I have a secret. I've carried it with me for about 18 years. I really want to let it go and give it away to you & move forward.
(Please be advised that this is going to be the most blunt, honest, open, vulnerable part of me that I could ever share with you, and if that is a relationship you do not feel comfortable having with me, perhaps you should not proceed reading. What I am about to write has been a lifelong fear ever since I was a teenager to communicate with anyone, be it family or even my best friends, and though I am choosing this forum to reach out to many of you at once that would otherwise be unavailable, it does not for a moment change how difficult it is for me, or how important. If you are among those whom I have tagged in this note, please know that I value you as friends in my life and I believe that by sharing this with you it will help you to understand a great deal of mystery there may have been about me. I am doing this, for a change. I am desperately trying to change my life, and how this secret has effected every aspect of who I am over nearly the past 2 decades. Consider this moment for me, an "Intervention" of sorts, that I am having with myself, that from this moment, I am taking a leap of faith in trusting you all, and asking you for support in the road ahead. I stenciled a shirt a few weeks ago that reads "Ask for help!" While I have made a conscious effort to be more positive and help everyone in any way I can over the past several weeks since I returned to Phoenix, and the shirt is meant to remind others that help can be found in their own communities when we stop isolating ourselves, it is also a reminder to myself to do the same. So here we are, and this is me, with a sober mind, on shaky legs, looking up at you all like the scared child that got himself into this mess...asking for help. Thank you in advance for reading my story. Take some time with it if you need to, it will surely be a long one.)
Love & Gratitude,
Paul Clark Jones Jr.
Okay, so this being said--I began this story 2 weeks ago. It immediately became longer than I ever thought it would, and has been tremendously healing to get out and to read to a few close people. But for now, it is simply too much to put in a note. I have been inspired and want to continue it now and possibly turn it into a zine to connect with others, but I still feel that I need to share what I'm going through immediately with those I consider close to me, because it affects my health and well-being tremendously, and I have come a very long way in my ability to deal with it over the past several months with the unconditional support of my beloved best friend and traveling partner, Pinar. I am holding off on sharing my "life story" kind of note til I finish it, and and writing a summary of what's going on right now. So here goes:
You may not know this. I have spent almost 18 years molding my persona, posture, voice and personality to hide it, but...I am in desperate need, of a great deal of dental care. For now it does not matter really how I got this way, only that I am...and for the first time in my life, I am trying to summon the strength and drive to do something about it. I am trying to believe in myself and trust that I can find a way to use my clever ideas and creativity and skills to perform monetary miracles I never thought possible and try to overcome finally the painful and alienating prison I allowed myself to create around my self-esteem ever since I was a teenager.
There is a great deal of perspective I wish to share about how I got this way, patterns that evolved, and irrational fears that developed and began to push me into this lonely roll of brooding, cynical poet or tortured misunderstood artist, or whatever, but for now, I am going to try to make it as short as possible, and if any of you wish to talk more in person, you are welcome to.
Part of the reason I invited Pinar to go on the bike tour with me was because she was going through a rough time and facing many of her own demons alone in Turkey, and I wanted to challenge us each to face our fears alone amidst the gorgeous, comforting backdrop of redwood forests and the pacific ocean, removed from all the daily chaos of society finally, alone with our closest friend in the woods for 2 months. I knew that without dayjobs and a 100 other daily distractions, that our deepest truths would only be further exposed, and I knew it would be probably one of the hardest things we had each ever done in our lives, but I wholeheartedly believed we each needed that time, and that space, and that support, even though there were lots of nights we seemed at each other's throats, and many others we cried ourselves to sleep. We made it, and I for one, am forever changed.
In Trinidad, CA, eating a toasted sandwich, another of my front teeth broke in half. Ironically, this happened at the exact same time that she got her acceptance call from Naropa University. In retrospect, the extreme opposite emotions we felt in that moment seem to stand as a reminder that however close we are with anyone, we still, at the end of the day, must confront how we feel about ourselves. Though totally in love with someone, if we cannot find the same love within us for ourselves, we are doomed to live lonely lives of isolation.
