Dry February

At the beginning of the month I committed to giving up alcohol for February in order to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society and kick start some healthy habits. I’m just over the hump now, and with two weeks to go only$25 away from reaching my fundraising goal of $250. It feels really good on many levels.

I started experimenting with sobriety in the later half of 2017 as a means for managing my depression without anti-depressants (I’m no longer insured). I quickly discovered the hardest part was to be able to be social and sober. There are only a handful of people that I have strong enough relationships with to interact in a non-booze related setting. Everything from business networking events to opening receptions to my grandmother’s 85th birthday party feature conspicuous alcohol consumption. My mom pointed out that it’s easier to avoid coffee because people often ask “would you like coffee or tea?” Where as when offered an alcoholic beverage there is often no easy alternative that is not immediately met with scrutiny or ridicule. I’ve been dry for 18 days, and it’s got me thinking more about the role alcohol plays in my life.

Alt Alt DIY Fest was a huge success on many levels, but it would not have been as financially successful without operating a cash bar. It’s hard to say whether it would have been as socially successful either. I would like to think that the quality of the work would speak for itself, however on a frigid weekend in Saskatoon I do think drink specials play a huge role in whether people feel that it is worthwhile to venture out. Is there a profitable model for operating a venue sans-bar sales? What about fundraisers that don’t feature pushing booze on supporters? Can we normalize creative and social spaces that are not centred around liquor?

I love sipping at an event as much as the next twenty something, but if I’m honest with myself about how often I’m actually enjoying the booze and how often I just want something to do with my hands it makes me appreciate a good glow in the dark fidget spinner! I’m not a church-going person, I don’t like practicing yoga at a studio, I don’t watch sports, and I can’t keep up with a book club. My main connection to community is through arts events. If all of these arts events also feature alcohol that is a lot of spinning.

There have been times in the past when I would not have committed to going one month sober because of this. If resisting temptation is met with risk of social isolation often a drink is the lesser of two evils. Which is what I’ve found managing my depression. Maybe someday I will be ready to dramatically alter my social habits enough to cut alcohol out completely, but for now I’m more interested in looking for ways to minimize it’s centrality. There have been so many wonderful conversations on creating a consent culture cropping up in the wake of #MeToo movement, and I think the natural extension of that is to the role alcohol plays in our lives. Not in a limiting the number of drinks women consume way (looking at you Stanford), but in a creating space for people to opt into alcohol culture without having it shoved down their throats. Particularly in creative spaces.

Creative events are offer the opportunity to experience something bigger than ourselves. They are sexy, they are cool, they are intoxicating. Let’s normalize creating creative spaces that are just as intoxicating to inhabit sober in 2018.

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A new year

May this new year bring you peace of mind, a compassionate heart, and many blessings.

I am dedicating this year to Tara goddess of compassion. May everything I do be taken as thy worship. O divine mother.

This year I don’t want to try so hard to be where I’m not. The more I struggle to get ahead the more I struggle. 2017 saw me push myself out of my comfort zone, but not entirely for the right reasons. I am grateful for all that I learnt in the reinvention process, but like the wheel, I am back to where I started. Almost. A little more relaxed.

I want 2018 to be a little softer than the year before. When I have the good fortune to be making choices about the kind of life I want to live I want to choose my peace of mind over ambition. There are so many things out of my control that I need to contend with. I don’t need to try so hard to prove myself against the challenges I create for myself. This year is about setting small attainable goals that I can practice with a compassionate heart.

My new years resolutions:

  • Practice yoga & meditation first thing in my day
  • Keep a daily journal
  • Read lots of good books
  • Find more joy in cooking & cleaning at home
  • Get on top of my finances: pay down debt & cut down convenience spending
  • Drink scant if any
  • Limit online time between tasks as filler in my day
  • Build physical strength and stamina
  • Work more and better. Work to a schedule.

My daily yoga practice begins with a divine light invocation, a standing meditation taught at the Yasodhara Ashram, then two sides of jivamukti sun salutations with measured breath followed by 5 minutes of intuitive stretching and 10 minutes of savasana. I close with the Divine Mother prayer and either a moment of silent gratitude or chanting. This is the routine that I developed in Montreal that carried me through those hard three months, and it’s based on the practice I created for myself after moving home from Rossland, another dark period. I am committing to completing it first thing in the day before I look at my phone or make breakfast. I’ve recently moved in with my boyfriend which is notoriously a hard time to commit to rigorous practice. However, it’s important to my sense of security that I put my air mask on first even if that means getting up a little earlier so I have the space to do that in.

I am motivated to keep a daily journal of my progress after reading about John Steinbeck. There are many artists and thinkers that maintain the importance of a journal practice. It’s always been part of my practice, often daily, but seldom particularly directed. After studying alongside my friend Thomas Siebel at the Yasodhara Ashram I picked up some useful tricks to organize my writing, but also to think of it as a more exacting tool like a barometer or microscope rather than a steam vent.

