BoJack Horseman is My Spirit Animal

BoJack Horseman is My Spirit Animal

“I don’t understand how people live. It’s amazing to me that people wake up every morning and say ‘Yeah, another day, let’s do it!’ How do people do it? I don’t know how.”

– BoJack Horseman

Well season 4 of my favourite show in the world has just been released, so I figured it warranted a repost of this old gem.  If you want to watch the trailer (featuring this fantastic song by Saint Motel) you can do so here.

If you have yet to acquaint yourself with Netflix’s first original animated series for adults, then what the hell are you still doing sitting here reading this?  But seriously, if you haven’t seen the show, it comes highly recommended from this stranger on the internet, and if for some unthinkable reason that doesn’t immediately convince you to watch it, I suppose I could offer a quick summary.

BoJack Horseman is a dark comedy/drama set in a world with anthropomorphic animals- but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the show’s plot… like at all (so just accept it & move on).  The star (and source of the show’s name) is none other than BoJack Horseman, a (yep, you guessed it) horse/man actor and washed up star of the old-but-gold ’90s sitcom Horsin’ Around.

But that plot summary doesn’t even begin to do the show justice.  The series encompasses so much (a satirical analysis of celebrity culture and the film industry,  social commentary on key issues in today’s society, and a powerful analysis into the darkest recesses of the human – or animal – soul, just to name a few) that you’d be hard-pressed not to find something you like.  The show brings together a slew of colourful and diverse characters, each dealing with their own struggles to cope with and understand the chaotic nature of life in their own way, each finding support and opposition as they cross paths.

Fair warning: season 1 starts off more fartsy than artsy, so if you find yourself thinking back to this high praise and wondering why you keep letting yourself get talked into doing things by strangers on the internet, just remember that it does get better.  People on the internet are never wrong.

Horseman

The series finds BoJack struggling with a lack of purpose, a dangerous amount of self-loathing, and a seemingly unquenchable desire to launch himself back into the spotlight.  Despite his apparent enthusiasm for said task, somehow BoJack always ends up second-guessing himself – will this accomplishment actually make him happy?  Is he just grasping at straws?  Does he even deserve happiness? – and be it intentional or otherwise, more often than not his efforts fall victim to self-sabotage.  His existential crises escalate as the series progresses, and before long he’s an absolute fucking mess.

Just like me, in other words.

While BoJack and I aren’t perfect matches – in matters of money, fame and sexual partners BoJack seems to have me beat by quite a bit – I still can’t help but feel a certain connection to the severely flawed protagonist.

The fact that the television character I relate to most is a bitterly cynical anthropomorphic horse with self-destructive tendencies, a highly addictive personality and a severe case of depression probably says a lot about my current state of affairs- none of it good.

But that’s what makes the show so fantastic.  For all its eccentric animal characters, BoJack Horseman is a series that perfectly exemplifies what it is to be human.

We are flawed.  We’re vulnerable, and we’re selfish, insecure, self-destructive, and weak.  But we still try.  We fuck things up and we make a huge mess and we wonder if there’s even a way back- and then we try again.  We hurt the ones we love, and we hurt the ones who love us, but there’s something to be said for having been loved in the first place, and maybe the world’s not so bad after all, if even after all the things you’ve said and done people still root for you to come out on top.

And it’s not just you.  It’s all of us.  BoJack Horseman shows us that no one is safe from the dreaded existential crisis, and no one is alone in it, either.  Everyone has those days, when they can’t seem to find a reason to keep going, a purpose to define their existence, a key to unlock the door to happiness.  We’re all struggling to figure it out.

But the most important aspect of this beautiful show is also its arguably most subtle message: that you need to forgive yourself.

If I can still hope that BoJack makes it out okay even after all the shitty things he’s done, then maybe redemption isn’t out of the question for me.  That’s the show’s message: that sure, people fuck up all the time, but if you can find it in yourself to forgive this horse, then you can learn to forgive yourself too.

Sure, the way back is long and hard, and sometimes -hell, a lot of the time- we slip and we lose our footing and we fall back to the bottom of the pit again, but we get back up again, and we dust off our knees and we get back to it.

After all, as a wise baboon once said: “It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”

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Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

It’s not supposed to be easy
That’s why it feels so fucking good.”

– AWOLNATION, Jump on My Shoulders

Writing’s a bitch.

