it's squash season. i've never been a squash person (except as a baby?), but this year is different. my neighbour and i decided to start splitting a "basket" of fruit and vegetables: every week, we pick up a boxful (minus the box!) of produce that's either been rejected or considered surplus in some way. this usually includes whatever's in season. so, lately, we've been getting different varieties of winter squash.
in my fridge, there's a large jar of pumpkin butter — the result of what has turned out to be, by far, my most successful winter squash experiment.
in the non-squash category, i got fresh beets that i had no idea what to do with until i saw this video. i made beetroot milk! i used raw beets (plural because they were really small) and, though i would definitely have needed a strainer, the result was delicious, not to mention colourfully cute.
my kitchen experiments serve three purposes: they feed me, they ground me, and they give me space to play. i honestly had more fun destroying my jack o'lantern by cooking it and turning it into butter than i had when i carved my pumpkin. i'll admit my experiments don't always make for the most delectable meals (like when i thought it was a good idea to put grapefruit in my hot oats, or to eat my spaghetti squash with only nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt), but i am discovering the fun of doing something "just to see what happens."
joy hides in strange places. i want to be someone who sees it and enjoys it when it flies by. for example, i have this tin of pumpkin chai tea that smells so good that it makes me smile, automatically and uncontrollably, whenever i catch a whiff of it. it doesn't matter if i'm having a good day or not.
these little things anchor me. without them, i would feel like i am floating aimlessly, because these days, i don't have anything near the clear overview of Life i crave and seek. my compass is broken, and it took me a bit too long to realize it and take down my sails. i lowered my anchor and now, i'm trying to fix my compass.
"trying to fix my compass" means that i'm delaying important decision-making until the end of the month; in other words, i'm trying to use the month of november to "gather data" i will later analyze. kind of like in the scientific method. actually, who am i kidding? exactly like in the scientific method. you can take the nerd out of science, but you cannot take science out of the nerd.
and so, in parallel with my kitchen experiments, i conduct other experiments i take more seriously. i probably take them too seriously. the overarching goal of these more structured experiments is to find the constants: the components of the compass that never change. hopefully, with these constants, i'll be closer to having a compass that works.
i'll be honest: when i say "constants," i am for the most part referring to personality types. i am trying to have a more solid understanding of my enneagram and myers-briggs* personality types, because according to these theories, a person's personality type doesn't change; rather, it is a flexible model that manifests differently in different people, contexts and life stages.
i love the enneagram and myers-briggs systems. i know some people dislike personality typing in general, because they consider it rigid or limiting, but after studying different systems for some years, i have learned that a personality type, when the system is properly conceived, is designed to be fluid, adaptive and growth-orienting. in other words, to borrow ian morgan cron's image (which he applies to the enneagram), the point of knowing our personality type isn't to put ourselves in a box with a label on it; it's to find a way out of the box we've inadvertently stuck ourselves in. personality types aren't labels, they're maps. these maps — provided we've got the ones that truly fit us best — point us to our highest potential.
please note that what i'm referring to is the mbti system with its jungian basis (see it presented as the car model or on one of my favourites mbti blogs) and the enneagram in its many forms, including what i would call the classic enneagram, the instinctual subtypes (as best explained by beatrice chestnut, in my opinion) and, to a lesser extent, the tritypes (as developed by katherine fauvre).
i have been wrong about my personality types more often than i've been right. in fact, i don't even know if i'm currently right, and besides, the whole concept of "being right" hinges on the assumption that personality typing theory works. (to better understand what the concept of "theory" means, i recommend this ted-ed video or its blog post version. not that personality typing is particularly scientific, but i think it helps to remember that it's not a law.) obviously, that's the assumption i'm running with: the enneagram and mbti personality typing theories work, and if i find my correct type in each system and interpret it correctly, i will have valuable advice to guide my self-growth.
so, this is what i'm doing this november: experimenting. am i this myers-briggs type? am i this enneagram type? how will i enjoy doing nanowrimo? what in the world can i do with an acorn squash? why am i feeling aimless? how does this or that hypothesis fare in the real world?
and i will try my best to remember — and i apologize for the wildly random metaphor — that taking time to focus on improving the plough is the opposite of neglecting the field.
what about you? what's your november like? do you have any good acorn squash recipes to share?
