How I’m Surviving Self-Care Being Forced Into My Life

Or, A Treatise On Building a House Next To A Hut On Fowl’s Legs

I had a conversation this morning that put it all together for me, and made the stress of my life of late more light as a feather and less stiff like a board battering me about my withering, yet still gamely battling forth body after 41 years of an oftentimes frustrating existence.

What are you thinking about today?

I feel like I carry a hut on fowl’s legs. Like the Mussorgsky piece. With the Baba Yagas and everything inside there, too.

I think we all do though, right?

I think that’s part of it, yes. But we’re never self-aware of the weight of the situation.

We don’t choose to carry huts.

This is a great perspective on it.

You die, and that’s it. Put the fucking hut down. No one cares.

I was introduced to Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s 1874-composed ten-piece piano suite “Pictures at an Exhibition” in the sixth grade. It was as part of a larger musical series about the great all-time compositions, and it was then that the idea of a “Hut on Fowl’s Legs” — the ninth of ten suites related to exhibited works of the then-deceased artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann— was presented to me as an idea. Thirty years later, this peculiar concept resonates much differently and actually has come to significantly define my existence.

Because I was a socially awkward child who craved, but never quite received enough human acceptance to counterbalance the soul-crushing anguish of a childhood that involved bullying, socioeconomic blight, racism, childhood obesity, and more, I live for validation. That validation is best envisioned as me, gathering people — yes, who in my head all caterwaul on social media and at social events like a harping group of witchy Baba Yagas living in a home built on top of a chicken’s feet — who are proud of my creative professional accomplishments, into a hut of sorts that I oftentimes struggle to carry on legs that, like a fowl’s, appear too spindly to accomplish the task.

I’ve been creating things and storing people in my Hut On Fowl’s Legs because of these things, for ten consecutive years. As well, I’ve probably been storing people in my hut for at least a decade prior to being a true “creator-first” person. Therefore, I genuinely believe — because I’m actually this shallow of a human being because of the hole in my soul that a tormented youth left me — that there are at least one million unique people occupying a metaphorical hut that I carry on my back and balance on my own two legs.

Maybe I create so much, do so much, and stuff so many people into this hut because I’m a sick, sad person who, after enduring what I felt was the enforced victimization of an ugly duckling childhood, can’t imagine a day without adoration. Maybe I create so much because I’m actually good at it and did all of the reading and all of the studying and did all of the work the exact way that the experts tell you to do all of the work. Maybe the best answer is somewhere between the two. Maybe I do this because I feel so sick and so sad so often, thus tossing myself into every book and knowing every word on everything is a Band-Aid. Then, that makes my Hut On Fowl’s Legs into some sort of ultimate salve, something that exists to constantly fill up the emptiness I feel and make me and my life feel better. But then, what about when that home that I carry about, supported by my meager legs, doesn’t quite make it all feel right, anymore. Then what?

“Put the fucking hut down.” That’s what I need to do, and that’s exactly what is going to happen. As an adult, I can admit that I have lived a life that has superseded the angst I felt as a child. Using anger and depression as the sources of strength by which to lift and carry an ever perpetually weightier Hut on Fowl’s Legs are what fueled me for two decades. It’s easy to smile in front of the world’s faces and cameras when the pain and anguish I feel is caught up in bearing a metaphor on my shoulders that is actually impossible to carry well. Moreover and related, as Everyday Health notes, the following:

Anger can be good for you if it’s addressed quickly and expressed in a healthy way. In fact, anger may help some people think more rationally. However, unhealthy episodes of anger — when you hold it in for long periods of time, turn it inward, or explode in rage — can wreak havoc on your body.

For a myriad of reasons, I’ve been extraordinarily pissed off for the better part of 41 years. I’ve held in that anger for 41 years. And now, I’m letting it go. That Hut On Fowl’s Legs is now just a hut grounded, sitting next to a plot of allegorical land, where I’m building a symbolic home. My idyllic resting place? A locale reflective of all of the joys I denied myself because anger was ruling my life and weighing me down.

Everyone and everything in that Hut On Fowl’s Legs that I trudged around with for 20 years? They’re right next door to me, just far enough away to shout encouragement or have a joyous memory of things past. But my future? Building a house uninhabited by Baba Yagas, but just by me, and the guests I choose to let in without any desire to allow their weight to occupy a space defined by me attempting to not process the negativity in my life.

Anger allowed me to rationally create and do wonderful things for 20 years. But it’s in discovering the joy my life can have and crafting my own self-care that will allow me to live and breathe for a lifetime more.