She really is. Sometimes you can make her your bitch, sometimes you find this perfect harmony that transcends space and time, entwining your consciousness with those of people who died centuries before or who don’t even exist in the strictest sense of the word, but most of the time she’s just a bitch. You sit yourself down in that spot (you know the one), that spot akin to the bed where you lie together, and either you make sweet, tender, beautiful love, giving birth to a child of intellect and creativity, a child who if all goes well will live on long after you have passed and longer still, or you lie there in a cold, tense silence, backs to one another, the severity of your solitude and isolation more abundantly clear than it’s ever been before. Either you get it on or you can’t get it up.

She’s a fickle one, that Writing. Sometimes it works out between you two, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you feel that connection between you, the keyboard/pencil and paper, and the entire world. Sometimes you simply stare into that mirror that is your computer screen, and nothing but your own emptiness stares back at you.

Your fulfillment is at her whim, and she’s prone to inconsistencies to the point where you can’t help but feel she’s punishing you for something, making you beg for it. She pushes you to the point where you reconsider your entire life, reconsider your identity as a writer. You begin to wonder if you have it at all, if your successes to-date were nothing more than flukes, accidental miracles, or perhaps the echoes of a life you had, could have had, but which has slipped through your fingers like grains of sand, each possibility for the reason mirrored in the infinite grains.

And then you hit a nerve, you strike gold, and suddenly you’re hammering out a page or so on this very conflict, drawing inspiration from the struggle. And suddenly your fears are gone, and you know you were born to do this. You know you are, and always will be, a writer.

Yes, Writing is a bitch. But you still love her. And you always will.

Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

For a long time now I’ve been convinced that depression is an integral part of who I am; that it has been wired into my system from the get-go and as such will always be an aspect of my identity.  I mean, what else do you call it when you feel so alone and empty inside that you consider killing yourself on a regular basis?  But now I’m starting to wonder if it was ever as simple as that.  Not because my feelings in the past (and occasionally still in the present) no longer bear any weight or meaning, because they most definitely still do, but because I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’ve been looking at it the wrong way.  It’s not that I didn’t feel (or continue to feel) depressed; it’s that I’m beginning to think there’s more to it.

A little bit confusing, but hear me out.  I think a big part of what I was feeling was situational depression.  Now, I’m not a doctor or anything so I’m not entirely sure how much of this is factually correct, but here’s what I think: I suspect that in the beginning my depression came about as a result of long-suppressed feelings from my childhood bubbling to the surface over time.

I went through a lot as a kid.  Growing up a cancer patient, and then survivor, is a lot to process.  Not knowing how to extensively communicate these feelings of confusion and anger and pain, my subconscious mind instead chose to suppress them.  Questions like “why me?” and “why anyone?” and even just “why?” were never asked, and never answered.

And when we don’t understand something, when we feel confused and frightened and alone, we develop insecurities.  These insecurities latched onto and fed off of my preexisting character traits, twisting and warping them into darker and more extreme versions of themselves.  My shyness became social anxiety, my social anxiety became self-doubt, and my self-doubt became self-hatred.  My imaginative mind became a mess of overthinking and over-analyzing, and combined with the self-hatred it had me constantly second-guessing myself.  My introversion became asociality, which occasionally gave way to misanthropy.  My love for stories and fiction turned me into a hopeless, melodramatic romantic, one who would never find the solace of his stories out in the real world, and as a result would constantly feel disenchanted by and disassociated from reality.

And, as would be expected when faced with negativity every which way I turned, I became depressed.

See, I wasn’t naturally inclined or predisposed to depression.  I was just a very, very sensitive and emotionally vulnerable person.  And when you put someone like that through a blender, they tend to come out a little beaten up.

It’s one thing to feel sad and upset about having a spinal cord tumor and kyphosis; those are perfectly normal and rational feelings.  But take those feelings and multiply them by about a thousand, and the resulting mental state is catastrophic.  Whatever regular feelings I’d had about my condition were drastically compounded by my severe emotional acuity.  And if you’re wondering, the answer is yes: that is just a dressed up way of saying I’m a pussy.

What I figure happened eventually was that my situational depression, the depression I felt as a result of my- well, my situation, became such a normal and constant aspect of my life that it festered into clinical depression.  And when that happened all bets were off.

So even now that I’m starting to deal with my past, sorting through the feelings I never had a chance to address and asking the questions I never had a chance to ask, I’m still left with clinical depression, not to mention the echoes of situational.  And of course I’m still extremely sensitive, which means that whatever mood I’m in is multiplied tenfold.

But I still have my good days, when the beauty I see and feel is so powerful and incredible that I can’t help but cry.  That’s the payoff to being so emotionally astute; when you feel good, you feel euphoric.  And with that arrangement maybe I can live through the bad days by living for the good ones.

