I’ve been having judgments lately about myself, and my poetry, in particular. Nothing seems to measure up to the standards I have set for myself. The content– what I have to say– doesn’t seem worthy of publication. In fact, I believe it only encourages judgments from others.
The last poem I wrote, unnamed 1.49, was one that I have many judgments about. Specifically, the topic: someone’s hands. I don’t know what it is about hands that I love so much, but I wanted to try and write about it. After all, the blog is all about me challenging my perfectionism. So, I posted it. And as soon as I did, I started beating myself up.
But the thing is, that’s not what art is about. It’s not out there for the sole purpose of being judged by others. It’s for you, the creator, the artist.
I don’t know if that poem was any good. I do know two things, however: that it came from me, which makes it the right thing to post here, and that it is imperfect. Nothing is perfect.
I’m going to challenge myself more and not call the judgment police each time I have an idea that I want to explore in my writing. This blog is for me, not you. I’m just privileged you would want to come on this crazy ride with me.
So, thanks for reading and please be sure to challenge perfectionism in your own life!
I recently announced on my private Facebook page that I am moving back up to Los Angeles this summer. For those readers who don’t know me personally, Southern California has been my home for the last few years, and while I live close to LA now, it’s not close enough. I moved out of LA for a job, and now that the job (and treatment) is over, I’m ready to head back. Which, of course, means looking for a new job.
Which brings me to the subject of this post! What happens when your career is part of your identity, but you realize you want to switch careers? I’m currently figuring that out.
Theatre has always been a part of my identity; it’s the only passion and love I’ve ever really had. But lately, I’ve come to the realization that it’s been a long time since I’ve felt fulfilled by theatre. Particularly in a creative way. I think my time in San Diego and in treatment gave me the perfect opportunity to take a step back and take a look at what I truly want to be doing. And right now, as shocking as this realization was to me, that thing is not theatre.
A good friend of mine runs a blog called “Tipsy Theatre Traveler.” A few weeks ago she wrote this post regarding theatre and how it’s often tied to identity, and the relationship between dreams and our idea of failure. Her post really spoke to me because I definitely believe theatre is a part of what makes me me, and that has what made it so difficult to begin pursuing other career options. All my life, I have worked towards a career in theatre. I was a theatre major, I moved to Los Angeles to work in theatre, I moved to San Diego to work in theatre; this will be the first time I won’t be chasing the theatre dream. And I gotta say, it feels incredibly strange.
I don’t know what comes next for me. The last few months have been incredibly overwhelming because I haven’t known where to turn or how to begin searching for a new dream or passion. Theatre feels like all that I am. Recently, I have been starting to formulate a new career goal- which has been exciting- and yet it still feels very foreign and unlike me. Honestly, not feeling fulfilled by theatre feels very unlike me. All because it has been all that I am for most of my life. When people think of me, that’s what they see. And now that I want to change that, it feels disappointing; almost as if I’m letting myself and others down.
As I am discovering other skills and fleshing those skills out into careers that interest me, I am excited for the future. And I am flippin’ terrified. But I am a different person than I was before treatment. Now that I am not so focused on my health, it’s time for me to allow myself permission to explore other careers in a non-perfectionistic way. I am not a failure because I’m shifting gears away from what I know best. Theatre is not all that I am. My dreams are allowed to change.
i’ve forgotten how many freckles
you have on the bridge of your nose
my god has it been that long?
what about the flecks of green in your eyes?
or the way your hair curls at the ends
without you having to try
things i never thought would slip away
have faded from memory
and i am calling to them
desperate for them to return to me
what must it feel like
to hold life in your hands?
how tangible does it feel?
knowing you are responsible
for the next day in someone’s existence,
to whether they will have the chance
to blink their eyes
to laugh until they cry
to reach out and touch
to weep until the pain fades
is it earth-shatteringly terrifying?
or is it a beautiful opportunity?
did you ever sit on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean and think
what if the sea didn’t want to put on a show for us
it’s just trying to do it’s job, to ebb and flow, and we gaze at it
expecting so much beauty and calm
what if the sea was full of rage that it couldn’t express
because it needed to be calm for you
i’m scared to say it
but if i can’t say it here
did i ever love you?
