Anti-Gravity Clay

(written Sept 4 2017)

I absolutely don’t have the energy to do this today. To write for a whole hour. But I’m starting to fall behind and I just can’t stand the thought of not finishing this project when I’ve come so far. It’s been a week of deep, deep inner work, working with a creative limits coach and I think there are things going on inside me that are just taking up energy.  My energy seems to be bouncing up and down, and my moods with them. I will just try to push through this, but I fear it will not be very readable.  If only I could think of a memory.  Well, there is this one thing. Last night I had a dream, and I know it was part of the coaching.

I was bullied a lot as a child. In elementary school it was more physical. But when I got to high school it was different, an experience of isolation, exclusion mostly. But there was one girl, RR, who used to really dislike me. I don’t know why. I know that she wasn’t a happy person, but why she chose me in particular I’m not totally sure. (Maybe she didn’t, and I just didn’t notice her relationships with other people. She always seemed popular, but maybe she had other victims) She lived in the boarding school and her parents were in town, so I don’t know what that means, but I can’t imagine she felt loved or secure in an arrangement like that. RR would, for example, take my things and hide them in empty lockers in various parts of the school. Once she took a leather jacket of my dad’s that he’d kept from the seventies. I knew it was her that had taken it, but she got angry and vicious when I asked her. Later, it was found in her room. She got a little scolding from the Dean of Women, but nothing else happened. I haven’t thought of her in years. I see her on facebook, but even that’s been a few years probably because of the fb algorithms. We don’t exactly have a lot in common. She runs a high end jewelry and fashion boutique in Vancouver. I haven’t thought of her or that time, I haven’t really cared to make the effort to try to untangle that time either. There was so much angst and sadness then, I guess that’s probably true of many if not most people in their high school days.  RR was just kind of part of the wash of feelings and part of how glad and grateful I was to get away from that town.

But working with the limits coach (I think maybe I mentioned her in the last essay) I got energy back from a crush I had when I was very little. Then, in the third session I got another ball of energy back. This one was black and turned into a black dragon that was protecting me as a little girl.  This morning when I woke up from the dream I had a feeling this was related. Maybe I’m getting energy back from RR. In the dream, we were working together at a camp. My friend Sad Clown was in a bed, sick, and she called me into her room. She told me that she liked RR, and that she found her very open and willing to take feedback. When I got out of bed I felt good, better than I have in a long time. But now that feeling is gone and I feel deflated and depleted.

My therapist did some of this work with me a couple of years ago. And he said it can take about ninety days for a change to take root. It makes sense.  There are so many structures built around all the pain in our lives. And to dismantle those takes time, and shifting, and energy, lots of emotional energy. I have been working with my rejection complex since 2010.  IT TAKES TIME. I know this. But it’s hard to be patient. And, of course, there are lots of gains along the way. I’m not in the same place I was in 2010, or even the same place I was a year ago.  I’m stronger, I’m more accountable to myself. But, at the end of the day I’m still me and I’m still emotional and I’m still …alone.

Today I saw a picture of Bright Ears and the Beatbox and Colour and Gesture and Supercharged and some other folks in Toronto.  I was so jealous. I wished I was there, too. It’s hard to be here, even though the Dancing Poet is back from the west coast. It’s hard to be alone in my home after all the community living.

On the other hand I do have more energy to work on the show, and to work in general.  On school and on my job. It’s like something has been released. So I want to be patient with myself and my energy.  And just try to keep working even when I don’t want to.  Like right now. I don’t want to write this. But I’m showing up.  Don’t ask me why. I don’t even know. I hope you don’t read this.

I have a pile of journals in my closet. I have a box of journals at home. In the last two and half year I have filled at least twenty of these little moleskin type books. I just put everything in it. So why am I doing this, here? I wanted these to be essays, but on a night like this I don’t feel clear enough to put thoughts in order.

I spent a good portion of today reading Poiesis and Enchantment. I was reading about set theory. It’s quite a bit over my head, but it is getting exciting. I have a dream of creating a series of arts based experiments that help me to uncover new ideas (new to me, anyway) about the nature of time. The set theory and the idea of topological theory are giving me some clues as to how I might do that. Maybe there are ways to create conditions for information to appear without having to “bracket” variables, and thus influence the process. This is one of the really important learnings from Meeting the Universe Halfway. That the measurement problem, and the uncertainty theory are not so much about perspective as they are about how the universe is organized. How, when we measure one thing, then the other information does not exist. I think of it right now as if the universe were completely continuous (and this is what is important about set theory, is that it shows HOW the universe is continuous, and how that continuity is not two or three dimensional, but that it is made up of all kinds of interconnections of emotion, spirit, time, passion…it’s exciting.  The implications are dawning on me slightly.  I have to wait to see what comes through. With measurement (not numerological measurement, but more like attention) identities or entities or distinct points appear. So maybe this will bring me to a knowing of time that is a bit akin or analogous to the understandings of metaphor that appeared when I did my Master’s work. Then, through that study, I began to see the relatedness and the non-linguistic language orientation of all things and how they transfer meaning.  That was a huge shift for me, not in thinking but in feeling. I am hoping that this study of time has a bit of a similar effect somehow, that something is illuminated in this way.  Because the metaphor study really changed my work as a facilitator. It made it much easier to see dynamics and to be able to act in a more subtle way to shift relationships and the emotional field in the room through suggestions, body language, eye contact and poetry.

Anyway, that’s what has had my interest today. Yesterday I started working on the narrative for the show.  That was also fun. I set the timer for an hour. Thanks to these writings, the feeling of how long an hour is and how to create in that much time, is becoming more clear. It had kind of faded since the hour-long short story writing practice I had seven or eight years ago. I know it will help.  Because, I’m sure I told you, I want the thesis to be a novel in the end, so it will be great to have a strong writing muscle. Just to write the essays and the thesis itself it’s going to help a lot.  But this narrative was fun, and it came through in a science fiction form I wasn’t expecting. A kind of post-climate disaster everyone-in-spaceships thing. Not very interesting as a premise, I know, but that’s what is coming through and I am going to trust it. That’s how I did the drawings in the first place. That’s how these writing are coming through (weird and brook-babbly as they are).  As much as I am afraid of these writings and very often embarrassed by them, they ARE happening. That’s something.

I think there is something about showing up. I remember Bright Ears talking about it in November. That the showing up is the work itself. Because I can’t control the creativity. I can only control if I am open to it. I guess that is an extremely simplified way of thinking about Xin Wei’s writing, too. That by sitting down to waggle my fingers over this little purple keyboard I am opening the conditions for something to happen. What happens, I can’t control. But something is born.

I don’t want this to be all I have. I am so grateful for how my life is right now, but it is dry in a way. Lonely. Some little voice in me keeps prodding, enjoy it, enjoy it. That when/if I ever do end up in a partnership or a family I will look back on these long lonely days and wish for the solitude. Funny, isn’t’ it? Not really.

Ugh. Only half way done. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for you if you are reading this, and I ask you to stop. I have nothing else to say, and nothing else to write about.

I’ve been learning to wear bras for the first time in my life, this week. The real kind, with the lace and the underwires. I never have before. But after the second session with the limits coach, suddenly there was the energy and the desire to do this. It feels kind of like I’m training myself. It’s not comfortable. But I do like how beautiful I feel. The beauty and the posture make me feel powerful. I wonder if I will ever get into heels?

How to keep going here? I’ve been making some collage poems for Bright Ears since his fortieth is in a few days. I don’t know why I always want to give him gifts. He has that magnetic thing some people have. I’ve had the collages on my kitchen table for some months. For a while I thought they wouldn’t happen, I just couldn’t see them coming together, but today I got a little bit of them mapped out.  That was fun.  I also danced this morning, which also felt great.  I look up right now from this writing and I see some copal that Silver Horns gave to me when I saw her last. Maybe I will burn some of that tonight. I’m all about the smoke lately, smoking, burning cedar. And I’ve always like copal a lot. It lifts my spirits.

I have been wanting to take better care of my energy. It isn’t good to get this depressed all the time. I used to sparkle. But as I get older and it starts to really settle in that I will likely spend this lifetime alone it has been harder and harder to shine. I wonder if I will get past this phase eventually? Just accept things as they are. That’s what I wrote last time, isn’t it. That I want to WANT WHAT I HAVE. I’ve been trying, and today felt like I was really on top of it, it did. But then by evening it’s like some of the power has worn off and I need a recharge. Sleep. Thank goodness we sleep. Have you ever thought of that? That without sleep life would be unbearable? When I have insomnia I get a glimpse of it, but not really. Because it’s one thing when I myself can’t sleep, but imagine if no one could, or ever did? If time was continuous and just…relentless? It’s the dreaming and the black nothingness that makes it possible to stand the entropic glare of the day, I think.

I’m looking at a picture of my mother, my aunt and my grandmother on my mother’s wedding day.  They look happy, but not overjoyed. My mother looks peaceful, but not joyful. They are all so beautiful in the picture, but somehow subdued. I guess they knew that mom was leaving, that their lives were about to be changed forever. I think about marriage so much. What was she really thinking on that day? There is no point in asking her, because that young woman is gone. That twenty-one year old beauty who didn’t know what was coming.  Now, even if she could remember, she would have to tell me about now. That’s all we can ever tell each other. What is now. So what is memory then? Where is the past? These things bother me. What is this photograph and where does it belong? Does it belong here in the now with me and if so what could it possibly represent, if the past itself does not exist?

But that’s silly. The past does exist. It’s more a question of where is it? What is its form, what is its matter, where does it connect to the contiguity of all things in now? Is it through emotion? Is that why emotion is so important? Because it is along the vector of emotion that the streams of time are overlapped and related to each other?

Beside the copal is a rust horseshoe. One of the big white horse Platinum that the Whisperer used to have when we were kids. I have some gifts here that have been given to me that remind me that I do have friends and that I am loved, no matter how alone I can feel. It was so kind of him to give me this horseshoe. And the Baby Tiger, he gave me a vial of leaves from the thirteen sacred trees of England that he collected with his mother when he was thirteen. These precious things. These things full of intention and energy from the past, full of love, and then given to me in love. What does that say about the past? What does a gift say about the past? Baby Tiger’s album is coming out soon. I think he is about to become extremely famous. He is already quite well known, but this is going to be the turning. I am so happy for him, he has that kind of bright golden spirit, that you just know he is in a lifestream of power and success. His brother, too. It’s not that their lives are perfect. Just that they are full of power.

I am hoping that the limits work restores some of mine. I don’t know. I know that I have accomplished some things in this life that I am a little proud of, but I don’t know if I have a lifestream that will really ever become something coherent. Maybe I will just continue to teach, to write my little words like these, these meaningless words that are really doing not much else but marking the time of my life as it flies by, as it streaks by, leaving light and waste and memories behind it. And then there will be death. My death impulse is receded quite a lot (what’s that called again, thanatos?) but it doesn’t stop me from thinking about it a lot. The last few days I’m thinking about the me-ness of death. Where does it go? Into the dark matter, right? I fall into the depths of matter and become again part of the molten shapelessness of is.

Whew. Twenty more minutes. Can I even make it? It is like trying to push my spirit out through my hands. It’s almost painful, to try to let the words appear in the brain. Maybe I will mediate after this. Though more likely I will feel a bit burnt and eat something and watch a sit com or the next part of the history of science fiction I found on Kanopy. It would be good to meditate. Today I watched a three minute clip of an ex-comedian who turned into a motivational speaker and got hooked on meditation. It’s like he’s born again. His clips can be interesting, though he seems so incredibly immature compared to someone like Michael Stone. There is something endearing about him, though. He seems to think meditation will cure it all. He talks about being your real self, and that the real self is bigger than the little ego self. And then he has all these quips and funny things that make him kind of endearing. Today he was talking about the silence. The silence that is below everything, in between everything. I have been hearing it ever since. There is, there is silence in the world that surrounds the earth. It is so vast, that silence and, yes, you can hear it.  He says that in that silence everything is answered, everything is clear. I listen into it and I know that life is short, and that there is nothing to complain about.  If I listen deeply to it now while I am typing what will happen? I listen to it when Shams comes to me. Maybe I will try it now, just for a few minutes, before it is time to open the fiction valve and then be done with this horror. Like I said, I’m a few essays behind, I think four or maybe even five, so I need to do this again tomorrow. I hope I can find the energy. There is SO MUCH to do this week. But that’s good. It’s so good.  It’s good to be a bit busy so the tears can’t open up again.

Okay. So I tap into the silence. And I hear the computer first, it’s interfering buzzing.  Then I hear the street, a car outside on the road. I hear the little clock in my living room. I hear myself breathing. I feel the peace that is all around me and it is not full of joy. It is a smooth, cold peace. I feel the roundness of the planet. I feel the planet spinning. I feel the sun, over to one side. I feel the possibility that we really are suspended in space, anti-gravity, moving and turning through infinity. How can this be? How can I sit in a room, with a light on and a screen glaring and talk to people in the future (though for your sake I hope you aren’t reading this) and at the same time be on a rock that is in space and that is a tiny tiny thing going round a big bright ball of fire, and that ball of fire itself is circling and is tiny tiny tiny in the vastness of other balls of fire and rock. And yet here is a rock in front of my, beside the copal and the horseshoe. I listen into the silence and I know that it doesn’t matter if I’m lonely. It doesn’t matter that the American President is a very very dangerous joke. It doesn’t matter that white supremacists are rising all around us, and that there are floods in India, in Texas, that there are landslides and pipelines and clear cuts and that we are all about to die. Because we were never here in the vastness of time. What is time in outer space? That’s something I could find out pretty easily and in fact I think I learned it once. You would think you’d never forget something like that. That the fact of being in space should be the most important thing to my consciousness. But it is a relatively new thought and the thought of finding a partner to take care of me and that I can love and take care of is an old ancient thought that is buried in my DNA and that expresses itself in a longing so deep that the stars seem small and it seems big when what is real is the very opposite.

………………………………

I thought I was going out alone. I went to see Shabazz Palaces at the Fairmount Theatre (this is true).  I walked in, and I sat on a stool. I have my red purse with me and I was wearing a shirt and a the grey cashmere sweater I scored for thirty dollars in April  and one of my new bras. I sat and watched the opening act. When they finally began to play it was magic, but I had to blink twice, because they are always just two, but today there was someone else behind them. There were bass lines, live ones, not the live PA but a real bass, and there was a shape, a feminine shape, and I got as close to the stage as I could. I could see it, and then I couldn’t. And then I did, for sure. There was Dagmar, on the stage, playing her damned bass! It couldn’t be. I turned to one of the awkward white people beside me, who were all standing and nodding, (except for the extremely aggressive hippie head banging inappropriately beside me…he kept banging into everyone and soon security was going to throw him out) I asked the man beside me if he had ever seen the bassist before but he looked at me like I was crazy. I’m not crazy, am I? Of course I must be and I’m shocked that this is the first time I’ve thought of it. Characters from my own writing are coming alive and showing up in my life so of course I am out of my mind, at least I am perched between realities and it is not clear where I am. I mean, if it is hard to understand a memory then what is this? I read something, though, in an article called the neuro-phenomenology of dreaming, which suggested in a very interesting way that hallucinations and dreams are nothing like each other. And these two are both, aren’t they. AND they are fiction. So now what? I turn to leave and bump into a big chest behind me.  It is Ram, and he’s smiling. He hugs me. I have to admit it feels so good.  I’ve been needing closeness. Real or not I need this. She’s good, isn’t she? How can this be happening, I ask him. He leans down and I shout again. Oh, they like it, he said, they get us. They’re doing the same thing. What, I ask, what are they doing. They are dreaming into their lives, he said, just like you are. But I didn’t do this on purpose I shout at him. Purpose? He said. No one does. You are simply living your constitution. This is what you were built for, my love. Ram smiled at me. I hadn’t noticed before how cute and crowded and clean his teeth were. He bent forward and I thought he might want to kiss me but he didn’t. He pressed his cheek to mine and squeezed me. I got you, he said. Everything is okay.

………………………………

Well, this was horrible. But it’s also the longest one yet. So. There’s one last meaningless thought for you. Reader, please tell me you didn’t get this far. If you did, I am sending you a lot of love, because you must be lonely, too.

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A Spending Allowance

Written Aug 30 2017

I haven’t written one of these in thirteen days. I don’t know how far behind I am at this point. 3? 4?  And I haven’t posted one since the 29th. This challenge is harder than I expected. I thought that I could commit easily one hour a week and half an hour to edit. It seems like nothing. But because time is not a series of frames evenly spaced to create the illusion of movement like a film, because it ISN’T IT IS NOT, I feel like shouting that. Time is a substance, alive like air or water. It isn’t an abstract, measured illusion. Because it is a being and alive it is not always easy to make a schedule, a list, a plan, or a project. The challenge isn’t that I forget or that I get distracted. I’m not procrastinating. I am dreaming myself to life in the medium of Time and it is not predictable.

