It was like lightning. That was the word to describe my relationship with almost everybody in my life -- my mom, certain professors, several people I tentatively call 'friends.' It even describes myself to a point. I've spent my whole life thinking -- hoping -- I could trust this person, or this person, or maybe that person, only to have them suddenly turn cold and drop me... then when I confront them about it, they deny it. Yes, this is emotional abuse, but it's also unpredictable. For some reason I needed that word. That is what makes it hell -- the fact that you just never know what they're going to do in any given situation. Will they extend grace? Or will they explode and give up on you?
The whole concept of my relationship with these authority figures throughout my life continued percolating in my brain after class.
We'll pause this thought and come back to it.
Secondary train of thought -- yesterday I was talking with someone and I was trying to describe perfectionism -- how I've internalised the voices of all the people who said I wasn't good enough and would never be and now I tell myself that, I beat myself up for every tiny mistake because so has everyone else. Maybe not consistently -- there's that 'unpredictable' thing again -- but often enough that I am terrified of screwing up because there's a strong possibility that I will not receive a grace response -- instead I'll be screamed at, or worse, tossed aside forever. I've often said perfectionism is like a whip across my back, lashing me every time I try to rest rather than practice, and the whip comes down with renewed fury whenever I screw something up.
Today, as I was pondering my relationship with these authority figures and my perfectionism, the question formed: who's holding the whip?
My initial thought was to draw what I was picturing, but of course I'm rubbish at drawing. But the whip motif -- the whip in the hands of these specific people -- suddenly came to life in my mind and it became a percussion section. And then came the song -- Rose's When Will I Be Loved.
The thing percolated in my mind through my piano and voice lessons, and afterwards I sat and listened to the song and sketched out a general story.
I love it when this happens -- when there's an actual story to the song. Not just a theme, a story -- the passage of characters through choices and consequences. I've only managed it in two other pieces.
This one is dark -- so dark it surprises even me (and I can be a pretty dark person). I had a moment where I thought maybe I should cushion this a bit, but I don't think I will. This is reality for a lot of us, and if you (the viewer) can't handle that, too bad. This dance is a depiction of what it's like to live with the voices of everyone who should have been a stable figure in your life but is not stable inside your head and it touches on the loneliness of having to figure out life completely on your own because nobody's ever truly properly there for you, not consistently. This is what it's like to constantly hear this voice in your head saying you're not good enough and you never will be. It's exhausting to try to keep even a half-step ahead of that voice, that whip. It's exhausting to be beat down by your own mind every single second of your existence. It's deeply, gut-wrenchingly disheartening to have nobody consistent to turn to -- no rock to go to when you're struggling. It's so freaking hard to keep going -- completely alone -- into the storm of voices screaming that you might as well stop trying because you'll never be good enough anyway.
If I'm honest, this is for M. I think the whip came down on her back harder than it does even on mine. It killed her -- this relentless push for perfection at any cost. Who planted the initial seed of that voice in her mind, that broken record telling her she wasn't good enough -- that despite all those hours of relentless practice and effort and time, she wasn't good enough? There's no telling. Even in my life, it's entirely possible that I assumed somebody wanted more of me than they actually did and I just internalised that imagined standard and fed all my subsequent life experiences into it.
I'm excited for this piece, in a weird way. It'll be raw, but hopefully it'll get the viewer's attention. Hopefully it does justice to the dark side of what we perfectionists experience.