Monday, January 11, 2016

Gratitudes 2015

It is very difficult for me to write Gratitudes for 2015. I won't pretend otherwise. I may have to start very small.

(I'm feeling a bit scattered and distracted as I write this tonight, because earlier I was verbally assaulted, which has re-triggered some PTSD about bullying, meanwhile I managed somehow in the past day to upset my touchy stomach due to somehow getting a wheat gluten hit against my gluten allergy. Never mind. Onward.)

I might start with the background of why I have a hard time with Gratitudes this year. I could start with the fact that 2015 was the year in which I lost everything. My home. Most of my belongings. My inheritance. My financial cushion. My application for disability. Several friends. I could mention that I was homeless for seven months in 2015, and unemployed, and stuck in the catch-22 of You can't rent an apartment without having a credit history or a current job to list, but you can't apply for a job unless you have an address where you live. I could mention that I have been verbally abused and bullied twice in the past week, something beyond Holiday Stress and into ridiculous mirrors in which people yelled at me for having a bad attitude but in fact were exemplifying in their own actions what they yelled at me about. (It's called projection, and it's one of the most pernicious strategies of the bully, and the person living with no awareness of the consequences of their own actions in the world.) I could mention the times I've approqched taking my own life this year, because life was too painful, too exhausting, too horrible, and I didn't care in those moments whether I lived or died, and would have preferred dying, just to get some relief. I could mention how I had to sell my beloved pickup truck, which had served me well on many road trips and daily commutes for eleven years, and, to replace it, bought a van that had a lot of trouble of first. I could talk about how my van was my only home for several months, during which times I drove it around the country looking to fix my life, and slept in it many times, and so on. my van actually was my only home for half of 2015. I could mention the many friendships I've lost this past year, as people who I thought I could count on seemed to fear being contaminated by my misfortunes, or were overwhelmed and helpless to the point of backing away in helpless surrender to not knowing what to do, or who left me feeling betrayed because they seemed to forget old agreements of mutual commitment and instead kicked me to the kerb. I could talk about how bitter I have felt most of 2015, bitter and abandoned and lonely and mired in self-doubt about how to move forward. I could talk about how my self-comfidence was so wroded that I ended up with panic attacks preventing me from making any decisions at all, more than once.

All of this is true. It's also just the tip of the iceberg, and I am leaving many things out. All I've listed so far are many but not all of the big pieces, and few of the daily, small, cumulative bits of suffering, bumiliation, frustration, loneliness, and sadness.

In truth I genuinely would prefer to "accentuate the positive." I am not unaware that losing everything this year leaves room to fill my life up with better people, places, experiences, and feelings. I would rather talk about how happy I was in November and December of 2015 to be on a road trip out to the Western Lands, to be making photographs as I went, to be camping in the National Parks when the weather permitted, to be making tracks in snow in the Rocky Mountains, while back in the Midwest there was an unseasonably warm winter and green lawns well into December. Indeed, being on the road for those several weeks at the end of the year were almost the only time in all of 2015 that I felt joy, or simple happiness, at all. Then there were the weeks when I housesat while I was homeless and took care of the cats and other pets for a week here, a week there, another week over there, enjoying being with the cats, and very much enjoying the restful silence and solitude while I had a roof over my head. I tried in every instance to do my best to be an excellent, responsible job at housesitting; it's something I would cheerfully do again when asked. One of the happiest times of my homeless wanderings were when I camped along on the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, in August and again in September. Similarly, the times this summer and fall I was in northern Michigan were very good for the soul and body.

So, with all that as preface: truly 2015 was the worst year ever: I want to move forward into what I am grateful for, from the just-ended Year from Hell.

I am grateful to everyone who has supported me over the past year, helped me move, helped me financially, helped me organizationally, helped me out with a place to stay for a night, or for several nights, helped me keep my head together when everything was falling apart, helped me with strategy, with planning, with a thousand other small things that add up to my personal survival.

I am grateful to be alive. Some days, that's enough. Some days, it's the bare minimum I can manage.

I am beginning to comprehend what the Powers That Be seem to want me to do. I'm grateful for getting some clarity on that. I'm aware that Losing Everything also means that a door opens to freedom, for a new life to come in and replace the old, and maybe be better than the old. In moments of clarity and vision, I accept this. Sometimes I can even be happy about it. I'm grateful for insight, for intuition, and for being clever.

I mean that. I am grateful for being clever. For having been born with smarts, intelligence, and gifts. And for having had the opportunities to do something with them. My parents provided a good education. If I didn't live to everyone's expectations for my life, well, there are reasons for that. One of them is, without my knowledge, I was starting to get sick. I didn't lack ambition, I lacked the health to fulfill it. I know so much more now than I did back then. I try not to have regrets. I'm grateful for such knowledge.

I'm grateful to have survived all the bullies and assholes who have tried to knock me down, destroy my life, knock me out or over, from the day I arrived in the USA after a childhood spent in India, to last week. I am grateful not only to have survived bullying, I'm grateful to be able to make art about it. Making art is the best revenge, some wise person said, and I believe it.

I am grateful for losing everything so that void can be refilled with something new. I had a dream a few days ago in which I had been hired to go out on tour as a sound man for a famous band, one of my favorites, one I aspire to. I was the new guy, and I was about to go out on tour, so I had a lot to learn. The gist of the dream was: I need to be out on the road, doing art, making art. I need to be nomadic, more than ever, and make art. I am grateful for the dream. I am also grateful that most of the tools I need to live that lifestyle have fallen into place in the past few months.

I can't honestly say that in fact I am grateful for Losing Everything, but I'm working on it. As I said above, there are some indications that it was necessary. You don't always have to like or enjoy the way your life works out. our plans are not necessarily the real plan. I am grateful for those moments of clarity and enlightenment, regardless.

I am grateful for passion. Sometimes stubbornness is all that's kept me alive. I'm grateful for the anger that is fuel. Fuel to get things done, to move forward, to keep going. Anger is an energy. Use it. Be grateful you have the fuel, you will need it, and you will use it.

I thought about listing every name of everyone who has helped me over the past year. I still want to do that, and I also don't want to leave anyone out. So I'll postpone that in favor of general gratitude and eternal respect. More than I can say. Thank you.

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Anonymous Mark L. said...

My name's Mark. I am from Wisconsin, lived in Madison 2 years. I think I know some people you may know. I'm gay and disabled, and read your poem in QDA.

I'm sorry 2015 was such a rough year for you. 2013 was a rough year for me in that way; I had no job, no prospects, moved back in with my parents, and seriously wanted to end my life.

I think what stopped me was that several friends of mine had committed suicide before me, so it wasn't something I wanted for myself. And even as it got super shitty, I realized that if I ended life at that point, it was never getting any better than it was right then. Life is like a book; you can have a bad chapter but you still get a happy ending!

I hope we can be friends. Hugs to you.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi, Mark, thanks for the comment. Glad you liked the poem in QDA. Being part of that anthology was a highlight of 2015, along with the other pieces published, music made, and so on.

1:01 PM  

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