Seeing Monsters

I know that it’s coming,

prying open the door,

creeping up the back stairs

creaking, I feel it more

with each step

It’s not a surprise.

I knew it was coming

as soon as my eyes

opened this morning and

here it is, friendly stance.

Punctual. Cordial.

Ready to dance.

But it’s ugly. It’s awkward.

It claws my insides.

Blood on my skin.

Tears in my eyes.

It can’t take the blame though,

I called this thing here.

My beautiful monster, my ravenous twin

built from my failure, my failings and sin.

My raving and cursing

not grateful for much

spewing jealous and anger

over authenticity such

a typical mess

like I always create.

Disavowing a trust

and dooming my fate.

Because I can’t just believe

and I can’t just relax.

That’s not what I do.

I just know attacks.

I want both arms straight out

pushing hard, fast away,

Don’t let them hurt you.

Don’t let them stay.

Cause, they will

you remember,

that one did before.

And now, my creation

looms fresh at my door,

needing its feeding,

my fear and my doubt.

So I’ll offer them up

but then turn about,

and sad, wonder why

I’m alone with the beast

snorting, and panting

while I watch the feast.

Yet, I won’t try to fight,

won’t raise arms or defend.

Wanting to wait till the dark, bitter end.

Someday, I won’t need this.

I’ll scratch and I’ll fight,

against the gnarled feelings

that haunt in the night.

They’re not what can hurt me,

they’re not even real.

It’s only what I make,

what I want to see.

And I want to see possible.

Not just the disguise.

Not just flights of fancy

or fears behind eyes.

So maybe tomorrow

but tonight, I atone,

and dance through the night,

seeing monsters,

alone.

 

Dating the Talent

I was actually serious with this.

I was actually serious with this.


I was first introduced to the work of Brené Brown when I read her introduction to ‘The Art of Asking’ by Amanda Palmer. Ms. Brown is a researcher-storyteller who focuses on shame and our inability to connect. Ms. Palmer is a rock musician who lives her life asking and giving and being vulnerable in a way I never could. The theses of both these writers compliment each other and I wanted to learn more.

In a completely unrelated event, with him not privy to any of this information, my boyfriend sent me a link to Brené Brown’s TED talk about the power of vulnerability. We’re on the same page that way.

There’s one important page in our book, however, on which we are on different pages. Different chapters. Nearly different stories.

I have shame. I have vulnerability. I have inability to connect.

And I have no talent. He has it by swollen handfuls. 

At least, these are all things my head tells me. Granted, my head can be a right brutal bastard. Others might not say so about me. They might have nice works and compliments and proof to the contrary. But for me, today, behind the computer, fighting the words, I have no talent.

But if you ain’t got it, you ain’t got it. I can’t sing. Or play any instrument. I can’t paint or draw. Truly. My worst grade my freshman year of high school was in art. You can see why. And aside from doing,  I can’t speak about art or history or art history. I don’t know photographers or understand lighting design concepts.

That’s hard medicine to choke down, no matter how much honey you add to the spoon or how strong a chaser that follows it.

I hate not being talented. That’s obvious to the point of hyperbole. But I really, really hate it because I really, really want it. Again, giant obvious.  We all want talent. To be good at something. To be sought after and seen. To feel contributory and valued.

I love creativity and artistry. I will flock to it and stare. I will flirt with it as much as my social anxiety allows. I once gawked and had absurd and inappropriate romantic thoughts about a dossier at the Corcorn Gallery of Art in D.C, not because of anything he looked like or who he was as a person, but because he spoke with nerd-zeal compassion and authority on Stanley Kubrick’s use of facial distortion as a societal commentary in ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Entrancing.

The gripping attraction is  because I want to be physically near it.  Feel it. Pretend as much as I  wish with my green-tinged little heart that I had it. Not just faking it. Real goods. The talent that takes up space and air as much as another body in the booth next to you. Maybe I just want some of its skin flakes to entangle with me so give me a bit of something. Because up close, seeing how it’s made, makes it even more beautiful.

My lovely boy is talented. Extremely talented. A photographer. A writer of poems and novels and maker of worlds. A painter. A musician and crafter of songs.  He might say I exaggerate. I care about him, so maybe. But maybe not. I don’t have the goods to participate in the art so I try to facilitate. I buy booze. I make food.  I try to help think of the right verb that means ‘to ask strongly’ but isn’t the word ‘ask strongly’. I provide space and distance and understanding. Well, I always provide space and the sundries to allow creation. It’s as close as I get to artistry some days. To my own disappointment, I have struggled with distance and understanding. With enough conversation and openness from him and more trust by me,  I’m getting it. Getting better at being his audience, listener, problem-tinkering lab assistant. But part of me will  still always selfishly wish it was me as creator. 

Maybe I’m just hard on myself. Not appreciating the work I do accomplish in my possible world. 

Why does it bother me?  Why am I not just immediately thrilled when he reaches a watershed word count or does gorgeous shading work on a charcoal portrait? Is is simple jealousy? Why do I immediately reverse and compare that to myself, with strong and hard criticism. Yelling in my mind that I’m not the one writing. I’m always so humbled and thankful that he shares his work with me. That he thinks enough of me and my instincts and opinions to let me have the first look. Because I want to connect. And I love that he makes himself vulnerable to my gaze and giving me permission for deeper dissection. But so often I’m too busy listening to my own thoughts belittling me and my attempts that I can’t give the time and focus that his work deserves. It’s gorgeous work and I am so thankful he brings me into his fantastical worlds and lets me play.

