As a recent college graduate, I’m all too familiar with how precious reading for fun is. Assigned texts and annotations do not leave much time for leisurely reading. While the Sealey Challenge is fast-paced (the challenge being to read one book of poetry a day in August), it has been an absolute joy to participate in. No matter how the day unfolds, I know a poetry collection is waiting for me.
On the second day of the Challenge, I downloaded a library ebook of Deluge by Leila Chatti. My first introduction to Chatti was the outstanding anthology Halal If You Hear Me from Breakbeat Poets. The poem, “Confession,” particularly struck me: “(oh Mary, like a God, I too take pleasure / in knowing you were not all holy.” There was a strange comfort to Chatti’s poetry— I, too, did not have to be “all holy.” I certainly hadn’t felt holy recently. In April 2019, I was diagnosed with a cancer I had never even heard of before. A month later, I could barely recognize my bald, sickly body in a mirror.
As I flipped open the virtual cover of Deluge, I had no idea that Chatti had a similar brush with illness. “I wear a gown that ties in the back; this is how / I am sure I am sick,” begins the poem, “MRI.” There are few times I felt such awe for a poem. It was as if Chatti had observed my own life and scribbled it across a page. After my diagnosis, I struggled with reading illness, and in particular cancer, poetry because it felt hollow, cliche, or both. Chatti captures the peculiarities of doctor visits, scans, and the names of diagnoses.She gives the strangeness of sickness space the page. Though I don’t believe that poetry has to be relatable to be good, there is joy (and a bit of jealousy) in knowing another poet so expertly captured something you’ve experienced.
I suspect even if I wasn’t doing the Sealey Challenge, I would have devoured Deluge in a day. There is so much to love about this collection, as both someone who experienced severe illness and as a poet. The poem, “Tumor,” which spirals in on itself. The push and pull of Mary’s narrative in religious texts versus the idea of her. The delicate, and deserved, anger towards patriarchy and its creation of menstrual taboos. The line I keep coming back to, “In November, eight months after the surgery, I look out at everything dying and declare it / radiant.”
As the Sealey Challenge comes to a close, I’m glad I did it. I read about eighteen poetry collections and chapbooks. I tried to read new collections, but I snuck in some older favorites too. Though I would recommend them all, I particularly enjoyed Finna by Nate Marshall, Eye Level by Jenny Xie, and In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae.
Pitch an essay about words or a book review at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grace Chin for Design Sponge
some days i feel dry and empty, all hollow and frustrated, because i do not lack the desire to make, but the words aren't there.
never fear. sometimes these are the days to learn, instead of explore. i like to read and learn and be pushed in directions. it becomes an exploration, and i write, whether i am simply taking notes or stumbling into a guided tour of new territory.
following are some of these quotes i have found and loved. perhaps just a sentence will speak to you.
Vincent van Gogh, from a letter to Theo van Gogh written c. March 1882
❝When I write, I bring all of my truths, even the Judas-truths that make me feel like the betrayer whose dirty hands are resting on the table for everyone to see, including God. For me, writing is less a declaration of those truths than it is my interrogation of them. Uncovering the darkness in me that led to some of the poems about my brother also lights up the hard, bright way in which I love him and the small wars I wage to win him back. The monsters and hoofermen I choose to look in the eyes and teeth when considering my rez and this country’s history are also the truths that have built in me a strength and compassion that help me to survive this world. Truth is that little animal we chase and chase until we suddenly glance over our shoulder and realize it has been chasing us all along.
❝Writing is a dangerous profession. There is no telling what hole you may rip in society’s carefully woven master narrative.
❝Poem that opened you –
❝Poetry does not provide a narrative for you to subscribe to. Poetry erodes your confidence in narratives as a means of experiencing and understanding the world. I do not think there is anything on this planet that can do that with anywhere near the same ferocity and grace. I cannot speak for other planets.
I hope you are doing well today. Today, my goal is to try to help transform the idea of Death as scary and unfamiliar into one that is a natural part of life that we can grow more comfortable with.
Characteristics in Tarot
Major Arcana: XIII
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
Ruling Planet: Pluto
What does the Death card mean?
