I'm an enneagram 4w5, wearing a 6 cape. An INFP. I am quite creative and philosophical and go with the flow, I love to learn and study, but I like structure. I like knowing perimeters, and resent boxes. Rules make me feel safe and capable... like I know how to work well and satisfy both myself and others.... if I agree with them.
The stereotypes go like this: one can be one or the other: The artist is a bohemian who is messy, irresponsible, eccentric, and defies all boxes society attempts to place around them. They're a rebel. And this is me. Those who like rules are probably tidy and strict and inflexible. This is not me, and I'd argue that if this is, you could use some therapy, as we all could. Stereotypes have grains of truth, but we know they aren't whole. I am actually both, a person who resents boxes but loves some perimeters. For example, I believe artists are some of the most rule following folks around, even if they feel free flowing. There's dedication, knowledge, and routine. You can be both. It's healthy.
Perhaps the most asked question of artists just starting out, after "Where do you get ideas" is simply, "How?" Lucky for us, everyone works slightly differently, enabling us to seek out those we most closely resonate with, and most like to talk about it. The result is a healthy stack of books and lists about "rules" folks follow, and how they allow for creative freedom.
Corita Kent's Art Department Rules
If you don't know about Corita Kent, you should. Kent was a nun who made brilliant, bright, thoughtful, poetic, bold art. She played with shape, color, and typeset in a way that in part reflects advertising, and in part embodies poetry. She's glorious.
Following is her ruleset for the Immaculate Heart College Art Department:
Jack Kerouac's 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Writing and Life
Of all people, Kerouac lived out his writing, thus it makes sense that his list applies to both writing and life. I love that. That is how I want to go about things.
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
Kanye's Studio Rules
Set aside whatever you think about Kanye to appreciate the signs he keeps taped up on his studio walls, as described by Rick Ross. I like the idea of creating a space separate from the rest of the world for creating, a place where I don't feel pressured to prove to anyone else that I am creating by speaking or posting about it.
NO HIPSTER HATS
ALL LAPTOPS ON MUTE
JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP SOMETIMES
NO TWEETING PLEASE THANK YOU
NO NEGATIVE BLOG VIEWING
DON’T TELL ANYONE ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING WE’RE DOING!
NO RACKING FOCUS WHILE MUSIC IS BEING PLAYED OR MUSIC IS BEING MADE
TOTAL FOCUS ON THIS PROJECT IN ALL STUDIOS
NO ACOUSTIC GUITAR IN THE STUDIO
Austin Kleon's Rules of the Studio
The first artist I turned to for this post was Austin Kleon, patron saint of creativity and creative working. He created this set of rules for himself and his sons, who love to visit the studio. I also recommend his book Keep Going.
Ten Bullets by Tom Sachs
I love visual artist Sachs' emphasis on space.
1. SACRED SPACE: KEEP TOOL KIT AT THE READY SO WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES THERE IS NO DELAY, EXCUSE OR HINDERANCE BETWEEN YOU, YOUR THOUGHT, AND IT’S REALIZATION
8. RESET. AT THE END OF THE DAY: KNOLL YOUR WORKSPACE, SWEEP + EMPTY TRASH, PRE SET YOUR WORK STATION WITH SOMETHING PLEASURABLE TO COMPLETE. BEGIN YOUR DAY WITH A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT…
9. PROCRASTINATE. IF AT FIRST YOU DONT SUCCEED GIVE UP IMMEDIATELY, MOVE ON TO SOME OTHER TASK UNTIL THAT BECOMES UNBEARABLE, THEN MOVE ON AGAIN CIRCLING BACK AROUND TO THE FIRST PROBLEM. BY NOW, YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS WILL HAVE WORKED ON IT, SORT OF LIKE SLEEP, ONLY CHEAPER
How to Feel Miserable as an Artist by Keri Smith
Keri Smith's anti-rule list is practical as can be. We love Keri Smith in this house.
Seth Godin's Rules for Working in a Studio
Who better to turn to than a teacher and author? Gobin's list feels both simple and extensive.
Don’t hide your work
Ask for help
Tell the truth
Upgrade your tools
Don’t hide your mistakes
Add energy, don’t subtract it
If you’re not proud of it, don’t ship it
Know the rules of your craft
Break the rules of your craft with intention
Make big promises
Let others run, ever faster
Learn something new
Criticize the work, not the artist
Power isn’t as important as productivity
Honor the schedule
You are not your work, embrace criticism
Sign your work
Obsess about appropriate quality, ignore perfection
A studio isn’t a factory. It’s when peers come together to do creative work, to amplify each other and to make change happen. That can happen in any organization, but it takes commitment.
Two Books of Lists
I get hungry for The Secret, yanno? The one sentence that will change my whole life. I search for it, and following are two books about this exact subject that I highly suggest. You will be inspired. But you will also find that there are no secrets... there is just persistence and listening to yourself and how you work best. You got this. Just trust how you feel and what you've learned. Experiment.
Ways of Being: Advice for Artists by Artists, edited by James Cahill
How do you be an artist? Is art a 'career', or a vocation? Do you need a studio or a dealer, and how do you find one? Are artists too competitive? How do they come up with ideas, and what is the point of the private view? Does financial success—or the lack of it—change an artist? What are the advantages of getting older?
Based upon advice from a huge roster of artists, dealers and curators; and encompassing every stage of an artist's life—from early works, to debut shows and mid and late-career—this book answers all the key questions that every artist has at some point asked themselves.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work edited by Mason Currey
161 inspired—and inspiring—minds,... novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks.
