(Un)fixing (Week 14)
Three thoughts on love for this Valentine's week:
One: "The world is always ending. We stay in love." - From one of Adrienne Maree Brown's meme collections, unattributed
Two: "Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who [they] should be." - Anton Chekhov
Three: "... Or maybe the purpose of being here, wherever we are, is to increase the durability and the occasions of love among and between peoples. Love, as the concentration of tender caring and tender excitement, or love as the reasons for joy. I believe that love is the single, true prosperity of any moment and that whatever and whoever impedes, diminishes, ridicules, opposes the development of loving spirit is wrong, hateful." - June Jordan
OK, so I'm trying to decide how much bigger to make this baby quilt. I was initially thinking I'd do one more row on the left side and one more row on the top... but now that it's coming together, I think I might stop when I finish this top row. I like how the dark fabrics come to a point at both the top and the bottom. I'm thinking I will still add a row on the left - to get the same mirrored effect, bringing the diagonal line of dark fabrics to a point on both sides as well.
I have been spinning a bit this week - obsessing about whether I'm doing good enough at tending to our household needs, being a supportive enough partner, being a good enough friend, whether I'm doing enough to keep momentum going for my long-term work, whether I'm doing enough, bravely and responsibly enough, to continue to create change in the world. I sat myself down, stepped into my wisest self, turned to myself as a friend, and wrote myself a note (a practice I learned from Valarie Kaur). Here's a little excerpt of the advice that emerged:
"Oh your churning body, oh your busy mind. So many ways to deny yourself ease, so many reasons to make yourself bow.
I see your worry - that you aren't contributing enough to the world, that because you're not balled up in stress or sick with anxiety that you are giving yourself a free pass from the world's suffering. That you are opting out.
I see your worry - that you are not a perfect partner, a perfect friend, that you are not doing enough to make your home warm and beautiful, that you are not getting to everything on your list, that you are spinning, that you are not getting anywhere.
Where are you trying to get? This is a moment for coming home. For being home... beyond where you are physically located, for being home within yourself, for expanding there, for learning.
Pause for a moment on the neverending spin of insufficiency - that frenzied cycle is a circle, is running in place, it doesn't lead anywhere. Be here, where you are. Notice where you are directing your energy. Ask yourself questions about what you are learning from those choices. Wonder about what discomfort you're experiencing. What learning or growth is happening there? Where are you turning that on yourself, transforming it into self-criticism and judgment? Where are you denying yourself pleasure, fun, joy? Why? Your instincts toward self-judgment and self-denial might feel 'normal' to you, but are not helping you learn, grow, expand, create. That pattern will feed your confinement, not your freedom. It will strengthen your fear, not your creativity.
So just stop for a moment, slow that spin cycle down. Where are you today, right now?"
My Most Influential Films of 2022 list is coming along - a couple previews for you from the "honorable mentions":
One of my favorite films of 2022, George Miller's follow up to Fury Road was tragically slept on. This movie is fantastic! A visually spectacular fairy tale with extraordinary lead actors, warm humor, and a deep and reverent sense of wonder - Three Thousand Years of Longing pivots around a Djinn, recently released from his bottle, telling a solitary professor the stories of his life in and out of captivity. Midnight family strongly endorsed. Don't miss this one! Available to rent.
Who knew romantic comedies would be even BETTER with stunning animation? (Kid Cudi did!) Brilliantly combining the vibrant, energetic animation style that made Into the Spiderverse such a standout with a charming, adult, Nora Ephron-style slice-of-life romance created by, with music by, and starring Kid Cudi, Entergalactic is the first-of-its-kind. A stunning, heart-centered, Black love story about art and music and beauty, this film has an astonishingly high quality rating, especially for a Netflix release (it is has the third-highest rating of all 2022 releases on the streaming content juggernaut). Streaming on Netflix.
Scarface (1983) - J and I are going to Florida, so we started generating a list of movies to watch in order to prepare for the Florida experience, and we came up with a pretty bangin list quite quickly, IMO:
The Beach Bum
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
and.... Scarface. Which I had never seen. So Justin chose it for our movie night this week. And cheesus, what a team made this movie: Al Pacino in his alternatively squirrely/stone cold phase, Michelle Pfeiffer wringing real depth out of a window mannequin of a character, Brian de Palma bringing both sweaty tension and limitless cool, screenplay from Oliver Stone,... synth glory by Giorgio Morodor, so much animal print and cocaine, the most amazing bathtub I've ever seen, hot damn! The fashions and settings and costume designs are gloriously excessive in the way only the 80s could do it, and I finally got to see where so many of the lines people quote (and maybe that I myself have quoted?) came from. My favorite parts were the "getting paid" montage, and the moment where Ernie got a job.
Fleishman Is In Trouble (2022): Although at times I found this limited series frustrating, overall it's a mature, nicely balanced, nuanced, honest examination of what's so tricky about middle age: everyone is going through something hard, maybe something unimaginably hard, whether we know it or not. Never shying away from how ugly and cruel people can be in those everyday kind of ways - especially to those closest to them - the series (especially Lizzy Caplain's parts) land nicely on how both heartbreaking and liberating it can be to face the reality that your life just has fewer possibilities now than it did 20 years ago. I wanted just a little more "...... so you better make it count" at the end, but oh well I can give that to myself I suppose. Really appreciate the honest depiction of the complexity and comfort of old friendships, and the episode that centers on Rachel's experience was absolutely extraordinary (holy shit: Clare Danes, everyone!).
