5.10 Catch Yourself if You Can
The last entry on this blog was shit. No, I’m not being hard on myself, in a fit of anxiety-driven modesty, or attempting to create a false sense of insecurity. I really have little to no patience left for writings that don’t at least give it the old college try of being somewhat honest or authentic. So, the question remains: why in the hell do I let myself off the hook? I’m not being hard on myself, which I have the tendency to do, just think it’s important to catch yourself and keep catching yourself. Yeah, yeah, yeah you take one step forward and a few steps back. I get all that, the thing is, I get so pissed for letting myself off the hook. I’ll tell you, a little over a year ago, I kinda made a pact with myself on one of those dark nights of the soul, a night where it’s dark, like really dark, no stars, overcast clouds hiding the moon, no light in sight and no light inside. One of those times where you’re wondering what exactly you’re doing - in general - and surely not in any state where I should’ve been making any decisions about the direction of my life.
The thing is, I did make a decision and I feel that more or less I have stuck to it. The decision I made was that if I wasn’t willing to express myself in an honest way - to use an overused term, to be authentic - than I should just pack up my shit and get a real job and just stop. When you actually think about pursuing some form of artistic life, it really is a study of self-delusion or even a bit of mental illness. I mean, you can make pretty pictures or a song that sounds nice or write something that is technically very good, but where are the guts of what you’re trying to say? However, I feel that I did this for a long time and I really wasn’t getting anywhere.
So, I had to do something that makes me very uncomfortable. I had to dig deep into whatever I was trying to say and tell people about it. For many years, I pretty much did everything so that my personal life was not integrated into the things I was writing about. But with nowhere else to go and nothing left to do, I hit a goddamn wall that night. Really, I designed this situation to be such that I had no choice cause I couldn’t just give up. I think when you go down that road of carving out your heart with your hands and holding it up to everyone, blood running through your cupped hands, dripping for others to see, there ain’t no turning back.
That dark night of the soul turned into something a bit lighter. It actually became fun to write about how ridiculous I was in my relationships, and in a self-indulgent way, it’s maybe even helped me figure a few things out. Maybe. My point in going into all this? Well, if you’ve ever read these ramblings, generally speaking there is no point. But actually, this entry has one. A very important one and something I’ve reluctantly approached. I’ve been meaning to write this for about a week or so, but so many things have gotten in the way, like Tinder-swiping. So, yes, I’ve been putting it off.
First, I felt pissed off after posting that last entry and I didn’t know why. There was a nice story about a bird. I guess you could say that I have cultivated a certain type of persona, and trust me, up to this point, I couldn’t really tell you where I ended and the persona took over. For a while, the persona worked very well as it freed me up from being afraid of saying what I really felt like saying. A few years ago, I worked with some members of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health on a theatre and video project. The show utilized mask work and enabled the people involved to express themselves in a more physical way. The transformations were incredible, as the masks allowed them to toss off any judgements or restrictions they or society had placed on them. So, I wore my mask for a while, a long while, and I got some chuckles out of it, learned a few things along the way.
But when would it be time to take the mask off? Now, I guess.
Second, I re-read the story and it failed my test of being something that was actually truthful. I’ve not always told the truth in my stories, but as long as the feeling is authentic, than I’m good with it. This story about the bird was a collection of ideas that didn’t gel for me. The first half is a generic view of someone working in the modern world. This might’ve been me at some point and I was really honestly trying to tap into that is some way, but it just kinda comes off as not so interesting. Yes, work can be monotonous and boring and soul-crushing, wow, bold new idea there buddy.
This persona was trying to express a form of frustration or sadness about some of the pressures of work and life in general. This thing is, I don’t feel like this, at least not right now. Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll come back and the curmudgeon in me’ll be back. So, I’ve found myself in a good mood lately, something I’m not always used to. Not used to so much that it feels weird to even think about, let alone write about it.
The story about the bird was what I really wanted to talk about, but I couched it in this other story. Why didn’t I just write about the bird? Why didn’t I have the courage to shuffle off this persona, this mask, and just get on with what the story was about? The goddam bird.
I wasn’t really thinking about those people in the story, who, although weren’t made up, were a patchwork of individual memories of people. I wasn’t thinking about anything except that bird. That maybe if I actually tried a bit more, been a bit less lazy, lazy ain’t the word, I’d say a little less scared of trying for something risking failing. But. How the hell else am I going to get anywhere if I don’t risk going to a place that is potentially uncomfortable?
By ignoring something important, I really missed the point, didn’t I? I can over-complicate things sometimes. No shit, right? So, let’s try and remove this mask and get to the goddamn point. I don’t know if this is better or worse, but I don’t care. It’s what happened.
Outside my office building, flailing around on the ground between the buildings was a bird on it’s backside, trying to flip over. Stopped, its small chest heaved at the effort. There’s a fence between us and I contemplated just leaving, wondered what I could actually do to help it. This thought surprised me because there was absolutely no reason for me to think twice about helping the bird. Was this what I’d come to in my life? That when another life stood in front of me and I had the opportunity to help, I’d just walk away? What kind of person does this?
What I omitted in the story was that I just felt so bad for this bird and felt sorry for all of us. Not an overly complicated thought, more of a feeling. The feeling that we have a choice. Watching the bird, wondering why I wasn’t helping it, knowing that it was going to die at some point, either now or some other time. Feeling that this was all kinda futile and kinda sucks we have no control over any of this.
Wait a damn second.
I did have control over this and I could do something about it. My next thought was I acted like an asshole cause what am I going to do, give up? I could find an opening in the fence. I could crawl through. I could take the bird in my hands. I could hold its life in my hands. I could make a difference. I could try not to hurt him further. I could talk to that bird, talk to both of us, Come on little bird, come on. I could bring him to the animal hospital down the street. I could get the vet. I could tell the vet to hurry. I could stand strangely feeling alone but hopeful in the hallway as they take the bird. I could hope the bird is okay.
Sometimes a bird is just a bird. Sometimes not.