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 didn’t draw this for the person that gave birth to me; it was for someone that’s actually treated me like a son (for just under a decade now). Without her support (and the support of her family – which I consider my family as well – my real family) I don’t know where I’d be today. Probably dead. I was sifting through images, looking for one to share in tonight’s entry when I saw it. Given my day, it seemed sort of appropriate… And I mean that: only sort of. Because it’s something I made for someone who’s shown me unconditional love – someone that’s been a force of good in my life. And today was about something completely different…
I spent just over three hours today sitting in my seat on the airplane, scratching contempt out into notebooks. A flight’s never gone by so fast. And I had already spent a good deal of time writing about it earlier this morning – when I woke up to find a mean, shitty, evil comment left on my website last night around 3AM (by the bag of shit that likes to call herself my mom). I’ve tried to be patient and compassionate with her over the years. I’ve tried to give her the benefit of the doubt and cut her some slack because – in her own shitty way – I’m sure she loves me and I’m sure she’s doing her best. But her “best” is really fucking terrible and I give up. I’m not going to wear myself out, trying to have some semblance of a relationship with someone that won’t call me (or even pick up my calls) – preferring instead to communicate with me solely by way of spiteful, fucked up comments posted publicly on the internet. She’s always insisted that I hate her – and ranted at me (mostly through Facebook, until I blocked her) about how I’m dead set on convincing the world what a terrible human being she is. Up until now, that couldn’t have been less true. (Run a search on this website for the word “mom”; I haven’t tried it yet, but – of more than 150 entries on just about every subject – I’m pretty sure there’ll be little to any results and I’m almost positive there won’t be anything that fits her description of my writing). I mean – FUCK – she managed to interpret last night’s entry as some kind of coded disrespectful insult against her… It was just a picture of me with my hair combed, wearing a suit!That’s some schizophrenic level shit further up the charts than anything I ever imagined even at my most drug-addled and sleep deprived. This person isn’t well (obviously) but mental illness can only excuse so much – and it’s not a free pass into my life.
Can you tell that this shit upsets me? That it hurts me? I had no intention of writing more than a quick blurb but I get worked up just thinking about it. She’s really fucking awful and – for my own sake – I can’t afford her any place (at all) in my life anymore. I don’t enjoy focusing on this kind of negativity. It wears me out. It’s bad for me.
I deleted her comment, changed the setting on my website [from now on, comments have to be “approved” before they’ll appear on the site], and I erased her from my phone.
Maybe – later in the week – I’ll share some of the stuff I wrote today. Or maybe I’ll really give her the evidence she wants (to support her ideas about my writing) and post a list of every rotten thing she did to me when I was a little kid. Granted – that’d be some spiteful, unhealthy, feed-the-hate kinda shit on my part – but it might feel good to put it out there….
I try to be loving with every thing that I do. I’m not being loving right now – and I hate that I’m feeling this way. But – honestly… her death would be welcome news. (And I’ve felt that way for a long time). It used to be that I knew how miserable she was and I couldn’t envision a scenario in which she’d ever get the kind of help she’d need to change and find happiness; it was a compassion thing – the same as the consolation that comes with the death of a sick pet (“at least the suffering is over”). But now… today… – I’d just be relieved to know that I’ll never again have to worry about her trying to hurt me.
Some people are just too hard to love. I guess I’m going to try to focus on the people that I can love – focus on the things in my life that are good. And hopefully all this evil, rotten shit will pass and I go back to pretending she doesn’t exist.
[Update: I think I just managed to block her IP address which will be good insofar as it prevents her from ever seeing anything I make/write and having any reason to comment AND insofar as it eliminates any desire in me to post anything solely out of spite, since she’d never see it anyway].
I’ve never shared the text in this piece with anyone until now. Shortly after I moved out of Tranquil Shores, I went down to Sarasota to see if I could sell some of my artwork by just setting up on the sidewalk. I didn’t want any trouble with police and the most trafficked spot in downtown Sarasota is outside of Whole Foods, so rather than set up in such a way as to be explicitly selling artwork, I just sat at a table outside of Whole Foods and painted, with a few finished pieces (facing outward) in the crate attached to my bike, another on the table in front of me, and another leaning against my chair. I just painted and hoped that someone would walk up and want to talk to me and then I could somehow segue into trying to sell something. Plenty of people did stop and talk to me, but I didn’t say anything to anyone about selling anything. And it was twilight, so no one could really see anything anyway. The whole thing was awkward. It wasn’t exactly my best plan.