Here's the thing...
Rules are made to change. Rules are made to develop. Rules are made to give you more freedom and ability. Study others' rules. Be open to the prospect that each project may require a new set of rules. Figure out how your body, mind, and soul work best under different conditions. Map them out. Make your own list of rules... or guidelines, if you will. We're always interested to hear what you think, so feel free to send your list our way.
Go in peace,
it's this time again
a moment i both love and resent at once. a moment i both sink into with ease and gratitude, and also scrabble hard against with refusal. november. it's a strange one, this month. i wrap my fingers around hot mugs and press my palms toward the warmth. i snuggle into my softest clothing, sweaters and leg warmers and socks, and top it off with blankets and pillows. it's so comfortable. safe. layered. and sometimes, thus smothering. the sky is a lid, capping off the sunny days much too early with clouds, and sighing into a night. sometimes, if we are lucky, the sunset is absolutely brilliant, a last hurrah at five pm. it's harder to get out of bed and shed the warmth long enough to wash the sheets, or clean the rooms. my brain feels like a hibernating bear, or a tree losing its leaves: it is here to survive, cutting off circulation to my creative, spiritual side.
and this is okay. like nature, we are built of cycles. often, they reflect the weather, because we too are nature, as are our feelings, chemical reactions and acclimating to light.
it's okay. really. it's okay if you are not your summer self. we will get there again.
and thus november is a practice:
how can i practice patience when i am frustrated with my assumed stagnation?
how can i notice and feel deeply the light and warmth, without feeling they are warning signs of a deeper, darker cold?
how can i motivate myself, when everything is dragging and slowing?
how can i lighten the way i feel? (for me this includes a hair cut and lots of healthy food)
an answer, one of many, is to simply love things again. to take stock of what you enjoy, and to meditate on your participation in them. and if you don't love? then find it. remember what used to make your soul feel okay, and pursue, even slowly. luckily for you, if you're out of ideas, we're here to bring you a new edition of our love lists. remember that we have many more! go find something you enjoy, and tell us about it!
with love and peace,
→ Léo Delibes’s The Flower Duet; original version or cello adaptation.
nadine: i picked this month’s classical recommendation because i think it’s pretty and floaty and like the first snowflake twirling in the air in a rose garden before it lands on a wilted flower. no other reason.
→ les failles by Pomme
nadine: this is my new favourite thing. the lyrics are gorgeous and poignant and the music sounds so effortless like it’s the lyrics’ natural form. some of my favourite lyrics (that i’m translating to english) include “i don’t want to go out / i don’t want to discover in me / the cracks, the cracks / and i don’t know how to dance / i don’t know how to forget myself” and “at my dreamed anchors / after the chaos / i come find you again / like the birds” and so many others. Pomme wrote a song in the first person from the perspective of anxiety and it’s so good. all of it is good.
→ Bad Ideas (the full album, finally) by Tessa Violet
nadine: i’ve been waiting for this impatiently since the release of the first single, Crush, a year and a half ago! i am not disappointed. the album holds itself together as a (terribly honest and vivid) story. besides, it’s so catchy and good.
→ this video of King Princess covering Lady Gaga’s Speechless for BBC Radio 1
nadine: i never found myself thinking “hey i wish someone would make one of Lady Gaga’s best songs gay” but here i am!!!!
→graveyard, stripped live from nashville by halsey
m: the lyrics to this song are some of the best released this year, i’m positive. the lyrics are full of double meanings, creating both a world and a feeling and a toxic relationship. this version is soft and heartfelt, and the set is simply divine.
→ cheyenne barton’s channel
m: when i want to feel calm, cozy, and creative, i turn to 20 something artist cheyenne’s channel. her vlogs are relaxed, beautifully edited, and speak to my 20 something thoughts… a longing for a beautiful, simple life, with a side of oh-no-how-does-one-human-tho.
→ elysium by bear’s den
m: this music video broke my heart.
→ The Seasonal Soul by Lauren Altetta
m: if my intro resonated at all with you, you must do yourself a favor and read this book. altetta views the soul as literally seasonal, theorizing that your soul’s spring, summer, fall, and winter all ask different things of you. i love it. it makes all the sense... reassuring and motivating.
→ Japan in Bloom by Hanya Yanagihara
gray: A beautiful and descriptive article about the history of the cherry blossom’s importance in Japan. “That idea--that everything in life is temporary; that all desire, whether altruistic or selfish in nature, is meaningless--helps explain the culture’s adoration of the sakura. If the cherry blossom can still be relied upon to bloom at a specific time, it can also be relied upon to die soon after: For 51 weeks, one waits, and within seven days at most, one is consigned to waiting once more. The pleasure of seeing a cherry tree in bloom is the sorrow of knowing that it will soon be over. To be in the presence of one is to be humbled before nature, and moreover, to be welcoming of that humiliation. A sakura is the human life condensed into the period of a week: a birth, a wild, brief glory, a death. It is to us what we are to the sweep of time--a millisecond of beauty, a memory before we are even through.”
→ Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
m: i reread this novel in verse this month and loved it more so than i have before. it’s been so intriguing to read this book at different points of both my spiritual and creative journeys, as i hear the main character Xiomara in different ways each time. Poet X follows a teenage Harlem girl as she navigates misogyny, religion, autonomy, and poetry. it’s beautifully written.
→ Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels edited by Katie West
m: a badass, tender anthology covering a myraid of topics, from the gender politics of boxing, to fashion, to chronic illness and disability, to gardens, through intersectional feminism.
