Life is scary. I’m sticking around ’cause I have an appointment to sell a painting on Wednesday. In the meantime, I feel static. How am I supposed to be spending my time? Why is this suddenly a question?
I had a meeting at a gallery today. I got some cards printed. I painted for four hours. I sold a print. I got paid for merch design I did over the weekend. But I feel unproductive because I’m not “moving forward.” What does that even mean?
I finished this drawing last month; it’s on a page torn out of my Narcotics Anonymous text.
I’m dictating this post to Siri because I’m driving more hours than I can count today, so forgive any typos or anything that doesn’t make any sense.
Life is erratic and unpredictable.
Or maybe I’m just erratic and unpredictable.
Either way things are in flux but I’m doing okay. I don’t feel like I’m crumbling and, driving right now on this particular four hour stretch, I can’t help but just laugh and be totally in love with punk rock.
First it was “Heterosexual Lion” by Vacation, then it was “Barren” by The Credentials.
Does it get any better than this?
I wonder how many hours it’ll be until I’m contemplating suicide again…
I’m still outta town. Mechanical problems are slowing me down. Not sure when I’ll have them resolved. I still plan on hitting the other coast of Florida before heading back to Jacksonville but I don’t yet know when that will be. I had wanted to get to St Louis this weekend as well (to see The Transgressions reunion set at Stay Retarded). Doesn’t look like that’s within the realm of possibility anymore. Had told Ben I’d plug that set on here… not sure that this counts. Sorry, buddy. I know I’m a little late…
Before I left Jacksonville I was THISCLOSE to being done with my latest (and largest to date) painting. I’m kind of bummed that I’ve now been away from it for so long. I really wish it had been completed before I got on the road.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on other pieces. I finished one that was started more than a month ago. Another that began on the 4th. I even made some progress on a third that I had lost track of in November. Those will all go online soon enough (I really hate posting from the road on my phone and without the ability to get decent photographs or scans).
In the meantime, here’s a new one that I started on the 19th, while sitting out by the bay, late at night. I finished it just now, which seems sort of appropriate. It’s hard to explain (or maybe I just don’t want to). The feelings I’m feeling, the circumstances of that night and this one. I’m kind of dancing around my own insecurity. I think I got honest when I was scribbling but it’s hard to know sometimes. This whole week has been a strange experience and it’s only looking to get stranger in the coming days. There have been plenty of solid healthy (non-manic) emotional highs, absolutely no bottom-of-the-barrel-“time to kill myself” lows; there’s been good judgment, questionable judgment, self-improvement, honest reflection, self-delusion, avoidance; basically, I got the whole fucking gamut covered.
I wrote some shit “in between the lines” of my drawing. It touches on some of the above but it was pretty stream-of-consciousness and it’s way more representative of the moment tonight than it is of my trip as a whole (up to this point). It says…
Watch me fly. If you wanted to see me but didn’t, it’s your fault. Word has it that I’ve become a pretty great guy but might be completely sociopathic. I’m so full of hurt and evil. I try to do the right things. With mixed results.
I hurt a lot so I hurt a lot. It’s ’cause I hurt a lot. I hurt a lot. I hurt a lot.
I’m so melodramatic. I’m fucking fine (I think). Why do I wanna be this tragic fucking figure? Celebrity. Icon. Shining shooting fucking star. I’m so in love with myself. I’m so disgusted with myself. I’m ashamed. I’m a shame. I’m a joke. I’m okay. I’m everything I don’t wanna be. I’m living out my dream. I’m losing track of everything. This is how it’s supposed to be.
I’m never satisfied. I’m filled with pride. I’m lost. I might be home. This isn’t home. I might be home. I have no home. I’m cool with that. I’m done with this drawing. I think it’s done with me.
6 AM. Walking home.
It’s 40 degrees outside and I still haven’t gone to bed.
Pineapple soda, a cigarette,
BRAND NEW RATIONAL ANTHEM playing in my headphones.
What more could an idiot ask for?
I stayed up all night, clearing out my house,
Getting rid of the things in my life that I don’t need.
Some of it is really hard to get rid of.
I still don’t know if I’ll actually be able to part with my zine collection.
And (honestly) I haven’t even considered the records.
But I’m young, itinerant,
I’d rather not be weighed down by possessions.
