in case you've missed the post i made wednesday, i started a 30-day introspection journey, and i've invited you all to join me. every day presents you with a choice of prompts: a question and a classical piece. i made a playlist and everything. today is day two. it's not too late to join!
day two is: what harmful thoughts/actions of mine have brought me here? — to the tune of prokofiev's dance of the knights from his version of romeo & juliet.
i tried to start by journalling instead of drawing a tarot card straight away. in this instance, it proved to be a terrible decision. i started spiralling about every reason i think i am an awful person who makes the worst decisions. then, i decided that not only was i a screwup, i was also much too hard on myself, which only made me a worse person.
i had to close my journal.
i took out my tarot deck. i fully expected to draw a card saying that i was being too hard on myself (like the king of wands reversed) or that i was a failure/idiot (so many options here). to my surprise, i drew the queen of cups. upright.
i resisted the temptation to just go: "whatever, i'll interpret this card as though it were reversed." there was a reason i drew this card upright, and i was determined to find it.
i think it's easy to forget where our shortcomings originated. we aren't like sleeping beauty, random gifts and curses bestowed upon us by fairies. we are a complex, but coherent whole.
yesterday, i had a therapy session during which i said: "i wonder if i'm not asking for the impossible. not from the world, but from myself. i want to keep all the things i love about myself — i want to stay creative, passionate, inspired, dramatic — but then i demand from myself stability, steadiness, temperance and consistency."
do you see what i mean? passion and stability rarely go hand in hand. i am passionate. i have whims and inspirations that consume me for hours, days, weeks. i create, and then i don't, and then i do. i am flighty and changeable. i switch gears often.
the queen of cups is always the queen of cups. she's the queen of cups when she's upright. she's the queen of cups when she's reversed. we're the same. we're ourselves when we achieve wonderful feats, and we're ourselves when we make monumental mistakes.
at the heart of the series of bad decisions that led to me burning out was doing for others. i did that because i am compassionate. compassion has caused my downfall, but it can also save me, should i learn to turn part of it inward.
i think that when it comes to whom we are, there is no good and bad. what heals can harm, and what harms can heal. we are ourselves: humans with characteristics and quirks, none of which are inherently positive or negative, all of which can be used to harm or to heal.
I’ve been working on getting to know myself better these past years, and these past months especially. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve always felt driven by a deep need to help. What do others need me to do? On a less conscious level, this translates to: what do others need me to be?
A slippery slope indeed!
To be what I thought others needed me to be, I’ve tried so hard to be more sensible, reasonable, stable, temperate, normal and easily satisfied. I’ve tried to be less dramatic, weird, sensitive, demanding, flighty and complicated. I’ve tried to ask for less – attention, opportunities, love, help, consideration, resources – and give more.
Spoiler alert: I burnt myself out. Several times.
Now I’m burnt out again. I spent all of Monday afternoon crying. At one point I was so done and exhausted that I lied down on my kitchen floor to sob. And yes, I’m a dramatic person, but sobbing curled up on my kitchen floor? That’s a low point I hadn’t reached in years.
On that jolly note, and in the spirit of getting to pay better attention to my inner voice, I am creating this 30-day challenge! Time to rest, think and listen to beautiful songs.
This challenge starts tomorrow and ends on the first day of summer (or winter, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere). If you want to join me, we’ll be reflecting and introspecting through different prompts. I have a playlist of one classical piece a day, and I have a list of prompts to go with it. This is a bit of a DIY mix-and-match: whether you want to use the prompts to interpret a tarot or oracle card, to journal, to spark a poem or drawing, or whatever else, is up to you. Do what you want! Ignoring the prompt and only using the song, using the prompt and ignoring the song, using both the prompt and the song, ignoring both the prompt and the song: all options are good. The important thing is just to look inward.