Pulling Back the Curtain (and Then Putting it Back Again)

Pulling Back the Curtain (and Then Putting it Back Again)

“Unhand me I am not a criminal
Though I’ve played a guilty part
In the modern sense that one pretends
Their life is original.

I wrote a book and I will call it something cynical
The story’s slow; the hero does not change
And if he can then he won’t anyway
Instead his foes and lovers all become identical.

I fled the country,
I thought I’d leave this behind
But I built the same damn house
On every acre I could find”

– Typhoon, Dreams of Cannibalism

Chief among my many, many issues is my habit of over-analyzing everything I say, do and observe.  I’m constantly searching for the metaphor in everything I experience, for the potential subliminal psychological implications of everything I do.  I try to find reason behind all the random shit that happens, try to work out everything’s purpose in some grand scheme that I know doesn’t exist.  Part of this was undoubtedly my upbringing in a religious family: I was taught that everything happened for a reason, that there was a greater purpose behind every tragedy and travesty.  Of course I know now that it was all bullshit, but the habit of analysis remains.

Another possibility is that it comes with being a writer, but seeing as I don’t have any writer friends (or any friends at all, for that matter) I haven’t been able to confirm or discredit this theory.

Still, I’m partial to the possibility that it’s just another symptom of being raised on fiction: after a while you begin to think of your life in terms of a story, a story like all the other stories you grew up reading in books and watching on the screen.  A story which must have a beginning, middle and end, with meaning and purpose and moral lessons scattered throughout.  We all love that moment of revelation in a story, when everything becomes clear to the protagonist and they know what has to be done.  That feeling can be quite addicting, as a writer/art enthusiast/idiot.  Maybe even too addicting.

It can be tempting to wrap up a blog post just as you would a story; giving it a neat little ending in which the protagonist (in this case me, although if we’re being honest here I’m definitely more of an antagonist) realizes what he must do to make his life better.  But you know what?  Since starting this blog I’ve come to learn a very important thing about myself:

It is a thousand times easier for me to say I’m going to do something than it is for me to actually do it.

Sure, I can make all the promises in the world, spouting all sorts of romantic bullshit about getting my act together and changing my life around and being a better person.  But at the end of the day they’re all just words, put in place to give me a sense of closure, to wrap up a blog post nicely and make me feel like I’ve learned something valuable.  And sure, sometimes the lessons stick.  But more often than not they don’t.

Deep down inside me, amongst all the other truths I know but refuse to accept, is the fact that life isn’t a story.  It has no structure, no inherent purpose or plan.  The only meaning to be found is the meaning that you give, and even that is fragile, withstanding the cold reality of life through nothing more than sheer ignorance.  The only answers you’ll receive are the ones you make up, the temporary comforts you cling to like a log amidst rapids, ignorant to the fact that it too is being swept away by those dark waters, not a salvation but a prolonging of the inevitable.  At the end of the day it’s all just… existence.  We’re all just fumbling about in the dark, trying to find a light, when the truth is there is no light.  There’s only us, standing in the darkness and reaching out for something more.

.

.

.

But that’s no way to live.

To accept a life of meaningless existence would be to drive yourself mad.  There is no way to justify all the pointless shit we do if at the end of the day none of it means anything.  We need those pieces of driftwood, even if they are just as helpless and insignificant as us amidst those raging dark waters.  We need to believe in everything and search for nothing.  We need to create our own meaning, as ridiculous and pointless as it may seem.

So in the spirit of wrapping things up nicely, maybe it’s a good thing that I’m constantly searching for meaning.  Without that distraction, without that red herring in place to keep me from staring into the void, I think I would have lost my mind by now.

And okay, so maybe I don’t always live up to the expectations I set for myself.  But I still set them, so that’s got to count for something, right?  I haven’t given up yet, and maybe that’s enough.

Maybe.

Morbus Ostendo Nos Quis Nos Es: An Epilogue

Morbus Ostendo Nos Quis Nos Es: An Epilogue

Do you want to know what the worst part of all of this is?  It’s that I can’t even resign myself to a state of thinking, to a state of being, and let that be it.  I’ve become so used to second-guessing and chastising myself that I no longer have the luxury of single-mindedness.  In other words I can’t even be content to wallow in my own misery.

I know that I was dealt a shitty hand.  I know that life isn’t fair.  But I also know that there are people out there who’ve been dealt far shittier hands than I have, and that the only thing that makes life seem unfair is the notion that it was ever meant to be anything else.  It’s kind of hard to gripe and complain when your mind keeps on bringing up those two awfully valid points.