Last weekend I went to Kingston to run a workshop. It was good to work. I have my show, school and my at-home job but it’s always very, very good for me to be in a group, to do what I do best. I fight that. I don’t really know why. I want other things. I want to write. I want to draw. I want to make music. I love facilitation so much and it brings out all my best qualities and when I’m in it it’s like I’m standing in a column of golden energy and I feel guided and alive and worthy of my skin and bones. But somehow, I resist it. I want it to be different.

And this is my new vow. It’s what I learned during the eclipse, during the time of sadness that just passed. It was a hard lesson to find my way towards. It was so painful, it was like I was tearing old scales off my body with my teeth, leaving the skin underneath raw and swollen.  But as it all relaxed I was left with this message, “if I followed my heart, I would want what I have.”  My heart goes directly to what I want. And so, if I look around at my life it TELLS me what I want. Because it is what I have. I don’t know if this makes much sense to you, but it makes so much sense to me. It feels like a huge magic mountain that I intend to climb. To want what I have. Not to accept what is. That is different. To turn all my longing, all my craving, all my obsession towards what I have created, which is is created out of the sacred substrate of Time. That is what I want. What I grasp. Only what is, is, is.

So here I am, at night again at my desk. With my house in the post-depression, post-camp, post-guests, post-travel mess.  Two half unpacked suitcases. Hair on the bathroom floor. Dead flowers rotting in a vase. This is not the lesson I learned in how to invite a good life form my mother. But it is the life I want.  I want to spend hours on my drawings. I want to make little poems and weird self-portraits for instagram. I want to cough out all the cigarettes I smoked each time my lungs spasm remembering that the sadness goes with it. And I want to know that it will come again. I want all of it. The piles of books. The box of dominoes. The old broccoli in the fridge. Each of these is what I long for.

The unrequited love. That is requited. That is love. That is the world.

The loneliness. That is sacred. Like the eyes of a cow. That is waiting.

The soreness in my body. The dryness of my hair. I want you. I want you.

Why? Because here is the place I can affect. Twelve hundred South Asians died in flooding. Texas is flooding. The Okanagan is on fire. The Voice needs an inhaler because he is breathing in that smoke. Those trees. On fire. The US just tested a ballistic missile off Florida. FUCKING GODAMN DONALD TRUMP IS THE GODAMNED PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES and the world is a sad sad evil tragic joke UNLESS it is dreaming. Itself. To. Life. That’s why. To represent the possibility that deep in the realness of what is, there is a possibility that lucidity, imagination and miracles could happen.

 

That the abstract, the heaven, all that Platonic fakery is what is destabilizing our perfectly balanced (if vicious) (but beautiful) world.  So, while I’m still absolutely down to do some work (and I have to admit to Colour and Gesture next time I see her – protesting against white supremists IS the right thing to do, it turns out) while I am ready to work and continue working step-by-step to unpin the imagination from its glass cage and mouth-to-mouth it back to life, I also think my real work is to struggle deep inside me (where the dark matter lurks, the death, the transformation, the unknown, the free, between my cells, no smaller, between the mitochondria no, smaller, between the valences where electrons jump) against the karmic hauntings that make me, the dreams and the follies of my grandparents.  Their anger. Their jealousy.  These are me. They are mine. I hold them. In the substrate of time, I am the living one, and I am the one who has the access to what is. So I must work with it. I have to want it. What is. I take it. What is. I take it in hand and I love the shit out of it. My morning tears. My oily bathtub. The burnt matches scattered on the altar.

Now. The next step is this. Once I love what is. Once it is all I want and I am never moving in my mind to another thing, something I want more. Like the work. Instead of wanting to write a novel I am writing this. Right here in all its weird rantiness.  The extreme is where I want Trump. I want the Nazis. I want the drones and Amazon to get to call itself fucking Amazon while the real Amazon which is the real power of all powers the true corporation the body of the world is decimated for Macdonalds those brutal warmongers. The extreme is where I want these. And in seeing them and wanting them, and in seeing and wanting myself, my aging hands, my bloated cheeks, in wanting it all I bring my small powers to them. They are not left unseen and alone. The focus is a node, a still and unleaping place, where creativity abides. Creativity is always there, but my consciousness is most often elsewhere. What Bright Ears the other day called the indeterminate. See? I’m betting on something deeper than hope. Dark matter.

Okay. Do I owe you an apology at this point? I don’t know. This is a mess. But today I feel well in my soul, so I think things are kind of just slipping out as they are. Let me tell you something that is alive for me right now.  I am aware of my good fortune today in a way that almost stings it is so bright.  Yesterday I met my new family doctor. A GP. A General Practitioner. This is a rare thing in Quebec. And not only did I meet her, but she is young, caring, obviously bright, and the clinic can be reached by email 24-7.  Now this is a great thing. I am feeling so grateful. I want what I have is easy to handle in a case like this. Right? But then I watch the news. I walk down the street. An old Francophone man with his brown dreadlocks stinking asks me for de manger. I have a doctor and he has no food. I am in his city (it’s his city, I could fairly say, though of course it is FAR from being his land). How can I want what I have when others have not. What does that mean? First, of course, it is a gratitude. But is it also a platitude. Is it only in my rampant privilege that this makes sense?

What is my work to do in this life? I know that the group facilitation is part of it. I know that art making makes me feel stable enough to stay in the world. But what about the rest? How to be accountable to everything all at once?

The only way I can fathom is to be with it all at once. To try as hard as I can to begin to avoid leaping away from it into fantasies and reaching and disgust and abhorrence and just to get as close and intimate with it all as I can. And listen to it from close. And hear if it can tell me, every moment, what to do.

 

Next weekend I’m supposed to go to Ottawa for a puja for a new house. Then I will come back here and go back for a baby’s hair cutting ceremony.  It seems hectic but I’m going to want it. Throw myself into it. Up to my neck in Now.

Haha. Okay. I’m done with that I think. What else can I tell you, though? I have got to a place in my life where all the whirlwind adventure and travel have settled. I find myself thinking back to South Africa. Can’t believe I’m not going this year, for the first time in five years. But I decided to go to a round table in Vancouver instead. A gathering of facilitators and negotiators to talk about implementation after multi-stakeholder decisions. It was an invitation by a teacher who keeps showing up in my life. (I want what I have.) And so two other facilitators are going to South Africa instead. It will be good for them. And it’s good for me not to go, as well, I think. It’s hard on my body, and I have wanted so much to feel grounded. But that place! Cape Town! One of the most beautiful places in the universe, I feel sure. It’s even more beautiful, even more heart breaking, even more confusing and wondrous and teeming than Vancouver. Cape Town has an energy like nowhere else. It makes me want to stand up right now. It pulses. Ah. I never thought about the time I would not come back. It’s another thing about Time, isn’t it? That question, where does the past go. And why, when I’m present, does it seem like things will never change, when they are changing constantly?  What creates that sense of stability in Time, and yet what perceives the flow of it. Both happen. Is it part of the twoness of being human?  These are the things I’m so excited to learn!

I’m tired but I still have twenty minutes left. I have to be honest. I have been struggling with jealousy lately. I worry that I will be forgotten and that others will be remembered. I worry that I’m getting old and I haven’t made anything worthwhile. That my life is just a kind of weak, wet shoestring. Kind of dragging. The sadness kind of brought this with it. It made me feel suddenly much older. This was such a tough round of it. And now that the emotion has mostly passed (two days ago I cried for a couple of hours for no apparent reason) I’m still kind of left with this lingering jealousy. This is where the medicine of wanting what I have gets both bitter and complex. To want the jealousy. See the paradox! Ugh. Now what?  I mean, I suppose the thing is to simply want it. But wanting jealousy means I’m jealous, right, and then I am wanting what I don’t have. Sigh. The jealousy. And when I talk about it, I’m not feeling it. But when I feel it, it is so sick-making. It’s the hardest feeling.  Where I want to jump out of my life and into someone else’s. When I want to ask questions and make demands that are not mine to make.

I know the medicine that I need when it happens, though. Journaling (ha! the piles of journals), making music or drawing, sleeping, being outside. That’s it. Shams is the biggest help of all, though.  Being able to talk to this part of myself, my positive animus, my beautiful inner friend, has changed my life. It gives me an access to wisdom even in the worst times. I wish it for anyone who suffers, that the inner friend comes alive like it did for me. I don’t know what I died before. Though, I remember, even being a little little girl, that there was always someone to talk to.

……………………….

Dagmar picks up my melodica and begins to play. Her melodies are more beautiful than I expected. She is coaxing the plastic body and metal reeds to sound like birds at the ocean, to sound like laughter, to make me want to cry.  She also looks a little different than I pictured her. It’s in the details, which makes sense, I suppose. Her hair is dark, like I thought, but it has gray in it, you can’t quite see it, unless you get close, but when I’m close (reaching across to pick up the Calimba) I see it. I see that her nose is round at the tip almost like it is going to drip, I see that her hands have two liver spots, tiny, right in the centre of the back of each hand. I see that her breasts are thick but small somehow and that she has a round belly. I see how her neck bends forward. I see that her eyes have a little green in the brown, and a little yellow.  I see this as she flashes at me but continues to play, slowing the melody into longer notes to let me in. I begin to play with her. As always, she is in the key that makes it easiest to connect. Dagmar Kfunkanun was born a musician. I realize that I know this, though I did not know it before. She is a musician’s daughter. She played drums on her knees in her mother’s womb.  Ram is leaning back in an arm chair, watching us.  Playing, letting the rhythms come to me very slowly, like there is nothing ever to rush again, I sit in front of the chair on the dirty floor, and lean against his knees. Also him. Not quite what I thought he was. I didn’t realize, in all those long years, that he was Middle Eastern. I never thought about it. I didn’t realize his jaw was so dark and heavy or that the intelligence I thought was his main characteristic shone in his eyes, but it was articulated with love, the lines around the eyes overflowed with care. He rested his hand on my head for a moment, let it stroke my hair with such gentleness it was almost not a touch, and then took it away.  The music took us over, my imaginary friend and I. It wove between us, our two high pitched instrument not competing but together, as if they were arm in arm.

When we were finally done it was dark outside. It was so nice to have them here. But Ram said, I guess we should go. Why, I asked. Do you have to leave? Ram said, I don’t know the rules. But no one knows we’re here, you see. Who needs to know I ask. He is putting on an olive bomber with orange piping. I don’t know where he got it. He wasn’t wearing it when he arrived. Don’t you remember, he asked me. You mean it’s in my book? Well, he says, you didn’t develop it much, which maybe is why it’s so confusing over there joked Dagmar, but when I looked at her she hugged me and said just kidding. It’s confusing for the same reason everything is confusing. It’s not natural. Natural scoffed Ram, his hand on the doorknob. Such a stupid word. You natural? He asked Dagmar. She smoothed her front of her jacket down and said, as natural as a dream she said. That made him smile. He kissed me with the tiniest quickest cheek kiss and she hugged me and kissed my shoulder and then they were both gone.

………………………………

I don’t know what these are. I don’t know why I’m doing it. I feel something happening and part of me thinks it’s just the showing up.

There is so much that I want. I am glad I wrote my intention here to inverse that outward craving, to turn it back into my own heart. I don’t know if it will work, but I’m glad I got to talk about it. Thank you unknown reader. There has been always at least three or four of you with each of these, and that humbles me.  And frightens me a little, but mostly I am deeply grateful to you for the gift of your precious Time.

 

 

Innocent Oblivion

written Aug 17 2017

I think there are a lot of rules for women. We have a lot of expectations and a lot of rules for women. So we’re expected to march in a straight line, and when we don’t, all hell breaks loose. -Roxane Gay

I’m not sure what number this is, something like 30 or 31 I think. And it’s week 33. So there is still a lot to catch up, but it’s in the realm of the manageable. I did the last one just four days ago. I’m gaining time. I’m also, as we cross well past the midway point, starting to see the patterns. And it gives me a kind of renewed trust. Today, as so often, I’m sitting down here without a clue. It’s felt like a bit of a strange day, so I’ll just start there.

First, last night I had my first Limit Experience coaching session. I have been having trouble really seeing what this show, Indivisible (realizing at last this is just a working title) could be.  Even though everything points to it as a project. Barad, Sha Xin Wei, EGS itself and its methodology, Khosro, having such a good time recording with the Beatbox…a lot of energy is flowing toward this project, but I just haven’t been able to really let the beauty of it come through. With the drawings themselves they evolved day by day, but right from the beginning they were sweet and endearing to me. Here, I’ve felt a block. The scope is so big, there’s no privacy, lots of expectations, the need to make a film out of them which is something I really haven’t done before. I mean I made the little animations for the Colouring Book/NFB project…and I loved that so much, it’s true, but nothing at this scale. And, the only other interdisciplinary piece I’ve made, Myrtle Silverspot, had all these same elements but didn’t have the money or professional aspect. We did that on barely a thousand dollars total.

Okay, I have to interrupt myself for a minute here. It really sounds like there is someone in the house. Colour and Gesture is here for the week which is amazing. I’ve actually only had to be alone one night since I got back from camp. But one night when the Beatbox was here I found the front door wide open. And then a couple nights later when Bright Ears was here he heard a feminine voice in the hallway at about 1 am.  But this is only 6pm it’s broad daylight.  There is something weird going on.  I have a strange suspicion, too, that it is coming from all the deep process I’ve been doing, and the unravelling (which is really finally finally starting to feel real) of the rejection complex. I mean, these complexes are alive in the psyche, real organisms that form (or maybe almost like psychic organs) before the conscious mind is formed and its structures can act as gates and walls to protect us. This is something I’m absolutely sure of, from both my reading of Jung and his descendants but also from my own investigations.

A complex is a part of the self that has been locked off long enough that it has a fully developed sense of self, even if it is using the same body as the host. And as I have been working to dismantle it, I mean, what has been happening to it? What happens to them? I should reread Jung’s memoir. Because I remember him talking about his self B or something like that.  I have a weird feeling like this entity that is here is coming from me.  Coming out of me. As it leaves my body gaining its own life.  But, I don’t mind. It frightens me, but it will be well worth it.  All my life, as far back as I remember which is to about eighteen months old when my brother was born, I have carried this complex, or should I say it has swept me away. And it is getting to a point in the last seven years where I am utterly drained by it. It is ruining relationships, hurting my health. I’m done. I’d rather be alone. And that’s what I think I need. A year of self. Not the kind of aloneness I’ve lived in for the seven years, not the kind of aloneness where I am constantly craving, wishing and trying to manufacture the love that I want. Instead, a year of acceptance.

I have thirteen months until I turn forty.  Which means technically that my fortieth year, and my fourth decade start in about six weeks. I want to enter the new phase feeling fresh. Feeling free.

Well, I thought that was a digression, but I see the connection. Because I think the block with Indivisible is that rejection complex. And there is a mystery in it. Instead of getting rid of the complex, how can I integrate it? That was the work with the beautiful vampire Uzl Rahl, and with my dear animus, Shams. To integrate these parts of myself.  This is the new work.

So, yesterday I had my first session with an experimental filmmaker from Southern California who I met up in the Swiss Alps. The night before I’d had a dream about Saas Fee, and Bright Ears was in it. It had some magical items and a magician priest. I think it was that transference dream that I sometimes get when I begin working with someone new. Because when I began the session with her, wow! The dream just came to life. It had come to life a little when I told Bright Ears, some of the images, Shiva and the Goat, but when I told her it became clear. There is an alchemical process that I need to go through along with this show. As Obsidian Mama used to say to me, in order for a group to transform you have to transform as well. Like the cogs (is that what they are called? Disks? Wheels?) of a clock. One turns, the other turns. The longer I’m doing transformative group work, the deeper this goes for me. And with this show, I guess the same has to happen. I feel it happening. So I’ve hired this woman for six weeks to help me. I’m uncomfortable with the way she works, but I know that is already a way that I need to face myself and my reality and my hypocrisy. I have been taught so very many techniques to access other dimensions. I’ve always loved hippie culture, and seen it as a freedom from my own repression. The Obsidian Mother was raised in the heart of that, in California in the sixties, as were my mentors at work. They are all part of that movement. So, this makes perfect sense. And, I have no real reason to doubt. She is clearly able to communicate with me both physically and through the dreams. I just…hate the appropriative aspect of it.  It’s not a good time to have compromise with whiteness.

It feels like there is a civil war about to break out in the US. It’s the only thing to think about, the only thing to pray about. And yet, up here, my days go by, full and busy.  And though I work towards change at my frequency, working hard with communities and community leaders and youth, the immediacy isn’t here. Donations, prayers, and steadily holding down the what comes next. That’s all that feels right to me so far. But I’m open to a call. I’ve also been hearing the voice of preparedness/paranoia, telling me to buy water and first aid kits.

