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.
what is authenticity? when we create ourselves, do we become more or less authentic?
this question has been low-key plaguing me ever since i first heard about authenticity. i was 10. in grade 5, i was one of the oldest kids in my elementary school and i made sure i was a soloist in the school choir. i kind of wanted to be a star.
avril lavigne's debut album, let go, was pretty new and i listened to it on repeat. i thought it was the height of coolness. it resonated so much with me. sometimes i remember myself at 10 years old singing "i might've put up with that when i was 14 and a little more green" with all the conviction in the world and i smile. bless 10-year-olds.
when i was 10, there was this big televised singing competition that everyone really loved to watch in my community because one of the most popular contestants was from a small town nearby. one day, i asked my mother why this contestant was so popular. "people find him authentic," she said. i had never heard or read that term before, so she explained what it meant: "people who are authentic are their real selves. they don't change for others."
i was preoccupied. why did the viewers think this contestant was more authentic than the others? i could understand why his mannerisms on a surface level seemed authentic: he was provincial, rugged and rustic, with a thick accent and manners every bit appropriate to the fisherman he'd been before the competition. but why was this authentic? and why was the other contestants' artistic expression not perceived as authentic?
the thing is, this contestant acted just like every man in my community. i asked myself if authenticity was just playing "the roles we were born to fill" (this is a quote from mona lisa smile, a movie that is about authenticity, if you really think about it). this seemed wrong to me. acting like every girl in my community sure didn't sound like an authentic way for me to be.
now, i look back and i understand that it wasn't really authenticity that seduced viewers, but the embodiment of a stereotype that suited everyone. people from urban centres watched and this stereotype comforted them because it allowed them to pin down the people of my community --- to put us in a box and not have to try to understand our differences.
people from my community watched and this stereotype also comforted them. i think it allowed us to live vicariously through the contestant while not changing anything or confronting anything about ourselves. by staying small and comfortable.
there is this expression in french circles in canada (i have never heard it in the particular community i grew up in, but the sentiment was there): "when we're born for a small loaf of bread..." (quand on est né pour un petit pain) it implies that we are born for small things in this life and that to hope or ask or wish or even work for more is foolish and messing with the natural order of things. in many ways, it's, i guess, a knee-jerk reaction to the "american dream."
i call the pervasive idea that we are born for small things "small loaf syndrome" (i don't think i invented this, but i can't find a source, so maybe i did?). i've always thought that small loaf syndrome was ridiculous and that i didn't catch it.
in my last therapy session, i talked about seeing the movie rocketman several times (don't act surprised). "why do you think you liked it so much?" my therapist asked. "do you think it's because you're an artist?"
i was gobsmacked. how dare she call me an artist? this thought painfully echoed a thought at the core of my self-talk: how dare you call yourself an artist? and a sentiment i perceived from my entourage: how dare you be artistic?
i remember when i was a teenager and dreaming of moving to the big city i live in now seemed like dreaming of a big loaf. how romantic and exciting the city seemed. i had all these fantasies of city life in which i realize now, in hindsight, i was an artist in every way but my occupation, which was always something sensible.
but didn't i want to be an artist when i was 10? yes. indeed. i wanted to be a star, i think were my exact words. later, in middle school, i discovered classical music and i wanted to become a musician. i wrote a few songs, too, and i arranged let it be for a wind quintet, but i didn't think anything of it. then, high school came around and with it a new music teacher, one who seemed to be adamant to sap the very art and fun from all music-making, leaving it dry, drab and technical.
this music teacher had an electronic metronome she would plug into gigantic speakers. she would turn the volume up as loud as she could. then, with the metronome clacking in our ears, she would lean over the first row of chairs clapping her hands with what i perceived to be barely contained violence.
i sat in the first row.
it's like the metronome and the handclaps yanked bits of fun from us students with every clack. as a person who is highly sensitive to sound, emotional atmospheres and heat especially (the music classroom was always hot; it trapped the heat in and then we kids were so stressed we were emanating heat like we were lost in the arctic), i left every rehearsal exhausted and grumpy.
