Foreword: Part Five of the Portrait of… Presentation. This is the best snapshot I can provide into my feelings/thoughts about a book that resonated with me (which made this a very difficult piece to write). Consider it as words from the heart from someone who never speaks from the heart.
I relate, perhaps on an uncomfortable level, to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
It’s not really something I want to admit, but I can see in myself the fascination with fire. Fire is always beautiful – mesmerizing, in fact – and so it is easy to forget the pain of being burnt because the warmth is tantalizing close. And so I do not move away until the flame begins to lick my skin.
“One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!”
For a moment, it is just wonderful to actually feel something. But once the feeling is taken away, only an emptiness remains – and the lingering warmth and burn marks make me long for the rush once again. But I do not return, because I regret feeling.
Perhaps the most repulsive part of my façade is my apathy; it is much simpler to show nothing than display emotional turmoil, regardless of whether those feelings are positive or negative. We are told, as children, the dangers of bottling sadness, but that sort of emotional restriction does not compare to someone who knows how to bottle happiness and throw it away, as if it meant nothing.
Someone like me.
There is a blurry film playing in the back of my mind; I watch as a girl blankly stares forward in an attempt to convince herself that this is what she wants, that these ideals are her own, even when she continues to deny herself in favor if meeting the desires of others. She auctions away her fire as if it wasn’t worth more than the world to her.
“If our impulses were confined to hunger, thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free; but now we are moved by every wind that blows and a chance word or scene that that word may convey to us.”
And so when I reach out for a passion that ignites my heart and being, it is with the knowledge that I cannot hold onto a flame for more than I moment. No matter how much I desire it, I have to live in constant fear of it consuming me.
I do not want to be another Frankenstein, so obsessed with his fire that he did not realized the dangers until it had ruined him. I understand too well how he felt – as if some missing piece of the universe would be found if he just managed to cling to his inspiration and create life. I do not want my ambition to topple into selfishness like his did. I remind myself to approach with restraint and caution to protect myself.
The monster showed a different form of selfishness – he chooses to thoughtlessly stick to the De Lacey’s, never truly thinking about the ramifications his love could have on his fire when it wasn’t reciprocated – something I have done before. But instead of choosing to contain it, he let the flames take away his mind and he pain – because by then he had learned that the agony lessens each time he feels it. And in that moment of the novel, I realized that the monster acted much more human-like than I ever had. And I connected.
I do not allow myself to cry or feel weak or be vulnerable or take off the façade.
And so I admire and am a bit envious of both of these characters for being able to live honest to their own feelings. It makes me want to change myself.
“Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity and ruin.”
So I put myself in uncomfortable situations in which I have no choice but to let go of the security that familiar things and people provide me with. I turn myself into the monster, who, for the sake of truly feeling, will reach out and get burned, over and over again, until he is consumed. I feel the thrill and determination of the creator that Frankenstein must have felt, and the creeping regret once I realize that my mask has shattered. Yet the fear is quickly overwhelmed by the heat of the conflagration.
I want to fly closer to the Sun, even if it means that I get hurt in the process. Misery is as much a part of living as joy is, and even though I may be a sad, selfish creature for holding onto the things that hurt me and making decisions without considering the consequences and for tainting the things I desperately love but don’t love me back.
And so when I create self-portraits, I paint myself as both the creator and the creation, tied together by their shared love of fire.
I paint myself as the girl who continues to reach for the Sun’s inferno even as her wax wings melt away, because I know that even if I were to fall, I would not regret choosing action and passion over stagnation.
I paint myself as the person I want to be – someone who feels deeply, someone who is comfortable within her soul.
“Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet, when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.”
Fire can make even abominations who plummet into the sea seem beautiful. If I can reach for the Sun, then that is enough for me.
Heart and mind: http://render.fineartamerica.com/images/images-print-search/images-medium-5/whichtochoose-kylie-nash.jpg