Part of today was working on the show in a more concrete way. My animation mentor came by and I learned some technical things that were important. How to use Adobe Premier, so I could begin to make a timeline. I have not been able to grasp the narrative of the piece. That is the question I need to ask. What is the narrative here? There are fires, there are refugees, and there are arguments. I think maybe I need to pull out the drawings with the most drama and then build the arc around them.

On the other hand I’ve been reading. For school. School has these two heavy prongs: the tasks and the thesis. And it’s a bit muddled. I think I need to do some project management work with all these things. Between PYE, school and the show there is a lot of detail and moving parts. And these essays, of course. And all of it is self-motivated. It’s adding up to about 60-80 hours a week.

I feel like there is something here that wants to be said that I am not saying. I am going to just let the words flow and see what happens. I know this essay is less concrete and clear than some of them, it’s just a ramble, just a thrush of words, but I’ve also noticed that that is where some of the new ideas have been sneaking in. And this project is for me alone. To open my gateways. That is what matters. What is it tonight that wants to come through? I want to tell you that I am afraid of my own brilliance.  Even though I know that is a cliché. When I get obsessed and possessive it is always with someone whose brilliance shines out. I know I have it in me, for all these things. I know it is latent right there. I wonder why I fear it? I think partly could be on the surface, it could simply be that I was not able to express it in its own way, under its own terms in the past, in my childhood. But maybe there is something deeper. Maybe it is connected to Uzl Rahl, and all the other creatures in my shadow.

I feel the block again. Trying to make me stop writing. I’m going to push through it. Maybe it is that the part of me that can really shine was pushed into the shadow, and it is curled up and folded over like when I first found Uzl Rahl. Maybe it is her, yes! That feel right.  This is hard to say, it’s scary to say, because as much as I think these writings are just for me, at the same time they are absolutely public and anyone can see them. But I’m going to write it and maybe it will help my process of becoming real by becoming vulnerable. This year, more than ever, I notice that I make ripples out into the world and they come back to me in very obvious ways

I think I may have already mentioned it much earlier in the year. When I started working with my current therapist I found a vampire in my psyche. A vampire. What more shameful thing could there be? And, while there is no way they are reading this, thank goodness, all the men I’ve been obsessed with over all the years of my life probably recognize this. A hunger. A need. I brought her into the light, and in a dream I came to know her name. I’m naming her here. Uzl Rahl. It feels right to do. It’s the time.  It’s the time on this planet, for secrets to be known, for power to be unleashed, for the monsters of the dark to be dragged forward into the light. But it is hard. And it is shameful. To have monsters of my own.  I wonder what you think of me?  There was a transition period with her, but in Saas Fee I saw her power-in-the-light for the first time. Glamour. Of course. That is the purview of any self-respecting vampire. What I don’t know and don’t understand is how she relates to the rejection complex, and what she is capable of. I know that in the shadow she was draining enormous resources. Now that she is in the light can she be trusted? I don’t know.

It helps me to have all these other characters in my space. The dreams, the prayers, the journaling. My life is populated with character and without them I would have died of loneliness. I have no doubt about their realness, and I don’t believe it affects my effectiveness at all. As the rejection complex shifts they all change and shift. One of the healers at camp told me that.

I’m looking forward to getting out of the city again. I have been so blessed with both Saas Fee and Oregon already this summer, but I’m looking forward to going to Supercharged’s cottage on the 20th for the eclipse. It’s not far from here, just an hour and a half.  It will be my first time into the country around Montreal. I want to begin to be able to take trips on my own, so I can make regular excursions. Maybe to a specific cottage or something. Just rent a car and go. Of course, I have to get my license transferred to Quebec. Ugh. Those kinds of details are hard! I can be so prolific and focussed but then, ah, when it comes to these kinds of things. They can sit on my list for years.

I am working really hard on the obsession thing. I’m telling you here so somehow it gets even more real. I want freedom for my forties. Rather than wanting a known, to want an unknown. I want to know what happens when I stop craving. It’s terrifying. My whole world is built on this. From more than thirty five years ago. All I have wanted is my partner. There is nothing else. What can be left of me without that desire?

 

Okay, it’s time to switch to fiction. Freestyle fiction. I remember Lee Maracle telling me that this is how she writes. I feel like it makes sense for me, for my constitution, if I can begin to just ride the time like I do with these essays.

……………………………………………………………..

For a few days I was in panic mode about this. What could it possibly mean? I took it to my trusted advisers, my friends and mentors. I took it first to Bright Ears. He was nonplussed, of course. He takes everything in stride. I think maybe he has seen many strange things, or at least maybe in his culture it is known phenomena, like in mine. Anyway, he said, okay. And he asked me to describe the moment. More detail. He smelled, I said, not like a man. He smelled a bit like grass at night in the fall. You know that smell? Bright Ears said yes. And he had hair on his arms, on the inside of the arms as well as all the way to the knuckles, all the way down the neck.  Then he had a very dense, well-trimmed beard.  Did he wear a hat, he asked. Yes, I said. And Bright Ears nodded, but characteristically, he didn’t say anything else. I took it to the Beatbox, who was a little more energetic in his non-surprise. I forget, sometimes, who my friends really are. He made me describe how I felt, how the energy was. I was terrified, I said, I thought he was going to kill me.  But after the surprise wore off, he asked me, what then? It hasn’t worn off, I said. I’m still scared. Well, if he comes back, try to stay calm, let’s see what this is. This could be something amazing. I tried the Voice and he told me to pray, and to trust. I told the Queen and she asked me when the last time was I saw the therapist.

So I went to the therapist. It was warm, like today, and sunny. I have these new pink leather ballerina slippers mom gave me, and I’ve been loving walking in the city with them. Normally I wear boots or sneakers. These make me feel goat-like. I took the metro towards Snowden. I kept thinking I was going to see the visitor, Ram, on the Metro.  I couldn’t listen to headphones or tune out, I just kept looking around.  When I got to the therapist’s little office I sat in the big armchair, still warm from the person before. I told him what had happened. He had a number of questions. Did the man touch me at any point? Yes, I said, he was real. He touched me on the shoulder. And he drank from a glass. Have I been losing time lately, he asked No, I said, I don’t think so.  Have I noticed anything else strange? I told him about the open door, and the voice that Bright ears heard. Normally he never takes notes, and he kind of tells jokes and leans back. We have a good time for the most part, but this time I heard his concern. It didn’t help. I told him so. Do you think I’m losing it, I asked. Well, he said, that’s the thing. First of all, there is nothing to lose. But in terms of whether I think this is a hallucination, I have to tell you I feel like it likely isn’t. What are the chances that it is a split personality, I asked him. I mean, because of the work with the rejection complex?  He looked at me for a while. Then he changed the subject.

On the way home a sudden thunderstorm came up and I ran for the number 55 bus. The rain was pouring down the bus windows.  The thunder was so loud I could feel it in my seat. I loved it.  I thought, if this doesn’t clear this all up I don’t know what will.  And I’m, sure you can see this coming, but right as I had that thought the bus stopped, the door opened and Ram got on. But he wasn’t alone. He was with a woman. A woman I knew. Long dark hair. A basket instead of a purse, with a fuchsia scarf covering it. They sat facing me. At first they acted like they didn’t see me. I didn’t bother trying not to stare, though. And finally Ram turned to me. His eyes were soft, I have to say. And I thought about the Beatbox, because I really didn’t feel any fear. It was disturbing, for sure, but my heart stayed calm and my palms stayed dry. You know who this is, right, he said softly. He smiled and looked at the gorgeous woman. She smiled at me, too. Her teeth were yellow and jumbled up in her mouth. Otherwise she was beautiful. But then I looked again and I saw her paunchy little belly, her short thick fingers, her small eyes, and one which was much more closed than the other. Then I looked again, and she was perfect. Her energy was incredible. Even more so than Ram she just beamed love. You know me as Uzl, she said. But my friends call me Dagmar. My mouth dropped open. That doesn’t make any sense, I said. Dagmar was the best friend character in the old, discarded novel that Ram came from, Comic Gossip.  How could she and my vampire be the same?

If anyone can make it make sense, it’s you, said Ram.  They both got up and they seemed extremely tall for a second, and then back to normal size. We’re here, said Ram.  It was true. We were at my street. We got off the bus together into the rain. Dagmar-Uzl slipped an umbrella out from under the scarf that covered her basket. Ram refused it, but she and I huddled under it. I didn’t ask. I knew they were coming to my house. She smelled like rose and vanilla. Delicious and obvious. The thought crossed my mind, I should reread that novel. It was something like 2007 when I’d put it away, or maybe 2012. A long time ago.

 

This Brief Operation

(written Aug 13 2017)

It’s daunting to start.  Every time. I set the timer for an hour and then just before I start I feel the fear. The fear that it won’t happen again. The fear that it won’t be good. The fear that it is going to wear me out.  But at the same time, writing is what makes sense to me.  I journal obsessively, I make lists and notes and poems. It’s always been here for me. I remember the earliest days. The forming of letters with crayons, the work it took to write my name. Trying to remember which way the “D” should face. Writing my name in secret places in the house. Even then I knew it was magic. And it is. And like all magic, it has a dark side.

I’ve been in my dark side this last month. But I’m on the bright bank again today. It’s because I’ve had lots of time with my friends. Camp with the Voice, then the Beatbox and Bright Ears were here until yesterday, and tomorrow Colour and Gesture will come to visit for a week, and then I will visit Supercharged. I’m so blessed by these dear people. Each one of them so powerful, so creative, so fierce and so just. It must be that I belong in that group too, but it’s hard to believe from the inside.  I know they all have their baggage, too. And that each of us walks through our darkness alone. I’m so glad we are together. On this planet. At this time. At this time of darkness. In Charlottetown day before yesterday there was a Nazi march, out in the plain open air. It’s a bad time. It’s a time of crisis and chaos. And so to sit in a famous diner with a checkered floor and drink a gin and tonic and laugh my head off with Bright Ears and the Beatbox three days ago was a dream. I hate it when they leave. I wish we could live together forever. At the end of camp we have the staff sit together in a circle and one by one we have each one enter and shower them for one minute with all the praise and gratitude we’ve felt in a week of creating a haven of safety and creativity for fifty teenagers. I’ve done so many of these camps and gatherings, and I never fail to cry in this moment. It’s not easy.  It’s easy to hate yourself. It’s easy for me to see all my flaws and all these things I need to do to improve to be worthy, to be beautiful, to be good. But to have twenty five people you admire and like and have just met and have worked really hard with, to have them see you in the ways you most wish to be seen is a hard thing. Harder than the hate. I heard the voice of the Voice in the circle. He said, soulmate. It’s true. These beautiful souls that I’m blessed to love, who are patient with my foolishness and who see me in my depression and anxiety and still believe I am worthy of their love, these are my soulmates. And today, at last, that feels like enough.

I started smoking again. I can feel it in my chest, and I walked slowly about seven blocks and felt the exertion. It was helpful in the darkness, that glowing ember, the toxic taste. But now it’s just gross and I’m ready to stop. I haven’t had trouble stopping before.  I hope it’s easy again this time.

I’m gearing up into the school work now. I chose EGS because it was not class-based, or especially the heinous online class format. Just one month of school (as you know) in those glorious mountains and then you work on your own.  There are two tracks to work on at the moment. One is the four tasks that we must finish before we return next July: give a seminar, take a seminar, give a lecture and write a book report. I have ideas for them all. The book report is going to be fun. I didn’t see it until about two days ago, and then it fell into place. I will use Karen Barad’s agential realism/ diffractive methodology to look at both Sha Xin Wei’s Poiesis and Enchantment in Topological Matter and Patricia Leavy’s Method meets Art. I’ll look at arts based research and use the book report to think into the methodology for my thesis (which is the other track – starting to think and read about Time, about research, starting to lay a groundwork for what will be a study of the Ethics and Aesthetics of Time in Group Process). For the seminar I think I might ask my supervisor if I can actually use the camp we just did, because the month at school really changed my facilitation process. Then I’ll take a Continuum class with Linda Rabin for the seminar I have to take.  She also talks and works with arts based research, a deep body research that reaches all the way out into the cosmos and into animal shape shifting, all from deep within the body. Part of the dark matter thread in these writings, maybe. And then for the lecture I don’t know yet…I think I might apply to the conference of poetry therapy that came across my desk the other day. But that might just be a workshop (I’ll do Oracular Poetry, probably) and the other idea is to do an online lecture for the community of creative facilitators at PYE. A kind of master class for our senior trainers.

I am re-reading Barad’s Meeting the Universe. I’m taking notes on cue cards which is how I learned to write essays way back in the ninth grade, from Mr. Hugh Robertson. I am not entirely clear on the diffractive methodology yet. I wonder if she’s also written some articles on it.  I have her email, since Colour and Gesture took a seminar with her at SFU.  I might write and ask her. I would dearly love to be in contact with her.  From what I think right now, the way to write the book report will be to look at the waves, the various points that can be brought together an aligned in each book, and then look at whether they amplify or diminish each other. Like combinatory waves. But that is not very specific and I need to learn more. Xin Wei’s book is getting more and more exciting. It lines up so much with how I think of the world…which in a way should maybe be a red flag. I love how he is thinking about fields. And I read today about Bourdieu’s field theory, which will also help.  I love how the experiments in Xin Wei’s book are so beautiful and compelling. He creates environments that are full of play and wonder, and then uses them to come to understandings about the world. Not to make theories, but to have felt sense and knowings.  This is what I want from my study of Time. I don’t want to learn it, I want to uncover it. I want it to emerge. I want it to come from play and beauty.  Like the learning in our camps.

When I was in school I know I wrote here about the way we did philosophy, in an emergent, personal, embodied and still rigorous and demanding manner. Then I see the same thing in Xin Wei’s work, and in Barad’s as well. This is the group of academics that I want to align myself with. With each course that we did, I went through it with resistance and confusion, but always with play, and with art. We danced, we talked, we walked in nature, we made music and painted and sculpted. I didn’t know what I was learning, not really. But when it came time to do the projects, I was always ready. I had learned and changed through the process. That is what I hope the thesis will be.

It changed me so much that at camp it was palpable. The young people (well, all of us) created philosophy together. It was so interesting how it happened. The second night of our camp is a music and dance party. Designed to shake and loosen and lift the spirit so that when we sit for a long night of personal storytelling the next evening, we are ready.  It’s very much like the process we went through in school, and I want to look closely and see what the differences are, and what happens to the two methods when they interact. That night was hot, it was hot the whole time we were in Oregon, reaching all the way to 45 degrees. On the next morning a young staff member came to the Voice and I and asked if we could talk.  She told us that she wasn’t sure if she should say anything but that she had the butterflies and felt she should. This is one of our practices. We remind the group that the feeling of butterflies means you have something important to say or do. It’s good in a creativity space. It helps people move into the fear. (I guess that exactly how I feel whenever I start to write one of these, in fact). She told us that she was upset by the fact that the men in the group could take off their shirts but that the women couldn’t. I almost laughed. It took me so much by surprise. So much happens at these camps. One way or another shit always hits the fan. I’m prepared after all these year, for the absolutely unexpected. We have had things happen that were so extreme, so dire. So fraught. This seemed small. But she was serious.  The Voice and I looked at each other and I said to her that if the young staff member who had his shirt off would be willing to work with her, they could bring this issue up at the community meeting that morning. She said okay.  We had brought all our leads and managers together in May to talk together about the camps and one of the important things we really wanted to work on was anti-oppression. We always do, but of course, it’s something that is a) always evolving and b) very, very hard to do in a satisfactory way.  But this issue, to me, seemed like a non-issue. Ah. Prejudice. You get me every time.

They stood together in the community meeting and proposed this to the group. I was astounded by the response. It was an issue the group resonated with, wanted to engage. It brought up many different aspects of gender and power. And since we have recently adopted the practice of having people give their pronouns with their name, it was something that was already up.  I heard the young women who were already familiar with the issue talking about Freeing the Nipple, and then others who had never thought about it before.  The young men asking if they needed to wear shirts now. Everyone asking us to make a decision, which of course we could not.  I mean, of course we were not going to allow women to take off their shirts, but the group was excited and energized to find a solution.  We agreed to talk about it later.

As the camp went on, different kinds of solution rose up and fell away.  When we took them to the beach the boys all wore shirts in the blazing sun. They said, it gives us a small chance to feel what it is like not to do what you want. Then, in a gratitude circle before dinner one night, a large group of girls showed up in sports bras.  They were no less covered than they would be in a bikini. It’s funny, I almost forgot, another young staff member had come to be the night before the whole thing started and said that she was feeling uncomfortable about how little the girls were wearing. She was the one who brought the strongest feminism, and she was confused inside herself about her judgements and her principles. The whole thing was fascinating.