*mbti and myers-briggs are reserved and in no way am i a certified practicioner. therefore, everything i write about the mbti should be taken as nothing more than an opinion.
the harshness of october has made me reflect on why we do love lists.
i have this image in my mind of stopping to use the bathroom at a tim hortons during a roadtrip (as i'm sure most canadians have done in their lifetime). i don't remember where i was going or whom i was with. it might have been around 2010. i do remember what song i listened to on repeat during the roadtrip — the cave by mumford & sons — and how happy i felt that i'd found a song i loved so much. i remember thinking: “i hope i never stop discovering songs that make me feel like this.”
it's been almost 10 years and i can safely say that i still regularly discover songs that make me feel the heady joy of oneness with music. it's a gladness of living and a burst of love. and i trust, i believe that i haven't listened to every good song currently in existence, that many good songs remain to be written and produced, that i will never run out of “new” good songs.
love lists, for me, are a celebration of the joy and love i feel for favourites new and old. they are a manifestation, a tiny proof that there is an abundance of things out there that i can love.
my wish for you is that you see love lists as such: as a reminder that the world is abundant in lovely things. maybe you don't feel it right now. that's ok. there are seasons for everything. resting is as much an act of love as sharing favourites or calling up a friend.
with love (and i mean it),
→ Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, II, Alexandra Stréliski’s interpretation (on spotify and youtube).
nadine: this month’s classical rec, a contemplative, melodic 5-minute piano-only piece (there is no orchestra accompaniment), fits well with the mood i perceive october to have so far. please check out Alexandra Stréliski’s other works (Pianoscope and INSCAPE) as well; they suit the increasing hours of nighttime beautifully.
→.i’m wide awake, it’s morning by bright eyes
gray: i’ve been feeling ummm..”sentimental for days gone by” (sorry, wrong bright eyes album), and in a result i’ve been trying to return to my high school faves. i’m always surprised at how well bright eyes holds up through the years and how i always feel like i can return to it. fave tracks: poison oak, road to joy
→ Le souper by Jean-Michel Blais, a short instrumental track from the Matthias et Maxime soundtrack (on spotify and youtube).
nadine: i recently saw Matthias et Maxime at the cinema; the soundtrack was my favourite part (and it won the Cannes Soundtrack Award). this is so delightful. sweet. gripping and soft at the same time. [note: the full soundtrack is available as of today! i haven't listened to it yet, though.]
→ all mirrors by angel olsen
Gray: angel olsen is always so so good and this new album really glitters. It’s a beautifully cathartic break up album with a dramatic string section that permeates the songs. fave tracks: lark, all mirrors
→ Initium (music video) by Keaton Henson
nadine: i think you may need to be “in the mood” to watch this (in the mood to watch the sea for nine minutes straight while listening to a slow orchestral piece, specifically), but what a mood that is. the music video is stunning. i gasped at some point. it’s like the sea was listening to the song too.
→ 30 rock
gray: the last great major network comedy
→ Games (lyric video) by Tessa Violet
nadine: Tessa Violet being amazing again, reminding us we deserve better.
→ radio silence by alice oseman
gray: a very sweet YA novel about school, expectations, and friendship. literally cannot recommend it enough; it made me smile, it made me cry, and it made me feel almost every emotion in between.
→ the moon asks a question, a comic made by purutsukid from dirgewithoutmusic’s short story.
nadine: a quick, easily-accessible must-read for anyone who’s ever wondered if what they felt “qualified” as “love.”
→ gray: london fog latte. why is psl the official autumn drink and not this? messed up!
→ nadine: lots of tea. my kettle broke, so i got a new one. it’s slower to boil. i think that’s a great thing.
→ gray: i am trying to consciously recognize how the things i do may affect others, especially when it comes to my job. just want to make sure i am not a major source of stress for anyone!
→ nadine: i’ve been thinking about so many things. what connects it all? there is always a connection. maybe it’s love.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
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i have a (relatively) new nightly ritual: i stand at the sink, facing the old glass block window, and i wash the day's dishes. it's a gift i make every night to my tomorrow-morning self. in return, i get to use that lavender dishsoap i like so much.
the other night, like many nights before, i had both hands plunged in warm soapy water. my fingers brushed cutlery and damp crumbs as the lavender-scented bubbles hugged my forearms. i cried. again. i've been crying a lot in the past month or so.
this, i thought to myself then, is an image of growth.
i've been crying so much because my life feels like a mess, like a shapeless heap of wooden sticks after i just removed one too many pieces of the Jenga tower. i removed the cruel-to-myself piece. i removed the unable-to-voice-my-expectations piece. i removed the unable-to-reach-for-support piece. i removed the skewed-priorities piece.
