My Gut Is A Sassy Bitch
With so many things going through my head, it's been really hard to write. Sure, I sit down most nights and peck out three or four paragraphs on the keyboard, but then I sit back and say to myself—"You're not conveying what you're feeling. Go to bed." And so I do, and the next day, I repeat the process. Sometimes I re-read the previous evening's work and say, "Hmm, this isn't as bad as I thought." But, lately, I've been letting myself down.
I love to strive for genius, even though those moments are few and far between. I'll settle for pretty good. But, average is simply not acceptable for any part of my life. Who wants a "C" in life? Well, maybe for karaoke. Being an average singer has not made me a fan favorite on karaoke night, let me tell you. But, I'm OK with that because I was born with one nostril that just stays clogged up constantly, and literally no ear for pitch, so I've just accepted I'm not a singer. Even though I dream of being able to sing amazingly well. And, even though I sometimes plan all the choreography and sets for my concert tour when, you know, I'm a famous, songstress diva. 52 costume changes doesn't seem excessive when you're so successful in your own mind. But, alas, I downloaded the Christina Aguilera Master Class for Singing and, in the first two minutes, which includes the FBI warning against duplication, she literally says, "Please consult a physician before beginning this program." She then continues, "However, if one of your nostrils is perpetually clogged, please just stop here and spare us all." Then she makes a grunting sound and the screen goes black before the title appears, cold white on a black background that, as the camera pans out, you realize see is the inside of Christina's throat. It's very dramatic. Like the singing Master Class videos I make up in my daydreams.
Well, maybe I don't have trouble writing at all. I'm exceptionally good at tangents and asides. Continuing....
Here's why I've been having trouble. It's because I've been allowing myself to get lost in the weeds. I've been writing about what I'm feeling and not about what's actually happening. I mean, they're intertwined for sure, but emotions are just physical and emotional signals that tell us we need to look at something within ourselves. Being angry, resentful or confused just means you have some inner conflict happening, and usually it's you arguing with your own gut. They're just indicators that something is right or wrong, and that we have to, or rather we should, pay attention.
And you pay attention because you need to ask yourself, "Is something wrong because someone purposely wronged me for no reason?" Because in that instance, the emotion is appropriate. Hell yeah you should get pissed if someone steals your handbag. Side note: this scenario would never happen if you'd daydreamed at least fourteen different ways to overtake a purse snatcher on the subway with ninja-like skill as I have. I'm always prepared because I was a Boy Scout for like a year and a half before they kicked me out for never having advanced above the Tenderfoot badge, which is basically the badge they give you as a "thank you" for buying the uniform. Sure, I got the Camping Skill Award and some of the other essential ones, but the Basket Weaving and Indian Lore merit badges, though not required or admired by anyone, seemed like the more fun, and ultimately more useful expenses of my time. And believe me, when you get lost in the wilderness, you'll be happy if I'm there, weaving us flip-flops out of reeds, and fancy hats garnished with native flowers, or telling you the story of Pocahontas. I apologize in advance for the fact that I actually don't remember much Indian Lore and, sadly, Pocahontas is one that I do remember. In the end she dies an awful death after being dragged back to England. (They don't cover that part in the Disney movie and, as a Virginia native that always pissed me off. Pocahontas was a bad-ass bitch. Don't sugar coat that shit.) Anyway, here I am, lost in the weeds again.
All that mental discussion I've been writing out day-after-day was just describing the symptoms, not the underlying root cause of my scattered brain, or this seemingly chaotic mix of emotions lately. And this is where trusting the gut comes in. Because one way that I've learned to trust my gut is through taking a moment to catch my breath, sit quietly and clear my mind, and then ask myself "What do you want?" or "What do you think is happening?"
The very first answer that comes back from your quieted mind is your gut. That inner voice that, regardless of how it works — whether it's your soul or just neurons buzzing around — just knows. It's almost as if someone else is actually responding, and somehow you don't remember having anything to do with coming up with the words you've just heard. Listen to it and trust that response. Because everything that comes after that immediate response is your ego...it's your brain, your immediate desires, and quite bluntly the personality you've crafted for yourself (and your fears, and your insecurities) lying to you because your gut knows something isn't right for you, or you shouldn't do something that you want to because it will have consequences. But your ego still just really want to do it.
When that happens, your mind gets to work to provide you with as many justifications as you want. For example, you might say:
"My gut is saying abc, but I think that might be just because I'm scared after xyz happened a few years ago. So maybe I shouldn't trust my gut. Maybe I'm misjudging this."
Or you might say:
"Well, why should I care? I mean, everyone does abc once in awhile." And as you're saying that, your gut is down there shaking it's head because it knows that you know that it knows that not "everyone does it,"and that, even if they did, it doesn't make it right. Your gut is down there with its hands on its hips, like:
"Fuck that noise. Stop being a baby, have some integrity, let that person go, and whatever the hell else I'm telling you to do, because, girl, you know I'm right. And you better start listening or I'm going to start playing Yanni back here in the back of your mind, where you can't turn it off. And I'm not gonna stop until all the works of Yanni have been played. And then I'm gonna start with the first live recordings of Kenny G, back when he was in middle school band, and work all the way up through his collection. Don't fuck with me, just listen."
Actually, my gut is generally a lot nicer than that. But, you get the picture. I think sometimes by the time we realize our gut was right all along, we're the ones giving ourselves side-eye for not listening AGAIN. So, at some point, just like you realize that if you go out drinking all night that you should remember to drink water or you're going to hate your very existence in the morning, you learn that you don't want to be giving yourself side-eye one more time.
