I’m busy trying to get rich and famous before the world ends.
I’m frantically trying to figure out how to make a living while countries freeze, flood or burn and species die in the hundreds of thousands.
I’m wondering what the hell is the point of art if we’re all going to die.
I’m wondering what the hell is the point of anything other than art if we’re all going to die.
I wonder what the world will look like if I manage to survive until I’m a little old lady.
I wonder where I’ll be.
I wonder who I’ll be with.
I wonder if my friend’s children will be ok.
I wonder if they’ll hate us for all that we did. Or didn’t do.
I wonder if I’ll try telling stories to disinterested youths about fish and coral and how I remember a time when the ocean wasn’t barren.
I’m hoping to get a bit more sex before the world ends.
I want adventures and connection, equanimity and joy.
I’m pleading with loved ones not to give up on hope.
I’m clinging to love and battling with despair.
I imagine the universe will still contain incredible beauty, no matter what.
I’m looking forward to there being better options for vegan cheese.
It’ll be exciting to take my first ride in a self-driving car.
Empathetic me, I’m still learning to be boundaried to prevent the scurvy of compassion fatigue.
When do I tune in to the pain of the world? At what frequency? For how long? How do I keep my heart open? Radically open? How do I listen to the screams and needs without drowning out my own?
I don’t want to close myself to protect myself. Only fearful folk build walls, only foolish folk believe in their efficacy. I need to know the difference between a boundary and a wall and I need to practice the flexibility required to navigate complexity.
When do I tune in to the pain of the world so that I am not complacent? So that my ears, nose and mouth do not fill with sand? When do I hide away, hibernate, rest and practice self-care, self-maintenance?
I’m a secular Buddhist who is uncertain that she believes in a separate self, in fact I don’t. So if I don’t believe in a separate self, how do I practice self-care? Well, I suppose the answer is simple, to care for oneself is to care for others. But too much self-care becomes self-indulgence at the cost of others. Self-involvement. Selfishness. The balance in difficult and a constant practice.
Breathe. Eat. Sleep. Hold space. Make friends with fear daily and remember that compassion is a practice that must extend both inward and outward to be effective and sustainable.
Remain radically, bravely open-hearted.
hey queer ho
taking stock of
holding on to
ya mum calls out
“suck in that gut”
ya chum writes down
“I’m feeling a lot of concern about your interest in BDSM”
fellow feminist scowls
“you’re exploiting yourself by making porn”
your in law’s eyes roll
“get real get a real job”
your love spits hate
“you whinging piece of shit”
your art teacher titters
“I thought you would be scary”
your crazy ex neighbour stalks you
online and blogs about your
“promotion of porn
and disrespect of Jesus
to the Goyim”
writes a letter
“I love you without condition
“because of your behaviour
at that party where you fucked those
I’ve been thinking a lot about intergenerational trauma. Like how someone might be abusive because his father was abusive because HIS father had untreated PTSD from going to war as a teenager.
Then I think, as I often have, about how a privileged person might look at a population of indigenous people and wonder why they “haven’t got their act together” without taking into account what might happen to a people when they have, in recent history, the collective trauma of an entire stolen generation.
I think about how I am someone who has had a relatively stable, middle class upbringing, with access to books, family, love, a roof over their head… and how those things can give one a belief in their right to love, to education, to a voice that should be listened to. I think about someone who has been through a broken home, poverty and homelessness and how that might cause them to believe that they are unworthy of education, of security, of love.
I think about how our self-perceptions inform our decisions and how the outcomes of our decisions inform our self-perceptions. I think about poverty traps. I think about the ways in which we discuss the privileges of money, gender, race and so on… but what about the privilege of love? What about those who haven’t had love in their childhood? Isn’t love a privilege that not everyone is given?
Those who go unloved, or are badly abused or neglected when they are small, when their beautiful brains are still developing… what an incredible, long-lasting trauma that must be. What a tremendous setback at the very start of your life, like the race has begun and your legs are already tied together. How hard that must be, how brave and resilient such people are for pushing onward.
