Fractured Beauty & A Fissured Self: Learning To Love Completely.

 

Part I: Damn you, Walt Whitman.

The great thing about America, they say, is that it is a land of second chances. People come here to make a fresh start. Your ancestors probably did. And it is a land that loves to forgive, to let people try again and start over after their mistakes.

That is a lovely theory. But how do you ‘start over’?

There is no Reset button to life. There is no way to erase the past. There are real-life reasons (financial, familial and familiar) why most of us cannot just fold up our tent, hop on a train, and start a new life in a different town. And even if you could, would that really be escaping from the past?

You tote your past with you everywhere you go. It is the invisible baggage that no porter will ever carry for you; only you get to push and pull and tug and lug it from place to place.

Whitman, one of America’s first great poets (and a personal favorite), famously claimed that he was large, that he contained multitudes. Beautiful. Lyrical. It is a fundamentally democratic poetic statement, abundant and amenable to differences. I loved it as a college student. I love it as a theory.

The darker side that I overlooked in my first enthusiastic embrace?

What if you cannot stomach some of the past (personal, cultural, national) that you contain? How do you make sense of not just the good that you have done but also the errors and sins that you have committed, the hurts that you have caused? What to do with the part of yourself that you hate, the mistakes that keep beating on the door of your heart?

I contain multitudes. I am a writer, a dad, a marketer, a man, a Kansan (originally), a Washingtonian (now and by choice), a dog owner, a runner, an emotionally intense person, a caring man, a loving man, a man who is prone to excess, a man who has been hurt by others and has hurt others, a man who is more fragile than he wants to admit, a man who has sacrificed to stay in relationships he should have let go, a man who has sabotaged relationships he should have fought to maintain, a man who loves himself, and a man who hates himself.

It is a delicate balance, this effort to contain not only the multitudes that you like, but also those that you want to excoriate and burn and vomit away. For years I could not do it. And the hurt was worse because I could not.

(I can now say that I could not do it ‘yet’, but life never feels parenthetical when you are in the midst of it. It is only later, looking back, that the parentheses become clear).

I could forgive, but not myself. I could wash errors of others away and understand that a mistake does not make a lifetime, but not for myself. I’d understand, intellectually, that I was not the only one who had a piece of the pie, then I’d gorge on the entire pie until I made myself sick.

I am embarrassed at both my failings, and my failing to come to terms with them. I have been stuck, pinned to past errors while everyone else moved forward. I have felt marked, branded and tattooed with past failings. I have felt them above my head when I introduce myself. I have worried about them more than an imperfect body when I undress. I have felt the stain of them burn down my cheeks when I cry.

So yes, Mr. Whitman, I contain multitudes. For most of my life, I have wished I did not. I have wished that I were a simple, happy, uncomplicated monad, blissfully unaware of the past and able to leave my mistakes behind.

 

{Pablo Picasso photographed by Robert Doisneau}

{Pablo Picasso photographed by Robert Doisneau}

Part II: Mr. Whitman, meet Mr. Picasso. You two artists, meet Popeye.  

I am changing. It has been a forced change. 2012 (to be very charitable) held a ‘rough patch’ for me. I have since been working to paint a new (or renewed) self.

Among other changes, I want to (re)discover a feeling of fearless love, toward life and toward myself and toward the passion and willingness to be vulnerable and caring that have led to the best things in my life. Somewhere along the line, fear sneaked in, snatched that away, and sabotaged the good. I want it back.

Here is where I am taking direction, as absurd as it sounds, from a paint can. Redecorating requires you to follow a few rules. First, there is prep work. Painting, both walls and the self, is a messy process. If you do not take time to set up your work area, you are likely to do as much harm as good. Set your drop cloth down, tape off the area that you want the new paint to cover, and do not forget to clean the work surface.

No matter how it got there, you are responsible for the gunk and grime on the walls you live in. Simply covering up what is currently showing does not work. For the paint to stick, you have got to clean up the old and repair cracks and scars.

Secondly, you need to give the paint time to dry. Often you will need several coats. Rushing the process does not work and can actually be counter-productive, muddying the finish you want. Patience and a willingness to sit calmly in the midst of a mess are required.

Whitman understood this – that life, art and emotion are inherently messy. This acceptance of messiness has been my turning point. I now embrace that I have a messy soul, mind and heart. They are filled with joy, and filled with defeat. They bounce between success and failure, tears of happiness and tears of sadness, earth-shaking love and underworld-shivering loneliness. Containing multitudes means not just embracing different facets of the good; it also means accepting the faults and failures.