→ organic bone broth
m: i used to be a near vegan, until a recent prescription called for the aip diet. bone broth is a gift from this protocol. my tastes tend to lean savory as it is, so whether i’m sipping bone broth soup or just squeezing in some lime and sipping it straight, it’s a warm, savory, clean gift.
→ cappucinos with oat milk
gray: what can i say? mad yum
→ cinnamon apple spice tea by celestial
m: perfectly sweet, fruity, and spicy, good on its own or with vanilla almond milk creamer
→ m: what do i not do when i am not feeling well? this list may serve a couple purposes: to recognize and catch myself when i begin to slip, and to give me a concrete to do list of things i can do to make myself feel better.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
gif art by Alexandra Dvornikova
it's squash season. i've never been a squash person (except as a baby?), but this year is different. my neighbour and i decided to start splitting a "basket" of fruit and vegetables: every week, we pick up a boxful (minus the box!) of produce that's either been rejected or considered surplus in some way. this usually includes whatever's in season. so, lately, we've been getting different varieties of winter squash.
in my fridge, there's a large jar of pumpkin butter — the result of what has turned out to be, by far, my most successful winter squash experiment.
in the non-squash category, i got fresh beets that i had no idea what to do with until i saw this video. i made beetroot milk! i used raw beets (plural because they were really small) and, though i would definitely have needed a strainer, the result was delicious, not to mention colourfully cute.
my kitchen experiments serve three purposes: they feed me, they ground me, and they give me space to play. i honestly had more fun destroying my jack o'lantern by cooking it and turning it into butter than i had when i carved my pumpkin. i'll admit my experiments don't always make for the most delectable meals (like when i thought it was a good idea to put grapefruit in my hot oats, or to eat my spaghetti squash with only nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt), but i am discovering the fun of doing something "just to see what happens."
joy hides in strange places. i want to be someone who sees it and enjoys it when it flies by. for example, i have this tin of pumpkin chai tea that smells so good that it makes me smile, automatically and uncontrollably, whenever i catch a whiff of it. it doesn't matter if i'm having a good day or not.
these little things anchor me. without them, i would feel like i am floating aimlessly, because these days, i don't have anything near the clear overview of Life i crave and seek. my compass is broken, and it took me a bit too long to realize it and take down my sails. i lowered my anchor and now, i'm trying to fix my compass.
"trying to fix my compass" means that i'm delaying important decision-making until the end of the month; in other words, i'm trying to use the month of november to "gather data" i will later analyze. kind of like in the scientific method. actually, who am i kidding? exactly like in the scientific method. you can take the nerd out of science, but you cannot take science out of the nerd.
and so, in parallel with my kitchen experiments, i conduct other experiments i take more seriously. i probably take them too seriously. the overarching goal of these more structured experiments is to find the constants: the components of the compass that never change. hopefully, with these constants, i'll be closer to having a compass that works.
i'll be honest: when i say "constants," i am for the most part referring to personality types. i am trying to have a more solid understanding of my enneagram and myers-briggs* personality types, because according to these theories, a person's personality type doesn't change; rather, it is a flexible model that manifests differently in different people, contexts and life stages.
i love the enneagram and myers-briggs systems. i know some people dislike personality typing in general, because they consider it rigid or limiting, but after studying different systems for some years, i have learned that a personality type, when the system is properly conceived, is designed to be fluid, adaptive and growth-orienting. in other words, to borrow ian morgan cron's image (which he applies to the enneagram), the point of knowing our personality type isn't to put ourselves in a box with a label on it; it's to find a way out of the box we've inadvertently stuck ourselves in. personality types aren't labels, they're maps. these maps — provided we've got the ones that truly fit us best — point us to our highest potential.
please note that what i'm referring to is the mbti system with its jungian basis (see it presented as the car model or on one of my favourites mbti blogs) and the enneagram in its many forms, including what i would call the classic enneagram, the instinctual subtypes (as best explained by beatrice chestnut, in my opinion) and, to a lesser extent, the tritypes (as developed by katherine fauvre).
i have been wrong about my personality types more often than i've been right. in fact, i don't even know if i'm currently right, and besides, the whole concept of "being right" hinges on the assumption that personality typing theory works. (to better understand what the concept of "theory" means, i recommend this ted-ed video or its blog post version. not that personality typing is particularly scientific, but i think it helps to remember that it's not a law.) obviously, that's the assumption i'm running with: the enneagram and mbti personality typing theories work, and if i find my correct type in each system and interpret it correctly, i will have valuable advice to guide my self-growth.
so, this is what i'm doing this november: experimenting. am i this myers-briggs type? am i this enneagram type? how will i enjoy doing nanowrimo? what in the world can i do with an acorn squash? why am i feeling aimless? how does this or that hypothesis fare in the real world?
and i will try my best to remember — and i apologize for the wildly random metaphor — that taking time to focus on improving the plough is the opposite of neglecting the field.
what about you? what's your november like? do you have any good acorn squash recipes to share?
