the Ego and the Suck

Mood: Ready to go
Drinking: Agua

Yesterday I was compiling a submission for a poetry journal when the Suck hit me straight between the eyes.

And now you’re saying, “What the hell is she going on about?”, so let me explain:
Every honest artist will tell you that, coexisting in their brain, side by side, are the Ego and the Suck.

The Ego (self-confidence, talent, pride, whatever) is that magical cold drive that sends you out into the world to staple your posters to light poles on urban corners and slam your poetry behind a microphone on a poorly lit stage. The Ego produces cinepoems and chapbooks, gallery shows and book tours. The Ego believes you are good enough, smart enough, and goddammit, people like you!

But her twin sister is the Suck (self-doubt, fear, etcetera) and even though she’s the ugly one, she’s just as charismatic. The Suck tells you that you’re not a bad writer, you’re worse: you’re mediocre. The Suck sends you cowering into couch potatoland, groveling in the audience at poetry readings, picking your fingernails to bits because you know, you just know, that nameless, faceless people out there somewhere will pick up your book and think that it’s trash. Or worse, vanilla.

The Suck tells you that all your teachers and mentors and friends and neighbors are lying. That none of them have the balls to tell you the truth: Your writing will never be good enough.

The Suck and I have done the dance before, many times. Ego usually arrives in time to pry us apart and impart a little reason. Then she gets to cut in for awhile. And round and round we go.

So yesterday, I opened the door, invited the Suck in to stay awhile. We had some tea. Talked about how sad it is that I will never be published or infamous or toasted about town. (The Suck cares very deeply about all manner of meaningless accolades, contests, and attendant shiny prizes.)

I thought if I just humored her for awhile, the Suck would get bored and run off to torment some other artist, down the street. But she’s added some new tricks to her repertoire, and so I made up the guest room and she’s going to stay for awhile this time.

She reminded me that I’m a white girl. From a good family. No childhood trauma. No secret incest. No parental abuse. No drug habits. No relationship drama. Hell, my parents aren’t even divorced.

I grew up on a farm, rode my horse at the 4-H fair, colored eggs with my Mom at Easter, decorated the tree with my Dad each December. My sister and I had bicycles and puppies and acres of land to explore, barefoot and screaming. I had braids and books and As on my report cards. I earned diplomas from high schools and institutions of higher learning. I won scholarships (banal and prestigious). I had my share of dating dilemmas, but none of my boyfriends were mean. Even the ones who cheated did it decently, if there is such a thing.

I married a man who is not only my friend but seven years later, he still thinks I’m cool. And pretty. And fun to hang out with. I’m surrounded with friends who adore me. And family who lets me be who I am. I live in a yellow house with red flowers out front. I walk my dog on a blue beach near the twinkling, frothy toes of the Pacific. I have my hands in so many creative pots right now, I can’t even find my fingers.

I am lucky.

And so these other poets, the ones from the barrio, the ones from the wrong side, the ones with the shit and the stink and the stories, they get lots of attention. They get book deals and accolades. And they deserve it. They have talent. They have style. They have so many terrifying tales to tell.

And me? Don’t look at me. It’s my friends. My friends who are gay or brown or both. My friends who have the needles and the glittering addictions. It’s my friends whose fathers kicked them down the stairs. My friends who were molested by strange men in the bathrooms of suburban shopping malls. My friends whose mothers fed them acid at age 3. Me? I’m vanilla. I’m well-adjusted. I’m doing just fine. So I write about them. It’s either that, or the 4-H Fair.

So am I jealous? Yes, of course. The Suck is here! So I am loved and blessed and busy and happy and lucky. And I’m jealous of the shit and the stink and the scars and all the stories they tell. The beautiful, painful stories.

But don’t worry. I’ve called the Suck a taxi. She should be leaving any time now…

-Lo, who believes that tall girls want to be short and short girls want to be tall.

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