“So it is better to speak
We were never meant to survive.”
-Audre Lorde “A Litany For Survival”
I saw this quote today in one of those literary tattoos people are getting these days. I’m sure in the context of the poem it’s meant to say, “Speak up, because we’ve survived things we weren’t meant to escape from.” The way I interpret it, however, disembodied from it’s larger context, is to mean literally, “Speak up. Life is one hundred percent fatal.”
There are times I regret being so open and vocal and expressive, reflecting my own inner world in my writing for random people to peruse and assimilate or desecrate according to their whims.
There are times I also regret not speaking my truth. Because life is short. And I’ve worked so hard for so long to even be where I am now. My path is different from your path. Your path is different than another person’s path.
A lot of times, we exist behind our own blinders of should’s and shouldnt’s. I grew up believing I could never in this life be perfect, was always wrong, was fallen from grace and would never until the second coming obtain anything like glory.
My father taught me growing up that imperfection is perfect in its own weird way. Because the world keeps going on, regardless. And we are each on our own individual paths. And somehow it all works out even though we bumble along, making mistakes. But is there really any such thing as a mistake? We all have to learn our own lessons for ourselves, by ourselves.
When I was growing up, I was taught I had to teach people by example, that I should be a good example, which meant following a prescribed code of conduct given to me by an external fear-motivated system of a religious institution. Everything in black and white lines.
I’ve come to the conclusion lately that nothing at all is black and white. Society exists as it does because we’ve agreed as a community up to this point that a lot of the things we do to keep it functioning work. When things break down, we overthrow it, usually, and try something new, whether it works or not. When I make a decision, it’s usually based on the person I am at the moment and the lessons I’ve assimilated up to that point.
I am not better than another person because of the choices I make. There is nothing saying that I am a teacher if I follow a certain path. People teach me all the time, people doing things that I’ve been told were bad or wrong or only lead to heartache, things that I myself have chosen not to do based on them not working for me in my life. What’s good for one isn’t necessarily good for another. One belief system doesn’t fit all.
So you tell me, who is teaching who here? In all our glorious imperfections, in all our madness, we are still moving along trying our hardest to each eke out a margin of space for ourselves in this world, a place where we belong. Battles are fought over time. Slowly. Each step moving us towards or away from our current conquests.
I am striving in my life to speak up and not hide things anymore. Not in the sense of confessing like religions tell you you must do in order to be a decent person. I mean more that I want to tell the people I love how I feel about them while they and I are still here. I want to share my creations with other people more than I have up until this point. I want to keep learning to not protect others from my truth, even if it is different from theirs.
Because life is short. I could die tomorrow. I want the people I love to know I love them, I want the music I made to be heard, and I want the words I’ve written to mean something to someone. But first, I have to put it all out there, no matter how difficult and raw and nerve wracking it is.
I think one meaning of life really is simply to become our own selves. And who that is is buried underneath conventions and instructions and condescension and should-have could-have would-haves we’ve been indoctrinated with our whole lives through family, friends, systems, churches, advertising, etc.
Another meaning of life, if we choose it, is to be happy. And happiness is often an internal job. External circumstances inevitably change. People change. Places change. Things break or fall apart. Money comes and goes. But striving to see past our own internal belief systems, seeing the beauty in the little things every single day, whether our life is currently where we want it to be or not…these are things I’m noticing help with the anxiety of not knowing about what our art means or how it will connect with those around us. Everything starts within us and branches out.
I don’t think we even realize the power we have to connect and affect people through our creations. If we knew, we might hide under a rock. That shit’s kind of scary to think about. I’ve talked to people who’ve had the same experience as me: Hearing some music they loved and seeking it out to the point they ended up working with the people who created it. Fantasizing about something and finding it’s suddenly become reality. This stuff happens every day. What we believe is what we see.