Thursday, 2 April 2015

We Shall Not Cease from Exploration

This is one of those years of tiny, big moments. It's the year where two years of labour and questioning evolved at last into one moment of standing on stage and receiving my Master's degree. All I heard in that moment was the fierce beating of my heart, pounding ecstatically against my ribs: I've no idea what was actually said. (Though that might be also the result of two years of school-related sleep deprivation...)

This is a year that will quietly watch me slip into the next age marker and I find myself reflecting often on who I am now and how I want to grow myself for the next five years. I look at pictures of a five year old me, an eleven year old me, and I wonder who that I was then is still now, and what of who I am now would I have wanted to be at that age if I could only have known to want it. Which makes me wonder how I will look back on this age, and on this age I am slipping into.

Today is the anniversary of when my family left my first home, my beautiful island in the Caribbean, so I am extra pensive and lost to nostalgia, to thinking about home and place and belonging.

When I ride in the cabs and talk with drivers who are from Ethiopia, Uganda, and elsewhere, they reminisce to me of home, spell out for me the language of land written on their hearts, and I see the place stamped on their being. Then I ask how long they have been in the States now, and each time--each and every time!--it is longer than I have lived here in this country. And they have been gone from their homes that long (longer yet if they were refugees at some point), and yet it is to them still the compass which guides them through their life.

I think, if they can have their homeland still affect them so, is it so strange that my own heart is often still awash in longing for the otherness I know? For my other worlds? Even though in every place I go, that longing persists because I have lived and loved in too many?

What is the limit of the human heart?

I have become very adept at making home wherever I am, at building place and setting down roots whilst still carrying with me the places and people I love, while still holding onto the many different and opposing things that have made me the strange person who I am--and I am enormously proud of this accomplishment. I think, in a life full of fracture, finding a way to some sort of wholeness is a pretty satisfying thing to accomplish, and probably explains why I have cared so much more in my life about who I am as a person than what I am doing or going to do. Being a person is a lot of hard work, and I cherish my beingness.

But what now? And how now?

Maybe that will be the next five years of learning for me.

I returned not half a month ago yet from a trip to Iceland. What a beautiful country. I don't even have the vocabulary yet to adequately talk about it, though I have begun to read Icelandic literature in hopes of discovering and growing that ability.

Going there, I hoped most to be able to step outside myself a little, to step into a place I do not know at all, have never been. To bathe in the strange newness of it all and so, being outside of my world, gain rest and better my vision. I wanted to celebrate what I have achieved (the degree) and reward myself. Wanted to dance with the Northern Lights and experience their magic for the first time, to ride on the back of the wind. I wanted so badly to find something that looks like the edge of the world and stand trembling on the brink of it full of wonder at life and the stark beauty of it all, raging and silent in a single breath, luminescent as the glaciers and black as the sand, rock, and night encompassing it all.

And the thing that I love most about experiences like that; it isn't the going there and then , eventually, turning back and returning to the place you were before. It's that you don't return to the place you were before.

I will always, forever, be homesick for something. My heart beats the song of saudade; an eternal song of melancholic loss for the other.

But that doesn't mean that I do not nor cannot love the new, the next, or the present. And I do, enormously and passionately.

But when you go enter a neverland or stand at the edge of any world, there is always a door. Though I did turn and drive back the way I had come, though the next day I got on a plane and flew back to my present home which I adore, that next portal has been crossed and I passed into a new place, a new world to explore which will become a part of the fabric of my being. I didn't even fully realise it then, but now, when I find myself reading new books since my return, writing new things and thinking in language I have not before, I know.

Know that for the first time, I have come to love and appreciate change as much as I have always hated and feared it. Many of us carry wounds and split hearts and live in between worlds with that continual ache for the otherness of home, but as T.S. Elliot said, "the end of all our explorations will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." Which in the end, means that the place and we ourselves are as new; reborn and more full.

Isn't the evolution of our being a wondrous thing?

Friday, 19 September 2014

In search of Alchemy

It's been a year now since I decided to leave my hard earned home of five years and go out into the wide world once more.

Once more with nothing. With no furniture, not even a bed. With my books packed up and left behind, boxes of colour and memory dusting in a barn. My piano gone, pictures locked up, papers destroyed.

I left with no job and limited savings to make my way alone in a place I had never lived. To move back into a city from deep rolling hills, back into all the languages of the world and the engine of city traffic from the kayikiki call of fox outside my window and coyote and bear in the woods. To make friends in a city of strangers after leaving those who would come by with homemade butternut soup and thermometers when I was sick or hunt christmastrees with me, swim in lakes and pools, and explore the surroundings of a whole wide state.

