Just like “Blueprint For a Successful Evening,” this isn’t really a new piece. I originally “finished” it in December 2013 and until recently it’s existed in limbo. It felt finished but I didn’t like it enough to actually do anything with it. I took it back out on May 15th and put another fifteen to twenty hours into it and now I’m finally happy with it. It used to look like this:
The journals I wrote around it back then aren’t particularly interesting. It’s a whole lot of “I don’t feel okay but I know that I don’t have anything to not feel okay about.” It’s disturbingly similar to the shit I was writing last night. It was only about a month later that I totally rearranged my life and got a lot happier. Makes me think that maybe I need to do the same thing again but I’m not sure exactly what that would mean this time around.
Aside from the main caption, I Feel “Weird” When I’m Unconsciously Unwilling to Admit What’s Really Going On, the only text in this piece says: “I’m playing with textures because I hate myself.” Someone had told me (back when I made this piece “the first time”)| that my art was “too flat”; for some reason, I listened and that’s why I created a bunch of different textures in this piece. It’s [whatever]. It’s all part of the process of figuring out what’s me and what’s some other artist. I don’t seek out advice and I definitely don’t ever seek out art by anyone else (for comparison or for any purpose) but little things leak in to my head now and then that either take hold or don’t and that’s okay.
This is the less objectionable of my two pieces from Thursday night. I started it while Heather and I were actually talking about all this (and finished it after she went to bed). It was strange because I felt like I had gotten to such a good place after my journal the other day but by late Thursday / early Friday, I felt more convinced than ever that our relationship was over. Today [by which I mean Friday; I haven’t gone to sleep yet] I sort of accepted that I honestly have no idea. It makes me feel less in control than I’d have been comfortable with in the past but – these days – I’ve sort of come to terms (or am at least gradually coming to terms) with the fact that my emotions (and my ideas or plans that find root in them) are subject to unpredictable, radical change at any time. At one point while this was happening, I actually said, “I wish you’d let me break up with you so we could just be friends already.”
This shit’s retarded… This fickle / flighty bullshit. I can’t possibly be worth it. There’s no self-pity in this – it’s just a reality and I feel at peace with it. I tried to make the case that I’m probably not fit for a relationship and was reminded of the (positive) impact I’ve already had. Okay – I can accept that; I’ve heard it before. But that doesn’t necessarily make me a good life choice. Taylor and I dated for six years and while she’s said her life would be wildly different (almost definitely for the worse) had it not been for me, that relationship wasn’t meant to go on; it served its purpose and it ended. So – I don’t know – maybe that’s the role I’m supposed to have. I might not be the best partner but maybe I’m a great detour – a stepping stone to something that, ultimately, makes more sense… something not necessarily better but … just … what it’s supposed to be.
Today – I don’t know what the fuck to make of any of that but there’s my explanation for all the dumb CLT/airport metaphor stuff.
My favorite part is where it says, “I’m pretty okay at fucking!”
My title’s a Mountain Goats’ reference (for reasons that are too dull to bother sharing). But, in light of that, it seems like I oughta throw one out here. “No Children” is about wanting for the end of a relationship, but that’s the extent of its relevance to this piece/last night. The song’s all hostility, bitterness, resentment, and snarky, cynical hate, which has definitely been relatable at other points in my life but I didn’t feel that way at all when I made this. Not during our conversation and not at any point afterward. As crazy as it might sound (which I’m going to take as indication that it probably is) I felt like I was being practical and considerate…
In any case, the parts of the song that are self-deprecating or self-loathing – well, shit – that stuff’s always right on target! Even when I don’t feel it, I fucking love it.
But I wasn’t listening to this stuff then ’cause – like I said – it would have been too angry to fit. I was listening to Shorebirds and Pipsqueak (again), which matches this drawing way better.
This cartoon (about giving up on the things you’re supposed to care about) was my third (and final) piece on 12/8/12 – the first day ever that I did virtually nothing but draw and paint. (The first two were Why I Fail and Group Therapy).
This is one of the few pieces that I just flat out lost somewhere along the way. Not too shocking when you consider that it only measured three inches and that – just eight months ago – my art was nothing more than a heap of paper scraps, ripped cardboard, and a few pieces of loose canvas (all of which I carried around in grocery bags).
I made two new pieces today but I can’t share ’em ’cause I’m an asshole and they’ve got the kinda raw poison in them that I shouldn’t ever let out of my brain and onto paper. Or one of ’em does anyway… Shit – it’s not even that bad but it would hurt the fuck out of my feelings if someone had a similar thought about me, so…
Here’s a really beautiful song that’s usually pretty good at fortifying my resolve and, other times, makes me wanna break down and cry.
With a pain that cuts me like a knife, I wanna know you won’t be hard to find. I wish that I could call you right now and tell you that I’m around. I wish you would’ve called me that night and told me you hurt inside.
