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.
I drew this eleven months ago. It’s only the fifth thing that I ever made by choice (and not as part of a treatment assignment). People say that Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous (or, more generally, recovery) is a “selfish program.” It’s not about self-interest or self-serving as much as it is… well… let me put it this way. The girl I dated for most of 2012 – we went to go “visit” her family in St. Louis when Miami got to be more than we could handle. (I say “visit” because her parents agreed to a week but – desperately wanting to not go back to our lives in Florida – we stayed for more than a month). Anyway, something her dad always said that stuck with me is this oxygen/airplane metaphor: “Put on your own mask before assisting other passengers.” Meaning – if you don’t take care of yourself first, there’s a good chance you’re not gonna be much good to anyone else either.
At Tranquil Shores, the first major assignment everyone has to complete is the “First Step” (not to be confused with the first of the twelve steps; this is something different). Anyway, it’s the assignment where group feedback is the most important (and the only one where everyone’s really supposed to be as honest and blunt as possible and call the person out if they’re full of shit). The morning that I drew this, I was losing my mind (a pretty regular occurrence back then). On the one hand, a friend was presenting her First Step and I felt like I’d be letting her down if I didn’t give her my full attention. On the other hand, I had my own mess to sort out and I didn’t want to listen. I wanted to get out of my head, get away from damage, destruction, hell, and shit. Iwanted to color.
So I did.
Mental health doesn’t happen on a schedule. As much as I’d love to always be there for everyone, I can’t. If my own life/head is a mess, I’ve gotta deal with that first. And it’s worked out; if you were to ask my friends, I’m certain they’d say I’m a better friend today than ever before. So – as the block letters behind the fence in this drawing say…
This piece is currently on display, as part of my first art show, now running at Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville.
She might be scared, but that has nothing to do with me, my choices, my attitude, or my … how I’ve been.
I’m ambitious and I have confidence but moving out starts the ticking of the clock. It sets the deadline for my success or the date of my failure. Not moving out is what I’m comfortable with. But how long is it okay for me to stall intimate relationships so that I can enjoy myself (and do the things I want to without worry)?
Is it okay for me to be okay? Complacency. Fear. Priorities. GROWING UP. I understand far less than I let on. Strange that someone with all the answers in interactions has nothing but questions when alone.
That’s the text within this piece – painted in my Friday expressive art therapy group at Tranquil Shores. It was getting closer to the time Heather and I had talked about picking up and moving to Jacksonville. We were bickering a lot. I had asked her what was really going on. When she failed to come up with anything, I suggested that maybe she was scared about moving to a new city. After all, it wasn’t me. I’m itinerant! I’m punk! All we do is move. We have no roots. “I don’t live anywhere!” She, on the other hand, had never moved to a new city before so she was scared and that was making her irritable. Obviously.
But this was expressive art therapy and (in therapy) we don’t look at what’s wrong with other people, we look at ourselves. So that’s what I tried to do as I painted and – when I started writing – all of this suddenly came out of me.
God dammit. It was totally me. I was terrified. If I moved to Jacksonville with Heather, I’d suddenly be responsible for rent and utilities and who knows what else. I had been out of (inpatient) treatment for three months and thus far was doing great. I was supporting myself without having to give in to reality and get a real job. (Which – in hindsight – I realize may not have been all that impressive a feat considering that I had absolutely no bills to pay). But if I moved to Jacksonville and came up short on money for bills one month, all of a sudden, I’d have to admit that I was wrong. I’d have to get a job and acknowledge that I couldn’t support myself creatively…
Maybe I should just break it off and stay in Bradenton and live with Taylor’s family forever…? I don’t need a girlfriend or to be an adult or…
“Moving boxes and little else” is an acknowledgment that I had moved more times than I could count but was terrified to move forward.
But I did! And – so far – so good.
This piece is important to me because the process of creating it really was revelatory. I had spend a lot time thinking about this stuff and had gotten nowhere. After I made this piece, the bickering between Heather and I stopped completely. It’s pretty remarkable how much garbage sometimes lurks just below the surface (and how badly it can fuck me up). This piece is proof that art is essential to the maintenance of my mental health.
Here’s the song I quoted in this entry. It’s from the new Dead Mechanical album out soon on Toxic Pop (who split released the last DM full-length with Traffic Street (that’s my label, you guys!)) When I lived in DC, I spent a lot of time in Baltimore. When I wasn’t copping or shooting heroin, I was usually at a Dead Mechanical show. (Sometimes both!) But getting to see them play all the time was definitely one of the best things about living up there.
Here’s another song from the same record. Just ’cause.
Hit the Toxic Pop website to check out the album art (by Julie Benoit!) and pre-order the LP, which starts shipping next week. (I know the site says that it starts shipping in early August, but Mike (Toxic Pop) sent out an update changing the shipping date due to delays at the pressing plant).
This painting is currently for sale. Or – if you’re not a big spender – you can pick up a signed and framed (behind glass) print/poster that’s the same size as the original.