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. Televison 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.
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.
I am beginning a 30 day yoga commitment as I settle into my new home in Montreal. Fall is decidedly in the air which means letting go, accepting change of pace as days grow shorter, and harvesting for the winter ahead. This is a commitment to dedicating my days to the divine, and surrendering to what is as the seasons change in my heart & home.
October 30 day commitment:
- Reflection on dreams
- Divine Light Invocation in the morning
- 4 sides of sun salutations in the morning
- Karma yoga 1-2 hours minimum
- Reflection on Swami Sivananda's Daily Readings
- 108 Divine Mother prayers/mantras
- Thich Nhat Hanh visualization exercise before bed
- Reflection on days actions before bed
- Media black out before bed & before yoga practice
- Practice single pointed focus, no blame, compassionate listening, and mindful breathing in daily actions.
Hari Om Tat Sat
The events in Charlottesville are still reverberating around the world, and the legacy of white supremacist violence lives on unchallenged by the state. At home I am thinking about the anti racism billboard campaign that managed to enrage local white supremacists and "law abiding" racists alike. At the time of the release every public forum seemed to be flooded with a rage fuelled by fear of self reflection. Neighbours openly argued for racism (and against the campaign) unmasked and unashamed. Often with inconspicuous statements like "the city has better things to spend tax payer money on" moving the financial burden of education, let alone reparations, from the white public benefiting from the system to the individuals affected and their allies. As far as I know no direct violence erupted because of the ideological clash of the billboards, however I may be one of the last to know if there were as a white woman living and working in white neighbourhoods. Without obvious flair ups of violence such as the one in Charlottesville it's easy to fail to adequately comprehend the daily violence of white supremacy and everyday "casual" racism. I know that I have failed when I feel my "shock" in spite of reading daily about the worsening conditions in the U.S. and at home. I know that I have failed when I feel "afraid" for my future because of violence and prejudices that have effected other folks for generations. I know that I have failed when I feel "hopeless" in the face of dismantling 500 odd years of systematic violence from my relative position of power. I know that I have failed when I let my empathy for my fellow human's pain immobilize my body in "sadness" rather than extend a hand in loving service. I know that I have failed many times over, and yet I am here dedicated to the perseverance of love over hate, of knowledge over ignorance, of action over reaction, of peace over suffering. Today I share a few things that I am reading and considering as I face the shadows of myself betwixt the eclipses darkened sight. Rest in power to those fallen in service of compassion, peace, love, and justice.
- The Case for Reparations via The Atlantic
- Dear White People: I Want You to Understand Yourselves Better via The Establishment
- The Similarities Between Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program and Slavery via Huffington Post
- Indigenous Perspectives of Canada's 150 via APTN
- A Seat At The Table by Solange
- Donate to Support Charlottesville
Things that I don’t feel like doing anymore & don’t know why:
- Drinking alcohol to get drunk
- Making accommodations for relationships that don’t fuel me
- Putting on the pretence of happiness
- Taking nudes & selfies
- Getting angry over the news
- Holding space for people not invested in my well being
- Working myself to the bone
- Working for free
- Skipping meals
- Putting myself second
Things that I am craving & I don’t know why:
- Time alone uninterrupted
- Time in silence among the trees
- Slow jams & female vocalists
- Non-violent TV & media
- Tidy living space
- Manual labor
- Wholistic foods & meals
- Meaningful connections
- Patience in thoughts
- Opportunity to grow new roots
Things that I am doing & I don’t know why:
- Looking forward to going to work
- Giving up on detailed long term plans
- Posting less on social media
- Reading less & consuming less media
- Talking to the point of excess with people near me
- Thinking to the point of excess about how my actions are impacting others
- Snapping at people I am not close to over small inconveniences
- Feeling guilty for not taking care of everyone around me at the expense of myself
- Unable to formulate thoughts & ideas into complete written words
- Looking for reasons to base how I feel off of
Things that I am not doing & I don’t know why:
- Sitting down to meditate
- Talking to my friends about how I’m feeling
- Practicing yoga at home
- Working on my creative pursuits
- Looking for another job
- Concerning myself about finances
- Feeling depressed, suicidal, or hopeless
- Starting new projects or latching onto new ideas
- Longing for something or someone that is not already here with me
