The past two and a half years have changed me. For reasons that I may never be able to fully comprehend, our society collectively decided that it would be a good idea to completely destroy everything that makes my life worth living. To say that it is challenging to continue with my life in such a world is an understatement.
Some days, I manage to rise to the challenge. On these days, I somehow feel okay and perhaps even happy. I try my best to honor the historical figures that I love, to be an authentic person, and to live in a way that is consistent with my values. When I am not working, handling interpersonal situations, or doing tasks that need to be done at my house, I spend as much time as possible writing and drawing. And sometimes, what I do feels like enough. I now have my Stonewall Jackson statue going through this journey by my side, which helps with all of these things.
But other days, I am unable to find an acceptable way of coexisting with all of the horribleness. On those days, I am overwhelmed by the totality of the badness that people have done. On those days, I feel demoralized, defeated, disappointed, disillusioned, disheartened, and discouraged. On those days, I feel exhausted, worn out, and beaten down.
I frequently ask myself, what makes the difference between a good day and a bad day? Given that the events that changed my life have been going on for two and a half years without pause, why such a drastic difference from one day to the next?
Some of the contributing factors are relatively mundane. Everyone has days when nothing seems to go right, and I am no exception. Sometimes a restaurant messes up my food; sometimes I try to use a coupon while buying something and it doesn’t work; sometimes my computer updates and needs to restart when I’m in the middle of a time-sensitive task; sometimes I simply don’t have enough time in the day to do all of the tasks I need to. Sometimes work is chaotic; sometimes I (gasp!) make a mistake; sometimes I am running late and arrive out of breath and discombobulated from having to speedwalk and/or run to get there on time. None of these things are catastrophically bad, but they all tip the scales towards the horribleness taking over.
Because I am on the autism spectrum, I find interpersonal situations extremely difficult. Sometimes all it takes to crush my soul is an unwanted request to get together, a friend calling to chat, a social activity that lasts longer than I was anticipating, or an acquaintance who messages me and then continues to send additional messages each time I answer one, causing a seemingly never-ending conversation that I was not expecting and had not budgeted time for.
Another trait related to my autism is sensory sensitivities. Wind, rain, light shining in my eyes, sudden loud noises, clothes that just don’t fit quite right, and multiple people talking at once all increase the odds of the evil taking over.
Another potential cause of the evil taking over is when my artwork – the primary purpose of which is to honor historical figures – gets hijacked (for lack of a better word) by other purposes. Although my plan has always been to do a mix of historical figures and less controversial subjects, my mood plummets when I spend too much time doing the artwork that I think will appeal to other people, as opposed to the artwork that I actually want to do. Between commissions (which are very flattering, don’t get me wrong!), invitations to art events that I don’t think are a good fit, and people offering unsolicited advice, there are times when the amount of difficult interpersonal situations that I have to deal with outweighs the original purpose of my artwork. At these times, I feel that my art business is being controlled by other people more than by myself. Publicly honoring the historical figures is a delicate balance, and while I sometimes feel that I’m getting it right, at other times I don’t.
Sometimes the evil will be triggered by a painful reminder of the things I’ve lost. An image of the Boston skyline, a city that I once loved but that I now feel has rejected me and everything I stand for. Or worse, an image of the trellis at Christopher Columbus Park, lit up with festive blue Christmas lights that should be beautiful but now fill me with a mixture of sadness and disgust. A hockey or basketball or baseball or football game, all things that I cannot enjoy the way I used to. Even the mere mention of a city or state is enough to fill my mind with images of the statues destroyed in that city or state.
And of course, there is always the chance that I will be attacked by another instance of society’s war on everything that makes my life worth living. Another statue taken down or vandalized, Columbus Day abolished in another city or town, an appalling article or editorial, a grotesque statement by a politician, a nasty social media comment, a “laughing face” reaction to a post that wasn’t intended to be funny. The possibilities, unfortunately, are endless.
Possibly related to being on the autism spectrum is the fact that there very rarely is a middle ground for me. I can tolerate a certain amount of stressful and upsetting things weighing on me, but once the combination of things exceeds a certain threshold (a threshold that seems to be impossible to identify ahead of time), I either psychologically collapse or explode. In other words, I am either doing fine, or I am in such excruciating pain that it feels like my soul is being eviscerated.
The excruciating pain consists of both grief and rage. Unfathomable grief for the historical figures who have been brutally obliterated from existence, the very things that make our world beautiful irretrievably ruined. And equally enormous rage at the people who chose to do this. But in addition to the grief and the rage is frustration. Frustration that no matter how hard I try, I am unable to communicate how I am feeling in a way that others can understand. I have a large vocabulary and, as both my parents and my blog readers can tell, a tendency to speak and/or write at length about the topics that interest me. But none of the words that I speak or write are enough to convey to others what I am experiencing and how the statue genocide has affected me. None of my words are enough to make others see what I see or feel what I feel.
I am certain that if I could just get others to understand how I feel, they would immediately realize that what happened was wrong. They would condemn the atrocities without hesitation. They would profusely apologize for not having done so sooner. They would fall all over each other in their haste to offer reparations and compensation. And they would go out of their way to lift up and honor, via parades, ceremonies, and public celebrations, the historical figures who have been harmed. They would jump into action to rectify the situation, ordering every statue to be returned to its rightful location and diverting millions of dollars from other government programs to build new Confederate statues and new Columbus statues instead.
Obviously, no one is doing that. Or anything even remotely resembling that. And that is why the frustration, from time to time, boils over.