i've been getting to know myself better. i've been learning to express myself and connect with loved ones better. and i make mistakes and i slide backward and i do a lot of crying. it's all growth.
it's hard when you realize your life is not the right size for you anymore. it means you need to change a lot of your surroundings and activities. sometimes change is soft, gentle and heartwarming, like when i'm done doing the dishes at night and i mix warm oat milk, cacao powder and honey in a carefully-chosen cup, and i light candles in the living room. other times, though, change is loud, sudden and painful. the Jenga tower falls.
i quit school.
let's not talk about that.
instead, let's talk about how i have more energy to dedicate to reading. i've been reading J.D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction for the first time. i picked that book to read because it was a gift from my sister, who bought it for me years ago because i'd read and liked The Catcher in the Rye years before that, and it spent a long time sitting on my bookshelf.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, especially, felt rejuvenating to read. it made me laugh so much, and everything was so vivid, and by the time (very mild spoiler) the narrator started reading his older brother Seymour's diary, i couldn't close the book. in a poignant, painful way, i saw myself in Seymour (please note i hadn't read Seymour: An Introduction yet), but i couldn't understand how he could be so magnanimous and compassionate.
for example, Seymour's girlfriend's mother insists on trying to psychoanalyze Seymour. she goes so far as to invite her psychoanalyst to dinner with Seymour and her family. i don't know how that sort of thing went in 1942, but it would never fly in 2019 with me.
in his diary, Seymour discusses how he thinks his brother (the narrator of the story), would view his girlfriend Muriel's mother.
He would disapprove of Muriel's mother, too. She's an irritating, opinionated woman, a type [he] can't stand. I don't think he could see her for what she is. A person deprived, for life, of any understanding or taste for the main current of poetry that flows through things, all things. She might as well be dead, and yet she goes on living, [...] plotting for Muriel's health and prosperity. I love her. I find her unimaginably brave.
that quote hit me hard. i guess i read it at the right time in my life. it made me think. in a few notebooks, i wrote "i want to be so full of love that i see it in everything." it's a work in progress.
sometimes i feel more like the child i saw at the breakfast restaurant on canadian thanksgiving, last monday. a girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old, with quirky pink glasses, slid in the booth next to mine with her parents. i noticed her because she was pouting, frowning. soon i noticed her again because she angrily slammed aside the page she had been drawing on.
she grumbled: "it's not working." the page was glossy: i imagine it was some kind of durable plastified paper you can use markers on and later erase, but i might be wrong. i'm not exactly up-to-date on popular art supplies for kids these days.
i brought my attention back to the discussion at my booth, but again, i noticed the little girl. from her backpack, she slid out a notebook filled with drawings.
we — the dreamers — the ones who carry notebooks when only a phone would do — that little girl, me, maybe you too — we tend to feel disappointed when what we put on the pages of our notebook doesn't match what's in our head.
something that struck me in the 7-year-old artist i saw at the breakfast restaurant that day was that between tantrums, while she was drawing, there was a small content smile on her face. drawing made her happy — until it made her throw tantrums. but mostly, i think drawing made her happy. i saw it in the way she took her notebook out of her backpack, with love and care.
that's how i want to go on. because there will be tantrums. but if there's also contentment, love and care, maybe it won't be so bad.
summer is over, and i think it's time i break my silence here and post something.
i was caught in an inner whirlwind of healing. at the time, i couldn't fully make sense of what was happening. i couldn't see the overarching theme in my growth. all i knew was that come the end of the summer, my nesting instincts (which i hadn't known i even had) were kicking in at full force. suddenly, i knew exactly what kind of "nest" i wanted for myself.
i've been working on myself with much dedication for a long time. i trace it back to three years ago, almost day for day. i was 24. i'd spent the three years before that as a shell. i have almost no memories of the years i was 21, 22 and 23. the other day, i saw a picture of myself from that period and i literally did not recognize myself. i squinted and said: "who... what... is that me? i had that hair?"
yesterday, for no discernable reason, a memory from that time popped in my head: i remembered the lemon cookies i used to make when i was 22. i remembered the sweet lemony taste and the perfectly soft and chewy texture. honestly, i think that was my first time remembering something from those three years that i didn't want to burn out of my brain.
i remember loving those cookies so much because they felt like the one thing i could do right. i felt powerless — most days, all i ate was peanut butter on toast and all i did was lie on the couch and watch the sky darken — but some days i could manage those cookies. for a few minutes the cookies made my roommates happy and that was the best i could ask for.