Just before I went to Whole Foods, I had stopped by Clothesline. I had made a habit of doing that whenever I was back in Sarasota in the last year or so (in between stints in rehab), but this time it wasn’t just to say hi to the owner, Austin (my best friend from ages two to ten or so). Clothesline does gallery openings or art exhibits or [whatever you call that kind of thing] and – as of a couple months ago – I was now an artist. I figured I’d show him some of my pieces and see if there was any possibility of showing some of my stuff there. He was really supportive and sweet, but I didn’t actually ask outright and the whole thing didn’t pan out exactly as I’d have liked it to. Looking back, that makes a lot of sense.
Anyway, this was written a few hours later – after the Whole Foods attempt, after starting my ride back to Bradenton. It was colder than I could stand (to ride in) so I pulled over and wrote this on a piece of canvas that I had started to paint earlier. It says:
At first I thought it was just because she wanted to see me, but when I started writing on “Smiling With a Paintbrush in My Teeth,” I realized it might not be a good thing. When I asked her if she just wanted to see me or had something specific to talk about (and that I might not be home by ten) she said, “It’s not a big deal – it can wait ’til tomorrow.” But it’s a big enough deal that it’s not a text or a phone call. And a big enough deal that – ideally – she wanted to talk about it tonight. I’m really scared. Trying to see the good. Trying to be a light. Whole Foods today (covert street sales) was a bust. Clothesline was a bust. I might need to be in a big city to be an artist. And what keeps me from that? Heather. If she left me, I could go wherever I want. In another piece today, I had described myself as “stuck” and “trapped.” Also “smiling,” but still. My little punk rock heart’ll be broken, but I’ll be free to pursue my dream. And she’s been weird the last two days. “A dream I don’t want to wake up from.” It’s true, but maybe it’s time for me to wake up. I tried to ride the moped back. It’s too cold. The zipper on my bag keeps opening. I caved and called Lynette. There’s pizza waiting at home. I’m scared but I just need to make it another 100 minutes. Writing this killed 17. By the time I’m warm and fed, I’ll only have maybe 55 minutes to kill. Fuck. I’m smoking a cigarette now.
So – being incredibly codependent – I wanted to see Heather every night, but I was trying to be cool with it on the nights that I didn’t see her. But when she sent me a text on this evening, asking if she could come over around 10, I was excited because she had said that she had to work early and wouldn’t be coming over. And then my brain went into panic mode, as I realized that her text also implied that there was something we needed to talk about. Obviously, I jumped to the conclusion that she was going to break up with me. We had only been dating for a couple of weeks, but – shit – I didn’t really understand why she had been into seeing me in the first place. I’m a heroin addict and I just got out of rehab. She’s well-adjusted and employed. She drives a car! That she bought! With money from working!
I got picked up on the side of the rode and went “home.” (I was living with an ex-girlfriend’s family – although – I think it’s safe to say at this point (eight years in) that they’re basically my family; they’re as much family to me as anyone else in the world). Anyway, I was a ball of anxiety, I was so incredibly stressed out throughout this, but I remember that the one comforting thought in my head was there will be pizza – I will eat pizza and everything will be okay. (Yes, I am nine years old). When I got back to the house, there was not any pizza left. It was a pretty devastating blow.
I didn’t finish this piece that night because I didn’t want it to be a piece. I didn’t want anyone to see what I had written. It’s embarrassing.
Three weeks later, I found myself similarly upset though and I picked it back up. In all of that time, I had been cutting my anti-depressants all the way down to zero. For that reason, it was tough to tell when something was a legitimate issue and when I was maybe just feeling the absence of my medication. Just before I moved out of Tranquil Shores, it had been suggested that maybe I didn’t need anti-depressants after all. I started titrating down and we were monitoring my condition to see how I did with a lower dose and then with no dose. The day that I finished this piece, I was at the very end of my titration. I had no idea what was what.
I still get depressed, but I haven’t gone back on anti-depressants. After all, I still got depressed even when I was on them. And actually, I got depressed even more often because my “mental health tools” weren’t as strong back then. I don’t wanna go on a long spiel about it, but I’ll just say: I think anti-depressants are for people suffering from depression without cause. If, on the other hand, a person has plenty of legitimate reasons to be depressed, depression is the appropriate response and not something that should be treated with a pill. That strikes me as being roughly equivalent to putting a piece of duct tape over a “check engine” light and thinking the problem’s solved.
