This Post Contains “Offensive” Language

Anger veered her vicious head yesterday in protest to something inane and irrational. No, not Anger. Rage. She felt suffocated by rules and hypocrisy. She lashed out with words controlled only by sheer fortitude of grace. As every part of my being was screaming at her, “SHUT UP!,” I fought to control her words, only barely feeling present enough to do so. Some days, I’m just not fit to be in public. Yesterday felt like one of those days. I didn’t want to be there in the first place. Boredom screamed at me to leave. “Go for a hike instead,” she begged. Anxiety and Insecurity chimed in with, “Something’s wrong with this place.”

This was my 4th visit in as many weeks to the mental health facility’s peer support center. I chose to go on Thursdays because I thought the music group might hold my interest long enough to get something out of it. At this point, though, I’m not convinced that either peer support or this group is particularly helpful due to the lack of structure or purpose. At the very least, I gave it the benefit of the doubt for the past 4 weeks, forcing myself go.

Groups aren’t my thing.

The music group basically consists of clients simply picking out any song they want to hear on YouTube, provided it’s “appropriate.” That is, the songs cannot contain any offensive language and by offensive language, apparently that only means the word “fuck” or its derivatives. Other curse words are overlooked, e.g. Uncle Kracker – Good To Be Me featuring Kid Rock contains the word “damn” ten times. Yes, I counted. Rage wanted to prove a point. Who gets to decide what is offensive? Rage’s tantrum came prior to this song when someone else in the group requested Haystak’s All By Myself. That song got cut short after the second offending “fuck.”

“Really?! We’re all adults here. What does it matter? It’s just a word.” Rage exclaimed. The facilitator explained that it was one of peer support’s rules: #4 No offensive or threatening language. A couple of songs later, she paused again for my benefit to reiterate that the rule was about respect for one another so as not to offend anyone. Anger stated as calmly as she could, having somewhat abated Rage’s storm who was now pouting somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, “If I take offense to something that is said, that is my problem. If you take offense to something I or someone else says, that’s your problem.”

The remainder of the conversation is a blur, lost in the haze of chatter as Overwhelm handed me over to Creativity to whisk me away to wherever my consciousness goes that’s a safe distance far away.

Pause. Process.

This is how I experience emotion.

I’m not quite certain what exactly triggered me. I have absolutely no problem with what others consider “offensive language.” I’ve never understood how language could be considered so offensive that it requires censorship, especially in the context of a song. I’ll choose the explicit version every time because I want to hear the song in the way that the artist meant for it to be heard. Language is a form of communication, a collection of words to express thoughts and ideas. Unfortunately, language is not always absolute, given the individual’s understanding of vocabulary. Like most everything else, both language and psychology are far more complex than most understand.

It’s one thing to purposefully use language in such a way that degrades an individual’s sense of identity, dignity, or self-worth. That’s akin to emotional abuse and bullying, not what I’m talking about here. That old nursery rhyme, albeit false, comes to mind:

Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.

It’s false because words can and often do hurt. But HOW is this the case in the form of obscenities? These words are usually used out of downright anguish and exasperation or for lack of a better word in the heat of emotion. It’s quite another thing to use language in such a way “causing someone to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry” [Google’s definition of offensive]. Google defines “offense” as: “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles.” Perceived [Oh, WordPress, what are you doing to me. I had another thought here that you deleted.] is the key word here because one’s perception can often be skewed.

“An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time.” [Source: Wikipedia]

Therein lies the problem. Morality. What one person considers moral, another may not. What one person considers immoral, another may not. Personally, I take more offense to certain words being censored from our language or other people shoving their religious beliefs down my throat than I do obscene words. And I’m offended that you’re offended. But guess what? That’s my fucking problem to deal with, not yours. I have absolutely no intentions of making my problem your problem provided you don’t make your problem my problem. Respect isn’t something that can be forced by creating rules to enforce it. Respect must be earned, not freely given.

And THAT was the point Rage was trying to make, but couldn’t articulate.