In sum, Death is as it sounds: a literal leaving of one plane of life into another. In another sense, Death is a metaphor for rebirth. It is making a realization about one's self, situation, or environment that encourages us to move on from the negative aspects and create a new scenario for ourselves. Much like the phoenix arising from its own ashes, we are all human, re-emerging stronger through each difficult situation in our lives that we have had to face.
Often times this card scares people because of the deep emotional energy that is grounded in it. People see Death and read this literally. They think of the loss of a loved one, a family member, a coworker. Likely this is because we as humans are naturally scared of Death, for it is a phase of life that we know nothing about. We dread the unknown. We stay in jobs we don't like for too long for fear that another job could be worse. We stay in relationships that may not fully benefit us because we are scared of the potential of another partner. We hold onto toxic behaviors to cope with our struggles because we are scared of what it would look like if we didn't act in a certain way.
However, a slight change in perspective will tell us that Death is not simply a trek from the known into the unknown. It will instead present to us the idea that we are moving away from the negative and into the positive. When the Death card appears, it is not telling us that there is a situation on the horizon that we will be unable to handle. In fact, many times it can mean quite the opposite: the universe is gifting us with the ability to grow and move forward because it knows we are capable of doing so. This cards presents to us the exciting possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead, the potential for us to become more in tune with our true selves and make decisions that will inevitably lead us to become happier individuals.
Something that we must remind ourselves is that we are not our situations. We are not permanent, nor is anything we do. At the end of the day, the decisions we make are ultimately going to affect how we feel and identify as people, and if these actions and behaviors reflect our true selves. It is up to us to decide how we want to live in this impermanence.
When you see Death in your life, try to think of something you are holding onto that may be causing you pain. Acknowledge it, recognize that it exists and affects you. Hold it for a moment, say goodbye, and then let it go. Then, when you are ready, look forward. Forward is where your potential, your love, your true self will ultimately lie.
Death will be waiting for you.
tarot is an introspective practice involving a deck of cards pulled in response to a question, prompting the reader to consider the question in the context that the card(s) provide. look out for tarot practices, sometimes featuring corresponding poetry or writing prompts, littering the blog in the future, as it's essential to some of our creative and self care routines x
first up, a month ahead spread... happy august!
how might you approach the coming month? month ahead spreads and forcasts can assist you in moving forward with intention.
🕯 one: what overall energy might the next month hold?
🕯 two: leave this behind in the last month; it may no longer serve you
🕯 three: take this with you into the next month
🕯 four: pursue this
🕯 five: practice this self care
consider pulling oracle cards alongside tarot as you feel comfortable with.
onward, with grace 💛
🕯overall energy: son of wands
passion, energy, confidence, pursuit
🕯 leave behind: the magician
indirection, roundabout approach, a need for control
🕯 take with: the lovers, reversed
respect, love, joy, all sans requirement is permanence to accept
⛲️ pursue: six of swords, reversed
recovery, moving on from the past, presence
⛲️ self care: the fool, reversed, i am the weaver of my reality
examine your current routine and find what energizes you to begin.
decks used: the wild unknown + the moon deck
Have questions about the submission and editing process? Duotrope reached out to M. Wilder for some insight. Feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have.
Welcome to the quarantine. With all the fear and worry and frustration in your heart, take a moment to roll your shoulders back and down, soften your jaw, and acknowledge that what you are about to take on is good, kind, selfless, and necessary. You are doing a good thing.
While you’re here, we can all acknowledge that this is going to be a trying time for everyone, especially those with mental illnesses and those attempting to avoid relapse. You’re seen and cared for. If this does not include you, this is your reminder to continually maintain contact with your loved ones, not only to maintain your own sanity and peace, but also as an act of care and courage for others who may be struggling more deeply. We’re all in this together, and simply saying hello is an important and necessary act.
Included in this list are reminders and resources to hopefully help enable you to not only chase peace and stability, but also joy, productivity, purpose, and health. This is a bold statement to make, but I simply wanted to compile the wealth of resources communities and individuals have been creating. All illness and shittiness aside, I have been thankful for people’s willingness to come forward and create alternatives, rather than give in to depression and anxiety. Look at us go! Technology is rad.
Think: self care, conscious connection, nourish, create/express, spiritual practice, serve and support.
