Personal reflections

Only Human

“Enjoy the pain, it’s yours for a while, girl
Don’t run away, your fear, you’re getting older
We are relying on you and your emotion
And as you go, promise of being bright –
Where did you go, my dear, don’t slip away now
It’s going slow, unclear, but you’re alive now
Don’t be alone in the news, it’s mediocre
We’re going home, I promise, so go and try –
And then the symptom is that you want to be the best that you could be
Trust none and be no other than the way you seem when they’re looking
Outrun the system while you dry eyes and keep your knees from moving
High strung and innocent, moving worlds, barely.” –Veela

To be human is an irreconcilable experience. I tell myself that every day, but it doesn’t seem to make it any easier to deal with. The thing is, nobody put us humans here to experience this life. We’re just animals, and there are a lot of us, and we have delusions of grandeur that somehow we’ll save each other. But we won’t. And that irreconcilable notion – the one that ultimately, we are heading toward destruction as a planet, and will likely never interact with any species that may have evolved on other planets, much less communicate with the other animals that we share similar DNA with, much less solve the immediate problems facing humanity like war and poverty – makes it very difficult to write.

Each morning, I write a blog post. Each morning, I save it as a draft. That, or I work on my book or on the longer essays I have planned for the blog. Lately I’ve been so existential about the magnanimity of these things I’m passionate about, I can hardly get out a full sentence. I can blame my depression and anxiety and chronic pain, but these are common to the human experience as well. Helping each other get through this life, and stay alive against the crushing weight of life, is the whole point of creating anything, and that includes writing.

The song I opened this post with has been a comfort to me for many years now. It perfectly describes for me what my writing is about – people have heard my story, want to read it, want to read about the myriad of things I care about saying, and that, to me, means that my emotion is worth something. Processing my emotions has always led to improved writing. It just hurts a lot, and means a lot of crying. Even now, the words are halting and I’m struggling to develop each new thought. Why don’t I just go work on one of my bigger essays? Well, because I’ve been feeling existential about it all – and I’m stabbing around in the dark with making ends meet. I’m so grateful to my Patreon supporters for funding me so well this year, and I need that growth to keep up so that I can rely more heavily on my blog. If you would like to pledge a dollar or more per month, you can check out the Patreon here. Please, if you can’t spare anything, do not pledge – as always, I want to make sure people are giving out of excess instead of obligation.

Anyway. Back to the point of being human. Over the past few months, I’ve been meditating on my chronic pain, and it has significantly changed how I relate to myself. Meditation is a bit overrated, I must say, because the expectations of those who practice are often unrealistic. Over and over, the recording said not to expect freedom from pain, but a change in the mental relationship with pain. Now I don’t resist it as much, and can recognize that the pain is a part of me. Not separate from my being, but part of the body I’m inhabiting. So often we separate ourselves from the negative aspects of our experience, thinking “this isn’t real, this isn’t happening to me, it’s happening to somebody else.”

This is the essence of dissociation, and it’s something I’m so practiced in, I still dissociate dozens of times a day. It was what I used to tune out the the screams, to tune out my own small body when it was being spanked. It was what I used to survive. Now I’m unlearning the survival techniques that I developed in my most malleable stage of life. Accepting what is real, and what is actually happening, is a frustratingly infinitesimal change. Life does not welcome the mindful with open arms. It provides countless physical and emotional pains, pricking at the mindful practitioner to constantly remind them they can never escape life’s reality again.

I’m terrified of accepting reality. I’m more terrified, though, of bypassing it. That’s why I’ve taken to exploring the human experience – the psychology of recovery, understanding how this animal body emerged from an evolutionary tree spanning millions of years – and am challenging myself to accept facts. Even if they make me feel so deeply alone in the universe, even if it makes my pain seem small that nobody can feel it but me. Even if it takes me off the pedestal of what being human used to mean. I was taught that to be human is to be sinful and in need of a savior. That’s what I believed, because everyone in my whole world believed it and told me it was true. Now I know that to be human is to be in a constant state of need for compassion – not from God, but from ourselves.

I am only human, which means I am weak, a pain-wracked suit of flesh and bone, a trauma-damaged brain that reacts to red flags that aren’t there, and have very little control over my body. I am only human, which means I don’t have the power to singlehandedly fix the world. I’m not even sure if a group of very committed humans can pull it off, either. But it sure is easier to know that something isn’t out there, infinite and all-powerful, holding the solutions to human dissonance aloof. I am only human, which also means I can create whole worlds and write an almost endless number of books and essays. I don’t always feel that positive side of it, but I know it’s always there, because as I figure out how to express myself, the words will flow.

Accepting myself as human is hard. It is, after all, irreconcilable and was never meant to be any different. There was nothing “meant” about the existence of life on this planet at all, as far as we know. But accepting that life is unacceptable, that I can do. It is the only thing that makes sense. When I say that I am only human, and I struggle to write, and I struggle to make ends meet, and I struggle to make my emotions work right, and my words don’t always work, and my brain sometimes feels like it’s falling outside the side of my head, I am confessing to what I am trying to accept about myself.

It’s okay to be in pain. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay if the art doesn’t flow. It’s okay if the work is crushingly difficult, and I feel like things shouldn’t be as they are. That’s human. I’m only human.