacher let me screen some of them for the class, and I started to make new friends with (gulp) — boys. They wanted to take part in my movies. My movies! I couldn’t believe it, but I rolled with it and had a few production meetings with a couple of different boys in my class after school. I even invited one of them over to my house. I didn’t really know how to “hang” with the boys, so I kept it strictly business.
I started to build confidence through the process. I was learning how to deal with new relationships while demonstrating leadership as a creative authority at the same time — all because I decided to channel my rage through creativity as a child.
I was introduced to more angry women a year later through music. Artists like Tori Amos, Suzanne Vega, Alanis Morrisette, The Indigo Girls, and Concrete Blonde were at the top of my playlist, and they resonated with me in ways that extended beyond my childish adoration for killer nannies. I mean, I was in Junior High now!
The vulnerability and raw emotion that these women were channeling through their music was astounding to me. I wanted to write and perform songs like that. I wanted to play the piano like Tori Amos and the guitar like The Indigo Girls, so I taught myself how. I studied the piano parts of Tori’s songs and fumbled my way through figuring out more simplified piano arrangements of my own by ear. I learned some basic guitar chords in standard tuning and figured out some Concrete Blonde songs as well. I listened carefully and I learned.
I’ve since built a life around the music I make. I’ve written and recorded a lot of angry, hopeful, and all around emotional music over the years that continues to help people through their own obstacles in life.
The experiences of my past forced me to grow up quicker than the average kid. I’m lucky I turned my anger into art before it consumed me. It was intuitive — a beautiful inception of art made from circumstance. It helped me learn what creativity is all about.
My latest album My Hero, The Enemy explores this concept at a deeper level. The title track My Hero, The Enemy represents the dichotomy between salvation and struggle within the creative process. I’m continuing to glean more insight from each song on this album, and I’m still writing about it in Medium articles like this because there’s so much to confront.
Creativity is the connection between life’s dichotomies — the joy and the anger, the yin and the yang, the good and the bad, the dark and the light. We must embrace both sides of the coin to live honestly, happily, and purposefully. Creative outlets can help us do that because they provide a safe haven for truth and self-expression.
We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how we can become more fulfilled in life, but many of us refuse to take an honest look at the other side of our own coin. Instead, we choose to accept half-truths, hide from our darker sides, and numb our emotions through addiction and all sorts of seemingly “harmless” vices (you know what your vices are).
But what if leaning into your darker side is exactly what will lead to a more fulfilling life? What if you learned to accept every aspect of yourself as apart of who you are — the whole story?
I’m so grateful for the music that has shaped my life and I’m humbled by how often creativity has saved me. I’ve yet to return to the art of film-making but don’t be surprised if I do.
In closing, “My Hero, The Enemy” is a song I wrote for my studio album My Hero, The Enemy. I just released a live version of that album called Live from the Chapel that was recorded and filmed live at The Chapel in San Francisco. I wrote this song about the salvation and struggle of the creative process… Take a listen to the original version of the song or live version of the song if your curious.
Yours in music & creative wellness,
PS. I’ve got a whole riot of recorded music, videos, and articles to inspire you at GregoryDouglass.com.
PPS. Want to help me sustain all this creativity? Click here to become a Gregory Douglass patron.