Near the end of camp we have a day set aside to learn and work on activism, specifically. We played a game I like to use that helps people really have a feeling of how institutional power can be invisible and create our mindsets for us. Then, we talked for about two minutes about the difference between internalized, interpersonal and institutional oppression. And then we wanted everyone to be in small groups to create skits that showed possible solutions to the shirts-no-shirts question (which was being referred improperly as Free the Nipple, which of course was the one thing that was absolutely not going to happen.) Strangely, what ended up happening was that every single person in the group except the Voice, myself and our two leads-in-training spoke their own opinion, concern or question on the matter. It was mountainous. By the end, the speakers were realizing with the rest of the group that there could be no easy solution, that to free one group could be to oppress another, that there were intersectional concerns about religion and sexual violence and many other things. They learned, together, and in an unforgettable way, that there are not easy solutions to questions of power and oppression. We didn’t have to say a thing, really. And they learned, together, that these issues would have to be solved on entirely another order of operation that the problem itself. It was moving, inspiring. Philosophic and creative.

Then it was the last day. Youth led workshops all morning. I went by one which was a discussion on social justice hosted by a young Oaxacan woman. As I walked up she motion me over, Nadia, she said. We’re having this discussion and making pasties. Can we wear them? Again, I almost laughed. No, I said with my face straight, realizing in that split second that there was another powerful lesson about institutional power here. No, I said, you can’t wear them because this is a youth camp and the organization can’t have it.  But, said one young man, what about all our discussions.  But no, said another, it’s not that simple. We have to take it all into account.  So, they continued to make their beautiful, glittery pasties that they were not to use.

On the final morning we have our closing circle. And I was moved to see the young men wearing pasties. This group of teenagers had seen clearly the irony and the pointlessness of the rule, and were finding their ways around it to be able to stand together as a community, to be able to understand the rules and the letter of the rules, and also the meaning and importance of them. To be in solidarity around things that cannot change. And to point directly to the symbol, the covered nipple, and without harm or intent to harm, to set it free by covering it up.

……………………………………………..

He sat on my couch, drinking his water from a mason jar.  I felt ill, and dizzy.  He smiled at me. You don’t believe me. I don’t know what to believe, I told him. Listen he said. You’re the artist. I’m not, I said. I read it, he said. I know about Fluent, I know about Dagmar. I know about the writing on the walls and the weird band and the dragon and the heron boiling in a cauldron. I felt sweat dripping down my round stomach.  This was not possible. Are you a ghost, I asked him. Things had been so weird at my house lately. A few days ago I had found the door wide open in the morning, which I’m always so careful to lock. Nothing taken. Nothing moved. So, he said, thanks for this. It’s good to meet you.  He stood up.  He was so tall.  I felt he had to stoop a little in the door frame. Almost seven feet tall, maybe. I’ll give you a few days to get used to it, he said.  And then I’ll be back.  A week passed.  I spoke with my friends, my therapist, my dream interpreter, two psychics.  No one thought he could possibly be real. The therapist wondered if I was under a lot of stress. I certainly was.

Then, on the seventh evening, I went down to the tapas place after writing all day.  It was about eleven o’clock. I ordered a haloumi salad and a gin and tonic.  I was by the window but not facing the door. Suddenly I turned around.  I think his shadow touched me first. He was standing beside my table. He pulled out the chair across from me and sat down, his long legs crossed over to one side. So, he said, you feeling better about all this?  I took a big gulp from my drink, finishing it.  He gestured to the bartender to make me another one. His hands were enormous, the nails were absolutely clean. What do you want, I asked.  I’m here, he said, and you’re the only person I know. Where did you come from, I asked. He looked at me for quite a few seconds.  It made me want to run.  His dark green eyes had a tiny laugh in them, deep down, but for the most part he simply looked terrifying.  It was not his face, which had quite regular kind of rugged features. It was his presence. I came from you, Nadia. That makes no sense. I came from you. Are you saying that the world is full of characters from novels? Are you saying this happens to everyone? No.  He looked down, and I saw the bald spot in his hair.  No, he said again, and I swear he began to shrink.  He was folding and unfolding a napkin.  But the time he set it aside he was at least a foot shorter. You can think of me a as ghost, he said, if that makes it easier.  It does not, I told him. Not at all. A ghost is from someone who was alive.  Everything is alive he said. And that includes ideas. But we are usually not able to get into the material form, except through art. You are an idea.  Right? He said. Aren’t I? Your idea? How did you get into form, I asked him.  I want to show you that, he said. Because I have an idea of my own.

He pulled out a wallet. What’s in that, I asked.  How can you have a credit card and cash?  I become afraid again. What if this was a psychopath? What if he was a murderer?  It came with the jeans, he said with a shrug which did not make me feel better at all. Come on, when he stood he was tall again. Come on, I want to show you something you need to know.

Ride the Red Van

(Note to gracious reader: This was written July 26. Lately, these are not going up on the day I write them, but on the day I feel like giving them a half hour of extra attention)

I learned a lot in the last few days. I decided, when the depression came to visit me this time that I would invite it to stay.  It was an unusual decision for me.  Normally I’ll do anything not to feel it. As my therapist helped me to see, the sadness has been an authority for my work in community art and group dynamics. As in my work was in reaction to the sadness. It was a way to cope with it, to be distracted from it and sometimes to transform it. But as it descended this time (does it descend? Hold on.  Let me feel into that for a moment.  No, it wells upwards. It starts under my collar bones, and then tightens into my chest, and then clenches my jaw and then comes pouring out of my eyes) and I began to cry uncontrollably, like I did in April as you remember, after I wrote To Hatch a Plan, and I felt the cycle coming, I also noticed that there was a split second place where I was able to notice it coming up, and then the story coming for it.  And so I could tell that the sadness and the story are not necessarily attached to each other.  That much I had when I saw the therapist on Friday we thought together about what it might mean to just feel it.  Luckily I had also been talking to Shams (as always) and had been tracking its uprising, because it turned out to be a weekend like none other I have ever experienced.

My therapist is a wise man. I feel very grateful to work with him. He is an expert in dialectical behaviour therapy, which means he is highly skilled and willing to work with narcissism, bipolar, borderline anything with overwhelming emotions.  He is a wonderfully stable presence.   And, what I also really appreciate is that he is a seminarian and a devout Catholic (not that I am, but my maternal grandparents were). So, he has that mystical presence and that understanding of the entanglement of soul and psyche, self and spirit that I require in order to try to tell him the truth. I say try because I find, like in all areas of my life, that the line between what is true and what is not is very hard to distinguish.  It’s not a question of lying (though I do that, too, sometimes) but more a question of the perception of the transformations of matter. Dreaming, for example. So I try to tell the truth but I often find myself performing a little for him because I respect him so highly.  And I don’t always want him to see my brokenness. It comes through sometimes and I’m grateful when it does, because he helps me to integrate. He helped with the vampire, and now he is helping me with the sadness.

So, we talked about sadness as the authority for my work. And we talked about Michael’s death, because it was with me, but like I said before it was more inspiring than painful, because I could feel the light just pulsing through me from his emission. Anyway, I think I wrote some of this before. It’s funny how a whole hour can pass because I don’t recall what we said in that hour. But in the end what I decided was this, to try to feel it. To try to let it come in from the dark.  And to be grateful for the work it has done in my life to build the beautiful life I’m living.  Oh yes, I remember also the realization that after these deep bouts of sadness there is often a big creative event. He said that Jesus would go out into the desert, or into solitude and after that there would be miracles.  I don’t mind when he talks about Jesus because he is sharply intelligent and he does it in a way that allows it to seem like a teaching story. Sometimes the tone of the word Jesus is enough to make my heart pound. He asked me why I wouldn’t just let myself feel the sadness and I told him that I feared it would be endless.

And so I entered the desert. It wasn’t like I was fasting or anything. I just let the sadness in. I was eating, but I was having a lot of trouble sleeping. A lot.  It was a few days before Friday that it started. And then there was this other thing that kept pressing in.  It was the story of the friend I loved. I had just switched after the big expression and realization that it wasn’t what I wanted. But I never grieved. And there were stories of my dad, also handed down stories of my grandfathers.  They were sailing together a bit, all these narratives.  But mostly I didn’t think anything, and just wept and wept endlessly, and smoked and wept.  I walked from room to room. It would lift a little and maybe I would read for a little while, or it would become stark and sharp and I would have insights. Saturday is a blur of tears.  Just pouring out tears. I was correct in my fear. They were endless. Soaking my bed. Soaking my couch.  I called my friends. The Beatbox, the Voice. I tried to talk to Bright Ears, but he was too busy. It’s funny how he gets most of my attention and gives me the least. It’s not that funny. Actually in my state of fragility it stung quite a lot.  And as the hours passed it began to strike a kind of overwrought chord. But I spoke with the Beatbox late at night while he was on our favorite island with all our friends and it helped a lot.  I think I slept a little that night.

From Thursday the suicidal ideation had started, and on Saturday it was extremely intense. Constant thinking about it. Late, late on Saturday I got into two patterns.  On one I started looking up ways to do it, and decided that painkillers would be the way. I kept thinking that if I did this people would know how much pain I was in, which is so embarrassing to admit.  And on the other side I looked up the hotline and started dialing a few times, but I didn’t want to hear a stranger’s voice at all. I think I slept an hour that night.  Maybe almost two.  I woke up already in tears. They were solid throughout the day.  I spoke with the Beatbox and the Voice again.  They both helped a lot.  But before that I spent the morning thinking about suicide.  Not ideating and imagining, but actually applying strong thought.

And I came to five realizations of which I think I only remembered four: a) there is no guarantee that suicide would end my sadness. I have seen ghosts. It is clear that the pain can continue b) there is no reason to think that death is soothing or softening like sleep c) it would cause an enormous amount of karma. My grandfather already killed himself. We are all in the shadow of that. There is no reason to accrue that kind of family debt d) my community would be devastated, my mother, my brother, my friends, my little nieces and nephews. It would cause too much harm and while I can’t remember e) last night my brother added this: someone has to find you. Oh! I just remembered it. I made myself picture and physically go through the actual act, and realized e) my survival instinct would never have let me take the pills.  So, by the morning I knew that I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it.  But it left me wondering how I would stop the pain. And I thought about just disappearing, just not going to camp, not getting on the plane, not working anymore, going somewhere and living by begging and living outside. And it was interesting because the suicidal thoughts were actually causing panic, but the thought of disappearing gave me a sense of peace. I was having these thoughts on Monday morning.  Sunday was all part of the suicide thoughts and the call with the Beatbox that was so helpful.  I felt so loved, and I also could feel how lonely I am.  How much I wish for a family and a partner. This life is so good, but I know that a lot of this sadness has this root in the desire for deep intimacy.  I know also that my grandmothers have wished for freedom, and here it is. Karma, you see. The dreams of the ancestors.  Which is why it is so important to be careful what I am wishing for. Sigh. But I think that when we wish for things to be different we don’t realize what we are doing, that the act creates little rifts.  It comes back to that idea from Michael’s talk, that when you try to cross the stream of your life it wounds the heart. So with me, too, I know that my work is to quit with wishing and just to be in what is.

And then I went to see the therapist again. Oh, wait that conversation with the Beatbox was Monday morning. Sorry. The time is all confused because it wasn’t moving, it was pooling for three days.  I was both before and after.

And I was ready. I realized that my sadness is me.  It is an important part of my creativity, my connectedness, that it connects me to the world on many levels. On the level of relationship, on the level of transience of beingness, on the level of nature and the intimacy of prey and predator. I realized that my sadness does not want to end.  It wants a life. It is the sadness of my ancestors. It has never had a life. I realized that all of my drawings come directly from my sadness, with each one when it comes the gestures of the lines come. I knew that before, but I did not realize how central it is to my work.  And the therapist helped me see that it could be part of my role, part of my work, just to feel.  To feel without story, and to feel with story.  And I know when I look at my history that it is true, I have always had so much feeling, so much emotion, and so much sadness. And I have fought it. And I have fought for it.  But now I am ready to just let it in the door, and let it sit in the house of my heart and see what it would like and what it needs and what it will become.

And then the little miracle happened.  That night after a second day of a second promise I was waiting to talk to my friend. And when his reply was sharp and dismissive I slipped down, down down down very far down. But then I remembered my mission, and I let it wash over me.  I began to sleep, at last. I slept most of the day. I did the little bits of packing and cleaning that needed to be done so I could get on the plane I’m on right now, but mostly I slept. I slept and cried. And when I cried I kept saying to myself, it’s okay. You are welcome. It’s okay to be sad. And it was different. It would lift and come back. As if it was playing. It was painful, but interesting.

At a certain point, not too far into the morning, after four hours of weeping and smoking, I did it. I blocked all access of that person I love so much.  I blocked their access to me. And then a few hours later I opened a channel for a moment and let them know in as kind a way as I could that I needed this.  I didn’t know why I did it, or how. I have been so nourished by the connection, or so I thought.  But about three hours later it lifted. It lifted. The sadness. By the end of the day I was starting to realize what had happened. That I had been leaking so much emotional energy, not actually into the friendship but into the idea of it that I had created a wound in my heart. I was trying to cross the stream. My emotional accountability, my ability to hold my sadness and let it have space in my life required this kind of boundary.

The next morning was today. And I woke up today feeling FREE. Liberated. Open. Glad. The sadness was there too.  I felt (and feel) whole.  From not checking, not looking, not waiting, on the phone. The phone! The algorithmic hell. It’s not the friendship that is the problem, it is the mediation by the platforms. So that’s where I am so far in the story. Eleven minutes left so here we go:

………………………………………………………………

A red van throngs towards me, or so it looked on such a long, long prairie road. I’m on the side of the road. My friends are gone. It is a decision I made and I don’t know how it happened, but I know that the thrushing back and forth of voices, getting hotter, getting louder, then getting hissy soft and vicious and then finally getting slowed down by the side of the road and stopping.  And me frozen there in the front seat, feeling them glowering behind. And then Marc says beside me.  If you really think you’re right then get out now.  I shrugged but I was suddenly scared and not angry at all. Of course I’m right I said. It’s your destiny that kills you, not your decisions. It had started as one of our philosophical things, which it’s true almost always end up with someone getting pretty badly hurt but usually not in the way that maybe I was about to get hurt. You’ve made a lot of stupid decisions, he said.  We all have. And we’ve paid for them all. Hardly, I said. Sometimes you pay for things you haven’t done. Sometimes bad shit just happens. It’s not like that.  It’s not like if you do something you immediately have to account for it.  Decisions, he said. Not actions.  They’re the same, I said. Then get the hell out, he said and though it was soft it was so loud. Wait, said Nabila. I turned around. You can’t take any money. Otherwise you aren’t really going to have to trust whatever comes, are you?  I had thought she was going to save me.  The thing is, with us, there is no going back. You pick a side of one of these things and you just have to stick to it.  I remember when Pasco shot himself in the shoulder, right?  I mean, this is the problem with philosophy. So I did it. And now here it comes, the Red Van. It slows, of course, but makes me jump out of the way a little first, and in the dust I see inside that there are two men.  One of them jumps out, if you take the middle, he said.  I had no choice. And I was suddenly confused about who to pray to.  This is the problem with comparative religions. I dropped my wallet, empty of everything but my student card, and got in.

………..

Only 2700 today, but that’s okay. I’m glad to be alive.

 

Boundary-Making Practices

The ancient source still bubbling in the stream is running in your heart. –Michael Stone

Coping takes its toll. –Bessel Van der Kolk

I need to do this. I’m on the fourth day of one of my depressive cycles. I haven’t been in this state since last April.  It actually is starting to seem like there is a three month (ish) cycle. I finally am in the part of the cycle where I could actually show my therapist what is happening instead of trying to tell him, and then having him explain it away.  I’m very functional and I’ve got such a strong skill set for showing people what they want to see that therapy is very challenging for me.  I bet this happens to a lot of people, especially people like me. If you grow up learning how to adapt your persona and expressions to any context very quickly it’s hard to remember who you are, or to really tell a deep truth.  Especially to someone like a therapist.  I find I have a few friends that I actually can tell the truth to, and I’m extremely attached to them. Like Bright Ears and the Voice and the Queen and the Beatbox. Thank God for them. Supercharged. Angel Hair. I don’t even know if they know why I care about them so much, even you if you tell someone it’s not something that’s easy to understand. I can take off the iron-and-water mask of the second generation immigrant with you. My soul comes out for you. You make everything I’m dragging seem like a game. And why? What makes it possible with some people? To me it’s about depth. With some folks they are relating from a place that is so nuanced and gut-sensitive that it is possible to relate to them from the deep part of myself that has retained its essence.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this mask-shifting ability (you would call it passing, in some circles) is extremely helpful and lucrative for me.  Mostly, in the world, people want to see what they want to see, and I’m great at that. But I think it’s also what depresses me.  Because at thirty eight I’m sick of being a prismic shell of myself.  I know, inside, who I am, I think.  But a) I’m often disgusted, suspicious and ashamed of it and b) it’s hard to get it all the way up to the surface and c) I don’t really trust the world with something so undeveloped.

