Here are some thoughts from this week:
Instagram is a festival
The energy of Instagram is like an overpacked festival filled with people screaming, lying on the grass, playing music, having sex, puking, laughing, sobbing, and on. Strobe lights are pulsing. There are good pockets at this festival. Sometimes you find a nice grass mound to nap on. Sometimes you find a group of people who offer you a poetry book or strum a guitar while you look up at the sky. But often, as soon as you walk through the gate, someone has grabbed you and started screaming directly into your ear.
This is the energy I have allowed into my bed first thing in the morning. I have sought rest on this place, and instead, given my body so much information to interact with that it comes out more exhausted. After scrolling Instagram for—woah, was that two hours?—my brain feels like “mush.” It is not replenished. It is exhausted.
It is becoming excessively clear to me that I need to have strict boundaries with Instagram. I don’t want that festival in my bed. I don’t want to see it first thing when I wake up. I don’t want to dance in that festival mindlessly for as long as it takes to become so dizzy I have to pass out. I don’t want the blue light of my screen to be what is lulling me to sleep. It is not granting me rest, nor replenishment.
Anti-burnout work means giving things up
Years ago, pre-COVID, I found a cheap flight to Spain, and decided to go there on my spring break from community college. My good friend, Rivka, joined me. We were walking through the streets of Barcelona, and I felt such an ease being in their company, in the sun, and away from my commitments. I told them that I was not looking forward to going back to the fast pace of my life. They gave me practical solutions for organizing my life. I could only agree to a specific number of social outings a month, a certain number of interviews a year, and on. I wrote down things they said and had hopeful ideas about my life. Then I went back home and again got swept up in the day to day.
Covid really cut my habits of being a busy person and made me realize that my health must come first. If I am always pushing myself past my limits, I am going to create physical health problems for myself. My emotional health was already experiencing problems. There were many signs that I needed to slow down and take on less. But I have long been telling myself that doing things for others was more important than living a life I was happy to live. I want my everyday life to be one I want to live.
I recognize that there are many barriers to getting rest. That we live in a capitalist society that benefits from pushing us to our limits. That time is not always a thing we have such a possession over. I recognize this, and I don’t meant to be prescriptive in a “one size fits all” way.
I want to live a life of ease and joy. For me that means being very hesitant to take more things on. It means factoring things such as “sitting in the sun” into my day rather than believing they will just “happen.” I can’t spend all my time doing favors or tasks for others, or what I think they want me to do (or even what they ask me to do), if I’m not scheduling in time for myself. That means, no I can’t come to this because I want to have an hour of quiet to myself in the morning.
Allow yourself to be out of the loop. Tune into the loop of your body. Let that be your loudest tune.
You must change your life
Rilke wrote “You must change your life,” as a remarkable closing line to the poem “Archaic Torso of Apollo.” He describes a glistening statue of of Apollo with the god’s “gaze, now turned low” and the radiance that comes from him “like a lamp” shining to where the depth of shadow, “that dark center,” is contained in him.
I just finished reading Robert Bly’s “A Little Book on the Human Shadow.” Bly insists that we must go into the depths to see what we have repressed, or as he wrote, “put into the long bag behind us.” What we project onto others tells us about the parts of ourselves we have repressed. What you hate in others is often a signal to what you have shoved into the “long bag.”
Bly goes on, his voice fervent and firm to assert that we must eat our shadows. And though his advice of how to do this is not always clear to me, this reminds me again to interrogate categories of “bad” and “good.” To embrace changing, fluidity, and that we are all many facets. To look at what I disdain in others (for me, greed and dishonesty first come to mind) and to find the places in myself where these things live. It reminds me again of “Kill the cop in your head.” Or by Bly’s advice, Eat it.
What we dislike in others is often what is inside of us that we are most afraid of. By Bly’s advice, we can recognize these parts of ourselves and embrace them in a way that lets them come in at useful times. For example, I can recognize how I am greedy at times, how I have acted, and still act, out of scarcity and fear, and use this as a tool. I can recognize my own self-protective measures, my fears of not having food or having “enough.” I can sit with this without letting it become a key part of my personality. I can let my greediness help me at times when I need to be firmer in myself. I can let my greed help me recognize my needs. I can use my greed rather than simply projecting it onto others and looking at them as “bad” for possessing it.
Note: I am interrogating the “shadow” as an image which perpetuates the racist and anti-Black idea of white as “good” and black as “bad.” It feels negligent to not state this, as it came to mind when reading Bly’s work.
And still, I am finding helpful meaning in Bly’s push to look at what we have repressed. In, as Rilke says and Bly draws upon, the push to “change our lives.” For what we find within us, what we have labelled as “bad” in others asks us to notice it, reframe it, and find ways to build it into our lives.
The album Blood Bitch by Jenny Hval
Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
The cinematography and performances in the new Macbeth
Watching a tree for longer than you usually would
Leonora Carrington’s paintings
The passing of Thich Nhat Hạnh, who said in At Home in the World,
I have a disciple in Vietnam who wants to build a stupa for my ashes when I die. He and others want to include a plaque with the words “Here lies my beloved teacher.” I told them not to waste the temple land. “Do not put me in a small pot and put me in there!” I said. “I don’t want to continue like that. It would be better to scatter the ashes outside to help the trees to grow.
I suggested that, if they still insist on building a stupa, they have the plaque say, “I am not in here.” But in case people don’t get it, they could add a second plaque, “I am not out there either.” If people still don’t understand, then you can write on the third and last plaque, “I may be found in your way of breathing and walking.”
This body of mine will disintegrate, but my actions will continue me. In my daily life, I always practice to see my continuation all around me. We don’t need to wait until the total dissolution of this body to continue—we continue in every moment. If you think that I am only this body, then you have not truly seen me. When you look at my friends, you see my continuation. When you see someone walking with mindfulness and compassion, you know he is my continuation. I don’t see why we have to say “I will die,” because I can already see myself in you, in other people, and in future generations. Even when the cloud is not there, it continues as snow or rain. It is impossible for a cloud to die. It can become rain or ice, but it cannot become nothing. The cloud does not need to have a soul in order to continue. There’s no beginning and no end. I will never die. There will be a dissolution of this body, but that does not mean my death. I will continue, always.