this is kind of what brought me to tears when i first watched rocketman. the entire story is extremely sad, don't get me wrong, but here's what made me cry (i wouldn't consider it spoiler-y):
when elton is about 7 (?), he starts getting into classical music. there is a scene showing him staying up past bedtime reading a score (it looks like an orchestra conductor score but i'm not 100% sure). he imagines himself conducting an orchestra playing rocket man. he imagines the orchestra. the musicians are all looking at him so earnestly. almost lovingly. some of them are even smiling at him. then, elton gets to the piano. this is a piano concerto and he's the star. this scene is so joyful and pure. it shows us that this is what music originally was to elton: a fun, second-nature form of expression.
later in the movie, it's made clear that as addiction and other mental health issues start taking centre stage, fun disappears from music-making. there are all these montages of elton john performing and looking absolutely miserable. when elton hits rock bottom, his 7-year-old self appears again with the melody to rocket man. it's beautiful!
anyway. it just really moved me to see that joy and see it slowly lost. it reflected my experiences in a way i didn't understand right away.
i think that knowing and embracing what brings us joy is a big part of authenticity. maybe that's the way in which the contestant on the televised singing competition was actually authentic. he knew music brought him joy. so, he dared.
i don't want to pretend to have all the answers, and especially not to the question "what is authenticity?" discovering personal authenticity is a long, thrilling journey. i think my 30-day introspection challenge, over a few days ago, really helped me travel along that path.
i want to pursue joy. i want to pursue a large loaf of chocolate-chip bread sprinkled with sugar crystals. i want to pursue myself.
Today marks the solstice, no matter where you live. Perhaps today is the longest day of the year (here it's ultra cloudy and dark, ironically enough), or tonight the the longest night for you (hello, southern hemisphere.) Regardless, congratulations, you've made it through have the year. It's a big deal. Try not to panic at the thought!
That is exactly what I am good at... I keep drawing the oracle card "get out of your own way" and wondering, "What the heck does that even mean? How am I supposed to do that? I am me." But after seeing it over and over, and then coming across the prayer, May I learn to make good out of what I'm given, rather than only make sense of it, I suddenly understood. I am so good at panic, or, at least, concern.
See, I love growth. I want to never be stagnant, preferring a constant process for becoming closer to the person I was created to be. And to do this, I often spend a lot of time reading books or blogs or quotes or psychology studies. I love reading/thinking about theology and politics, and how these things intertwine. I truly am a 6w5 (for those who don't speak enneagram, I mean that I do worry, but exploration of thought and fact appeals to me. Study appeals to me as a way to lay a solid foundation of truth to stand on. I think if I can read enough truth, I can build my own magic road map to success.) who often thinks, "I have to know it all before I begin to practice any of it," and dwell on all the ways I need to "get better."
Questions I think a lot about include "Where do I fall short?" and "Where can I improve?" and "Who am I not that I want to be?"
I can tell you this pretty confidently: it's only partially helpful, and it's anxiety and depression inducing. Our self-help happy society tells us often that we need to confront our darknesses, and go deep. But honestly? I can go deep- and then get lost so easily. I can know all about what I hate about myself and what has hurt me and what is weighing on me and what doesn't measure up to standards. I can do that all day. I can also stay in bed all day and cry in the bathroom.
There comes a point that we have looked back enough, and now, we need to look forward. I can see all my problems, but who do I want to heal into? I can't just eliminate all things I hate about myself... they have to be replaced with something.
That, and hating myself really isn't helpful. It makes life feel worthless.
I'm understanding it now... that getting out of my own way can mean not standing in the middle of the road staring down the parts of myself I hate. Getting out of my own way could be standing aside to allow the good parts of myself to thrive, and to overgrow some of the shit. But how?
With this in mind, here you are, at the solstice. You made it half through the year. Enjoy the sunlight, if you have it. Enjoy life.
But also take a moment to enjoy yourself and how far you have come.