But in real life, why aren’t I  enough? I’m crazy about this man. Why do I feel like if I’m not keeping up with his every creative beat that it’s not enough? It’s not him saying it. He has read my pieces and sat through my plays and offered not only commentary but heaped praise. Not generic lauding. Thoughtful, honest verbal applause when and where it was deserved. It’s an incredible feeling. To have someone you care about, in turn, care about what you love and what you do. Maybe time to do the same, consistently, intentionally, sincerely for him. Less grousing in my anxious brain about how everyone is better than me, especially the unafraid writer in front of me asking me to listen. How about I shut up and get to work. Stopping lamenting how some of my life choices prevent me from writing and use what I do have.  Actually get better at what I love, instead of wishing I could do what he does.  Keep pushing to  give him, and me,  things to look at, not because I want to prove or compete or to silence an inner doubter, but because I just love it. And I want to share that excited ‘look-what-I-did’ with him.

This is my new, big want. Not just to be a better artist, or any artist for that matter. But to be better at trusting. Trusting that being someone’s first, constant audience is necessary art work. That listening and supporting is a vital gift that I can give. Something I can be good at, even if it means being vulnerable or ashamed of my own lack of work or my perception of its lack of quality. That being genuinely proud and excited for his success can only make him and me and us better. I need to work at being a better artist. Always. But right now, I want to work on being better backstage, taking care of the talent.  Because doing that, also takes care of me.

 (Addendum: He read this last night, while I read the latest chapter of his novel. He liked what I wrote and also disagreed with bits.  He told me I’m talented. He  told me some of what I think is bullshit. He reminded me of what I am and what I can do. We talked and listened and shared and,  for a moment, he was dating the talent. Then he told the talent to put her phone down and go to bed. )


Maybe It’s Supposed To Hurt


I’m trying to learn to play guitar. 

I’m failing at learning to play guitar. 

When I play, which I do try to do every day, it’s just awful. I try harder and it’s awful-er. I want to have talent so much and it bugs me that I don’t.(Yes, I know how ridiculous and worthless my entitled that sounds. Princess also wants a sailboat and a pink pug that barks to the tune of Beethoven’s Sonata 8.) Failing at things like guitar bug me so much and I get so wound about the metaphorical peg that I dig the wood of the curves into my legs. 

Kind of my leitmotif. 

And I don’t know how to loosen the strings.

Sometimes it’s a harmless and endearing quirk. Look, she gets shaky and high-pitched when asked to quickly choose an ice cream flavor! Adorable. 

(Not adorable. I picked uni-flavor frozen yoghurt because I didn’t want to be judged for the red velvet ice cream I really wanted. So much idiocy and suck.)

Sometimes, it’s a problem. Like when you melt (ice cream call back) at work because your kid’s been wearing the wrong uniform for weeks, and the friendly girls at the Catholic school calls to scold you. 

(Also, not fucking adorable. Interwebs clothing company, if you categorize uniforms by school, why is it even possible for me to buy the wrong shirts? I can’t negotiate that mess. I am a Jen, not a Roy or Moss, to those who know the reference. Just sell me the correct shit.)

And sometimes, it’s an absolute horror show. Now, I work in a hospital. Master’s educate. Clinician. Direct patient care. I really do get that bodies are fragile, sometimes offensive bits of carbon and effluvia. So, it makes no sense that I’d have such shame about my own and what it does. But, I was embarrassed by my physical self this weekend. And not because of how it looks. Details spared here, but Jesus Christ. (Catholic call back)

It was Carrie farting in front of Big level of mortification. And I don’t know why it crashed me. But it did. 

(Yes. I’ll also make a two decade old Sex and the City reference. Kiss my ancient, brittle, hag ass. )

The difference and the only saving salve of that mess was letting someone talk me down from the loft vibrations of my  high strung heights. 

I never do that. It’s smart and healthy and healing. Why would I do that? I’ve always chosen, CHOSEN, to stay pissed. To stay shamed. To stay hurt and full of my own needless guilt. I hang on to that shit with two closed fists like I need those ugly rotting feels to live. Why????

Who wants to spend a day like that? Who finds comfort in feeling like utter shit? Who actively tries to behave like the nightmare, asshole girl who is the tragic-but-true punchline to a sexist joke?

Apparently this broad. Yes. I know boys and girls. Ridiculously sexy and appealing. Queue forms to the left. Keep it orderly. Preference given to pixie-cuts and poets. 

If you want to learn how to push people out of your life at lightning speed, the the above instructions and tips. I’m a professional away pusher because of this. I feel something that hurts, like hurts usually do, and I push and blame and make being around me supremely unpleasant. And I see myself doing it. Split- screen brain screams “youredoingitahainstopniwimeanitknockitthefuckoff!!!!!”

No one likes a dick. I mean, they do, but not in this version of the movie. I want to stop being a selfish, high strung dick. 

I started. Somehow, mercifully, I actually let this one go. I let myself feel mortified, stayed there for a while but then I took the hand that was extended and crawled out into the world. 

Fuck that was big and scary. And this shows clearly my skewed perspective and priorities and vanity. Yes. Again, queue to the left. 

And it was okay. It was weird. Tried to joke about it. Kinda fell flat. Tried another  and that one hit. Everyone made it through to the morning. Tired as hell. But the bagels and coffee he gave me were delicious. 

So, loosen the strings. Ease up on that guitar. Having it cut into your skin won’t make Clair de Lune sound any less slow and painful when I fumble through it. But, if I keep reaching out my fingers, I just might find I make my through it. 

I hope there are coffees and bagels when I get there. Or even better, real ice cream.