For the first time in a very long time, this evening I experienced a fleeting sensation of wanting to show off. Not be-centre-of-attention-at-a-party showing off, or streaking-down-the-main-road showing off. This was more celebrating a sense of accomplishment in some work I’d done and wishing to express myself to more than just my pillow like I typically do every time I go to bed of an evening.
Don’t panic—the sensation quickly passed, and I quit the graphics program I was firing up to prepare a panel I could share on social media.
I asked myself: Why bother? Who cares?
The response, swift as ever: don’t bother—nobody cares.
Right there’s the heart of the matter for me.
I was taught to abuse myself very early in life. I was made to understand I wasn’t as important or significant as … well … literally anyone else. While the rest of the family ate the meat, I was left with the gristle. I was given the dregs of the bottle, the endcrust of the loaf, the cheap clothes a decade or two out of fashion. While my schoolmates scooted off to various exotic destinations during school holidays, I walked up and down our local street by myself (the only other kids around were our neighbours, and they were frickin’ nuts … and cruel).
I told myself I was lonely because I didn’t deserve friends. Everything bad to happen was my fault. I told myself I wasn’t supposed to laugh or be happy because something bad would always come my way to steal the happiness away. Soon enough that really happened—I became a morose child, an “Eeyore” as I was angrily accused of being on more than one occasion.
What eight year old speaks to their inner self like that?
I did. Constantly.
Now, forty years later, it’s so ingrained I can’t fight it.
I’m still not worthy.
I still don’t matter.
I still don’t count.
I will never deserve success/friends/money/happiness … whatever.
Despite this, I still make things. I create. I have the artistic eye, the appreciation for words, so I write and I create art. Beautiful things speak to me. Proportion, symmetry, the golden ratio, compositional balance, the language of colour and light are all close travelling companions on my artistic journey. I write stories of engaging characters in imaginative settings and intriguing plots, dabbling with words as I would a paintbrush on canvas, to create visions of loveliness, an escape or counter to my real-life predicament. Creativity is my passion but it is also my refuge.
I seldom share my work, and only then it’s the stuff I mean to sell. I need to sell because I need money to subsist. Not for me the extravagance of financial success—I dwell below the poverty line, my previous business achievements collapsing around me in a haze of self destruction and complete breakdown. My life is now a ruin, which is only right and proper.
Not for me any business success.
Now I am reduced to a near nothing, creating art and writing books because that’s all I have left within me to do. As is right and proper, all I have ended up with is unsold art and rejection notices for my books being submitted for agent consideration.
I suffer crippling depression quite frequently now. Anxiety, despair, fatigue all make everything slow going. Where once I was keen to achieve great things rapidly, now anything takes an age.
Before? I was a liar. I assured people I was all right, when nothing could be further from the truth, although in fairness, nobody ever asked me if I was indeed all right. Nobody ever came up to me and asked “Are you okay?”. I chose to spare everyone the ugliness of my predicament, because ugliness was my enemy. I only wanted beautiful things, to lead a beautiful life, to put the ugly nastiness and savagery of my past behind me.
Not to be.
After the breakdown, all was ugly nastiness and savagery. My creativity was a beam of light in that darkness, but frequently there are times when it falters and I fall into the abyss.
This is far more than mere writer’s block.
Regrets—I have more than a few, and I revisit them all the freaking time.
So imagine how shocking, how audacious, how bold it was to think that maybe someone out there might like to see something I’d achieved. Of course my normal inner voice didn’t couch it in those terms. No, to the voice it wasn’t audacious, it was arrogant. It wasn’t bold, it was the height of presumptuous selfishness.
So I put the work away with all the others to maintain my humility, to secure my obsequious regret at contemplating the demand for someone to spend their valuable time considering something I’ve made.
I can’t take compliments. I can’t accept support. Cheer squads are an abomination in my world of sensibilities. People mean well, and I understand where they’re coming from, but to me it’s genuinely painful. People want to help. Many people love to help, but I’m so far down this bumpy road, I can’t take it. I can’t accept it. Just thinking about it makes me extremely uncomfortable. The only way I can move forward is to change the frame of reference, and treat everything I do as a way to make money.
Money doesn’t speak to me.
Money doesn’t worry me.
Money doesn’t make my flesh creep.
If I can sell something I’ve made, it means not that someone likes something enough to want to buy it, rather I’ve got something they want and they can have it in return for money.
It might not be the truth, but it’s a system that works for me and my curious little problem.
I write as therapy. Writing this essay wasn’t meant as anything more than therapy, but I’m posting where I am in the faint hope maybe someone out there can gain something from it—perhaps a lesson that can help them grow into something more beautiful.
As my vision fades, my energies wane and the darkness descends, it’s all I have left.