She said she sensed an urgency afoot she hadn’t felt for some time, that she felt feeling itself was only a mirage kept alive by a ghost of what never actually was.
-Nathaniel McKay (From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate)
It’s one-hour essay time again. I want to write about the show I’m working on, Indivisible. Indivisible is both the name of the show and, I’ve realized, the heart of what I work on not only in my drawings and writing, but in my creative facilitation, my personal development, my relationships, everything. Indivisible. In particular, that opposites are indivisible, that they are connected by their opposition. In the book I wrote about so much a few weeks ago, The Great Image Has No Form, this idea is explored from the point of view of transitions states like the haziness of dusk and dawn, or the slow lifting of a fog from a mountain.
I’ve worked with this idea before in various ways. There is a game I invented to practice non-linear logic and free association, the “Opposite Game.” You pass opposites around a circle in the form of saying the line “the opposite of X is Y.” The next person picks up your “Y” as their “X.” It is interesting when you look for the opposite of things like canaries (penguins? Rhinoceros?), computers (bunnies? Blades of glass?), thunderclouds (the milky way?), and states like the end of bliss (the beginning of terror) or the indignant refusal to vote (channel surfing?). You are trying to throw your thoughts far, as far as possible, to something as intensely different as you can think of, but still inextricably connected; an opposite.
Also, I’ve written about the inner separation of the first generation immigrant child, being neither from here nor there.
This kind of shape-shifting is a practice of forgetting and erasure of the self. It’s brilliant as a coping mechanism: instead of a self (who can get hurt) one becomes a kind of mirror, an object. Instead of having a sense of my own needs and desires, I submitted everything to the environments I moved in. I distanced my emotions from my experience of the world, and existed only in response to stimulation. This allowed me to experience two completely different environments without having to explain one to the other. I became the wall between my worlds.
-In issue 24, The Chicago Quarterly Review (link to issue on amazon)
We are separated from ourselves, split, cracked, torn in so many ways. Trauma, abuse, neglect, disappointment, distance, grief, divorce, discrimination, oppression, even by conscious choice, by choosing to be different than our ancestors and communities, there are so many ways we are pushed apart. But we are also, at the same time, never apart from ourselves. We cannot be entirely cleaved apart along these fissures.
I want to write about this, but there is something else pushing on my mind, so I will return to it. I want to write about longing. Longing, I think is a way that space is opened up between what is and the orientation towards which we intend. Longing creates directions for the soul to trace its path on the world. Longing is a well, and sometimes into that well a spring of fresh cold water can burst from the earth. I’ve known so much longing in my life. It has motivated me to grow. Unrequited lovers, in particular, are those from whom I’ve learned the most. Because there is a specific kind of blessing that comes from not getting what I want. When I long for something and then I get it, it is often not what I hoped. But when I long for something (in my case mostly someone) and that longing is never satisfied, then the space that is opened, that vast, glittering dark, fills with something else that comes into my life as a gift for opening in the heart and not for fulfilling.
This week I told a dear friend that I love him. It was something I had been holding back from saying for some months, as we grew closer and more trusting, as I invested more and more energy into his life, into his work, into his interests and his survival and thriving. Love grows simply sometimes where attention rests, I think. Eventually I could not hold it back any longer. The truth became so overripe it simply fell from the tree, oversweet and sticky. As so often happens in these situations, he told me he cares for me a lot (he has many times told me he loves me, but I always knew it was as a friend, I wrote in essay ten about “just friends”) but is not in love with me. My initial reaction was inner panic. What if I lose the friendship? What if I am horribly grotesque and am impossible to love? What if I have harmed him in some way with my desire? But this morning I awoke from a dream with the realization that my love is not a sour milk that he has to throw away. He seems to have withdrawn a little from our connection now, but I feel I can trust he will be back soon. Because my love is a gift. He may need space and I will need to change the way I have been relating, to relax my desire to connect with him as a lover, to drop expectation and allow a loving friendship the freedom it requires to live. And because the universe will come and fill the deep well in my heart which was opened by my longing, I’m always whole.
