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From the Inside Out

from Good to Me by Shannon Curtis

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Is This Working?

I have to say: as uncomfortable as it was, on the previous leg of the journey, to stay present with the source of my discomfort — to just sit with it and observe it, without moving directly to find some facile solution — I’m glad to have done it. I can say now that I’ve faced, named, and described in detail the circumstances that are robbing me of my peace and paralyzing me into inaction.

So now what?

/////

Questions for guidance on this leg …

What have my unthinking, instinctual reactions been to these circumstances?
What are the feelings I’m experiencing in the face of these circumstances?
What are my go-to methods of coping with any of these feelings that might be difficult?

If I’ve not listed “at peace” in the category of how I’m feeling, then I there’s probably more to examine here.

If we begin with a premise that serenity and agency can come to open hands …

… what feelings, reactions, or coping mechanisms do I find myself holding onto that might make me unavailable to receive serenity and agency?

Am I holding onto …

• fear?
• worry?
• blame?
• resentment?
• regret?
• self-blame?
• denial?
• numbing?
• something else?

What’s driving my impulse to hold on to these things?

• In what ways have I hoped / thought / assumed that holding onto them might change the circumstance?

• In what ways have I hoped / thought / assumed that holding onto them might help me?

Is it working?

• Is the circumstance changing as a result of my holding on to these feelings / reactions / coping mechanisms?

• Am I getting what I need as a result of holding on to these feelings / reactions / coping mechanisms?

What negative effects to my spirit have I observed as result of my holding on?

• How do I experience those effects in my mind, my heart, my spirit, my body, my daily experience, my relationships?

How might all of this be related to an impulse to exert control of a circumstance that feels out of my control?

/////

The Kindling Is My Spirit

For me, it starts with Fear. And it starts with Anger.

I fear how living on Earth might get harder. I fear that many people will suffer. I fear we might be overcome with fire and smoke and storms and floods and droughts and famine. I fear that there will be more scarcity, which will drive people to become uglier to each other as they scrape to survive.

I fear that that scarcity will arm aspiring authoritarians with more opportunity to divide us and create the conditions of chaos in which they can entrench their power. I fear that we will slide all the way into becoming a fascist state. I fear that people who aren’t a part of the dominant group — those who aren’t white, rich, straight, christian, male — will be increasingly marginalized, dehumanized, cast off, and left to suffer and die. It can happen here. I fear that it will happen here. I fear that years and decades of progress for humanity will be burned up like so many piles of banned books.

And I’m angry.

I’m so angry at the people who have brought us to this place — the power-hungry people who have been scheming on this outcome for decades.

But there’s a more personal anger, and it feels hotter and brighter inside me: I’m angry at the regular people who have gone along with, enabled, and supported those who seek to destroy our planet and our chance for multi-racial democracy. So many people I’ve known, spent time with, loved. I feel so much anger toward them.

I’m angry that they allowed themselves to be convinced that such ugly forces were on their side. I’m angry that either they were too easily deceived, or that the fascism actually appeals to an ugliness inside of them. Ugliness that I’m ashamed to see in them. I’m angry because they should know better … I’m angry because I expected that they would.

“They should …,” “I expected …”
Hm ... I’m taking note of those words.
I sense they’re worth filing away for future exploration.
But for now …

/////

Fear & Anger

What do they do for me, and to me?

On the one hand …
… I think they can serve a necessary purpose in my life.
Fear is useful in helping me to recognize danger.
Anger is useful as an alert that something’s not right, and it can be a fire in my belly to act.

But they’re characteristically hot, short-lived emotions.
They flare up in the face of danger or injustice like flashing signals that something’s wrong.

And dang! Even though they’re a reaction to something wrong,
they sure can feel (something like) good, can’t they?
For a moment.
That RUSH of adrenaline. That SURGE of rage.
In a twisted sort of way, they make me feel like I’m alive, you know?

But wow … I can’t remain in the red-alert emergency space in which Fear and Anger exist. My mind, heart, body, and spirit can’t sustain it.

And yet, there are plenty of times when — for lots of reasons related to my base instincts, coded in deeply-seated coping mechanisms I’ve developed in response to difficult circumstances — I refuse to let go.

I convince myself that I need the fire of Anger to propel me.
And so I have to stoke it.
I imagine that never taking my eyes off of Fear will somehow offer me protection from it.
And so I draw it closer.

I look for fuel, and I look for cover.
And that brings me to …

/////

Blame & Worry

Blame is what I do when I need to feed the anger fire.
When I point my finger and say, “YOU did this!” —
attempting to displace the the discomfort of my Fear and Anger onto someone else’s shoulders,
onto the ones I think deserve it.