The reason I could not do this before? I could not sit calmly in the mess. I never understood that beauty develops precisely because of, not despite, the fractures we experience.

We make mistakes. Multitudes of them. When you paint your heart and repaint your self, you are not an artist who specializes in the still life genre. Your heart does not belong in a fruit bowl alongside oranges and apples. It is vibrant. It contradicts itself. It causes itself pain. And it also beats with almost inexpressible love and joy.

Painting your self and throwing your colors onto life is less about absolute fidelity to detail and more about capturing and coming to peace with that interplay of contradictory multitudes.

The life you paint is like a Picasso: it is a fissured whole, viewed differently, depending on which angle you choose – disturbing at first, and beautiful the more you accept the failure of unity upon which it is built.

It is all about perspective.

{Picasso - Homme - Musketeer Portraits, 1960s}

{Picasso – Homme – Musketeer Portraits, 1960s}

 

Mr. Whitman, thank you. I do indeed contain multitudes. I am living, moving, growing, evolving. I am constantly repainting my soul. Mr. Picasso, I have come to love my fractured beauty. The hurts and mistakes, joys and loves have made a unique pattern on my heart. I am learning to sit in the pain, luxuriate in the love. We all have stained glass souls, beautiful precisely because of that unique interplay of contradictory emotions, motives, loves and regrets.

Once I understood this, I was able to forgive myself. This does not mean that there is no pain. There is. There will be tears, there will be mistakes. And there will also be smiles and soul-laughter and love. That is how it works. There is no need to deny or tear out from myself the parts I have not liked in the past. You cannot do that anyway.

I have moved from Whitman to Picasso to, finally, Popeye: “I yam what I yam.”

I am the base materials for living a life of love. That starts with me. I have a new acceptance of my self, warts and wounds included. I am. I grow. I am growing.

My stained-glass, cubist soul contains multitudes and competing viewpoints and contradictions and it is messy. Painting your way through life always is. It is not just slapping on some color. Done properly, it is not as much covering up as it is repairing, adding to, and building upon what is underneath.

 

{Beautiful Mess}

 

 

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Patrick Linder
A regular contributor to Rebelle Society, Patrick Linder values his writing as a vehicle to help carve a life built on emotional intensity and openness. Beyond his work with Rebelle Society, Patrick is an award-winning novelist. His Seattle-based mystery Ghost Music is available in both paperback and Kindle eBook format and has been called a “5-star” book that “should be at the top of your must-read list.” Connect with Patrick at his blog, on Facebook, or via Twitter.

