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Conversations on the Couch with Rocky Hatley

Ernest Hemingway's writing space at his Cuban finca. Ernest Hemingway's writing space at his Cuban finca.

Rocky Hatley was born in Memphis, Tennessee and was held by the King himself - Elvis Presley! You just know he's going to have a lot of stories to tell in this latest Conversation on the Couch...

Rocky Hatley is an actor who has been a Screen Actors Guild Member for over 25 years. Raised in Texas, USA, he's a massive fan of music, plays guitar, and has the most amazing celebrity stories ever. Most importantly, Rocky is a passionate writer. He's writing his current novel, Cinderella Jones, with his cat Captain Hook lying on his lap. It's a murder mystery that incorporates his past as a SCUBA diving instructor. You can find Rocky at Tales of the Rock or on Facebook.

Rocky

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

This is the easiest question of the group that you asked. I would want the mind of a 30 year-old. No question. I've never had a great body. It's either been too skinny or too fat. Never brilliantly athletic, though I have played sports, including American football in my youth, baseball, softball, and swimming. I also SCUBA dive.

Ah, but my mind. I could not imagine not having the kind of imagination that can create worlds.

I often live in my imagination, sometimes for long stretches. I'm not sure it's a good thing, but I do it, and I have come to love it. A glass of wine is my ticket.

In the real world, I love looking at people and imagining what their world is like, what their stories are. I love making up my own people and creating worlds for them to live in.

I also enjoy activities like word play. I am a master of bad puns, and I love wit.

All of this requires the mind. I've said for as long as I can remember that I can't do anything about the body growing old, but I'll never be an old man. Growing old is a function of the body. Never becoming an old man, regardless of age, is a product of the mind.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Confidence in myself as a man. Not arrogance (an unattractive quality to me). Not swagger (a euphemism for arrogance). Pure, quiet masculine confidence.

For better or worse, I was an observant child, a quality that helped me as an actor and writer, but took out any hope of me growing up with a strong male identification. My father viewed himself as the King of his castle with his obedient Queen and loyal subjects (the kids).

My mother could not be the obedient Queen. If she agreed with one of my father's proclamations, fine. If not, she occasionally found a way around it, usually in some subversive fashion that came to the light of day resulting in my macho father playing the fool in front of his family and friends.

The lesson became: Macho men are fools, and I will not be a fool. This, of course, is not always true. I know some great guys very in touch with their masculinity. Oh! And I have been a fool.

Over the years, I allowed my more feminine side to emerge, suppressing all the traits I could of the Y-chromosome. I've learned that for a heterosexual male, that is the kiss of death. Moving into adulthood, the women I found attractive found me lacking the masculine qualities they wanted. Women who found me attractive were the overly dominant kind sensing my vulnerability and wanting to control every aspect of the relationship. Vulnerable I was. Weak, I was not. Since I would not tolerate being dominated, I didn't stay married long, nor have I permitted a relationship where I could not be an equal partner or one that demanded I give up writing.

I have tried to date at various intervals, but women I've asked out have, very kindly and with concern for my feelings, let me know that they were not interested.

Years ago a gay friend called me, "a lesbian in the body of a man."

I won't deny that I've felt sorry for myself from time to time, but over the decades, I've accepted that this is who I am, for better or worse. And, truth be told, I kinda like who I am.

Well …

I do wish I had confidence as a man rather than just as a person.

Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

I'm going to use the term "item" as it is often meant at my grocery store. If I buy four bottles of wine, that is one "item," and different from five ears of corn, another "item." So, the "item" I would save would be my four guitars.

I thought hard about saving one of these over the rest, but I could not sacrifice any of them.

The first is my late father's Gibson L-5 hollow body electric guitar, made around 1946. In his youth, he played with a guitarist named Scotty Moore, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and best known for backing up a young Memphis singer named Elvis Presley. My father could play.

When I expressed interest in the guitar, my father bought me a Gibson hollow body electric cutaway made around 1956, just a year or so older than I am. I learned my first chords on that guitar, and played my first "licks" on it. In essence, I grew up with this guitar.

The third is my pre-fire Martin D-28 made around 1965. It originally belonged to my late sister. Bless her heart, she rarely played it, and never in the last 25 years of her life. I learned to finger pick on this guitar and to play "The Wildwood Flower" in the same style as the woman who popularized it, Mother Maybelle Carter (Johnny Cash's mother-in-law). My father used to say, "Every Southern guitar has 'The Wildwood Flower' built into it." I kinda sorta found it in this one.

The last is the only one I bought for myself. It is a Gallagher Doc Watson model, handmade, that I ordered in 1981. Only now is it coming into its sound potential. Most of the (bad) songs I have written have been on this guitar. It's my baby.

Each of them holds a special place in my heart. I would be heart broken to lose any of them.

When you're 80, what will you look back and say you wished you did more of? What will you say you'd wished you'd done less of?

I still have a little time before I'm 80, so there is still a chance for the former. I wish I had reached out to people more. Acting taught me to appear outgoing, even gregarious, in settings I'm familiar with, but deep down in my core, I am an introvert. I've taken Myers-Briggs three times and each time show up as INFP.

If I'm at a party, I find it difficult, sometimes impossible, to approach strangers to begin a conversation. What do I say? "How's the weather?" "Where did you buy your suit?" That's pretty lame. Writing conferences are a little better, because we are all there for a similar purpose. We all have name badges that also have what we write and where we're from. Even I can walk up to someone and start off, "Would you tell me about what you write?" and be assured of an enthusiastic reply … well, almost.