The prompts are inspired by my current needs and meant to somewhat follow the phases of the Moon. I picked the songs to accompany and/or add to these prompts. They are all classical-ish. They’re among my favourites; you’ll notice I’m a big fan of Tchaikovsky, other Romantic composers, and first movements in general. I’m most definitely not sorry.
If you want to use the next 30 days to look inward, too, please tell us about your thoughts!
30-Day Introspection Challenge to Welcome Summer
Day 1: May 23
Prompt: Where am I in my life? (the calm after the storm)
Song: Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, Second Movement
Further thoughts: When Tchaikovsky wrote this Symphony, he was exceedingly depressed and recovering from a series of bad decisions: decisions that seemed good at the time and were every bit good-intentioned, but that had the major flaw of going against what he truly needed and wanted for himself (BBC). Traditionally, second movements of symphonies can be seen as “the calm after the storm.” Since this “calm after the storm” movement was actually written during the calm after a particularly destructive storm in the composer’s life, I think it’s perfect to kick off this challenge.
Day 2: May 24
Prompt: What harmful thoughts/actions of mine have brought me here?
Song: Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Dance of the Knights
Day 3: May 25
Prompt: What helpful thoughts/actions of mine have brought me here?
Song: Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, I. Prélude
Day 4: May 26
Prompt: What do I need/want to learn through this challenge?
Song: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (Pastorale), First Movement
Day 5: May 27
Prompt: What is leaving me?
Song: Schumann’s Kinderszenen, VII. Traumerei
Day 6: May 28
Prompt: What are the things I haven’t allowed myself to grieve?
Song: Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel
Further thoughts: Sometimes there are wounds we don’t allow ourselves to take the time to feel hurt by. We may feel they are too small or insignificant, or that we were lucky in our misfortune, or that we are too privileged to complain. Allowing yourself the courtesy of feeling hurt by whatever hurt you is a big step towards self-compassion.
Day 7: May 29
Prompt: How may I allow myself to grieve?
Song: Grieg’s Peer Gynt, II. The Death of Ase
Day 8: May 30
Prompt: What has May taught me?
Song: Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Pas de deux
Day 9: May 31
Prompt: What do I need to leave behind?
Song: Górecki’s Third Symphony, Second Movement
Further thoughts: On Day 5, we reflected on the things that were leaving us of their own accord, or at least, somewhat naturally. Today, we think of those things that may be more difficult to part with.
Day 10: June 1
Prompt: How may I create silence?
Song: Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 3
Further thoughts: I am using the theme of “silence” this New Moon. I still picked songs for every day of “silence,” but feel free to skip them and truly sit in silence if you think it would be beneficial and/or comfortable. This piece is, I think, a great way to ease into silence because it’s so quiet and slow.
Day 11: June 2 (New Moon)
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my mind?
Song: Dvořák’s String Quintet in E-Flat Major, III. Larghetto
Day 12: June 3 (New Moon)
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my body?
Song: Elgar’s Cello Concerto, First Movement
Further thoughts: Allegedly, this melody came to Elgar when he woke up after an operation to get his tonsils removed, something that was quite dangerous for someone his age at the time (Wikipedia). Imagine you have been anesthetized and are just awaking. Your thoughts are blank. What is your body trying to tell you?
Day 13: June 4 (New Moon)
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my heart?
Song: Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending
Day 14: June 5
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my soul? (“I believe…”)
Song: Fauré’s Pavane
Further thoughts: You may want to challenge yourself to write nonstop for a while. Every time you feel stuck, rewrite “I believe…”
Day 15: June 6
Prompt: What does my heart long to offer the world?
Song: Chopin’s Nocture No. 2 in E-Flat Major
Further thoughts: Imagine that the world needs absolutely nothing. Imagine that the world doesn’t need you. Still you feel the urge to give. Give what?