Yes. Look back. Make a list of all you've accomplished. Look back at your resolutions and reevaluate. If you're stuck, I have a list of questions for new year's here, that may be used for the halfway point as well.
This is also a great time to do a solstice or self love tarot card spread to get you thinking. Frame questions and statements positively, like "What opportunities have emerged this spring?" and "What blessings am I receiving?"
Spreads to try might include....
Summer Solstice Spread via Biddy
Winter Solstice Spread via Biddy
Spread for Self Love via Labyrinthos
Now, moving forward, it may help to begin daily routines/rituals to help you not only learn, but also foster and dream. I suggest bullet pointing anything you'd love to do in your dream routine, and pulling from these ideas to build long and short routines, so no matter how much or little time you have, you have an anchor to begin or end your day, to connect to yourself in a positive way. Consider the following,
oracle / tarot
Psychologist Dr. Nicole LePera developed a worksheet for "future self journaling" that I quite reccomend. You can learn more here, and join her email list to obtain the worksheet (for adults and kids!).
I've been thinking about this lately, the practice of imagining who you shall become, in specific terms. Not just, "I want to be healthy surrounded by plants," but specifying what healthy means. What kind of behaviors and thought patterns does this imply? How exactly would that impact my day, life, feelings, and body? Did you know your brain rarely knows the difference between imagining, observing, and doing? By imagining and writing specifics, you can not only rewire your brain to become this, but also imprint the memory and vision you have within your day, so that you can more consciously act and think the way you want to.
I guess my way of getting out of my own way is to step into the way of my future self. To allow myself to envision a good future and a good self, rather than focusing on all the ways I fall short.
The sky is going to start changing light patterns, and so will I, but this is okay, because like nature, we also live within cycles.
This is no end of anything. The sun will come back. We will endlessly create ourselves. With love, hopefully.
today is day 15 of the 30-day introspection journey i invited you to set on with me, a challenge that ends on the first day of summer. check out the original post; all 30-day challenge posts can also be found here.
i just wanted to check in, since we're halway through our journey, to let you know i'm still doing this challenge and i hope you are too. i didn't post much on this blog through the first half of the 30 days. i figured that, since i did this challenge to rest (yes, i know, ironic), resting should be my priority.
i have been staying with my parents, on the canadian east coast, since day 3 of the journey. i'm going back to my small apartment in the city tonight.
what did i do here? i spent time with my family. i took many walks. i marvelled at the stars. i wrote at the park. i went to the beach. i smelled the woods. i wrote a song. i cried a lot. i read tarot for my aunt. i took pictures. i made pretzels twice. a fox, a bear, a lynx, squirrels and birds came say hi. a lot of it was good.
anyway, here's where this 30-day introspection challenge has been taking me:
- days 3 and 4: how do i want to define stability? what stability have i learned to look for but don't truly crave or require? (answer: honestly, all the stability i need is just: committed relationships, a garden and a retirement fund.)
- day 4: i had a long reflection about how astrology could help symbolize the different flows of life within me.
- day 5: on this day i was crushed by an anvil of apathy. i worked on recognizing apathy as resistance and protection. that both extremes — apathy on one end, and frantically avoiding inactivity on the other — come from me not properly listening to myself.
- day 6: i realized that i didn't just need to mourn the battles i lost; i also had to mourn the battles i won. later, in my journal, i wrote: "i feel sort of abandoned by the life force that used to run within me. [...] that's how i feel: like a wreck, like a burden. well, that's dark. perhaps it's just easier to feel that way [...] than to actually acknowledge what is good and powerful within me. because then i don't have to try."
- day 7: i met a bear and later it came back and whispered in my ear (i'm exaggerating, but only a little). this led me to find a new understanding of my connection to the divine.
- day 8: i got thinking on dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration. i always like going back to this theory when i try to find meaning to my feelings of depression. it makes me feel hopeful to think that there may be something bigger and brighter at play.
- day 9: why am i feeling overwhelmed? (answer: guilt and shame. it's always guilt and shame.)
