The first time I ever decided to make art for its own sake, the results were… mixed. It was more than a year ago and at no point has it grown on me…
Maybe that’s for the best though – that I dislike it so much. Maybe it’s good for me to have to accept that the one piece of art that I can’t ignore – that I can’t leave out of my story – is one of which I’m totally embarrassed.
It’s (very seriously) insane just how much something like acknowledging that this painting exists can fuck with my emotional well-being. Sitting here typing this, I don’t … – I don’t want to type it. I hate it. But I’m doing it anyway. As imperfect as all of this is – it’s a good exercise in humility. I’m not perfect, my website isn’t perfect, my stories and artwork are not all uniformly fascinating. Sometimes I’m just okay.
Okay’s not so bad, I guess.
If you’d like to buy this painting, I would love to get it out of my home. Hit me up. (And remember: it’s got historical value).
In my last entry, I mentioned that I was kicked out of Tranquil Shores on October 3, 2012. For tonight’s entry, I was all set to write about my first watercolor painting when I remembered something that will help convey the transformation that took place between Nothing Helps and that painting. It’s the letter I wrote to Tranquil Shores’ clinical director, late at night on October 4 – about forty hours after my discharge.
Seeing as my track record for honesty in those days was a little spotty, I’d like to preface the letter with the statement that it was absolutely free of bullshit. Every word was written with total sincerity.
When I found out I was being discharged, I was genuinely shocked. The comments I made were nonsense to mask my hurt about the fact that I was still struggling to control my emotions and behavior. And you had always seen that. “Why was this incident any different?” I wondered.
On the way back to property, I fell apart. Why was I in this position again? Why did I have to be me? I stayed in that state of self-pity for hours. By sometime that afternoon, I dropped it in favor of anger. I told my friends that called, “They kicked me out for the same reason they had said it was the right place for me.” I was the victim; you had turned on me. But that faded too. My next phase is hard to describe. It was a struggle. But I still felt, as I had initially, that this was all some kind of misunderstanding. It stayed with me through the rest of Wednesday and carried over through this (Thursday) morning. It was during this time that I left Rob the voicemail that I’m guessing you’ve heard about.
Only later did everything finally make sense. Mask or no mask. Defense mechanism or the sincere boasts of an arrogant manipulator. My intentions and my actual feelings were irrelevant. The things I said were dangerous – even if I was just concealing pain, my comments suggested to the other patients that recalcitrance paid. I had to be discharged. Overlooking my behavior on this occasion would only reinforce, in the minds of the other patients, that we could get away with anything – even be rewarded for it. You had given me plenty of chances to change, even as I damaged the community with my negativity.
Forgetting everyone else for a moment – discharge was the right decision for my benefit. While I know I’ve made progress at Tranquil Shores, I realize now that I was still severely lacking. Something wasn’t clicking.
I believe wholeheartedly that that something has clicked now. I needed the discharge as a wake up call. I see my part now. The only way I could learn was the hard way. What matters though is that I learned. I get it. And I’m more determined than ever to really work. Though I know that I can do this work anywhere, I believe that nowhere can I be more successful than at Tranquil Shores. I don’t know that I deserve another chance but I can promise that, should I be given one, it won’t be wasted. I can’t guarantee perfection, but I can promise the most earnest, sincere, dedicated effort I’m capable of (and that my capacity for that effort is exponentially greater today than it was before).
If you give me this opportunity, it will be the greatest thing anyone has ever done for me. And it will not send the message of “he got away with it” to the other clients because it will be immediately apparent to everyone that I am not the same person I was just yesterday or even this morning. Meet with me. If you sense the slightest bit of resentment, defiance, or insincerity, turn me away. If you give me the chance and it surfaces later, discharge me forever.
I know I’ve been difficult but I believe I can redeem myself in a way few people are ever determined. Give me this chance, please, and I will not disappoint. If you decide against my plan, I’ll understand. But I will continue (1) to remain abstinent from drugs (including alcohol), (2) attending meetings, (3) talking with my new sponsor (as well as my new and old supports), (4) working my treatment plan, and (5) occasionally pestering you to reconsider. I can do this and become a whole person and I have faith that Tranquil Shores is the best place for me to succeed.
Thank you for your consideration and for everything you’ve done for me, whether or not I’m ever permitted to return.
Status Update (12/16/13):
I had two good conversations with two good friends today. Made some progress toward the publishing of my first book. And I dyed my hair green.