Day 16: June 7
Prompt: Why am I here? (“I am here to…” or “I am here because…”)
Song: Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Fourth Movement
Further thoughts: As for Day 14, you may want to challenge yourself to write nonstop for a while. Every time you feel stuck, rewrite “I am here to…” A possible variant, if you want to explore spirituality more than purpose, is “I am here because…”
Day 17: June 8
Prompt: What nourishes me?
Song: Holst’s Planets, Jupiter
Further thoughts: This is not about your basic needs, but rather what fills you up spiritually, emotionally and/or intellectually. Another way to see this is: “What energizes me?”
Day 18: June 9
Prompt: What am I passionate about?
Song: Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons – Summer, I. Allegro non molto – Allegro
Further thoughts: Is there a lot of overlap with yesterday’s answers? Why or why not?
Day 19: June 10
Prompt: How do I feel after dancing?
Song: Grieg’s Peer Gynt, III. Anitra’s Dance
Further thoughts: This is the best dancing song in my opinion, but any other one will do. You could also replace dancing with anything you don’t usually do: run to the bus stop, skip down the street, balance on one foot while you floss, turn your head upside down for a minute, yell, “think six impossible things before breakfast,” whatever.
Day 20: June 11
Prompt: What do I actually feel grateful for?
Song: Holst’s Planets, Venus
Further thoughts: Sometimes I think I should feel grateful for some things. The problem is I don’t actually feel grateful. Today, we find those things we do feel, in our hearts, grateful for. Leave out anything you don’t feel. Don’t force yourself to feel grateful. The idea here is not to have a long list, but an honest list.
Day 21: June 12
Prompt: What feelings or states of mind do I want/need to have more of in my life?
Song: Schubert’s Fifth Symphony, First Movement
Day 22: June 13
Prompt: How may I make more space for these feelings or states of mind?
Song: Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, First Movement
Day 23: June 14
Prompt: What temptations lure me away from these feelings or states of mind?
Song: Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, First Movement
Further thoughts: From binge-watching tv series to catastrophizing to wanting to help others, anything works.
Day 24: June 15
Prompt: Why do I find these temptations difficult to resist?
Song: Liszt’s Liebestraume, No. 3 Nocturne
Further thoughts: You may want to read up on the enneagram! Reading on the few types you find yourself likely to be could provide you with ideas for answers.
Day 25: June 16 (Full Moon)
Prompt: What am I ready to reap this Full Moon?
Song: Smetana’s Má Vlast, No. 1 Vyšehrad
Day 26: June 17 (Full Moon)
Prompt: What has this 30-day challenge taught me so far?
Song: Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, Second Movement
Day 27: June 18 (Full Moon)
Prompt: What have I actually harvested this Full Moon?
Song: Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, I. Pezzo in forma di Sonatina
Further thoughts: On Day 25, we contemplated what we thought we were ready to reap. What did we really reap? More? Less? Something else entirely?
Day 28: June 19
Prompt: How do I shine?
Song: Grieg’s Peer Gynt, I. Morning Mood
Day 29: June 20
Prompt: How may I shine more?
Song: Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No. 2
Day 30: June 21 (Summer Solstice)
Prompt: How may I make the best of this summer?
Song: Debussy’s La Mer, I. De l’aube à midi sur la mer
Further thoughts: I hope you listen to the song and feel it send you off on a wonderful adventure. Do the final chords lift you up and fill your soul like they do for me? I hope so. Even if it doesn’t, you’ve made it through. I wish you all the best.
HELLO, FOLKS, IT IS ME, AND I AM TIRED.
tired of a lot of things. such as this country. and worrying that i am void of feelings. this love list felt so daunting to me, as i felt like i hadn't had room in me to love lately... and i think that's when these lists are so important. thanks to gray and nadine who argued when i said perhaps we should skip it this month. they filled this place with love, and in reading it, i was reminded that, indeed, i have loved things too, even in my anger.
so it is my pleasure to introduce you to our may love list. i hope you also find strength in you to lay aside your anger for a moment to make room for love.
