Being true

I am not interested in being original. I am interested in being trueAgostinho da Silva

I don’t know if I’m interested in being original, but I am interested in trying to be me. And I think being yourself ultimately leads you to being original. However, I believe originality can only be achieved when you are true to yourself, when you know who you are and are completely unapologetic about it.

Sometimes, it’s not so easy to be yourself. Actually, I think we all grow up having to conform to a framework that distinguishes a person as either good, bad or problematic. That can be stifling and suffocating. The only way to break free is to be your own person and that usually doesn’t happen until you become an adult. Even that is not a guarantee of self-awareness and agency. You figure that out through whatever life throws at you. Experience, in other words.

I’ve always been defined as a good person. It’s a very simplistic way of looking at a person. It’s easy to label or categorize a person. It makes it easier to approach a person a particular way if you know what kind of person you’re dealing with.

On a number of levels, yes, I am a good person. I know I am, at heart, a good person. But I am also complicated as fuck. And a lot of people make the mistake of assuming I’m a good person and only a good person. People close to me know I have a temper. And some of those folks (specifically, relatives) think that me being angry will only shorten my life. Quite honestly, I think one of the only times being angry could possibly shorten my life is if I’m yelling at someone who’s holding a gun. Just saying. Personally, I think it’s better to express your temper rather than internalize it. Yes? No? The seeming insistence to look at the world with blinders on or through rose-coloured glasses drives me up the fucking wall.

This is the problem of being considered a good person. If you are a good person, you are not allowed to express the negative emotions that all human beings possess. Show too many negative emotions and people will start thinking you’re a bad person or you need to see a shrink. Yes, the person with the negative emotions needs to be fixed.

That’s all fine and dandy but those pointing their fingers should ask themselves if there is a reason or cause for the manifestation of the negative/undesirable emotions/behaviour. Might I suggest taking a look in the mirror. But nobody wants to look at the truth because, sometimes, the truth is ugly. Point the finger at everybody else but themselves.

So, this person, the one who has told me that being angry will only shorten my life, needs to ask herself why am I angry. I wasn’t born angry. I’m pretty sure about that. Negative emotions don’t pop up on a whim unless there’s a medical reason for it. Usually there is something or someone who sparks that fire. I am resentful of the idea that if I’m angry, it’s my fault that I’m angry. The person who made me angry is not at fault. Why? Because that person see herself as a good person, a fucking martyr, in fact. Good equals right. Negative emotions equals bad which in turn, means bad is wrong. Every. Fucking. Time.

So, let’s go with the premise that my habit of expressing every negative emotion — in the larger compendium of emotions — I have makes me a bad person, in the most simplistic, asinine terms. Let’s say I ‘fix’ my temper and never show anger again (which you all damn well know, is next to impossible). That doesn’t necessarily stop the source that sparked the fire in the first place from lighting it up again. Me fixing my temper serves as only a bandage. It really doesn’t fix anything. The person who has made me mad in the first place, has not understood that they are very much the reason for the negative behaviour. That person doesn’t understand because they cannot conceive the idea that they are capable of making somebody mad at them because they believe they’re a good person.

I could go on forever about how people have tried to manipulate me, tried to shame me, guilt me into being someone I’m not.

And this where I go back to the idea of having a clear understanding of who you are as a person and being true to that person, true to yourself.

Sometimes being true to who you are will make some people or a lot of people around you uncomfortable as fuck. At some point you have to be okay with the idea that you cannot make everybody happy, that you are not responsible for their happiness. I’m at that point. And yeah, I get pushback. I could try to explain myself, but when you’re faced with individuals who cannot accept how imperfect you are, you’re better off not wasting your breath and let them live with the idea that you’ve bitterly disappointed them.

I have to be true to who I am. If I’m not, it will be the most painful regret I will ever have. I can’t live with that. I will always choose to disappoint others before I disappoint myself.

Into darkness

Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads — Erica Jong

I’m drawn to the dark places of a person’s mind. It shows in my choice of reading material and what I view on TV, in the movie theatre or on Netflix. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy blood and gore horror movies. Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Final Destination? No, thanks. Don’t have the stomach for it.

I’d also like to add that my curiosity about the dark places does not mean I am anti-social. Although, I am anti-bullshit. God knows I’ve heard plenty of bullshit.

I suppose a curiosity about the darkness that lies within our hearts hints at a willingness to accept and embrace the darkness. After all, we are capable of running the extreme gamut of emotions in a 24-hour period without thinking twice.

Happy. Annoyed. Worried. Confused. Scared. Pissed off. Homicidal. Inconsolable.

We need to express our range of emotions.

I’ve never understood people who put on a happy face and nothing but. I knew a person back in my university days who was always cheerful and had a smile for everyone. I’ll refer to her as T. She was always kind-hearted. I liked T. Her sunny disposition always made me wonder what was wrong with me. I couldn’t muster up the energy to be sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice. I figured my brain was wired incorrectly. But that all changed one day.

I can’t remember exactly what the conversation was about but I remember being honest and a touch dour. I made some sort of remark and T looked at me and said “I wish I didn’t have to be cheerful all the time. I wish I could be more like you.”

