"How lucky I am to have someone that makes saying goodbye so hard."
- A.A. Milne
2017 is officially complete.
I do appreciate that you have a metric bajillion tons of content to pour through on your daily scrolling, so please know that I am wicked grateful for everyone who's chanced a glance at this weird blog thing I've been doing. We've averaged about 180 views a post, and that means this weekly experiment thing has been the most highly consumed bit of creative output I've ever creatively put out.
Still, the goal was never about how many of you lovely folks I can trick into looking my way. The original idea was simply to make something on the regular. Consistency, after all, is key. And though quality and the exact time/day of the release for each post have wavered, this has been the most consistent I've been on anything in a long time. The key there is that it's completely self-motivated. Sure, it's nice when someone would mention how they'd read this thing, but in large part the only thing that kept me going week to next was the building blocks of having done it before. Despite every way in which I know this could have been more polished, precise, punctual, or popular, the achievement of even putting up a blog post every week for a whole year was somehow it's own cycle of motivation.
We've been through a lot together. Sure, it's pretty one sided, but I still want you to know it means a lot that anyone is out there letting me slide a few slices of my madness your way. This time last year, I had just moved in with my aunt, uncle, and cousins and was back in Massachusetts for the first time since college. The following months were there own special kind of struggle as I realized that just leaving PA was not enough to suddenly fix my life or mind. Even as I was able to find some temp work and pay my own rent at their house, living with family in that area turned out not to be the right fit for me finding a way to transition into full independence. Obviously, life in that neighborhood and that house wasn't what either me or my family there had expected. When they told me it was time to go, I didn't have any other option but to return to my folks' in PA, which, honestly felt like such a huge failure.
I know I'm blessed to have parents who support me to the extent and with such love as mine do. Their acceptance, encouragement, and accommodation has kept me not just alive but somewhat stable for these past several years as everything else has just utterly shattered. Despite my understanding of and personal experience with depression, it's still so easy to think of my lack of success in certain endeavors or inability to reach certain goals as a failure of self, indicative of a lack in character. When family or friends would hint or straight up tell me that I just think too much or just need to try harder or get over it, it was difficult not to use that as ammunition in order to sabotage myself. Sure, I know that they come from a place of caring and misunderstanding the truths of living with mental illness, but with everything else going on in my head, being able to organize what outside messages were useful and which could be discarded was often too much to handle.
Thus, for the large majority of 2017, my inner drive was simply to stay out of everyone's way. Struggling to work up the energy to leave my bed, much less leave the house, was hard enough, but the instant I began to consider what possible impact my existence might have on others, all motivation quickly vanished. This made its way into my songwriting and even onto this blog, where the topics of what I expressed funneled into a self-centered spiral. After all, who gives a damn about my opinion on politics, social issues, or even human interaction much beyond that which I could directly explain from personal experience? The question of it anyone even cared about that could only be ignored because I had a blog to write, so in that way, the pressure of a self-imposed schedule allowed for me at very least to feel bad for myself in writing once a week.
I don't think I believe that my songwriting was vastly better when it was almost entirely focused on social justice matters, but at least then I wrote songs about something. Musically, I've been almost entirely on a dry spell this past year, and I can trace that directly to my lack of confidence conspiring with my lack of attempts made to create something new. As this is technically supposed to be a music blog, I've gotta be real with you folks, I have not picked up the guitar in a while. While I'm starting to believe again that I have something unique to give both musically and lyrically, I've too long let fear of disappointment, lack of motivation, and worry over how it might be received keep me from creating any new music.
I've met far too many songwriters who are way more talented than I am yet fail to produce new content due to getting caught up in the day to day mundanity and stresses of adult worker/consumer existence. I'm not saying that providing for yourself and your family is a bad excuse, but it's still an excuse. And if my excuse is my thoughts and feelings based in mental illness, well, I've seen over the past several years how that will only continue to be my excuse indefinitely.
For a long time, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. Whenever a big part of that would break down, I always had something else deeper inside to hold up as the core of something new. I'm a writer, a creator, an artist of some kind. Even without faith and a religious culture, I am still someone who passionately holds tight to and expresses what I believe to be right and wrong. Even when I feel alone and lost and like a failure when it comes to relationships, I'm still someone who loves and empathizes. Even when I can't stand/am terrified of other people in general, I still recognize something of our shared humanity. All this adds up to something, and most of the time being okay with who I am means being okay with the unknown. Most of the time being okay with the unknown means not being okay in the least.
Not being okay is okay.
I'm not anywhere near sure about where I go from here. Well, I can hope for certain things like independence, confidence, friendship, and security, I've also seen how fragile those things can be.
- Independence: I've learned how important cooperation and accepting help from others is.