Reminder: there is little reason for you to do anything drastic such as bake incredible foods, learn new skills, perfect dusty skills, or create a novel. It’s okay if all you do is cope.
how do you feel?
Write it down. Get it out. Talk it through.
Setting a routine will. be. vital. for maintaining a sense of normality, purpose, and motivation. Routine allows for control. Schedule opportunities to move, go outside, get creative, and practice self care. Your routine does not have to revolve around productivity or work. Instead, take a moment to visualize the life you want to be leading, who you ideally want to be, how you wish to feel. Make a list of accessible activities, objects, and places that may contribute. Write it down. Here’s a lovely example. Here's another, Structuring Your Life with Depression. Also be mindful of your sleeping routine. Get out of bed. Stretch. A solid routine that includes small acts of scheduled self care can truly change your mental health. Figure it out. Implement. Breathe a lil easier. Support your chemical makeup. Be gentle with yourself.
what can you continue?
Take a moment to review your normal routine and decide what you may take with you on this journey. This can be as simple as the time you wake up or the coffee you get. Remember, so far take out and drive thru are still occurring, and businesses need your support. Hold onto your regular coffee schedule if you can.
eat and hydrate regularly
Eat full meals. Drink water. Drink tea and coffee as usual. This will impact your mood and physical well being. If you need to map these into a routine, do the thing.
If you are quarantining with housemates, remain responsible and aware of the energy you bring into a space. Do it for yourself. Do it for the health of your environment.
Think back to pre-quarantine and remember all the things you’d wished you had time for. You do not have to do any of these things… but now you can.
cleaning and nesting
Take an afternoon to deep clean your spaces, especially your bathroom and kitchen. Create an environment that promotes peace, starting with your cleaning supplies. Pop on a podcast and go. Open a window. Wipe up the floorboards. Keep up with the chores afterwards.
Especially if you don’t feel up for a physical space cleaning, take moments to delete photos, screenshots, and apps, unfollow folks, unsubscribe to email lists, etc.
Get the air circulating. This changes so much.
free webinars and workshops
Some free webinars and workshops I am currently aware of include...
Kristen Kalp leads breathwork sessions on Instagram at 7:30am PT on weekdays.
Scott the Painter’s Say Yes, a Liturgy of Not Giving Up on Yourself
Somatic Healing Space Practice Weekly Sessions
Goteamjames is posting daily newsletters featuring meditations called What Do I Do With My Hands? and Austin Kleon's weekly newsletter continues to be wonderful.
list favorite things
They still exist. Remember all you’re looking forward to.
Rachel McKibbons is posting writing prompts daily, as is The New York Times for high school students. Download Alexandra Elle's Restore PDF, a journaling template.
Barrelhouse is presenting a free workshop course and read-in bookgroup. Enroll here.
Mo Willems is hosting Lunch Doodles daily, offering prompts and stories to adults and children alike.
Art Assignment (Sarah and John Green) will be streaming to talk and make art. Catch up with Sarah’s channel while you’re at it.
Carson Ellis is posting Quarantine Art Club Assignments daily. Kelly Baird has posted 31 prompts.
Contribute to Danny Allegretti and Elizabeth Vande Griend's collaborative zine, "Made Alone Together."
moving generates all the feel good chemicals in your brain. gets you into your body, grounded. stimulates blood flow. supports your immune system. let’s go.
dance dance dance
Put on that playlist and go. Alternatively: go for a walk or hike. play hide and seek. Chase a dog. Dance with a cat. Reach up and gentle twist your spine, lengthening on your inhale and deepening on your exhale. Here’s a free streamed meditation/ dance workshop, no experience necessary.
Oh Wonder is streaming a live song every night for 37 nights. Global Citizen is partnering with numerous artists to provide nightly concerts on Instagram, called Together, At Home. So far, Chris Martin, John Legend, and Charlie Puth have streamed.
Steve Croce leads Party with the People DJed dance parties on Instagram, 4:20pm PT weekdays.
Local yoga studios are streaming classes; do a google search and support your locals. Favorite Youtube channels include Yoga with Adriene, Boho Beautiful, Tara Stiles, KinoYoga.
