Every year I write Gratitudes instead of New Year's Resolution. This has been my practice for a number of years. I am going to start working on that. After the past actually fairly challenging year, and looking forward to having to redo all the civil rights and social justice progress we've made over the past fifty years, I'm honestly not sure where to start. I usually start small.
To be clear, I'm announcing intent, not completion. I will have to start somewhere, And I will start where and when I can.
I am struggling a bit with Gratitudes this morning. I am also feeling somewhat emotionally fragile this morning, after having felt more resilient these past few days.
Some of this, no doubt, is that now that the Festival of Being Grateful at the Feast has been accomplished, and it was a good one, now we must face the prospect of continuing to be grateful when not at a feast. But that's when it counts even more. Anyone can be grateful at the feast; gratitude goes deeper when there's apparently less to be grateful for.
Some of this, also, is that one has had a few days of joy and celebration in each others' company, and is very grateful for that, and now one must turn to face the unsolved problems and unaddressed fears that still hover in the corners of the room, that will not go away, because the world has become a Scarier Place overnight. One has had the days of horror, followed by some healthy days of forgetting about the horror and focusing on the joy and friends who share and co-create the joy, and now one has to get back to work.
What I will NOT
be doing today is Retail Madness. I have clean-up to help with, leftovers to enjoy, and people to spend the day Doing Nothing with. I do not plan to subject my still-raw nerves in any way to the annual Consumer Madness Blow-Out (that phrase bigger typeface and lots of exclamation points) that seems to possess people. But then, we live in the culture of the Religion of Money, no matter what lip service is given to other religions, cults, sects, and belief-systems.
I cannot help but remember what the second Bush Presidency said needed to happen after 9/11: You people need to go out and do your patriotic duty and spend lots of money on things you don't need, to help boost the economy back into health, and revive the American spirit. Linking consumption and nationalism is one of the earmarks of fascism. (I said that in 2001, and nobody wanted to hear it.)
Well, huge sales on Black Friday only make sense if you actually have money to spend on things you don't really need. You might want them, and that's fine, but needing them is another story. (To be fair, I have a few close friends, most of them tech people, who do take advantage of the HUUUUGE SAAAALES
to get tech stuff they actually DO need. That's just clever, creative timing about shopping, as opposed to consumerism per se.) And still, you have to have to disposable income to get things you need, even on sale. This year, as with last year, I must lay low.
Am I grateful for any of that? I am grateful that I still have some choices in life, including choices about what not to engage in. I am fearful of the times changing in such a way that choices continue to be legislated away from me (which if you want to be fair has been happening my entire lifetime; but I don't want to be fair about that), making me life harder rather than easier, creating more chaos at a time in my life when I can barely summon the strength to cope with existing chaos. I could list those fears, I've certainly thought them through in detail, and right now I don't want to.
Can I find something to be grateful for, in the current political climate of the public ascendancy of the rhetoric of hate and selfishness? That's a challenge. I suppose I can find something in the spinning coin in which Hope is on one side of the coin and Despair is on the other: hope seen in many people rallying together to fight for their rights and refusing to normalize fascism; despair in that those civil rights we spent the last two generations fighting to acquire will now have to be fought for all over again. That's the true dynamic with Hope/Despair (I am amazed that this isn't so bloody obvious to more people than it seems to be): it is the Tao, always spinning, the seed of the light born out of the darkness, the seed of the darkness always born out of the light. The Balance is the dynamic that keeps it spinning, which is good, because if it ever comes to rest permanently on one side, well, that's when things *really* fall apart.
I am grateful that I had a terrific Day of Feasting and Giving Thanks. (Spare me the postmodern cynical undercutting of that with whatever complaining you were thinking of replying with.) (You see: the spinning coin.) Thank you.
I am grateful that I don't have to do much today, the day after, either. Thank you.
I am grateful of who I am spending these days with, and where, and why, and for being provided with a haven in which I am free to spend my energy this morning on introspection rather than struggling to survive.
I am grateful that I don't have to struggle to just survive, this morning, this week, next week. Thank you.
I am grateful that I have the opportunity to spend my limited energy, this week, on creativity, on activism, rather than on struggling to survive. Thank you.
I am grateful that I do have friends who care, and are able to help me out when I really need it, even in small ways. I have needed so much support, and it has sometimes made me desperate (the fearful Despair side of the coin), and therefore not easy to be around. I acknowledge that.
I am grateful that I have learned to swallow my pride, and just fucking Ask For Help. I am still learning how to do that elegantly rather than desperately (thanks in part to the mentoring of Amanda Fucking Palmer); my apologies for when I have failed on that front.
I will continue to need support, going forward, and I worry sometimes about continuing to ask for help, because I DO know that everyone else needs help, too. I give it where I can, and pay it forward where I cannot. I will always be grateful, even when the clawed and scratchy-voiced thoughts dominate me that try to tell me that I am not worthy, and it is an uphill battle to remember that I AM.
I am grateful for neediness. Because I need to be needed, as much as I need to be supported. I need, like breathing, to be useful. John Cage spoke many times about how being useful is one of the most important values, underlying so many other definitions of what it means to be a "good" person. "Good" means nothing, because that is usually a Tribal morality concept in practice. "Useful" transcends good, if you just think about it for a minute.
I am grateful for opportunities to be of use. Even when I am feeling scared and desperate, and am bargaining for my survival, that does not negate that I am being of use to someone, even if seems like a barter or trade. Being useful helps me fight against the clawed and scratchy-voiced thoughts about being unworthy.
I'm very grateful that my multimedia installation in a corn crib at Silverwood County Park, titled "The Temple of Deep Time," created in 2014, was one of two installations extended far beyond the original time frame of the original project. I spent some time this past summer on maintenance and improvements, and am glad to see it go forward. Thank you.
In many ways, the past year or so has been, well, horrible. It's the art-making, the music, the art installations, that have kept me going. Sometimes the creative work is the only thing that keeps me going, so I'm very grateful to have had it. To keep going, I need to do even more. Thank you.
I'm very grateful that I've been offered so many opportunities in the past year or so and been asked to create location-specific landscape art and multimedia art. It's been fulfilling to be able to create, and I've been honored to be given so many opportunities. Thank you.
You want to know to practice Gratitudes?
What is the one thing you most hate doing?
Go do that.
And be grateful.
I am grateful for all of the people who have given me places to stay, this past year and a half of homelessness. Just having minimal security frees up so much of my energy otherwise spent on just surviving. If I have days and weeks when I don't want to go on, a lot of that is because I've been spending ALL of my energy on merely surviving, and none of it on anything that moves me forward, or feeds me creatively and spiritually (those are intertwined), and Despair looks like an endless tunnel of merely struggling to survive, with no point to it. (FUCK nihilism. FUCK you.)
I am grateful, therefore, that I have had a morning hour of science and solitude, to be able to hear these thoughts as they percolate up through the cracked and bubbling dolomitic bedrock of my recent experience. I am still catching up on being able to have this morning silence and solitude, which for me is as necessary as breathing, as necessary as host times out in the desert when I can Just. Stop. and listen to the stillness. This is my therapy. This is what keeps me sane.
I am grateful, also, therefore, to have access for now to a working kitchen that I don't have to set up, tear down, move, and spend all my energy on just making it work. Food security is a major relief. Food security is something you take for granted till you don't have it; just like being homeless.
I am grateful. Oh, I am still fearful. I am still fighting dire Despair, and depression. And I am grateful to have had even a few days when I had the strength TO fight, leftover from everything else I have to deal with.
Let's make this an Arts & Crafts Day.
Labels: art, despair, gratitudes, hope, illness, making, personal essay, Tao