I’ve been in a funk lately. There was 0 creativity, 0 writing (except for endless pages of journals) and 100% feeling stuck, disconnected, uninspired. I’ve been thinking about how happy I was writing years ago and how…not happy that it’s been for years and years. I’ve been wondering if I’m just…a facade. This fake, hollow, empty faberge egg of vapid materialism and pretty words. Have I even actually changed, or am I just a miserable person with better adjectives and adverbs? Am I just an older stereotype of the angsty tomboy? It’s gotten so “bad”, I’ve been on a Nirvana kick, and that’s just about as dark as I go.
If I measure my mental health in 90s grunge (and who doesn’t?), Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins are “happy”, Soundgarden and STP are introspective and tending towards depression, Alice In Chains is depression, and Nirvana is despair.
Which, is actually hilarious bc from a Buddhist perspective, there is no difference between Nirvana and despair. Nirvana is the band I listen to when I’m so broken, I don’t have words for it. Nirvana, the Buddhist concept, directly translated is actually “phew” a release, a surrender, giving up, and letting go. It is despair. It’s not heaven, or at least, not clouds, bearded folks, and harps. It’s your ever present reality, with the wisdom that all is as it is meant to be. To achieve enlightenment, in the Buddhist sense, is to realize that you’re it. There is no achievement. There’s nothing to strive towards. There’s nothing to fight for or against because life is a perpetual game of “why are you hitting yourself?!” It is what you make of it, and you can laugh, cry, or whatever. You’re it. Nirvana as a band and a Buddhist concept have taught me despair and redemption are two sides of the same coin.
Nirvana has always been this music I turn to when I got nothing to lose and I feel like there’s nothing to gain either. Hopeful Despair? I remember playing Lithium on repeat and sobbing and laughing hysterically the day I started lithium. I was fresh out of my hospitalization for the psychotic break. It was an all time new low for me, and yet in another complete destruction – where can I go but up? (Until I go back down.) Psychosis helped me stop being so scared of being crazy cause I was crazy, and suddenly I was free to stop trying to be sane. That’s what Lithium the song helped me see while Lithium the medicine made it fade to grey and mush. And this new funk brought me back to Nirvana and gave me all the answers I already knew.
I was laughing then because everything he said made such perfect poisonous sense. “I’m so happy, cause today I found my friends, they’re in my head…” call it whatever you want, I have so many voices in my head and they can eat me alive or convince me I am a god. Whatever those voices stem from and whatever diagnosis I can have, Lithium and every other medicine damn near killed me, they didn’t quiet the voices nor did the diagnoses I desperately sought help me. It was another label, another facade, another egoic thing.
It’s like, the character of Kurt Cobain and the reality of Kurt Cobain – that sums up my never ending existential crises – who the hell am I in here, because none of them are real. If I was in a room with all the people who knew me, I don’t know what me to be. Sometimes, it’s really liberating to know you’re just a character, and sometimes it’s so easy to get lost in the labyrinth of the mind. On the best days, I can paint it to words and emotions, on the worst, I wonder why I keep hitting myself. (Metaphorically) In all truth, the only “real” me speaks in writing, and that’s never me writing – if it’s good. Most of it is egoic noise showing all my literary prowess. It’s so rare “I” write – like I did then. It’s almost always a hero’s journey to find the space where my thumbs move and I come alive. It’s what music in general has always taught me. Paint your pain. Write out the crazy until nothing is left but your dreams, then make those come true. It is the alchemical transmutation of lead to gold, and I get that, and yet, “I can’t”. And this stagnation, this stuck, this wandering feels like hell because I know all I have to do is be. My worst efforts are trying to write or trying to get better. My best is effortless. It is the suffering of trying and the release of being. Since that day, I spent years just trying to befriend the voices in my head so that maybe the world won’t hurt so much to exist. I thought, maybe, just maybe, if I’d stop hating myself…perhaps I could…love myself? Or, perhaps most importantly: why do I give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks? Why not just be who I am at any given moment? Isn’t that really what all these voices are? Just me trying to fit into someone’s perception of me so that they’ll accept me? Playing the role assigned? It’s not that I can’t, it’s I choose not to bc “people might think _” and yet, every “successful” anybody is just who they are without caring what anyone else thinks. The trying to be vs. the being. I finally stopped being hung up on ups and downs bc my mood is what it is and wondering if I’m crazy just made me crazier. But this idea I’m supposed to not cycle, not repeat, that there’s going to be some point in my life where I achieve and maintain perfect – that’s the insanity, samsara, and shit that keeps us from Nirvana. You cannot be perfect if you’re trying to be perfect. You cannot be yourself if you’re trying to be yourself, and you cannot be friends with yourself if you’re constantly trying to be anything but yourself.
And that brings me to now, err, five minutes ago. I looked down and saw a huge spider crawling on my chest. It was a really horrifying affirmation. A) I didn’t goat faint, which I would have in any past iteration of me, B) I didn’t kill it, which I also would have, and C) I just put the spider outside and contemplated spider symbolism because that is me. Deep, introspective, seeing the world in eyes unlike others and perspectives that are mine…Spiders symbolize the creative feminine force, the intricate beautiful webs of fate, patience, receptivity, intuition. The spider was right over my heart.
I can look at all these feelings and see failure or depression or whatever…I can goat faint, I can beat myself to shit, or I can see that I’m different, so these feelings are also different. If I feel this way, it is as intended to teach me something. I can trust, I can wait, I can weave… it’s all my interpretation. If the truth of Nirvana is that samsara (suffering) and liberation/enlightenment are the same, then a spider on my chest can be the worst thing ever or a message of hope and inspiration. It’s my interpretation.
And that is always the hope that I find when I’m so hopeless. Its laughing and crying, it’s everything Kurt Cobain taught me when I was a miserable teenager who hated them so much bc they were so overplayed, and loved them so much bc they always made me feel with my brain and think with my heart as God intended.
It’s all like a spider’s web, repeating patterns, returning, weaving – all these bits and pieces I’ve picked up all through these years come together. A spider can remake her web over and over, and it’s not a failure, it’s not “here we go with this shit again” it’s just another web to get what she wants. And I suppose, it’s time for me to stop thinking and trying and start weaving again. There’s no suffering quite like trying to be anything but who you are, and there’s no liberation quite like not caring. Anyone who has ever visited rock bottom a few times can say how freeing it is to not have to pretend anymore. Or, in the words of Kurt Cobain, “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not” and “wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are”.
Funny how a chest spider, 90s grunge, and Buddhism can have so much in common. God I missed writing like this. Until next time…