When I began my current drawing practice on Jan 2 2015 I was aching for something, so many things. I was sick, broken, exhausted from work and travel and (a different) unrequited love. I was spending days in bed with shingles, just sleeping. The only thing I wanted to do was draw as I did as a child, to soothe myself by entering a world of my own making. I began to scribble, to draw from the simple place of allowing. Allowing them to be whatever they wanted. Allowing them to be ugly. Two and a quarter years later I have about 300 of these drawings. Last May I showed them to Khosro Behramandi, an artist here in Montreal, who runs a festival called Acces Asie. When he offered to help me make them into a show I wasn’t sure what to think. I wasn’t sure how to believe him. He told me to go meet a woman called Farah Fancy from Le Groupe Herencias to see if she wanted to manage the show. The next day I met her, at a little cafe called Coin B. She seemed to say yes, but I still couldn’t believe it. Now, almost a year later, we are well into creating this show, have a wonderful venue, with opening night on May 10 2018 (save the date, my three lovely friends who read these). The drawings had opened a space.
The word Indivisible is not just an adjective here. It is the name of a space. The name of the place that is created in between opposites. When we are split into opposites like home and away, safe and unsafe, love and hate, in this space is a flexible, invisible world that stretches and twists and contorts itself so that we can remain whole. And out of this space emerge our dreams, emerge beings and landscapes, emotions and images. This is the place I am exploring with my surreal, automatic drawings and the set and scene of the show.
I want to know more about how the self works. I want to see the special instant when the dream maker conjures images, in their contortions that help to heal and seal the vast, too vast, particulate world of the self and keep it holding together until death makes it come flying apart and returns it to the limitless potential of the infinite universe. I want people to come to the show and witness the inner life taking flight.
In writing these essays, sometimes I find myself at a bend in the path, a place where I’m not sure what is coming next. I am at such a place right now. I close my eyes and let my hands keep typing, the tapping of the keys, their smoothness, all allow me to believe in the rhythm of consciousness. This morning I had breakfast with my friend Naava. We began the morning with an argument as we walked to breakfast. Fortunately, neither of us is put off by conflict, so we were able to get to quite a deep place. Like longing, conflict can open spaces that are then filled by mystery. I was telling her about my revelation this morning, that my love is not sour milk, or toxic sludge. It is a gift, my attention is gentle and my insight is deep and I am a loving, attentive, creative interesting friend to have. But being in love is something else. It is connected to the body by attraction, and it is woven into the past by the threads of memory. We cannot know if someone will return this kind of love. It’s not the kind of human movement that is consistent or predictable, like eating, drinking, shitting, fucking. But I also know that there are other kinds of romantic love. There is the kind that grows, like hair, inexorably, into old relationships. There is the kind that comes and goes like waves. There is the kind that burns not bright but long and the kind that is too bright for more than a single encounter. My friend has told me so many times he loves me, and brought me so much comfort in that way, and showed up and shown me how much he cares. It was easy to believe that he was in love, but when he has now clearly said he isn’t I realize that it was not romance. There is no one-sided romance. I suppose there is not one sided anything on this planet. Everything that is has dimension, has shape, the visible and the invisible, everything that is has energy, emitting time and light. No, if he does not return my feelings, then these powerful feelings must be something else, opening a space for the unknown to put down it’s bags.
By the logic of indivisible, my feelings are creating a split, out of which newness will emerge. Though the process of this kind of cracking is excruciating, I know that it will come to beauty in the end. Having learned to make the drawings, and the piano music that came before it, and the poetic freestyling that came before that, and the somatic and improvised dance forms that came after, and now making these essays, all in this same way of simply opening the gates and letting the soul flood forward; learning to open the aperture to allow the light to come through me, like in the famous two slit experiment that showed us that matter is both wave and particle, I am learning to participate in the justified and everlasting principle of creativity on this planet. That from opposites that pull apart a space is made, and into that space new beings can emerge.
