Burning Books and the New Year

For those used to my usual happy, upbeat writer-type news, this may seem out of place.  Those who are friends on my private Facebook profile are a little too used to it.  So, let me apologize for the jolt and promise this is not my norm for my blog.  Oh, but it gets a little worse: this is going to be a bit of streaming consciousness with little editing (editing being one of my weaknesses.)  Yet – I’ll bet you will like the end.  If you can, and with my thanks ahead of time, stay with me.

I’ve known since childhood that my deepest, darkest monster was not depression but fear.  Unwavering, unrelenting fear.  Fear of risk.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of straying from the path.  Fear of ugliness.  Fear of disappointment.  All that fear, of course, lead to depression.  But hey!  I’m an artist, so this is just par for the course.  Throughout history, artists have been tortured souls looking for escape from their fears and pains.  It makes us better artists, ya know?  Show me an artist and I’ll show you a person with a terrified inner child and a big ass monster snickering under her bed.  Writer, painter, graphic artist, poet … whatever the art, it comes with pre-packed baggage.

Sadly, we all know this and in our modern age, we’ve demanded that the self-same artists get an off switch installed.  Use a pill.  Get a therapist.  Unless you have actual chemical imbalances, you just need to get the hell over it, right?  I can’t begin to tell you how much I wish there was an off switch.  Even to this wordsmith, there aren’t enough words to describe it – to describe the abandonment to the elements you feel when people tell you to just stop it, or hand you medications, or push another distraction at you, or when you realize that the money you just spent on therapy could have been used on a cool pair of shoes or to pad your savings account.  Mostly it’s the sensation of emptiness you feel when you are informed that you are just broken and its best that you don’t say anything that might make others feel uncomfortable.  They might even doubt your successes and question your purpose, because, don’t we all know that our heroes and visionaries are all unbroken?  No wonder artists are not held in high esteem anymore: we’re all broken, right?

I can think of the numerous times I’ve hidden my night terrors from a boyfriend in fear that he’ll roll his eyes and tell me any of the above socially acceptable yet horribly wrong statements.  I’ve apologized at least seven times this last year before posting about my unhappiness and asking friends for a little support.  Of course they gave it, but I’ve been taught to wonder if I haven’t pushed them further away by being needy.

This year, I decided that I would write all my fears down in a fear book – a lined, all paper journal that I intended to fill from cover to cover, and then burn at the next camping event I attended.  It sounded like a good idea.  It is a good idea – if you follow through.

2014 has been a nasty year with extreme highs and devastating lows.  In the first draft of this, I listed out everything, but I’ve decided not to.  I’ll just say that my anxiety and fear has paralyzed me until I’ve lost weeks to bouts of crying and exhaustion.  My fear book should have been full.  Where the hell is that off switch?

Thanks to those amazing friends of mine, I’ve received tons of advice, none of which provided a full answer … until this morning.  (See, I promised this would get better.)  It’s New Year’s Eve.  Last night, despite not being able to sleep until 2:30am, I dreamed.  I dreamed that I was juggling two job offers – two potentials that just made me happy.  The jobs were mine.  All I had to do was pick.  How’s that for a dream!  As I lay there, my cat cuddling with me in bed as he hasn’t for a few months (cats are like that … because they’re … cats,) I realized I don’t need an off switch.  Maybe a dimmer, but not an off switch.  And I’m not broken.

Fine – I have no special plans for NYE.  I’m alone again.  So why not burn that darn fear book tonight?  Before it’s all filled up?  What am I waiting for?

Ah, but my socialization started in: if you burn it, you won’t ever get to read all the pain over and over.  It’ll be gone and you can’t go back in to examine, analyze, relive, and appreciate all the suffering.

Damn straight I won’t!  There it was – the answer I needed.  And yes, it was in me the whole time waiting for the right moment to emerge.  Those damn internet memes were right all along.  Boom!  I saw myself clearly, doing what I’ve done for years, reaching back into the past and hiding there.  It’s safe you know.  It’s the dukkha I know.  Sure, it hurts like hell and depletes my energy, leaving me exhausted and bleeding. Whoohoo, let me just scrape open that old wound before it gets a chance to heal.  You see where I’m going, right?

Can’t live there anymore.  If, as one delightful friend told me in a year end Tarot reading, my last year was one that left me with a back full of knives (10 of Swords anyone?) why would I not pluck the stupid things out and slather on the ointments?   Because I won’t get hurt any worse?  Is there worse?  I don’t want to know.  I refuse to live my life as a human pin cushion (look at the card – it screams ouch!)

So here’s my New Year’s resolution: today, on the Eve, I can be sad or lonely or depressed or scared.  Then I’ll burn the book before midnight.  Tomorrow, I won’t have time to live in the past.  I need to hustle up an exciting new job that will bring with it all sorts of adventures and opportunities.  I accept no other outcome.  Don’t bother telling me I can’t.  I have a novel to finish and get into my reader’s hands.  What haven’t I done yet?  Who would I like to kiss?

Will I still get depressed now and then – yes.  It happens.  The real question is, will I go the distance and burn that fear book, whether I’ve written it in a physical journal or know it in my head – yes.  I can’t live there no more.

Okay, this was long and had a scary start.  I’m glad you stuck with me to the end.  My NY Resolution isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds, but there is absolutely no reason I can’t keep looking and moving forward.  I’m a nostalgic and sentimental fool, but that’s not where I need to reside.  I’ll be okay.  I’m not broken.  A little used and slightly bruised, but not broken.

May your New Year be what you ask for … remember to ask big and bold!

T.E.

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One thought on “Burning Books and the New Year

  1. Elizabeth Pidgeon

    This is a brave and insightful writing… you may think you’re showing your weakness, but in fact you’ve revealed great strength. Courage is the ability to face fear, and you’ve shared that eloquently and without the kind of sappy diatribes that can sabotage such efforts. Wishing you great new travels (not travails) in the new year.

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