Burning Bright in a Garbage Fire World

I recently attended and returned from my second residency at VCFA (and my first winter residency). It was in many ways even better than the first residency, and in some ways it was less, but it was incredible to be surrounded by so many creative, insightful, inspiring people, especially after the year we’ve all had.

snidelyUpon returning from VCFA, I crash landed back into reality with severe withdrawal from the community there, compounded by the horrific garbage fire political state of the US. There’s so much evil in the world, so much evil on our own home soil, and I have no idea where to begin. As an artist, I feel alternately useless, misplaced, and occasionally hopeful. I want to create stories that make a difference, but it feels too late, doesn’t it? We have so many good stories that already make a difference…but they didn’t make enough of a difference. Fuck, we even have straight up historical facts that are being ignored in favor of these “alternative facts,” gaslighting to the extreme. As a woman of Jewish heritage, I cannot ignore the way Muslims are being vilified, refugees being denied entry, and so many people buying into the disgusting hate and fear mongering tactics being employed by the real terrorists: the GOP and DJ Tr*mp.

But I don’t want to talk politics. I want to talk solutions. I want to talk passion and art and unstoppability.

And yet it’s hard to create when people are dying, or going to die. It’s hard to write stories when the story you’re living makes no sense whatsoever.

But I keep trying, like my fellow students and fellow writers and artists. We keep trying, keep thinking, keep writing and creating, even if it’s crap. Even if it goes nowhere. Even if it fails. Because merely trying to create is an act of defiance in the world today. Following your vocation is an act of rebellion. Refusing to buy into the idea that art is not important is an act of resistance.

Burning bright enough to outshine the garbage fires all over this country and this world is an act of heroism.

So on the mornings when I don’t feel like waking up early to write before work, I think of Princess Leia and Anne Frank and my favorite novelists, and I haul my ass out of bed to create something, even if it’s going to suck. In the evenings when I’m worn out from a long day at the office and being inundated with bad news from the world, I buckle down and get to work on my reading, finding new and different inspiration wherever I can get it, lapping up the dregs even from weak-ass Wikipedia articles or a single line of text in an otherwise useless essay. And when I can brain no more, I take care of myself by letting myself play. I knit, small simple projects that remind me I am capable, I can finish things, I deserve that little burst of dopamine at the crossing of the finish line.

And I reach out to my people when it feels like too much, like dopamine is not enough, like creating is a selfish, useless act. I reach out to friends and colleagues, even when it’s scary, even when I’m ashamed. Because human connection is essential, even for us introverts. Belonging is essential, even to us anxious, socially awkward outsiders. Community is essential, especially in these harrowing times when reality feels like a Snidely Wiplash cartoon, too comically villainous to possibly be real. Someone needs to ground us, and we need to ground each other, when the going gets bat-shit insane.

I don’t really know what this blog entry is about, only that I’m scared and anxious and also trying to be brave, and I think a lot of you are, too. Take care of yourself, and reach out, and reach back when people reach out. Find the thing that makes you burn a little brighter than the garbage fires in this world. Create because it’s your mother fucking right, not to prove your worth to anyone. Defy, resist, rebel. Be the change. Love more fiercely than ever before. Dare something worthy. Dare greatly. Be the man in the arena. Be the still small voice. Fight back. Take time to heal. Make yourself heard. Uplift the voices of others. Care for yourself. Rinse, repeat.

Just don’t give up, no matter what you’re fighting for. Don’t give up.

We have a lot of work to do.

Thoughts from the Inside of an Egg

(Yeah yeah I haven’t updated in ages. 2016 sucked, end of story.)

Kinder SURPRISE

No, not that kind of egg. (I wish!)

Of all the slang to come about in the last decade, “no chill” has bee the best phrase to apply to my general state of existence. I’ve always been an excitable, overly anxious person, over-thinking, over-processing, to the point of wild emotional instability. I hide it well, I think. People tell me that I seem really laid back, but they don’t see the cartoonish gears spinning out of control inside my head.

Thankfully, over the last few months, I’ve developed some chill (thanks, modern medicine!). I feel like I’m on the brink of being able to actually navigate the sheer terror I feel every time I think about certain things. It’s nice.

Unsurprisingly, I can spin this into something negative if I look at it too closely. Having no chill seems to have been what made me passionate and daring; having no chill pushed me to try insane creative tactics, to self publish, to put my writing before everything that held no value to me. And by that, I mean my anxiety made me passionate and brave. My anxiety fueled me. Most of the progress I’ve made as a human being has been urged on by anxiety and the existential dread that initiated it–the unsolvable problem of being.

Did my anxiety help me? Sure.

Do I want my anxiety back? Lord no.

I’m in a liminal place (“liminal” is one of my favorite words, by the way). I’m no longer what I was, and not yet what I am becoming. If we’re gonna talk phoenix cycle again (one of my favorite metaphors!), I’m an egg. Out of the ashes, thank god, into the egg. I’m a goopy substance swirling inside my shell, coalescing into an embryonic state. It’s cozy here, even if it is a fragile state of being.

And I do feel the fragility at my edges, that eggshell wall holding me together, threatening to spill me out. But inside, at my core, I’m a sunshine yellow glob of delicious possibilities. What’s interesting about this whole “having some chill” thing, is that I can now experience the idea of that eggshell cracking, maybe even leaking, and I’m not entirely afraid. I can sit with that discomfort, and know I will survive.

Most of the time.

Sometimes, like last night, I think about how hard it’s been for me to write this past year (2016 was a creative failure for me) and the shell caves in around me, threatening to spill every drop of pre-embryonic me out into the frying pan of existence. I think about showing up to residency tomorrow feeling like a total fraud, like a total failure, like someone who has lied to themselves their whole life and is just now realizing they do not have what it takes to make their dreams come true–someone who maybe doesn’t even know what their dreams are any more.

And that’s actually true. I’m a millennial, after all. We were taught from infancy to shoot for the moon and, at worst, we would land among the stars. No one prepared us for the sub-zero vacuum of the light years between.

But I am still a sunshine yellow glob of possibilities. I’m probably benefiting even more from my education than I would be if I were in a solid state. Maybe that’s the secret to finding your chill: try not to be so solid all the time. Experiment with being pre-embryonic. Entertain the possibility that you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do.

Anyway…just some thoughts from the egg.

I’m off to VCFA tomorrow for my second residency/the beginning of my second semester…wish me luck and a stellar immune system!