*mbti and myers-briggs are reserved and in no way am i a certified practicioner. therefore, everything i write about the mbti should be taken as nothing more than an opinion.
the harshness of october has made me reflect on why we do love lists.
i have this image in my mind of stopping to use the bathroom at a tim hortons during a roadtrip (as i'm sure most canadians have done in their lifetime). i don't remember where i was going or whom i was with. it might have been around 2010. i do remember what song i listened to on repeat during the roadtrip — the cave by mumford & sons — and how happy i felt that i'd found a song i loved so much. i remember thinking: “i hope i never stop discovering songs that make me feel like this.”
it's been almost 10 years and i can safely say that i still regularly discover songs that make me feel the heady joy of oneness with music. it's a gladness of living and a burst of love. and i trust, i believe that i haven't listened to every good song currently in existence, that many good songs remain to be written and produced, that i will never run out of “new” good songs.
love lists, for me, are a celebration of the joy and love i feel for favourites new and old. they are a manifestation, a tiny proof that there is an abundance of things out there that i can love.
my wish for you is that you see love lists as such: as a reminder that the world is abundant in lovely things. maybe you don't feel it right now. that's ok. there are seasons for everything. resting is as much an act of love as sharing favourites or calling up a friend.
with love (and i mean it),
→ Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, II, Alexandra Stréliski’s interpretation (on spotify and youtube).
nadine: this month’s classical rec, a contemplative, melodic 5-minute piano-only piece (there is no orchestra accompaniment), fits well with the mood i perceive october to have so far. please check out Alexandra Stréliski’s other works (Pianoscope and INSCAPE) as well; they suit the increasing hours of nighttime beautifully.
→.i’m wide awake, it’s morning by bright eyes
gray: i’ve been feeling ummm..”sentimental for days gone by” (sorry, wrong bright eyes album), and in a result i’ve been trying to return to my high school faves. i’m always surprised at how well bright eyes holds up through the years and how i always feel like i can return to it. fave tracks: poison oak, road to joy
→ Le souper by Jean-Michel Blais, a short instrumental track from the Matthias et Maxime soundtrack (on spotify and youtube).
nadine: i recently saw Matthias et Maxime at the cinema; the soundtrack was my favourite part (and it won the Cannes Soundtrack Award). this is so delightful. sweet. gripping and soft at the same time. [note: the full soundtrack is available as of today! i haven't listened to it yet, though.]
→ all mirrors by angel olsen
Gray: angel olsen is always so so good and this new album really glitters. It’s a beautifully cathartic break up album with a dramatic string section that permeates the songs. fave tracks: lark, all mirrors
→ Initium (music video) by Keaton Henson
nadine: i think you may need to be “in the mood” to watch this (in the mood to watch the sea for nine minutes straight while listening to a slow orchestral piece, specifically), but what a mood that is. the music video is stunning. i gasped at some point. it’s like the sea was listening to the song too.
→ 30 rock
gray: the last great major network comedy
→ Games (lyric video) by Tessa Violet
nadine: Tessa Violet being amazing again, reminding us we deserve better.
→ radio silence by alice oseman
gray: a very sweet YA novel about school, expectations, and friendship. literally cannot recommend it enough; it made me smile, it made me cry, and it made me feel almost every emotion in between.
→ the moon asks a question, a comic made by purutsukid from dirgewithoutmusic’s short story.
nadine: a quick, easily-accessible must-read for anyone who’s ever wondered if what they felt “qualified” as “love.”
→ gray: london fog latte. why is psl the official autumn drink and not this? messed up!
→ nadine: lots of tea. my kettle broke, so i got a new one. it’s slower to boil. i think that’s a great thing.
→ gray: i am trying to consciously recognize how the things i do may affect others, especially when it comes to my job. just want to make sure i am not a major source of stress for anyone!
→ nadine: i’ve been thinking about so many things. what connects it all? there is always a connection. maybe it’s love.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
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i have a (relatively) new nightly ritual: i stand at the sink, facing the old glass block window, and i wash the day's dishes. it's a gift i make every night to my tomorrow-morning self. in return, i get to use that lavender dishsoap i like so much.
the other night, like many nights before, i had both hands plunged in warm soapy water. my fingers brushed cutlery and damp crumbs as the lavender-scented bubbles hugged my forearms. i cried. again. i've been crying a lot in the past month or so.
this, i thought to myself then, is an image of growth.
i've been crying so much because my life feels like a mess, like a shapeless heap of wooden sticks after i just removed one too many pieces of the Jenga tower. i removed the cruel-to-myself piece. i removed the unable-to-voice-my-expectations piece. i removed the unable-to-reach-for-support piece. i removed the skewed-priorities piece.
i've been getting to know myself better. i've been learning to express myself and connect with loved ones better. and i make mistakes and i slide backward and i do a lot of crying. it's all growth.
it's hard when you realize your life is not the right size for you anymore. it means you need to change a lot of your surroundings and activities. sometimes change is soft, gentle and heartwarming, like when i'm done doing the dishes at night and i mix warm oat milk, cacao powder and honey in a carefully-chosen cup, and i light candles in the living room. other times, though, change is loud, sudden and painful. the Jenga tower falls.
i quit school.
let's not talk about that.
instead, let's talk about how i have more energy to dedicate to reading. i've been reading J.D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction for the first time. i picked that book to read because it was a gift from my sister, who bought it for me years ago because i'd read and liked The Catcher in the Rye years before that, and it spent a long time sitting on my bookshelf.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, especially, felt rejuvenating to read. it made me laugh so much, and everything was so vivid, and by the time (very mild spoiler) the narrator started reading his older brother Seymour's diary, i couldn't close the book. in a poignant, painful way, i saw myself in Seymour (please note i hadn't read Seymour: An Introduction yet), but i couldn't understand how he could be so magnanimous and compassionate.
for example, Seymour's girlfriend's mother insists on trying to psychoanalyze Seymour. she goes so far as to invite her psychoanalyst to dinner with Seymour and her family. i don't know how that sort of thing went in 1942, but it would never fly in 2019 with me.
in his diary, Seymour discusses how he thinks his brother (the narrator of the story), would view his girlfriend Muriel's mother.