Lately, I thought I'd learned to listen to that voice, even if it was telling me that certain things weren't right even if I wished they were, or that I just had to let something go, even if it felt far more comfortable to stick with it. Your past happened and changed the course of your life. But, it's gone, and after awhile, if you let it, your past can threaten to become just a long list of excuses you can use to not listen to your gut.
"I was hurt."
"I felt lonely."
"I was betrayed."
"I was taken advantage of."
"It's not fair."
"Well, he did it, so why shouldn't I?"
"I am so angry."
"I'd be happy if it wasn't for that shithead, God bless his soul."
"I wasn't good enough."
"Nothing matters anyway."
You can create a reason and a very convincing argument for every decision you want to make using all those terms. But, you'll never find such easy reasons to make the choice that you should make. It doesn't need explanation and there is no argument—right is right and wrong is wrong. Sometimes it goes against what your heart may want you to do, or what your brain may say is logical, but trust that in the end you'll always be grateful for listening.
Every single tough experience I've ever gone through could have, if not prevented, been either much briefer or far less painful had I just done what I knew was right to do. Not right in the moral sense, as laid down by a religion or some cult, or societal code, but what generally felt like the right way to be and the best path to take.
Or had I listened when my "spider sense" said something was fishy, rather than giving fishy people and situations so damn much of my time and energy.
Or if I'd paid attention to that voice that told me "No one who loves you treats you this way."
Or if I hadn't disregarded that voice that said "The Boy Scouts feels like the only place that nerds get to be bullies, and you're still the nerd, so get that Basket Weaving merit badge and then get out ASAP before you have to go to that horrid camp they have."
Or the voice that said, "You've practiced this so many times in your head. If he touches your Trapper Keeper again, you're going to jump over your desk like the fucking Karate Kid, growling like a tiger and hit him in the head with your pencil case."
Taking that last piece of advice from my gut would have solved a couple of issues before they really got started.
But, the great thing —and thank God there's a great thing about this, because I've made it seem like your gut is always being a buzzkill or a cockblock — is that, in addition to telling you when you need to not do something or change your perspective, your gut also lets you know when you're on the right path. Because when you're listening to your gut, you just feel good. Sure, listening to yourself might put you into some uncomfortable circumstances or have you saying things you'd rather not say to people, but afterwards, you'll see that you handled the situation in the best possible way and that you prevented yourself a lot of trouble. Because you'll realize that, even if the situation still sucks, that it was always going to suck and you had to address it and leave it. I mean, my gut told me that thongs were going to annoy me, and you know what? They chafe. So, there you go.
So why, if I've been listening to my gut, have I been so confused and had such writer's block? Well, because I haven't been listening. I'm all about challenging myself, and I'm the guy who says "You can't say you don't like something unless you try it." And, I realized I had a lot of things that scared me, or bothered me in life. Things and traits about other people that I didn't like, and I decided that I needed to find out what the source was. Was it me, afraid to change and be more open to new things and ideas? Or was it because it really didn't resonate with who I am? Sometimes I find that I tend to resent things that those around me try to force onto me, and I just rebel without good cause. So, I wanted to find out the truth of what I really thought. And the only way was to jump in head first.
And what I found has been a mixed bag. I definitely learned more about myself and what I want and don't want, but I also opened myself and made myself vulnerable to people whose depth can be most accurately compared to the backwash left at the end of a Dasani bottle being shared by a group of four grown men lost in the desert.
I've watched as adults compete and judge themselves against each other based on social media likes or woofs on Scruff. I've accepted friends who would just as easily steal from me as support me. I've allowed deep and thoughtful conversation to be replaced by catty digging at scabs and open wounds. I've discovered that a nudie on Instagram will always get you more likes than a well-considered piece of art. I took some time to experience a tribe outside of my own, and encountered deception, dishonesty, clashes and naivety. And I've watched as both myself and others around me have come out of the mess I just described ground down, not built up.
And through the same experiences, I've also learned to take things more in stride, to not take things so seriously, and to be a less jealous person. In a way, I feel like this slight detour I've made on my journey was a boot camp for listening to my gut. Every day I faced challenges that made me ponder who I really wanted to be. So, maybe it wasn't a detour at all, but just an unpaved section of the road I am supposed to be on.
But, I think I've had enough. Some of the people I've met on this journey preach tolerance like they invented it, and are some of the least tolerant people I've ever met. And many who proudly exclaim that they "tell it like it is" simply tell it in a way that makes people think they are what they wish they were. But these people have also taught me invaluable lessons that have opened my mind and changed my perspective, even if some of those lessons hurt. And I love them all anyway, because in each of them I see a little bit of myself. Not as I am, but as I have been, because I've already gone through many of these struggles. Regardless, what I set out to learn has been accomplished.
Now my gut is telling me to take these lessons and move on. Not by abandoning or rejecting anyone I've met along the way, but by finally deciding to take the lessons they've taught me and leave the rest behind. To stop arguing with myself about what I should do, and just to do what I already know I should instead. My gut has never been wrong, but I needed to set it aside for a bit and experience life without listening to it in order to understand and trust its power. And now I am a fully armed and operational battle station. A Death Star, if the Death Star was run by the rebellion and had a Froyo in the lobby.
All this internal struggle has disrupted my creative life, but also influenced it in a way that will forever change my perspective. But, I can't let anything fuck with my writing, or stand in the way of my painting, or diminish me for the sake of fitting into any tribe. And lord knows I'm not going to stand by while some numbnuts betrays me or treats me like less than I am ever again. And that's a fucking gift.
My gut is telling me the time of following is over and the time to lead is upon me. And I'm gonna listen, because she's a sassy bitch.