Which is what this writing practice is all about. First the drawings, now this. Starting to integrate what is undeveloped. Trying to find myself. This is, of course, much more vulnerable than that, but that was so vital, even starting with the piano improvisations, just to allow the ugliness to have its time in the light.  But I think I’ve written to you about this before.  What I wanted to write to you today was about the sadness. I’m trying to give it some space.  I have a couple of days before I have to leave for about twelve days to work. And I have this weekend without anyone to call or see.  So I’m trying to just let the sadness have its own space, and let it do what it needs to do.  It feels like an Olympic-sized outdoor pool with about five inches of brown winter water in it.  It feels like I just ate two pounds of chocolate ice cream and I just have to wait for the nausea to pass.  It feels like there are florescent lights beaming right into my eyes.  Yesterday I had the glimmer of one of those horrible all over-my-body headaches and the constriction in my breathing, but I had three gin and tonics and went to bed early, and physically I’m feeling better today.  But I’ve still cried three times today.  And you know, the therapist was trying yesterday to get me to tell him what was making me sad. But the truth is, anything that I say is a lie.  It’s not anything that makes me sad.  It’s the opposite.  I feel sad, and then as the feeling rises up I connect it to a story. Usually (as you know) a story about how unloved and unlovable I am.  In this case, there is grief, and there is the let down from Switzerland and there is this and that.  And of course the long endless story of unrequited love. But none of it is true.  I can decouple the feeling from the story and the story disintegrates easily but the feeling does not go anywhere.

What I want is to learn to live with it.  I’ve had this sadness my entire life.  There is no time that I remember not having it. What I want is to learn to just have it, and care about it, and take care of it, as if it were my responsibility.  As if it were a child or a pet or something.  Because it is clearly not going anywhere. But it can’t keep ruling me and wrecking my relationships.  I do want to give it space. I do want to learn from it. And most of all I want to be accountable for it.  So that I don’t try to put it on someone else. Because when I do, when I do put it onto someone in a story-form (like, you did this to me and now I feel my sadness) then they have control of me in a way that I can no longer continue to work with. You know?  Like, I start to feel the sadness, so then I might text someone, usually the person I currently have a crush on (and this is a good time to work on this now because there is no one, which I can’t remember the last time this was true. Before the weird affair with C.A, I guess) and then start to panic when I don’t hear back from them, and then the sadness won’t go away until I hear from them.  See what a horrible set up this is?  I create a kind of rule for the sadness.  And, it obeys, but it is not really a way to honour the feeling itself.  What if the sadness is precious? What if it is important? Therapist said yesterday that it might even be my authority, the thing that creates and guides my work in the world. That was kind of interesting. And humbling.  Just to think that this gut-wrenching sleep-stealing feeling is part of my gift.

Something interesting happened a couple of days ago.  I needed a table for my animation set up, where I’m getting ready for Indivisible. I was talking to mom when she said that maybe they should just send my old desk and chair, which I’d brought from Vancovuer (the only furniture I brought) and I thought well maybe that would be too expensive.  But dad arranged it with someone who works for him.  They gave me a crazy good price, I’d never get a desk for that (except for maybe something on Craigslist, but I’ve been looking and it’s all so ugly, and to be honest my apartment is really supporting me in the way tchat I most need, so I’m not going to put some shit table in here) and they just asked that I hire someone to help carry them. I said I’d do it, but the person said no, it needed to be a mover.  I found someone on Craigslist who would come for thirty dollars.

That was before the sadness had started. Actually, I’m going to tell you how it started, in a minute. But this was a day or two before. I had been thinking how impossible it was to find anyone I can really talk to.  How the people are so rare and that they are all so busy, and how much it would be so nice to have like a best friend or a person or something that we could just talk.  Actually, I was praying, not just thinking. I was trying to remember all the qualities of all the unrequited crushes of my life (there are so so so many, it’s really hilarious.  The other thing I was thinking just today when I was at Cafe Dep and writing in my journal with Shams, it was actually Shams who said it, was that what would it be like to understand this history of unrequited love as just a facet of me, instead of this colossal failing? What if it was just the way I love, and that I have some kind of gift hidden in there?) The surprise to me was how similar they all are. Intelligent, spiritual, creative, dominant.

Now, I was in my space, just reading (I was finishing Meeting the Universe Halfway, AND I finished Stamped that day, too.  I need to now write at least something small about each of these. I think it’s going to be the best habit for my phD. Just each time I finish a book to write a review of it) and working on Indivisible.  They were both late, the mover from Ottawa and this person.  I had initially asked someone else from Craiglist, but then I forgot to confirm, so I got in touch with this person just about four hours before it was time for the movers to arrive.  Now, of course, the arrival of the two of them was out of sync.  When I hear a knock (my doorbell has been broken for a year — oh my god, this story is so boring. I’m so embarrassed by this writings.  But, it eventually worked with the drawings, and I know it will work here.  I have to keep showing up.  That’s all there is to this. I just keep thinking of you, invisible reader. Just, promise me you won’t keep reading if you don’t want to.  I’m just trying to have faith that eventually something important is going to arrive here on this page) on my door I know it’s going to be complicated, and that one or the other of these guys is going to have to wait. I’m glad I have some Orangina in my fridge, but (and this is one of the warning signs that the depression is coming) I don’t want to spend any time with anyone, especially someone new that I have no connection to other than these two pieces of furniture. I’m seriously regretting my decision to do this as I’m walking toward the door.  I open it and there is an extremely handsome young man standing there. Beautiful, creamy night dark skin, intelligent eyes, a big smile, a sharp, preppy sweater, clean jeans, clean sneakers, a laptop bag. He looks familiar but I couldn’t place it and I still can’t.  He sticks out his hand and says he is Ben. This would be an easy time to go into the fiction aspect of these damn things, but I won’t. He says, I can clean that.  He points to my stair way. I poke my head out and see a massive squirrel (have I told you about this squirrels and racoons on this street? they’re enormous, and extremely bold) digging through a bag of compost on my stairway. I freak a little, but try to remain externally calm until the squirrel started moving towards me in a hulking, expressive, intimidating manner. I shouted and he (squirrel not Ben) kind of sauntered away.  I went in to get the compost bucket, but at that moment dad called to ask if the other guy was here yet, and then my phone died and it was a bit of a kerfuffle, until I came out with the bucket. Ben wanted to clean it, but to be honest, he was dressed more neatly than I was. I cleaned the disgusting compost, emailed my neighbours with an unnecessarily snarky what-the-why-is-there-compost-on-the-step and then finally got hold of the other mover who was stuck in traffic.  I did not want to sit with this person for a half hour, handsome as he was (again, that’s always a sign for me that the lows are coming). But I didn’t see a way out.

We leaned on the railing of my stoop and started to chat. Now, to me, as I kind of said above, the art of conversation is a beautiful thing, and a sacred thing. And this person got it! As we talked about his work in graphic design, and mine, and my thesis research, and his spiritual study group, we just kept up with each other, and slowly built a thing of beauty in a half hour.  When Nick the mover finally arrived I felt so grateful. In fact, I saw it, like Godi, as a message from my ancestors. (I’m writing slowly today. I’m not going to crack 3000 words.  I feel okay with it, though. It’s just what it is, though part of the motivation has definitely been seeing the word counts.  You know, I should reread some of the old ones, I’m quite sure they’re getting worse. And that is something that Firoze said.  He said, you can’t count on them getting better. That makes sense. Sometimes you write well, sometimes not. And you can have a brilliant phase and then it’s over. It’s one of the reasons I want to work with Auguste.  I used to be able to freestyle, dammit. Not ever really, really well like the Beatbox and Bright Ears or Platinum but I could do it, and now it just sounds so cheesy. Or maybe it’s my taste that changed? Anyway, I want to get the gates open, and that’s why I’m writing here, isn’t it?) That the world is full of beautiful people that are easy to connect with. Sometimes the world feels so empty. Because after all these years it’s just so hard to believe that I am connectable. And of course I know this person was just killing time, but it somehow really just restored my faith, like Godi, that what is meant to be will be, and I don’t have to force it.  I don’t have to try to cross the stream, like Michael Stone said once in a retelling of a Zen story.  That trying to cross the stream, or leave the stream, the immediacy of your life, will wound your heart. So I sit here in my sadness and try to write INTO it instead of AWAY from it, and let the water just flow by me. Trying to hurt and let it hurt without wounding myself

I was going to tell you where this started.  It always has these little fragrances before it starts, where I can see it start to come. I stop wanting to clean, it always starts with dishes. I love doing dishes in general, but when the grimness starts then I stop.  And then the altar starts to get messy.  I spill things.  Cards aren’t neatly piled. Ash everywhere. Candle wax. And then I start to isolate. But, I had this amazing opportunity to go to a picnic with Sha Xin Wei, whose book I have been telling you about.  It’s all so synchronous with the Barad book, and the lectures at EGS and my Master’s thesis and the research in time and all of it, I couldn’t skip the picnic.  But it was so hard to pull myself together, braid the hair, buy some raspberries, and go.  When I got to the park, they weren’t there! But then he texted and told me to meet at an address, which turned out to be his Montreal apartment.  We walked to the park in a small group.  He is an extremely gracious and kind person, so I did feel comfortable, and there was one other person from the Philosophy side of EGS there who I know. Xin Wei was interested in my work and gave me some good little clues.  But they were three couples, and three babes, and Xin Wei’s partner also said that while she was happy for her single friends having a child was the best thing she had ever done better than touring, better than working in other countries, better than anything. She was so beautiful and they were all so intelligent and I just felt.  Well, never mind. I mean, like I said, it doesn’t help me to attach narratives. And the picnic was a lot of fun. But as soon as I said goodbye to them, and began to walk home in the night, it began.  I almost cried right there in the street, and I didn’t really know why, except that my rejection complex had me by the throat.  By the end of the night I was struggling to breathe.  I actually woke up in tears, which is always a pain. The day, which was only yesterday, I guess, though it feels like more, but maybe it wasn’t, was so so long. And muddy and just dense, as if I am trying to push myself through a concrete wall just to get to the next minute. Yep, that was just yesterday.  Okay, I’ve made it. Four minutes to go. Ha! And only 200 words to get to 3000. That’s funny. What can I tell you with the last couple of minutes. Oh.  I better write a tiny bit of fiction.  My poor experiment. What a mess.

……………………………………………

I found a rat’s tail on the sidewalk (true) and then a few steps later I saw a small white egg, with a red fatherless chicken smashed on the street (not on the same day, really) and then I saw a dead bird later that day (not that day).  I went home for a plastic bag and collected all three and started walking.  The bag felt so heavy, much heavier than the light little tiny things inside it.  I couldn’t hold it by the neck of the bag. It was so heavy, it was as if it was full of water.  I had to cradle it in my arms. As I walked I could feel the small dead shapes inside it.  I didn’t know where I was going. The sun was very hot. The bag was becoming hot in my hand.  A woman with a blue hat and a lot of scabs on her face was crouching by the corner of a Second Cup.  She shouted, even though I was quite near, what is in the bag? I tried to just walk by, but she got up and started to follow me. I just want to know what you have there I don’t want anything from you, she said.  She pulled on my arm.  The bag fell, and I know it’s impossible, but I heard a loud sound when it fell.  She looked at me, and I looked at her, it felt like we were frozen there. Then she grabbed the bag and ran, turning a corner ahead so I could not see where she had gone.

……………………………………………..

Made. It. If you read this, thank you.

 

Don’t Squander Your Life

“Does our yoga practice superficially cover up our miseries and distract us from the deeper work of the heart? Are we in love with the truth of life or are we in love with the image we see in the mirror? What is really important to us? Our backbends, arm balances, and the opinions that others have of us? When we come close to the end of this life, will our yoga practice have served us well? Will we pass into the unknown completely calm and joyous, full of love for all beings? Or will we have regrets?”
―Michael Stone

I don’t even know what these essays are anymore.  Maybe it’s just a big slur of word mush. If they were essays I would have an idea, I would have an intention to communicate with you.  But right now, I can barely think. I can barely feel anything.  I don’t fully know why.  Michael Stone died very suddenly.  On Friday he suddenly slipped into a coma and last night he was taken off life support. And maybe that’s it?  Maybe it’s that I’m feeling like life is a kind of empty illusion and why would I even try to communicate? I’m lonely and it doesn’t make any sense. It’s that existential lonely, not the lonely of “I need to call someone.” Of course, as always, there is one someone I wish would call. But I also know, and am starting to really see, that even that would not alleviate this feeling. This is the dark dark. The dark that never leaves me, and when I feel this way work always feels like it’s piled on my head. The best thing to do right now is to draw.  Which I will, right after this hour of writing.  I would call it depression, but I don’t know if that is really what it is.  Maybe it’s a kind of awakeness, an awakeness to the reality of the tenuousness of everything. The thin, thin veil, and then the pulsing, vital, blood-red pressure of everything on this side. The too-blueness of the sky. I feel like I want to climb back into a womb, back before that, as if I want to just disappear into it.  I don’t think I’m mourning Michael’s death, but I must be. It’s weird. I think I’m jealous.  I want to dissolve.  I want to regain that skinlessness, that earthiness. I wonder if I will feel this way on the day I die? Michael would say don’t squander your life.  And I’m sure I do when I try to wish it away.  But how can I pretend this is not what’s happening?  What is more squanderful? To pretend I’m fine with the drear or to admit that I wish it was over?

Don’t worry.  (You who are not reading this, and never will) I’m not going to do anything.  That edge is somewhere else.  But it’s strange to sit here and type, with the rhythm of the keyboard almost at the pace of my thoughts, and then feel the rhythm of tears that I don’t fully understand just dripping down my face.  I have always cried so easily.  People have given me feedback that I am tough, guarded, armoured, too intellectual, too heady, to distant, oblivious, hard to reach all my life. Friends, colleagues, psychics.  I’ve never understood it.  I feel raw, like a bald lightbulb, no shade, no frosting, just me, flickering, hanging by a threadbare wire.

And doubly, don’t worry. I have lots to do.  I’ve got all kind of readings to do for school, and the four tasks to work on, and my show of course, which I have to put in as many hours as I can in the next nine days before I leave, and of course my job and all the connections there. I’m not bored. And even bored can sometimes be so nice. I can sit in my gray armchair by the window and smoke a little, let my mind wander. Often in those moments little poems will come and I’ll write them in my diary or post them on Instagram with a collage. No, it’s not that there is anything wrong. Of course, you know I’d love to be in love, but am I really someone who should be? Maybe I’m already married to my darkness.

Today I woke up at about seven, after working on the photoshops until pretty damn late. I maybe slept two hours, if that. I hung around in bed for a while, writing in my diary, writing to Shams, because I already felt this grimness coming.  I’d had a dream, but nothing that has given me much of a clue as to what is happening. I think maybe it could be just a hormonal, chemical, astral, moody kind of thing.  I didn’t pray.  I didn’t shower.  I just read Stamped in my little chair. Did a bit of yoga while listening to one of Michael’s dharma talks. It’s so wonderful that he made so many recordings. It’s so strange that he is gone. I remember when I first met him.

I was leading a youth camp with the Voice. It was up on Cortes Island. I don’t even know how many years ago it might have been, at least six or seven, I guess. Supercharged was there for her first time.  The Voice and I were having a blast. We’d kind of turned the structure on its head a bit, and the camp was unleashed. It was silly. It was wild.  We’d given the camp over to the young people in many ways, which just felt so right.  I loved it.  (We’re going to do another one together in Eugene next week, and I’m looking forward to it, though the thought of those eight days is also exhausting in my present emotional state). But it was getting to heart circle time.  A big storytelling ritual right in the middle of the week. Requires a lot of intimacy and maturity.  I wanted to start pulling in all the wild energy.

Supercharged had been saying from the first day that Michael Stone was at Hollyhock and that he should come by the camp. But the Voice and I didn’t really know her yet.  I had said no a couple of times.  I didn’t want some white yogi zen west coast dudeman in here telling us all about how spiritual he was. The day of the heart circle arrived. Again, in the morning, Supercharged asked me if Michael could come to the camp.  Just meet him, she said, just let him come and meet you.  Okay, I said.  Let him come by after the plenary.

The plenary is our morning group session. We had our group of fifty teens and 25 adults in the Tiber Bay room, a beautiful community room made mostly of soft local wood. (Ah. Just thinking of that room makes me feel a little more grounded. I’ve stopped crying now, too.  Writing this was a good idea.) In that session I tell them, witnessing each other is the most important part of tonight. More than speaking. Just being there. That’s the healing that comes from the stories. Being there to hear each other, and also hearing, and knowing that we are connected in our lifeways, in our paths.  (I’m paraphrasing, it was so long ago.)  We talked about how to listen.  It was okay.  The energy was so high.  While they listened, and did the activities, I still felt like our container was very, very broad and windy and I didn’t know if it would hold tonight. I knew I wasn’t really getting through and I didn’t know how. We’d made something quite a bit bigger than I was used to holding.