did you love me?
i swear by each star in the sky
every night as the moon finds
her place in the sky
that i will never stop loving you
but how do i know how to identify love
i am as unfamiliar with love as i am
with quantum physics
so how could i know
if what i swear each evening
if you were to tell me
you love me as i claim to love you
would i be able to stomach it?
i haven’t heard the words escape your lips
in all the times we spent
there was never a whisper
an accidental breath that said
the word love until i hear the words
i will never know
i’ll just have to trust the feeling
just as i trust the moon
to rise in the inky sky
So, do you remember when I told you why I named this blog “Putting Down the Rope”? (No shame, if not. Read it here.)
Well, since treatment ended I’ve been feeling much more like myself. I’m sure recovery and the right cocktail of meds is doing the trick, but it’s so relieving to feel more productive, creative, etc. It feels like I’m putting down the rope.
Last night I had the opportunity to attend an art installation at my friends’ art co-op, Holy Unlikely. It was a gathering of some really amazing people, both extremely talented and exceedingly kind. I brought some of my photographs/poems to display in the visual art/gallery-style portion of the evening; something I would have never done a month ago. But now, I wanted to display it. My self-doubt was no longer shrouding my consciousness and I was proud to display the more vulnerable parts of myself. (Recognize the work?)
Later on we arrived at the performance portion of the evening– open mic style– where anyone and everyone were encouraged to sign up to share music, performance art, poetry, random thoughts, etc. I already knew I was going to abstain from participating in this part of the show; I was perfectly content being invisible in the audience. The last time I said I was going to do an open mic night, I ended up hiding in the bathroom when it was my turn. (I still can’t apologize enough to my friend who took the time to learn the song I planned on singing that night…I owe you one, Skyler.)
But last night was different. I felt safe. I felt comfortable. And I was surrounded by people who were baring their souls, just like I wanted to.
You see, art got me through some of the worst times. If it weren’t for this blog, I don’t know if I would be this far along on the road to recovery. It carries me when I can’t lift a leg to walk, it flies me into the clouds when I’m elated.
The memory of this feeling is what made me decide to share the art that got me through some of the hardest times of my life with a group of mostly strangers. I read three of my poems. I didn’t stutter, choke on nothing, or shake so badly it looked like I was having a seizure. And, most importantly, I didn’t hide in the bathroom when they called my name. I told everyone I have an eating disorder, and got applause when I mentioned I discharged from treatment. I read the poem that helped me realize the staff at clinic knew what they were doing even if I thought they didn’t. I read about love, I read about feeling invisible. You can’t take that away from me. Neither can Sasha.
Afterwards, the strangers, who I suppose weren’t strangers after all, came up to me to thank me or share their opinion. One person came up to me and told me they were proud of me and gave me a hug.
The thing is, I feel like shit most days. I’m warring with that rope most days, unable to believe what I have to say or create makes any difference in the world. But yesterday was not most days.
Yesterday I stood up in front of a crowd and delivered three poems into a microphone. My first public performance.
When you put down the rope you can live your life worth living.
Art is subjective, it’s meant to be shared. Art helps me exist in the world. My wise mind knew this enough to allow me to put down the rope, and walk to the microphone- raw hands and all.
when i struggled
people watched me drown
instead of helping me,
and shouted demands and instructions
that i could not follow
as my hands flailed beneath
i think sharks would have
than these people—
frightened and alone,
angry and miserable,
morose and full of tears;
but no one would
they all believed the lie of my smile
perhaps because it was more
than asking me something deeper than
a question about the weather—
the weeping willows and soft needled pines
always whispered to me kindness,
the fields always gave me flowers and butterflies to
kiss away my sorrows;
the clouds always gave me worlds to escape to,
winds sang to me myths and truths
of old and new,
the sun gave me warmth and the rain washed away
and rainbows always spoke to me of compassion;
there is a healing in nature
people just could not give me.
– linda m. crate
*If you are interested in submitting work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.