This is what social media is good for: searching "home workout." You'll be overwhelmed. Whitney Simmoms’ instagram and youtube is a trove of workouts, including for at home. Natacha Oceane is posting no equipment / no noise equipment, ideal for those living in apartments or not wanting to jump around etc.
Chris Mangano is offering his home training plan for free for the rest of March. So is Katie Corio.
Crossfit Albuquerque is live streaming a workout each day.
apps and their trials
Elementa (yoga, meditation, dance, self care), Shreddy (home and gym workouts and recipe guides), and Playbook (gym and home workouts), all fantastic workout apps.
crack a spine
Stretch and then reach for a book. Don’t have one? Your local library most likely has an e-collection featuring ebooks, eaudiobooks, enewspapers, and emagazines. Scribd is offering their entire library for free. Need title recommendations? After checking out your library’s webpage, try Adrienne Maree Brown’s list, or Bookriot. Feel free to contact me or another public librarian you know :)
ask friends for movie and album recommendations
…. and actually experience them.
Perfect time to delve into a webcomic. Try a sweet high school gay romance or historical fiction about the life and love of a carpet merchant in 17th century Istanbul.
For an easy dip/introduction follow Kaveh Akbar on Twitter.
Try an online journal or chapbook series such as Ghost City Press'! Check Neutral Spaces for more.
When you’re sick of reading, dip into this thread or this incredible youtube channel, for the balm of human faces and voices reading to you. Costura Creative is holding three free online readings featuring Franny Choi, Sam Sax, Analicia Sotelo, and more.
facetime and phone calls
let’s do it.
join a massive groupchat… think your favorite band, librarians and museum workers, artistry, life’s library book club.
online support groups
Groups like AA have online versions. Please reach out to them.
Amazon is reprioritizing book orders. If you can afford it, please consider ordering books from your local indie bookstore, some of which do offer used options. If you’d like to reach out a little further, please consider Innisfree Poetry Bookstore, Books are Magic, Wiseblood, and Powell’s. For more, follow these links: How to support your local bookstore and find bookshops to support.
order takeout from local businesses, or buy giftcards
eat up, support others.
subscribe to a patreon, support gig professionals.
Support an artist and get art in return. Here’s an updated list of resources for gig workers.
support the unsupported
Consider giving to an emergency fund, such as this one for undocumented youth and families.
buy groceries, pick up meds
Please check up on older folks and those with chronic illnesses. How can you help them? Can you buy groceries? Pick up meds? Be of service.
request a mail ballot
You need to vote. Bernie's plan provides free healthcare, especially important in such a crisis. ACLU has a guide on voting by mail here.
Here's 450 Ivy league courses to take online for free.
Lisa Olivera's ten slide post of exercises to keep you grounded and peaceful while experiencing anxiety, depression, and other normal feelings.
Wondering what the virus feels like? Here’s one report. Wondering what to do next? We got a flow chart. Call your health professionals.
Remember, as nature seems to spring forth with new life, humans are not the disease. This is anti-Indigenous. Read more about ecofascism here and here.
looking for more?
Here's a spreadsheet.
Remember, all your feelings are valid. Whether you're shaking anxious or bored silly or happy to have some downtime, it's normal. You'll feel it all. While you may be physically alone, people are here for you, and need you just as you need them. Reach out. It's temporary.
This list will be kept updated.
i feel abrasive.
a small sunny wreckage.
pooh if pooh wore leather and fenty eyeliner too heavy and desperately needed a haircut.
crowded by softness, and i bet my hands are too rough to hold it.
why is it always dark out? missing the sunlight.
wired but restrained and unmoored. like hot water, soft and light, but a bit of a scald. i wish i'd both hush and open.
my hair is too long. makes my face soften out.
i've finished a lot of poems lately, and i've needed a lot of poems lately.
i have a craving for tender poems, some words that could teach me to both soften and straighten my shoulders back to face whatever darkness seems to hover. here's what's keeping me tender lately.
from Waves by Virginia Woolf
you thought we'd stop with love lists? oh no, we're still channeling lola! we have yet another list of treats to jumpstart your new year (decade?!) right here, from albums, drinks, and many thoughts.... read on, and send us your list x
→ placeholder by hand habits
gray: one of my favorite musical discoveries of 2019 is hand habits and their album that came out earlier this year has been one of my faves all year. scratches my folksy-indie-rock itch like no other.
