THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY

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Are there people who are not afraid of pain?
Do they all live in some other country?
Are you afraid of pain?

Right now I am cosy on a train going through the treesy backwoods routes to Portland. I don’t feel much pain. I can hear pop music through the headphones of the guy sitting next to me- he’s plugged into his Dell laptop and drinking a can of beer. There’s some old fashioned looking movie playing on the TV with Gwynneth Paltrow. It has airplanes, with tinted coloring and fantasy landscapes. She’s wearing a spy style fedora. Every once in a while, Gwynneth goes upside down in one of the planes, and her blond hair flawlessly radiates around her head like smoke, or angels, or food coloring dropped in water. Usually I hate having the visual noise of a tv screen in the train, but today it seems great. I’m thankful for Gwynneth’s face and for the careful composition of every scene around her pearl white beauty. Good job guys.

The landscape outside the window is dim and misty. I feel like if I stay right here in my seat, and don’t move either my body or my mind too much, I won’t bump into any significant pain.

dear

I am getting used to being home from my tour. I am getting tuned back into everything. My body isn’t moving an average of 300 miles per day anymore. We’re getting it down to maybe 8 per day. Slowly. There is really something to be said for sitting still, for being in a familiar place. You can feel more, I think. At home, you don’t have to re-evaluate the potential danger of every single object and person you come across. You know how hot the water gets in the shower. You know which sandwich not to order. I’m serious.

On tour, with all those dangers flying at me all the time, what I do is just kind of quit noticing it all. I pretend that the danger isn’t there. That none of it has any power to cause me pain. It’s kind of like I get a running start, and go hurtling over the top of the crowd, balancing on the upstretched fingertips of all the people in the crowd, only staying aloft up there because I am moving so fast. If I slowed down and realized that it might not work, I would certainly fall right down. And that would hurt. So, no slowing down. Just run. We have to act familiar with the streets and treat them as though we know them just so that we can get to the restaurant in time. To eat a sandwich that has no power to hurt us. Now I am back home, and my bed is there waiting for me, with the layers of sheets and blankets, and all of those heavy little fingers that pull me back down and make me feel it all again.

leaves me

UUUUUNNNNNHHH. Here you are, you are here. In the body, under the blanket. The world outside is wet and terrifying.
Things hurt.

I’m making up a recipe for how to deal with it. I guess there must be recipes out there for this kind of thing, but I can’t bear to go looking in the self help section, and I’m a pretty lazy reader as it is. If a cool book came along that taught me something smart about feeling pain, I’d read it for sure. But for now, it’s coming straight out of my own head.

THE RECIPE FOR HOW TO DEAL WITH PAIN:
Well, the thing is, I think that the feeling of pain is really just the feeling of being here. I think that it feels like pain to feel my flesh rubbing against my muscles. Noting the quality of the air, and feeling a lady walk past me with her kid in tow; it feels. And my first register of it all is that it hurts. But, I don’t know, is it pain? I think that I’m so afraid that it’s pain, that I just assume that it is going to be, and leave it at that. I am terrified by being ripped apart by my feelings.

I don’t have any good recipe for dealing with pain. I am just hiding out in my bed (that same bed which enables me to feel all of it in the first place) and taking little baths, and wrapping myself up in my coat and walking around alone. I call my friends on the phone and let myself be where they are for a little while. I watch dvds of semi-entertaining shows, like ‘Popular”. I am trying to stay small.

work

I don’t know. I am thinking about these things. I am being ambiguous about the sources of the pain, because I guess they feel shady to me right now. Shapeless and hovering. Just a big, sad, scary world, in which I have no girlfriend to comfort me. Just that. Just me, alone in the big scary world. The basics.

I want to pump up, and feel strong. I want to be the kind of person who could sit in prison for twenty five years for some political charges and still feel hope. I want to have a soft home inside of myself where I know how to handle pain and weirdness without shutting down or ignoring it. I want to be able to process it into kindness and clear vision. Right now I just don’t have that. Not yet. It all still really terrifies me.

My friend Ariana Jacob made this poster in honor of my birthday, and put it up around New York. This poster is helping. But I’m not ready for work right now. Now is the time to rest, and to hang on to the small feelings of comfort and safety that I have, to my basic tender belief in people. That people try. That people want to be good, even though it’s hard, even though they so often just can’t really do it. I know that the things that look so ugly to me, so terrifying and devil-like and horrible, I know that they are just the manifestations of other people’s pain. Just big ugly sculptures that nobody knows how to deal with.

For now I’m just hanging on. Trying to just feel the pain instead of feeling afraid of it.

December 8, 2004

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