- days 10 and 11: a lot of going around in circles. i was reminded of a project i once loved; i had an idea on how to revive it.
- day 12: i was reminded of yet another project i'd abandoned. i'd been meaning to write a historical fiction and, shortly before this challenge, i resolved to abandon the idea because it was "wrong for me to focus on details and timelines, and why did i ever think it was a good idea?" on day 12, i remembered why i wanted to write that story in the first place. some voices we need to listen to, and some voices we need to ignore.
- day 13: hello again, guilt! long time no see (not). in my journal, i explored my guilt. i wrote: "i don't want these random skills. i want to be good and wise and benevolent." (fun late morning interlude: i sobbed about the state of critical thinking in the world. like a weirdo.) then, later in the day, i had yet another breakdown about being "a wreck" and "empty of all vivaciousness, lifeless," and how "i successfully put out every hint of a spark within me," and then i listened to dodie sing "i'm too damp for a spark" and i cried. there are days like that.
- day 14: the sea.
besides the classical playlist i made for this challenge, i spent a while listening to khai dreams. i also have a playlist made entirely of the king (conan gray) and cheap queen (king princess).
today, i'm listening to this short playlist:
sober / demi lovato
my mistake / gabrielle aplin
haunted house / florence + the machine
we come together / regina price
burned out / dodie
mostly, i think i've worked on exploring and confronting feelings of guilt and shame. i feel guilty and ashamed because i am convinced i am a frivolous screw-up, a pale copy of whom i once was, the result of a series of unwise decisions. i have unearthed this question that has been at the core of my negative self-talk for decades: how dare you?
because that's what i heard repeatedly from adults (especially teachers!!) when i was growing up: how dare you. how dare you think you can do this. how dare you ask for more. how dare you be yourself.
this may seem like a self-absorbed wound to examine and attempt to heal, but the result of years of berating via how dare you is this: i keep myself small. and no one benefits from that.
the first half of this challenge has been about where we come from, where we are. the second half will be about where we're going.
what about you? what have you been thinking, feeling? whether you've undertaken this 30-day journey with me or not, i'm sure you have things to say.
above all please take care,
Happy Pride month!
Something I want people to realize is that history grounds a person. History validates and reinstates an existence… it gives it dimension and lineage and a family. Without a history, a people can be erased or made unstable. This is the reason libraries and museums are often burned in times of war… eliminate a people’s stories, and you eliminate a sense of being.
I don’t know about you, but I never learned about a queer person, ever. I think this contributes to people’s sense of “well I just don’t understand gay people, so I don’t support it.” to which I always say Congratulations!!!! You are straight!!!!! Being queer is not a new concept. It’s not the hipster way. It’s not revolutionary or strange or an experiment… it’s literally existed since the beginning of time. People need to know this.
Having a sense of queer history does not just prove existence to a straight, cis person. It grounds a queer person, and eases the loneliness and fear that being queer in our society can force upon a person.
History grounds us.
So hello, curious friend. Delve into the history of queerness, and familiarize yourselves with the people who have contributed to our world today!
and if you prefer very bite size pieces of information, may I suggest:
a woman who took it upon herself to care for and burry men dying alone of aids.
performance art acknowledging the name of queer victims of hate crimes.
6 major moments in lgbtq+ history, beside stonewall.
how artists take on stonewall.
queer rulers on coins.
lgbtqia thru history + brief biographies
general LGBTQ+ history
Politics, Protest, Justice, and Stonewall
Here’s the thing. Queer existence is political and revolutionary. That’s just the way it has been. Therefore, much of the above could fit into this category, but the following books place a specific emphasis on revolution.
want more options?
Carolyn Yates wrote a 25 title long list of LGBTQ history books…
and Casey wrote about 13 more!
The Skimm has a great list of books.
Not enough? Bookriot has 50; there’s something in there for you.
Have an interesting article for me to add? Please let me know!
love you much-- you are valid and real and seen. take care,
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.
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.
the sprout club
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.