Don’t Try


I felt I needed to write something down. Something I wanted to share by way of advice, as catharsis and as a way to get anyone who has ever regretted anything (and who has not been honest with themselves or anyone else about it) to have a bit of a think.

I also wanted to share a poem (heave a sigh of relief, it’s not mine) by Charles Bukowski that I have been thinking about a lot lately in light in light of the aforementioned regrets and fuck ups.

In a nutshell, I’m speaking to anyone who has had something happen to them that they could not control which they have tried to bury or ignore. To anyone who has dealt with something in a way they wish they hadn’t and has found that situations have resulted as a consequence that they have lied to themselves about and felt ashamed.

If things have made you feel like a caricature of yourself, a self indulgent one sided myth that takes away all the tiny minutea of detail and shades of grey that actually make up the situation – because it’s easier to lie to yourself and those around you and ignore those details. Because to deal with them is much too scary.

If any of that strikes a chord, please read this poem. It’s wonderful, and had been forgotten to me until events lately put it repeatedly to the forefront of my mind.

It’s called Bluebird.

There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going to let anybody see you.
There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that he’s in there.

There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay down, do you want to mess me up?
You want to screw up the works?
You want to blow my book sales in Europe?

There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.

I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be sad.

Then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little in there,
I haven’t quite let him die
and we sleep together like that
with our secret pact
and it’s nice enough to make a man weep,
but I don’t weep,
do you?

I wanted to share that with anyone who hid and imagined they were tougher than they are because they lied to themselves so effectively it was easy for other people to miss. You can easily construct a lie that people who don’t know you and don’t really care can accept. I wanted to share bluebird with  anyone who did this so they could hide themselves in other people.

Whether you hide in a crowd, or in booze, or in socially acceptable mind numbingly meaningless bullshit, it makes no difference. Mortgages, drugs, nice outfits and small talk, they’re all the same. The most dangerous thing you can do is convince yourself of something that isn’t true, just because you think bluebirds are too delicate to be seen. You need to sit on your own and acknowledge that they are there. Because everything else is a distraction, and distractions, even life long ones are plentiful and much easier to come by.

So to those I have hurt, disappointed or misled (and I include myself in each and every one of those groups) I am sorry. Sometimes you mess up so completely that it shows you a side of yourself you should have acknowledged rather than trying to choke it to death.

Bukowski’s tombstone reads ‘Don’t try’. Which sounds negative, but is, like all of his writing, beautifully and brutally honest. Those words refer to another poem ‘So you want to be a writer‘ which in an oversimplified summary advises you not to try. I suggest you read that poem, too.

What Bukowski means is if it’s honest, you don’t need to try. It’s when you stop trying that you realise are who you are, and it’s only when you accept that, you stop fucking things up.

So here’s a line from that to end on.

‘Unless it comes unmasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it’.


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