This winter seemed as if it might last forever, compared to my first here in the Twin Cities. The shimmering lakes along my commute have finally surrendered their ice, and the snow has trickled away, leaving behind its funeral of brown and crunchy things aching for the signs of life. I have been steeping myself in flowers waiting for spring to unfurl — short hikes along the creeks and rivers, afternoons and evenings in the park, faces warmed by the sun. Perhaps the winter only feels so long because I never missed such things before.
In recent weeks a friendship has begun to form between myself and another local creator, Lance Ward. His body of work resonated with me immediately — I believe we shared a connection in part due to the similar soul-baring nature of our works, as well as the duality of being both comic artists and painters. His introspective, and sometimes-effacing, self-portraiture and deep symbolic paintings speak in a different dialect of the languages I use myself. I am also fond of his daughter, Ruth — a budding artist in her own right. We recorded a few podcasts together, and I am excited about ways we might collaborate in the future. Artist to artist, it is nice to have someone who understands your struggles. In particular someone also so inclined to self-vivisection.
While remaining friends, several weeks after leaving me for his own personal issues, the lover mentioned in the previous post found he was not satisfied with his life as-is and returned — stating he made a mistake. We have both been through, and are still going through, a lot — and we have been growing together, helping to foster each other’s improvements. I will not pretend that things have been flawless, but neither of us are the type to rush to anger or hold a grudge. He is able to make me feel protected and safe, while allowing me the freedom and space I need to grow. He is more interested in myself as a person, while being respectful of my work. We can discuss anything without fear of judgement. He can take it as well as he dishes out. He is comfortable with my neediness for the physical affection I have been deprived of for most of my life. He is kind and patient and fatherly when I require that, but stands as an equal, or follows my lead as the winds change. He is not a perfect man, but he is a good man, and our relationship has been good for me.
Last month, we babysat for his one-year-old grandson for about three days. While I found caring for a baby surprisingly natural, and I would happily do so again — the experience did confirm for me that I assuredly made the correct decision having myself sterilized all those years ago. I have been told more than once that I would make an excellent mother, but I need my silence time so desperately to work, and I do not believe I possess the spirit of sacrifice necessary to care for an infant. I am content to help other parents with their children, and be a mentor or teacher when possible. ‘Tis the convention and travelling circus lifestyle for me, and long hours inking into the night.
I am finally conquering the anxiety and insecurities that have plagued me as long as I can remember. One of the most critical elements has been to stop blaming myself for every problem under the moon and stars — the realization that, whether someone wishes to acknowledge it or not — most people are just as fucked up as I am in their unique ways. We are all struggling with our own battles. What separates us, and determines our success, is the ability to evaluate our own patterns of behaviour honestly — and objectively — and be strong enough to make the changes necessary to achieve what we want. In the end, we are all responsible to ourselves for our own happiness.
Another important element has been exorcising negativity out of my life. I do not mean in the practice of being unavailable for friends in need of a helping hand, but the kind of chronic cynicism, pessimism, self-hatred, self-loathing, and stagnation that tends to drag down everyone in its vicinity. This is purely self-preservation. I have discovered that I am simply too sensitive and easily influenced by the moods of those around me. Anxiety and insecurity in others draws out my own. Lack of motivation in others saps my enthusiasm. People who believe poorly of themselves make me feel poorly. I am grieved for those wrestling with these issues, but I can only control my own happiness. I have surrounded myself with people that embody the same adventurous spirit and lust for life that I enjoy. I have many positive relationships with independent, energetic, vibrant, and non-judgemental women — something lacking in my life as an adult. My people are those that live boldly, fear no rejection, fear no pain, and see failure as a learning opportunity to do better next time.
I made a video this week exploring my identity — the monster I feel I created to survive, emotionally and intellectually — and my process of breaking free, making peace, growing, and learning how these facets of my personality can coexist while being true to myself. My “show face” is a performance; part of me, but no longer a mask that I use to avoid hiding any truth or vulnerability. My first video attempts the same themes, but focused on communication.
Life is good. I have been pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone — trying foods I have historically disliked, pursuing previously-unkindled interests such as poker and sports — even going to some games! — exploring novel outlets for my creativity. Searching out enriching experiences to live life to the fullest and broaden my horizons. Being thankful for each day that I am given, and never taking anyone or anything I care about for granted. Bloom.