He would disapprove of Muriel's mother, too. She's an irritating, opinionated woman, a type [he] can't stand. I don't think he could see her for what she is. A person deprived, for life, of any understanding or taste for the main current of poetry that flows through things, all things. She might as well be dead, and yet she goes on living, [...] plotting for Muriel's health and prosperity. I love her. I find her unimaginably brave.
that quote hit me hard. i guess i read it at the right time in my life. it made me think. in a few notebooks, i wrote "i want to be so full of love that i see it in everything." it's a work in progress.
sometimes i feel more like the child i saw at the breakfast restaurant on canadian thanksgiving, last monday. a girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old, with quirky pink glasses, slid in the booth next to mine with her parents. i noticed her because she was pouting, frowning. soon i noticed her again because she angrily slammed aside the page she had been drawing on.
she grumbled: "it's not working." the page was glossy: i imagine it was some kind of durable plastified paper you can use markers on and later erase, but i might be wrong. i'm not exactly up-to-date on popular art supplies for kids these days.
i brought my attention back to the discussion at my booth, but again, i noticed the little girl. from her backpack, she slid out a notebook filled with drawings.
we — the dreamers — the ones who carry notebooks when only a phone would do — that little girl, me, maybe you too — we tend to feel disappointed when what we put on the pages of our notebook doesn't match what's in our head.
something that struck me in the 7-year-old artist i saw at the breakfast restaurant that day was that between tantrums, while she was drawing, there was a small content smile on her face. drawing made her happy — until it made her throw tantrums. but mostly, i think drawing made her happy. i saw it in the way she took her notebook out of her backpack, with love and care.
that's how i want to go on. because there will be tantrums. but if there's also contentment, love and care, maybe it won't be so bad.
does it feel like fall to you? does it?! does it!! nope, not here either. not to worry. our playlist is the perfect transitional track list, we have good books to keep you occupied while you wait on the weather, and some internal fall cleaning for you to think about. hop aboard!
→ The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
nadine: this month’s classical rec honestly sounds like a flying bird. a bit like the end of summer, too. the other day, i sat in the kitchen with the window open, listening to this song, and birds sat on my balcony, near the window. i had fun imagining they were listening.
→ pony by orville peck
gray: i don’t have much to say about this album other than it’s a vibe. like. a big mood, if you will? i know that country is weirdly trendy right now and this is my favorite thing to come out of that so far. fave tracks: roses are falling, buffalo run, take you back (the iron hoof cattle call).
→ mirror by IDER
m: “people love, people leave, people let down / people show up, roll up, people grow up / people move out, people disappear / people don't change, people rearrange / people miss the game, people lose / people try, people lie, can't look you in the eye..” really feel like the alternative title should be: “congratulations, you’ve arrived in your mid 20’s, now cry.”
→ Norman Fucking Rockwell! by Lana Del Rey
nadine: i’m trying to think of something to write that isn’t “?????? so good????” but i can’t. this is my favourite Lana Del Rey album yet.
→ three futures by torres
gray: a dark, sexy, heartfelt album. right now, i’m using it to get into october autumn mood while its still 90 degrees summer september out (and it’s working). fave tracks: skim, bad baby pie, three futures.
→ till now by BANKS
m: this song sounds like if love was cough medicine. awful and intoxicating, for all your raging but still love drunk moments. the production to BANKS’ latest album is wild. makes altpop feel very dark and syrupy.
→ this 5-minute vlog set in a cabin in the woods in october.
nadine: please, pause your life for a few minutes, make yourself a hot beverage, and watch this. it’s the little things.
→ legal immigration by jon oliver
m: this is great primer on legal immigration in the usa and how this impacts our view of illegal immigration. considering the state of things (did you know Trump wants to ban all refugees’ entrance into the usa by 2020?), this is something that needs to be on your radar.
→ nadine: my friend sent me this post and it was the final nail in the coffin of the illusion that “neediness” exists.
→ girl made of stars by ashley herring blake
gray: big fan of this book! the plot wasn’t exactly what i was expecting and the characters annoyed me a little, but all in all i think this is a super important book and i wish it had existed when i was in high school.
m: can confirm. read this one.
→ serpent and dove by shelby mahurin
m: o. my favorite trope, enemies forced into close proximity… enemies to lovers... (in this case, a witch hunter is forced to marry a girl who is secretly a witch!!!!!)... this is addicting. funny. slow burn steamy. thoughtful. perfect? thanks for the face journeys.
→ too much cold brew cause i found out i get a discount at the coffee shop next to my work :/
(see also: see also, the starbucks pumpkin spice cold brew is actually so good.)
→ m: who will i be in a post trump america? i can assure you that i am a different person than before this presidency, and not all of this is due to the passing of time; i am an angry, worried person full of lingering dread, repeatedly fighting a feeling of devastation. i curse a lot more often, because those are the only words i got. i keep wanting to apologize for saying any of this, as if i am being too dramatic. i am not. i'm more confident speaking up for myself, others, and my beliefs. i sleep more often during the day. i'm usually at least a little pissed off, but increasingly inspired and empowered by those in the Jewish community's #NeverAgain, and women in politics like AOC. i am extremely tired and afraid for many people, but more driven to dream and learn. i am proud of my friends for their advocacy work, poems, and/or resilience with their loved ones. i am thankful for much and do not want to lose this. this isn't to thank this era, but to say fuck you, donald trump. this is not the dream of adulthood i'd envisioned as a child. this is to say protests are the closest thing i get to church nowadays. i like the way poets raffle their books to raise money for children's lawyers at the border. i like the way we have protest sign collections in our cars. i like our collective desire to resist and fight for diversity and peace. but fuck trump. i don't want to remain this person swathed in dread and angst. i want to stay soft.