I barely touched a book until the latter half of the year in 2017, and then I was in such a desperate state of mind I inhaled around 30 books in 3 months. I would like to keep the momentum up for my peace of mind. There is a tranquillity in reading that is hard to capture anywhere else. Yet so often I convince myself that “I don’t have time” to sit down with a book completely discounting the respite of just a few pages taken in a moment’s pause.

Something I have come to realize in my attitudes towards the maintenance of my home and even my body is that this is somehow unimportant work. As a feminist I might spew stats on valuing women’s work and the importance of these nurturing roles. However, personally, in the way I have been living my life, I have believed that there will be time for that later, or that someone else will do it, or that these are the personal sacrifices required for success. It’s sucked a lot of joy out of my life. Both because I have been living in a state of disrepair, but also because I’ve denied my own satisfaction in domestic life. At the ashram it was interesting to note that my favourite area to volunteer in was not the garden but house keeping duties. I got to experience the immense satisfaction of making a bed just so, the smell of folding fresh laundry, the joy of bringing order and beauty to the dark dusty corners that I don’t normally take pause to appreciate. Of course there is something different about doing chores in a beautiful tranquil estate on a lake in the mountains, but I recognize how much my own beliefs about the kinds of work that are worth doing effect my peace of mind.

Last year it didn’t seem to matter how much I worked, or how much I saved, or how many extra gigs I picked up, I couldn’t get ahead of my finances. The elephant in the room was that I was so focused on investing my finances into “my future” that I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening right now. I was able to hit some important financial goals, but the sacrifices made to get there ended up not being worth it. This year my biggest financial goal is to not live in the future with it, but just be more mindful of where it’s needed in this moment. I have debts that I deprioritized paying so that I could move to Montreal only to end up back in Saskatoon carrying the same amount of debt as the year before. I have bad habits of over scheduling my day to the point that I need to throw money at a problem in order to meet basic conditions of living like eating, sleeping, and getting around. I like to be generous with my money, but sometimes go beyond my means because of emotional spending. I want to get to a place where financial concerns aren’t stealing my peace of mind.

I experimented with sobriety a few times in 2017. Although I don’t think it is a lifestyle I am ready to commit to, I did see a lot of benefit. First of all financially, but also emotionally. It seemed that too much of a good thing though can have the opposite effect. Everything in moderation including moderation.

It’s long been obvious that the internet offers the same sort of double edged sword as a night of imbibing. Both at their best are a great means to unwind, have some fun, and be social. But both can also tend towards more antisocial behavior when not consciously consumed. Last year having a piece of shit SE iPhone meant that slowly none of my apps worked thus automatically limiting the amount I could be online, then at the ashram I remembered the joy of carrying a book in it’s place for those awkward windows of time we seek to distract ourselves. Having just gotten a new android phone with limitless potential I am wary of sliding into old habits.

Exercise for the sake of exercise is another habit I started to play with at the end of 2017. I found it enjoyable to practice at if hard to maintain. I’ve just downloaded a 30 day trial of a personal trainer app which I am going to experiment with to give my practice structure. If I can give up the thinking about what to do next part of exercise I think I can focus on the joy of being in a body that moves.

This last one is taken from Woody Guthrie, as are a couple others. Even though my shoulders tense reactively to hear the plain directive, they also light a fire in my stomach and blood in my cheeks. I’m ready. This is a lifelong mission to create more and better. But there is no harm in stating my intention again. Last year I didn’t make anything new. I was so focused on getting to Montreal I turned down any other opportunity or impulse. It took a lot of energy to manifest that dream, but now that I’ve cleared the pipes I’m ready to direct that energy elsewhere.

Om Tara.

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Happy Birthday Brittney

The first time I heard Britney Spears it was on a casette tape my newly appointed best friend played for me on my parents boom box in the backyard of my freshly minted childhood home. There were may flowers in bloom that dropped their lazy white petals all over the concrete, and my friend sat at the picnic table and coached me on all the dance moves which I had never seen. I was flattered by her interest in me and attention to detail as she corrected me, but I knew if my mom caught me acting this way and listening to this music it would be the end of our baby friendship. She liked boys, and she didn’t like her home. I’m not sure why she liked me because she was clearly quite a bit older than me although I hadn’t figured that out yet. She lived across the street in the row of three cement condos with the empty flower bed out front. I spotted her on the first day that we moved in playing in her front yard across the street. As soon as I had jumped out of the car I had waved at her enthusiastically and invited her over to play at my house. She had short curly hair and a brother that was mean to us sometimes but mostly left us alone.┬áTelevison had already taught me my best friend would be the one geographically most convenient to me since I wasn’t enrolled in school and didn’t yet have full run of the neighbourhood. She would bring over tapes of Brittney Spears and Spice Girls and teach me all the moves, but I wasn’t allowed to go over to her house to watch them on TV. Once she told me she had peed her pants because she couldn’t get to the bathroom in her house. She couldn’t quite explain to me why she couldn’t get there, but having only been potty trained for a few years myself it didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. I reassured her and told her she could use my bathroom anytime. My parents started to ask a lot of questions about her, and my baby sitter wouldn’t let her come over to play at all. She did seem to cry and shout a lot, but I didn’t think that was unusual she just had a lot of feelings that she couldn’t explain. I don’t remember when she stopped being allowed to play in my house or why that happened. I do remember that someone explained to me that I didn’t have to be so nice to everyone. I didn’t find being nice to her a chore though. She would give me her undivided attention for hours at a time, and I would give her mine. It was a very mutual exchange from my young vantage point. Not long after that her family moved away from mine. Some time afterwards my family got a few months of cable as one of those internet bundle promotions. I remember watching all the moves my friend had taught me in real life on the television, and feeling a sense of pride over the hours we spent practicing our routine. My new friends scoffed at Brittney Spears and thought girls that liked that kind of music were stupid air head bimbos. I had to agree with them externally, but inside I remembered my friend asking the same questions that they were.