I’ve been thinking a lot about compassion and empathy. How undervalued it is. How desperately we need to cultivate more of it. How many more discussions we have to engage in about the way pain breeds more pain. How someone’s bad decisions might be the result of the only coping mechanisms they were capable of coming to when they were small and vulnerable.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how much healthier we’d all be if we funded better mental health care, if we listened to more stories of people who aren’t the same as us, if we simply sat with ourselves and practiced loving kindness directed both outwards and in.
When I see someone behaving in ways that seem stupid, baffling, or infuriating, I try to ask myself where that comes from. So often, the answer is pain. There is so much pain residing in the hearts of our species, I hope never to close to it but to remain open, to sit besides it with empathy and compassion.
At the start of the year, I made a Spotify playlist called “2018 will be magic”. It was a desire, a decision, a hope. 2017 was a year of trauma, of mental health collapse, of emotional abuse, of the worst sort of suicidal ideation, of conflict, of loss, of feeling the pain was forever and hopelessness was the only truth, of grief, of decisions, of bones and muscles cut, of hope, of hope, of growth, of change, of love.
2018 would be magic, not matter what. Something had shifted within my eternal landscape, with Buddhism teaching me about the ways in which self-awareness and self-compassion compliment one another, with the realisation that generosity, empathy and kindness are not character traits I had to be ashamed of (how strange and sad and sick our society is that somewhere along the line, I eternalised the idea that these traits of mine made me weak) but that if we give our light openly, it only grows. Light only grows.
Emotional abuse combined with chronic pain and depression showed me what the worst sort of self-loathing feels like which nearly culminated in a cessation of my own existence. Learning the skill of self-love was not as a thing of scented candles and Instagram capitalism, but a thing of valuing and caring for oneself with the same compassion and understanding that you would show a dear friend or precious child. Learning the skill of self-compassion taught me to be better at sitting with the pain of others, while also becoming better at understanding my own boundaries and limits of what sort of behaviours I will accept in others. Brene Brown was right, the most empathetic people are the best at practising boundaries. Love the person, don’t love the behaviour.
And I’m learning to practice empathy for my need to hate, also. Learning to value and protect my right to anger. I still think of my ex at times and have these spikes of pain and rage that anyone could ever call me the love of their life and a piece of shit within the same day. I still feel confusion and hurt, sometimes, when a sense memory reminds me of how I felt so utterly alone and abandoned in New York. I still can’t look at photos and footage of the place without feeling nauseous and shaky. One day my heart will heal and let him go entirely, but I am kind to myself about the effects of trauma and if for now, hate is what my heart needs, I hold that emotion gently, carefully, cautiously, examining it, letting myself know what that feeling is and the grief and pain that lies underneath. I honour the child contained in my heart who cannot understand – even long after I feel I’ve processed it on every other level – how eyes that looked at me with love could suddenly burn with disgust and loathing.
2018 would be magic, no matter what. But actually, it’s been the most amazing year of my life so far. There is new love opening up parts of myself that had previously been unexplored and unarticulated, as well as old love deeping, ripening, strengthening. New friendships blooming, others growing as I learn to better open myself to people with personal truth, vulnerability, sublime stupidity and joy. The have been supremely fulfilling artistic collaborations, absurd, colourful, sexy parties and adventures, a reconnection with my love of nature, learning how much I love my friend’s children, exciting new projects on the horizon and clown school.
