No End in Sight
Hello dear friends and followers,
I can't believe it. It's almost August. Seems like 2019 was just a few weeks ago, yet somehow also a lifetime ago.
I have been quiet lately. I all but left Facebook, scaled back other internet activities, and have dedicated most of my days to reading, listening, learning, drawing, and writing. As a creator, and especially as a cartoonist, time is a blessing and a curse. While it's frustrating that everything I do takes so much time to leave my fingertips and land in yours, it's also a wonderful opportunity to make sure I make art just the way I want to. I am by no means a perfectionist, and I believe we never really finish anything, but I have an internal dialogue constantly going, asking me not "is it finished?" but rather, "is it ready?" This attitude is a manifestation of patience, which you probably feel is running out quickly. I don't blame you, I feel the same.
This whole year is a test of patience, of humility. Who knew that a microscopic virus could bring the global economy to its knees? I was and still am just baffled. The reason I've virtually isolated myself (literally and figuratively) is that I eventually realized I just didn't know how to speak anymore. I didn't know how to express the constant exhaustion without sounding self-serving. I didn't know how to answer the question "How are you?" For a few weeks, the answer was "depressed." I mean, really, what luck! I'll be 26 soon, I finally finished college, I work in the service industry during a global pandemic, and I'm working through a hearty cocktail of trauma, substance abuse, and anxiety in therapy-- I'm not surprised by the constant headaches.
For a month or two, I stopped drawing completely. I didn't have it in me. I played video games for hours, ate like shit and drank too much. A part of me quit, but as usual my body didn't tolerate it for long. I have slowly rebuilt my stamina and strength, emotionally and physically. My daily yoga practice has become an expectation, not an exasperation. I'm up relatively early, with coffee and a fresh to-do list. The days feel less like a cycle on repeat, and more like a string of events leading somewhere. I know all of this leads somewhere, deep down I understand that this world will change. We will not live in a COVID-age forever. Eventually, it will be post-COVID, but that time is still a ways away.
That was another reason I stopped engaging as much on social media. Arguing about COVID is like arguing with an atheist: I don't actually care what you believe, I just care that people are dying. And what my personal responsibility is in that scenario.
Since I first developed dysthymia, as I was going through my natural cycles of change, i.e. puberty, existential crises, eating disorders, high school, alcohol, smoking, birth and rebirth, I have struggled with patience. This patience, as I mentioned earlier, is slowly running out, and I am trying to refill the pool from which it draws. In quarantine, that's been my biggest focus. Through my art, through meditation, through the loneliness and the yearning, patience has become more than a trait, but a philosophy, a direction, a key.
Back in high school, my mentor/father figure shared with me a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, in his Letters to a Young Poet.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions.
For nearly a decade, I've returned to this quote over and over, because when I first read it as a pretentious teen, I didn't understand it, but I pretended to, and found my own definition (obviously that's not the point, but it helped, okay?) I remember being so frustrated with the part about not finding the answers. Like, who doesn't want the answers? I was impatient.
It wasn't until many years later that Rilke's real intention started to shine through. And I realized how little the answers matter to me. When I stopped going to church, when I stopped trying to fall in love, when I stopped forcing myself down a career path I didn't want, when I stopped trying to be the person everyone convinced me I was, I realized I had answers I didn't like, and the real answer? Totally up to me. I can force my own answer, sure, but is that really going to work? The answer is based on the question, speaking existentially of course. Anyone can do math, but where are you getting the variables? That, too, defines the answer.
That's when I figured out what the hell Rilke was talking about. Who gives a shit about the answer? I renounced my faith, because, honestly, who gives a shit if God is real? I still read philosophy, but not because I need to know the meaning of life, but because it's an entertaining thought experiment. Some people have said some not so nice things about me because, honestly, not giving a shit pisses some people off. Being intellectually neutral (while still having an opinion) is bizarre to many. But I digress.
I got sick of the COVID arguments, of the political brouhaha, of the Kanye's and the Elon's. I just didn't fuckin care what people are up to. Why should I? I was out of patience. The answers were voided. This is the double edged sword of apathy. It's important to exercise restraint, because too much of anything is usually very bad. So I shift my focus, the paradigm, the energy, into something I believe is actually worth my time.
And it all comes full circle in some strange way. Because what I didn't mention, back when I was still desperately looking for answers, I attempted to do that through a book. A novel, which I wrote, beginning to end. Edited, workshopped, pitched, and ultimately abandoned. And as this long, drawling period of isolation, depression, and uncertainty tightens its grip, I find myself coming back to this story. The title is June, For Short. It was a book, but it will be a full length fuckin graphic novel. I've made that commitment.
My body actually rejected my first attempt to go back to it. The night I decided to start working on it again, I shot up, out of my sleep, to call myself a dumbass for ever thinking it was a good idea that anyone would ever want to read. When I woke up the next morning, I still felt a heavy cloud of doubt, and I dragged my feet through it, until the cloud dissipated slightly and I felt that I was going the right way. I still have my doubts, as this story is definitely drudging up some teenage memories I'd rather forget, but I am learning to confront my reality, accept it, love it, and be patient with myself. So, about 8 years after I began the story, I'm going at it once more with no holds barred.
Here's a small, silent excrept. A quick moment I will never forget in the story. The Virgin Mary wearing lipstick.
Who the hell knows how long it will take me to finish this book (or series of books?) but there is some good news...
I'll be releasing a comic in August. Probably. It's a short, 32-page comic you've no doubt heard of by now (I mean, if you're reading this, there are plenty of people who haven't heard of it) called I Don't Want to be Famous. And since I can't go to any shows, it will obviously be available for purchase online. I will let you know when that is.
After that, I start working on this insane project. June, for Short.
The title is so deeply ingrained in my brain. It's had that title for years, and I really hope I can get it to a point where I'm ready to share it with you guys.
I'm also working on some minis, some freelancing, and some commissions.
To wrap this all up, here's a few more updates on my life:
I had a dream that all my teeth fell out, so I've started flossing again
I'm regularly buying myself fresh-cut flowers, they're the bright point of my day
I'm really into puzzles now
The best movie I watched in quarantine so far was The Ring (2002). Not because it's particularly great, but because I had the most fun I've ever had without taking my clothes off
Also watched: Succession, the Sopranos, A Boy and His Dog, Good Time, Frances Ferguson, Doctor Sleep, I, Tonya, and uhh idk a bunch of other shit I'm losing track now. Send me recommendations if you like.
My song for this post is a Bruce Springsteen song I initially thought was a Suicide song. That was a fun discovery.