it's not even mid may, and it's cold today. i haven't touched sunlight in a couple days. i'm wearing a thermal and another layer of long sleeves, a flannel. some days, i need to wear soft things, because my skin just generally hurts.
i don't fully understand the connection between feelings and our physical bodies- and neither do scientists... they're just figuring it out too- but whether it's because i haven't had natural vitamin d in days or because i'm kinda generally Sad, i feel tender, but not in a sweet way. tender like i could be broken open at any moment.
is this at all surprising tho? i feel myself splitting between utter devastation and apathy. non-American friends text me with exclamation points when there is another shooting and, seriously, sometimes i'm like "ye what about it." i cringe to say it. but it's true. because otherwise i'm going to shrivel into my sheets and never get out of bed.
what's the middle ground between the way my body tenses every time someone enters the movie theater i'm sitting in, or the way my toes curl when an unfamiliar car door slams outside, and shrugging about another school shooting? i feel like i'm either tearing up and trying to keep breathing, swearing incessantly in my head and fantasizing violence, or ignoring it all. or i'm caught between worry about sounding like an asshole to educate my coworkers, or silently hoarding compostable materials in my locker because it doesn't matter if something is biodegradable if you throw it in a landfill- nothing composts in a landfill.
what’s the difference between devastation and ignorance? it’s like either i’m going to be broken hearted, always, or blissfully unaware, which sounds outright irresponsible, at this point.
i've said it before, and i'll say it again: i hate who Some people make me into. i hate who the president forces me to be. i hate who politics is making me become, etc etc. i could go on and on. i'm sitting here in the colorful children's section of my library, and felt vegetables stick to the deep green wall, and emily and i laid down blank newsprint on the table for kids to color on. within minutes it is covered in bright blue clouds drawn by five year olds. yet i still feel this deep, sinking feeling in my chest, because of who i don't see here, and whom i will never see. because who knows how long this will last?
yeah yeah yeah. i know. "it's a process." that's what everyone tells me every time i start voicing my spirals.
i think it's more like balance.
maybe it’s gratitude. driven gratitude.
being so in love with what we have that we can't help but push it outwards.
or just recognition. namaste: the light/divine/human in me recognizes and honors the light/divine/human in you. a mix of love and respect and mama bear anger.
a demand to both take up space and be so gentle in how we tread.
i'd like to be deliberate and afraid of nothing, as audre lorde said, but part of the reason i feel driven about things is out of fear. jus gotta decide what to be afraid of, i guess.
a friend sent me this thread, and i think it's worth reading.
there are some things essential for us to notice, and yes, the first of these is that harm is escalating.
but then, we have some things to acknowledge, to inspire and push us, and i think this is key to not.... losing my damn mind and heart. and such things include:
this isn't a call to contentedness with the way things are. it's a reminder that no matter what/who we are fighting for, we are not alone. and that are so many facets to big problems. that's why they're so big. but also that we might focus on only some facets. there are many of us, and that's the beauty of it:
and yeah. we'll get angry. but anger is dangerous... as long as we are hopeful, we become unstoppable. and more connected.
i work in a "neutral spaces" job, a public library. this means, we are to remain neutral. one of my biggest learning curves is to learn that this does not equate to living as a silent welcome mat... how to remain neutral, but to stand up for people and earth. this neutrality issue is a much bigger concept which i spend too much time reading and writing and venting about, and i can only touch it here. but really. neutrality doesn't exist, and i'm not sure it needs to. i think, really, we just need to remember that there are many ways to be angry, and some of them are so so soft and tender and welcoming and artistic and kind.
so, daily, i return to the sticker on the front of my work notebook. i keep it here, with me. it's that balm i need. perhaps you do too.
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.
ps, if you need a pick me up, may i present to you: heaven.
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.