The True Testament of an Artist’s Spirit

I’m so tired of hearing, “It’s so nice that you have hobbies to keep you occupied,” when referring to my artwork and photography, as if I’m not a serious artist. From an early age — like by 2nd grade — I knew that art was very important to me. By high school I knew I wanted art to be part of my career choice. My first semester of college, I majored in the Fine Arts. After that first semester, I’m not really sure what possessed me to change my major to Early Childhood Education and switch colleges entirely. No, I take that back. It was fear that caused me to switch. Fear that I wouldn’t survive as an artist. Fear that I couldn’t support myself in a career that most were telling me was a “lofty” choice of professions. I chose a safer route, a preschool teacher. That didn’t pay much, but I knew preschool teachers would always be in demand. At least I was able to play art teacher with the little ones who seemed to love art as much as I did. Art time was always my favorite lesson to prepare.

Then, life happened. My life quickly spun out of control due to my mental illness as I struggled to maintain my sanity. In ’99 I went back to college, majoring in Graphic Design. By my 3rd semester, I knew I hated graphic design and everything that had to do with advertising. Boring! My idea of fun is not sitting in a cubicle all day working at a computer doing the same repetitive work over and over again. MindnumbinglyBORING! One of my professors even told me I needed to change my major over to the fine arts degree. I wish I had. I might have actually finished. But I didn’t. I let those same fears take over in 2002 that I had in 1990. I was so disappointed in myself because I never finished my degree — any degree.

Now, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I need to be able to financially support myself or at least help KR support us. I’ve never been able to do that with any level of continuity or to a degree that gives me security and peace of mind. Quite frankly, I never believed in myself enough to think I could accomplish a goal that was so important to me. Other people treated my artistic talent as a novelty, something good enough for a hobby, but “How are you going to support yourself doing that?” kind of thing. There hasn’t been much encouragement along the way.

Maybe this is why I take such offense to demands on my time. I had a very loose plan, goals that I created for myself several years ago after I was approved for Social Security Disability. My plan was to use that time while I received SSD to create a body of work while networking with other artists and learning the tools of the trade online to see what options were available for selling my artwork and what types of items were in demand. How could I best use my talent? The internet is a god send for people like me. It makes the world a much smaller place, and there are so many resources online to make this type of vision a reality.

Enter the self-doubt… the discouragement… the distractions… Between constantly getting sidetracked and those same fears that kept me frozen, this dream of self-sufficiency and respect for my chosen profession felt (feels) like a long shot. Everybody and their great-uncle will tell you what you should be doing; but it’s pretty rare for someone to actually listen and understand that it takes time, courage, a lot of effort, and patience to carve out one’s own path, especially when that person is dealing with a mental illness.

I’ll die trying… or I’ll do nothing at all.

And that is the true testament of an artist’s spirit.

External Or Internal Pressure?

My quiet time keeps getting interrupted. The hours of alone time that I generally require to recharge my batteries haven’t been enough lately. I’m struggling to take the time to sit and write or draw or even play the piano. By the time I can manage a moment alone, it’s either already so late that I’m exhausted and all I want to do is sleep or if it’s during the daytime, I’m too preoccupied with everything else I need to get done to be able to concentrate and maintain focus. I’ve said before that I have no concept of time which means I can easily lose hours before I realize even a minute has gone by. This is the main reason why my time is so valuable to me. I’m not explaining myself very well, and I’m not sure I could explain this aspect of my life any better.

My “me” time is all I have to look forward to and what normally keeps me sane.

Feeling pressured to relinquish my time to others or for matters that I share no interest in frustrates and overwhelms me to no end. It’s nothing short of sensory overload. This pressure causes me to feel threatened, criticized, judged. This pressure invalidates a need that I have come to stubbornly protect, one of the few “needs” that I have managed to successfully identify — the need to be alone — sometimes more often and for longer periods of time than others. My earliest memories in childhood revolve around this obsessive need to be alone to process thoughts and emotions. However, it would seem that everyone involved in my life now views this need for “alone time” as avoidance, like it’s some sort of character flaw.

Self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness continuously creep into my psyche that I can’t quite put my finger on the source. I’m paying attention to my thoughts when I can, when they’re not racing at such speeds that they’re unrecognizable. I realize that most of the self-doubt and worthlessness are the result of what I’m thinking in regard to certain things other people have said to me over the past few weeks in regard to me not working a job outside my home or at least volunteering my time. The thing is, I’m not quite sure if it’s my twisted perception of what others said or if it’s an internal argument or if what I heard IS, indeed, what was said to me. Of course, at this point, I can’t remember what was said at all. I’ve been unemployed for 9 years. Why am I feeling so pressured now?