→ Bad Ideas by Tessa Violet
nadine: no, i cannot shut up about tessa violet (see: love lists from may, october and november, and i promise i tried to switch it up). i suggest taking a half-hour to yourself and listening to the whole thing. i just think that writing a quality pop album is such a fine art: it needs good, solid singles, and more catchy songs to glue it all together, and lyrics that mean something. tessa violet managed it brilliantly in bad ideas.
→ Blood Moon Underworld by Misogi
m: ah yes, we’re back to the grungey lofi depths of my spotify. this album is so impressive… atmospheric, with cohesive song just different enough to cater to a range of different music tastes (even hardcore.) close ties include ARIZONA BABY by Kevin Abstract and E by ecco2k.
→ Rowena Tsai
nadine: my favourite youtube channel this year.
m: same tho.
→ Refinery29’s State of Grace series
m: Refinery29 took the unexpected, yet incredibly important, route this year, with journalist and queer christian, Grace Baldridge, exploring issues within the American church, primarily gender and sexuality issues: “State Of Grace is a series that explores the intersection of human rights, sexuality, and faith. Host Grace Baldridge dives into controversial societal realities that Americans face everyday and how to navigate the modern world while remaining faithful.” This series has been a source of both hope and education for me as I have spent 2019 de/reconstructing beliefs.
→ Rhythm + Flow
m: a rap competition judged by Chance the Rapper, Cardi B, and TI. feels like a display of artistry, and i’m happy to have discovered new artists. genuinely had me wiping my eyes during the finale.
m: a docuseries about crowd sourcing mysterious chronic illnesses.
→ The OA, season two
m: total mind bender. perfectly creepy. beautiful.
→ Skate Kitchen
M: b e a u t i f u l. angsty.
→ On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
m: if you’re tired of hearing about this book, it is because you need to read it. Destined to be a classic you actually love.
→ Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
m: my favorite trope, enemies forced into close proximity... enemies to lovers... addicting. funny. slow burn steamy. thoughtful. perfect.
→ Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon
m: i wish i had picked this up sooner. ada’s poetry is simply breathtaking, yet so ordinary and real. i’ve never read poetry like hers, or about topics like hers. a must read.
→ Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives by Adam J. Kurtz
m: short, snappy, and so necessary, whether or not you consider yourself a creative.
→ Heartstopper comics series by Alice Oseman
m: simply lovely. read to decompress, read to believe in love.
→ gray: unflavored la criox was truly my drink of the year
→ m: coffee with a pump of vanilla and a dash of creamer. took me this long to realize simplicity
→ nadine: oat milk in tea! why did i never try this before?
→ nadine: for the lessons 2019 taught me, see this post; otherwise, i learned some cool facts this year…
(1) when i visited a friend last june, i saw a cute magnet on her fridge and she told me the story of a hunter-trapper who completely changed his career path in the 80s and opened a refuge for wild animals.
(2) the same friend taught me what “desire paths” are… it’s not what you think.
(3) 2019 was the year i learned about the danger (for the environment) of not only buying polyester (i haven’t bought polyester outside a thrift shop in too many years to count) but also owning — and especially washing — polyester. it’s worse for “fluffy” polyester fabrics. see this study (nature, 2019), this other study (2017) or this news article, among others. kudos to m for opening my eyes to this! basically, when washed, all fabrics (the fluffier, the worse) produce microparticles. the natural ones disintegrate, but the man-made ones don’t, and they threaten many crucial parts of our ecosystems.
(4) i went to the canadian museum of nature last fall, and i learned such mind-boggling things! in the section about the arctic, i found myself looking at a few panels open-mouthed for an embarrassingly long amount of time… did you know the arctic used to have bear-sized beavers, 3-metre-long sloths and giant camels? some people even think that the characteristics that help modern camels survive in the desert (nutrient reserves, large feet) also helped them survive in the snow! additionally, in another section of the museum, i learned that, though the same mineral can come in different colours, it will always make the same colour trait when you scratch ceramic with it. finally: a friendly reminder that we are all standing on a gigantic ball, the middle of which is made of melted iron (i don’t know about you, but i tend to forget). for all this, fun interactive exhibits (e.g. create your own volcano!) and lots of information on important topics like environment protection and diversity in science, i recommend that museum if you’re ever near ottawa, canada.