So I don’t even get to be comfortable in my own self-pity.  How great is that?  And it’s not like my mind has suddenly made me feel better about myself, oh no, because that would be too easy.  It’s only given me just enough pushback to keep me from feeling fully justified in my way of thinking, without actually having changed my way of thinking.  So I still feel shitty, I just can’t feel that my feelings are fully validated, which makes me feel even shittier for complaining.

I don’t know why I’m so eager to feel sad.  I don’t know why it makes me mad to see success stories about people who’ve been through similar ordeals and made it out okay, preaching the power of optimism and positive thought and butterflies.  I don’t know why I’d rather settle into sadness then work for happiness.

At this point, it feels like I don’t know anything.

Morbus Ostendo Nos Quis Nos Es

Morbus Ostendo Nos Quis Nos Es

Gather round, dishearteningly silent (if not plausibly nonexistent) readers, and let The Modern Leper tell you a story.  My origin story, so to speak.  Only instead of a superhero at the end we just get a guy who hates everyone and would probably binge watch television shows until his muscles atrophied and he died of starvation if there was no one around to stop him.

When I was around seven years old or so I began having these sharp pains in my stomach.  I don’t remember them too clearly, but they were pretty bad.  I can back this claim up with the cause of the pain, which we discovered only after several previous doctor’s appointments turned up inconclusive.  I won’t pretend to remember more than I do from that time, so for the sake of honesty (and in the spirit of making a long story short) I’ll just cut to the chase.

I had a spinal cord tumor.

A tumor, for the less medical-terminology-savvy out there, is defined by Dictionary.com as:

  1. a swollen part; swelling; protuberance.
  2. an uncontrolled, abnormal, circumscribed growth of cells in any animal or plant tissue; neoplasm.

It’s like cancer minus the cancerous part, so the growth doesn’t spread all over the body (which is good- er, I mean, less bad).  The spinal cord part was serious though, because as we all know, the spinal cord is home to the nerves which connect our body parts to our brain.  And that meant that there was a high chance of damage to the nervous system, which could lead to anything from severe pain to paralysis or death and everything in between.  Even operating to remove the tumor would be risky, as the surgeons could easily snip a nerve or two in the process, as they don’t exactly come with neon “DANGER” signs.

I could go on for a while about my misadventures in Tumorland, but honestly, like I said before, I don’t remember much from that time.  And this story isn’t really about back then.  It’s about how back then has affected me to this day.

For the most part, thanks to people far greater than I ever have been or will be, I came out alright.

For the most part.

A decent chunk of the tumor was removed in surgery, and the rest was zapped into remission with some good old fashioned chemotherapy.  To be completely honest my experiences from that time haven’t had as severe an impact on me as one might imagine, although I did come out of it with a profound distaste for needles.  I could pass this off as a result of my youth, perhaps a failure to fully grasp the gravity of the situation, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who are still haunted by things that happened to them when they were young.  If I do in fact bare any psychological scars from that time, I have yet to connect the dots, and their origins remain deeply nestled in the roots of my subconscious.  After all, with so many issues I’m sure at least one or two of them must have been born within the walls of that hospital.

All the same I can’t say I was ever profoundly moved by my condition.  Not then.  If asked to hazard a guess as to why I had been so accepting of such a thing, I would say this: I think, even at that age, that I had already come to terms with my own inevitable mortality.

I think I knew I was going to die, and I think I was okay with that.

But I didn’t die.

They saved me, and I came out alright.  For the most part, remember.  Only for the most part.

You see, the tumor may have been beaten, but it got the last laugh.  Because before it had run its course, its strategic placement in my spine gave it the opportunity to leave its mark on my body.

ky·pho·sis
kīˈfōsis/
noun: kyphosis
  1. excessive outward curvature of the spine, causing hunching of the back.

A small price to pay, one might argue, for your life.  Just a small price.  But you forget, it’s a price I paid for a life I had already given up.  So what ended up happening, in my mind, was that I was unceremoniously ripped from the gentle embrace of a death that was rightly mine and given a life I was never meant to have, bearing the mark of my unplanned recovery for all the world to see.

And what a mark it is.

My spine is severely distorted, twisted and bent into a grotesque capital ‘S’.  If this is an origin story and I was meant to be a superhero, the S would probably stand for Suicideman, or maybe Self-loathing Man.  And here’s where the influence of that time on this time comes into it.  I think that one of the most, if not the most significant, sources of all my self-hatred lies within that capital ‘S’.  After all, it’s hard to like yourself when you grew up looking in the mirror and seeing a freak staring back at you.  I saw an ugly, twisted person, and I tried to fit that profile as best I could.  I saw no reason to prove it wrong, no reason to even believe that it was wrong

People tell me that I’m lucky, that I was so… blessed, to have survived it.  That I was a living miracle.  A testament to the power of bullshit.  So why, dear reader, have I never, not once in my entire life, felt lucky?  What the fuck is so lucky about being given a tumor and then trading in that tumor for a casting as the modern Hunchback of Notre-Dame?