→ nadine: i’ve been doing a lot of pruning in my life. how can i do less of what is feeding the parts of me i don’t want to feed? for me, this month, this meant leaving all social media for good. doing a lot of letting go. it’s never easy to let go. through moments of anger or sadness, i asked myself: what can i do now to take care of myself? writing down the answer to this question and actually doing it felt even better than i thought it would.
when it comes to leaving social media, pruning is only one side of the coin. the other is love. i was fortunate enough to receive a lot of love this month! from people around me, from myself. receiving love has taught me to love more and better; it has taught me my value and the value of my needs.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
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There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires. Nothing that makes me hate myself more than being burdensome and less than self-sufficient...I had arrived in my thirties believing that to need things from others made you weak. I think this is true for lots of people but I think it is especially true for women. When men desire things they are “passionate.” When they feel they have not received something they need they are “deprived,” or even “emasculated,” and given permission for all sorts of behavior. But when a woman needs she is needy. She is meant to contain within her own self everything necessary to be happy.
To paraphrase, the crane wife stays up all night to pluck out her feathers, to hide that she is a bird, a creature both capable of flight and requiring care. "To keep becoming a woman is so much self erasing work. She never sleeps. She plucks out all her feathers, one by one."
I know I am not the only one to whisper, "Ope," embarrassed for being so recognized. So what do we do with this vulnerability, with this deep want? I see two paths for myself: first to unsurface the origin stories for this sense of shame and responsibility, the stories we collectively share, and the ones that are my own, and to learn to thirst, to learn to articulate desires. First of all though, we gotta realize that this is okay... Contentedness is a means to appreciate, but does not discount desire and drive. That desire is taboo, in the truest sense of the word:
For example, I wrote earlier about Polynesida, and how the word "taboo" comes from "tupua" (or "tapu"), which means menstruation, but the most common translation of "tapu" is actually "sacred."
So there it is. Yeah, we know desire, and expressing desire, can feel taboo- silly and wrong and shameful and unnecessary and too much- but we gotta remember that the word also means sacred. Want is not evil. It can be sacred. Desire can show us a path to who we want to be. Desire can drive us to pleasure and love and gratitude. But how do I get there? It is all unlearning and learning again. Where am I ashamed? Why? Where can I steep myself in materials that give me space to want and articulate such desires?
I am not asking you to delve into manifestation... only to acclimate yourself to who you are, and where you want to go. You usually aren't a danger to yourself. Hear what you want. Dig into it.
Without further ado, following is a list for learning to desire, and to speak.
Resources for Desire
Go in peace x
summer is over, and i think it's time i break my silence here and post something.
i was caught in an inner whirlwind of healing. at the time, i couldn't fully make sense of what was happening. i couldn't see the overarching theme in my growth. all i knew was that come the end of the summer, my nesting instincts (which i hadn't known i even had) were kicking in at full force. suddenly, i knew exactly what kind of "nest" i wanted for myself.
i've been working on myself with much dedication for a long time. i trace it back to three years ago, almost day for day. i was 24. i'd spent the three years before that as a shell. i have almost no memories of the years i was 21, 22 and 23. the other day, i saw a picture of myself from that period and i literally did not recognize myself. i squinted and said: "who... what... is that me? i had that hair?"
yesterday, for no discernable reason, a memory from that time popped in my head: i remembered the lemon cookies i used to make when i was 22. i remembered the sweet lemony taste and the perfectly soft and chewy texture. honestly, i think that was my first time remembering something from those three years that i didn't want to burn out of my brain.
i remember loving those cookies so much because they felt like the one thing i could do right. i felt powerless — most days, all i ate was peanut butter on toast and all i did was lie on the couch and watch the sky darken — but some days i could manage those cookies. for a few minutes the cookies made my roommates happy and that was the best i could ask for.
all that and much more was over by the time i turned 24. the question "why?" was plaguing me, as it had over the three years prior. why? why had all that happened to me? i set forth on my journey to try to find an answer, because without an answer, how could i know for sure that it wouldn't happen again?
anyway, fast forward. 24 to 27, three years of zealous introspection. i studied anything that might help explain my experience of shellness: several personality typing systems; possible alternate/additional diagnoses; queer identities; different topics in fields such as psychology, personal development and spirituality...
results were few, far in between, and often short-lived. i think i considered 9 different myers-briggs types and 6 different enneagram types, among other things. it was a confusing time.
in 2019, and especially the past summer, i started seeing results at a much higher pace.
using the enneagram for a bit because it's easier
turns out....... i'm a 4.* that's enneagram talk. i don't want to start explaining the enneagram or even guiding you towards resources because whenever i start i have a hard time stopping. but i'll try to condense it infinitely: the enneagram splits people in 9 types (numbered arbitrarily 1 to 9) according to the main threat they perceived in their environment as children and how they managed to cope with that threat. "4" is a type.
