I find that I can sometimes be kindest to myself when I am tired.
It explains certain things, like my tendency to attempt staying up as long as I can possibly endure. Not eating. Driving myself deeper into work. Perhaps wringing myself of energy forces my mind to stop the part of it that takes up so much time in self criticism. Or perhaps I’m only deluding myself.
But there is no being in control of things when you’re at the brink of exhaustion— or have fallen over.
Relinquish control, you’d said. An experiment. Compelling the bit of me that loves to analyse things. Study how it makes you feel.
That’s the terrifying bit. Which is funny, coming from a person that finds the idea of death comforting, or hard truths “bubbles of purity in the corruption”. But it’s also the one unpredictable bit. Or maybe it isn’t; because perhaps the only person who doesn’t know is me, and I’m afraid of being disappointingly predictable.
But we were talking about painting then, and I’m talking about dreams now. Though they’re separated by a rather fine line.
The times I finally fall asleep after driving myself to exhaustion, there are no dreams. I learn most about myself when in a dream scraping lightly at my consciousness— asleep and under scrutiny by no one but myself. My worst enemy. There are a few truths I don’t want to face, not yet.
Perhaps I’m being ridiculous, perhaps I’m depriving myself of something I need. A pocket of purity in the chaos. But the chaos I create for myself suit me just fine right now, and I’m not sure what exactly to make of the things I continue to discover about myself. And I’m afraid I won’t know how to get what I want when I find out about it. I’m afraid I’m going to waste away craving for something I won’t be able to get.
I’ve always been told that my own petulant stubbornness would be my own downfall. Be that as it may, there will be no dreams visiting me tonight.
I’ve made sure of that.
Bitter is waiting four- six!
months for two weeks of having the luxury
of both parents present- then finding that it’s no use
maybe if both were out the house would be less stuffy,
the level of noise-pollution would be lower-
fuck it, whoever cares about noise,
this place reeks
it’s a garbage can of emotional trash.
Someone get a recycling bin.
Anger in the red one, disappointment in the blue,
write it all away, that’s what mother always said to do
bitterness goes into the yellow one-
oh, there’s no yellow bins? Fetch the bucket-
yes, that one hung up by the hook at the top of the door
to keep the kids’ messiest toys away-
honestly can’t you be any faster, you’re useless,
you’re such a child-
I don’t remember playing with the toys I wanted to.
What’s the point of toys if you can’t use them?
I don’t remember.
We used to keep the best toys behind a glass case,
I wonder what we were trying to prove, and to whom,
we were always keeping things we didn’t need
Because one day it might be of use,
yes, we’ll think of a way to recycle it,
it’s a household of hoarders.
Sometimes I wonder if that’s not a mental illness too-
They seem to run in the family.
Like the fear. It grew with childhood.
Outgrew the childhood? No. She read our dairies,
after making us keep them-, It’s good to keep
a record of your life- that diligent record keeping
eventually got us into trouble,
and we learned. Experience they say,
is the harshest and best teacher.
Something like that.
Experience is not being recognized a legal adult
and doing part of the work for raising children
three of them, they’re a handful,
the most precious handful of anything ever-
why can’t that go up on a resume? Thank you
for doing my work, he’d said, without a trace of sarcasm,
how nice, I’ve been doing your work for the last four years
where’ve you been?
Where the fuck have you been?
One: She takes care of me even when she’s gone.
“Are you listening? Hey, look up. Here’s
money in the envelope in this briefcase.
It’s here if you need it, okay?”
Two: I can’t seem to stop being a bitch.
“I’m going to see him today!”
“Whatever. Fuck you.” “What?”
“I’m not going to miss you at all.”
Three: It came back to get me.
I’m sorry. And I miss you already.
You’re gone. I miss you. He’s gone.
Gone. I need help. I’m so, so sorry.
Four: I hate being right sometimes.
Knowing something intuitively and trying to wish it away
by acting like it’s not true and can’t be?
Doesn’t work. So I want to stop knowing things.
Five: I’m angry.
Also lost in an emotional maze, hurt, forgotten,
replaced, and very capable of hurting again;
with my hands, with my words.
Six: Writing angry letters will usually not heal.
Even if they have a good point. Or maybe they don’t.
And maybe some things shouldn’t be said. But isn’t that a lie?
And what if the first hurt came from keeping away the truth too?
Eight: I tried to kill my hands.
Punched a wall on purpose, or tried, but instinctively
pulled back by accident: scraped knuckles, didn’t work.
(I work by instinct too much).
Nine: I tried to kill my hands (again).
Thought covering almost an entire sheet of 24x36 paper
in graphite crayon would have them become tired and they’d fall off:
aching wrists, swollen fingers, but it didn’t work.
Ten: I killed my hands.
Completely by accident. They froze in the air.
I can’t say “it worked” because I didn’t make it happen. But
now I can’t feel them!