→ better oblivion community center by better oblivion community center
gray: a phoebe bridgers/conor oberst collab was not only the best thing for conor oberst’s career in the latter half of the 2010s, but also the best thing for both the part of my heart that is still 16 and angsty about everything and the part that is 22 and tired and constantly feeling weird. fave track: didn’t know what i was in for
→ city sun eater in the river of light by woods
gray: this album just feels like spring. fave track: politics of free
→ Górecki’s II. Lento e Largo - Tranquillissimo from Symphony No. 3, Op. 36. for when everything seems to harsh.
nadine: this month’s classical rec is not technically classical (it was written in 1976). it’s honestly so soft and gentle. it features a soloist, but i’d say that as far as “opera” singing goes, this is extremely approachable. the soloist sings in polish about child-parent separation during World War II.
→ I Like (the idea of) You by Tessa Violet, to pair with raging crushes, ice cream and hot wind in your hair.
nadine: honestly!!!! i have!!! so many feelings about this! Tessa Violet is brilliant (check out her previous two singles, Bad Ideas and Crush) and she did it again.
→ blood moon underworld by misogi
m: i just know this one is going to be so difficult to beat for my favorite album of the year. Misogi isn’t your average lo-fi rap/hip hop soundcloud artist. the 19 year old has built something gritty, smooth, and rich in one album, immersing the listener in a saturated spacey world. i love how diverse, yet cohesive it is- we have our emo rap songs (featuring my fave, nothing,nowhere), our beep-boop spacey instrumentals, and our heavy punk guitar filled songs. i’m in love. artful. fave track, a reverb heavy bedroom dream punk song: bleached
→ nightmare by halsey
m: because i am angry, and so is halsey.
→ i think you should leave with tim robinson
gray: super funny sketch comedy with super short episodes, so binge watching it feels less guilty.
→ “mr. ratburn and the special someone” arthur s.22 ep.01
gray: i already wrote about this on the blog but i have to include it here too. it makes me so happy!
→ angry bill nye via john oliver
m: the bill nye we all knew and loved, but make it 2019 on a literally suffering planet. it's less than a minute, which is to say, you have no excuse not to watch this one.
→ autobiography of red by anne carson
gray: this is easily the best thing i’ve ever read, and i don’t think i have read or will ever read anything quite like it again.
→ i hear the sunspot by yuki fumino
m: my first manga, and i am smitten. the i hear the sunspot series follows two boys: a deaf boy and his note taker. it's simply so well written... we subtly observe the nuances of these boys' lives, including the struggle of school/career, the struggle with self-actualization within a developing disability, a difficult home life, and emerging sexuality... i'll spoil something for you now with a question you'll ponder: are they gay? for each other? and when will we know fore sure? :)
→ pilu of the woods by mai k. nguyen
m: Oh oh oh !!! this comic is so heartfelt and so beautiful and so important ! willow loves nature for its beauty, serenity, and intricacies, so unlike her feelings and school and home. this is the story of willow learning to understand the little monsters in her- feelings, in this case, grief- and how to treat herself and others... a good, extremely pretty, kids comic for learning about emotional literacy, compassion, and self expression, for all ages.
→ smoothies with cold brew, oat milk, chocolate protein powder, and bananas
→ trader joe's organic tumeric and ginger tea
→ nadine: this month has, i think, been trying to tell me that compassion should start with the self. i tend to take it for granted that other people need my compassion more than i need my own compassion. why do i assume this? empathy is a gift, not a curse: it should help me do good rather than guilt-trip me.