On the left half of this piece, I can still see a few of the words I wrote but not enough to make any sense of it. Two weeks from today, this piece will be a year old; it’s one of the last I made before I got the courage to stop completely obscuring the more serious/honest/vulnerable text in my art. All I really remember is that it was related to the girl at the center of all my 12/13/14 pieces and that the original sentiment was that – of all the things in the world to be scared of – the one I feared most was the prospect of really caring about another human being. I wrote a little bit about that back when I drew this…
That feeling when you wake up from a really good dream where everything worked out and you still have everything that you’ve lost – only to realize moments later, “Oh yeah… that’s not my life anymore. I’m in rehab for the third or fourth time this year.”
But there’s comfort in having lost everything – in having nothing. What else can you lose at that point? What’s there to be afraid of?
Yet, as I get better, I’m starting to get some of those things back. I’m starting to develop meaningful relationships again. And it’s pretty fucking terrifying. Giving a shit about other people (about anything really) opens the door to serious heartache and frustration.
But it’s worth it.
Status Update (12/1/13):
Yesterday was the last day of my exhibit at Sun-Ray but, when I went down there to check in, Tim and Shanna told me that I could keep half of the wall space I had been using. So – when I went down there today – I took everything apart and then put it back together within the confines of the space I’ve got now. In all, I have thirteen pieces up: five that were featured in the exhibit, plus eight new ones. I’m still a little shocked when I’m even tolerated somewhere so to actually have my welcome extended … it’s a pretty great feeling.
The last couple days have been a little hectic. I’ve been getting more emails than usual (from people reaching out) and I’m having a little trouble keeping up. It’s kinda strange ’cause (obviously) I’m not really qualified to help anyone but I think it’s a good thing that something about what I’m doing is hitting people in such a way that they’re comfortable sharing things with me that they don’t feel comfortable speaking about with anyone else. I think sometimes just the act of acknowledging something to another human being can have a powerful, healing effect. Still, it’s tough sometimes to figure out exactly how I should respond (especially via email which doesn’t really feel like the most compassionate means of communication).
On a sorta-related note, something kinda cool that’s been happening: the last three times I’ve left the house, I’ve been asked by a stranger if I’m … me … and then they’ve shared with me something about having seen my art and told me what they liked or how they related to it. That’s not totally new but it doesn’t usually happen this frequently and (again) it’s a pretty good feeling knowing that some of what I’m doing is getting through to people, even beyond my little punk rock bubble.
That’s all for tonight. I’m feeling grateful. For all this (and more).
Almost forgot: if you didn’t see it already, check out this little write-up about me! There are a couple small errors (like “bipolar” instead of borderline) but it’s really cool all the same. I met this girl on the street in Riverside about a month ago when she asked me, “What’s there to do in this city?” I took her to my art show and we spent about an hour together. I’m really honored to see all the nice things she had to say about me/my art ’cause my admiration for her bravery and what she’s doing with her life right now is about on the same level.
Signed/numbered 12×8⅙-inch “Of Monsters and Giving a Shit” prints are still available. The original piece sold in May.
I sold a lot of my stuff online today. Some leftover distro stock, but a lot of personal stuff too. Tonight, I borrowed Heather’s car to scrounge up cardboard boxes to ship these things in. At the gas station where I found most of my cardboard, I also found a couple. Homeless, fucked up. Not totally unlike me a year or so ago. They wanted money and I told them I had none. I gave them a couple cigarettes and used my food stamps to get them something to drink. They wanted a ride and I told them that it wasn’t my car. They had a pretty great sob story about why they couldn’t walk. I told them I’ve fucked up too many things in my life. That I was sorry, but I can’t give strangers a ride in a car that I’ve been trusted to borrow. I can’t take any risks.
It was sad and it sucks but it’s also [whatever]. It just is. And it’s not a big deal. But I’m proud of myself for saying “no” and for being honest about the reason why.
Says, “I was out all day. No one told me I had paint in my hair ’til 11 pm. I had a shirt with me in case I went to the library. I couldn’t be happier.”
This was only my second piece done entirely with markers. My first was “Powerless Over Flexeril,” but since then I’ve done more. While on tour, I made “Lost in St. Louis” and “Fear is Killing Me” and more recently I made “Still Sick,” one of my largest pieces to date.
A couple hours before I made this, someone told me they liked my outfit and I thought they were making fun of me ’cause I barely wear any clothes. She was serious though. It made me think about how I really like the fact that I have the sort of life that rarely requires a shirt (and even more rarely requires a shirt with sleeves or a collar). I like the fact that I have the sort of life where I can have paint on my hands, on my arms, my face, and my hair, and – not only is it not an issue or a problem but – it’s not even something that anybody comments on.