I was already missing most of two front teeth from years of untreated decay. I knew this day would come, but I must admit I was in total shock of how drastically it affected my voice, my ability to enunciate, to bite my lip, to eat certain foods, losing only another 1/4 inch of a tooth. Crying on a beach that night felt like the deepest bottom I had ever hit of my own personal hell, and if Pinar was not with me that night I honestly don't know what I would have done. It also in a way felt like the first time in my entire life that I was truly able to let go, and escape from my perpetual numbness and denial of this issue for most of my life. The next several days were incredibly hard for me, but as I slowly began to talk again and learn to deal with the awkward and frustrating new sound of my voice, I feel I began to slowly heal. I knew from that point on, that I had to finally begin to make a change in my life. I also knew, that I needed to stop carrying around such a heavy secret and isolating myself from those who cared about me out of a childhood fear I warped into something terrifying to express with anyone, and I needed to begin opening up to the world if I wanted to begin to find the answers and help that I needed.
It is this reason, that I have decided once again, to remain in Phoenix for the time being. I know that I have a rough and painful road ahead, and I need the love and support of my community of friends to help me through this transformational time. I am trying to stay as positive as I possibly can, and I hope that most of you can see the difference in me now from the Paul of the previous years you may have known. I have been working hard on a great variety of activities and creative projects, and wearing my heart and my skills on my sleeve, and trying to purge my negativity and poor self esteem, deflating my confrontational ego, and trying to be nice to everyone. I am trying to find a balance, and I am trying harder than ever to live my life being the example I wish to see in the world. Even if that is often a silly action figure-looking sort of person. I want to be my own hero, live my own movie, and inspire others. I want to find the strength to face by biggest fear, and smile, and be comfortable with my body, and filled with love and gratitude in each moment for all that is beautiful around me. I want desperately to share the intense love and passion and laughter that I've often locked away deep inside me hiding behind the harsh and scary mask of my face as I've allowed it to turn into after all these years. I want to eat all the foods I love or loved long ago that I no longer can because I am in pain. I want to wake up in the morning without blood in my mouth. I want to be able to take the words back with "nds" and "nts" and countless other sounds in them I can no longer say and perform poetry people can understand clearly and sing and rap and slam and unleash my words from a lifetime of pages and inspire the fucking world to think in different ways as I know I can. I want to smile without holding back, look people in the eye when I talk, and laugh uncontrollably as much as possible. I want to not be in constant pain every time I eat, or constant frustration at what I can't eat. I want to not take painkillers to try to even face the world on days when it sometimes gets debilitating for hours at a time. But I need your help...
I made an appointment a few days ago for the first time ever in my life at a Dental University in Mesa for February 2nd. I have not seen a dentist in over 20 years, and have only been twice in my life. I am terrified in so many ways, but I know it is a necessary next step that I must take on my road to healing after finally first finding the courage to open up to Pinar about my lifelong secret, and briefly with a few of you over the past couple of weeks. After the initial screening appointment, I will go back shortly after for a 3 hour discussion of my options and status of every individual tooth, be assigned a student dentist, and be recommended a plan of action. I know not how soon I will be able to afford this plan, but I won't know the numbers and options until they go, so... here I am. This is who I am, this is where I'm at, this is what I have wanted to tell you for a very long time. I am not sure what form of "help" any of you can offer, but it is important to me that you were aware of this information about me. After I get my initial few visits out of the way, I will probably need help arranging for multiple rides to Mesa to have probably 16-18 teeth extracted over the coming weeks. I also may try to organize some subtle kinds of fundraisers and benefit art shows and concerts, bake sales etc. if any of you would like to offer your help with that or donate or have any suggestions. If it is not yet obvious, virtually every cent of any kind I make over the next several months outside of food, rent and phone is going to wholeheartedly be dedicated to raising the necessary funds for this dental work, or into projects I believe will do so. So if you want custom stencils or artwork, vegan cooking and baking, bike repair and maintenance or screen printing and probably lots of other things, please by all means consider asking me or recommending me to others. Thanks in advance for anything you can offer, and thank you for listening to such a long story. I hope to write and release a much more elaborate story as a zine for Anna's Mental Health Collective Art show for Art detour as well, the rough draft of the first 5 chapters of perhaps 10 already being written, if you wish to read further.Every person I get to talk to about this has helped me tremendously, and although this is certainly a strange and awkward format to share something like this is, I am grateful for all of you who will read it, even if you don't know how to respond immediately. Perhaps if you can at least "like" it or something after you read it, to let me know, or talk to me in person afterward, that would help ease the status of my my mind made abnormally anxious by facebook's frustrating false promise of instant gratification. Thank you all, so very much, for being there, in one way or another, and making me feel comfortable enough to share this with you.
I love you,