83 Comments

  • Tracy Wisneski
    Tracy Wisneski commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
    I didn’t know that I could hold my breath that long. You have just kidnapped my morning.
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
      Thank you Tracy! That’s a beautifully worded, moving comment. :)
  • Political Consciousness
    Political Consciousness News commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
    Can’t argue about a good IPA
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
      I’m in the Seattle area and currently loving Black Raven Trickster!
  • Jim Fry
    Jim Fry commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
    Patrick … I love the metaphoric journey you take us on. For me, what U nailed (in different terms) was the art of (“shamanic”) recapitulation and re-framing our perceptions of ourselves and our experiences. Something similar, here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/02/a-journey-to-present-through-shamanic-recapitulation-jim-fry/
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
      Thank you, Jim. I have your piece opened in another window right now to read and add to my own process of re-framing. Thanks for sharing!
  • Jeet
    Jeet Chattaraj commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
    This is one of the best posts I have read so far on RS – it resonated with me to an incredible extent. Kudos, and Thank You! :-)
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
      Thanks you, Jeet. I appreciate your feedback and think RS is amazing–glad to be a part of it :)
  • Kristi Stout
    kristi commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
    Beautiful. It is so true and so right on. And I’m definitiely with you on emotional intensity, stained glass hearts (beautiful analogy) and IPA’s. Which i was introduced to during my life as a Washingtonian. I love your words thank you for sharing them. <3
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
      Thank you, Kristi :) Your words made me smile
  • Rita Moore commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
    Beautiful. My heart quickened with every word read. Thank you.
  • Suresh Nair commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
    Patrick, this is truly an excellent piece of writing, vividly detailed and very true to life as far as my own experiences are concerned. I’m amazed at how well you’ve put it all together. Thank you :-)
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
      Suresh, I’m glad you found the piece true to your ife as well. Good luck on your journey and thank you for the comment.
  • Tanya Lee Markul
    tanya lee markul commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
    This is absolutely dripping with beauty and honesty. My heart expanded. Thank you so much for sharing this and for being here. Superior writing and expression. Yowza!
  • Tori Elfstrom
    Tori Elfstrom commented on February 20, 2013 Reply
    Patrick! Absolutely FABULOUSO! I am in love with the new turn your writing has taken. Your inspiration and perspective paint strength and courage we all can draw with in our own self portraits. THANK YOU for sharing this! xoxo
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
      No, no, Tori, thank you ;-) I’m blown away today, absolutely blown away by the Rebelle Society community. Amazing day :)
  • Mamaste
    mamastenyc commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
    To liken life’s changes to painting a room…genius! And oh so true. If you don’t do the prep work, and patiently wait for the outcome, you’ll just have to re-do it. Great job Patrick & welcome to Rebelle! ~Mamaste
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
      Thank you, Mamaste! This is an amazing place, and I’m thrilled to have a post be a part of it :-)
  • Victoria Erickson commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
    This is gorgeous.
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
      Thank you, Victoria. I appreciate the note. Writing sometimes feels like shouting into the darkness. Comments echoing back are wonderful to hear.
  • Cassandra Alls
    Cassandra Alls commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
    “I am learning to sit in the pain, luxuriate in the love.” Me too, my friend. Me too. Thank you for sharing the emotional intense art that is you.
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
      Stay in touch, Cassandra. And keep carving your path!
  • Danielle Spencer commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
    What an article to find today! I painted my kitchen bubble gum pink yesterday. Its the only color I had and I was craving new in my life. So I cleaned layers of grease, dust, removed face plates, got out ladders, brushes….I was exhausted, and pissed that I have nothing to match pink, but thrilled that if I had not made that first step, NOTHING would have changed, as I almost said forget it!! A symbolic act telling my unconscious that I am here and ready! The rest of the house is dingy and fragmented. Now I am challenging myself with keeping this new life going. Yes, the painting is me starting a new scary exhilarating life. Now, what to find to match pink??? Thank You!!!
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 26, 2013 Reply
      Bubblegum pink! That’s awesome. I think symbolic acts are crucial road signs for who we’re trying to become. Good luck on your journey and thanks for taking the time to comment!
  • SR Atchley
    SR Atchley commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
    Patrick, I can’t tell you how deeply this resonates with me, on a multitude of levels. Thank you thank you thank you. Welcome to RS, my friend, let the painting begin!
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 22, 2013 Reply
      Thank you so much. The welcome has been overwhelming! The best part is not only being able to share my painting but also seeing what everyone else is painting ;-)
  • Monique commented on February 22, 2013 Reply
    Beautiful. A pleasure to read. Thank you.
  • Hris Tina commented on February 24, 2013 Reply
