I’m working on a text about art and creativity right now, and part of that text is about the holes in life. Those plunges one makes from time to time. Or at least I do. And I usually refer to these periods as being ‘in the hole’. A dark, lonely and very nasty place to be. These days I usually manage to keep these visits short, I’ve had enough practice climbing up to have developed a certain proficiency by now, but even a short stay is unpleasant enough.
The biggest problem with being in the hole though, are the distorted perspectives. Things just look really different from down there. Twisted and weird. And it’s almost as if logic isn’t able to reach you when you’re there. Everything takes on distorted proportions, becomes enormous, monstrous, unsurpassable hurdles and even simple household chores morph into Sisyphean tasks. It’s all just a big, gargantuan mess of shit piling up threatening to fall down and crush you. But on some level you still know it’s all because you’re in the hole, that it’s just the perspective fucking with your head. And that’s when shame sets in. Because if you know, you should be able to just shake it, right? But you can’t. And therefore, you suck. That’s the summary of how the whole situation looks from down there. You suck.
So obviously you have to shut up about it, because if you tell anyone, then they will also realize you suck and getting external confirmation on that would pretty much guarantee that the shit will indeed fall down and crush you. And that’s why you start pretending, putting on an act, but being in the hole with the whole perspective distortion going on, you’re not really able to pull it off. The performance as your preferred version of yourself doesn’t turn out very convincing. In fact, all you manage to pull off, is an unreliable, slightly erratic and rather grumpy version of your least preferred self. You don’t return calls, you don’t respond to emails and when people confront you with it you make up vague excuses about having “been busy”. Yeah, right… You make promises to show up somewhere and then break them by staying home because you just can’t face the outside world. Sometimes you won’t even call, or send a simple sms, because you just can’t think of an excuse that sounds legitimate. Yes, you’ll do, or rather neglect to do, pretty much anything, except telling the truth. Not even a direct question will make you fess up to the real situation. Even a conversation dealing with the exact issues that contributed to the plunge will be had without the slightest hint to your current subterranean position. No matter what, the statement will always be: “it’s all good.” Everything is, or will be, in the very next moment, just fine. There is absolutely nothing wrong/nothing to worry about, it will all be fine. It is all fine. Everything is fine.
But it’s not. Everything is one massive fucking chaos where nothing looks like it’s supposed to and there’s a gigantic pile of all kinds of really heavy shit that’s about to crash down right on top of you at any minute and grind you into pathetic meat sauce. It’s so fucking far from fine it could possibly be. And yet, you don’t say anything about it. You just clench your fists and try your best to force your face into something, at least vaguely, resembling a smile.
It’s not until you’ve managed to start crawling your way up again that you’ll be able to spit out statements faintly resembling the truth. When the perspectives are slowly going back to normal and things start making a bit of sense again. Because then you realize that unless you say something, people will think you are even crazier than you actually are. Or to put it differently: they will think you suck even more than you actually do. Because most people are really pretty empathic. Especially friends. In fact, they will usually tell you that you should have said something when you were actually down there, that it would have been fine for you to do that, that they would have understood. And now, when you’re almost up again, you realize that what they are saying does indeed make sense and that they actually mean it. So you promise you’ll act differently next time, next time you’ll be honest and just come right out and say it. But as you make this promise, there’s a small voice in your head that breaks into hysterical laughter. And like an echo from the depths of the hole you hear: “Yeah right, loser!”
Because that’s the problem. When you are down there, in the darkness of the hole, reason doesn’t really apply. It can’t reach you down there. And even though you actually know that your friends won’t think you’re an idiot for having taken another fall, when you’re down there, in the hole, you don’t really believe it. So the likelihood of you being able to act in any other way is, at best, pretty slim. It’s like some twisted catch 22 kind of situation. “How are you?” Well if I’m good, I’ll tell you the truth, but if I’m not, I will lie. One might think asking is quite pointless. And maybe it is, but my friends keep asking anyway. Just like I do with them. Because maybe, one day, we’ll be able to overcome the idiot voice yelling that we suck. And if we don’t, then at least we can talk about it after the fact and I suppose that’s progress to, to be able to actually acknowledge the fact that the hole exists and that we all make occasional visits there.
So what does any of this actually have to do with art and creative labour? Well, when you’re in the hole, that’s pretty much the only thing you can do, the only thing that’s still possible. Of course you’ll think everything you do is utter shit, but you’ll do it anyway just because it’s the only thing that actually helps. All that chaos has to be channeled somehow and art is the only thing that works. Your only shot at eventually struggling yourself out of there. And that’s why I’m thinking the hole is a relevant aspect of my investigations into the land of art and creativity. More to come on that. Right now I’m busy explaining why I fell off the earth for a while…
feed the heads of others:
loving this wholly and completely.
thank you 🙂
I have a schitzophrenic friend and the opposite advice seemed to help, sort of. Like him, when in a hole of my own I would not cover up, but answer honestly – and that can be as bad sometimes. Then when he did it, I recognised how we used the simple question “How are you?” as a springboard for a monologue that dragged the person asking into the gravitational vortex surrounding us. Their only options were to be sucked into the hole or to run a mile. So one day I had to tell him, “Next time I ask you how you are, just try saying “Fine thanks. How are you?””. He did, and it became our private joke. He would actually crack into a smile every time we exchanged that ridiculous pleasantry. If I ask and he scowls and looks away and starts making animal noises, I just say “Oi!” and I see the sunshine cross his face again as he sheepishly replies. “Fine thanks, how are you?”
Yeah, that’s the other side of it I suppose, sometimes you really don’t want to know. On the other hand, not asking would then do the trick too… But sounds like your private joke thing was indeed a good thing.
Very nice description of the social dynamics involved when we take a plunge… In fact, it was so capturing I did not realize I was on the wrong bus during the whole read. Now I am trying to find an alternative route back…
oups… well, really happy you liked the text and hope you’ll find your way back! 🙂