the most important thing i absolutely want to stress to anyone reading about the enneagram is this: you may get the impression that the enneagram is a self-flagellation session that makes you realize what a terrible person you are. please allow me to shift your perspective on this: all enneagram types embody equally good ways for the young psyche to protect itself from perceived threats in the environment. we all have an enneagram type. that's good because it means we were brave enough to find ways to protect ourselves and make it to adulthood.
however, these protections inevitably backfire in adulthood. all of them. there's no type that backfires more or less than the others. learning about your enneagram type is helpful because it helps you say: thank you, subconscious, for protecting me the best you could; now, it's my turn, and i will protect myself in healthier ways that will allow me to grow and become a better person.
that's so important to understand. we all hate our enneagram types at first (if you don't, you're probably mistyped), but it's important to grow past that and find space for gratefulness and acceptance.
now, type 4. 4s, when they were hurt in childhood, used the explanation "i was hurt because i am bad and unlovable" rather than see the world around them as mean-spirited. this way, 4s developed a vision of themselves as impossible to love and lacking in everything. nothing can ever redeem them. because they believe themselves to be unlovable, 4s both fear being abandoned and somehow unconsciously want to be abandoned (because it will confirm their worldview). 4s put a lot of emphasis on emotions: their own and others'. they daydream of happiness, and they envy others, especially those with "simple" lives, but they are so convinced that they are too broken or complicated to be happy that they sabotage their wellbeing in different ways.
something that clued me in on the possibility that i might be a 4 was when i got the feedback from someone who knows me well that i was (wrongly) convinced i wasn't important to other people and that i was never satisfied.
the way 4s experience these patterns in everyday life changes vastly from one instinctual subtype to the next. i've heard them described as the glad 4 (self-preservation subtype, sp4), the sad 4 (social subtype, so4) and the mad 4 (sexual subtype, sx4). for example, imagine three toddlers who want to get their needs met by their parent. the first one behaves as well as possible and hopes this will attract the attention, love and approval of their parent (sp4). the second one starts crying and talking about how much they are hurting and lacking (so4). the third one throws a tantrum about how everything is unfair and it's all their parent's fault (sx4).
even as adults, 4s have a hard time directly asking for help and, especially, for love. instead, they are consumed by envy, and they end up acting out that envy by masochistically enduring (sp4), vocally complaining (so4) or angrily demanding (sx4). of course, in real life, most people aren't just one subtype. they have a dominant subtype, and a second one, and one they use the least. my conclusion is that i am a sp4, though i do tend to reach for anger like sx4s from time to time.*
(note: my main/favourite source of enneagram information is The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut.)
end of enneagram talk
ironically (or not so ironically), what helped me find my enneagram type in the end was to focus on healing for a while without thinking about the enneagram too closely. i did my introspection challenge as well as the 12-week challenge presented by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way. that's what i've been doing all summer.
after a while of this introspective healing, i reflected on what was helping me the most. by analyzing these helpful techniques/paradigms, i kind of reverse-engineered what i had started out most needing.
the most helpful change i have instated in my journey is self-nurturing, hands down.
unsurprisingly, it turns out that not asking for support is the best way to not get support! it also turns out that beating yourself up all the time about everything is helpful in absolutely zero ways.
halfway through The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron presents the affirmation: "treating myself like a precious object will make me strong."
self-nurturing means i am taking over the role of being my own parent. for a long time, the idea of having to "parent" myself made me feel sad and lonely. now, it feels comforting because i trust myself more. it's honestly so comforting to know you have someone there who will always give you what you need.
like, i need to take a day off? i take a day off. i need warm tea with oat milk and honey? guess what, i have warm tea with oat milk and honey. i need to feel like my emotions are valid? surprise, i validate my emotions. my cluttered kitchen counter makes me feel overwhelmed? i do the dishes and, not thirty minutes later, i can breathe easier.
i'm so thankful for the care and support my parents have provided me with, and for what they still provide me with. but no matter how hard they tried, they weren't perfect. i understand why i didn't receive some fundamental forms of care, and i forgive my parents — and myself — for that. now, it's my job to "parent" myself. i can give myself whatever forms of care i need. the best part? i don't even have to ask.
that being said, learning to ask for support is still important. it's something i'm in the process of doing. i am trying to cultivate friendships where we both welcome the other when they ask for support.
i used to recoil from self-nurturing for different reasons, the most important of which being: i thought self-nurturing was selfish.
here's what trying out self-nurturing taught me: true self-nurturing is the least selfish thing one can possibly do. the more i nurture myself, the more caring and loving i am towards other people and the world. i get less angry. i listen more. i am more present. i adopt more eco-friendly habits. i love without worrying that i will not get love back.
asking for support has a similar consequence: the more i ask for support, the more comfortable others seem to be asking me for support.
there is simply more love to go around.
maybe it's no coincidence that the memory of the lemon cookies popped in my head yesterday. because that's love, too. i made them because i loved them. because my roommates loved them and because i loved my roommates. because for a while something was stronger than hopelessness.
love, my friends. it's abundant and you deserve it.
