The Celestial Cartography of Snow

The snow right now outside my window looks like a million shooting stars. I am in my bed. Alone on New Year's Eve. By choice and by necessity. I have to work early tomorrow morning. I am tired and do not want to live my life by shoulds.

"You should go out and celebrate even though you're tired".

"You should spend all your money".

"You should be around people even though you crave the comfort of silence".

"You should talk better".

"You should eat even though you're not hungry".

"You should..."

"Shouldshouldshouldshould".

There a million things to be worried about this coming year. So many things that need to grow in me. I know I must push through the cold hard winter of life to get to my spring. That the ever increasing build up of snow tends to slow things down and spin me out of control. But I am unused to the quiet and it feels nice. And I know from experience that every shooting star tears up the atmosphere a little bit as it passes through. But that's exactly what makes them bright and beautiful.

 

 

Grace & Hustle

A few months ago, in the midst of feeling shitty about my status as an artist, I reached out to a UK-based lifestyle clothing store that is pretty well-known. They had previously posted an open call for commissions from illustrators through Instagram. Not knowing whether or not the commission was still open and if my portfolio was complete enough to sell me to such a legit company I took a risk and sent them an e-mail. Within minutes I got a response saying that they loved my work and, though the commission I was referring to was closed, they were excited to work with me on a new brand idea. So I sent them some draft designs and there was some nervous back and forth about pay but we finally came to an agreement. It all seemed really exciting and validating- until they decided at the last minute to pass on my work because "other designers had pieces that were more refined". In my head from the beginning this whole exchange was proof that I was a good artist and that I finally had a jumping off point to pursue professional freelance work. Then they rejected me and I felt extremely disappointed.

I tend to get in these creative cycles where I pursue many avenues of getting my work done and seen. And then I'll go months without creating anything. I go from doing too much to not enough. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance out the business and creative side of being a freelancer. It's tough.

A few months back when I told one of my housemates about this potential business venture he encouraged me to keep at the hustle. And I believe him. He's living proof of just how far hustle can take you- being followed by thousands on Instagram, getting paid to travel, and making rent just off of selling Adobe Lightroom presets it took an hour or two to create. One of my favorite inspirations, Austin Kleon, is all about the hustle. This September he reminded us of the original four h's in the 4-H organization's pledge: "Head, Heart, Hands, and Hustle".

I think I tend to separate those into Head and Heart VS. Hands and Hustle. As if these two modes of being are diametrically opposed to each other. My hustle gets so big and overwhelming that I freeze. I become paralyzed by what I think I can't do or by the impatience of having to wait for everything I want. It's emotional paralysis at it's best. But lately, as I've been serving myself with the knowledge and empowerment of being graceful to mental health, I've translated that into serving my artistry with grace.

I refuse to believe that all my work is for nothing.

I refuse to believe that I am not a good enough artist.

I refuse to believe that I'm making no progress.

I refuse to believe that I will have to settle for a job I hate.

I want to work hard everyday and build bridges one plank at a time, one cement layer at a time, and see all those little nothings turn into something big and beautiful.

I want to have GRACE & HUSTLE. Not one or the other. But both.

And I hope you find both in your creative pursuits too.

Kintsugi In My Chest

A few months ago I felt brave enough to go to open mic at the Portland Poetry Slam to tell a story that I have been telling myself for years now. After the event, my housemates pestered me for the video recording of it, which I refused to show from sheer embarrassment, but at least one person asked instead to simply have a copy to read. And when I sent it to her she told me days later of how my words had been stewing inside her head. I love that and want more chances for my words to stew. This is my voice:

When I was a teenager I used to read this online magazine called Found!

It relied on readers to send in random objects, such as photos or notes, found on the street or in books or wherever these objects found themselves resting in the world.

I was always enamored with the idea that something lost had an undiscovered story behind it. That faces in photos could have names associated with them that I didn’t know.

It elicited the detective in me.

I would walk slowly on the way home from school scouring sidewalks and park benches for anything I could send in to the magazine.

I wanted to be a finder and keeper of lost stories.