all that and much more was over by the time i turned 24. the question "why?" was plaguing me, as it had over the three years prior. why? why had all that happened to me? i set forth on my journey to try to find an answer, because without an answer, how could i know for sure that it wouldn't happen again?
anyway, fast forward. 24 to 27, three years of zealous introspection. i studied anything that might help explain my experience of shellness: several personality typing systems; possible alternate/additional diagnoses; queer identities; different topics in fields such as psychology, personal development and spirituality...
results were few, far in between, and often short-lived. i think i considered 9 different myers-briggs types and 6 different enneagram types, among other things. it was a confusing time.
in 2019, and especially the past summer, i started seeing results at a much higher pace.
using the enneagram for a bit because it's easier
turns out....... i'm a 4.* that's enneagram talk. i don't want to start explaining the enneagram or even guiding you towards resources because whenever i start i have a hard time stopping. but i'll try to condense it infinitely: the enneagram splits people in 9 types (numbered arbitrarily 1 to 9) according to the main threat they perceived in their environment as children and how they managed to cope with that threat. "4" is a type.
the most important thing i absolutely want to stress to anyone reading about the enneagram is this: you may get the impression that the enneagram is a self-flagellation session that makes you realize what a terrible person you are. please allow me to shift your perspective on this: all enneagram types embody equally good ways for the young psyche to protect itself from perceived threats in the environment. we all have an enneagram type. that's good because it means we were brave enough to find ways to protect ourselves and make it to adulthood.
however, these protections inevitably backfire in adulthood. all of them. there's no type that backfires more or less than the others. learning about your enneagram type is helpful because it helps you say: thank you, subconscious, for protecting me the best you could; now, it's my turn, and i will protect myself in healthier ways that will allow me to grow and become a better person.
that's so important to understand. we all hate our enneagram types at first (if you don't, you're probably mistyped), but it's important to grow past that and find space for gratefulness and acceptance.
now, type 4. 4s, when they were hurt in childhood, used the explanation "i was hurt because i am bad and unlovable" rather than see the world around them as mean-spirited. this way, 4s developed a vision of themselves as impossible to love and lacking in everything. nothing can ever redeem them. because they believe themselves to be unlovable, 4s both fear being abandoned and somehow unconsciously want to be abandoned (because it will confirm their worldview). 4s put a lot of emphasis on emotions: their own and others'. they daydream of happiness, and they envy others, especially those with "simple" lives, but they are so convinced that they are too broken or complicated to be happy that they sabotage their wellbeing in different ways.
something that clued me in on the possibility that i might be a 4 was when i got the feedback from someone who knows me well that i was (wrongly) convinced i wasn't important to other people and that i was never satisfied.
the way 4s experience these patterns in everyday life changes vastly from one instinctual subtype to the next. i've heard them described as the glad 4 (self-preservation subtype, sp4), the sad 4 (social subtype, so4) and the mad 4 (sexual subtype, sx4). for example, imagine three toddlers who want to get their needs met by their parent. the first one behaves as well as possible and hopes this will attract the attention, love and approval of their parent (sp4). the second one starts crying and talking about how much they are hurting and lacking (so4). the third one throws a tantrum about how everything is unfair and it's all their parent's fault (sx4).
even as adults, 4s have a hard time directly asking for help and, especially, for love. instead, they are consumed by envy, and they end up acting out that envy by masochistically enduring (sp4), vocally complaining (so4) or angrily demanding (sx4). of course, in real life, most people aren't just one subtype. they have a dominant subtype, and a second one, and one they use the least. my conclusion is that i am a sp4, though i do tend to reach for anger like sx4s from time to time.*
(note: my main/favourite source of enneagram information is The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut.)
end of enneagram talk
ironically (or not so ironically), what helped me find my enneagram type in the end was to focus on healing for a while without thinking about the enneagram too closely. i did my introspection challenge as well as the 12-week challenge presented by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way. that's what i've been doing all summer.
after a while of this introspective healing, i reflected on what was helping me the most. by analyzing these helpful techniques/paradigms, i kind of reverse-engineered what i had started out most needing.
the most helpful change i have instated in my journey is self-nurturing, hands down.
unsurprisingly, it turns out that not asking for support is the best way to not get support! it also turns out that beating yourself up all the time about everything is helpful in absolutely zero ways.