Supercharged brought Michael to me about ten minutes after the plenary. We were down near the lake, which was softly lapping, in some tall grass, just down from the play structure (I love to see teenagers sprawled on play structures. It’s just good for the soul.) He was a slim, strong man with tender, laughing eyes.  He shook my hand.  Is this possible? His handshake felt intelligent. Could he speak with the kids today, asked Supercharged. Michael was just smiling at me. He was so beautiful.  Being near him made me feel safe. Btu I still had the bee in my brain. Okay, I said.  But just ten minutes.  At break. And if they want to leave they can.  Okay?  Sure, he said. That sounds great. He came back at the break, which is for three hours before dinner.  We gathered everyone in the upstairs classroom, another bright, sweet room. (Oh, I want to go back to that little farm schoolhouse. Now. I need it). Michael sat in a chair at the front.  We were all over the room, scattered, perched here and there.  The sun was warm and bright. The room smelled like chalk and children. I was crossed legged on the floor, not far from him.

He began by telling us about his grandmother. How she used to hug him, and he hated it, how she would squeeze him against her breasts. I can’t remember why he told that, or how he connected it. I think maybe he said that now, now that she was gone, he would have loved to feel that hug again.  And then he told us how, if something was bothering us, just to face it.  To give it face, he said.  He said, if you pay attention to something for twenty seconds, it will change. In five minutes it will change completely. Just turn towards it. He explained for a few minutes then asked me, my ten minutes are over, can I go on?  I looked around the room.  Everything had changed. Everyone had moved closer, and were sitting near his feet, near each other, we were tight.  No one wanted to move. I smiled at him and nodded. He smiled back and didn’t look away from a few moments.  And he made us practice it.  With a partner.

Give the person your face, he said. Don’t stare at them, and don’t try to see them, and don’t try to feel anything, and don’t try to change anything. Just give them your face. Don’t try to look like you’re in love with them. Just look. Just face.  We tried it. It was easy and hard, I noticed. It was about distance.  Then he asked if we had any questions. There were a few, and then I raised my hand.  He had just said, this will always work.  You can always face what is going on for you inside. It will always change. I raised my hand and asked, what about grief?  He look at me.  I have never been looked at like this before or since.  In a way, sometimes Bright Ears comes close to looking at me in this way, as if I am transparent and yet whole. As if my brokenness is my wholeness and as if I make perfect sense but I’m still hilarious and silly and totally mistaken. Michael’s look was a split second, but it was as if I was in an X-ray machine.  It’s just a guy, he said, and I felt as if I had been tapped very sharply on the back of the head. He was right, of course. I wasn’t grieving. I was, as I so often am, in the disappointment phase of hope.

He spoke for another hour and a half, all on this theme of giving face.  The kids loved it, we all did.  He was so generous, so humourous, so strong and supple and even and bright.  It didn’t strike me until dinner, when I was sitting with the Voice, on the bench that rings the whole upper floor of the schoolhouse, all seventy five of us together, plates perched on laps, full of the organic greens from the farm, and listening to the sheep in the sunset, under the sound of teenagers laughing and a few playing basketball below on the court. It was then that I said to the Voice, he did it.  He created the space we need for the heart circle.  He had shown us how to witness each other, in a way we could never have done.  With his years of practice and his sweet way of teaching. The Voice nodded and put an arm around me and we leaned back into our lives. That night’s heart circle was beautiful. When I finally got to sleep about three am I sent a big bright thought of love and gratitude to him, as I am doing right now. Hard to believe he’s gone.

I saw him again in Toronto a couple of years later. He remembered the camp. I was doing yoga at The Centre of Gravity, his place of teaching and practice. He gave a talk, I wish I could remember now what it was, maybe it will come back. It was very technical, I remember.  Nothing like what happened at the camp. I think it was about breathing, but the detail I don’t know.  While we were doing the yoga practice he came over and did a quite harsh adjustment on me, moving my hip very strongly and said with a little edge it’s okay to work for it. Just give into it when it’s hard. Work your way into it. The next morning I was late and running for a streetcar or a train or something and I tweaked my trick knee (it’s the knee cap that subluxes, you remember from the Tae Kwon Do thing) and I knew that it was the adjustment.  I was in a brace for ten days. That time made me slow down, made me think about how I was working and how and when I was skimming, not digging in.  As I’m writing this I wonder if what he adjusted was the karma from that day of ego during the Taw Kwon Do championship. Goddammit, Michael. Why’d you have to leave so soon? I’m worried about the Dancing Poet. And Supercharged. And Miss Quartz who called me for the first time in her life, just to grieve. And the thousands of people who loved him who will take this in all the twisted ways we grieve. But I’m also excited for all of us. Because he taught us how. Give it face. Work for it. Okay, then.

I never went back to his classes after that, but I always meant to. To take his New Year’s retreat. To spend more time with him. This is the thing, isn’t it? Time. Goes on. I spend so much time in my emotions, like today.  But when is it too late?  What can I do? Am I supposed to try to feel good all the time, or is it okay that this is just me? That I have this darkness that comes with me, and that I really don’t know what it is.  I need to give it face.  Again.  He said this, and I remember Geri saying it too, once. You don’t gain momentum on your practice. It doesn’t get easier. I will always have this darkness.  I just need to keep showing up for it.

Still fifteen minutes to write. It’s a warm summer day in Montreal. I am blessed because my apartment stays very cool in the summer.  I don’t mind puttering in here all day. It’s also festival time in this city of celebrations, but there’s no way I’m getting up to that. The mood internal has shifted again, and again I feel like I could cry.  See what I mean? Nothing has happened. I don’t know. I tell my therapist about it, but I think because I’m so functional in the world he doesn’t really get it.  I have an appointment in a week. I’m going to tell him again.  I need someone to know.  Although I guess you (whoever you are) know. Does everyone go through this? Probably.  I’m looking at my little couch.  I want to lie on it and cry.  And then maybe draw or read.  What I know I should do is get into the photoshop world and work on the show.  I don’t want to do anything else. There. The mood lifted again.  It’s around my eyes. It’s like a vice tightens, and then it loosens. Right now it is loose. Oh, there, I feel it again, it’s in my chest.  What IS emotion? Maybe that’s a better question for the therapist.  I heard James Hollis give a lecture in Feb and he said that emotions are like a diagnostic from the soul.  It’s the soul’s way of having an opinion about the lifeway.  That makes sense. I guess my soul isn’t happy about something. I think it’s the discontent I have about love. I don’t know which direction it is.  Does the soul want me to find my person? No, I can feel the dankness of that.  It’s in my throat.  It’s that the soul is happy to enjoy the beautiful life I have, and the tears come when I start wishing something was different. Blegh.

Again, I have to return to not knowing really why I’m writing this.  I was supposed to start moving into fiction in 23, but it’s 26.  I have ten minutes left. I’m scared. I’m scared I can’t do it.  I’m going to give it a try.  I will be the main character, okay? Just to confuse the whole thing even more.

……………..

Last night I was sitting in my armchair, watching the new season of Suits on my phone, and smoking weed out of a pipe.  (So far that’s true)  There is a tape on my door that says knock loudly (also true) but I still always jump when someone knocks. In order to knock loudly they end up sounding aggressive.  There was a loud knock, and my heart was pounding, but I still went to the door. I wish I had one of those peek holes.  I saw a male figure past the bevelled glass.  I figured it must be the DJ from upstairs. I opened the door and it wasn’t. It was a stranger. It was ten o’clock at night. He was light brown skinned with dark green eyes and that perfect facial hair that mystifies me. Do they draw that on like eyebrows? His eyes were looking at me accusingly.  He said nothing.  My heart was in my throat.  Yes, I said, and my voice was a little choked. There was no one in the street behind him.  It was raining, and he was wet on the shoulders of his thin beige summer jacket.  Underneath, his shirt was blue and white checks. My phone was not in my pocket. What was he about to do? He was looking at me, I was looking at him. It was at least ten seconds before he said, Nadia.  I smiled, and smiled with my eyes, which is one of my weird gifts as a liar, that I can kick you an eye-smile almost always. But it didn’t work.  He stayed neutral, his eyes accusing but, still, distant.  He said, let me in.  I stood aside, and as he crossed the little airlock and brushed by me, and didn’t take off his shoes, and moved into the hallway and turned around, I wondered what I had just done.  I don’t know you I said.  The last word was breathy.  I was having trouble breathing, but I didn’t notice until I tried to speak.  He took off his jacket and hung it on a hook.  You don’t know me? You should.  It’s me. I don’t know your name.  My voice didn’t sound like mine.  I had wished for death so many times, but now that it was here I felt faint.  He shrugged. Can I have some water or something? Can I sit down?  I didn’t say anything and he walked into the front room as if he had known it was there, and sat on my couch.  He said, you don’t look good. I don’t know you, I said again.  It’s me, Nadia, he said.  I’m Ram. Ram, I asked. From my novel. What are you talking about? I saw your book, he said. That’s impossible I said. There is only one printout.  I have it here. Ha. He said. When you write you conjure. There is never just one copy.  I saw it where everything that is ever written is kept. And when I recognized myself I thought, I have to meet you in person.

Clippings, Programs and Contracts

“Discursive practices are not speech acts. Rather, discursive practices are specific material configurings of the world through which determinations of boundaries, properties, and meanings are differentially enacted…To assume that meaning is a property of individual words is to stay within a linguistic frame of meaning making. Discourse is not a synonym for language.” –Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway

I have so much to do right now but I’m also so far behind with these, and I know if I fall any further behind I will stop doing it.  And I know that even though the content of these isn’t very pleasing to me at all, the muscle I’m building in just letting them flow is something I want and need. This is essay number 25, and it’s Thursday of week 28 so I really am falling quite far back. I managed to do two while I was in Switzerland, but that wasn’t enough.

There is so much going on in my head right now.  And it’s summer in Montreal, which means all I want to do is go out at night and socialize. There are festival shows every single night, and tons of other stuff going on, too. And the weather is cool, it’s kind of lovely. Everyone brown that I meet is complaining, but for me I love this kind of freshness, I have been getting up early just to sit outside on the back balcony and read a magazine and sip green tea and let the coolness fill my lungs.

It took me a long time to land after Saas-Fee. The first three days I was just disoriented.  And jet lagged. I think I need to stop traveling. My hair has gone so much more gray in the last month.  It’s a steep slope, it feels like. But I have been taking care of my body since I’ve been home. It’s so much easier when there’s a routine.  Getting up early, doing yoga, drinking green tea, eating oatmeal, reading for at least two hours.  It’s nice.  It feels really grounded and good.  I have a trip at the end of the month, to run a camp with the Voice in Oregon, but until then I’m here. Two weeks. Well, next weekend I’ll take a train to see my family, but that’s just for the weekend.

When I get back I’m going to call Xin Wei and try to meet him for tea. I’ve seen him in two dreams, and both times we were doing experiments. I’m incredibly excited about what’s happening with school. I think that my dream of really understanding the nature of time is actually a reality, where before it seemed like a pipe dream since I have no background in physics.  But, between Meeting the Universe Halfway, meeting Xin Wei, and learning about arts based research I think I might really have a shot.  Learning about metaphor in my master’s thesis was so incredibly satisfying.  Something really funny has been happening as I’ve been reading and learning in the last month.  It’s as if I wrote that thesis knowing I was going to read these books and meet these people. But if you’d asked me then I wouldn’t have had any idea that this was what I wanted to study. Barad’s book in particular is really blowing my mind with the synchronicity. She even keeps using the phrase, What Matters, which is the title for the thesis that Chili and I came up with.  I wonder what it would have been like to have had this book then?  But then, I wouldn’t have constructed the ideas myself, which is so validating now.  To read her thoughts on quantum mechanics from a post humanist perspective and to know that when I was working so hard to prove that metaphor was a more-than-human phenomenon she had already written this.

It felt great to be at school, too, and have the background in phenomenology. And that would never have happened if I hadn’t have had to leave the Imaginative Ed program and write my thesis instead of continuing with the cohort. At the time I couldn’t have known it was so meant to be.  And I feel this often, the things I struggle against the most are the things leading me to my destiny. The transformation is in the resistance itself. It’s funny. So this thing about love, I wonder, I wonder if it’s leading me somewhere beautiful. Though, I have to say, since Godi I just have been feeling different. It’s as if some kind of skein or veil just tore open and I realize that I really do have the life I want, and that to have someone else in here with me might just be too crowded. I know that my ancestors are with me, drawing me forward, and also pushing me with their dreams and that I am being propelled by their dreams. I mean, I’ve known this for ages, but it takes time to sink in and it’s easy to forget because it works so opposite to my conditioning and how I’ve internalized my role as a woman, and as an Indian woman, and as an aging woman.  But I know that they want me to be free. And I look at the incredible privilege, not just to have all the access to resources I have, but also to have this life where, for example, on a Thursday afternoon at 4 pm I’m just writing this.  I mean, I’m free.  And I just keep wanting to tie myself down, and I’m starting to be free enough internally to ask myself why. And I think it’s because I’m afraid, because it is the unknown. Because it’s not really a path at all, just a star in the sky and then the terrain, all bumpy and rivers and bushwacking.

So school has me jumping up and down with excitement.  I’m just about to finish Stamped, and Meeting the Universe. I’m going to read Meeting again, in order to take notes, and maybe see if my supervisor can help me find somewhere to publish an article that relates it to group work or facilitation. I’ve just started Xin Wei’s Poiesis and Enchantment in Topological Matter. I skimmed all the way through it while I was in Switzerland, but now I’m reading it for real. It is a real complement to Meeting, and he even mentions Barad in it.  I also got Haraway’s Staying With the Trouble, but it’s still in the plastic.  And I have all these other readings for school, handbooks about Time. I think the narrowing focus (it will have to get a lot more narrow than this) is Ethics and Aesthetics of Time in Group Process.  I think that can keep me interested for four years.

I’m also hard at work on the show. Had a meeting at the venue with the producer and manager yesterday. It was scary. It’s feeling so real and there are only ten months left. Right now I’m using Photoshop to take all the drawings apart so I can animate them. I have a mentor who is about six five and has a very loud voice and seems maybe like he has some social anxiety but is a total sweetheart. We’ve done two hours together (oh shit I have to remember to pay him today).  It’s fun to work on the drawings in this way, I was afraid it would be tedious. The scary part is that they ALL need to be done pretty soon, and some of the newer ones aren’t even done in their hard copies. I wanted to be working on the After Effects side of things by August. I also need to record the piano improvisations, starting tonight, so that The Beatbox can hear them before he gets here in August.  I feel the connection of the drawings to school and to my thesis.  It’s like I did the experiment beforehand.  I should write about them in that framework.  Maybe I use them as the trope for an article about Meeting? I don’t know.  All I know is that these drawings are alive in a way that nothing else I’ve ever made has been.

God, this shit really is a diary, and a to-do list. But I do appreciate being able to get the words out.  At least they are coherent.  But what is valuable to say to you? What is it I want to tell you?

Well, one thing is that in Meeting Barad proves something that is very very important, that may hold the key to the survival of our species (though of course one way or another our species does not survive) but at least prolongs the inevitable and who knows? She is proving (among other things) that past and future, the distinction between them, is ontological and agential. Meaning that they do not have inherent qualities, and are not oriented to each other in a specific way before they are measured by a mediating apparatus.  This is very important because, as I was saying to the Dancing Poet last night over dinner, so much of what is terrifying about the world, like climate change, is the direct result of a linear and teleological orientation to time. For example, insurance. Insurance is so fundamental to the economic systems that we live in, baked right into it. In order to even have insurance, you have to believe that the future is a big gaping raw maw of an abyss of nothingness and that uncertainty can only be dealt with by an ultimate abstraction, which is money (but could as easily be God). And once you accept that you can accept the notion of interest, which operates on the same principle of linearity, of progression towards, and in a certain direction. When I believe that the seasons return, that the sun returns, that what dies returns, that my ancestors are here with me now, that past and future are here with me now, then I don’t need insurance. Not at all.  Because while the world remains (and moreso) full of wonder it is also dependable and it is in direct communication with me. So the future is not an unknown, it is a friend who is coming back; winter, spring, summer, fall.

Xin Wei in Poiesis and Enchantment talks about the magma.  It’s such an important aspect of all this.  In order for this worldview to work everything has to be utterly connected and the distinctions or discriminations or interactions have to arise and then fall away back into what he is, I think, calling the magma.  There has to be a temporality to our individuality.  Which of course is quite easy to feel, and also comes with a lovely kind of balm, where even the fear of death backs down.  And we know how much havoc is wreaked in the name of that Fear.