I rarely found items in my teenager years and if I did I forgot about the magazine. I was too busy trying to guide everyone but myself back home.

Like Wendy and her lost boys.


I think I have been lost for years and not even known it.

Like a kid on the wrong train, headed somewhere, recognizing signposts, but not getting to where she needs to go.

Everyone here is trying to push their way through the fog of uncertainty;

trying to tie their dream cloud to their wrists so it doesn’t get lost in the crowd of people.

I’ve had people pull me over, on my way down the highway to darkness, and tell me that up ahead is an exit sign to greatness and they’ve seen me take it many times in a vision.

Been yelled at for constantly abandoning the temple my soul resides in.

How can I not leave behind a shell to the ever increasing art installation of losing ground when everyone else is?

Washed up and resigned.

I want to write letters to you.

Or tap your shoulder to spin you around.

Tell you that this direction is an infection.

Tell you to not live the life I have lived for the past twenty-six years.

That sometimes floating is just drowning above the waterline.

Please swim.


I want to see you jump the right train propelled no more by fear.

I want to see you pour your soul out though your throat so you can see the stars inside and drink it back up into your eyes like the Milky Way.

I want to see you come back with soles left on your shoes and steam left to pour me some tea.

I think you are lost and don’t know which stop to get off at.

Because it’s cloudy and crowded.

I have lost so many wrists to the slippery slope of going nowhere and I want your hands back in mine.


Do you know that feeling when you’re walking where every footstep gains momentum in your body and you probably could run right off the gulf and onto the sea and across to the U.K. like some high speed Jesus; full of fear?


Don’t you wish that you could run so fast that you split into two where, like Newton’s Cradle, when you meet again the other you gets knocked into the opposite direction and eventually (when you are tired and soft enough) you meet yourself full force and all your atoms are rearranged when you come together?


There is a waterfall of heartbeats flying out of my body.

My heart is grafted with gold.

Kintsugi in my chest.

Precious metals filling cracks in my skin.

Every time I shatter I don’t think I can be put back together again and I am.

And every time I get lost I don’t think I can be found again but I am.

 

 

Feelings Rehab

Right now I'm reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown which is the sequel to Daring Greatly; a book about how being vulnerable incites a revolution of the heart and of interpersonal relationships. Rising Strong is about getting back up off your feet after a fall. The "fall" can be defined as being vulnerable and the risk inherent or it can be defined as making a mistake or being hurt by the mistakes of others. If you know me at all you know that I am going through counseling and it's precisely because I am face down on the floor of the arena of life and I'm not quite sure how to get back up. I can't stop talking about my experience of counseling within my community because I feel stuck and overwhelmed. Those two emotions are enough to shut me down like a transformer blowing and shutting down the electric grid of a city. This is a recurring pattern and a problem of power. The city of my soul is unsustainable. This aligns with Brown when she says:

When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don't go away; instead, they own us, they define us.

I have let my surge in emotional energy suck me down into a pit and I am over it. The other night, in an attempt to feel anything at all, I drove to Mt. Tabor with my journal and I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab for Cutie humming out my phone speaker. I used to be so good at feeling. I'm a "high-feeler" and so ordinarily almost anything can get me to cry- tears of happiness or despair. The only emotion I could force out of my body in the moment was anger at these punk kids that parked right behind me, got out of their car, and walked right in front of my view of the city and it's lights to take photos with the flash on. They had the FLASH on for photos of the city at night. So dumb. The only real feeling scrawled out onto the page I had open in my journal is "YOU ASSHOLES. YOU ARE STANDING IN MY VIEWPOINT". And so I drove home angry and frustrated.

The truth is, I am often times the one standing in my own viewpoint. I have shut down so often and so much that it's becoming harder and harder to connect. And I desperately want to. I'm asking myself as Brown does:

How do we reckon with emotion rather than off-load it?

And her answer is simple:

Give yourself permission to feel emotion, get curious about it, pay attention to it, and practice. This work takes practice. Awkward, uncomfortable practice.