My sister was so damned brilliant at this. Each person in the world was a BFF, even if she hadn't met that person. Along those same lines, she never met a stranger. The girl could turn a zombie into a compadre. Yet, she couldn't tell me anymore about how she did it than she could explain quantum physics.

My answer to the second question is a source of regret that I will carry to my grave. I wish I had been kinder to my father in the last few years of his life, less cold. He was particularly hard on me growing up, often punishing me for things my sister did without question, because he couldn't imagine his little princess doing dastardly things. These were punishments my mother could not overcome. I grew to be afraid of him and tried to avoid his company. I relished the times my mother made him look like a damned fool. It felt like retribution. These punishments became worse in high school, and I grew to dislike him intensely. I wanted him out of my life at any cost. He had a volatile temper and would often verbally abuse my mother and me … never my sister or baby brother. Never could figure out why.

None of us knew that he had a congenital brain tumor that, when it woke up and grew, destroyed his emotional stability turning him into the monster I saw more and more as he grew older. Medication helped, but by then, it was too late. I couldn't find a way to tear down the wall I had built. With the medication, he tried. He couldn't apologize, his nature would not allow it, but he did become kinder to me, more like a father. I still couldn't find a way to be anything more than civil. He, at least, made the attempt. I didn't.

He died June 16, 1979, just three months shy of my twenty-second birthday. I saw him the night before he died, but wouldn't have, had not my girlfriend insisted that we skip the movie to visit him in the hospital. Angie was wonderful with him. I worked to maintain civility.

My mother called me at work the next morning to tell me he had died, and I wept. It's been nearly thirty-seven years, and I still weep when I think hard about it.

Like now.

Which activities make you lose track of time?

Ah! Here is a question that brings a smile to my face. I am the type of person who had rather be an hour early for a function than five minutes late, so I pay close attention to time.

Acting makes me lose track of the time, especially those magic moments when I cease to be me and become the character.

Writing makes me lose track of time when I am totally engrossed in the world I am writing about. At these times, the words flow red hot like lava from a volcano. During those stretches I can pause a moment and think, "Damn, I'm hungry. What time is it?" and realize that four hours have passed since I last took a breath in the real world.

SCUBA diving also takes the ticking clock out of my mind. Being a part of the beauty of the underwater world is as close as I've ever been to Mindfulness, and there have been moments where I did not have a body, but only existed as part of the sea. I am fortunate in that sea critters like sea turtles, grouper, and others (barracuda and sharks) find me interesting and come close. I've been told that this is because I don't chase them with a camera. I'm just there, and they are interested.

And that's the way I like it. I only want to touch them when they present themselves to me, or when they touch me. I have had so many critters check me out, and oh, how wonderful that is. I feel like a guest in their home, and they welcome me. Someone actually took a video (which I have) of a sea turtle checking me out, even nudging me with its head.

These are some of the best experiences of my life!

We learn from our mistakes, yet we’re always so afraid to make one. Where is this true for you?

Because mistakes can hurt, both physically and emotionally. And not just me … other people. While I dislike being hurt, I hate hurting other people far more. I'd rather take the pain (or blame), because I can walk through it like twenty miles of bad road.

I often don't know whether the other person can.

Why do we do things we dislike and like the things we never seem to do?

The first part of the question to me refers to duty and responsibility. I dislike going to my day job. I'd rather writing my stories, but I go because I need an income to live. It is my duty and responsibility to provide an honest living for myself, so I work.

I did not like taking care of my mother when she was dying because I did not want her to die. I did it because of duty and responsibility. She raised me, took care of me long after the laws of nature whispered in her ear that she could stop. I owed her nothing less than what I gave … more, truth be told. To that extent, I was happy to do something I disliked doing, and to let her know that it was not a burden, that I wanted to do it.

What a paradox! I wanted to do something that I inherently disliked.

But all of us face dilemmas like that all the time. Don't we?

As for the second part of the question … well, for me it's a matter of degree. If I like something, I am perfectly happy to worship from afar, and if I happen onto it, then wonderful. Ah, but if I love it, or suspect that I will love it, I will do my best to find a way.

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3 comments

  • Comment Link Kat Monday, 16 May 2016 08:35 posted by Kat

    Rocky, as a long-time friend, (I hope I can claim that), I found your comments honest and interesting. As much as we think we know folks, there are still surprising little corners of them! You'd shared small facets of your paternal relationship, but these comments were more in-depth. Now, I understand more. You are a wonderful gentleman and should celebrate who you are, not the expectations of who your twenty-year-old self thought you should be. I'm one friend who thinks you are where you are supposed to be and who you are supposed to be . . . and doing a fine job of it!

  • Comment Link Jodie @ The Psychology of it Sunday, 01 May 2016 14:34 posted by Jodie @ The Psychology of it

    That's so interesting Michelle! I know to always at least expect raw honesty from Rocky and he hasn't disappointed here. Thanks for reading. I hope you had a chance to check out the page too.

  • Comment Link Michelle Bartell Saturday, 30 April 2016 12:18 posted by Michelle Bartell

    I enjoyed Rocky's comments and I learned a few things about him as well. I would have never guessed he is an introvert. Wow!

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