And then the third leg of my trio of intentions right now (along with school and the show) is work. And work feels like it fits perfectly with all of this. Not only is it holding me up, I saw at school how much I know. How much I’ve learned about group fields and how to communicate into that field not with words (though words are often there) but with the heart, and with the body.  I’m so blessed that these things are all one. I wonder how many people in the world could be as blessed as I am, to live in a purposeful life that is so full of joy and where the parts all seem to fit together.  I know I get really sad sometimes, really, really sad, and sometimes it’s for me but also sometimes it’s for us, all of us, and the pain but today as the sun comes in through my linen curtain I just feel good.

Whew. 28 more minutes. I thought I had so much to tell you, but I’m starting to run a little short.  What little thing is here in my mindscape? Well, there is this thing, and it’s hard to write about, so I guess that is why I should.  One of the initial aspects of the rejection complex that I had to untangle, and that my drawings had so much to do with, was the question of beauty.  Even when I was working to try to uncover (as per the idea of a great writing teacher that I had — do I put his name here? No, it’s worse, since you’ll know him) the through line, the overarching theme in my work, in everything I’ve ever made. He said all artists have a question like this. And what I came to was, “can I survive the terrifying beauty of who I really am.”  It’s funny because Hiss and Stars at school kept talking about Rilke, too, and the terrifying beauty.  And in the drawings that is exactly what I’m looking at.  But in everything, from I Sing on the Cake, to the piece that won at the Nuyorican, to my manic manicures, all of it fits under this wonderful arc. But when I went to school, and I think there is something about that tiny carless alpine village named after fairies, I think it is a magical mirror-place, there were some hard mirror-things that happened, some really hard things, where I had to face my own prejudices.  Like for example, I had to set aside my really deeply held beliefs about structure and what makes group work feel safe, and just get on for a ride that asked me to take care of myself and others without any kind of agreements or process, and then it was a question of watching my own behaviour, my need to rescue, my anger and irritation. My internalized misogyny and self-hate. And then there were these people, two women in particular, who were driving me really up the wall, one with her endless complaining and one with her joy projection mask.  So, of course, I could see myself in these. But there was something else in the magic mirror that was exciting and wondrous and a total surprise, though when I look into my journals, of course, there it is about two weeks before. Intention really is an incredible thing. Not only does it reverse causality in the obvious way, but it often can reach back before even the overt intention itself, and then you see it’s gossamer roots faaaar back. It’s tricky to talk about it because it doesn’t account for systemic oppressions and therefore is restricted in so many ways, but it’s this sneak-through-ness when I want something or say something and then I kind of forget about it entirely and then suddenly there it is. And in this case what I wanted was specific, but it was also seemed like something impossible. Especially after the last seven years of rejection and working on rejection, and just feeling the ground slide out from under me like shale over and over again.

I was glamorous. Or, what I should say is that I felt glamorous. I found myself doing my hair in the complicated styles the Queen taught me when she was here in December, while I was so broken up.  Wearing jewelry.  Talking to everyone, anyone.  Feeling beautiful, feeling magnetic, feeling accepted. Feeling at home.  I think Godi had something to do with that invocation. And Maji, who was so present with me.  And my own wishes.  I still feel it now, but it is not as stark as it was then.  I can’t remember what I put in essay 24 because I haven’t edited or posted it yet, but I think I probably mentioned this.

I feel guilty about having a wish like this. It feels so fraudulent and frippery. But, at the same time, it is a deeply held desire.  To be wanted, yes, but also to be able to create an impression, whatever impression I want, to be able to make character and selfness for myself. It’s a kind of acting, I think. There’s that idea from a woman who wrote a book (that, once I looked at it closely, looked quite uninteresting) about it that glamour feels true even though we know it isn’t.  It’s connected to a kind of magic. A way of walking in the world. I’ve felt so small and ugly and diminished all along, even when I was on stage, I always needed the Beatbox because I felt so insignificant.  I think this was the first time I really felt significant and shiny and bright and beautiful. And I wonder if it signals the beginning of something new. When Bright Ears was here before I left he told me to be open to something new. I am.  I really feel like I am.  But I also suspect that if I just keep going one foot in front of the other I will get somewhere, just like these same feet got me here.

Still ten minutes left.  But now I really don’t know what else I could possibly write. I’m having the Dancing Poet over for G and Ts and black bean tacos. I love to cook for her.  My food always turns out well with her. Not so with Bright Ears.  It’s hit or miss with him.  I’m so lucky with these brilliant, beautiful friends. Bright Ears and the Beatbox and Colour and Gesture will all be here next month. That will be good. I miss them a lot.

I’ve been smoking again.  Just once a day, but that’s way too much. I prefer to be on the once a month train.  I have two left, and then it has to be bye bye.  Though I know at camp it is often so nice to have that little smoke.  I might have to pick up some rollie just for that. At night. Because the days of camp are so long. But working with the Voice is my absolutely favorite.  It’s really to work with him that I agreed to do this. The travel is grueling, it breaks up my work, the pay is minimal.  But he and I have incredible chemistry.  Partly I think it is that we trust each other a lot.  And also that our skills are complementary.  He’s wacky and intense and I’m more deep and poetic and I think that works for a group. And we both read the group pretty well. And I really trust his heart. He cares about people. And I feel safe with him.  He’s a good friend, and he always has my back. But, there’s something else. It’s almost like we are dreaming in the same language.  So, I’m excited for that. Eight days in Oregon, then when I get back the Beatbox will be here. The only sad thing is that I will miss my nephew’s birthday for the third year in a row, and he is only three.

I wonder what it would have been like to get married young and have children. I watch my hair get more and more gray and I know that ship is long gone, even though maybe my body could do it. But life is life.  I have a life. I’m grateful for it.

We Are All Chimeras

The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion. –Donna Haraway

The long road sweeps ahead of me.  I am standing in front of my future, looking at its sparkling blackness. Knowing that the seeds of all that is to be is behind me. Think of the seeds my mother planted, and my father. The seeds of creativity, of curiosity, of sophistication, of kindness and intelligence. Of ethical considerations.

I remember the first time my mother told me that you never eat in front of someone who is not themselves eating.  It is a simple thing but I remember her tone, how she sounded and looked when she said it. So many of these things, I feel them being imparted in her gentle way, gentle but always very penetrating, very shaping.  She is a good person, and she has shaped us into good people. We are entrenched in her ethics. Where did they come from? Where do they flow towards?  I am turning now, and the future is behind me, and I look at my past. It is strewn with flowers and strong hardy plants, and the in-between of grasses and bushes, with berries and bugs. And looking further than the meadow of my past there is the forest of my ancestors. The trees, the dark coolness of death, the living wisdom of their care and compassion. I feel them all so strongly with me here. I don’t know what is happening here, exactly, but I know it is important.  As I look back and ask what brought me here I realize it is love. It is love and investment and also the pain and the violence and the outsiderness, all of it brought me to this place.

I turn again, and step a few paces forward. Now I am in the unknown. Now I am in the future beyond what touches the known. I am in the abyss. Here I am swimming in stars.  I am a dream character, transforming and reforming.  I find a sweet spot and tread there, arms and legs moving through the denseness. I feel my gratitude. I feel my pride. This is the place where I’ve completed this journey.  Where I have examined the nature of time and its implications for world changing.

I turn again, and the past wiggles up, a puppy, new and bounding and big pawed and sloppy. This past is translucent, it hasn’t happened yet, exactly, but from the vantage point I’ve chosen in the future, it has. In this past I am organized, I am dedicated, my show is a wonder, I am so proud of it, PYE and I are able to articulate and channelize our work, and I am about to step away, after twenty years, to start a new adventure.

We’ve been here in Saas-Fe two weeks. It feels almost normal, the total immersion. Even my dreams are all here at this school, in these mountains, except on the day Bright Ears hosted a stage at Pride Toronto and I dreamed about that, of course.  Felt good to know I’m still in the deep water with my friends, because honestly these mountains are so high, it feels as if the rest of the world doesn’t exist. I’ve stayed pretty close to social media, posting about the journey here, yet it doesn’t feel like I’m on this planet. The mountains are all around us, and the tops are glacial.  The valley has been hot, though. Tobias, who’s the grandfather of the family who owns the hotel(s) we are staying at, told us that this is new, this is climate change, that it used to be it was only skirt weather for five days a year up here, but we have been seven days in summer sun blasting down. Today, though, the day started with deep fog.  Now there is only another hour left until class. I could use more time. I need to start being a little disciplined with sleep.  It’s easy to stop at the bar or to watch netflix or get into reading but the sleep is so important.  Our classes are intense. They are arts based, and use the Expressive Arts methodology, but they are also intellectual (though this part is minimized, which frustrates me. The research methods teacher told me if I wanted to learn about research methodologies I needed to read about them. Which cracked me up. But then, I also skipped the research methods class at SFU.  AND the methods I want to use are Barad’s agential realism (which I’ve been talking about for months) and Sha Xin Wei’s experimental philosophy (which maybe I mentioned last week?) so they wouldn’t have covered them anyway.

So much is happening here that it is hard to imagine what I can tell you. But to keep it in the realm of the personal, I could tell you that I feel extremely beautiful here. It’s a new feeling. I think it maybe related to the Kava root. I just don’t have the anxiety and the social fear I usually have. I didn’t know what it was like to live without it until now. It’s incredible.  I feel so smooth, emotionally.  There was a bit of conflict in the class last night (so little compared to how these things can happen, but there is a fear of the negative and of conflict that is in the classes we have taken. I wonder if it is in the methodology itself or if it is just the teachers we have.)

Our current teacher (the classes are sequential, one at a time, except the CORE group and Community Arts which run throughout) is a New Yorker who lives in Edmonton, his name is Marcus. He is charismatic.  It’s kind of annoying, to be honest. A lot of what I’m learning as I watch these people is how facilitation can look from the participant point of view. I don’t know why it is so stark here but these people have drunk the Expressive Arts kool-aid (they call it ExA) and it is a little off putting sometimes. I realize of course this is how I sound about my own work.  My ego is struggling, too. I feel so unseen here. Weird paradox, huh?  I feel both glamorous and invisible. Realizing how much of my self-esteem is tied up in the PYE job.  Definitely need to look into this.

In the Didactics of Community Art class we are learning some quite relevant things, ways to create group space. I still think our methods at PYE are better in many ways, but this is forcing me to think of autonomy in a new way, and also and possibly even more importantly to think of aesthetics in a new way.  Though they talk about aesthetics as making something very low skill.  Last night our low skills was very very low. It was enlightening to be sure, but there is so little required in terms of grace…I wonder if our highly process-based work at PYE is actually yielding more satisfying results both in terms of aesthetics and transformation.

It’s going to be a bit hard to go home after this, I think. It’s just so nice to dive deeply in like this. To feel like I have time to think. Oh right, I wanted to tell you about yesterday evening in Didactics.  So, Marcus had us “dance” (it’s really walking, moving) in four ways: slow and direct, quick and indirect, slow and indirect, quick and direct.  First, after the conflict yesterday and after a little blow up from Sharp Insight, it did very much seem to be the right thing to do. He kept emphasizing the need to find ways to include everyone in the community.  Sharp Insight had a very specific communication style that takes up a lot of space, plus her spoken English isn’t as good as the other second language speakers. So there was this conflict.  I brought up the need to talk about how we are together (can you imagine, they do this deep work without agreements? But last night over drinks said that there is a structure but we didn’t really see it in the Philosophy or Research classes.

I’m getting tired. I don’t know if I can make it all the way though the hour.  I discovered last night that I like best to move slow. Indirectly or directly doesn’t matter that much, they have different qualities but its’ the slowness that is delicious.  My eyes are closing, it’s like I’m entering the dream state. What do I do?  I’ve never paused one of these essays before and it is already 2:32.  I need to give myself fifteen mins to walk up the hill. I swear it is getting steeper every day.  I haven’t done as much reading or writing while I’ve been here as I wanted. It feels like I’m just taking in so much.

This feels like it must be so uninteresting to read. What can I tell you?  I’m just absorbing. I’m looking at the work I’ve done for so many years, this practice that we teach all over the world, and I put it next to ExA and I think, we have been doing great work, and there is room to grow.  To grow is controlling less the situation. Peggy did her work in Arts Education at Leslie College many years ago, and that is where Paulo, and probably a bunch of other teachers also went.  Really, I can barely keep my eyes open. I wonder if I should finish this later? I’ve never don’t that before.

Yesterday at breakfast Curtis turned me on to Levinas, who wrote back to Heidegger from a Talmudic perspective.  I have (I think) realized that my dissertation isn’t on the metaphysics of time necessarily (though I will have to do some of that study) but I think on the ethics and aesthetics of time. It’s so important to group process. How we act and react with each other, how we stay present and talk into the idea of now, how we process, remember, project, transform.  I think that is something that I could enjoying researching and experimenting with.

And on Friday (day before yesterday) I arranged for one of the philosophy students to do an hour long class on academic writing. It was amazing! I’m so glad I did it.  He was thrilled (and grateful) and Margo Knill asked me to send her the notes. What is extra cool is that I think the faculty have been talking about it.  The students in the class were all so really happy, because EGS AHS doesn’t offer any research and writing training at the masters level, and what we got in research methods from Melinda was so thin. It was rich in the stories of her and Jose’s work, but never because didactic, never really helped us understand and think through what kind of research we might want to do.

This year, before we return here, we have four tasks. Take a seminar, give a seminar, give a lecture, review a major publication. It’s going to be a pretty intense year. It’s the show that I’m most worried about.  Ever since Big Ear’s feedback I’ve been hoping that something delightful is about to land on me. I will need to build the relationship structures to make this all happen. Thinking of Amethyst Tuning, for sure. Maybe Chili? Solitude? A group of people to do aesthetic responses as I begin to examine the nature of Time through my automatic drawings.  I’m also going to do Oracular Poetry as my seminar.  With different groups, and take good evaluations so I can write a paper about it. It’s waiting to be written, I think, and in terms of time and synchronicity and maybe simultaneity I don’t know I will be able to start thinking into ideas for my thesis. The seminar to take I’d like to take is Ruth’s in Brooklyn, I could likely stay with Bunny again, and he’d probably take it too which means I could interview him as well. Really that seems like the best idea. Maybe I will. I could also take a Continuum course here with Space Octopus, of course, which is a good one too, since she has it as specific research processes into biology, but also into cosmic matters.  And traveling less is better this year because of the show.

Bright Ears gave me good advice about the show when he was in Montreal. He said I have to be aware of what will hold the audience’s attention for an hour. Maybe I do need to be on the stage, but I don’t know how that can be.  I need to talk to Farah I think. And Julio.  There is so much to do. The drawings need to be ready. I need to learn the animation. Make the piano improvisations for Rup. It’s so much bigger than anything I’ve done before. But it is also very much the direction I want to move, so I just need to dig in.  The other thing that I’m concerned with right now is the state of my body. I feel it aging. I don’t know if it is the altitude, the food, the steep hill to class, but I just feel like I need to be doing more exercise and eating differently. You know, it might even be the kava. Since I’m not feeling that constant fear and anxiety I think I’m also actually feeling my body more.  I feel that I’m in here.

I’m horrified at how mundane this essay is. Day before yesterday we went on a field trip.  We walked up near the mountains. The sun was so hot, and I had my bag but no water bottle. I broke mine dropping it on the floor and haven’t replaced it. But there is lots of access to mountain water here so it’s no problem. God, I feel like I need to nap. We went down to some fire pits really at the foot of the mountains. And then to the river, I sat on a rock and put my feet in. It was icy and rushing. It felt like it was speaking to me. I thought I heard it say, move. Then I climbed back up and sat in some wildflowers and drew.  Sometimes that classes are very intense and sometimes they are just like this.  I’m loving the exploration into creativity. Even though these are teachings about community arts and even art therapy they are so good for me, for my flexibility and openness, and a kind of tuning of all my sensibilities.  I want more! I love making. I want to write and draw and make things all my life, and I know I will. I’m also so excited to start on this PhD process. I hope I can stay organized, not get too bogged down. But with Nathan’s notes it should be good. I think I will also have a monthly session with him, depending on what he will charge, to stay on track with research and writing. I think that makes a lot of sense. I will have I think Stephen Levine as my supervisor, but having a thesis consultant would also be really good. If I can write something really new and really interesting then it might allow me to get a scholarship and study with Xin Wei or Karen Barad in my third or fourth year. I think, and have thought all along, that a good solid study and understanding of the nature of time will help us a lot in our work.  In interarts, it’s the common modality, and it is used so much for what Softly calls democratization, but I think of as group rhythm. The sharing of space is really the sharing of time.

There are some truly brilliant people here.  People to stay in touch with. Mollie said she would help me read Xin Wei’s book, as well. And they are going to send me all the During notes and bibliography. What if I can do this?  What if I really write something that is useful and interesting? I mean, I know that no one reads the PhD, but from there I will write and make. I can’t wait to dig in, to dive in.