    I wanted to cry for what you’ve been through and for what you’ve become. I wanted to cry for myself and my struggle to embrace all my multitudes. I wanted to cry out of the gratitude I felt while reading this. You’ve come such a long way accepting yourself. I am not there yet but I have already started my journey. Thank you!
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 26, 2013 Reply
      Thank you for the note! Keep moving and loving and believing :-)
  • Patrick Linder
    Patrick Linder commented on February 26, 2013 Reply
    Bubblegum pink! That’s awesome. I think symbolic acts are crucial road signs for who we’re trying to become. Good luck on your journey and thanks for taking the time to comment!
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on February 26, 2013 Reply
      Sorry Danielle–this was meant to go next to your comment!!
  • Carolyn Riker
    Carolyn Riker commented on March 11, 2013 Reply
    Wow, I’m inspired, delighted and blown-away. You just gave me the antidote to keep going forward. The picture is still in the making and the artist is within! Thank you for your beautiful words.
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on March 21, 2013 Reply
      Carolyn, thank you for the comment! And thank you for helping inspire me and keep me going forward as well. Artists of the world, unite!
  • Jon Grau commented on March 11, 2013 Reply
    Thanks! I needed that.
  • john McAndrew commented on March 11, 2013 Reply
    Thanks Patrick, “I yam what I yam” itself speaks multitudes. You speak of things so central to all people though you are lucky and blessed to be in touch with them, but as you say, there is a price…thank you for your mapping of the territory!
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on March 21, 2013 Reply
      Thanks, John. I love your play with “multitudes” and have a feeling you too are involved with mapping this territory. :-)
  • Sheila Jaillet
    Sheila Jaillet commented on March 11, 2013 Reply
    “I am the base materials for living a life of love. That starts with me. I have a new acceptance of my self, warts and wounds included. I am. I grow. I am growing.”~This is such a blessed place to get to, we can be so hard on ourselves. Loved this beautifully written, heartfelt piece, thank you!
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on March 21, 2013 Reply
      Sheila, thank you for taking the time to comment. I find that I am so much harder on myself than I am on anyone else. I hope that you are also living a life of love and finding artistry in the everyday.
  • Irene commented on March 30, 2013 Reply
    Beautiful and exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you!
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on March 30, 2013 Reply
      Thank you for taking the time to let me know you liked it, Irene. Hope you’re having a wonderful day!
  • Carolyn Elliott commented on March 30, 2013 Reply
    Hi Patrick – just chiming in to say this resonated with me + I adore Whitman and I’m enjoying checking out your website right now. Love, Carolyn
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on March 30, 2013 Reply
      Hi Carolyn, I really appreciate the note and am always happy to find another Whitman fan! Not sure if you’ve seen it yet, but I have another piece that Rebelle just published (with another reference to Whitman): http://bit.ly/14BxZD3 Stay in touch, Patrick
  • epick commented on March 30, 2013 Reply
    Gold
  • Arun Ks commented on March 31, 2013 Reply
    For long i have been in the oblivion wondering. “I am the base materials for living a life of love. That starts with me. I have a new acceptance of my self, warts and wounds included. I am. I grow. I am growing.” your words spoke directly to my heart.
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on April 1, 2013 Reply
      Arun, thank you for taking the time to write. I hope you’re doing well and growing in ways that are opening new opportunities and insights. Stay in touch.
  • Mihirini De Zoysa commented on May 4, 2013 Reply
    Patrick … love your writing and your sharing of your journey … especially what you have to say about not being able to paint over the old paint. You have to clean the grime. Then once you paint, you have to wait for the paint to dry. So true. Often once you make a head decision to make a change in yourself, you want the change to manifest immediately :) … I am exploring vulnerability and showing up vulnerable and how this is a place of strength rather than a weakness … lets see how that coat of paints sticks to me :). Blessings and wishes for your writing and your journey!
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on June 7, 2013 Reply
      Hi Mihirini! Thank you for taking the time to comment. Vulnerability is where beauty becomes brave, I think. Stay true to your journey, and stay in touch!
  • Tapas K Basu commented on July 21, 2013 Reply
    Beautiful….
  • Sherry commented on July 22, 2013 Reply
    Sometimes I think we are meant to be in a certain place to learn what we need to know, and I know a young man who could benefit greatly from these inspiring words. I will be sharing this with him. Thank you
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on July 25, 2013 Reply
      Hi Sherry. I think you’re right–life is funny like that. Often, my writing is a way to work through being in a difficult or confusing spot. I hope my words are helpful to whomever you have in mind to send them too. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
  • Quanita Munday commented on July 22, 2013 Reply
    A friend once told me that it is a special thing when you can hear a story in the way the persons heart felt it. I think it is even more remarkable when someone else speaks your story without ever even knowing you. I am on a journey for mad crazy love of self, it is nice to me a fellow traveler. Thank you, my friend.
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on July 25, 2013 Reply
      Hi Quanita. I love it–“mad crazy love of self.” Travel on and good luck along the way :-)
  • David Paton commented on July 31, 2013 Reply
    Patrick, A very beautiful and profound piece. Personally very relevant. I would like to give it to my clients. Anyway to print a copy of this to give to people?