- Confidence: I've learned that acting in the midst of self-doubt is all too often the only way any action gets done.
- Friendship: I've learned that since friendships come and go, it's alright to feel sad, confused, and heartbroken, but the way other people treat us is ultimately far more an indicator of who they are than who we are. Thus, learning to love and be confident in myself is necessary, because the past isn't gonna change, but my reaction to it can.
- Security: I've learned over and over again that any level of safety is never enough to feel ready to take a risk and is always just as fragile as the next trauma. I'll face reality and make a choice under the weight of stress and pain, on good days and bad, because moving forward, the only certainty in life is change.
Y'know I'd love to read down in the comments or on twitter or facebook or wherever, what your goals are for this coming year. I know new years resolutions tend to be more a source of eventually guilt/grief than continued inspiration, but if nothing else, please be encouraged by the fact that I wrote 52 blog posts since last January. I said I was gonna do something and I did it. Wanna know my secret? I just did it. Even when I felt like I wasn't "up to it", I did it anyway.
Most of the time the desire necessary in order to accomplish a task and the desire we think we need are nowhere close. I can honestly say that most days this past year, I didn't want to even open my eyes. I feel like I've simultaneously somehow slept through the past 52 weeks and not slept for the past 52 weeks. I didn't even want to get up and hang out with my parents today, but I did because I'd promised them I'd make buffalo cauliflower bites and play card games. When I was so tired I kept hitting snooze and falling back into the weird nightmare I was having about growing up on a dust farm, I was not incredibly enthusiastic about figuring out the breading and sauce and how to use the toaster oven like a real oven.
But I didn't need to be incredibly enthusiastic. I just needed to do it. I only needed the absolute minimum of wanting to. Like when I got a root canal a few months back. I didn't have to really, really want to go to the dentist. I just had to want to enough to get up, get dressed, and go. How many times in my life have I gotten up, gotten dressed, and gone somewhere? The process is practically habitual once started, and yet before getting started why do I feel like it's either gotta be I'm 100% ecstatic about it or it's impossible? That's not necessary.
For many of you I imagine this is the process for going to your job. Hopefully, you all enjoy your job. I've never had a job I particularly liked, and I don't really understand people who do like their jobs. It's kinda like all the worst things about school plus the stress of being treated as less than a person by everyone around you, not just the bullies at recess. However, when I have had a regular job or even a temp job, the going and the doing was never the worst part (it was the people mostly). The trick was always just before that, like working out. Once I'm in my workout clothes and on the machine or headed somewhere it's not too bad, but just tricking my feet into socks and sneakers semi-regularly is worse than any amount of reps. It's all a mind game.
All that to say, I'm not gonna just make a list of promises to you or myself about what I want to do this year in vague terms I'll soon fail to fulfill.
Instead, here are some things I don't promise, big and small, but am just gonna do because I'm just gonna do 'em.
Everyday, I will:
- Take my medication
- Play guitar
- Write a page
- Eat a vegetable
- Take a walk
- Draw for an hour
Every week, I will:
- Apply for a job (until I get one)
- Look for a therapist (until I get one)
- Work on the Painkiller music video (until it's finally done)
- Write a song
- Go to an open mic
Every month, I will
- Read a book
- Post an acoustic song up on Youtube
- Post an update on this blog*
*I'll post more often than this, but my goal is to create more content of many different kinds, not just blogposts, about which I'll keep you lovely folks updated via this site and other social media.
- No more buying sweets and/or deserts for myself
- No more self harm
- No more looking at pictures and/or following social media of former friends who no longer give a damn about me
Here it is, folks, after the wondrous monstrosity that was 2017 for myself and so so so so many others and situations around the world, I don't exactly expect 2018 to be the absolute opposite. 365 days is a whole lot of time. 52 weeks is way more than we can really take into account all at once.
The joy and pain of hoping is that it either has nothing to do with what I can control and therefore is like a ball of positivity floating just out of reach OR it is completely within my control and therefore is just something I gotta do or it won't get done.
For most of this year, I couldn't visualize who or what I wanted to be because I didn't believe that I could be anyone or anything at all. Believing isn't enough to get anything done, but it's usually a necessary first step. The rest might just be all about doing it anyway, no matter how you feel.
Sometimes I won't have the right energy or mood to do what I think I should. That is a reality of life that I've had to come to accept. Still, the kind of positive attitude I need to help me survive those times is strengthened by what I make out of the times when I do have just enough energy to do something. It needn't be perfect by my or anyone's standards, but as it's all I have to work with, then I can do something with it or not.
And therein again lies the hope, that someday I can live with a little more empathy, confidence, and passion, and a whole lot less fear, despair, and hate.
Here's to 2018.
Here's to you!!!
Thanks for being there this past year, every week, and as always...
Thanks for reading,