→ m: how much is too much? when can i walk away from the news and relinquish my need to be an Extremely Informed Citizenship, if it makes me cry multiple times a day?
and you? what are you loving on lately? we'd love to hear you.
don't forget to consider submitting to our issue number one, or our mini issue, safe places.
remember, whether you just have a bullet point list of things that make you happy, or you've written an epic, we want to read it.
also... art! photos! doodles! show us.
we look forward to hearing from you soon. x
when i was a youngster, so many moons ago, i would wake up in the morning, walk my brother to the bus stop with my mom, and then go home and watch a show on PBS called arthur. it was my favorite show and is definitively the show of my childhood. arthur is the longest running children’s television show, and since it deals with important real world situations that children face (like dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder) in ways that doesn't talk down to the viewer, arthur is a show that has really touched people’s lives.
i think we all remember a little while ago when the rug was pulled out from under us regarding bert and ernie. a writer for sesame street, mark saltzman, said in an interview that bert and ernie’s relationship was inspired in part by a relationship he had with a man, and then sesame street responded with a press release that said that since bert and ernie were puppets, they didn’t have a sexual orientation. and so we were all like, sure, but what about kermit and miss piggy? and sesame street was like…ya’ll hear sumn?
while i do think that bert and ernie are a sweet depiction of a desexualized gay relationship, that’s kind of besides the point. like bert and ernie, mr. ratburn’s sexuality has been a topic of discussion on the arthur side of the internet (which evidently does exist). there was, from what i could tell, a pretty big consensus that mr. ratburn was gay. this kind of speculation about a character can lead to three possible outcomes: arthur/PBS execs ignore speculation and never confirm nor deny whether mr. ratburn is gay; arthur/PBS execs state unambiguously that mr. ratburn is not gay and possibly give him a gf in the show; and arthur depicts mr. ratburn as gay on the show. as someone with a lot of television watching experience, i assumed #1 or #2 (most likely #1, given PBS’s reputation, which wouldn’t have been the end of the world).
of course, if you’re on the internet like i am, you’d find that my assumptions were wrong. we got #3. on arthur s22 ep01, mr. ratburn gets married. to a man! to a chocolatier! how sweet (no pun intended)! when i heard this, i was a little worried that it would be done in a way that makes it seem like the show was patting itself on the back. oh look at us! we included a LGBT character! kind of like marvel did in end game with that gay mets fan (full disclosure: i didn’t see it and i dont care). but no! it was so casual, and so, as much as i usually hate using this word, wholesome. the reveal that he’s marrying a man doesn’t even come about until the very end of that portion of the episode, when mr. ratburn walks down the aisle with patrick.
LGBT characters in media are often treated unfairly. in some cases, they are coded and written as LGBT (sometimes stereotypically, which is cringe) and never confirmed. sometimes they are explicitly stated as being LGBT, and their storyline is one of tragedy and they don’t get a happy ending. sometimes, they live for years with their life partner only for some straight executive to decide that they are actually just best friends. we rarely see these characters not have to face some kind of discrimination; even in worlds that are thoroughly fictional, writer’s personal prejudices against these kinds of characters or their tendencies to reach for overdone and outdated tropes bleeds through. but in arthur, a show that does not often shy away from depicting real world situations, we are given a story where a gay rat gets a very happy ending, and i think that that is what he deserves, and what we deserve.
(all images via PBSkids.org)
it's not even mid may, and it's cold today. i haven't touched sunlight in a couple days. i'm wearing a thermal and another layer of long sleeves, a flannel. some days, i need to wear soft things, because my skin just generally hurts.
i don't fully understand the connection between feelings and our physical bodies- and neither do scientists... they're just figuring it out too- but whether it's because i haven't had natural vitamin d in days or because i'm kinda generally Sad, i feel tender, but not in a sweet way. tender like i could be broken open at any moment.
is this at all surprising tho? i feel myself splitting between utter devastation and apathy. non-American friends text me with exclamation points when there is another shooting and, seriously, sometimes i'm like "ye what about it." i cringe to say it. but it's true. because otherwise i'm going to shrivel into my sheets and never get out of bed.