Do you ever fantasize about your house burning down
And starting over with nothing?
I’m working to be okay with the idea that if something is important
It’ll come back to me.
I don’t need to cling to anything.
Or only to so much, in any case.
Here’s a cartoon I drew in an Alcoholics Anonymous.
It was the second of three that night.
The third being My Favorite Cartoon.
This one’s not important.
It’s just about me,
Being a resentful little jerk-off.
There’s no way for me to explain what I was thinking when I drew this without sounding like an asshole. Which is okay – after all – sometimes I’m an asshole!
This kid was rambling on and every word out of his mouth reeked of “here’s some shit I heard some other clueless bastard say at a meeting, so now I’m gonna repeat it at all of you so that I can walk back to my halfway house confident that you guys will think I’ve really got a handle on this recovery thing.”
Which – who knows – maybe that’s me projecting. Or maybe it’s just me being bitter about some girl not paying enough attention to me. And – honestly – what the fuck should I even care? I guess it’s easy to fall into this kind of judgmental/negative thought when you’re compelled to go to more meetings than you’d otherwise elect to on your own. I might have needed that many at one point early on (or I might not have) but by this time last year, I was definitely ready to move on to the next phase. And within a month I had done just that.
The other new piece from Thursday night. The one that’s mean and shitty and makes me not like myself.
“Diaper Baby” by Sass Dragons seems appropriate right now…
I don’t care. I want attention. It doesn’t matter just where it comes from.
I’m as needy as the day I was born. Like a crying baby.
SOMEBODY CHANGE ME.
Before I went to bed at 8 AM, I uploaded the new high-resolution photos of 28 and Eradicating the Threat of Happiness.
Both are available in my webstore, as are prints of my newer pieces.
The good people of the Wunderground collective have been sweet enough to include me in their quarterly event at 1904 Music Hall. If you’re in/near Jacksonville, come hang out with me on January 11th. Art, music, burlesque, spoken word, food… IT’LL BE AN EVENING.
On the drive back to Jacksonville tonight, I wrote in my journal. At one point in the process, I felt like I’d had a major breakthrough. Now – just a couple hours later – I’m not so sure. In either case, I think it’s worth sharing. And (above all) what matters is that I was feeling tremendous anxiety when I started and (at least a semblance of) peace when I was done.
Journal: Christmas 2013
The last time I made a playlist was July. The music I like gives most people anxiety but it’s an extremely rare occasion when it has that effect on me. But I’m feeling way too fragile right now to risk hearing anything that I’m not totally prepared for. I need really to be comforted right now and I’m counting on this music to do it.
We just hit the part of the highway with no lights. I’m writing in total darkness now.
Heather’s so sweet. I know she never intends to do me any harm. That’s why it’s hard to leave her. I don’t know if I understand love so – sadly – it has to be a practical consideration.
I know I can’t ever be alone. I fall in “love” way too fast. So if I’m gonna be with someone, it should (probably?)be her…
She’s not great at making me feel loved, which is something I desperately need. But maybe that sort of thing goes both ways. Maybe a girl that was better at making me feel loved would also be great at hurting me if/when she wanted to. Fuck. I can be (or am) such a fragile fucking baby.
I met this girl in November. She took in the whole story behind Autobiography and pointed at the girl in it. “That’s your mom,” she said.
I didn’t like that. I’m pretty sure my disgust registered on my face before I could even think to mask it. With a smile, I responded: “I reject that. I don’t agree at all.” I had just met this girl. What the fuck?
“That’s fine,” she said. “You can reject it. But it’s still true.”
When I shot down her interpretation, I meant what I said. But – of course – she’s fucking right. As much as it’s killed me to realize that and as much as I hate to admit it.
When my mom used to constantly badger me about how much I hated her, I’d tell her I loved her and ask her to stop. I really didn’t hate her. But I kind of do now.
It’s one thing to have an intellectual understanding that your parents did their best – and to use that to “forgive” them. It’s another thing to really make sense of everything emotionally, connect all the dots, and really get a grip on it. ‘Cause when you realize now that I’ve realized that it’s not about the individual incidents of especially fucked up shit that she did, it’s about the life-threatening defects ingrained into my every fiber that she cut in and fucking cultivated for years… It’s about the fact that every time I feel rejected by Heather in the slightest, I wanna run away from home all over again.