Still twelve minutes left. I want a nap before class. I’ve been avoiding Godi, and not responding to his messages. He hasn’t done anything wrong, and I feel quite badly about it.  I know this feeling so well from the other side. I think this is another feature of this place.  It works like a big mirror. I see now why it isn’t good to chase, to be too present.  It’s hard not to when you love. I know this.  But he makes me uncomfortable with his love. And I don’t feel like I want to kiss or cuddle at all.  It was nice that first night, but the second time it was boring and my mind was elsewhere, and I left early.  I think I’ve realized something that is almost hard to admit, but I shall say it here because I want it on a record, and these essays of course, are primarily for me, my process and my record.  Alllll these years I have longed for my partner. But suddenly (I wonder if it is the kava root or this valley, or what) but suddenly I find I don’t care. I suddenly don’t want any one that close in my life. I love my friends, and that is more than enough.  I don’t want that person, who I have to compromise with.  It would have to be someone I love as deeply as I love my friends, and I don’t think that’s possible. Writing and drawings are better for me.  It’s a huge turning point. I have wasted more energy than I would ever admit wanting and hoping and dreaming and wishing for that person.  But suddenly it has shifted.  I’m just me, under this big sky, under these wondrous mountains. I’m me and my beloved friends and family, and this incredible planet, and my creativity. That’s it.  There is nothing more to wish for.

Except for the channel, the portal of my creativity to open and stay open. To be able to perform and create with the spirit just coursing through me. That is the desire. That is my dream. I want to make, write, play, sing, dance.  All of it. I’m thirty-eight years old. But it isn’t too late. Because I have been working on this all my life. I have tools. I have time.  I have my gorgeous little apartment.  All that I need. All that I want.

What will it be like to live without a burning hot desire, without the addiction to wanting? What will it be like instead to work with what is, to meet it and encounter it, and be shaped by it and shape it?

Intimate Performances of Causality

I recall Felix Guattari, who, at the end of his Chaosmosis, asks whether art is the appropriate mode of radical, ethico-aesthetic experimental mode of subjectivation.   Guattari’s hyphenation — ethico-aesthetic — invites us to articulate together what Plato sundered: the arts of poetry with the arts of truth.  It matters not only that something works or is said, but how something works or is said.  What is done or uttered is inextricably the same as the manner in which it is done or uttered.  Even more radically, what is done co-creates what could be done, or could-have-been done, in other words actualization co-constructs the potential.   –Sha Xin Wae

I’ve been in Saas-Fee for a week. And I definitely need to write. So much has happened here. It’s absolutely overwhelming, but also deeply resonant and magical. I couldn’t be happier with my choice to come here for my PhD, and even though it’s a four year program and I’ve only been here a week, I already feel time is going too fast. It’s also essay #23, which means that something different has to happen with this essay than the others. I had originally thought that the fiction would simply seep in, and that maybe you wouldn’t know which was which and that would be the experiment. But now I feel that isn’t quite right. I will see as this one goes how it might work.

The second night I was here I stopped with the Masked One after class, late, to get a beer at a little bar called Happy Bar on the walk back down from our classroom, which is a round building up quite a steep hill, to our rooms, which are in a sub hotel building called Artemis. I have a lovely little room, bright and cool with a mountain view. It has been a haven since school is so overstimulating. The classes are one thing.  Because it’s an expressive arts program the classes are not only intellectually stimulating but also quite psychologically ripping. (As in a new one.) But then there are the meals, which we share with the students and teachers from the philosophy program. I have been making a very concentrated effort to bridge over to the philosophy program, since it was definitely my originally interest in EGS, and since I do feel jealous of the incredible ideas and visionaries who are teaching there. But I think in this week I have begun to strike the balance I’m looking for, because my program is where I belong. I don’t want to sit and listen and learn by questioning and thinking. I also want to do what we have been doing, which is learning and research through the arts. The anti-platonic de-cartesian Dionysian learning through devouring. This morning, for example, we began the day with a singing dance. The fifty of us, all with the restriction to dance only on a lateral line in a long room (with the mountains streaming in the windows) and then also improvisationally singing to each other. Maybe for twenty minutes. After which Paulo Knill had us create an improvised motet with four parts (our four “companies” he calls them, which are the two masters groups, the digital arts group and our little PhD cohort.) We began with Barabara Hielscher (who was our philosophy professor as well) on the piano, playing a simple chord. Two of us in each group were to hold a tone from that chord throughout the improvisation. Since I was choreographer last time I volunteered to be the tone holder with Fuschia. Then two others were composers, The Masked One and Sniffer, to create a short repeating pattern, which the rest, the choir, were to repeat and be responsible for repeating, though they could also add anything else they wanted. Honestly, there were moments of transcendent beauty. Of chaos also. But I am learning a new way into the expressive arts here, different than PYE and the Creative Community model. More emergent, more unstructured. More embracing of chaos.

 

After the morning hour of arts (and a very short craft talk from Paulo) we had a two hour lecture on family systems and chaos theory, mostly based on Bateson.  It was wonderful. I loved how Daniel Dietrich broke down Bateson’s systems theories into such simple to understand point, to understand how systems are operating on multiple scales, from the cosmos to the cell, and where the family fits into that.  Then he showed us how to use scaling questions (like Bebear has always taught us) to get the temperature or state of a client or group. He showed us the elements of a system and then he moved us into chaos theory, which is really in a therapeutic sense learning to manage chaos. Of course, there isn’t anything new here, and this is what our camps and group work alsways do, but it was refreshing to sit on a dance floor and just be reminded in a clear way.  The constant digging for chiggers to get to knowing is exhausting and my laziness just wanted to be told. In general, here, instead of tending teleologically to order, we are encouraged to stay with the chaos. And this is embedded into the ExA methodology.  It’s very exciting. I know it will change my work.  But it has also been operating on me in this week. I want to tell you two stories of how this has been happening. The first, because it is, in the end, my life with its long endless threads as all of yours have as well, is about love.

Back to Happy Bar. It’s a little place with a kind of anarchist maybe hard rock kind of feel. The Masked One and I walk in and order some small drinks. There are some people in the space.  Most look like locals, and then there is a small knot that I can hear are talking about lectures, and I figure they’re from the philosophy side. Until this point I think I’d only had some casual conversation across the divide at dinner. Yes, that’s right. I has spoken with the Salt and Caramel Commie that day at lunch, the Greek sociologist writing his second PhD (his first was on the Vedas).  I saw a dark skinned face, looking South Indian, across the bar, and just gave a little wave. We then went over and I introduced us to the knot of students. One of them is Neon Lillies who I hope will be a friend. A brilliant, sassy, edgy softie from NYC. Then there was Farenheit, actually the only black man I have seen here. A local called Richard.  We began to chat. Neon Lillies gave me some insight and a reading list when I told her I was interested in learning about time. Agabden. The article “what is an apparatus.” We heard about some issues of anti O that had happened on their side. Richard was very drunk, so that was entertaining. Neon rolled a joint. Then the dark skinned Indian came by and introduced himself. He sat down, said his name was Lodi and asked me if I had Indian roots.

What you need to know, and what I think I mentioned in  the last essay is that I feel Maji so strongly here.  I feel as if I’m so blessed to be able to study, period. Maji never got to as you remember from That Fertile Disarray.  And not just to study but in this way, in this incredible mountain retreat, with the body and heart engaged, learning how to heal and have purpose in the world, how to engage my creativity for a greater good. I feel Maji, and Grandma Vicky and Grandpa Edwin especially, but I know that all my ancestors are with me.  I had mentioned them a number of times in class, as well. It just kept coming up as we were opening and invoking our time together. I had laid Maji’s mala on our class altar (yes, the class has an altar. It’s like that. It’s intellectually and profoundly personal.) I had put down Maji’s mala and shared the prayer I received when I prayed for a prayer because I didn’t know how to use the mala. I was surprised at myself sharing something so personal. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as open as I do right now.

So, my ancestors have been present. And when Lodi asked if I had Indian roots I said yes, I’m from Goa. And he, with his skin near maroon, and his round face, he looked a lot like Shams I had already seen it, said, what. Me too. In that moment we had a bond. He looked like he could cry.  We actually hugged. Turned out he was from Calangute, which is so close to our home village, Saligao. Well, we continued to chat. I was feeling the first inklings of the beauty I feel in myself today, I felt relaxed and open. We were all laughing and chatting, and I was definitely doing some facilitation work to keep everyone connected and in the conversation. Lodi has a strong Swiss German accent. He has been living in Saas Fee for seventeen years and is the manager of the recycling plant here. He was married here and has a seven year old, too. It was amazing to me to think of what he would have had to do to stay that long in a place as white and traditional and conservative as this. As we talked it became clear that this was a very open, very emotionally intelligent man.  I went out to have a little smoke with N. Lillies and then came back in where the Mask and Lodi were talking. He asked if we could stay for another beer. I said yes, but then changed my mind. I’d already had a half a pint and I wanted to stay clear for school. But I agreed to stay and chat a little longer. We sat back down on the couch and suddenly I found myself kissing him. I have not felt chemistry like this since Hari.  So easy, so delicious. I felt I was kissing Shams, I felt my ancestors had given me a gift, I decided to go home with him. It seemed like a very bizarre decision, but at the same time I had no doubt. And the Masked One, though I didn’t know her, had only met here the day before, also seemed to say it was a good idea, though she made sure I knew how to contact her and had the numbers and she had mine. I went back to his house and we connected at a very deep level. I enjoyed it enormously and felt clear that my ancestors were answering my prayers to feel loved and connected while I was here. He wanted me to stay over the night, but I didn’t want to, I knew my priority was school, and that this was a gift to facilitate that.

Day 3-6 at school were incredibly full. I was meeting all kinds of incredible people, both the profs and the students. I wasn’t able to meet with Lodi in that time.

Once of the people I met was Eely, who stays here at Artemis too which means he is at breakfast everyday.  He and two of his friends one day I sat with them and they gave me a list of readings and things to think about. Offhandedly Eely mentioned a drag performer called Christeeene.  I don’t know why, but for some reason it stuck more than anything else (though I will be going through that precious list of readings, for sure.) I went up to my room at lunch and watched the video he told me about, a music video called African Mayonnaise. Christeeeene is an incredibly raunchy performer. The video is about how she is going to be your superstar. Her performance of femininty is liminal at best, barely there, messy lipstick, a man’s chest, but also a languid stringiness that is very starlet. In the video she wreaks a kind of havoc on a small suburban place. She is barely gendered. It was one of the things we had been talking about. And Eely had said something else that really tweaked my mind. That there is dignity in gender. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about Shams and our conversations about gender. When Shams asked me what I wanted from this time I said I wanted to glamourous and magnetic. The magnetic part was satisfied by Lodi and the glamourous part was being interrogated and disturbed by Christeeene.

On the night of day three Barbara and Tinquy gave us an assignment, to answer what is human (what is your menschenbild, your image of what makes a person), and what is art (and there fore what is your work and what work will you do here at EGS).  When Eely told me about Christeeene and related it to dignity I couldn’t stop thinking that I so much wanted her to be part of my presentation, but I had no idea how. The morning of day four we had time to work into our projects a little. That afternoon at lunch I was on facebook, and Curlypaws had posted a CBC video of three drag queens at a public library reading to children. I knew that I wanted to put these side by side. But I still didn’t know how. I began work on my presentation, rereading my master’s thesis, because in that I had created a theory of mind that centered metaphor and had clarified already for myself what I thought was a human. I remembered the part about discrimination and reference.  Now I could see how Christeene would fit in. In the end I didn’t show the videos, but I did talk about them, especially from the standpoint of assimilation as Kendi has it in Stamped From the Beginning.  It was amazing to me on two levels, one that I knew it would be connected to my classwork when I heard about the video. And how seamlessly it ended up fitting in. This mysterious appearance of things out of time, out of order, in defiance of causality. It was good to talk about discrimination without talking about race. It’s good for me to think about gender, too, as I mentioned in the last essay, I have noticed my internalized misogyny and want very much to work on it. But also about the performance of my gender and how I do that. This, one of the seats of Judith Butler, would be the place to do it. I guess this is a question that has been knocking on my door since 2012 when I a) started doing the manic manicures and b) feel apart over falling in love with Chris Abani and c) finished my master’s degree AND d) started working on my rejection complex.  And femmy glamour is something I want so much.  Here it was in this twisted wonderful sweet ultra-raunchy charming drag performer. And it was also in the encounter with Lodi.

He texted me all week, but I was busy with the presentation, and then last night I wasn’t busy with school but very much wanted to go to Xin Wei Sha’s lecture. Yesterday we had a class trip into the mountains.  It was exhausting but wonderful. The night we had off and there was this lecture. I had seen Xin Wei arrive, he is impossible to miss, a willowy man with the most beautiful energy. He smiled at me four or five times during lunch the day before and I introduced myself, and we decided to meet. In the morning he told me he would be speaking and that we could talk after.  So I didn’t want to miss the lecture. When I looked up his work I was just beside myself. He is the director of the department of art media and engineering at ASU, and his research is arts based and interrogative, and has to do with time and material and physics and computation wow. So I couldn’t meet Lodi. Xin Wei’s lecture did not disappoint. I was telling Pure Pitt this morning I wished I could have taken out a lighter and held it up and swayed. We kept the joke going and decided that Kendrick Lamar should open for him at a 4000 person stadium. I wish that was the world I lived in.  After the lecture I followed him and Elie During down the hill (meeting and chatting with Amira, the only black woman here. It was good to connect on that level.) Xin Wae invited me to follow them to another little Saas Fee bar called Metro Bar (which I quite like).  I was so excited to get to talk to him. His presence is like sunlight. Truly a beautiful human. When we walk in who is there? Lodi.

It could have been very awkward and definitely tried to run that way.  Not only was Lodi there but his adopted father Erich who is obviously protective of him, was there too, who I’d briefly met at Happy.  He waved at me, and Xin Wei asked me if I’d been here before. I said I knew this man.  I wanted to follow Xin Wei, but also wanted to connect with Lodi (he has been also walking by the school…it’s understandable, we had had such a deep connection).  Lodi wanted me to sit with him, but I couldn’t do it. I had written to him a few hours before thankfully to explain that school was busier than I had expected. He told me not to worry about it. But then he started to get into that mansplaining world of giving advice and telling me how to act and what to believe. Trust yourself, etc etc.  I smiled, because I could understand, but I also told him that I was going to talk to the professor. He tried to insist that I sit with him, and tried this weird put down technique of asking, do you live for other people? He kept repeating the question and trying to make me sit down. Finally I had to be a tiny bit sharp and just tell him I didn’t need him to teach me a lesson. He apologized, and I got myself a cranberry and soda and went to talk to Xin Wei who was sitting with Mark, the vice Dean here at the school.

 

He told me to pull up a seat. And what a conversation. What a mind. What a human being. Oh my god. I’ve been having incredible conversations and insights since I got here but this was on another level entirely. So generous. Mark had the conversation for a while, talking about Trump. Which was kind of okay because a) he had some very interesting ideas about how the constitution needs to change and add another amendment to protect voting rights (yo) and also because it let me tell them a little about my work. But then Xin Wei purposely turned the conversation to me and asked what I was doing at EGS and what I’m interested in. I had the chance to ask him about prediction and time and experiments and emergence and all kinds of things and he had so much to share. He turned me onto Grotowski, told me about his work, talked about interactions and how to work with art not at the level of making, but understanding the nature of the universe. About an hour and a half. I have never felt so high.  We walked back. He gives another lecture tonight.

 

I’m having so much insight about my work from all these different angles. There is the philosophy, the new insights about arts, the deep work on myself. I mean, from the processing of the presentations that we did I ended up realizing that I do have ultimate choice over how I present myself.  All week I’ve been doing my hair in the ways Vanessa showed me in Dec that I wasn’t ready for until now. All updos and lots of braids and just…glamorous, and wearing jewelry and just not being so hidden and tomboy. There is a shift happening in my mind that is on my body and there is work in my body that is shifting my ideas and basically I feel just alive and full of light.

Lodi just texted to ask if I would see him tonight. I’m a little torn. The chemistry is so nice but I think as the rejection complex really is starting to disintegrate in its totality, that I don’t know if I care that much to engage sexually with someone who doesn’t feel totally right. I don’t like the way he talks down to me, and especially doesn’t seems to respect me intellectually. I loathe being talked to in that way by men, as if I’m a child and their ideas are something precious like garnets. I certainly didn’t come here for that. The man I dated a few times in April was like that, too, remember? I think I’d rather avoid it. It was a blessing that night, connected to Goa and my roots, a kind of invocation, but I think I would much rather stay focussed here and keep on my path. I don’t know.  Maybe I don’t need love and approval the way I used to?  I mean, of course I still need them, but I just feel…free. I feel like being with myself is enough, and I’m excited to explore what else is possible.