I forget the importance of this aperture now and then, but those days, when nothing comes through, I feel clogged and heavy. When I let it through I feel light and strong. I feel like how we used to see Wonder Woman stand, akimbo, with my thighs strong and gleaming and my third eye covered with a star. The creative force that comes from my struggle to survive this sticky, stretchy, short thing called life is itself the life giver.
I told myself that the best way to rebalance the love I feel for my friend so that he is not overwhelmed and flooded by my desire and so I don’t have to panic about losing him into the eighteen-billion-eyed monster that is humanity on this planet, is to find myself a lover. Or maybe a few. It was a sudden lover, actually, who pushed me to tell him. We had spent a few evenings together, and she had been telling me about how she would always “detonate” a crush, just tell the person, and see how they react.
The next day, after a sweet, sweet night with her, all I could do was cry. I realized that in the stretchy indivisible place where loved/not loved had stretched apart with my friend for so long, a being had arisen, a fantasy I had attached myself to. This is how I realized that it was time to press the red button and simply tell him. I knew it would be risky, because how can you ever tell someone (especially by email and text message) all the nuance of a fantasy affair in which the apparition looks just like them, but isn’t? I knew it might push the friendship to an edge, who likes to find out that they now have to be careful and that there is not a natural balance in the relationship? And I also knew that it would likely end the fantasy. Now, I’m in a place of tenderness, not sure what will happen next, but it is also a place of possibility, because the heavy mantle of the unrequited has become the bright zigzag of lightening with it’s accompanying rumbles from the sky. Now that the arousal has been burst the air will clear and a new space will open in the indivisible.
I’ve always cried very easily so I am crying over this, but they are not the old tears. Over the seven years that I have been actively working on my deep seated (ancestral? Karmic?) rejection complex the quality of my tears have changed so much. I even find their taste has changed. The pungent coppery salt of the tears of betrayal and rage when I would not be able to control the world and the people around me, when I would manipulate people into rejecting me to prove to myself that I was unworthy of love so that I could release these dank, stormy, tears, are no more. Today, when I cried, I tasted a lighter salt and in the front of the tongue, something like bergamot. A citrusy salt. A change of the chemistry of the soul. Alchemy.
Healing. I will always be someone who falls in love easily and deeply. I will always be someone who explodes with anger and bursts with tears. But it’s reassuring to see the flavours and hues of these emotions shifting. As I lose the desire and ability to control myself and others I am gaining a finer grain, a truer rendering of the matter of my soul. Faith.
It is the warmest day of the year so far. Today, in the sun, I felt my skin deepen in its melanin and the wool of my sweater give off its earthy fragrance. I looked into my journals because Shams told me a few days ago that I am becoming my future self. A couple of years ago I had begun working through Jodorowsky’s Metageneology, and had uncovered a super-self that I realized was Star Woman, who is in many of my drawings. I wanted to find the first description of her. I used to write voice dialogue with her, as well as with Shams, but in the last six or eight months have not been able to. Shams says it’s because she has been fully integrated. It was, for a moment, a bit disappointing to me to hear that I had attained this stage of maturity, yet I was still in the throes of unrequited love. But I’m not. First, the love is requited, even when it is different and needs to be tuned so it can nourish us both in the proper way. But second, Star Woman is not afraid to love without control. Which means she risks her heart. She knows that love can never coerce. When it does it is the opposite: fear.
When I looked into the journals I also remembered that another dream character had appeared to me a year ago. It was a non-gendered character called Hamentot. Hamentot, I learned in the dream, is the sovereign, the guide and protector of all my other parts. I’d forgotten about them, even though over the winter I had read Edward Edinger’s Anatomy of the Soul (as I mentioned a few essays ago) and been through a period of illness and dreaming (precipitated by the first intimation that this current longing I’m experiencing was not romance, but the opening of my being for something else) and had gained through going through all those stages the walls, brick by brick, one for each day, (as I sat on my hands for a month not speaking with this person), of an inner garden, a place for my sovereign self, my Queen to sit. Today I realized that she has been waiting at the edges of my consciousness for a year, Hamentot, to take over the role that my ego has been playing, of governing and nurturing the multi-faceted rainbow window of my Self.