I told Heather again yesterday that she hadn’t done anything wrong – we’re just not a good match because she doesn’t have the kind of affectionate personality that I need to feel loved. She responded that she loves me 500% and didn’t I know that? I told her that I had that information in my brain but that I don’t often feel it. Shit – how could I?
No one’s ever gonna be able to do anything that’ll make me feel loved all the time. Just as my art (which is really just the maintenance of my (relative) sanity) is a full-time job, another person couldn’t possibly give me what I need unless that was their full-time job too. Or – more accurately – were on call 24/7. ‘Cause a lot of the time I need to be left alone to “work” (paint, write, or do various backend business-of-art or website kinds of tasks). But the second I need love, if [insert the name of any girl I’ve ever been with here] can’t deliver exactly to my specifications in that instant… well, then IT’S NOT WORKING AND WE’RE JUST NOT RIGHT FOR EACH OTHER.
So – contrary to my understanding up ’til this moment– this is on me more than it’s on Heather and it’s not some incurable defect that she needs to be solely responsible for maintaining an awareness of and behaving accordingly (because she “signed up for it” by getting involved with someone who’s so openly an emotional basketcase). I need to step back in these moments and remind myself of these things of which I need to be reminded. Still, if she’s my partner, she does need to be “in it” with me and make a little more of an effort to actually express that love she says she has for me. She can be pretty cold. And in some of those moments, there’s not gonna be anything I can do to not feel unattractive, unloved, and unwanted. Worthless, and undeserving of love. This new understanding of myself won’t always be enough. Sometimes feelings are more important than facts.
This is a real breakthrough for me. Right now, in this moment. It’s not the only one from the last 48 hours though.
Driving to Manatee from Jacksonville, we had another of our four hour drives without speaking. Not in as hostile a way, but things were tense so I kept busy as she drove and, when I took the wheel, she slept. Then, when we got to the Owens, I went in alone without a goodbye. (We both just looked at each other, waiting for the other to initiate it, as I collected my things from the backseat). Then she went to her parents’. I did my thing with the Owens and with my friends in Sarasota and we didn’t see each other for two days. We didn’t spend the holiday (which means nothing to me but something to her) together. The few texts we exchanged were not especially productive.
I opened up to some friends yesterday and acknowledged that a lot of the problem – what I felt – was sexual rejection. I’ll decide in an instant, at anytime, that I want to fool around, make some gesture toward that, she’ll shoot me down for whatever reason, and I’ll feel like shit. In her defense, I know where and when she will/would be in the right frame of mind for that and I rarely act on it because it’s when I’ll usually be busy working. Our schedules are wildly different and I need to work on compromising mine more, seeing as hers is handed down from a company and mind can be whatever the fuck I want it to be. It sucks but I feel constantly burdened with a need to be productive and I’m rarely willing to set aside and stop working because I’m terrified that I won’t be able to get back on course fast enough once I’m free to pick back up.
“It’s harder to be yourself than it is to be anybody else.” My problems are so petty, small, and (really) within the bounds of my control. Still, they’re monumental monster motherfuckers and THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES WITH WHICH ANY HUMAN BEING HAS EVER BEEN FACED. I say that jokingly but it’s equally true and false. It’s real and it’s a struggle that won’t ever end. It’ll only morph and evolve. As I do…
I got away from myself and the other “breakthrough” to which I alluded. I was talking to some friends about this stuff yesterday and the response I got went from “you gotta end it (for your own sake)” to “you gotta end it (for her sake).” At one point in the conversation, the feedback I was getting, the direction that the conversation had taken, and the things coming out of my own mouth had me feeling like the most sociopathic, seriously damaged, selfish mental case on the planet. I felt like a calculating monster with an impressively evil skill-set, who was so distinct from normal people that he didn’t even have the slightest idea or awareness of what he was doing or the full implications of his decisions and behavior. I felt sicker than I’ve ever felt – like I could be some murderer, smiling at the cameras.
I probably could be. I just remembered – I had been thinking about conscience just earlier in the day. Some friend of Clifford’s murdered his girlfriend and then turned himself in. What a sap, I thought, when Mclane told me about it. What a weak human being.
I considered it further: I would never do that. You buckle down and live with the secret. No good comes from that confession; just move forward, asshole.
