I remember saying to someone, when I was in the throes of being an unrepentant cigarette smoker, before my inability to hold notes longer than 12 seconds while singing, climb stairs easily and not wake up feeling like someone had scrubbed the inside of my mouth with ashes, ‘if someone gave you an ultimatum..for instance, if you smoke even one more cigarette, you’ll lose a finger..what would you do?’
I probably would have hoped for the pinky. I know myself well enough to know that I can validate anything if it’s only me we’re talking about. If that was the case for someone else, my reaction would probably be, “you’re not seriously considering ever smoking another cigarette, are you? That would be so stupid.” And I would do everything I could to help them get to a place where they liked themselves enough that doing things like having the occasional cigarette wasn’t even an option because people who treat themselves kindly and with love don’t pay the government to help them poison themselves. It’s just silly.
So how come I won’t do that for me? And how come I would steadfastly refuse to ask for help, perhaps even refusing help that might be offered? Where does that come from?
Ironically, I was offered that exact ultimatum not too long after I put forth the possibility of it. My thumb got pulled off in an odd and moderately synchronistic thumb sundering accident and while it was reattached and I can still play the piano though will never be a thumb wars champion and can only give movies one and a half thumbs up, even if they’re really good, while I was in the hospital the surgeon (Dr. Dimitrios Anastakis, who spent 4 hours under a microscope reattaching my blood vessels..huge shout out to that guy) told me I needed to stay away from vasodilators, which would open and allow too much blood flow while everything was still healing. The most common? Caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, cigarettes.
So there it was, if you smoke even one cigarette, you will lose your thumb. It won’t heal and will get sick and die and have to be removed again, this time permanently. And guess what? I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink caffeinated tea or eat chocolate or have even one glass of wine.
I mean, yay for me because I have a thumb. But how long was it before I slid back into old habits? Less than six months. To be fair, that was november and I was in Paris on my birthday in april and..where’s the harm in a glass of wine? Well, likely none, except that it doesn’t stop at one. Hell, some days for me, it doesn’t even stop at a bottle! And with the drink? Comes the cigarettes..and then the chocolate and the mostly anonymous (I said no names! just take off your damn pants!) attachment-less sex. So it’s not all bad.
But why does it take something like that? Why are the habits of self-abuse and negation so firmly entrenched that it takes something as dramatic as ripping a thumb off to convince me to let them go. Though after a time, they’re back again because I’ve forgotten the way consequence feels.
But let’s look at it from another side. Perhaps my hesitation to ask for help stems from a fear that by doing so, I’ll admit I have a problem. Or that I’m not strong enough to do it on my own. I’m not just talking about smoking here. I’m talking about anything. Everything!
I’m that girl on the crew who, upon hearing about a new task that needs doing, automatically starts to work out how I’ll fit it in to my day. Rather than saying, well, I have these other seven things to take care of, I’ll see where I’m at and if you haven’t found someone else to do it, I’ll give it a shot. Nope.
“I’ll do it!” But Trish, you’re already doing all of that stuff…”What, you think I can’t do it? I can do it! And I don’t need help! I would rather struggle and sweat and end up hating everyone here for not being as capable as me to do all the things. You know what? Maybe you should all just go home because I got this.”
Ok, that might be a mild exaggeration, but it’s also sadly close to truth some of the time. I’m so damn insistent that I got this, when I finally understand that I have to ask for help, I do so in the most resentful and passive aggressive way possible. Ugh. Yeah, I seriously don’t know why that is. I’ll think on it and get back to you.
At any rate, there was very little in this world that would ever get me to admit I needed a kick in the pants when it comes to writing. That’s my thing! It’s the thing I’ve always done! Not consistently or coherently or to any foreseeable beneficial end, but whatever! It’s my bailiwick and don’t even think about trying to tell me how I could be better at it.
But I wasn’t really happy with how it was feeling anymore. I was spending way more time reading about the habits of other writers (brainpickings is an awesome place for that. She does a lot of good work over there), not reading what they had written, which actually does help more than I used to think, but just about how they wrote in the hope that it would help me get better. Except that I still wasn’t writing, which, lets’ face it, is the one thing that is going to help me get better.