(5) skating on thin ice is an actual sport, at the meeting of art and science, and it makes the coolest sounds. see this national geographic video.
→ m: where do i begin!
o most corporations pay $0 in taxes.
o don’t donate to charity at the grocery store register or amazon check out. corporations profit from donations-- using your money. give your money directly.
o tarot! is mindblowing! so thankful to have begun this practice.
o submit. just do it. Submitting your work takes a certain amount of audacity i do not typically possess, but it doesn’t matter! let the work breathe. have courage. say thank you. keep making.
o it’s okay to feel anger. it’s part of healing. feel it all.
o when you feel stagnant, change it up. try a new medium. change your scenery.
o when you feel stagnant, check in with your routines— and your senses. do you even have a routine? do you plan to connect with your senses? you should.
o everywhere is a vacation destination, even if you live there. nadine’s post has really helped me through discontent with home, post oregon road trip.
o capitalism is not great, and our intersectional feminism needs to address that.
o people’s opinions of me are not the same as my own-- and usually better. just as i assume the best of others, people usually return the favor.
o reconnect with that friend you lost touch with. it’s worth it.
o mossery planners > any other. #nonspon but please sponser us :)
o now for my 2020 experiment to learn whether or not a desk is worth it :)
here's to a good year. enjoy.
every day is a new day, a new opportunity to begin again. though the new year's is a construct, it's a deeply helpful construct, one to celebrate and lean into. we have created this list to deepen your moments of reset, whether this weekend in anticipation of a new year (and decade!) or in six months, when life feels stagnant. you got this.
o muchelleb’s youtube channel
m: the ultimate get-your-life-together channel, including 20 small changes for a happier 2020, and resetting for a new year.
o Rowena Tsai’s youtube channel
m: rowena’s videos routinely come up in our love lists, and for good, good reasons. watch for honest, but motivating, videos on productivity, habit-making, routines, and health.
o a reflection practice
m: resolutions can be a bit clunky for me. in this post, i discussed why this is, and included a (long) list of prompts to reflect on 2019, in order to answer the following questions about the next year: what do i want to take with me, what do i want to leave behind, and what do i want to generate? the questions include concepts like, what did i embrace this year? what did i let go of? when did i practice bravery? click through for the full list of prompts.
o the year compass
nadine: a printable booklet with questions and exercises that are fun and easy to answer.
o we’re not really strangers’ questions to ask yourself
m: because you’re worth knowing.
o two new year tarot spreads
m: tarot asks you to articulate what you already know or feel.
o looking ahead: setting intentions in notebooks
m: the second half of my reflections post linked above includes a list of prompts to consider goal and intention setting for the next year. these are actionable, yet freeing questions, such as what topics do i want to explore, what do i hope to achieve professionally/academically, and more. here's the important part: completing the sentence: “here, where do you want to be physically, mentally, spiritually, this time in december 2020?” brainstorm, then map it again in a notebook
o 8 steps to guide your 2020 goals
nadine: scroll down to part two of this much-too-long post, looking forward to 2020: 4 cardinal points. don’t forget to check out the videos linked!
o emotional planning 2020 worksheet
m: creative independent's worksheet to ponder your 2020 mental state. one of my favorites.
o 10 ways to be more conscious in a new decade
m: ”One decade is about to take its final bow + another is on the horizon. Something I'd always like to be able to say is that the decade past was full of personal growth...and the one to come offers so much more to discover + embrace. Time has taught me that choosing to be a lifelong learner is life-affirming. One year...one day at a time...we keep moving forward, and it can be helpful to have some direction.”
it's december and i'm exhausted. my thinking is fuzzy and foggy most of the time. i'm pretty sure i'm in a "grip" and it's........ 🙃 very unpleasant.
i do have moments where i can think clearly. i've used them to work, reflect on 2019, write this post, and ruin my christmas-morning hollandaise sauce. that's pretty much it. anyway, here's what i have come up with! it's quite a long post, which is why i've split it in two. part one is more about looking back and part two is more about looking forward!