Seriously, she was sincere about it. No snark. No sarcasm. I was surprised by that admission of truth about the face (or mask) she presented to the world everyday. It was a moment where she let her guard down and allowed me to hear her. I never got a chance to respond to her statement. We had different classes to get to and it never came up again.

We never maintained contact after university. Different goals, different paths. But I do wonder whether or not she has allowed herself to not mask her emotions. To allow and embrace emotions that she had been suppressing. To be more comfortable in her own skin. If you’re comfortable in your own skin, then the ability to be truly, authentically happy and content with what life presents you will easily be within reach.

My willingness to explore the darkness that is part of my heart has led me to interesting artistic, creative and personal choices. I’ve allowed the darkness to inhabit my consciousness for most of my adult life. It’s only now that I want to really dive into that darkness and let it creatively express itself through words and images.

I’ve never believed in fairy tale happy endings. Those kinds of happy endings are pure illusion and not applicable to the real world. They’re worse than rose-coloured gasses.

So it makes sense that my fiction writing will reflect some of that sensibility. I want to see the dark places that inhabit my characters’ hearts. I want to see where they are going. I want to see if they can embrace the darkness. I want to see if they will survive.

From hate to love

We must love one another or die
— from the poem, September 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden

I won’t deny that for some, it is easier to hate than to love. But hate inevitably consumes and leaves nothing behind. Nobody wins. At one time or another, either as the receivers or the givers, we have all experienced hate. I’m not sure what is more unsettling or frightening — to hate someone or to be hated by someone.

But I think it’s more frightening to hate.

I have a mental list of people I intensely dislike, a couple of them probably borders on hate. Who doesn’t have a list? Seriously, folks.

But I don’t look at the list. Why would I? If you semi-regularly look at your list, it will just make your blood boil and fantasies of bloodshed and mayhem pop into your head. What? You don’t think that way? Okay. Just warning ya. I think that way. Just be glad I only daydream about it but don’t do it. Consider it a play on the phrase ‘you can look but don’t touch.’

Over the course of a lifetime, you meet people you end up liking, people you end up loving and people who just rub you the wrong way. No matter how neutral and open-minded you try be around them, they just fucking rub you the wrong way. Yep, I’ve met plenty of those fuckers. We all have. Most of the time, we just wish the buggers would go away. Personally, I just want the buggers to fuck off and die.

But that never happens. So, we have to learn to deal with the people and things that annoy us. Let’s face it, life is about challenges. It’s about facing them and figuring out how to navigate them with the least amount of negative consequences for yourself and the people in your life.

I’ve had my fair share of challenges and I know the challenges won’t stop until I stop breathing. Some of those challenges should have sent me in spiralling into some form of depression. There were other challenges that could have easily landed me behind bars. It would have been so easy to let go of all reason and do unthinkable and unimaginable things to someone. We all have the ability to do that. It’s part of human nature. I have no problem embracing the dark side of my personality. It’s easy to explore without actually feeling compelled to act on it. It’s one of the numerous things that keeps me from being lumped in with the murderous malcontents, psychopaths and sociopaths of the world.

I’ve been lucky enough to never have experienced depression in its most debilitating manifestations. Yeah, I’ve been down about a lot of things. I’ve been deeply disappointed by people and circumstances. And I’ve been angry about a number of things, too. But I’ve never been angry enough to lose all common sense and pick up a crowbar and swing it into someone’s skull. To be honest, I’ve never been pushed to the point where I would lose control. Let’s just hope I never meet the person who has the ability to push that button because I know I will pick up that crowbar. Like it or not, we all have that button.

Thankfully, a part of my psyche won’t allow me to descend into the true depths of despair and hate. It is, literally, physically uncomfortable to live in negativity.

The instinct to fight my way out of negativity is strong. But at the same time, I don’t suppress the negative feelings either. I have to work through them in order to get past them. They have to exist in order for me to deal with them. Ignoring them doesn’t work. Those feelings will only come back later with a vengeance when you least expect it. The threat of it being all-consuming will be even greater.

I’ve had friends and acquaintances advise me to not waste my time and energy steaming over a situation I know I can’t fix. They tell me it will only bring me down. Of course, I fucking know that. The thing is, steaming over something or someone is part of the process of getting on with my life. It has to run its course. The length of the process always depends on the intensity of emotion at the time. It can take a matter of minutes, months or years.

There is truth to time healing all wounds even though some seemingly healed wounds still have the ability to crack open and bleed quite easily. I have one semi-fresh emotional wound that will take a long time to heal. I have my good days. I have my bad days. Thankfully, there are more good days than bad. The frustration and confusion linger but I know there isn’t much I can do. So what do I do? Move on. I need to move on. Being stuck emotionally in place where there is nowhere to go sucks. Given half the chance, it will kill the spirit.

My spirit isn’t dead. Nor will it ever be dead. Even with the battle scars I’ve earned in this lifetime, the spirit shines brightly because love makes it shine brightly. When I have my moments where I ask myself ‘Will I ever find love? Will I ever know love?’, I just look at my friends and family and I know deep down I am loved.