what's the middle ground between the way my body tenses every time someone enters the movie theater i'm sitting in, or the way my toes curl when an unfamiliar car door slams outside, and shrugging about another school shooting? i feel like i'm either tearing up and trying to keep breathing, swearing incessantly in my head and fantasizing violence, or ignoring it all. or i'm caught between worry about sounding like an asshole to educate my coworkers, or silently hoarding compostable materials in my locker because it doesn't matter if something is biodegradable if you throw it in a landfill- nothing composts in a landfill.
what’s the difference between devastation and ignorance? it’s like either i’m going to be broken hearted, always, or blissfully unaware, which sounds outright irresponsible, at this point.
i've said it before, and i'll say it again: i hate who Some people make me into. i hate who the president forces me to be. i hate who politics is making me become, etc etc. i could go on and on. i'm sitting here in the colorful children's section of my library, and felt vegetables stick to the deep green wall, and emily and i laid down blank newsprint on the table for kids to color on. within minutes it is covered in bright blue clouds drawn by five year olds. yet i still feel this deep, sinking feeling in my chest, because of who i don't see here, and whom i will never see. because who knows how long this will last?
yeah yeah yeah. i know. "it's a process." that's what everyone tells me every time i start voicing my spirals.
i think it's more like balance.
maybe it’s gratitude. driven gratitude.
being so in love with what we have that we can't help but push it outwards.
or just recognition. namaste: the light/divine/human in me recognizes and honors the light/divine/human in you. a mix of love and respect and mama bear anger.
a demand to both take up space and be so gentle in how we tread.
i'd like to be deliberate and afraid of nothing, as audre lorde said, but part of the reason i feel driven about things is out of fear. jus gotta decide what to be afraid of, i guess.
a friend sent me this thread, and i think it's worth reading.
there are some things essential for us to notice, and yes, the first of these is that harm is escalating.
but then, we have some things to acknowledge, to inspire and push us, and i think this is key to not.... losing my damn mind and heart. and such things include:
this isn't a call to contentedness with the way things are. it's a reminder that no matter what/who we are fighting for, we are not alone. and that are so many facets to big problems. that's why they're so big. but also that we might focus on only some facets. there are many of us, and that's the beauty of it:
and yeah. we'll get angry. but anger is dangerous... as long as we are hopeful, we become unstoppable. and more connected.
i work in a "neutral spaces" job, a public library. this means, we are to remain politically neutral. one of my biggest learning curves has been to learn that this does not equate to living as a silent welcome mat... how to remain neutral, but to stand up for people and earth. this neutrality issue is a much bigger concept which i spend too much time reading and writing and venting about, and i can only touch it here. but really. neutrality doesn't exist, and i'm not sure it needs to. i think, really, we just need to remember that there are many ways to be angry, and some of them are so so soft and tender and welcoming and artistic and kind.
so, daily, i return to the sticker on the front of my work notebook. i keep it here, with me. it's that balm i need. perhaps you do too.
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.
ps, if you need a pick me up, may i present to you: heaven.
happy new moon, lovelies!
i love new moon. and i love the taurus sign (hello, sun sign.)
the new moon gives a feeling of emptying. turning in ward. beginning again.
the moon has given as much as possible away, and now it's time to rebuild.
this is a perfect time to set goals, to begin building yourself and your work back up.
taurus season is upon us so here we go... a solid, stable foundation to work on. a perfect place to invest in yourself and what makes the world matter to you.
the thing is, remembering to enjoy life shouldn't be expensive. mostly, it's leaving my brain a bit to stay where i am. to taste coffee. to listen to the song. to watch the tree and the veins shivering in the leaves, leaves i haven't seen on trees in months.
balance between self indulgent and grinding.... noticing the ruts in which we freeze with indecision. explore. take your loves seriously, but your self less so. try something new. go there. breathe. go.
go in peace,
ps. i have illustrations. shout out to the website for not pulling thru. oh well. everyone deserves a new moon chill out.
the sprout club
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.