Eleven: My hands aren’t the only things that can’t feel.
I like them better that way. Now they’re frozen stiff and can’t write
things to hurt people. Or myself. Here’s a lesson to be careful
with my hands, and my heart.
Twelve: Telling the truth helps you feel.
Because it hurts. Because hurt is a feeling. But happy is a feeling. And okay.
I’ll find my way back there. One hand on the wall of the maze.
Follow it out to freedom.
She was four years old. Maybe five. And her father’s little monkey, because she would climb doorways.
The formal dining room had folding glass doors with teak wood frames, sectioned off and reserved for important occasions and guests. On the ends there was a set of wooden shelves.
She liked climbing on those shelves, often left empty, because everyone knew she would climb on those shelves.
And then came the china vases (or perhaps they were porcelain?), like the big ones her aunt had that were as tall as her, but these vases were smaller. And they fit on the shelves. “Be careful, don’t climb on the shelves,” her mother said. She promised not to. But she was little, and she wasn’t her father’s little monkey for nothing, so one day when she got tired of climbing doorways she climbed those shelves-
-and broke her mother’s expensive china vase.
Her mother was angry. Perhaps, said her mother, I should break you like you broke the vase. And she was holding a knife.
She screamed and fled. Her big sister came with her, and she sat on the swing out on their balcony, the big white swing that looked like a hug to her every time she needed one, and when her mother followed with the knife and the screams, her sister held her and covered her with her arm and she was safe in her sister’s arms like that, sobbing and sobbing and saying she was sorry she broke the vase, and her father pulled the knife and her mother away. That’s what she remembers; crying into her sister’s arms when what she wanted to ask was “why does she love that vase more than me?” And maybe she should have; maybe she should have also said “vases don’t bleed, ma”.
That night her mother cried and apologized; and then again the next day; and again when the girl was fifteen and she said “of all the things I’ve done, that’s what I’ve regretted the most”, but sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times you apologize if that fear becomes as familiar and as lingering as the shadows in the crevices between your fingers.
In the end that fear makes people break anyway, like vases on teak wood shelves because people were careless with them and didn’t keep their promises.
I once said
my mind could be empty
and was told to think
(Emptiness. It is the
dresser with no clothes,
the loom without cotton. Spool
The field with no cotton
where nothing’s growing,
Can you hear it yet? Touch, feel,
sink in it yet? Part of it is Silence,
and Silence is full of sounds.
It thunders, it whispers, it makes music.
(The cave nearby where you wonder
after the presence of others,
the hand you expect to have another’s in it
the echoes of your question
that comes back without answers.
Or perhaps there is no question,
and an absence of words.)
Emptiness is not Nothing,
just a part-
Nothing stands by itself, glares at you,
dares you to invade it.
Emptiness hugs silence
embraces the air, fills it
and when you stand in it you are
too, for it pours its love and itself into you.
As one you mourn at how Nothing
needs no love.
— Kristin Cashore, Bitterblue
I am tired and empty
like the bones of birds,
mine too are hollow
but unlike those of birds
allowing them to delight in flight
my hollowness leaves me useless,
drags me down
sunken into the choking
thickness and the earth.
I will be reduced to ashes
in my fire
at the core of my pain.
From the dying embers and ashes
I will be born anew,
whole, a phoenix.
Yeah, artists (of any sort, including those who write and those who do comedy) are all supposed to provoke reactions and so forth. But you know what? That came about because artists, writers, comedians, they all wanted to provoke people to make people think, to create change. To be the voice of conciousness, morality and basic humanity in a world where everyone’s imprisoned in a system of oppression, abuse and exploitation of the people at the very bottom where people are taught to follow instead of think for themselves.
There is absolutely nothing revolutionary when an artist of any sort creates a reaction that hurts the people that are already being downtrodden, already oppressed. There is absolutely nothing creative about an artist of any kind who has the same idea everyone in a society of abuse is institutionalized to have or think. There is absolutely nothing amazing about an artist of any kind who only enforces the exploitation of people who’re already being exploited for the sake of gaining anything for themselves, whether it be money or fame, it’s just… even more exploitative.
As an artist you have a responsibility to help heal the world, not hurt it. So when you write, create, or say something, and someone points out that it hurts people who’re oppressed and you start talking about “art” and “artistic licence”, no, it doesn’t make you an “artist” for getting a “reaction”. Just another insensitive, self absorbed douche that thinks themselves great for having the same horrible ideas society enforces on people to ensure that people are oppressed.
Your rage is a volcanic eruption throwing rocks like a fist at my stomach, but sometimes I can dodge the rocks and it’s the dust cloud that gets me, the ever enveloping dust/fog/smoke of rage that fills whatever space you occupy, choking. So tell me, when you find me later crying out the debris and ask what’s what’s wrong, what do I do when the only answer that comes to mind is “your dust”?