*edit (2019/11/11): i am no longer under the impression that i'm a 4. regardless of whether or not i am a 4, everything else i wrote here still stands. i especially want to repeat how important i think self-nurturing is! whatever my enneagram type is, self-nurturing changed my life.
alt title ideas: "the unbearable void of my personhood" "tales of the goalless" "identity who? i don't know her."
i think that at one point, i had a direction. maybe, a long time ago, i had a vision of a future. this isn’t a sad post™, and i’m actually doing pretty well recently. but i guess i’ve just been really confused.
in may, i started a new job (probably why i haven’t posted on here since). it’s a retail job, so in no way is it the ~ dream job ~. but lately i’ve just noticed that i have no idea what my dream job would be. i think i was passionate about something once, but what was it? where has it gone?
some of my coworkers are starting back up at school for the fall semester. my manager asked me if i was back. no, i graduated over a year ago! i replied. good for you! she said. but really, is it? when i’m not any further away from school as i was on graduation day?
i went to school for graphic design. i like it well enough, but can i imagine myself doing it forever? i don’t think so. should i have realized this earlier? yeah, probably. but in reality, hindsight is 20/20 and i’m a much different person today than i was in june of 2018.
i think i’ve always been directionless. when i was young, i never had an answer for the question of what to do when i grew up. you can be aimless when you are eight. but it is less acceptable when you are sixteen. so i figured out something that i already knew i was good at and latched onto it as an identity. i never really gave myself time to reconsider. i was really young then but i felt like i had to be old. i didn’t feel old but i acted old. i am twenty two now and can’t believe that i was so afraid of the unknown. i don’t know anything now. is sixteen year old me worried for me? their feet are set into cement blocks and i walk freely.
i walk freely but it is an aimless and tired stroll. i’ve been trying to decide what the terrain is recently. some days it feels rocky, uphill and dense; others it is smooth and barren. if these exist within my mind, i think they are equally bad. this feels unrelated, though. the real question is who am i? not where am i walking? i’m suspicious that less people know than i think, they’re just better at pretending.
i think summer is hard for me. blushed pink in the sun and wet skin is enjoyable, but deep down it is not me. will direction return to me in autumn? only time may tell, but the fact that i’m actually writing this may be a clue.
the real problem is simply, how do i know who i really am? i like a lot of things. i like to write and read. i like to walk, to listen to music. i like to lay on my floor and think. i like things that a lot of people like. i even like graphic design. other people turn these into identities but i’ve been struggling with that. identities run from me in all senses, they are all slightly out of my grasp. maybe my identity will be my evasion of identity.
i’ll be honest, part of me feels stupid and naive for talking like this. there is always a part of me that tends to not believe a single thing i say. but here’s the thing: i am still young and i will take that for granted as long as i can. i will continue to think about this and read new things and continue to learn until something really clicks. soon, i will start to look for a place that feels right. i used to feel like time was running out, and i had to make all my final decisions and plan out my whole life. but if the last year has taught me on thing, it is that there is time enough for all of us.
this was rambly and weird! sry! good to be back tho :) xoxo.
It's September first. I feel as though it was the last day of August for five whole days, like July had been ending for the entire month. But we're here now, and I'm relaxing my shoulders and tuning into the softness of my jaws, windows open, feeling more awake than I have in a while.
We've been quiet in this space, and I know it. We've been traveling, exploring, reading, thinking. Here, we may have been quiet, but I know in our minds, hearts, and bodies, we've been anything but. I think you have too; Whether or not we acknowledge it, we continue to shift and grow with the passing of time, and I hope we do pause to acknowledge this. We've all just been constantly learning to be human. Constantly creating ourselves. Because here too is poetry: there is beauty and interest and softness within the way we think and decorate and become. Isn't that poetry? A saturated exploration in humanness? It's a practice, endless. Did you see the way a specific theme floated through your being to the surface of your mind? Suddenly, you saw connections? The flow and the web? There is poetry in the connections. There is poetry in the mundane, because it creates space for us. I could cry going to the grocery store for the seventieth time this year, or I could soak it in and allow my mind to go forth and explore where I am, and connect an article to a song lyric to a chapter in a book to the way that I view my body. And so I have learned something, mind wandering looking for oat milk.
Especially important when you come back from a mind blowing trip and have to sink back into regular life in a midwest city. Ha. How am I human in all settings? Especially important when shootings dance across our headlines and twitter trends once every two weeks, when we are caught between hopelessness and a deep aching hunger to heal ourselves. How am I still human when I am suffocated beneath first anger, then fear, then... nothing. Numb. Gone.
How many times do I become nothing at all? How do I come back from it?
I haven't written as much poetry lately. I am trying to accept that sometimes I don't have much to say, and it is okay. In this acceptance, my brain has been steeping. I got some things to say now.
When I am nothing, when I have nothing to say, something the practice is in the feeling of it. Just curled up in bed, exhausted, quaking, watching YouTube and YouTube and YouTube and YouTube. The practice is the interruption of a Facetime call leaving us giggling. Staying out late and eating Olive Garden and losing the breath laughing over salad. Editing pictures of that time you felt so alive and safe. Making the playlists. Inhaling jasmine and tangerine oils. Copying song lyrics when all other words evade you. Taking notes on the podcasts and articles and dusting off your origin story. Discovering the origin of a word, so construed. Re-understanding yourself. Putting on lotion or taking a picture when you feel as though your body is an enemy you are bound within. Sun soaking. Wrapping your palms around a hot mug.
I'm not a practiced person. I don't have the energy to maintain a daily routine of reading and journaling and meditating and stretching and loving. But I kind of am. Everything we do has room for the intentions. Room creates room creates room, even if we're cuddled up in the corner and haven't ventured outwards. We will.
And there is time to be quiet, and there is time to say what you mean. We'll wait for you, and we thank you for waiting for us.
Don't forget to live that life you have, and to think it through. That too is creation. That's poetry too.
Namaste, see you soon,
the sprout club
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.