There’s this artist on Instagram that I really admire named Michael Lipsey. He does photo collages, usually a cut-out figure over a watercolor background, with an epigram written in black ink in word bubbles. The one I am most fond of has a moody, dark purple sky, with blue mountains in the background and a small green and brown foreground. There is a woman with dark black hair, a crowish face, a white dress and a flower crown. She has a posed, sultry/sad look on her face, and could quite easily be a famous indie singer I don’t recognize. The speech bubble floating above her head reads: “Haven’t you punished yourself enough for your insignificant little sins?”
Haven’t you? I have. A thousand times over. I am trying to find forgiveness within myself right now. But Lipsey also has one, that while less physically beautiful, also speaks to me. The text on this one reads: “No need to blame yourself for things that aren’t your fault — the things that are will suffice.” And I suppose my question is, How do you know what is your fault and what isn’t? And also, Does it matter? We are told all the time that the only people who can make us happy are ourselves, and so therefore a certain degree of selfishness must be required, no? But how much is the right amount? When do we excuse our words and actions, when do we explain them away, and when do we acknowledge we fucked up? I don’t know.
What do you do with your mistakes? My mother says to sit with them. But she also absolves me of them so easily. My mother is a therapist, as I love to mention. This means, or at least I like to think it does, that I have a broader understanding of the way mine and others’ minds work, and how people interact. Not a perfect understanding, by any means, but somewhat more of an awareness, or at least the knowledge that nothing is stand-alone. I don’t know that that has translated into better self control, as I so often say and do things I later (or immediately) hate.
She can very easily explain away my bad behavior by not calling it bad behavior. Instead she’d call it reacting emotionally, or speaking from a young, hurt place, or being honest. And sometimes she’s right. Often, I suppose. But the part I then struggle with is that other people also have all these parts and complications, and we interact. And, you know, not always so well. My feelings can cause others’ feelings (though my mother also tells me I can’t make anyone feel anything).
One point she’s made to me recently that I really liked is that you cannot learn from any mistakes you may have made without first processing the hurt from them. There needs to be a degree of distance in order to implement change or, indeed, even make an informed decision as to whether you did make the mistakes you think you made. Maybe you didn’t make any. Maybe you made mistakes, but not the ones you’re thinking of. Maybe you’re spot-on. But you won’t know that right away. You’ve just gotta sit with it, till it starts to subside a bit.
But it’s so hard, no? We are such emotional creatures. We’re full of them, bursting bags of paint walking around all day, colors leaking everywhere. Another of Lipsey’s works I enjoy reads: “Our own language is a foreign tongue when we’re unable to express what we are feeling.” Ain’t that the truth. People are all so, so different and confusing. I don’t understand any of them and they don’t understand me. But at the same time we have so much more in common with each other than, say, frogs. You can’t talk to a frog. You can’t create with a frog. You can’t fight with a frog. You can’t get to know a frog, its passions and interests. You can’t kiss a frog. (Well, OK, you can do that. I wouldn’t recommend it, though — it could turn into a man!)
Disconnect makes me crazy. It makes me want to yell and hurt and be hurt and be seen and be told, “Hey, I see all this awful stuff about you and all this great stuff about you and actually neither the great or awful matter. You are just you. You will always be just you. That’s all you can be. And I see that. I see you. You can stop doing so much now, striving for acceptance constantly, always, over and over again, because I see you.”