Blame feels great. For one hot moment.
Which means I have to keep it up; over and over and over, I stoke the fire.
And it leaves me in a pile of ashes.

Because it takes a tightly closed fist to properly point a finger, doesn’t it?
And all that anger I tried to direct elsewhere hasn’t actually gone anywhere.
It’s still in my hand. Burning me up.

Worry is what I do when I think that keeping Fear close to me
will somehow protect me from the bad things yet to come. I give myself the illusion of certainty when I keep the fear always front of mind.
Like I think I’m getting ahead of the next shoe to drop.
As if I’m outsmarting the system.

I hold on to Worry like it’s a safety blanket. But it’s a cheap comfort.
Under that cover, no light, no fresh air, can get in,
and Worry only makes more worry.
Eventually, it suffocates, traps, and paralyzes me.

So … what have Blame and Worry done for me, and to me?

Nothing good.

After all this …
… my Blame hasn't changed other people’s disappointing behavior.
… my Worry hasn't changed any outcomes.

Did I think I might be able to exert control
over the circumstances?
Or affect the actions of others?
By the sheer force of my most red-hot emotions??
Perhaps I did.
Or least wanted to believe that I could.
To believe that I could exert some sense of power in a circumstance that makes me feel powerless.

But I’m here to report that this effort has been thoroughly unsuccessful.
My attempt at control has not made me powerful.
It has done the opposite.
At this point, the only result of my clutching on to Fear, Anger, Blame, and Worry is …

/////

Resentment & Despair

I’ve learned from past personal experience,
and I can sense it again inside me now,
that this state of being I’ve been cultivating is not delivering me peace,
and it’s not giving me access to my agency to act for a better outcome.

Rather:

Blame upon blame upon blame grows into Resentment.
And Resentment is a corrosive that eats me from the inside out.

Worry upon worry upon worry grows into Despair.
And Despair is a void that swallows me whole.

It turns out that I’ve allowed my own spirit to be the fuel for this fire.
In my Anger, I wanted to Blame and burn it all down.
But I’m the one who’s burning with Resentment.

And I’ve chosen a safety blanket that smothers my own joy, hope, and sense of possibility.
In my Fear, I sought protection under the cover of Worry.
But in my state of Despair, the air only gets stuffier, scarcer, heavier, until … it’s no longer possible to breathe.

I don’t want to sacrifice the state of my spirit to Anger and Fear.
I don’t have to. I know I can choose something else.

Like … what would happen if, when those feelings come,
I could really feel them,
I could receive the messages they bring,
and then open my fists,
and let them go?

/////

More next time. ♥️

lyrics

My fear is looking for who to blame
A lit match ignites an angry flame
And when reduced to a smoldering
It wants a hot flash of rage like kerosene

What’s the harm
If the fire keeps me warm?
The catch is
The kindling is my spirit

In the end
I never burned anything down
Only myself
From the inside out
In the end
I didn’t keep safe from the fallout
It ate me away
From the inside out
The inside out
The inside out

I hold it close like an enemy
A fool’s cover against uncertainty
Wrapped in a shadow that only grows
It is a cheap comfort, this devil that I know

I wear despair
Like a buffer from what’s out there
The catch is
It’s smothering my spirit

In the end
I never burned anything down
Only myself
From the inside out
The inside out
In the end
I didn’t keep safe from the fallout
It ate me away
From the inside out
The inside out
The inside out

Oh oh oh
I’ve got to let go
The tighter I hold
The more it’s out of control

Oh oh oh
I’ve got to got to let go
The tighter I hold
The more it’s out of control

In the end
I never burned anything down
Only myself
From the inside out
In the end
I didn’t keep safe from the fallout
It ate me away
From the inside out
The inside out

In the end
I never burned anything down
Only myself
From the inside out
The inside out
The inside out

credits

from Good to Me, track released March 1, 2022
written by Shannon Curtis
published by Shannon K (ASCAP)

produced by Jamie Hill
co-produced by Shannon

conceptualized, programmed, arranged, and performed by Shannon additional programming, synthesizers, and sound design by Jamie

mixed and mastered by Jamie
at Department of Energy Management, Tacoma

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Shannon Curtis Tacoma, Washington

Shannon Curtis is an artist who works as a songwriter, storyteller, and author. Shannon lives in Tacoma, WA and makes artpop music with her husband, producer / mixer Jamie Hill (deptofenergymgmt.com/work).

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