For the better part of 2020, even before the pandemic hit and well after, I was obsessed with the myth of Icarus. You know the one: the story of the arrogant young man who, despite warnings, put on wings made of wax, flew so close to the Sun that the wax melted, fell in the sea, and died.
“What if Icarus survived his fall?” I asked myself – and others around me. “What if a large wave threw him on a sandy shore? And then, coughing up water, what if he healed and learned to become soft?” I had no idea why I couldn’t let go of this thought. I just knew I needed to keep exploring it.
Now, looking back on my year, I see something that surprises me: that is exactly how 2020 went for me. I put on my best pair of wings and flew straight towards the Sun, and just as I thought I was going to touch it, just as I started feeling the heat radiating on my skin, my wings gave out, and I fell straight into the sea.
I used to think the myth of Icarus existed to point out the dangers of arrogance. “Hey kids, beware of hubris.” This year, I learned that arrogance has many different faces. When I flew towards the Sun, back in February, I didn’t think I was flying to my doom. I was convinced I was flying towards the one thing I’d always wanted the most, and it took nosediving in the ocean to show me that maybe I didn’t want that thing at all.
The Sun, in my case, was moss-coloured and smelled like Earl Grey. It was plans of buying a house and sharing it with a friend and her cat. It was reading up on homesteads and looking at real estate listings near the coast. It was revelling in the feeling of being wanted so much that I forgot to realize I wasn’t being seen.
And the Fall – the Fall was a saturated blue and tasted like oranges. It was a pandemic. It was losing my job and moving back in with my parents. It was holding on as the world seemed to crumble, as too many of my relationships seemed to crumble.
But some people stayed. One dear friend swam beside me in the stormy sea, and another gave me her hand when I reached the shore. Gently, they reminded me that love still exists. As I walked the path of healing, the path of softening, the path of becoming myself, they kept me company.
So, I flew towards the Sun. I fell in the sea. I almost drowned. I was thrown on the shore. I healed. I softened. I let myself in. And now, I’m at the strange point in the story where the realization that I’ve yet again outgrown my life has broken me open. I ache and I’m so grateful and I ache some more.
2020 Highlights and Lessons
In February, I went to see Jojo Rabbit at the cinema, and it really struck me when one of the characters said (and I paraphrase) that to grow up is to look the tiger in the eyes and trust fearlessly. I asked myself how I could do that. How I could look the tiger in the eyes. How I could trust more wholeheartedly.
In April, Florence + the Machine released Light of Love, and I listened to it hundreds of times. It turned out to be my most listened-to song of 2020, according to Spotify. There’s a lot of relatable lyrics in that song – like “I tried to get it right so badly that I always got it wrong,” which is only the story of my entire life – but another part I liked is this one:
And now we are awake and it seems too much to take
Looking back on my year 2020, I realize that’s exactly what I did. I looked at everything that felt like too much to take, and I didn’t look away. I kept asking myself: “Can I look the tiger in the eyes?” I tried over and over to be able to answer “yes” honestly. It astonishes me how hard I tried this year, how I kept showing up and showing up, how I continued to care. What enabled me to do this is also beautifully expressed in the song:
Don’t go blindly into the dark
This year really saw me deepen my dedication to cultivate acts of love, tenderness of being, and fearless trust, vulnerability, and intimacy in relationships.
I tried every day to connect with and nurture my truest self and deepest longings. I ached over losses, over loneliness, and I took care of myself through it all. I boiled with rage, and I accepted that feeling. This year was terrifying and so challenging, and now I see that I did look the tiger in the eyes. I kept trying to soften.
I was listening to my top 100 songs from 2020 and it struck me how soft they were… I wrote the entire tracklist in my journal (yes, I am Extra), and I just felt a wave of gratitude for these lovely creations that saw me through 2020, and for myself for choosing to listen to them so much.
It astounds me how I managed to go through 2020 and still care. But then again, I realized that that’s who I am: I’m a person who cares relentlessly. It hurts me a lot of the time, but it also means that I’m a person who always shows up. I learned to show up for myself first. I learned to improve my ability to self-nurture to the point where this practice makes me feel strong and hopeful – not hopeful that life will be nice, but hopeful that I will be able to face it.
And Everything Else
Have I zoomed out too much? This post was so honest. At the same time, it’s my year seen from far away, the lens unfocussed just a little, just enough to make it all blend together, to make it cohesive and meaningful.
I would have liked to be able to zoom in and dig, too. But words fail me.
I discovered things about myself I don’t know how to label. I don’t even know how to explain them to anyone but me. Trying to put words to them, I would only be trying to describe “something incommunicable,” “something I only feel in my bones and which can only be experienced in those bones.” (to quote Franz Kafka because, well, why not)
But I’ll try, ok? Here it goes.
Up to my calves in saltwater, waves crashing on my shins, Aphrodite can you hear me? I found my way back to the Moon. I carry seashells in my coat pockets. I wake up early, and sometimes when the sky is clear I brave the cold and go look at the night sky. I’ve perfected my carrot cake, my cinnamon bun, my brownie, my almond croissant. I light candles and I put on opera just to feel something different, cumin and onions sizzling in the pan. When I go for walks in the forest, I feel like the fairy godmother of birds and squirrels and trees. I paint to keep my inner child happy.
But sometimes when I paint it’s not for my inner child. I put Bedroom Hymns on repeat and I smash red on the canvas and still I can’t capture it: the realization that now, every one of my cells is ablaze with a power I truly believed I would never get to touch.
Because it was 11:11am and I didn’t know what to wish for, I knew it was time: I had to unblock it once and for all. The primal unison of all the fibres of my being screaming that they ache to impact and be impacted, to conquer and be conquered, to claim and be claimed. Suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted, and it didn’t make anything easier.
I have so much to be grateful for and I do feel it, a tremendous gratitude, when I stop to consider it. A lot is imperfect but all of it is so precious. For all the ways I’ve been supported, for everything that enabled me to write this overly long post, I’m thankful.
Let’s make 2021 better.
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.
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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