Please don’t stop living. – from “Upside Down” by Shorebirds.
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.
One of my goals in 2014 is to go to the dentist. I was looking into low cost options last night and I found a “mobile dental ministry” that operates out of an RV with a mission to “provide caring dental service and a Christian witness.” I get what they’re saying but – the way that’s worded – it’s pretty funny.
Later in the night, I was really bumming out about my weight and, more generally, my physical appearance. I’m always embarrassed to acknowledge that sort of thing but… that’s what’s real. It had been a full week since I painted anything new and I knew that’s what I needed to do to get my head right.
So here’s my newest painting, which says: “I need 2 things – THE SHIT SCRAPED OFF MY TEETH and A CHRISTIAN WITNESS.” I’m calling it “Amazon Wishlist.”
In the bottom left corner, it also says: “probably less of a joke than I want it to be.” What I mean by that… I couldn’t be less interested in someone trying to convert me, and I’ve never found any comfort in a church, but I have found it in a few Christians.They were warm – kind in a way that a lot of people aren’t. So while you’re not gonna find me knocking on doors for Jesus anytime soon, a Christian witness just might not be the worst thing in the world.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not still gonna be a snarky little butthole and make a joke out of it. It’s whatever. I’m a smartass but I also let my guard down to acknowledge these thoroughly uncool thoughts and feelings (consequently opening myself up to ridicule) so…
12×16″ prints of Amazon Wishlist are available in my webstore.
Contact me if you’re interested in purchasing the original, 18×24″ painting.
I’m still riding the high of that sale from last night. On top of that, I was carrying a couple of paintings into Sun-Ray when someone asked if they could take a look. It’s not in stone or anything but it looks like, from the brief exchange that ensued, I might have another opportunity to show some pieces in a pretty great location in January. And I still have two other offers on the table (to display some work) that I haven’t taken advantage of yet just ’cause I was busy, outta town, sick, and then busy again. So things are going really well and I’m pretty excited. And really grateful.
Oh – and how could I forget… My mood wasn’t in the slightest bit hindered by the arrival of a veritable shit ton of records and zines today!
I’m really excited about all of them but especially the Teenage Softies 7-inch. Like the Brokedowns / Vacation Bible School split 7-inch and the Humanoids LP that I’ve mentioned here before, this was one of the records that was slated to be released on Traffic Street (my record label) before I crumbled and gave it all up.
The whole EP is great, but I think the opening track might be my favorite: “If your life is easy, you got caught in their trap. Distracted like monkeys, living life flat on your back. But if you’re working for some asshole then you’ll understand that life’s not that easy – so what about getting ahead? If you’re looking for a solution, it’s not to fuck it all up. If you’re looking for a solution, it’s not to give up. So just do what you can to get by. You’re the one that can change it this time. Stay with it.”
The two drawings in this entry were products of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, early on a Saturday morning last January. Give Us Your Blood was inspired by some asshole giving my friend a hard time; it says: “we are insane (and mean) and we’re here to help – give us your blood.” Happy, Joyous, and Free was my second attempt (following Pulp) to draw a more realistic kind of portrait. I only had one sheet of paper folded up in my coat pocket, so one is on the back of the other.
I don’t remember the exact details of what was said to my friend that morning, but I do remember something else that the same guy had said to me after I shared/spoke at that meeting for my first time (after having gone every Saturday for several months). “I hope you make it. I doubt that you will, but I hope you do.” Some of my friends thought that was pretty fucked up but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I kind of liked it actually. (Although – in hindsight – what purpose is a statement like that supposed to serve?) But like I was saying, I liked it just ’cause it was brash, insulting, and honest. After all, most of us don’t / aren’t going to make it, so it made sense for him to doubt me. Shit – especially me. Very, very few people ever thought I’d do anything besides die with a needle in my arm. (And – in their defense – there’s still plenty of time for me to prove them right). I remember in March of last year (in between inpatient stints) I picked my girlfriend up from her first outpatient session with a therapist she had started seeing while we were still in treatment. The therapist knew me so I asked my girlfriend if she had given her any advice or had any thoughts concerning our relationship. “She says there’s a 99.999% chance that you’re never going to get it and that you’ll die an addict, more likely sooner than later.” I cracked up laughing. She didn’t know me that well! I was a little shocked she’d make any kind of a statement so bold. I asked her (the therapist) about it at some point shortly thereafter (we’d talk a little after some of my girlfriend’s sessions). I told her what I had heard and she just kind of smiled and shrugged at me. “Prove me wrong,” she said.
No sweat! (So far, so good).
Go check out my store!!! It’s got cool stuff in it!
If you’re interested in these drawings, I’m interested in selling them to you. Hit me up.