Anyway, I’m not saying that I have good reasons to be depressed, but I’ve got my little episodes and I have ways that I can manage them without a pill. Did I need it for a time? Almost definitely. I don’t think I could have started to get a grip without them. I was immeasurably miserable all the time. Words like “hopeful” and “happy” disgusted me. I wouldn’t even say them out loud. My process, getting well… it wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy. I had a very long way to go. (And – yeah – I’m still going).
Quick aside. In writing this entry, I noticed something cool about this piece: how many other pieces it alludes to or is tied to in some sense. At least five. Maybe those will be the next ones I add to the site. (As I add those pieces, I’ll add links to them in the text of this entry, where each is referenced).
I feel pretty good today. Not manically good, not hyper-excellent, but just good. Nothing is bothering me or clawing at me. It’s been a while since I painted. I made one piece on the 3rd, but it’s for a record so I’m not able to share it until the release is announced. Still, that was a week ago, so last night I decided to try and paint. Rather than take out a blank canvas, I pulled out one that I had painted a few months back but didn’t really care for. I repainted it and then decided to let what I had dry before I kept going with it. So I pulled out a second piece and repainted that And then decided to let that one dry too. Then I took out a piece that I started when I was sitting on the ledge, looking out over the water, and really having a hard time. I didn’t finish any of them last night.
Today I picked that first one back up and I guess it’s sort of finished now. It doesn’t look quite like my other pieces. Most noticeably, it’s missing any text. Well, it says “OKAY,” but not in any way that most people would spot it. I spent a lot of time on it, but it doesn’t seem quite right. I think that – maybe – I need to move away from paints for a little bit and work with a less fluid medium. And maybe work on some less abstract kinds of projects. I have some cartoons in my head that I’ve been meaning to draw, so it might be a good time to actually put those down on paper.
I reflected on how I’m feeling – on how I’m doing, overall – and I decided that I’m okay. During the painting process, I made myself look at the areas of my life that are… awry – in one sense or another. To see if maybe I could pull that into the painting and work with it. The only thing that came to mind was family. I’m not on speaking terms with two of my three siblings. I’m not on speaking terms with my mom. And the last interaction I had with my dad was earlier in the week, via text, and I told him to “fuck off.” And haven’t talked to him since then.
My dad’s done a lot for me lately, so I feel like I need to take a step to repair that but, at the same time, he said something that upset me. Still, “fuck off” probably wasn’t the correct response to that. I guess if I think about it – in each of these situations – I’m waiting for the other person to make it better when – really – if I want it to be better, I should probably take responsibility for that myself.
Which isn’t to say that I want to do that in each case. While it’d be pretty great if I could have good relationships with my parents and siblings, I’m not entirely sure that it’s even possible. Actually, I’m quite certain that it’s not. And that’s okay. I’m not aware of any rule that says I have to get along with everyone I’m related to. Life is easier without some of these people. And while – generally – I’m not interested in taking “easy ways out,” I can’t take on everything. Everyone has a breaking point. Somewhere along the line, what I know (or even what I want) doesn’t matter anymore. I get overwhelmed and negative feelings take hold. I’m not going to push myself into dealing with things that have the potential to ruin my day. Not today anyway. Outcomes aren’t guaranteed and now matter how I approach it…
[I’m done talking about this now]
I’m not stressed out about money anymore. Everything worked out this week and I don’t have a reason to be anymore. Which is a relief. And I’m grateful for that. I have all of the tools I need to maintain an income right now, I just need to remember to use them. For example, I still have a box of antique dolls and other stuff given to me (to sell on eBay) that I get to keep a share of the profits on. Granted, spending time creating eBay listings isn’t all that different from any other job, but I can do it on my own schedule and take time out for myself when I need it.
Having an online journal is tricky. When I was keeping a journal just for myself (with no intention of ever sharing it at all) I wrote differently. There are things I’d mention and things I wouldn’t. There are definitely more substantial, personal examples I could come up with, but – for example – Mike sent me the new Like Bats EP yesterday and it’s really awesome. And if this were a private journal, right now I’d be writing about why I think it’s awesome. But there’s something awkward about switching gears like that, here, online. Similarly, I joked with myself a lot more in my private journal, but – in this context – I find myself forcing myself to be serious so much of the time. Which just isn’t fun. And I like having fun.
Okay, I feel better about it now. That statement alone made me feel better about it. I’m gonna go listen to the Like Bats EP really loudly, smoke a cigarette, and then work on something else for a while. Today’s been good so far and I’m gonna keep it that way.
Oh – also, the fourth painting from “The Weak End” series in in the Gallery. If you don’t see the statement when you click this link, it’s just because you need to scroll down a little bit.