About a month ago, I reached a point where I thought my present circumstances were unbearable, and the only way I found to convince myself to push forward was to daydream about the summer. My ideal summer day went something like this: Wake up at dawn. Make coffee. Have coffee on my balcony with my laptop, write for a few hours, have breakfast too. I’d write for this blog, work on my fiction, write the screenplay for that musical I dream of putting up. Then, once the sun would be too hot, I’d pack lunch and bike downtown, to the library. I’d rent all kinds of books. Philosophy. Physics. Psychology. Once I’d be done, I’d bike to a park, where I’d read and have a picnic. As I’d bike back home at the end of the afternoon, I’d stop at the market to get fresh vegetables. Make something I’ve never had before for dinner. Listen to music. Journal a bit. Go to bed early.
I told my friend about my plans. She looked at me thoughtfully and asked: “Why aren’t you living that life now?”
I had reasons. I’m so busy. My balcony’s buried in snow. The sun rises after 7. Fresh vegetables are rare and expensive at this time of the year. I opened my mouth to voice them. Something stopped me. This quote, that I haven’t been able to find attribution for, popped in my mind: “There's no such thing as being too busy. If you really want something, you'll make time for it.” I could react defensively and list my reasons and play the victim. Or I could open my heart and think.
My friend continued, her voice careful: “Sometimes I think we live like we forget we’re going to die.”
Cue an Existential Crisis, complete with questioning all my life choices, booking appointments with my guidance counsellor and my psychologist, and holding back sobs as I tell my mother on a video call: “What is the rest of my life? 60 years? 50? 5? I don’t know!”
I spoke to some other friends about it. If you’re dealing with stuff, tell your friends about it! Every time I give someone a peek of what’s inside my heart and they don’t go running the other way, I feel a little less lonely. To one of my friends, I wrote:
I don’t want to kill the hunger within me, and idk, I know this all sounds melodramatically existential… I don’t want to live on autopilot. I think living intentionally, mindfully and purposefully all go hand in hand. And the joy that comes from enjoying the small things comes from the same place that the pain of existential questioning comes from: an understanding that life is beautiful, fragile and so so precious.
I’m happy. I derive inordinate amounts of joy from the smallest things. A chord. A patch of blue sky. How broken ice looks. How Freddie Mercury is scatting in Under Pressure and it works. My mother’s gif game. A discussion with a friend. My high-waisted paisley palazzos. Cooking my oats in vanilla oat milk and stirring in almond butter, frozen berries and sunflower and pumpkin seeds (the luxury!!!). The way Julie Andrews sings “when you wake up, wake up!” with all the might in the world. My sister’s reaction when I told her what I said at the student assembly. The house brand ancient grains bread. So many things bring me so much joy, and when I realize that for several years I was seeing life as biding my time, as eating pistachios (you break your teeth trying to open them and they don’t even taste that good), I think I must be the luckiest person alive.
But I can be happy with the small scale and unhappy with the big scale. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, like I told my friend, I think they come from the same place. I’m deeply unhappy about the suffering in the world. I’m deeply unhappy about the state of our planet. I’m deeply unhappy about violence and oppression.
I’m also not sure that my life isn’t heading towards a devastating midlife crisis in 15 years.
In one of my university classes, several years ago, we were learning about midlife crises and one of the students – an older one – asked the lecturer: “Is it possible to avoid having a midlife crisis by being reflective and introspective throughout your life?”
I think the idea is interesting. However, I’m sure that whatever I do, I’ll have a midlife crisis. I mean, look at me. I’m a walking-talking existential crisis. I just don’t want my midlife crisis to destroy my life. My quarter-life crisis destroyed my life. Once is enough. Our time here is finite (that we know of for sure). I don’t know how much I have left and I want to make the most of it.
Change is coming.
When is it not?
Next time, I’ll write about classical music, just like I promised in the collective march love list.
Until then, I hope you get the time to ask yourself questions. About anything.
Nadine (whatever pronouns; go wild) is changing all the time, yet always the same, and passionate about finding out how that works. Does not give up their search for meaning, ever. Unapologetically dramatic and wholly uninterested in lukewarm living. Can be found overthinking, asking uncomfortable questions, writing, or misusing the glitter emoji.
I’m Nadine and I will be posting on this blog (!!!!!!). I figured it might be a good idea to write a bit more about myself first. I feel like I’m dropping in with no explanation.
I could start by telling you about all the people I’ve been, but that would take a long time, and besides, am I not always the same? Right. I am. Technically.
