Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'm turning into my father

I was just watching a documentary called "Beautiful Losers" about artists from the 90's. Honestly, I'm not really sure what it was about, because I was so aggravated after only one minute or so of viewing that I couldn't really pay attention. I had become my father, thinking thoughts like "what a bunch of crap", "idiots", "complete idiots", "does this person really think they have any talent?", "people are so full of shit", "what a bunch of imbecilic stereotypical artistes these jerks are". . .you get the idea. The level of animosity I felt towards these complete strangers was startling, to say the least. I figured I should stop watching. My inner dialog was causing me distress, shame, remorse, and, I must admit, I also found it a wee bit humorous. I am turning into my father, and I don't like it. But, there's got to be some humor in that. Years and years of trying to be a decent see-the-good-in-everyone type of person, and I'm still an asshole at heart. Well, at least I've been trying.

As I once pointed out before, I love knitters unconditionally, even if they're cranky and obnoxious, or have bad taste. However, if they claim to be artists, then all bets are off. I am beginning to see that I've got a dislike of artists that is so deeply ingrained in me that I rather doubt I'll have enough time in this lifetime to get over it. Mind you, it's not all artists. There are artists for whom I have the utmost respect, some of which I know. What do these folks have in common? Well, they're good, for one thing. But, if I examine it further, I'd say that they all have another thing in common: they all make art, don't talk about it endlessly, they aren't obsessed with concepts and theories, and they aren't full of themselves. In fact, unfortunately, none of the artists I like even realize quite how good they are. It's not good for them, of course, but I like that about them. People who are full of themselves really irk me. I'm guessing they irk most everyone, but I find it particularly irritating. The other thing about the artists I admire is that they aren't all wrapped up in a false identity of "being an artist(e)"; they're not hipsters, and (I think) they could not care less about it. Good for them.

But back to me (of course). I am an asshole. It's the only correct word for it, even as I wrack my brain for a polite term. I've got a kneejerk feeling of what can only be called hatred for hipsters, conceptual artists, or anyone who might once have been called a poseur. Those who experiment with art forms without first mastering the basics have a particularly bad place in my interior circles of hell.

You'd think I'd love anyone who is outside the mainstream. Nope. And in this way, I am so like my father that it's absurd. My bad attitude isolates me, just like it isolates him. Intellectuals? Throw 'em off a cliff! But, do I want to hang around with rednecks? Nope. I have no love for four-wheelers, nascar, and their Jesus.

Oh, what sweeping generalizations I am spouting! That's irrational thought for ya.

Maybe I really hate everyone. If I take even a passing peek at the core of my being, it's not a pretty sight. Distaste for everyone is lurking. Only the most sincere people earn my respect. There are, wonderfully, more truly sincere and decent people out there than one would imagine.

At the heart of all this is a hurt child, of course. As I was passing judgment on the folks in that movie, I was also engaging in an inner dialog consisting of anger over all the hurts in my life, and a refrain of "I never planned on living past 21." I didn't. Listening to people talk about what they would do when they grow up always causes me pain. I didn't plan on anything. Here I was, a very talented child, and I planned on nothing. I was sure that I'd die by the age of 21, by my own hand or by overdose, and making plans was simply a waste of brain time. When I think of that, I also think how sad it was that not a single adult came to my aid in any way. And, oh, how I longed for it! My entire childhood was laced with a wish to be rescued or noticed by somebody, anybody. Couldn't anyone see how I needed some help? Yes, I'm sure someone could, but now that I'm an adult, I know that there are just some kids that people stay clear of. They have huge walls around them, they're a bit scary, or they just seem hopeless. Better to find those who seem worth saving. I suppose I wasn't.

And here I am, in middle-age, still feeling the pain of that. It amazes me when I realize that it is still true, and it's also more than a bit embarassing. But, since I suspect that many people still carry their childhood hurts around with them for a lifetime, I feel an obligation to speak my truth out loud. Maybe it'll make someone else feel better.

Okay, so maybe I'm not a total asshole.

On Christmas, I witnessed a heart-to-heart talk between a teenage boy and his father. It nearly broke my heart, even as it warmed it. I could not believe that a father would be so patient and so interested in the opinions of his son, especially as they did not agree on many things. The disagreement did not lead to an argument; it was the source of great conversation. How lucky they both are, and how rare.

As for myself, I believe I've never allowed myself to feel truly sad. My anger and sadness have only come out when it's triggered by things. I think if I could allow myself to finally grieve, for once, things would be better. But grieving is not something I know how to do. No, I really haven't a clue, even as I've had much to grieve over. I've been under the misconception that I can just move forward, day by day, and year by year, simply by sheer force, and by focusing on the good at all times. As wonderful as it is to be able find the beauty in the smallest things in life, there's that pit of unaddressed hurt, resentment, pain, remorse, and unadulterated rage, hatred, and hostility that has never been addressed honestly, or looked squarely in its ugly eyes. At the risk of sounding like a new-age airhead, I wonder if all that stuff just wants this: acceptance and love. It's what I never got as a kid, so maybe my continued rejection of this part of myself does me no good. Y'know? I think I've found the key. Now, what the hell am I going to do about it?

Image note: Botticelli pen and ink drawing of the Circles of Hell c.1480–1495


BitterGrace said...

For what it's worth, I've always found that the best way to ease anger and hurt is to contemplate my utter insignificance. It's very freeing, but that might just be me.

Also in the FWIW department, I'd point out that at least you are aware of your baggage and trying to find a way to deal with it. That alone puts you way ahead of the pack. What more can we ask of ourselves?

Julie H. Rose said...

I think this is one piece of advice I won't take for, ironically (?), my father has told me repeatedly that "we are all utterly insignificant." "Repeatedly" is too small a word for the amount of time I've heard that phrase. Now, as an adult I can understand this, but as a child, it was very damaging (along with everything else). I think finally accepting that I'm angry really is the way. I've been countering my anger through right action most of my adult life. I'm not going to stop doing that (most likely), but I will give voice to the rage. The only person I act it out on is myself, which is hurting me, to say the least.

Thanks for your nice words. Yeah, most folks are rather blind to their baggage. Being aware of it is a nasty business, though I'm having a bit of fun w/ it right now. There's something freeing about saying "I am an asshole" when I really am pretty darned nice to people. But yes, in some ways I am a total jerk. Yippee!

Abigail said...

Very humorous! But then humor often comes from anger or pain, I think. I can relate to what you have said here and admire your insight and articulation. I'm enjoying your blog immensely.