The best way to be a good writer is to write. Profound, I know. But there it is. And I wasn’t.
And I was making excuses for it to such an extent that it was just sad.
One night, back in January, I was moderately tipsy (and not in the hilarious drunkalele way that is both creative and ideally helping me to bolster my confidence when it comes to singing in front of others, even if it’s via the interwebs and behind a screen..see? Queen of justification says drinking alone has the potential to be beneficial and awesome) and signed up for a thing I honestly didn’t remember I had signed up for until the paypal receipt showed up in my email.
It was a 30 day Write Yourself Alive course and I couldn’t tell you which of the points (do you feel like a sad person who doesn’t write and instead uses alcohol and the voices of writers long dead to drown out the words in your own head that are desperate to come out? Do you suffer from crippling self doubt and wish that someone would show up at your house and tell you you’re good enough while making you gluten free vegan cookies?) they stressed had been the one that pushed me over the edge, gave the part of me that needed to hear it the kick in the pants to press the sign up button. It doesn’t surprise me that I found it because I signed up for the Rebelle society newsletters a long time ago and it was offered through them. I actually wanted to submit pieces to them but got stymied at the submit your piece with artists’ bio and was too insecure to write one, which I’ve only recently addressed in the last month or so. I have an awesome bio now. Perhaps it’s time.
But I digress. I was really really really excited about it. Like more than I had been in a long time about something. It felt like I was doing something that was not only within my power to do, but that was something one would do for themselves if they liked themselves enough to try. Was it because I had spent money on it? Not a whole lot, I think it was less than 50 bucks. But it still felt like a present. When I was in a relationship with someone who wasn’t very good at being in a relationship with me (to be fair, I wasn’t very good at being in a relationship with him..which is probably why we aren’t anymore) I used to buy myself flowers and pretend they came from him. If I had asked him to, he might have bought them for me…yeah. Probably not. But I think about it now and it felt wrong at the time to just buy them for myself because I wanted them. I needed them to come from somewhere else because it felt silly and selfish otherwise. In reality, it’s not. I don’t buy myself flowers now because it makes me sad that they’re already dying, but if that wasn’t an issue, I’d have no problem treating myself like that.
Why the divisions? Why have I reached a place where flowers are okay but not things that will ideally cultivate habits? Am I afraid that when I do it for two days and then drop it I’ll have wasted the money? Of course these are thoughts that entered my head because I’ve signed up for soooo many online courses (songwriting, writing fiction, marine archaeology, quantum mechanics, digital sound design, various coding, etc etc etc) and rarely finished any of them. I start off so strong, but then…so obviously I had this as a template when considering a whole 30 days…30 days! Of writing every day! But every day is a chance to start again. So I did.
Here’s a funny thing. I told a couple of friends that I was doing it. But I did so very shyly. The way you might tell someone that you’re in serious debt. Or dating online. Or having an affair with your psychiatrist who insists it’s totally unrelated to your daddy issues. Or working as the personal dominatrix of the president of a first world country which shall remain nameless. Ok, maybe the dominatrix thing wouldn’t be shared shyly so much as not at all because, discretion darlings…
It was as though, like being in debt or dating online, I didn’t want to mention it to anyone until it was obvious that it was going to work out. I lump all of these things together not because they are similar but because there seems to be a moderate stigma attached to talking about them easily and comfortably. I have no idea why. Ok, the psychiatrist thing…I’ll just leave that one..
But seriously, I don’t know why meeting someone via the internet is acceptable if you happen to encounter each other because you have many twitter followers in common, but god forbid you should actually be looking for each other. And is there anyone that isn’t stupid rich, like not even supercomputers can count that high, who isn’t in debt to some extent? The company store has far reaching fingers in many many pies. And as for signing up for writing courses, I know why I was so cagey. Because I already thought of myself as a writer (what have you published? Fuck you! Yeah. Super productive..) and admitting that I might need help with something?