before i start: this whole post is a companion post to the collective resource list we (the sprout club team) are currently working on. stay tuned for that! it's bound to be a lot more helpful than what i'm writing in this post.
looking back on 2019: 3 lessons
my most-listened-to song of 2019 is border song. i listened to it all the time last summer. i could not get it out of my head. it was pretty much all i could think about. and the fact that i had no idea why i was so obsessed with it only made me more obsessed with it. obviously.
but now that i'm looking back, my reason for being so obsessed with that song seems clearer. here's what i think: it's partly the way i was introduced to it, partly how deeply the lyrics of the second verse resonated with me.
i never paid much attention to border song before i watched rocketman (which i talked about in the june love list and later in a post) last june. border song holds a special place in the narrative of rocketman because it's the first thing elton john and bernie taupin connect on. again, in the movie — i have no idea how it happened in real life — bernie is embrassed when he realizes that elton has seen the lyrics of border song; he never meant for anyone to see them; but elton assures him he loves them. at the risk of sounding thoroughly sappy... that's what friendship is to me. and friendship, in 2019, has been one of the most important things in my life.
lesson 1: friendship is a careful and generous exchange of love
friendship is seeing beauty in the same things. friendship is wanting to see the world through each other's eyes and loving what you see. friendship is a careful and generous exchange of love. friendship is sharing. friendship is reciprocal. friendship is a dance.
in 2019, i've learned to deepen the intimacy of my friendships. for this, i have my two closest friends to thank. they have been patient, generous, honest, open, understanding and so much more. they have made me feel safe to be real and vulnerable with them, and that's such a wonderful, precious gift.
lesson 2: if you need to quit, then quit
now, for the second verse of border song:
[...] i have been deceived
i love those lyrics (by bernie taupin) so much. they are brilliant because they are so simple, yet so effective. to me, they are about turning your back on something that honestly, simply doesn't work for your authentic self. and there's nothing wrong with that.
i used to think that quitting would hinder my self-trust because it would amount to me breaking a promise i made to myself (e.g. "i promise to myself i will work on this until it is objectively finished."). but i realized that i made a more important promise to myself, something i have to honour and prioritize above all else: i promise i will be true to myself and always have my best interests at heart. therefore, if quitting means being true to myself, it won't hinder my self-trust; on the contrary, it will strengthen it.
lesson 3: treating myself like a precious object will make me strong
on the topic of self-trust, here's my best practice: self-nurturing. in her book the artist's way, julia cameron recommends using this affirmation: "treating myself like a precious object will make me strong." the idea is that the more you care for and nurture yourself (like a child), the more "adult" you can behave.
an integral part of self-nurturing is the morning pages practice. morning pages have been inordinately helpful to me, and because of this and so much more, i cannot recommend the artist's way (by julia cameron) enough. it doesn't matter if you are an artist or not, if you would like to be an artist or not: deepening your connection to yourself is good for everyone.
looking forward to 2020: 4 cardinal points
i think it's worth reiterating that i haven't been able to think clearly lately, and, because of this, it's been so difficult for me to find direction for 2020. the feeling of aimlessness only worsened my mental fogginess. if you recall, my inner compass was already broken a long time ago; i dedicated november to some "experiments in compass restoration," which yielded precious few results. but i've been able to find my 4 top values and, because there are 4 of them and i already started using the compass metaphor, i'm calling them my 4 cardinal points.
so, i was lost and aimless. but then, rowena tsai came in and saved the day. i watched her video where she talks about her favourite habits out of those she implemented or tried implementing in 2019 and her video where she clarifies her purpose for 2020. these videos got me thinking. the last one i mentioned, especially, inspired the following process:
(1) i started by asking myself: what are the things i did "right" in 2019? what are my 2019 "wins"? i made a list of these, as complete as possible. i included achievements as small as "putting oat milk in my tea" and as big as "landing the jobs i applied for"; achievements as specific as "doing the dishes every day for nearly 3 months" and as general as "slowing down"; every single achievement i could think of.