People are exhausting. They’re too hard to interpret because rarely do they say exactly what they mean. Their words rarely match their actions. Why can’t others simply be blunt and leave no room for doubt? I’m trying to choose my words very carefully here, but this is difficult to explain because I’m not really sure where it is coming from. Basically, I’m feeling pressured by other people (or maybe just myself) to be someone I’m not, someone I’m not so sure I could be even if I wanted to be. And I just don’t understand WHY I can’t be accepted for the person I am. WHY isn’t everything I already do enough?

Current Events

KR was home from work for the past two weeks recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It took well over a year of him complaining about the numbness in his fingers and hand while hurry up and waiting/jumping through hoops for him to finally get the surgery. I blame no one but the failing healthcare system here in the U.S. and greedy insurance companies playing Russian roulette with people’s lives. NO, I don’t blame Obama or the Affordable Healthcare Act. At least, that is an attempt to do something to improve the situation. This healthcare crisis – I almost typed circus – is the result of greed, plain and simple.

Once the surgery was approved, however, it happened rather quickly, without much notice. Thankfully, KR has medical insurance through work and all went well with the surgery. Since his carpal tunnel was classified as a “work aggravated” injury, everything was covered. KR returned to work yesterday and found out that he would only receive a percentage of his pay for one of the weeks he was out. When he actually gets this interim pay is anybody’s guess. This has me incredibly worried as we’re down to $50 in the bank account. Rent is paid. The electric bill is paid; but the water, internet, cell phone, and auto insurance bills will have to wait.

Speaking of the water bill… I find it completely absurd that water where we live now is almost twice as expensive as it was at the previous place. We moved one county over! Can someone please explain to me how two different counties in the same state can charge two drastically different rates for water from the same water source? I compared water usage for the two addresses which are pretty close, so it’s not that we’re using more water here. Even with the old neighbors stealing water from our outdoor spigot at the old place, our water bill rarely went over $15 – $24 per month. The one time that our water bill was $42 at the old place said thieves filled a swimming pool from our spigot and coincidentally the hot water heater began leaking at the same time putting our water usage that month at over 7000 gallons (in 2011)! The bill here, on the other hand, is $45 for half that many gallons of water!

I suppose it could be possible that water rates everywhere will rise now that so many people are blatantly wasting water for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge/social meme. I’m only partially being sarcastic here. If you don’t consider a bucket of ice water a waste, read about the island of Colonsay. All those buckets of water do add up. I think it’s great that so many people are donating to a good cause – $94.3 million, last I checked. I’m not knocking that at all. Please, continue. I’m simply stating the obvious – you’re WASTING WATER! Why not donate that gallon of water to countries that need clean drinking water while donating monetarily to ALS research?

Even though I avoid the news like the plague, online it’s almost impossible to not get a glimpse of what’s going on in the world. So much hate. So much conflict.

Ferguson, Missouri… wow.

Who knows, maybe the whole ice bucket challenge is the Universe’s way of telling us all to just “chill out” already. Fine. Have your fun. My guess is that even those people who bounce back quickly, easily from the insanity of life are feeling pretty wary these days. It’s no wonder that those of us who are more sensitive to fluctuations in the collective consciousness are feeling immobilized from overwhelm.

This makes me think of Robin Williams’ suicide.

Ever since Robin Williams’ death, I’ve struggled to process the loss of a fantastic comedian and actor, a fellow sensitive; someone I admired greatly for the person he was as well as his accomplishments. The insensitivity in people’s comments and the constant media coverage complete with graphic detail was overwhelming to say the least. His death shocked me. In hindsight, I suppose it shouldn’t have because this reminded me that we all wear masks to hide our pain. He brought so much joy to his fans, yet ironically died in a way that suggests deep depression.

I don’t claim to know what was going through Robin Williams’ mind at the time of his suicide. No one can know that. We all exist and die alone in our thoughts, never fully capable of capturing and expressing these thoughts through words, art, music, etc. What we capture and communicate are mere fragments. However, I can imagine, relate, and understand the result of his thoughts and actions because I’ve been there so many times in my life. Suicide is not a decision taken lightly, and it most certainly is not a cowardly act. It takes a great amount of courage to face one’s own mortality and choose to end it.

I admire his courage, and I respect his choice. I mourn the loss, but I celebrate his release. Our entertainers, the stars who shine so brightly in the spotlight, who send out a shockwave upon their death like a supernova, remind us that death is only the end of a performance. Maybe, we change costumes and give it another go.