halfway through The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron presents the affirmation: "treating myself like a precious object will make me strong."
self-nurturing means i am taking over the role of being my own parent. for a long time, the idea of having to "parent" myself made me feel sad and lonely. now, it feels comforting because i trust myself more. it's honestly so comforting to know you have someone there who will always give you what you need.
like, i need to take a day off? i take a day off. i need warm tea with oat milk and honey? guess what, i have warm tea with oat milk and honey. i need to feel like my emotions are valid? surprise, i validate my emotions. my cluttered kitchen counter makes me feel overwhelmed? i do the dishes and, not thirty minutes later, i can breathe easier.
i'm so thankful for the care and support my parents have provided me with, and for what they still provide me with. but no matter how hard they tried, they weren't perfect. i understand why i didn't receive some fundamental forms of care, and i forgive my parents — and myself — for that. now, it's my job to "parent" myself. i can give myself whatever forms of care i need. the best part? i don't even have to ask.
that being said, learning to ask for support is still important. it's something i'm in the process of doing. i am trying to cultivate friendships where we both welcome the other when they ask for support.
i used to recoil from self-nurturing for different reasons, the most important of which being: i thought self-nurturing was selfish.
here's what trying out self-nurturing taught me: true self-nurturing is the least selfish thing one can possibly do. the more i nurture myself, the more caring and loving i am towards other people and the world. i get less angry. i listen more. i am more present. i adopt more eco-friendly habits. i love without worrying that i will not get love back.
asking for support has a similar consequence: the more i ask for support, the more comfortable others seem to be asking me for support.
there is simply more love to go around.
maybe it's no coincidence that the memory of the lemon cookies popped in my head yesterday. because that's love, too. i made them because i loved them. because my roommates loved them and because i loved my roommates. because for a while something was stronger than hopelessness.
love, my friends. it's abundant and you deserve it.
*edit (2019/11/11): i am no longer under the impression that i'm a 4. regardless of whether or not i am a 4, everything else i wrote here still stands. i especially want to repeat how important i think self-nurturing is! whatever my enneagram type is, self-nurturing changed my life.
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.
i think many of us have these pulls within ourselves, creating tension by yanking us in opposite, or at least very different, directions. we are complex beings, after all.
as far as i'm concerned, the dynamic between apparent "opposites" makes powerful fuel. it drives us to novelty and creativity. that doesn't mean that reconciling these opposites is easy work. i've struggled a lot with being pulled in different directions. i love music, but silence feels so good. i'm not sure what's more brilliant between classical music and pop, and sometimes i wonder if they're so different.
the list goes on. math and writing. the city and the middle of the woods. musicals and murder mysteries. anti-materialism and owning 12 scarves. spotify and going full analogue. fan fiction and nonfiction. masculine and feminine archetypes. the queen of cups and the king of wands. the list goes on.
m and i decided to collaborate on this post. it's about the tendency our closets often have to split themselves in two. m's experience of this phenomenon is quite different from mine, which i find fascinating! we both wove astrology in our parts. i hope you will enjoy this post as much as i enjoyed making it. our tendency to be diverse and ambiguous as humans never ceases to thrill me.
nadine: drama queen and chill grandparent
having my sun and venus in gemini, one thing i am particularly "split" in terms of is aesthetic. the other day, i went thrifting and i told myself i was looking for flashy, colourful, sparkly, dramatic things. indeed, i found an amazing black sequined cardigan. but i also found myself drawn to grey wool knits and mossy green blouses.
as a genderfluid person, i guess it would make more sense for my two preferred aesthetics to be something like masc and fem. and yes, for sure, going through wedding pictures of straight couples and not being sure whose outfit i want more is one of my signature moves. but whatever my gender expression, i find that my looks are still split in the same way: drama queen and chill grandparent.
on one end, we've got the drama queen. here, less is not more. more is more. this side of my closet is full of red and black. these clothes flow and sparkle. they're loaded in passion and anger. if i were to personify the drama queen with a short playlist, it would be this:
primadonna / marina
bennie and the jets / elton john
defying gravity / kristin chenoweth & idina menzel
the king / conan gray
the show must go on / queen
on the other end, we've got the chill grandparent. think forests and milky tea. this side of my closet is full of wool, denim and linen, especially in more natural hues. these clothes are gentle and grounded. the songs the chill grandparent vibes with are like that:
lover of the light / mumford & sons
heart of gold / neil young
like gold / vance joy
rise / eddie vedder
postcards from italy / beirut
my moon is in libra, another air sign, and my ascendant is scorpio, a sign of transformation. basically i'm built on change. it took me a long time to be ok with that: to realize that yesterday's truth is yesterday's truth and today's truth is today's truth. it sounds so simple, and it is, but at the same time, it's not.
