A long time ago, in what now seems like another life, I published a magazine. Aimed at the mentally fragile (people like me), it promoted creativity for emotional wellbeing and self-development. At one point near the beginning, before it had begun to really take shape, before it was much of anything really, I asked my partner if he could help me to think of a name: he works in advertising and writes for a living, or used to before he decided to jack it all in and have a complete career change, and is used to having to brand things so I figured, in terms of heads and two being better than one, that his was probably better than most. And besides… being my other half, he wouldn’t judge or laugh if my own ideas were off. Wonky Triangle was his idea, based on the concept that triangles are supposed to be perfect, all measurable angles and straight lines, all neat and contained; and people, especially fragile ones, are not. Wonky, on top of being impossible (or supposedly, depending on how you view obtuse angles and the like), was all wrong because it was different and broken. Triangles cannot be wonky or crooked: it’s not in their makeup. It also wasn’t in mine to call my magazine after something negative, or to focus on the bad stuff. Inside Out, the name I eventually chose after much deliberation, fitted much better, encouraging individuals to turn their own insides out in order to positively express what was trapped or hidden, thereby bringing new meaning and value to things that were previously challenging or, because of the element of unknown attached, simply too daunting and cognitively painful to contemplate. Containing articles, workshops, exercises, interviews, examples, images and pieces of poetry and prose submitted by readers, it provided a platform for creative individuals to express themselves openly and honestly and to, perhaps for the first time, be seen by others who might not just understand and empathise but also learn and grow by way of sharing. But for me, on the other-hand, it, the ‘wonkiness’, felt quite apt. I am ‘wonky’ and ‘broken’ and kind of impossible; impossible in the sense that I am often my worst enemy, the wall blocking the way. And life tends to get on top of me and pile up: little things becoming enormous and enormous ones gigantic, until it’s all too much and, overwhelmed, I collapse. Like a triangle with slanted edges and angles that don’t match, I present numerous unnecessary challenges that must then be deconstructed in order to be rebuilt.
Today is such a trippy, slippy, bricky, hurdlesome day. In fact: every day, or most days since the beginning of November, have presented as such. And if I’m honest, then every or most days for a long while before that. It has been bumpy few years, in which I have ridden the waves and clung on tight, gripping hard to wooden edges for fear of sinking or falling in, wondering constantly about the location of the horizon and the proximity of land.
The solution for now and the one I have adopted for some time, the one that works as a plaster but fails as a cure, is to write and to make. Expressing how I am feeling, either in word or in image, in ink or in yarn, is cathartic, bringing meaning to the stuff that gets trapped. When I think about other people seeing it, it helps: the isolation shrinks, the dark hole is a little less daunting, the beast that growls becomes quieter and more benign. After all: Beauty befriended hers and look what happened… he turned into a prince. Mine isn’t that accommodating, but he does brush his teeth and file his claws and run a comb through his hair once in a non-too-infrequent while, toning the frightful down a notch.
Drawing for the first time in over a year on Thursday – a birthday treat, albeit one that arguably backfired because the instigator wasn’t quite so accommodating as I had anticipated – I was rewarded with a glimpse of something that had been there but there hiding. It started with an eye, which became a face, which became a disembodied girl with long flowing hair, which became leaves and weeds. In place of her body, there was a hanger; holding, instead of clothes, letters. Her eyes were wide and terrified. Her cheeks were on fire. Her mouth was a startled ‘O’. Her hair was all tangled and drag-you-down weighty, like it was trying to make you drown. And the words spelt out things like ‘Chaos’ and ‘Cry’. It’s a strange image, half intriguing and inviting, half scare you away. I worked on her all day, and ever since I’ve run.
Pulling her out again this morning, laying her on the table before me, sitting and staring, silent and still, I attempted once again to summon some compassion and empathy for this hideous thing that was, by all accounts, supposedly me. We are all of our characters, both in stories and in dreams, in images and in conversations. We are everything that we think, everything that we say, everything that we do. So I am her and she is me and we are meant to love each other. Only I don’t love me and I don’t love her and I don’t think she loves me or herself either. So we are in a fix. And anyway, navigating more than my fair share of turbulent waters and tight bends, I have enough on my plate for now. All I can manage is to carry on and to respect myself enough not to overly antagonise what is already brittle by not forcing things that don’t feel right. I shall draw again. I shall finish her. But I shall not torture myself by returning to the ingracious instigator who, on my birthday of all days, so pained me, because I have better things to do with my time and, already, I have wasted enough.
by Rebecca L. Atherton
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