Well – not really. He needed to be caught; I mean, he’s clearly dangerous. But if Ikilled someone, Ishould just move forward… Learn from my mistake and accept that the consequence for my actions is having another fascinating story that I can’t ever share with the world.
WHAT’S WORSE THAN THAT?
So… that’s what I wrote as we made our way back to Jacksonville tonight. I probably started around 9pm and put the pen down a little after 10…
I looked in my other notebook at the pieces I have left to add to the website and – given everything I wrote about tonight – one of them jumped off the page and struck me as being a perfect fit.
(Relatively) early in my stay at Tranquil Shores, we got an assignment, in art therapy group – to make a figure of our “inner-child.” Like most of my inner-child stuff, I focused on myself at age four.
This thing isn’t totally devoid of substantive meaning but – obviously – this wasn’t an especially probing assignment. It was mostly fun though and I felt pretty pleased with myself when I finished it.
When I typed up my journal entry, I linked to a few entries which struck me as relevant.
Autobiography: watercolor cartoon (regarding codependency, rejection, and self-esteem)
After I journaled, I felt well enough to skip around and listen to songs that would have made me nervous earlier in the night. One of them was “Debt” by Pipsqueak, the acoustic band which was initially just the kid that sang in Snuggle (and – more recently – Murmurs) but now has a second member, playing cello and also singing. It was great before and it’s great now.
From my journal yesterday, immediately after finishing this painting:
I’ve got some cute little one-liners. I’ve got some snappy phrases that sound cool but don’t really mean anything. I don’t want to bullshit and I don’t wanna tag this with something that doesn’t represent it.
It took FOREVER to paint. So many layers, so much starting from scratch.
The truth is I’m sick, on the couch, and nothing is in my head. The truth is I’m not always SUPER BRILLIANT. And I don’t wanna not create just ’cause [whatever]. But I don’t really know what’s driving me right now. Maybe it’s just ’cause it’s what I feel like I’m supposed to do at this point. Which is lame but maybe that’s okay. I don’t know. Do I take a break or do I just keep going? Having a cold sucks. Feeling crummy physically is fucking with my ability to DO, which is fucking with my emotional well-being. Tomorrow I’m gonna get dressed and pretend I’m fine. Maybe I am. I guess?
I HATE giving the impression that I’m not doing well, especially when I’m not not doing well. I just have a cold! But if “success” is doing well (being happy) maybe it’s also being okay with acknowledging little hang-ups and demonstrating a progression beyond the pink cloud.
Maybe I’m too caught up in impressions in the first place. Living under a spotlight (even a little one) has its drawbacks. I hate feeling like (or realizing) that it’s influencing me in what I do or how I do it but – honestly – I wouldn’t be pushing myself like this if I didn’t feel like there was some expectation that I “produce.” Is that good or bad? I wanna call it ambition but it makes me feel small (I’m not a famous/important artist); it makes me feel like a joke. But I’m not. I’m okay. I just need to chill out.
It’s a fine line between humility and insecurity – between arrogance and self-esteem. I get carried away in both directions. I don’t need to “tenth step” my every thought / impulse. Hey, Sam: relax – everything’s cool. I know.
I saw this article today about creativity. There were two statements I really identified with.
“The study shows that if you have the sneaking suspicion you might not belong, the act of being rejected confirms your interpretation. The effect can liberate creative people from the need to fit in and allow them to pursue their interests.”
“To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.“
That last part seemed especially relevant right now, given this new painting and last night’s journal entry. As I wrote about it, on the canvas [near top-center], “I can’t get to a place where I feel okay with what I’ve done.”
It made me think about what it means to be “beyond the pink cloud.” I think it means accepting that life isn’t always going to be 100% awesome all the time. I used to think that the most a person could hope for was “to be happy 50% of the time.” I don’t think that’s true anymore, but I still think it gets to something that might be true. I think a good aspiration might be “to be 50% happy all of the time” – by which I mean: even when things aren’t going so great, to be able to pause and recognize that I’m at least 50% okay… that some thing might be wrong – but not every thing is wrong; most things are okay.
“Fragile is the hell we make for ourselves when we acknowledge that the spotlight’s on.” – from Fuck You, Ms. Rochelle by Dillinger Four