A Descriptive List of Today's Insecurities, or How to Beat the Narrative of Your Life Into Oblivion with a Hammer
- Do I want to write a book?
- Shhh. You already wrote it, basically.
- Why haven't I edited the damn thing yet? It's sitting there. It's waiting.
- Let's pretend that we're already hugely successful in some recognizable way. We're going on tour.
- I probably need something like a show or a book or a podcast to go on tour about. I don't have those things.
- I don't actually want people to come see me on tour, though. I just want to fill rooms with people and watch them be people.
- I don't actually want to go on tour, either, though. I just want to be able to arrive in towns across the country and have dinner with people and stay in hotels.
- Does anybody want a nobody 42-year-old? Who writes poetry? And likes to talk about the internet?
- Also, I'm not hot and never was. I have always been okay with this and have found it a blessing in many ways. I have no interest in working particular muscle groups that could inadvertently shame other people in my age-range with their six-packness. I don't even like how six-packs look on most bodies.
- Nevertheless, I have this idea burned into an ugly spot in my brain that says I need to be more attractive for the things I create to be valued.
- Why do I think I need to be thought beautiful to create valuable things?
- Maybe feeling seen online is what makes me tie my physical appearance to my creative work.
- My avatar sits next to my updates saying, in effect, I am this —>.
- It's hard not to be aware of the connection between your face and your creative work in people's minds when it literally sits next to thousands of updates on social networks for years.
- And so I'm plagued with this phantom pressure to be a younger, thinner, better looking, and more gender-conforming version of myself. I feel like I need to be more conventional, more broadly appetizing, to achieve larger creative goals.
- Joan of Arc didn't conform.
- Joan of Arc was burned to death at the age of 19.
- Dude, you don't even have specific goals in mind except "edit that book you've had sitting there for two years." Joan was saving her world.
- It's weird to experience a non-specific pressure to be more generally palatable, like a snack food or a romantic comedy, as though being inoffensive is some kind of life goal. Hi! I aspire to be beige and a little sweet, like coffee cake or Juicy Fruit gum.
- These aren't even things I want, they aren't what got me this far, and I doubt other people need it of those they love.
- No one who has ever come to love me came to love me based on any of the things I'm not or even in spite of the fact that I'm not these things.
- But still, this insecurity nags. When you don't turn heads, you wonder if anybody's heads will turn for your work.
- Maybe I need to sit down with my creative work and say "You are not me. I am over-identifying with you."
- I should probably just break up with public creative work altogether and go live a solitary life in the woods where I can concentrate on the work of survival. Maybe my creativity would do best figuring out how to skin squirrels and farm firewood out of a forest.
- I don't even have the funds to buy a small shack in the wilderness.
- I was such a financial idiot in my 20s and 30s. I have been an idiot for almost my entire life.
- To envision anything that happens after this, just imagine the sound of an unconscious body falling down a set of wooden stairs. This is the feeling of my mind spiralling in on itself.
- I have spoken at tons of conferences and I've put a lot of writing out there and I was even in a For Dummies book, and so much of this has happened in just the last 5 years since I got sober, which is a giant thing to do, really.
- Screw my resolve to practice kindness with myself. Be kind for what reason? What I have done to deserve kindness, really? What have I achieved that I deserved?
- I have been little more than lucky, and lucky doesn't last.
- All of those things I've done were fine, but the professional successes are not now. They aren't happening. They are over.
- Is the point just to keep knocking up a chain of similar successes? Because how could I move beyond this? We've all seen me.
- I will never look like the kind of person other people like to look at so much that they want to take photos of them.
- I will never look like the sort of person who should have their face in an avatar next to their creative work.
- I will never write well again.
- I will never be truly loved.
- Life is a futile chase of momentary happinesses punctuated, finally, by death.
- I am just going to eat pizza and chocolate bars on the couch and hope my old age isn't too harrowing.
- Oh, god. This is all there is.
Most of us say and do awful shit like this to ourselves at times. Well, maybe not exactly this, but in some variation or other, we tear ourselves apart. We shift our successes around in our mindscapes until they jerk free of their contexts, shaking off the stories that make them whole, rendering them as little more than mute, lonely children. It's akin to dropping the machinery of your life's narrative into a sock and pounding it with a hammer so you can pronounce the resulting garbage heap Truth.
It's unfair to yourself, and, more than that, it's a lie. You can't strip aspects of your life bare of their surrounding contexts and pronounce them meaningless, because of course that makes things look meaningless. Who we are and the things we love and accomplish are shored up on all sides by where we've been and what's around us. Strip all that away from anything and it will look lesser.
Whenever my mind goes through a spiral like the above list, I can almost invariably stop, look around at my surroundings, and see that I need to take a shower, eat some vegetables, and put on some clean underwear. I should also probably take myself out for a walk at that point.
Our brains are lazy. They will grab onto whatever's closest and pretend it's all of reality. Have a blissful weekend floating around in a canoe? Your brain spits out the thought that the world is actually a wonderful place. Have someone shut down your creative pitch because it wasn't what they were looking for? Your brain says your skills are for shit and you should look into trade school. I think my brain turned on me today because I need to sweep the floor and eat something green and stop avoiding feeling bad about my childhood home being sold forever on Tuesday.
My point is this: if your brain goes into a tailspin detailing exactly how much of a loser existence you lead, it's probably not true. It's just being lazy, and, because you were sitting still and had a mildly insecure thought, it decided to make it all about whatever was closest, which just so happened to be your own mind and sense of self-worth.
Sometimes, it is no deeper than that. Our brains are lazy bastards, and we tend to let them run roughshod over everything before we even realize what they're doing.
And so I'm going for a walk now, and I'm going to buy some mouthwash and a new toothbrush. I might even wash some clothes so I have clean bras to wear. And my brain can fucking quit it with the bullshit already.