I read this quote in an artsy journal a couple years ago:
The book was this Barnes & Nobles find – filled with similar quotestagraphics from famey folk (ranging from Radiohead’s lead singer to phrases like Rilke’s) and meant for the purchaser to pen in all their various mental ruminations and bad habits. A vice diary, if you will. Naturally, I gave it away as a gift (instead of putting it to good use personally), as I’ve always been quite skilled at offering good advice I refuse to take myself.
But as I pre-screened the pages and encountered this quote – it stuck with me.
Nagging at the hindquarters of my subconscious.
Why did it bother me so much?
The only thing I can gather, retrospectively, is that when I took to a spiritual path – I had this idea about who I wanted to become. If I wasn’t going to become superhuman, then I wasn’t going to stop being an asshole. What was the point? What was the point of changing if these attack thoughts, proclivities, and cravings for the wrong things didn’t get easier over time? (“I don’t want demons! I want to be perfect!”) As I proceeded with my life, trying to break out of agoraphobia, the demon-hurdles were innumerable. From the moment I awoke, the fiendish hell visitors would be perched upon me – prying my face open and barfing physical insecurities, concern about my life purpose, and – eventually – the pain of unrequited love down my throat. But while there was no passive reprieve, I’d started reading enough to “get” what I had to actively do:
Calmly acknowledge the problem so I can handle it.
(And then actually handle it. The bit most of us miss when we detour into Wallow Hollow)
It’s the same you’ve-heard-it-before routine most recovering douche nozzles of any kind undergo: “I used to be aimless, pained, and sad – now I do yoga, meditate, eat healthy, exercise twice a day, have two jobs, and go to school…” That’s nice ‘n all. But there’s a whole huge tortured story underneath that almost makes that tale at the tip seem like a lie I’m living. Because nothing about “life” has changed for me. I still awake with Satan’s spawn taunting me. The only thing that’s altered is that every day when I wake up looking at the sunrise and thinking “shit, another one of these?”, instead of riding that thought all the way back to sleep, I choose to handle it. Face that sunrise with some sun salutations. Everything – literally – everything good that I do is because I’ve learned it’s the antidote to some very, very bad feelings, thoughts, or desires I have. Why do I do yoga? Because otherwise my body hurts so bad that I want to take painkillers and waste away in bed. Why do I work two jobs – writing and healthcare? Because if I don’t create, I hate myself – and if I don’t help or connect with other people, I start to hate them. Why do I run twice a day? Because without it, the anxiety about social rejection and the prospect of dying alone in a bed of un-Dysoned dog fur makes suicide seem like the only logical option.
These things – ever nipping at my heels – are multitudinous and varied. Some are work tasks, some addictions, some bad habits like the journal I saw this quote in to start with sought to mitigate. But these demons are tantamount to the deerfly I encounter on the runs I do to flee from unease; they only bite you the moment you stop and walk. My best bug spray’s become a daily dance card that’s good and full. Sure, sometimes we need stillness to sit and meditate. I do that too, when the time is right. But, if I’m being honest, my mind’s most still when my body’s in motion. Even if it’s just through a few Hindu poses at a time on a mat.
There’s a point to this little rant, and it’s directed at those who say I’ve “changed for the better”.
That I’m happy.
Things are great.
I’m all better.
That’d be so cool if it were true. And, while you can think what you like, I kind of hate hearing that shit. Not just because it glosses over the fact that I freefall from dreams straight into a smoldering pit of screaming souls being eviscerated by 4:30 every morning. I mean, sure, there’s that. But it’s more so because it’s like an outline missing all of the letters and lowercase roman numerals. It doesn’t help anyone out who’s still stuck in that pit (sans an awareness-ladder like I’ve been given) to think I’ve gone from A to Z and that there’s a Disney fairy writing “Happily Ever After” with the credits rolling awaiting them if they do too. To be honest, that world might be really fckkng boring. It doesn’t get better – but your habitual reactions do. And, much like you feel after finishing a good workout you never even wanted to show up for, that feeling is what it’s all about.
In that way, we can (and should) be grateful for these opportunities disguised as fanged gargoyles. Because if we don’t have something to overcome, then the potential for self-validation is voided. And that validation is our closest thing to that “superhuman” feeling I’d sought setting out. The good news, though, is that if you’re willing to work hard for it, there’s no mutual exclusivity between this quote being factual versus the next level badass qualities to which I originally aspired. Comparatively speaking, this does feel superhuman. Besides, what point would superheroes serve without malevolent forces? Bruce Wayne would’ve just been another snooty cast member on Gossip Girl if he hadn’t had suffering and demons of his own to overcome – if he didn’t deal with that every day.
So, sure, we all need demons to enjoy the angels.
The idea, I suppose, is to know which winged creature to ride for how long – and when to swap.
And when you’re really good, graduate from saddling one at a time to straddling both:
Maybe I never used the pages in that journal I bought for myself.
But seeing as I’m turning my demons into dollars on this page…
… the demons, angels, and Chuck had better watch their asses.