(2) when i finished, i looked back on my list. i asked myself: of all my achievements, which do i feel the most proud of? which bring me the most satisfaction? which do i value the most?
(3) i put the chosen achievements in categories with overarching themes based on why i felt proud of what i had achieved. i realized that these themes could be further boiled down to values.
(4) once i had my list of most cherished values, i wrote my personal definition of each. this step is important because a value like "wisdom" is abstract and can mean vastly different things to different people.
(5) for each value, i asked myself: what do i need in my life to apply this core value successfully? this list was mostly general and abstract; i came up with things like mental health, loving relationships, time to think, closeness to nature, etc.
(6) i looked at my list of needs and asked myself: concretely, how do these needs manifest in my daily life? i translated them to habits and activities; i assigned each a finite daily amount of time. someone else with different needs or a different lifestyle may choose to focus on energy or money instead of time. i tried to be as realistic as possible considering health demands, financial obligations, etc.
(7) i looked at my ideal daily life and i compared it with the present. i tried to figure out: why is that not my life now? what are the hurdles in my way? more specifically, i tried to identify decisions and habits that encourage or discourage the attainment of my ideal. those that encourage me to live by my values are deemed "good"; those that discourage this are deemed "bad."
(8) finally, it was time to make a concrete plan for 2020! how can i promote making "good" decisions? how can i bring in and maintain "good" habits? how can i cut back on "bad" habits? muchelleb's youtube channel is full of advice to help answer these questions. this video is especially helpful and actionable; if you need more examples as a complement, i recommend watching this video as well.
i'll share the result of this reflection with you. this won't necessarily be helpful, but i want to share. the nerd in me was very pleased to see that the 4 core values i chose to call "cardinal points" actually corresponded to the 4 real cardinal points and their associated symbolism! so, for symbolism's sake, i am associating my values to the real cardinal points. just please let me have my fun, thank you.
east (air): wisdom
i think that the number one thing i seek in life (something i don't currently have, but wish to have in a few decades) is wisdom, or understanding myself, others, life and the world as fully, as kindly, and as honestly as possible. using my reflection time to seek this understanding comes naturally to me, but i need reflection time. this means i shouldn't be too busy, because if i am constantly rushing through life, i am less likely to stop to reflect.
i made a list of helpful habits that encourage me to seek wisdom. taking an hour to myself as soon as i awake in the morning (for my morning pages), and another hour right before sleep at night, is the best way to help me feel balanced enough to pursue the far, long-term goal of wisdom.
south (fire): joy
a lot of the achievements i felt proud of in 2019 didn't really "look" like achievements... "catching joy and delight when they fly by"? "savouring time spent with my loved ones"? "allowing myself to see how good life can be"? and yet they're some of the most fulfilling things i did all year. i brought them together under the umbrella value of joy, or savouring whatever beauty and loveliness the world has to offer.
i know that it is hard for me to feel joyful when i don't have a good mental health, or when i don't spend quality time with loved ones, or when i don't have time to connect with nature. what habits or decisions encourage this? helpful habits include keeping in touch with loved ones, cooking/eating healthy, taking walks (especially in nature), etc. to enable this, it is important to make decisions that promote my wellbeing (that make space for down time, for example).
west (water): creativity
i've always known that i valued creativity, both artistic and scientific. this value, or cardinal point, refers to artistic creativity, or expressing myself through writing, songwriting and playlist-curating. these are my favourite channels for self-expression.
for me, this is a very simple value, because as long as i make time for it, i'm good. i have quantified this time as at least 2 hours a day, and a helpful habit that enables this is getting up early (because i am most prolific in the mornings).
north (earth): excellence
this value is the missing link. i identified it as excellence, or completing meaningful, purposeful, positive projects that enlist my skills and work ethic, and that achieve results i feel proud of.
excellence is less about habits (i don't think i could drop my work ethic if i tried) and more about good decisions. am i saying yes to projects that i find meaningful, purposeful and positive? am i saying yes to projects that enlist my skills and work ethic? am i saying yes to projects that produce results i feel proud of?
and that's it!
i think this post is long enough. i now leave you to your own reflections. may your 2020 teach you the lessons you are ready to learn and bring you the joy and love you are ready to accept. and may it teach you that you deserve more.
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.