It was just this idea of where I wanted to be next, who I wanted to enable myself to become (again?) and what I wanted to surround myself with. An image of the lifestyle I wanted to experience next and opportunities to find.

How has it nearly been a year since I was packing all my things away to set out across the country?
And what has been done or found or left in that year?

    "To live without roads seemed one way
 not to get lost. To make maps
of stone and grass, to rub stars together,
find a spark."
~from "Spark," a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

I have travelled through and explored
New York, New Hampshire, Massachusets, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina
as well as
New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Guatemala

I have depleted my yatch savings fund to nearly the last dollar, but starting saving over again.

I slept on a floor and then an airmattress for three months.

I worked as a canvasser on the street, a cashier and hospitality hostess in a pizza place, and am in my second position doing development and marketing work in an awesome arts organization now.

I completed two residencies, two terms of grad school, a critical thesis, and am preparing to graduate with my first Masters degree.  (There is always room for another MA...)

I've missed my friends, people who have poured into my life over the five years who feel like family, who may themselves have moved, too, but many of whom still keep in touch, find ways to say hello and an "I'm thinking of you" and some of whom have even managed to visit.

I've made new friends and reconnected with friends from my past--discovering one college friend and I can see each other's bedroom windows from our rooms here in all the expanse and building jungle of this city.

There have been organizations to discover, to join and participate in. Women's groups, political groups, arts groups, writing groups, UN groups, groups from my life's many homelands, embassies, music, bellydancing, martial arts, concerts, all my favourite food groups, rake-leaves-at-the-monuments--so many different experiences to explore and wonder at. So many fascinating new people with complex backgrounds and stories far crazier than my own. Giving strangers in the metro or at a restaurant my name, my number, my smile.

I've made it to a movie theater five times. (LOTR the Hobbit II, Frozen, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Maleficent, and How to Train Your Dragon 2, again--if you were wondering...)

I sold my car.

My belongings are still in storage and I miss my books and my piano every single day.

I've acquired more books and learned how to use a library at last (though I still don't like them much!)

I've seen 2 ballets, 3 operas, 3 theater productions, 1 dance show, 1 musical, 1 concert (and I think more that I cannot recall offhand).

I have visited and been visited by my siblings more this year than perhaps the last two years combined.

I've run away to a nearby beach twice, and made it back to NY briefly twice, too.

It's been a scary year. A year of wondering, Am I going to make it? Can this work out?  A year of signing onto leases before having employment, believing that the job was around the corner. Believing what I was earnestly looking for would come.

On the hard days, I would draw up this wonderful quote in my head from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

It has been a year of letting go of everything and finding a path through the sky.

And, in fact, doing not zero, not one, but TWO high ropes courses, despite vertigo and hating feeling out of control. And losing a friend to an accident, who two years earlier helped me first conquer those things, climb a 70something ft tree and jump off a 50 something ft pole.

This year has felt a lot like skydiving did last summer. At the beginning being excited, then going through the paperwork that lists in horrid detail every possible way you might die or worse, injure yourself and recieve nothing but a miserable life without any assistance. And then you see the little backpack that is supposed to let you soar and you think, no way. That will never work.

Yet still you get into a rinky-dink plane and you climb up two miles into the sky and you open that door and jump anyways and somewhere in that crazy freefall you discover what it is to fly, and you land on your feet ready to go up again, to fly some more, to see the world in a whole new way outside of itself and so far beyond your tiny little being.

It's one of the most beautiful things imaginable.
And it is my life.
And I am deeply grateful.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Thoughts from the Washington Mall, Post Migraine

More than half a year ago now, I came first to this new city. My seventh capital of the world to live or study in, I think? It is strange to me, that a year ago I came with my brother on a trip, thinking perhaps he would find work here after graduation. It never occurred to me that I would come, instead. Now I walk past every day where I celebrated my birthday last year in novelty. 

How is it that a person can love so much in this world, carry so much heart for so many very different places and people? 

I am so exquisitely happy in this place. Hearing every day languages of home. Walking beneath buildings of familial architecture, stepping once more into the paths of people whom as global expatriates you know your whole life. The fashion, the art, the galas. 