People who meet me say I’m calm, but I don’t think they mean it as in “chill” – more like soft, probably. In a vague sort of way. Because they also say I’m the worst drama queen ever, and can’t you stop exaggerating everything? What they don’t understand is that I’m not exaggerating. Things are huge for me. I have a sensitive barometer that swings either way quickly. My reactions are contained and reserved compared to the intensity of what I perceive, believe me.
I understand that in our society, when you’re introducing yourself, you’re not supposed to lead with “I’m overly dramatic, but that’s because I’m sensitive, and I refuse to see that as a hindrance.” So, here are a few more conventional pieces of information about me:
My name is Nadine. That’s the name I was given. I didn’t always like it, but I’m starting to see the appeal in being called “Messenger of Hope,” so I’m keeping it (etymologically, my full name goes something like “rebellious messenger of hope and armed warrior” and I think that’s kind of #goals). You may associate this name with pronouns of your choosing. Gender is honestly very fluid, unclear and illusionary to me. I’m Canadian. My first language is French. My formal study of (as well as in) English is limited. I have a B.Sc. I’m still a student and will hopefully be a librarian in no more than a year and a half.
I realize I haven’t uploaded a picture of myself. I’ll be honest here. I think my body’s kind of awesome. Sometimes I wish I could change a few things. Ultimately, I’m ok with it. I just never manage to find a photograph of myself and think: “That’s me.”
But to give you an image of sorts: I’m white with a pinkish undertone; Instagram’s Juno filter makes my selfies look the best. My hair is thick, dark and slightly yet noticeably streaked with grey, the back and sides short, the top longer. My eyes are just as dark, though not streaked with grey that I can tell, and round. I have a witch’s mole on the tip of my nose and several acne scars all over my chin, forehead and temples. I always raise my eyebrows, and when I’m not raising my eyebrows, I’m frowning, so you can imagine the lines on my forehead. My face is round. It’s a good, average, functional face.
I’m passionate about deep thought. I speak in metaphors, comparisons and analogies because that’s the most authentic and honest way to verbalize what’s inside me that I can think of. I read tarot. I love the wind and birds. I’m trying to become better at doing the dishes. I’m also trying to become better at seeing myself as a person who deserves love, whose inner immensity is a gift. Not easy!
I want to end this by telling you a little bit about where I am in my healing/growth process.
There is a certain power within me. A life force. An energy. An urge to create. I prefer to illustrate it as wind. So, there are these huge winds that my brain produces. And, as a child, especially in school, whenever I let these winds roam free, I’d often get disappointing or even hurtful reactions from the people around me. Indifference, reproach, helplessness, jealousy… I learned to keep the winds in. But what happens when you keep winds in a confined space? They bounce against the walls and eventually create a tornado. And tornadoes aren’t very good at things that aren’t destruction.
I was 21 when the tornado became too much. I went to people in positions of authority, powerful people, experts. “Help,” I said. “The inside of me is rubble, wreckage, destruction.”
“I see,” they replied very seriously. “Let me fix that for you.”
It took a long time and a lot of work, but eventually, they shut down the tornado. It stopped hurting quite as much. I wasn’t very happy with the results, but I couldn’t argue with the fact that the wreckage had disappeared.
“I did it!” they announced, smiling. “I fixed you. You’re normal now.”
The problem was that I didn’t feel fixed at all. I felt extinguished, and a part of me couldn’t believe I had to be extinguished to be happy. I was afraid to speak up. I was 24 and I was empty. Empty, empty, empty. And not in a depressed way. I wasn’t depressed anymore. I was just… The inside of me was a cold, dark, very still cavity. I was alive and healthy, so why did I feel so dead?
I finally dared to talk about it. We found a way to start letting the winds back in.
It took me two years after that to realize that I didn’t have to keep the winds inside me. I could learn to wield them. Lots of things I could do with winds like that. Goodbye inner tornado, hello to blowing ships’ sails!
Anyway, that’s where I am. Learning wind-wielding. I’m just starting out.
If you can see yourself in the whole “being made to feel like exteriorizing your own power is bad, keeping it inside and having it destroy you” thing, here are a few resources I’d suggest: an encouraging message from a fellow intense person, the gushing ramblings of a fellow intense person, and a creation that gives me hope and that I could personally gush about for hours right now. It’s not necessarily a matter of who said it; it’s a matter of what is said (in the first link) or how it is said (in the second link).
Next time, I will talk about faith and babies.
