I was 17 years old and we were in process of moving from our amazing old house in Granada Hills, CA, to a beautiful, newer tract home in Northridge, CA. Our new home was up in the hills, and was two stories tall. I’d never lived in a two story home before, and was so excited about it.
Spoiled Brat Studio logo
By Phil Hartman
I had just taken a load of boxes to the house, and was alone inside. I was told by my Mom to wait for the movers and let them in, and she’d be there soon after. While I sat on the stairs that lead up to my bedroom, I admired the beauty of our new home, and how light and bright it was, and I imagined what it would be like once we built the recording studio in our garage and had musicians coming and going from our house. My Dad’s intent was to build an 8-track recording studio, and my 19 year old brother would be the sound engineer running it. My brother, who has always had an hilarious sense of humor, decided that the studio which was being built for him should be called “Spoiled Brat Studio.” Phil Hartman, the actor and Saturday Night Live star, who became our friend (before he was famous) when the studio was built, actually drew the logo for the studio on the plastered wall of the control booth. My Mom preserved it when we left the house by peeling it off of the plaster and framing it. (See photo above.)
That was what was to come in our new home but, at the moment, sitting on the stairs daydreaming about the future, I had something else to think about; an issue that was far more pressing, i.e., how was I going to get my head out from in-between the balusters (those vertical supports) on the staircase? You see, as I excitedly ran up and down the stairs in our new home, I remembered how little kids in movies and on television commercials would put their heads between the balusters as they spied on their parents. Having never done that, I decided I would try it. After all, no one would ever know.
As I suspected, it was fun having that childlike perspective, until I realized that I couldn’t pull my head out. The movers were coming very soon, and there I was, a 17 year old girl, sitting on the staircase, stuck with her head between the balusters. I began to panic, and the harder I tried to free myself, the worse things got. I was sitting in such an awkward and uncomfortable position on the stairs, and as I struggled to get free, my eyes filled with tears. I was terrified, and visions of firefighters and welders having to come in and rescue me and tear apart the beautiful balusters to save my life flashed before my eyes. My poor parents! What had I done? I’d ruined our moving day, and probably cost them thousands of dollars! What if the movers never showed up? What if my parents decided it was enough moving for the day and forgot all about me? They would find me the next day, starved half to death with my head between the balusters!
The tears started to pour out of my eyes, and I cried heaving sobs. “Oh God, what have I done?” I said aloud. Exhausted, I took a deep breath. “I give up,” I said, abandoning my struggle, bowing my head in defeat. And then, like a champagne cork in a bottle that has been sitting in a hot car too long, my head suddenly and effortlessly popped out from in between the balusters. (Don’t ask why or how I know that a champagne cork in a hot bottle acts like this.)
As I was searching for something to write about for today’s newsletter, this memory came rushing back to me this morning. I immediately realized that this was a metaphor for my life. I have worked hard (as so many have) all of my life, hauling and lifting those boxes of shoulds, musts, have-tos, gottas, up and down the staircase of life. Up days, down days. Trying to do the right things, be a good and loving person. And yet there are those times when things go wonky. I want to stop and smell the roses, and then get stabbed by a thorn. I overthink things, or try too hard, and I can’t seem to get out of my stuck space. Depression, anger and fear begin to override faith and trust in God, and I feel even more stuck than before. I just simply can’t seem to pull my head out of my balusters.
And then, when I feel there is no hope, no God, no answer to my problems. I sit down with my head between the balusters, feeling shackled and abandoned by life, and I bow my head. Woe is me. And then the tears come, and I give up. Or, should I say, I give it up to God. I relax, release, and surrender. And that’s when the answer comes to me, and I am suddenly released from my self-imposed hell on earth.
That’s when God pulls my head out of my balusters for me.