It taunts me. That empty space, begging to be filled. To be created, to become something tangible and real. Knowing it would make me feel better to just purge something onto a page, anything, just exorcise some demons.
I think I am afraid of it. Afraid of what I will find when that dam breaks this time. Afraid of what I’ve been hiding from myself. As long as I’m not writing, I’m not looking in those places. Poking around, unearthing pieces of myself in the muck again. I’m so fucking tired of the muck. I waded through so much of it in therapy and now I feel like I can’t do it alone. I know, I’m not alone-alone, but I don’t have a guide through the darkness and the muck anymore. There is no longer someone taking my hand, guiding me, not judging me for the things I find along the way. I have to navigate it on my own. And when I do, things start to skew, and warp into grotesque mockeries of things I used to trust and hold true. When I’m in the darkness by myself it becomes nearly impossible to tell the real danger from the trauma induced perception of danger.
Then I get lost in the darkness. It’s a familiar, not so scary darkness. It’s only scary when I let myself believe it’s not my home, which is rare these days, but that’s where the fear comes in, “what if it’s always going to feel like this?” is the question that brings me the most terror, and the one that strips me of all hope for a future. Because when I get to a place that I’m asking myself that, the darkness is always quick to respond with “It will. It will always feel like this. It always has and it always will. This is what you deserve.”
When I first got my guitar, I put numbered stickers on it to help me learn which fret was which, so when we were playing Rocksmith I didn’t get so turned around and confused trying to figure out where I was at. It helped so much! I was able to pick up some riffs much quicker because I didn’t have to try and remember where my hand was supposed to go. My partner warned me against it, saying I might be hurting myself in the long run by using the stickers as a crutch like that. I was sure he was probably right, but I was enjoying the right now win. Once the stickers started to wear off, they just started to confuse me since I couldn’t really read them anymore. I peeled them all off and not surprisingly at all, I hadn’t really learned much at all. It was like I was starting all over. Which was a little defeating, but I wasn’t shocked, I knew it was a possibility, and the only solution was to just do it. Just keep trying, keep learning without the stickers, because eventually I will figure it out. I know this to be a fact. It’s a rational, realistic expectation. You practice something enough, you get better at it. We are rarely good at things when we first attempt them. Some folks may pick up some stuff quicker, but no one is born with the innate ability to kick ass at chess or basketball, or painting. You have to work at it, and work at it, and learn, and just keep doing it over and over again. Same with an instrument.
And in my case, self-care. It isn’t something I was born knowing how to do. And I wasn’t in an environment growing up to learn the importance of doing so. I didn’t even really understand that it was something I was supposed to be doing until I started therapy. It really seemed to impress my therapist when I practiced self-care and did all my homework, and that was enough to make me want to do all the things I was supposed to do. Sure, it made me feel better, it’s always nice to take a walk or a long mindful shower. But I don’t think I ever … got it. I wasn’t really doing this stuff for me. I was doing it for whoever was telling me to. Which, much like the crutch of using the stickers on the guitar, wasn’t preparing me for success later on, once I no longer had those assists to back me up, and insist I do The Things.
It’s taken me years to realize this, and only recently has it dawned on me that it’s difficult for me to take care of myself and practice self-care, because, at the end of the day, I just don’t like myself much. I’m trying to learn. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing – when I am able. It snuck up on me how deep the self-loathing and struggle to escape its grasp really goes.
So it’s back to the start for me. Actually doing the things again. Doing the work that it takes to learn how to love myself and care about myself. A large part of that is writing and creating art and sharing it. I think I am even going to do my year-long self-portrait photo project again next year. Maybe even fuck around and launch a project I’ve been kicking around for months. I don’t know. I do know I’ve had some major setbacks in my mental health, but I am trying like hell to remember that I didn’t lose any of the progress I had made in the past, just because I need a refresher.
Operation Radical Self Love starts now.