i guess the challenge is trusting that change always makes sense, always has a purpose, always brings us closer to where we need to be.
m: soft and wild
hello my fellow confused cancer moon’s! i may be a “grounded” taurus sun, but wow. so many different places to be grounded. (i also read that capricorn’s therapy is suffering, so the combination of cancer moon, taurus sun, capricorn rising really does give way to an…. aesthetically pleasing anxious puddle of a person....)
I met nadine and gray on an art/fashion website, over seven years ago. together, our selves evolved, as did our aesthetics. a year ago, the site shut down, and i hadn’t expected to feel so upset about it, but i am. it was an easy way to experiment with self and appearance, and to discover new looks. to cultivate a sense of being through the art of clothing.
along the way, i learned about sweatshops and environmental impact and minimalism, and while i loved clothes, i felt this anxiety when i dwelled on clothing. without the safe space of inspiration and experimentation of the website, i felt like i was floundering. it sounds dramatic, but it’s true… my favorite fashion magazines have gone online only (rip nylon and teen vogue), my favorite websites and tumblrs have died, and instagram remains quite difficult to navigate…. when i stand in front of my closet, i feel stressed and hurried, and since i work with the public every day, often not confident enough to create a look. sometimes lack of confidence stems from invisibility; working with someone who dressed with their heart gave me so much inspiration and confidence just by proximity. what we see matters. visibility expands possibility.
meanwhile, i’ve also been wrestling with “being soft,” a term that was usually thrown at me in manipulation or as a sign of weakness. through my college years, i genuinely identified with more punky looks, because it’s exactly how i felt: untouchable and unbothered, yet frustrated, and bored-- and it was simply a style i really loved. i still do. then, i graduated and started working full time job at a public library, where I’ve always felt like the baby (just for the record and due to library stigma, this is silly. most of my coworkers are in their 20’s). i still look into the closet and feel confused, and pressured (only by myself.) what makes me look like i’m going to be taken seriously, but feels authentic to me? how many selves can i present without looking like a poser? am i poser? a child playing dress up? i think it’s an issue that runs deeper than clothing, one that i think a lot of twenty-something’s in our first adult jobs can attest to. trying too hard?
here’s the deal i’ve learned. it’s pretty easy to always look like you’re trying too hard, as long as you love everything in your closet, because even the simplest pieces have some level of cool to them. a t shirt looks like more than a t shirt when it’s a vintage shrunken t shirt, or oversized. purchasing items that mean something to you, especially if they’re second hand or from small brands elevate a look instantly. so when you feel like what you’re wearing is nothing, or childish, it is good to remember that the way people view you is often not how you feel. rarely do other people see that as truth or possibility. our feelings are not always the most popular truth, especially if we are feeling towards an article of clothing ultra familiar. sometimes, it’s just a feeling not worth pursuing.... but also… do i shy from this feeling of trying because i don’t want to seem like i care? when did apathy become something i wanted to embody? ah, and you thought this would just be about fashion...
but maybe dressing up is okay. maybe caring and loving is okay. i love when people wear a piece of clothing because it looks like something a beloved character would wear; that sense of joy- and confidence- is something i’d like to adopt and get used to.
recently i was in the basement of an indoor flea market and just got this rush of love for clothes and collection and experimentation. it’s fun. an art form that doesn’t have to be pristine: my favorite outfits combine the madewell jeans that fit me just right and the t shirt i found in a trash can or in the bottom of the bargain bin in venice. it fits me, it’s so soft, and i can wear it over and over and never tire. add the thrifted jacket that has frayed and torn and been patched over, with the six gold rings that i wear every day, and the opal necklace and earrings. i adore this mix of thoroughly lived in/trashed, and everyday accessible luxe.
through the years, i’ve been learning about being both-and: i can be both punky and cool and soft too. i can be girly in a dress one day, and masc the next. i can combine it. that’s what being human is… feeling the range of emotions and honoring many experiences. i don’t have to be a cookie-cutter. give me all the messy selves i am.
often this results in simple both-ands of mixing textures, such as a soft sweater and corduroy jacket and plaid pants and suede or leather vans. mixture. simple interest. comfort. authenticity.