As anyone that saw my painting from last night (“Blueprint For a Successful Evening“) can probably guess, things were a little off when I got up this morning. But I went about my day, did my own thing, didn’t stress about it, and everything worked out perfectly.
I’ve said it before, but it’s still true – so long as I’m cool, so is everything else.
By the way, it’s not easy leaving white space on the canvas. So – you know – be REALLY impressed by that AMAZING feat.
(This next part – don’t get me wrong: I’m not majorly bumming out or anything like that but) I am feeling just a little bit sorry for myself tonight. Or I was earlier today anyway. With all the traffic to my webstore today (people buying records and books) I’d have thought that I’d have sold at least a little bit of my artwork. But I didn’t. I can think of a lot of reasons for that (some are a little more disconcerting than others) but like the couple I met tonight at the gas station, the reasons don’t really matter. It just is how it is. And my life is still pretty excellent. And I need to remember to be grateful for that. I need to focus on all of the good things. Lucky for me, there are a lot of them so it’s not all that difficult.
And if there’s something in my life that I’d like to be different, then I need to be bold. And brave. I need to take healthy risks and I need to take responsibility for actually making change happen. I don’t just get to have the life I want. I have to be the person I want to be and do the things that… that I need to do. I have to work at it. Whatever [it] might be.
Signed and numbered 9×11¼” prints of “Out All Day” are available in my webstore. The original sold in November 2013.
Somehow, at the end of my ride home, the perfect song always seems to come up to remind me that life is spectacular. Tonight it was “Why’d You Walk Away?” by The Potential Johns.
Here’s the first real break in the chronology. I spent between four and five hours painting it earlier tonight.
As I mentioned earlier, I had been stressing out about this site. Heather asked me the other day what I was trying to get out of it. “Money and attention,” I told her. And then I backpedaled because I was really thrown by my answer. And then I was just sort of confused. Was that really what I was after? If so, what the fuck was wrong with me?
Tonight I realized that nothing’s wrong with me – well, not that anyway. That is the purpose of this site and I’m totally okay with that. Because that’s NOT the purpose of the content, just the site itself. My journals (both while in treatment and today) aren’t something that I write for money or attention. They’re usually the product of intense psychic trauma that I’m trying to get rid of – especially these days. In treatment, I tried to journal every day just for its own sake. Lately, I really only journal when I’m incredibly stressed out and need to get some shit out of my head and in front of my eyes. Similarly, my artwork is all about emotional balance. I make it because it’s what I have to do in order to stay sane. When I don’t make it, I start stressing out about stupid shit (like this website).
But I don’t need to share any of this stuff publicly, on the internet, in order to be well. I do it because I was encouraged by counselors and peers to dedicate as much of my time as possible to doing these creative things and to see if I could find a way to use the products of that time to support myself as well. I was told that the things I was making had value to other people and I decided to put myself out there and see what would happen. Thus far, the return I’ve gotten on that emotional risk has been incredible in just about every sense. It’s true that – since this site has launched – I haven’t gotten a ton of feedback, but we’re only talking about five days. I can’t even count how many people have reached out to me because of the things I’ve put out there prior to this week. I can hardly comprehend the amount of love and support people have shown me as a result of all of this.
The site is about marketing in a sense and so it’s disappointing when I’m not selling anything or getting as much attention as I’ve become accustomed to, but that’s some bullshit on my part. I need to remember to be grateful for all that I have received. I also need to remember to be humble. Posting old journal entries from when I first got into treatment… there may be some value to it, but it’s probably not quite as fascinating to read as I initially thought it might be. Which leads me to the most important point – that I need to remember to honor myself with honest self-expression. Yesterday has happened. What matters is today. What matters is how I’m feeling, how I’m doing, and what I’m doing today. And today, I’m back to focusing on the process of creating art, rather than what might come of it down the road.
Psst… If you notice any weird lines in the image, it’s ’cause I had to use a low-resolution camera and I pieced together a few close-up photographs. (I’ll replace it with a better photo once I’m able).
Bonus! Remember when I was talking about “Why’d You Walk Away” by The Potential Johns?
has borderline personality disorder and a heroin problem. In 2012, he got clean, discovered art, and traveled the country, painting and writing. Three years later, he went back to heroin and quit painting. He's currently hard at work trying to get clean or kill himself (depending on the day).