I prefer to admit I’m in debt because I bailed my psychiatrist boyfriend out of jail when he was busted for sleeping with patients. We met online. We have so much in common. But it’ll be okay because I recently got a job as a domme….
At any rate, help I got. No, I didn’t write every day, but I wrote more than I had in months. There were writing prompts every day and no, I didn’t do all of them, but I didn’t like them all and ultimately I am allowed to choose what I do. But I was writing. The best part of it all? No, it’s not that I’m still writing almost every day, though that is a really fantastic thing even if I don’t publish here or elsewhere.
It’s that the group of people I was in the group with have become some of my closest, dearest friends, and confidantes. I’m actually welling up a bit with throat thick tear potential just thinking about them. I have many friends who I can say most anything to. I do. But in an insanely short time, this small group of people who carried over from the course and formed a tight knit group of our own has become a luscious bunch of friends that I can say anything to. No most about it. They’ve become one of the most delightful and supportive parts of my life. I realize that I’ve never really had a group of friends who are writers. That’s not to say there aren’t people already in my life who write and are brilliant at it. But this group of friends, when we started, it was literally <-ha!) the only thing we had in common. That was the place we started from. We were all writers who needed help. And we finally had the courage to ask for it. We found it. And each other.
We met online.
We have so much in common, way more than just writing.
I started drunkalele because of them. I’ve thought about doing it for a long time, but never had the guts (Sing? Where people can hear?) until I found myself in this place of support and acceptance. I post things that no one would have ever seen, because I’m not afraid of how it will be received. It’s the most amazing feeling to have that. It’s the most incredible realization to speak, and not only have one’s voice be heard, but encouraged.
And confidence begets self-love begets the desire to cultivate habits which help instead of hinder begets doing, instead of just talking about or reading about. Though, while I am certainly better than I was, it’s coming up on six months and I’ve nearly forgotten where I was at when I first found the course. How easily consequence slips from memory. I’ve been smoking again, not exercising much at all. Still eating well, but drinking a little too often and not writing very consistently at all. I started to type, to be fair…but that’s just a way to validate, to justify, to make excuses.
So I put it out there again. I asked for some help. And one night, while looking at my email I noticed the word fire. I will always notice fire. It is my default setting. I am a redhaired fire hula spinning aries, born in the year of the fire dragon at dawn, seven minutes shy of the hour of the dragon, I like me some fire. I also love water and earth and air and the aether as far as it goes, but yeah…fire and me…we’re tight.
It was a writing/yoga course offered by the queen of the thug unicorns herself, Tanya Markul. Also a rebelle society co-founder, she had presented at exactly the time I needed it, a wake up call to love your body just as much as your mind kick in the yoga pants I was kinda looking for. Because the reality is, what is the use of honing this creative and clever brain to lightning sharp expression if the body that houses it isn’t being cared for as compassionately and consistently? And how much better would aforementioned brain perform if it is housed in a body that is being cared for compassionately and consistently?
Lots, I’m thinkin. So I signed up. A present to myself because I’m worth it. I’m worth the time and the effort it takes to convince myself I like it here. In this skin.
The best part of that moment? I signed up, went to sleep and woke up with words. The best kind. The kind that come unbidden but coherent and delicious. The kind that blaze their way free of my mind via my lips and fingers. The perfect sensual act of communication and clarity. And it feels so gooooood.
Some people dream in black and white
I dream in fire.
I dream in licks and sparks and sunbursts that fall like rain
I dream of flames that climb the walls like jagged teeth
in a maw that is always open,
I dream of a core,
that black red that can’t be hotter,
A molten mess of memory-less potential.
There is no space here for habits,
there is no sense of anything being formed.
This is the dwelling of the formless,
this is a place to rumble and gather and flow.
It’s impossible to talk about can’t
There is no air to spare
on such things.
It will hurt every time
to have these layers peeled away
But fires don’t burn clean,
until they’re allowed to rage.