so here it is.
poor southwest art school drop out? sure, yee to the haw.
pastel madewell lamb?
ultra young suburban mom whose blonde 4 year old is running around screaming inscently? *sips wine* yeah, i can do that.
piratess? yes. i can rock that.
lesbian mom teaching children to drill?
i look for things that matter to me. small details that make pieces utterly unique without demanding attention, such as a cut out in a neutral boot, pins on a denim jacket, a hoodie with a sweet message, an unexpected pattern on velvet, or a cute pair of interesting socks peek-a-booing. it’s the little things… because that’s where authenticity arrives… those little things you fall in love with. that’s what makes a person their own. like so with my closet.
so here’s what i want to tell that teenage waiter who stopped me at breakfast one day to tell me he aspired to my ~aesthetic~:
it was a target cardigan with old jeans, boots, and a random t shirt. beauty in the eye of the beholder. i would have said the exact same about you. you are glorious, even when you become too familiar to your own eyes.
my aesthetic isn’t anything special, even if it makes you happy. i thank you for that. but also, your everyday magic is so valuable and personalized and interesting and sweet. the denim that’s worn away in the spot you touch when you’re thinking. fifty cent pins. the ugly t shirt you pulled out of the trash can and bled all over and had to crop to edit out the stains…. it’s a story and it’s yours. that rainbow sweater you bought when some homophobe started trolling... it’s both soft and tough, and it matters. this is your life. it matters. use the thrift shops when you travel. go to the flea market in the basement. be all your weird and wonderful and all your possible selves… clothing is just fabric, both useful and fun. it’s easy to overthink. but the day is going to pass anyway. might as well play.
we are all humans. we might not feel like it sometimes (i rarely do), but really, we are, i promise. i think that lately, it has been difficult for many of us to express love and joy without a lingering sense of guilt. it’s cool on the internet to be emotionless and how can i even think about those things when the arctic is melting and the middle east is unstable and there are school shootings and there are over 70 countries where homosexuality is illegal and some of those it’s punishable by death and the bolsonaro is trying to sell the brazilian rainforests to the highest bidder and--
“As we're bouncing up and down trying to make the floor break
it’s unhealthy to think like this. yes, it’s important to be socially conscious, but, like i said, we are humans. first, we are not super efficient robots who have the ability to solve all the world’s crises, and it’s inhumane to try to put that pressure on ourselves. we really don’t have the ability to process and take on all this suffering, and when we do, we tend to feel a sense of responsibility. second, by denying ourselves true expressions of joy and love, we are denying ourselves intrinsic and crucial parts of the human experience. when was the last time you ended a good day that didn’t have an asterisk attached?
“In those heavy days of June
the month of june is pride month, which i’m sure you all knew, maybe from the inundation of rainbow merch or photos from pride parades or just generally not living under a rock. it’s important that, during pride month, we memorialize the founders of the movement, remember our history, and pay tribute to those we have lost. but just as importantly, we, as lgbt people, should express love and ourselves even when it wanders far from the status quo. in a world that wants to make us ashamed of who we are, we should try our hardest to not be afraid. if we are out, we should do this loudly, so that people know we are here. if we are not yet out, we should respect ourselves and our boundaries and proclaim love softly, so we know we are here. these small acts of self are acts of defiance, and feed the hope of a better world.
To love yourself, you must know yourself. And to know yourself, you must love yourself. Love then is a sublime and universal understanding of self and of others. Love is a discipline of one’s own self-consciousness. Love is beautiful. Love is just. It must endure, it must evolve, it must expand, it must be born-again.
we do these monthly lists not only to share ourselves with you, but to share the things that make us happy, that make everyday life more livable, that we love, and we offer them to you. these small examinations tell us that it really isn’t all bad, it isn’t really all hopeless. the world is a beautiful and weird thing and is somehow there for your taking, so grab all you can fit in two hands. and without further ado, here is the june love list.
→ love yourself/with my whole heart by sufjan stevens
gray: sufjan stevens is out there trudging through mud fighting for our rights this pride month. we love u sufjan.
m: i was going to say this too. u will love it.