I woke up this morning and made a list of all the things I'm feeling. My list is currently two 8x10 pages long. It feels like too much; so much so that I cringe even looking at it. But isn't that what happens when we begin the rehabilitation process? We think "This is stupid! I want this to be fixed now! I want to be able to feel without all this work." And the truth is it shouldn't have to get to this point. But when it does you have to be willing to flex the emotional muscles you didn't even know you had. I recently read an article about rehabilitating people to walk who have been paraplegic for years. Rehabilitation of this kind has seemed so impossible that many have lived with the loss of their bodies ability to move around. And yet a new discovery has been made; that if you place people who can't walk into a machine that can move their legs for them and simulate walking you can eventually, after repeated occurrences, create new pathways in the brain and new nerves in the legs that will allow for walking with no assistance. To me, even though it's steeped in science, this is nothing short of a miracle.

This idea is not so different with our emotions. I think this is why my friends, and our culture, is pretty obsessed with cathartic experiences. Being at the point of having to experience external stimuli to make me feel is not ideal. But when I'm there, when I've fallen and don't know how to get back up, when I feel so overwhelmed my body refuses to feel, I know I need tools to get me back into feeling. Journaling is one of those things. Creating art is another. Listening to music is also very healing. But I think most of all being vulnerable and allowing myself to feel in front of others is going to be the first step back home. And that's hard to listen to because I'm introverted. But I need other people. I need safe people who have space for me. And I hope that, if you are face down on the floor of the arena like me and if you are trying to rise after a fall, you can see that you need other people too and that someone has space for you and all that you feel.

If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.

If you feel too much, don’t go.

If this world is too painful, stop and rest.

It’s okay to stop and rest.

If you need a break, it’s okay to say you need a break.

This life – it’s not a contest, not a race, not a performance, not a thing that you win.

It’s okay to slow down.

You are here for more than grades, more than a job, more than a promotion, more than keeping up, more than getting by.

This life is not about status or opinion or appearance.

You don’t have to fake it.

You do not have to fake it.

Other people feel this way too.

If your heart is broken, it’s okay to say your heart is broken.

If you feel stuck, it’s okay to say you feel stuck.

If you can’t let go, it’s okay to say you can’t let go.

You are not alone in these places.

Other people feel how you feel.

You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.

There is still some time to be surprised.

There is still some time to ask for help.

There is still some time to start again.

There is still some time for love to find you.

It’s not too late.

You’re not alone.

It’s okay – whatever you need and however long it takes – it’s okay.

It’s okay.

If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.

If you feel too much, don’t go.

There is still some time.
— There Is Still Some Time by Jamie Tworkowski

What I'm Reading, Watching & Listening to in 2017

Now that I am done with required reading lists for school and done feeling like I need to catch-up on all the pop culture I missed out on childhood; I felt it time to make a master list of everything I want to digest, in terms of media, for 2017! I used to have an account with Bloglovin' but I remembered the other day when I went to sign in it was more of a nuisance than helpful. I installed a RSS feed add-on to my Firefox browser to hopefully stay caught up on all my favorite media. Anyways, here is my list! What's on yours? 

Books:

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

Conversation Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends by Deborah Tannen

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Evelina by Francis Burney

Safe People by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Films:

Chinatown

Dean

Terminator

Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry

Point Break

The Godfather Trilogy

Blogs:

John Foreman

Shauna Niequist

Adam Gopnik

Rachel Held Evans

Brainpickings

Allison Fallon

Austin Kleon

To Write Love On Her Arms

Abigail Mary Green

Vlogs:

Tessa Violet

Anna Akana

Zoella

Dan and Phil Games

Chibiosaka

Eat Your Sushi

Television:

This Is Us

30 Rock

Parks & Rec

Reign

Sherlock

Podcasts:

You Hate Movies

America's Test Kitchen Radio

The Paper Robots Podcast

Gilmore Guys

Bridgetown Audio

Twenty Thousand Hertz

Invisibilia

Music:

Mean Everything to Nothing by Manchester Orchestra

Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper

landmark by Hippo Campus

I Gleek On Your Grave by The Shins