Until then, may you find a piece of art you love at least half as much as dodie loves La La Land and I love Jupiter.
my alternative title is "emotional release is good for you, but still kinda sucks!" hah.
i don't know about you, but pisces season seems to be digging deep and asking the hard questions.
on one hand, i'm feeling it and watching others, a collaborative bloom within our creative habitats. artistic partnerships, louder than a bomb, publications, new projects, fixed vintage cars, promotions, and love and love and love... it's here, and i feel it. personally, i am so thankful and inspired, and watching others wear themselves more fully is such a blessing. all the love and power to you. spring is sneaking among us.
yet tuning into intuition and escaping reality has not been easy. whether it's by phone or text, i've been hearing much of the same themes lately: loss, confusion, anxiety, guilt, some of which stemming from the exact thing we're so happy about: coming into ourselves and developing, creatively and personally.
it is strange how absolutely scary it is to become your self, and to befriend who you are. it's the most obvious choice, i think, because we are... who we are. it simply is. disconcerting, yes, especially if mourning a past self. yet at the same time, if paired and intentional, it can be the utmost release... just read jenny slate's tweet above. i can't tell you how many times i have printed and taped it into journals and slipped it into interviews. it's true. the more tender and precious i am to my self, the less i feel fear. i am confident in my identity, and how i am loved by my self, my loved ones, and the divine. i soften.
it's a battle, of course. i remember seeing a t shirt for trans rights several years ago reading "don't hate on my happiness," and i think it changed me. it changed the way i speak about other people, and (thankful) hindered my ability to laugh and grate on others. it made life so much more smooth and gentle and empathetic. remember this: don't hate on others, but also don't hate on your own happiness. if what you want separates from the status quo, detach. find your people elsewhere. your joy is not worth a warped perception of joyful other people might project onto you.
a friend texted me today, having chosen herself over warped and unhealthy expectations: "i'm never going to be a cool person im gonna just accept it." broke my heart a lil bit, because i love this girl, but it sent me back to the first time i walked into a coffeeshop my senior year of university, thinking "you know what, i'm not going to feel guilty for choosing to spend this time alone, in a coffeeshop, doing what i love. this is what brings me joy, and i am the only one who has to experience my self and my life." i was alone, not investing that time in those i couldn't stay authentic with. i'd never felt that at peace, happy, creative, and readiness to be alive.
choose yourself and your happiness and health. it can feel like stagnancy, esp in a world where pushing our own boundaries is considered healthy growth. it is, to a point. but serenity and stagnancy are not the same, even if both are still. it's okay to just be. to stay. to run away, and towards authenticity.
and if they hate on your happiness? they weren't on your side anyway. get out. love your happiness. love others' authentic joy and health. have grace for everyone.
(by the way, "cool" is a subjective descriptor. no one has the same definition. find your own, based on the way it feels.)
obviously, it's not easy. it's a lifelong process. never ending. but our growth, also, is never ending. every changing. it's a good thing, i am trying to decide. staves off the boredom in the most annoying way.
today, writing this, i pulled six of cups, reversed, and six of swords.
unrealistic, ultra-ideal viewpoints might be sticking around, becoming a perceived threat or simply causing disappointment. maybe something's not the way you imagined it would be. maybe it was oversimplified in your head. maybe there's trauma resurfacing. but you're still breathing and moving. six of swords looks heavy, but the figure isn't crushed, or drowning; the blades are beneath the surface. they might feel real, there's your validation, but they aren't necessarily relevant or necessary or here. maybe they're just internal. it's okay to feel them; those feelings are real. but remember this. you're still here, pushing through, breathing okay. maybe it's a matter of reclaiming and turning the six of cups card right side up, rediscovering wonder and curiosity and redirected expectations.
pisces. expression of emotional capacity. empathy. escaping reality. selflessness. intuitive and smart and creative. divine love.
it's who you are, even when it's frightening or challenging, and difficult to live into.
are you making excuses, defending who you are, and the choices you've made, where it is unnecessary to do so? are you just coping with something you haven't accepted yet? i am! dig into it. have grace. it'll be okay.
i want to start this month off reminding you that who you are is important, as is what you want.
the practice of remaining in tune with what we want and need is never-ending and challenging, but i promise you, it shifts your life.
find your truth. hold it close. embody it.
much love. let me know what you're thinking.
ps. we have content waiting for you. i'm smitten. stay tuned.
pps. my poems happened to be published yesterday. i wrote "the nature of nothing" about two years ago, and it's breathing over at rogue agent. feels fitting for this post. be sure to read the rest of the contents of the issue. it's lovely.
ppps. i want to hear about your truth. head on over to the submit page and let me know what you're thinking.