But I find my heart equally close to breaking as to bursting, from sorrow as from happiness. Only the sorrow is so much more difficult to share or even visualize. It is sometimes hard to embrace the wonder of my life right now when worlds I know feel like they are on the brink of chaos. Or have already fallen into it, fighting and despair and confusion. When I am reminded of how fragile life is, when countries can implode overnight. When places which (or who, because to me they feel like people, like family) have bled into my being are bleeding again and I am far away but the blood calls. Countries to my south, countries to my east, all north to my heart. 

And then you add the single stories. The rape of every person woman man child, rape of country. The kinds of rape and violation that make you sick in public on the floor and it is nothing, your waste is nothing, to what you responded to, what is happening. Even stories outside of my countries, stories like the kidnapping of hundreds of girls, enslaved as wives (is that at best or at worst?) and taken away from education that they risked everything for. I just risk debt for my education. 

I went and toured an opera studio workshop here in DC, and one room was full of clothes, racks of shirts and dresses and pants hung and freshly laundered. Shelves of shoes, boxes of props. Clean and waiting full of promise to be stepped into and I stepped instead back into my mind, my memories; to walking through Birkenau and Auschwitz with the rooms of piles of shoes piles of hair and glasses and suitcases labeled with names of the dead. Of the people I met who survived, who walked like ghosts the streets of the cities I grew up on and stopped me to tell their story, this old story over and again. I stepped instead of into opera, the schoolhouse in the countryside of Rwanda, where I studied, where I witnessed room after room of white limed shattered limb fractured bone bodies. I think there were some 17 rooms I counted but I tried not to remember that too specifically. And then a big room there, with clotheslines every which way, draping ornamentally, awfully, bloodied torn bulleted clothes of women men and children. But I kept on touring an opera studio, which was wonderful and amazing in itself! and reveling in the fine arts instead. Instead of what? 

I think of these worlds I love. I think of how fragile ideas are and how hard we have to fight for them and sometimes against them, of how much is often sacrificed and how only sometimes we come out whole. 

I work hard in myself for these worlds I love, to let them stay together, to find a history that works for them all even when the cultures clash, even when the different histories I have imbibed and come to embody over the years are so different as to make this almost impossible. But I like to hope that if somehow one person can come to hold the world, maybe one day the world will also be able to hold itself. Maybe more of us will come to reshape our world and fit the pieces so beloved to someone, together. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The End of our Exploring

It is a rainy day here in the city, and I am curled up over a steaming cup of coffee at the Ethiopian cafe with a fellow writer friend. It's our writing day, only every time I bend my thoughts into story, what comes back to me are images of my life right now.

Steam has gathered on the windows, so condensed it runs down drops inside the pane of glass like rain and the strong smell of beans crushed and rushing into waiting mugs fills the air. I love this place. I love being here in this city where everything is always happening and changing and full of possibility.

Yesterday bore witness to the arrival of a real bed for me. We laughed in my flat, called it a rite of passage that I graduated from an air mattress to the real deal--something that all my flatmates have gone through, and with this same mattress now passed on to me. It was a day of rearranging my room to make space for this new thing, and a day of realising; I have been in this place for four months now. I have left my last home six months ago. Six months. That is a half year! How has that time passed without my count? How does it seem both so little and so long?

I have been in my new job four weeks now, and still love it. I love that I work in the centre of the arts  in a role which encompasses everything from theatre to opera to orchestra to ballet and on to touch every outer reach of this wonderful galaxy. Love that every week I meet new people and can begin a new friendship to enrich my world, to hopefully enrich other worlds. Love commuting to work and standing in this throng of people and voices and colours. Sound and motion. Love going for a walk in the city somewhere new every time, something yet unseen to find.

Today I made my first craigslist purchase: a chair for my desk. When I leave this coffeeshop it will be to go home to my room where I have a real bed now, to sit down at my desk that I pulled out of storage, to use this new chair to pour into words this story that will be written that will come out that breaks my heart and I have no idea the ending to, the middle of, the path.

I am reviewing my life in my head these days. Thinking of the many lives I have lived and how separate from one another they have so many of them seemed. I love how connected this life makes me feel to the rest of myself. Not as whole as living in London made me, but close. And beautiful. It is so much in the little things. New friends. A bed. A chair. Steaming coffee in the rain that tastes the flavours of another home. The three languages I heard in passing on the street one of which I share, one I recognise, and one as yet unknown.

Last summer I started thinking about moving on, but could not imagine that life. Seven months ago I decided to leave and launch out into this new somewhere. Six months ago I began, not having a clue what lay ahead.

