Better Not Bitter

I woke up thinking about my ex. About all the cute things we used to do together. About the tacky Christmas tree he bought me, about how we used to sit on the floor in front of his computer and watch episodes of Southpark as we ate ridiculous amounts of pasta. I thought about he’s goofiness that only I saw, and how I was so full of hope and love and faith that life was a beautiful story. We had a romance that rivaled a movie, that is until things fell apart. We were never supposed to have dated at all, since I hated him. But somehow despite my loathing, he won me over. We did all the cheesy stuff you do when you are truly in love. We made silly cards for each other, we kissed in the rain, we went swing dancing, and surprised each other at work with picnic baskets, we held hands as we drove down dirt roads my feet sticking out the window like the good cliché I was, we made fools of ourselves in public places, we fought like crazy and then would end up naked and delighted in the middle of the living room, unable to remember why we fought at all.

And somehow, we broke it. Somehow all of that wasn’t enough because we were kids. We didn’t know how to sustain ourselves as a couple and as individuals. We both got totally lost in the Us, and then in backlash would demand to live completely in the Me.

I woke up thinking about my ex.

So naturally I facebook stalked him. He still looks the same, still handsome, and cocky. Same dark eyes full of mischief and charm. Same mouth grinning at the corners like he’s going to make you keep a secret. Same stupid narrow-minded status updates about conservative politics or gaming or running or his new car or how Texas is better. He hasn’t really changed.

I woke up thinking about my ex.

And I found out that he is exactly who he was three years ago when I let the screen door slam behind me one final time. And I found that I am not.

They say to let life make you better, not bitter.

I always assumed I failed miserably at that, but then I got to thinking about my life over the last 3 years. Yes, there have been some really dark moments, especially this year, but if I hadn’t left F, I would have none of the people and experiences that I hold dear and that have made up the very fabric of who I am right now. I wouldn’t have realized what I am really passionate about, I wouldn’t know what kind of man I actually want to be with, I wouldn’t know that I am much stronger than I ever thought.

So has life made me bitter? Maybe. I still think I am too jaded. I know that if anyone ever wants to really woe me, they are going to have a hard time getting me to believe anything at all. I have already lived out the movie scenes and amazing story lines… Those are both hard to top and hard to untangle from the pain of their end.

But I am better too.

Do I have a romance that will make all my girlfriends swoon? No.

But that is ok. It took me time to heal, time to find myself outside of the context of romance.

Eventually I got back to breathing, luckily it was in time to meet some incredible people, live some incredible scenes, and find that the greatest stories usually seem forgettable at the moment. The epic memories don’t seem as real after a while. Their shine wears off, and you are sure you are remembering it wrong.

The beautiful moments happen on secret rooftops, and in cramped apartments, and in smoke-filled cars, and empty waffle houses, and by quiet pond-lake-river thingies with the best people on the most ordinary nights.

Those are the scenes I choose.

For Your Viewing Pleasure…

Just wanted to let all you lovely folks know that I now have an official tumblr blog!

http://judeajackson.tumblr.com

The tumblr blog will be where I post pretty much everything except my essays and longer, wordier posts. This blog will still be here, and you can feel free to come visit, but I will be posting links on my tumblr to whatever I post here so you should go follow that for the most convenience!

Once more that link is…  http://judeajackson.tumblr.com

Ruthless Grace: An Edited Life

As a writer, photographer, designer and general bohemian wannabe, one might imagine my life to be full of creative adventures- flourishes of grand ideas melded with fast-moving execution. Let me assure you, there is rarely such glamor in the actual living of it. Even when times are good and work is plentiful.

As any creative professional knows, especially ones creating work for an audience, much of the adventure and romance of creativity is at least tempered (and most times overshadowed) by the painstaking and often gruesome job of editing which usually takes far longer than the conceptualization and execution put together and is about as fulfilling as peeling potatoes.

Editing is the hardest part about being creative and having creative friends. Some people trade baseball cards or recipes, in college and working in art & media, my peers and I traded essays, articles, sketchbooks, and photo stories to carefully dissect, rearrange, gut or in the worst cases- scrap for salvage like a condemned house. The hardest part was and still is, editing my own work. As evidence by the 100 or so too many images on my website at this moment, I have a hard time paring down my fluff. But becoming, or better-yet, finding a ruthless editor (and all the best ones are ruthless) is the difference between any creative work being great or incredible.

This is going somewhere, I promise.

Sometimes I find myself thinking of the Holy Trinity as a creative team. Jesus is totally the idea guy, he has all these grand stories that leave everyone a little perplexed but nodding along- absorbing his total enthusiasm for the cause. The Spirit was sent to do the work, so naturally he/she/it is seeing to the actual logistics of the project and making sure it actually gets from an idea to a tangible medium- poking and prodding us, the artists, to as a professor once said- just get one damn thing on to the actual paper. Then there is God the father. Sometimes I think of God the father as the universes most ruthless and brilliant editor of life.

An editor’s job is essentially this: to ask “Is this something we need or something we are just attached to?” A good editor will ask that same question a million times before a project is finished.

It isn’t the editors job to make changes, or to force a shift, but simply to get the writer or photographer or designer or whoever to see the difference between what they like about the story they are telling and what they are obligated to include for the viewers sake. Editors make us selfish creatives think about someone beside ourselves, and then to make the wisest choice possible, seeing the bigger ramifications.

Here is the tricky thing about art, which we generally think of as personal expression- at the end of the day, if we are only concerned with telling (and hearing) our own story it’s not going to be memorable and it certainly won’t be beautiful.

Now having said that, I need to clarify that I do not think that God causes bad things to happen, or that he intentionally takes things away to teach us a lesson. Loss is still senseless and horrid and not some twisted process for making a better world. I think.

Also I need to point out the difference between living ones life for ones “audience” and living ones life in gratitude and reverence of one’s audience. The latter is always preferable, unnatural without much practice, but good in the same way that wall art is good. If you don’t know what I mean, go find some mural on some wall in your town and be blessed.

I’ll leave you with this, the thought that gets me through pretty much every edit, big or small, real or metaphorical:

to create is the first and most essentially human act. It is also the first and most essentially divine act.