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Dreaming of a beautiful living thing

Last night I dreamt of a bright white light coming from within a huge web like dome of interlocked shadows. The edges of the shadows were soft and vaguely human shaped. The light was harsh on the black dance floor. The network breathed together as one beautiful living thing. From deep within the mass a poet’s voice emerged crystal clear. As their voice grew nearer the light shifted from below the knot to above the speaker as the limbs disassembled in the darkness.

I am in a rehearsal hall addressing the ensemble of sweaty artists emerging from the darkness. I am giving notes to the team to spend extra time working with their bodies between rehearsals to build stamina to hold the sculpture, “This will be different for each of your bodies, look inside yourself and see how you need to make adjustments to the sequence to suit your body”. As the group disperses I am already pouring over my notes making adjustments to the calendar, and drafting emails to the design team with the adjustments from today. There is a level of calm in my brain that is so rare in my waking life.

The thought disrupts the dream state. I wake up going over the schedule again, and determining the web image should be moved to the end from the beginning.

Bookends.

Thanks Mr. Rose.

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work in progress

I’ve been having a hard time sitting down to write lately. Not because I lack time, but because I lack empathy for my own process therefore how could I hope to have empathy for anyone else’s. There are a lot of things I could say about depression and creativity and in fact I already have said some here, but I don’t have the strength to go there right now. I am writing to here now to give the smallest of updates and the smallest of motivation to myself to keep going, to keep writing. Because in my experience writing helps put a frame around my experience to be able to look at it from that place in the mind that does not experience pain of living, the essence of being if you will. I promised you two books of poetry exactly a year ago, and truth be told I’m scared to release them. These poems were written in a very dark period of my life, and at the time they gave me a reason to keep on going, to keep on writing, but reading them now is painful. Painful that I hurt so much, and painful that I would wish to share that sort of hurt on the world that is suffering so much already. It’s a hard thing for me to reconcile with myself in my current black disposition. I have made a promise to finish them by the end of this year regardless because people have directly asked me to, people I respect, and people that have paid me money in order that I might keep going, keep writing. If it weren’t for these people that have invested their good faith in me I would probably give up on the project entirely. Which is depressing in itself. There is this idea that the only kind of pure art is art for art’s sake that the artist creates in this vacuum regardless of who will appreciate it, but I also believe that the creative experience is not complete without someone to receive the expression of the soul. It’s like trying to have a conversation while no one is listening. Between these two beliefs I feel a little lost about how to feel about the release of this body of work. It is coming though regardless if only so I can practice having empathy for the parts of myself and my work I do not like.

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5x shadow play

These are a few of the things I have been considering. The list is heavy as is my mind. October has been a difficult mental health month for many of us struggling to exist online, heal, and move forward. The days are getting shorter and the veil is getting thinner. A good time to turn inwards and take stock of the inner ghouls lurking in the shadows of my mind.

  1. Take a trip through sonic landscapes with Shirley & The Pyramids via Raz Mataz
  2. Alan Watts on shadow work
  3. Love After Life via Brain Pickings
  4. How to Reach Out to Someone Who is Struggling via On Being
  5. Wading Through Water: A Guide for Emotional Healing via Hoodwitch
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5 x seeker

I had the great fortune of staying at the Yasodhara Ashram for a month as a karma yogi in their young adult program. It was a beautiful transition between seasons, and deepening thirsty roots that had been forgotten. During my time there I got take a closer look at the motivating forces in my life, and really hone in on how I would like to focus these energies in my next chapter. Entering this community enriched my personal practice deeply, and reignited a deep desire within me to ~know~ more. I'm currently reading Ram Das's book Be Here Now and he talks about the searching feeling of each of us looking into each other's eyes "do you know?" And the ultimate satisfaction of finding someone who Knows. It was encouraging to be in a community of such earnest seekers. I've spent the last couple weeks transitioning back, and here are a few of the things I have been considering as I do. Enjoy ~

  1. Oprah Winfrey talks to Thich Nhat Hanh an 20 min excerpt via Super Soul Sunday
  2. Kardinsky on the Spiritual Element of Art & The Artist's Three Responsibilities via Brain Pickings
  3. Something About Mary via Ascent Magazine
  4. Marias: Faith in Womanhood on Netflix
  5. Music by Sheenah Ko

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