→ too bright by perfume genius
gray: i have to include this for pride month!! i so much love how this album seamlessly marries piano ballads with art pop anthems with some more experimental cuts. fave tracks: my body, grid
→ Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, I. Pezzo in Forma di Sonatina
nadine: this month’s classical rec is also well-timed for pride (it is generally accepted nowadays that Tchaikovsky was gay). this man’s story hit me super hard in the last month. to put it shortly, Tchaikovsky married a (female) fan for well-intentioned reasons, but then it turned out to be the Worst Decision Ever, so he ran away. he then wrote that “there is nothing more fruitless than not wanting to be that which I am by nature.” i listened to that story on BBC Radio 3 [https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p01ydqsj] and i wondered why people like him (...and me lol) ignore their own inner guidance and any glaring red flags in order to orchestrate the biggest self-sabotage possible.
→Tennyson's Beautiful World
m: i rediscover this song every summer, and i'm head over heels. i'm consistently amazed at Tennyson's surprising sounds used as music, such as the rush of a bubble drink being poured. deep pure summer vibes.
→ halsey on stright pride and fear
m: you may have heard the call for a straight pride this month. recently, two women were beaten for being gay. when halsey performed in the town, she gave this speech. by the end, i was definitely in tears, as queer kids yelled, “I am not afraid.”
→ on simplicity and beauty, in a silent, four second video
m: the earth is magic
→ Rocketman (2019) in theatres, for those “new life who dis” vibes
nadine: ugh, this. i almost didn’t put it in because i feel like it detonates and honestly, i have shame around proclaiming my love for it (a can of worms i shall open in my journal). but the truth is i love pop and musicals, i love things that are flashy and sort of camp, i love things that are over-the-top and larger than life, i love going to the cinema, and i love this. it’s exactly the type of thing i want to make, songs and score (the arrangements are sublime) and story. plus it feels so good to go to the cinema and forget straightness exists for a while, you know? this movie is kind of a musical happening in Elton John’s head. it’s very introspective and it’s ultimately about personal growth and support systems. please watch and ponder: what is authenticity? when we create ourselves, do we become more or less authentic?
→On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
m: oh oh oh, you know how it is when ocean vuong writes. it’s exactly what you expect: beautiful and fascinating and saturated and heartbreaking. it’s exactly that. OEWBG is a poetic book about coming of age within a family laden with trauma, so be prepared to feel something. I felt inspired in many ways after i completed this book, including in the way i write, and what i write.
→ “All Other Trans People Are Real, But *I* Am A Terrible Fraud” by Devon Price
“I thought I could live a whole lifetime being mistaken for a woman and just cruising along through it. I figured that if I was really trans, I would have known in childhood, and that I would have asserted it loudly, with defiance. Something. Just. Anything. But I didn’t have that confidence. I lacked that introspection. And for years I’ve held onto that, and taken it for a sign that all my feelings are fake.”
gray: insert *i’m in this photo and i don’t like it* meme. but seriously i think it’s hard to admit self doubt and as someone who feels the same way about my gender identity as this author does, i really admire this piece.
→ “Feminist Trans Men & the Narrative of Internalized Misogyny” by Seth Katz
“The difference between a trans man or nonbinary AFAB person and a cis woman (detransitioned or not) isn’t that we hate women and want to utilize misogyny, it is simply that we aren’t women.”
→ Levi the Poet on “I Used to Think that Positive Self-Talk was BS”
m: it's easy to disregard most self help things, esp if you have depression and anxiety. but i've been learning that so many things i roll my eyes at are, scientifically, true. levi covers one of these.
→ seltzer and only seltzer please someone help me i am kind of addicted….
→ the smores frap is BACK at starbucks and i am HAPPY. marshmallow whipped cream you say? on my way.
→ new york’s next public monument honors two trans activists: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. yes. this is the exact tea i want.
→nadine’s 30 day journal/tarot challenge is kicking my butt in a good way.
→ Questions to Assess Negative Views of Self and World
→ m: why haven’t i done the thing ive been mulling over for years now? what holds me back? what did i used to love, and why did i stop doing it?
→ nadine: when i developed my shame and guilt, what part of my personality took the biggest hit? how may i heal this part of my personality? maybe i need to stop asking myself what i “should” do and start asking myself what i want to do.
→gray: love for oneself is far more complicated than love for another. when we are confronted with self love, we are confronted with questions. when asked, “who are they?” about someone else, we can take comfort in the fact that it’s impossible for us to ever really know. but ourselves? aren’t we suppose to know? and since we’re supposed to know, if we realize we don’t, how can we love? or if we do, and we don’t like what we see? this is something that i struggle with. love for my body and love for my mind. these things do not come as naturally as i would wish. the only way i can reckon with this fact is that i am trying.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
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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,
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.
the sprout club
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.