Holy fuck, clown school. Where I discovered things about my physicality that brought me joy and insight and a love for my body and movement when a lifetime of chronic health conditions had left me feeling disconnected from my body at best and like it was my enemy at worst. Where I learned to be more brave and vulnerable and open to the stuff of myself than I have ever been. Where I learned how to breathe into the energy of a moment, of an audience, of a feeling. Where I learned to take the energy of fear and ride it like a wave. Where I had moments of feeling myself to be utterly fucked up, utterly insane, a complete snivelling, disgusting, abject mess… and instead of hiding away, I stood up in front of my classmates and rode those energies. Not mental illness, not at clown school, just extreme states. Glorious, invigorating, terrifying, exhilarating and addictive extreme states. Clown school, where the teacher confirmed my belief that you can get so much more out of people if you practice empathy, remain open to their energies and critically engage in their art in a way that is generous and open, without treading on their heart and soul. Everyone got a turn to shine at clown school and it further deepened my belief that we shine so much brighter when we shine together.
2018 has confirmed my horror at the capitalistic and individualistic concepts that permeate our culture, attitudes, relationships and souls. It was an antidote to so much of that. It was a year of sharing, of collaborating, of helping and letting myself be helped. It’s been a year of learning all the ways in which I am privileged and how deep the systems of inequality and oppression are and affect so many living beings. It’s been a year of opening myself, properly, to my joys, pains, fears, darkness, hopes… and of opening myself, properly, to that of others. This process of openness, of not clinging to a fixed identity, of not shutting down to pain or the discomfort of conflict and of growth, it’s a constant one and it requires the right combination of discipline and gentleness. It’s the work of a lifetime, really.
2018 has contained the continual discovery of how my surgeries have transformed my life. The process is imperfect, my structures are still a struggle and the neuropathic pain has become it’s own disease. Nonetheless, my capabilities have been increasing and I have slowly, steadily, been spending more time in my studio. The feelings are mixed, sometimes it’s joy and freedom and an overwhelming sense of gratitude at my unbelievable luck. Other times it’s guilt, anxiety, fear that I’m too far behind my peers after so many lost years, frustration at the ways in which pain still holds me back, fear that I’ll fuck this up and wreck my body again, guilt that I still get depressed and anxious and whingy when my life is so much better than it was. But I breathe, I give myself compassion, I gently move myself back on track. It’s ok, I tell myself, it’s ok.
It’s ok. It’s better than ok. This year has not been without challenges, deep fears, so many tears and I know the way that life works, I know that it isn’t just an upward trajectory. I read the signs in the air, I smell the warnings in the wind and worry for the entire goddamn world. But I’m resolved to keep fighting for the values I have defined for myself, those of light, love, hope and art.
I’ve made myself a new playlist, it’s called “2019 will be beautiful” and it will. No matter what. No matter what waits in store. Even if I have to frame a steaming pile of shit and blood in plastic op-shop gold, 2019 will be beautiful.
What is this feeling is it biting off more than I can chew so my jaw hurts so my eyes pool up with salt water and I drive down the road blank and staring and watch the road don’t forget to watch the road what is this what is this what is this.
I’m scared scared for him of him scared of my own desire scared of whorephobia homophobia every phobia scared of this claustrophobia isolation sensation scared I’ll wind up dead braindead spine snapped windpipe crushed. Scared of silence no more phone beeps no more messages scared of the darkness scared of the truth no the half-truth scared I am scared.
The weight of the world is crushing away his joy and I’m afraid of anger and maybe I don’t know how to hold space for it I don’t know what is safe and what isn’t maybe the other one was right maybe I don’t know how to deal with anger maybe the one before was right maybe my sunny optimism is sickening stupidity naivety what am I doing what am I thinking what is this Buddhist bullshit I cling to to surf the waves of suffering what is this what is it.
How do I explain this to someone anyone how do I separate the threads of stories how do I articulate my needs my fears my concerns how do I even start where do I start I don’t know how to start don’t know how to explain don’t know who can hold this darkness don’t know if I should hold this wonder if my light is foolish.
What are the warning signs and what are the answers and what if I’m stupid and what am I doing and God fuck I feel lonely and I don’t know where to put that like I act as if I’m so wide open to the world but perhaps it’s just an elaborate protective mechanism I expose so much and hide so much more.
What is this am I triggered is this hormones are these warnings what do I do what do I say what.
What the fuck am I doing. Maybe I don’t know a single thing.