I have two sets of anxieties. The first will be familiar to most of you. What if I never fulfill my potential? How long do I have left to achieve my dreams? Why should any of it matter? I would categorise these fears as ‘night time anxiety’, the sort of creeping existential dread that keeps you awake at night. Ever since I’ve been aware of my own approaching death these have plagued me. But ever since I went therapy, I have accepted them.
The other type of anxieties run the whole spectrum of what’s left. Did I lose my keys? Will my phone run out of battery right before an important call? Does my hair look stupid today? I would categorise all of these as ‘life’. There is no accepting them, so constantly in flux, so unmeasured in their effect on me from one day to the next. Plus, they don’t matter. That’s the secret. They don’t matter. I did not awake to this realisation, transformed from a Gregor Samsa-esque monstrosity to a Buddhist monk. It happened slowly. In fact, considering I’d been that way my whole life it actually took a quarter of a century.
The process that led me to this point started unconsciously around the beginning of 2013. I had been in a new relationship for around a year after one lasting five. In those five years I had laden myself with all sorts. Physical and emotional bad habits. Toxic perceptions of myself and others. And a tangled mess of anxieties.
In the interim I got low, right down to the bottom of myself. Joseph Campbell calls this moment the Belly Of The Whale. I saw the ideas I had of myself from a new vantage point. I killed Darth Vader, only to remove his helmet and find my own face. From here I started my road of trials, a road which when I look back at it seems easily travelled. My meeting with the Goddess was a realisation that the past is the past, that despite the story circle I was not destined to repeat anything I did not want to. I saw the things that had happened to me not as a series of links in a chain keeping me locked to the scared child I always thought myself to be, but as a path to the point I had reached and beyond. From here I began to shed a lot as I walked.
From my early teens I have been overly concerned with the collecting of useless things, including emotions. I had a minor compulsion to collect that took no joy from any aspect of the action or the outcome. Books, movies, records, all began to pile high, as did notes, photographs, ticket stubs and the ephemera of my life that was barely of interest to me let alone potential biographers. In the last few months however I have dramatically downsized my posessions. Previously I had been called “sentimental”, accused really, of something I thought of as at least not a fault. But the barb stuck and I examined the wound it left, which remained raw for some time due to my constant peeling and poking. This self examination brought me to a realisation that I would send to my past self, if there were any way, to save us both a lot of time. The collection, some would say hoarding, of personal artifacts, in some attempt to create a museum exhibit of yourself, is a fruitless endeavour.
Owning a lot gave me an anxiety that bridged a gap between the existential and the mundane. I wondered wether I deserved it all, had earned it, was fulfilling the potential it all had. And for the most part my things just sat there, unexamined, unused. So I decided to get rid of them. I had no use for things that were symbolic of a time in my life or a version of myself long dead. They had collected like pennies at the bottom of a well, each possession a wish that it would change the person I was just simply by owning it. I know now how stupid I was to think that was possible.
I have known for a long time that in terms of art, I took more joy from the process than the product. What I didn’t know was that I was my own greatest work. No simple collection of memorabilia could describe a life lived. No artifact left behind could ever be me. My life is my masterpiece. Like Picasso’s ‘Bull’ I started off defined and realistic, a projection of an idea of myself that I thought others would respond to with warmth. But over time I was abstracted with new ideas of myself and changed into the grotesque, a period in my life where my weakness made me feel like a failure, a mistake. The angles seemed wrong, contorted in on myself, at once self loathing and misanthropic. But again change took place. My inconsistencies fell by the wayside, as did all embelishments. I became the simplest version of myself, a matchstick man. And it is not because I gave my records away, or minimised my consumerism. It is because I opted out of the game. I no longer pay the social tax to whatever governs my self esteem. I have become uncaring of myself in relation to others. What does it have to offer me? I still enjoy the company of my friends, I still love my girlfriend. I have become self centred and what’s wrong with that.
All of my music is available for free download at my bandcamp. 4 albums. 3 EPs. A whole bunch of other stuff. Click the picture and get it.