The Good With The Bad

This gets a little personal. If you'd rather just read some awesomeness about HACKTIVIST, check out Collin's website. He's got an incredible celebratory post that echoes my thoughts and feelings exactly. We love you all. Fans, friends, comics pros: Thanks for the warm reception.


Okay. Still here? Cool. I have something I want to get off my chest. Let's get real for a second.

A little fun fact about me: I was born with a rare case of spina bifida.

It runs in my family, the result of some old Irish curse or the strange metaphysical chemicals that inspired my oracular Greek ancestors. It's not as bad as it sounds - honestly, bifida has little effect on my life beyond an occasional period of spinal pain each year. I didn't even know about it until I was 18, after a training injury forced me to army crawl through the streets of Belmont, MA just to get home from the local reservoir track - but it has been a constant threat ever since. I switched to a standing desk last year, but even that has not solved the recurring pain.

All told, on the bifida scale, I'm incredibly lucky - the effects of the disorder can be catastrophic in its worst forms. My particular defect, a form of spina bifida occulta, manifests as a series of tiny holes at the base of my spine, which make it incredibly easy for me to in effect "slip a disc". Since I'm also an active person - I've been running since I was small and regularly spend my lunch breaks on an elliptical - I have a terrible habit of developing said herniated disc when I'm pushing myself past a physical plateau. Thus, if I'm doing good and getting into shape, my spine is far more likely to develop problems. Once the disc is damaged, I can be immobilized in pain for a week or longer. Basically, as I try to maintain fitness, all I do is slide further down the slope until I can't even get out of bed.

(I poured a lot of frustration about my physical existence into FREAKSHOW. If you're curious, check it out sometime.)

Now, I'm a positive person. No doubt, my friends would classify me "excitable" or "manic". This can become nearly uncontrollable in the face of actual stuff to be excited about - like, say, the release of HACKTIVIST. I jump around a lot. I run extra hard. I don't get the kind of deep sleep I need for health. And thus, I slip a disc. What were once fully functioning legs suddenly become wobbly and weak. What was a straight back is suddenly curved to the right side like a mis-matched set of Legos. Where I could once dance or run or walk or stand, I can only lie on my back for hours at a time. When I manage to drive, it is at speeds normally reserved for the elderly - because if I turn the car too fast, my back will begin to spasm uncontrollably.

I can't help but imagine, sometimes, that this is the price of exuberance. That for every success or positive feeling the universe owes me a gut punch - like the whispering slave in the Roman Triumph. This is of course absurd and self-centered, but I suppose these are the kind of mental patterns you develop as an occasionally-disabled person. When you spend a lot of time staring at the ceiling because you can't get across the room to grab a book, you find yourself suddenly very aware of your limitations. When you have to ask your girlfriend to roll you two inches to the left because to do so yourself would be unreasonably painful, you start to know how small you really are.

This week, the bifida attack has been something akin to a cleansing. Last week was incredible - an absolute celebration of hard work with a dream team of creators. More is coming down the pipe, with new projects in many mediums and the rest of HACKTIVIST still waiting in the wings. We're busier and more productive than we've ever been, surrounded by the most incredible tribe of friends and creators, constantly striving to do better. And this week reminded me why we strive at all: because these physical forms are small and weak and temporary, but our spirit is not.

Our bodies are not who we are. It's our relationships, the love in our lives, and the work we leave behind. Even when I'm in pain, even when I'm unable to run or jump or dance, I can dream. I can write. I can express myself and understand the expressions of others. And with that I can help build community.

That realization has been joyous and painful and hard to articulate. I tend to retract during my bifida attacks, finding them embarrassing and frustrating. I'd like to stop that, so I decided to share.

Next post, I promise I'll just plug a book or share some art. But if you got all the way to the end... Thanks.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm gonna go for a walk.