“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Hemingway
Well fuck you, too, Hemingway. I’m not quite sure why you think it’s so easy to sit down and put words to your deepest and darkest thoughts, but if I had to hazard a guess I would say that if you think there’s nothing to it, then you aren’t truly bleeding.
I certainly don’t find it easy to do so. They say that it isn’t worth writing about if it doesn’t scare you shitless, so I must have a lot of things worth writing about. Everything seems to scare me shitless. Especially these days; you can’t do anything without someone having an opinion about it and I’ve never been very good at not caring about what other people think. I have this frustrating need inside of me to be liked by everyone, so I doom myself to failure by default.
I don’t want people to see me as rude, or angry, or stupid, or cold, or weird, or embarrassing, or dorky, or deluded, or bitchy, or overemotional, or uninformed, or untalented, or scared, or inferior in any way.
Why am I so scared of being all of these things? Is it maybe… because I am all of these things?
I’ve dedicated my life to fighting against all of those aspects of myself that I don’t like, because I don’t want to take on all of those labels. I’m afraid that if I let them too close, admit that maybe they belong to me, they will completely overtake me and that is all I will ever be.
What utter insanity.
Everything in life is dualistic in nature; light/dark, inner/outer, hot/cold, pleasure/pain, everything/nothing. There can’t be one without the other. So why would I expect myself to be any different than the world around me?
I cannot be only a rude person or only a kind person; I am both. I can be either smart or stupid, depending on the moment. I am both ugly and beautiful. Generous and greedy. Free and caged. I cannot be anything without also being the opposite. The right half of my body has been running from the left and I’m finally standing here, out of breath, realizing that both sides are attached to each other and I wouldn’t even be able to run without both of them.
It’s okay if sometimes I do things, and other people never understand why. I cannot stop being half of who I am. I cannot be a bad person without also being a good person, too.
The same goes for my emotions. I’ve spent my life trying to cure myself of my social anxiety. I chastise myself endlessly when I lose my temper. I feel guilty when I have a depressed day. I hate myself for wanting things I think I can’t have, I’m always trying to meditate my way back to serenity, and I hit myself over the head internally with logic when I feel illogical emotions, even though I know it serves no purpose other than to make me feel terrible about myself.
I realize now that sometime long, long ago, back before I can even remember, I bought into this idea that I’m sick and I need help; that I’m broken and if I can just figure out how, I will find a way to fix myself and become the happy, free person I’ve always wanted to be. The person I already know that I am, that is just covered up sometimes.
The mistake that I keep making is to think that I can leave half of myself behind. I will always be both caged, and free. And I will continue to fluctuate between those emotions that I put in a row and label “good” and those emotions that I kick into the corner and try to cover up and hide and mutter “bad” under my breath so that no one knows I have them.
Maybe the problem I have with my emotions is the same problem that we all have with other people. Why do we have to label everyone and categorize them? Why is she only a bitch and not also a human being? Why can’t a badass also be a sweetheart? That guy who seems like an unfeeling robot is probably also tormented somewhere deep inside, tucked away. And yes, even the nicest person you know can become irate under the right circumstances.
Why do we as a society feel so compelled to sweep the “bad” emotions under the rug? When someone cries, we rush to comfort them and try to make them feel better. When someone is upset, we try to calm them down. Why can’t we ever just let people feel what they are feeling, without trying to fix or change them?
I’m not talking about drowning in misery forever and ever, I’m talking about this need we have as human beings that the moment someone switches from “good” to “bad” to try to run over and drag them back as fast as we can, as if it’s some kind of disease we don’t want them to catch.
And along that same line, I am so sick and tired of spirituality being equated to serenity and peace. Blissing out all the time sounds an awful lot to me like being sedated. Why is this always the goal of spiritual practice, hell, in many ways, the goal of everything we do? Everyone is so obsessed with being happy and staying positive and looking for the silver lining — and don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that any of those things are inherently bad. They are important. But why do we constantly try to negate everything else — especially to each other?
“Come on, it’s not that bad. You just have to look on the bright side.” It’s a subtle comment, and something we probably hear often, in so many words. “You shouldn’t be worrying about that. Pull yourself together. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
The problem with any of these sentiments, however well-intended, is that we are subtly saying that our feelings are not valid, and we need to fix them and cover them up and feel better quickly. Now yes, there does come a point during self-sorrow at which we sometimes need someone else to help pull us up out of wallowing so that we can see things for what they are. But let’s be clear: most of the time that we make these statements, that isn’t the case at all. As a society, we habitually tend to jump far too quickly to soothing and smoothing the moment we smell sorrow or anger. We want to calm and quiet and offer solutions on how to fix the problem or feel better.
The so-called spiritual variation of this tendency feels like a more entitled version of the same, with just a splash of disguised gaslighting, even if it isn’t intended that way by the person who says it. “You don’t have to be a victim to your emotions. You need to focus more on what you are thankful for.” While these are all wonderful truths that are rooted in ideologies that can help us tremendously, I feel like they are used out of context far too often. We’ve been taught to believe that to feel pain or anger or sorrow is unspiritual, and that if we give into it for too long we are weak and unevolved.
This way of thinking is completely backwards. It is our pain and our sorrow, our fears and our hungers, that make us inherently human. There are so many gifts in our struggles. Without them, we can never truly experience freedom.
As an artist, my purpose in life isn’t just to feel joy and pain, but to feel them both deeply, and to express them in only the way that I can. If I can learn to embrace my “bad” emotions, and find a way to love them even as I hate them, I might just discover peace.