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on August 6, 2013 Reply
      Hi David! You can sure print a copy for personal use – or to share with others, just make sure you credit Rebelle Society as the source (+ add link to the article) – especially if you plan to distribute it or include it among other learning materials. If you want to reprint it for commercial use, please get in touch with us via editorial@rebellesociety.com Cheers! ~ AB, Ed-In-Chief.
  • Carol commented on August 14, 2013 Reply
    “I could not sit calmly in the mess.” But we can learn. This carries a wonderful lesson for so many. My daughter and I are on similar journeys and she shared your words with me today. We are enjoying how beautifully you present learning ourselves. Thank you. (And since I’m visiting Seattle, I’m going to search out that IPA)
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on September 28, 2013 Reply
      Carol, thank you for the note. I’m sending you best thoughts for your journey and your daughter’s journey. Stay in touch!
  • Jessica Bundy commented on September 27, 2013 Reply
    wow… this is so enchantingly beautiful. thank you for sharing your words!
  • Karly Randolph Pitman commented on September 27, 2013 Reply
    Our mutual friend Deb Cohan passed this along to me – this is lovely and true and a gift to a fellow passionate, intense being. Yesterday I wrote about loving our intensity and allowing all emotions and I feel such resonance in your words. Thank you for laying your heart bare. A gift. Warmly, Karly
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on September 28, 2013 Reply
      Hi Karly. Sounds like you deserve a note of appreciation too :-) Thanks for taking the time to drop me a note and I hope you keep writing and sharing.
  • Tricia commented on September 27, 2013 Reply
    I do so love to read something that speaks to my current state of mind and leads me to an expanded understanding. Thank you for the gift of your experience shared so beautifully! Another brilliant writer on this site, love it!
    • Patrick Linder
      Patrick Linder commented on September 28, 2013 Reply
      Tricia, thank you for the note. I’m glad you found Rebelle and my writing. Stay in touch.
  • Carol Francisco commented on October 27, 2013 Reply
    I felt my breath deepen and my heart expand while reading your words. Thank you for sharing so beautifully:)!
  • Sarah Fischer commented on December 3, 2013 Reply
    I have a saying for this…sweet honey from old failures!! Love, Sarah
  • Erica Anderton commented on December 3, 2013 Reply
    Just thank you and love to michelle mace gilmore for sharing.I think once one gets to the point of knowing th importance and hoe heeaaallliinn it is to allow oneself to love ur self, well,try it.u will understand.I am still workin @ it,for life!
  • Domenic commented on December 3, 2013 Reply
    Try reading your Bible. Without Gods word there is no understanding of life. With an understanding of Live, there is no answer.
  • jayin hutchings commented on December 4, 2013 Reply
    Fantastically written mate ! without love for ourselves there is not too much hope of loving others. we can be our own creation !
  • Jenny Melton commented on December 4, 2013 Reply
    These words could have been written by my own heart <3
  • arthur saftlas commented on December 5, 2013 Reply
    The rarest flower is an open mind.
  • Erika commented on January 3, 2014 Reply
    I’m speechless……..beautiful…….thank you. Erika
  • Philip Bond commented on January 9, 2014 Reply
    This sentence hit me as a brick through a window. “There is no Reset button to life.” An impressive piece of writing and very much worthy of sharing.
  • Deidre commented on May 5, 2014 Reply
    I could feel every word to the very depth of my soul. Thank you for describing so eloquently our messy lives that are filled with soul laughter moments! I am in process of stripping away paint layers, filling some holes (some that are deep) & painting new colors in my world! & Popeye was my absolute favorite cartoon when I was young!
  • gofasterrabbit commented on May 5, 2014 Reply
    That was beautiful Patrick and just what I needed to hear. I love the concept of giving the paint time to dry as we constantly repaint our soul. Beautiful metaphor. And funny … I wrote about feeling like a Picasso too. :) – http://gofasterrabbit.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/reintegrated-whole-by-picasso/
  • Lori johansen commented on May 5, 2014 Reply
    What a gift….. Thank you
  • Sean Thorne commented on May 6, 2014 Reply
    Patrick, what a wonderful piece, and perfectly timed for my life: I have been moving back into my own house due to a separation this winter. I’ve been practicing patience as I move back and make a new home… often feeling like it’s a metaphor for how I’m rebuilding inside: at times I’m impatient and I just want to finish the bedroom in one day! Instead, I have practiced taking my time, to let it ‘be’ for a day or two or a week,…. and given enough time, answers arise, and something I would have never thought of in a rush enables me to make a more beautiful, comfortable living space for myself. And such is how the repair of our inner self works. Thank you for your work. A joy and an affirmation.
  • Madita commented on July 9, 2014 Reply
    Soothingly rounded words ~ wonderfully framed ~ lovely living!
  • Andrew commented on August 26, 2014 Reply
    To conceptualize a mess that I am is to bring a sense of control over multidimensional shit that I am and deprive it of its frighting quality of foggy unconcreteness – thank you my dear judeo-christian culture, thank you fucking very much ! Anyways, special thank you Patrick for this: ” Among other changes, I want to (re)discover a feeling of fearless love, towards life and towards myself and toward the passion and willingness to be vulnerable and caring that led to the best things in my life. Somewhere along the line fear sneaked in, snatched that away, and sabotaged the good. I WANT IT BACK. ” So do I, so do i.

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