It’s such an unbelievable coincidence that – if I were someone else, reading this – I’d probably call me a liar but… this is a painting inspired by Donnie (my roommate for five of my months at Tranquil Shores) and I was all set to feature it in my blog entry for last night when – at the last minute – I decided the image was too blurry and that I should write-up a different piece instead. As I found out within seconds of opening my eyes this morning, Donnie is dead.
It’s against the rules but I (very sneakily) recorded my coin-out [the ceremony to honor completion of a treatment plan]. And I’m really glad I did it because it’s nice to listen to every once in a while. I just listened to Donnie’s segment and it made me smile pretty big. The first words out of his mouth were “You know how to push my buttons better than anyone I’ve ever known in my life.” And the reverse was true too. I don’t know that I’ve ever been angrier with anyone than I was with him just one week prior (the day that I painted this). But as he went on to say, “We have some things in common. We’re both drug addicts, we both hate each other, and we both love each other.” Which kind of hits the nail right on the head. Back when he said it, I was a little disappointed ’cause – as much as I had an equal part in our conflicts – I always just wanted us to be friends. I was a little sad that he chose to acknowledge the darker part of our relationship in that moment. But – looking back – he was doing exactly what I always say is so important: he painted the full, honest picture. And I’m really grateful for that.
The title of this painting is mean as fuck. Donnie had a family up north that, in his addiction, he had almost completely lost touch with. It hurt him so much that – before I had met him – he did a six month stint of inpatient treatment in which he kept his kids a secret. The day that I made this, I said a lot of fucked up shit to him but I didn’t ever say anything about that. As mad as I was, I didn’t want to take it that far so I used the painting to get my meanest thoughts out of my head. The first sentence of the caption, “the world’s not black and white,” is an allusion to a conversation I had earlier in the day, when I asked Tracy under what circumstances it would be okay to burn a person alive. When she told me it’s not ever okay to set another human being on fire, I said “that sounds like the kind of black-and-white-thinking characteristic of mental illness, Tracy. In this world, there exist shades of grey.”
The night before, I had taken a shirt that Donnie had given me and went out to a parking lot at the end of the block. [I was allowed by this point to go on short walks if I signed in and out]. I set it on fire, let it burn for a minute, stomped it out, and then took it back to my room to paint some text on the back: “WHAT I LACK IN EMOTIONAL MATURITY, INTELLIGENCE, AND LIFE SKILLS, I MAKE UP FOR IN PUSH-UPS!!!” That, I figured I could get away with – especially since I had been working out a lot too around that time so (while it was definitely my “Donnie shirt”) the statement could have easily been applied to me as well. After things cooled off and we weren’t mad at each other anymore, I showed it to him and he agreed that it was pretty funny.
Someone once told me that real friends fight. That if you’ve never gotten into an argument with a friend, you must be bullshitting each other an awful lot. And that’s what it was always like with Donnie. We didn’t argue about nonsense. It was always about real, serious shit. We’d call each other out when one of us was fucking up. And (naturally) – since we were both smarter than everyone – I’d constantly have to tell him when he was wrong about me and he’d constantly have to tell me when I was wrong about him. But we always seemed to work it out and get back to a good spot. Probably because each of us was always right about the other (and wrong about ourselves), even if it took us a minute or two to realize it. We were pretty good at keeping each other in line.
Which isn’t to say that we were constantly at each other’s throats. After we both moved into the real world and weren’t roommates anymore, we didn’t get into it like we used to. I even stayed with him in his new apartment when I came down to visit once. But even before that, as roommates, we got along more often than we actually fought. I can’t even count how many nights we sat up in our apartment talking out everything going on in our lives. There were days when I felt like I’d accomplished nothing or had no meaningful interpersonal connection with anyone – until just before bed when Donnie and I would have one of those conversations. And I know I helped him too ’cause he’d tell me so. Shit – for his first two months, I talked him down from his constant “I’m leaving THIS Friday” every week! We got our sponsors together. Did our fourth steps together. We were never “best friends,” hanging out all day; we didn’t like any of the same shit. I liked drawing and punk rock; he liked football and Hoobastank. But we were close. There was one week when I was overwhelmed with thoughts of self-harm. “Is there someone you can reach out to before you do anything to hurt yourself?” Tracy asked me. “Yeah,” I told her. “Donnie.”
Last year, when I wrote all those Christmas cards, I had the foresight to snap photos of some of them before I handed or mailed them off (for posterity or [whatever]). I just checked and – sure enough – I have a picture of Donnie’s. I’m struggling to admit it, but the tears are welling up. I wrote something in his card about faith, which reminds me of something I used to say back then: that I had more faith in Donnie than anyone. I really thought he was gonna “make it.” The last words in the card reflect that too…
I’d say “do good” but I know you will anyway. Love you, buddy. – Sam
It feels like a goofy thing to say but … all things considered, he did do good. He did a lot of good. And I’ll miss him. I already do.