The tongue gets used to a jagged tooth. Eventually. At first it’s really painful. The tongue catches, then there’s a sting, and sometimes, blood even. This new wreck of a wild tooth keeps making itself known. And the body jumps. Winces in pain. But eventually the tongue begins to recognize the nooks and valleys. The points and edges of the tooth’s new surface…the architecture of this new; mishap of a tooth becomes…familiar. The tongue even sort of looks forward to exploring its weirdness. Maybe the tongue even finds some odd comfort in the damaged tooth’s irreverence and straight up audacity to sit beside the other smooth teeth.
It’s stunning to me. That something so painful can eventually become…normal. And it doesn’t even take that long.
And that got me thinking about us. You and me. I am constantly amazed at how resilient we are. For better or worse, humans can withstand so very much, for so fucking long. I am borderline obsessed with idea of resiliency. If we’ve ever had a conversation for more than 10 minutes I have probably asked you why it is you keep going, or what it is that makes you not like, stop going. I will probably ask you where do you think your resiliency comes from. And you will probably think I’m weird. And that’s okay. Because I really wanna know. Like I have to know.
I guess what I am really asking, when I ask about resiliency, if I’m honest (and again if you can’t be honest in a blog then…) is, ”What makes you not kill yourself?” Which is a pretty bonkers question and I will never come out and ask it that way…but just know…my obsession with resiliency and people who seem particularly resilient stems from my desire to know why and how…when shit gets real rough, like horrifically rough do you manage to…Keep. Fucking. Going?
I know this is a big question. I get that. And I know there are probably a million answers to why we keep going. And that it’s philosophy and psychology with some anthropology in there. And don’t forget class and race and animal instincts and privilege and religion. And of course, luck. Just fucking LUCK. I get all of this. On some level. But still my obsession with resilience seems to grow the older I get and the more people I meet. And the more I hear about the hard shit people live through, the more I wonder…why do we go on?
I find subtle ways of asking people about their ability to be resilient in the face of the small and sometimes not so small indignities and tragedies of their daily lives. And maybe I am doing that to feel connected to them, to learn something about myself. To figure our why I keep going despite having had my share of hellish experiences throughout my 45 years. My life has not been easy. And yet I am still here. Why? My first thought is “Well, I am here because of meds and good people.” Which isn’t UNtrue. But it’s not the WHOLE truth. Meds and good people most definitely have helped get me through the nights whens my soul was on fire and I could barely breathe, but…there’s something else too. And the older I get the clearer it becomes.
The something else that keeps me going is art. And being an artist. And I don’t particularly love that answer. Art. Being an artist. Ugh. There’s a part of me inside my own head that screams “OH SHUT UP WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT ART. ART IS DUMB. ART ISN’T REAL. GET A REAL JOB AND JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP.” But here’s the thing. Art seems to be the only thing (besides meds and good people) that has actually kept me going when shit has looked the bleakest. My art, other people’s art. Art has saved my life. Again and again. And I return to it again and again. Make the art. Like the tongue to the jagged tooth. Make the art. Write the thing. Tell the story. Keep going. Make the art. And so I do. And I also take my meds and thank my lucky farking stars for the good people in my life. And then I make the art again.