And sure, I’m not stupid.  I know there are people who have it worse than me.  But that doesn’t make me better off.  If I chopped off your arm and chopped off someone else’s head, does that make you a lucky person by default, just by comparison?  Will you thank me for the missing limb, because hey, it could be worse?  That’s not how it works.  Do you know who’s lucky in that scenario?  The one who never lost a thing.

I used to believe in a grand scheme, some kind of master plan to all of this.  Sometimes I find I still cling to that belief, but it’s out of anger now; a need to blame someone, rather than faith or hope or any of that other bullshit.

What did that seven year old boy do to deserve this?  Why him?  Why any of the people who have tragedy befall them?  And why should I have to play by the rules of this life, if it never did me the same courtesy?

My condition isn’t just the source of my self-hatred; it’s also the origin of all my hatred for this world.  It was my window in the wall that they put up around all of us, the one that has flowers and rainbows painted across it.  And when I look through that window, past the peeling paint and cheap imitations of true happiness, I see the world we live in.  The real world.  And it’s an ugly place.

I don’t blame the tumor for what it did to me, any more than I blame the people who took it out of me.  If anyone’s to blame, it’s whoever put it there in the first place, assuming they even exist.  My only wish now is that one day it will come back and finish the job it started all those years ago.  Because I hate this life; this unpredictable, chaotic, indifferent yet paradoxically cruel life.

I want no part of it.

Masochistic Mindgames

Masochistic Mindgames

“I’m in need of the answers,
Searching for questions,
In love with being broken-hearted”

– Caught a Ghost, Time Go

Let’s just get one thing straight.  I know I’ve romanticized my depression.  Don’t ask me why I would even do something as stupid as that, because your guess is as good as mine.  Maybe I think it makes me edgy; a special snowflake who can justify being a total fucking weirdo.  Or maybe it’s a coping mechanism, something that makes it seem like kind of a positive thing, to try and ease the weight of it all.  Maybe it has something to do with the correlation between famous artists and depression; maybe I’m subconsciously depressing myself in order to legitimize my claim as an artist, like somehow these hard times will one day make it all worth it by compensating my suicidal streak with writing material.

Sometimes I wonder if I even want to get better.  Part of me likes being depressed.  It’s easier, sometimes, to just use my mental illness as a kind of umbrella to block out everything I want to avoid and blame it on the depression.  Part of me doesn’t want to find the answer.  I tell myself I’m looking for it when I know that what I’m really doing is just digging up new questions, new reasons to feel depressed.  I’m not looking for a reason to be happy; I’m looking for reasons to stay sad.  Part of this is the romantic in me; the part that’s convinced that there is a beauty, a purity to sadness, that happiness cannot match in all it’s ignorance.  But another part of it is the fear.  It’s easier to stay where you are, where you know the territory, to just walk in circles pretending to search knowing full well deep down inside that you’re not going anywhere.  At least this way I’m sticking with the devil I know.  To make a change is to face the unknown, and I don’t know if I’m ready for that.

Whatever the hell might be going on up in that shitshow of a mind I’ve been burdened with, I just felt like I ought to put that out there for you guys.  I’m worried that people might get that vibe reading my work and think that I’m purposefully using depression as a kind of draw-in for readers.  Which I kind of am, I guess is the point I literally just made, but what I’m trying to say (what I think I’m trying to say) is that I’m not doing it on purpose purpose.  It’s like a subconscious thing that I just so happen to also be aware of.

Okay.  Whew.  Let’s try that again.  What I’m trying to say is that this blog is me.  This blog is a reflection of me, warts and all.  It’s an echo of my existence, as I once put it, and my existence is not beautiful.  It’s contradictory, it’s confusing, and it’s dark.  And sometimes that means I’ll say things purely for the shock value of it, for the chance to deliver a one-punch knockout, a dramatic one-liner to conclude the paragraph.  I’m a writer, after all.  It’s literally in my job description to dress things up and dramatize them.  And sometimes you lose sight of the line between fiction and non-fiction.

So maybe the lesson for today’s post is to take what you read with a grain of salt.  Or just down the whole shaker and worry about your cholesterol later.  Because when dealing with people as fucked up as I am, you can never really be sure who’s talking.