The first time our lips groped each other in gentle awkwardness a tidal wave overcame my body drowning my brain in the dizzying waves. You touched my face in that loving way we had whispered to each other about as kids. Except you weren’t the tuxedo mask or Kurt Cobain of our fantasies. You had soft hands that smelt like vanilla body spray and truth or dare perspiration. You pulled away while I was still struggling to catch my breath and laughed in my face. You said that its no big deal to kiss after all it was just a game. Even though I had tried to say to you many nights in the dark that I could fall in love with any gender, but what I didn’t say was that I was falling in love with you. I think of all those times we would practice our make up and try to find the right angle to make our barely there breasts seem most appealing in the mirror before lying together on the bed legs entwined talking about our futures. You said that we had to practice doing it for the boys, to attract a husband that we would wow with our nubile yoga bodies, and cook fancy meals for on special occasions. But I knew no boy would appreciate you like I do. He would be intimidated by your Amazonian figure, and fierce intellect. He wouldn’t know the hours you devoted to becoming your best self. He wouldn’t know the way your dad sometimes scared you, but you still loved him. He wouldn’t know that you think carnations are tacky as gifts. But I knew. I had watched you growing up all these years, blooming into not a woman but a force of nature. And I was the one reminding you that you were beautiful, and that shared your anxieties about sex and love and romance. I couldn’t say to you though that I was falling in love with you. You were my best friend, and if our parents found out no more sleep overs, no more friendship, no more innocence. Besides we agreed that we weren’t ready to have sex yet anyways. You wanted to wait for marriage, and I wanted to wait for more body hair. But then you kissed me on a dare at your birthday party while your parents were out in front of all of our friends and shipwrecked my timid heart. In that moment as my lips parted to your infinite wetness letting it wash away all my fear of being seen when I too felt like I might be a goddess of the sea, you laughed at me. You told me that it meant nothing. You could kiss me anytime that you wanted, and it wouldn’t mean anything to you because you are not gay. I am just your friend. And sometimes friends kiss because boys like it when they do, and you, my friend, really want a boyfriend for your birthday, and I am never going to be that boyfriend because I can’t hide how soft my lips are, or how smooth my cheek is, or how tiny my hands are. My tiny hands that could never encircle your waist in the strong titanic embrace that you dream of. I wouldn’t even know how to love you if I could. We hadn’t been practicing for this moment. The moment I would dissolve into your lips. I buried those feelings like a treasure closely guarded. Kept under lock & key, but always just below the surface. I had seen the ocean in your grey eyes, and I tried to swim back there everyday, but you were always looking somewhere else.
Winter can’t decide if it’s thawing or freezing, but I’m ready to hibernate for another three months. 2017 started with a bang with Alt Alt DIY Fest which was such a huge success on so many levels that I could not have anticipated. However it left me feeling quite emotionally, physically, mentally, and even spiritually drained for most of January and the better part of February. I’ve been in denial about how much that event took out of me because it was so truly obviously worth it, but living in denial is not the start to being able to adequately replenish myself.
Now that it is nearly March, and new projects are on the horizon, I am taking time to reflect on what it is I need to move forward. Burn out is a luxury I am afforded as a single person with good support networks and steady employment with health benefits. I can work myself to the bone for my community then collapse inwardly because no one is counting on me for their 24/7 sustenance, and because I know there are people around me who will catch me if I fall too deeply into depression or self loathing. It is truly a privileged position that I feel blessed to occupy, but this is not how I want to create in my career. Periods of intense creation, and intense seclusion will always be necessary to my practice, but neither state should be so extreme that it put such unnecessary strain on my day to day ability to live my life.
A huge part of the burn out taking two months is that I need to work 35 hours a week in addition to the 20-30 hours of creative & community work required by projects of this scale in order to support myself. It is hard for me currently to imagine a point when that level of work would not be required in order to stay a float, however I recognize that is a limitation in my belief structure rather than a hard fact. The question then becomes how to move beyond that bias in order to start to look at ways to become more self sufficient.
This is a powerful lesson to take from Alt Alt, the gift that keeps on giving, and now that I’ve identified what I want to avoid I need to set my imagination to work to find a new way. How can I create a practice that allows for projects of this scale without sacrificing my well-being?
It’s Pisces season, and spring is just around the corner which I feel is a good time to reflect on this question. I’m asking for creative vision to guide me in the next month as I look inwards to recenter. This is a time for tinkering, for dreaming, for meditating, for empathy, for love, for reflection. Planting seeds this month to harvest come June.
If you have experience or resources relating to managing burn out as a creative, or transitioning out of the work force let me know in the comments.