Also on-screen at our place:
"Dispatch from the Ruins," the 11th essay from Inciting Joy by Ross Gay about school, teaching, and making art, is wily and inspiring and revolutionary. Here's an excerpt (from a section in which Gay is describing the problem of perceiving students, learning, and the artwork they create in the process as something incorrect or insufficient that needs to be "fixed"):
"And the final definition of fix I'll trouble you with is this: 'to pin down or stick a pin through or hold in place,' which is also a kind of killing. Because isn't the point of beautiful art--again, like a person, like a life--that it is unfixable and unfixing? That it changes as we change? And that it unmoors us, calls into question what we thought we knew, and who we thought we were? Don't we often need and love, some of us anyway, that art asks more than we could ever answer--or this, or this, or this, or this, it says; no, no, there's more, it tells us; go deeper, and come back again, it asks; and this, and this, and this, and this, it interrupts--and in so doing, unfixes those of us who encounter it?
That's the art I'm interested in making, teaching, and living with--not fixing work, but unfixing--and I don't know that methods of creating such work can be taught. But I do think the ground for such work can be prepared, some of which includes, yes, learning your diction and syntax, your images and similes, your line breaks and your forms. A great deal of which includes reading and reading and still more reading, and in that way learning what you find beautiful, what you want to do, who you want to imitate, copy, try out, mark, or cover.
But equally important--or maybe more important, for those of us with some chops anyway--is getting past our desire for mastery, for making it right or doing it well, because a poem isn't like that. A poem is often naughty if not outright bad. Disobedient, at the least. Well-behaved, god please no. Hates the clothes you think it should wear. At its best, a good poem like any good art, is unruly, insubordinate, uncoachable, insolent, and churlish. Surly sometimes, too. Knows your little rules inside and out and thumbs its nose. Sometimes a good poem just don't wanna.
As you can imagine, this is a puzzle, an unsolvable one if you think of art as something you fix or impose your will on. Something you put a screwdriver to or throw some more parsley or smoked paprika into or squirt a little WD-40 on, to get it unstuck. But if you think of art as something you wonder about, or listen to, or get lost in the making of, as something that might be trying to show you something you do not yet know how to understand, something that, again, unfixes us, perhaps we can practice making and heeding that. And if you imagine a classroom as a place where we do this unfixing work together--where we hold each other, and witness each other, through our unfixing--well, that sounds to me like school."
A Court of Mists and Fury, the 2nd book in the series by Sarah J. Maas, is a gloriously fantastical, high stakes, imaginative goth fantasy romance filled with adventure and sacrifice and grief and trust and friendship and superpowers and good guys who look like bad guys and magical heists and unreachable loneliness and and and and and I am totally obsessed. I'm grateful it's a long book because I honestly don't want it to end, I'm enjoying it so much.
Off my poetry shelf this week were Ada Limon's The Carrying and Poetry Unbound, a collection with commentary from Padraig O'Tuama. I'm enjoying both immensely.
But since it was Valentine's Day this week, here's a little love poem. This is a more recent favorite, from Ellen Bass:
Sleeping With You Is there anything more wonderful? After we have floundered through our separate pain we come to this. I bind myself to you, like otters wrapped in kelp, so the current will not steal us as we sleep. Through the night we turn together, rocked in the shallow surf, pebbles polished by the sea.
I am working with the board of an emerging charter school in Colorado, and this week I facilitated my first meeting with them. This group has been working together to bring this school to life for 2 years, some longer than that. Just showing up where they are needed to do the unsexy work... to complete the state trainings, to review the contracts, to draft and validate policies. I mean: no one likes this stuff. But here they are, volunteering 2 hours on a Wednesday morning to keep saying "yes - our children and other people's children, now and in the future, deserve a school where they will be loved and cared for, where they will be free to become themselves, where they will learn how to participate in the work of making the world together, and I will keep showing up for that." It's inspiring, each person, each small thing.
The lovely geniuses at Powderhorn Park, in our neighborhood, are maintaining an ice skating rink, as they do every year. M, E, J, the girls and I got out to enjoy it last weekend. I fell lots of times, bruised my tailbone and my knee, but the winter sunshine was warm and it was fun to glide, released from our hats and jackets for awhile.
Holy Time - Let There Be
Slides from this week's experience--with words from Kei Miller, Padraig O'Tuama, Lucille Clifton and Ada Limon, music from The Smiths and Brandi Carlile--are available here.
Holy Time is a weekly online gathering - Thursdays, 8:45pm CT on zoom (https://zoom.us/j/94849428936).
All are welcome.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or for more information.
Maybe it's the goth novel I'm reading, but it's been a new wave kind of week... especially:
Substance - a Joy Division compilation, 1977-1980
The Queen is Dead - The Smiths
What you are making and reading and writing and doing? What is inspiring you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.