I remember five years ago now, I wanted so very desperately to have a place in this world. To have my own place, my slot marked out for me and the path clearly stretched out before me. In many ways I think we are wired to want that, to look for our little slice of life and fit it, to be restless until it, to fear being without it. It is safety and comfort and clarity. Security and definition. I as a writer love definition, oftentimes too much. As a young adult with a unstable, roving childhood, I wanted that place of my own, or at least to know how to claim it, how anyone can ever claim something. Have ownership or be owned, perhaps. I wrote a lot at the time about how you find your path, about what that should look like, and I finally decided that perhaps the straight lined path is just an illusion. We are living in a world with a curved horizon, a lie of a line. Even the straightest path circles around the world and if we expect it to be even we are in for a rude interruption or two. So I slowly changed my thinking. I decided that maybe the curving route that can go anywhere, that can wrap itself around the world over and again and come from so many different places beginning again everywhere and coming always from somewhere else and going still elsewhere may be the most beloved best adventure infinitely satisfying experience possible.

Now I think that if I could see down a straight line to the end of my life I would be bored or crazed to an early death.

I love this adventure of discovery, the not knowing, the thrill of beginning ever again. Love how many chances we have to be new and renew. To begin and begin again. Greater and greater.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.” 

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

I have no idea what these next six months will hold. I couldn't possibly have imagined the adventures of the past six and I am so glad, because everything has been harder and more beautiful than I could possibly have. This is a beautiful thing.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Risking Life

Today is one of those days that begs talking about.

I had no desire to wake up this morning and I forgot to brush my hair, put on earrings, and grab breakfast before heading out the door for work. Then the metro was backed up for reasons unknown. I waited three trains before finally making it through the door onto one of them. I stepped hard on one poor man's (very nice!) shoe by accident, trying to avoid falling over because there was no where to hold onto and the train driver was crazier than Cruella in 101 Dalmatians. The road right next to my office got shut down because of a suspicious package scare at one of the embassies there and we all got some amber alert on our phones.

But it was the first day of Spring, and it didn't snow here. Both sun and blue skies popped out to visit. I successfully finished setting up my banking and I bumped into some friends when I went out to grab some lunch.

After work tonight, I went to a play at the Kennedy Center with one of my housemates. We saw A Midsummer Night's Dream together. My last experience with that play was actually as an actor in it--one of the most fun roles I've ever played, actually--and the lead make-up design/conceptual artist. I think we did a pretty spectacular job with it, too--from set design to choreography to costuming and make-up to actual presentation of lines and character development (etc etc). But this, tonight, it was spectacular. It was breathtaking. I sat there riveted and got a headache and spotty vision at more than one point only to realise it was because I was actually holding my breath for the splendidness of it.

If you've ever seen The Mysteries (and you should--and which I would almost die to see performed live!!!), there were a lot of element similarities to me between the two. This production of Midsummer was done including puppets. Not muppets (which are, admittedly, awesome), but real incredibly put together wood carved puppets. Sometimes tiny, sometimes larger than life. And sometimes a basket with three people holding different objects next to in order to animate. But it DID  animate. It came to life so amazingly.

And then after a performance that really couldn't possibly have gotten any better, an actor went and proposed to his girlfriend after the long standing ovation!! (and she said yes)

What what what!?

We took a taxi home tonight. The driver was Ethiopian, and he and I chatted all about Ethiopian food, and how a woman has to know how to cut a chicken just right, and life. Last time I was in a taxi with an Ethiopian man was on my way to the final interview for my now job. That driver told me he knew I would get the job if I wanted it, and I did want it, and I did get it.

Now here I am a month later going home. Home after a long day at work. A day of working at a place I am just so incredibly delighted to be a part of and bewildered just how exactly it came about. A day of movement and drama and art, of cross realities and playfulness. I got to ride home driving down the Mall looking at the monuments and then passing the Capital building, the senate buildings. Home to a street that I know and love to curl up on my bed.

I saw a card today that read something to the effect of, "life without risk is not an adventure." I think all of life is filled with risks whether we acknowledge them or not, whether we take extra ones or not, and it can always be seen as an adventure if you figure out a new perspective. But the fact is, I am just so very glad that I took the risk of moving to this city and searching for a job and settling into yet another world. Because it is a beautiful world, and the rest of my world is bigger for it, and even on days of complete ordinariness or terribly rough starts or interminable saudade, I feel like I have the whole of the universe dancing stars inside of me.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Lost in Language

There are times when life appears to mimic literature and as you move through your own passages now stumbling, now wandering, now dancing: motifs and themes begin to appear in the scenes. It makes me think of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a book whose ideas and thoughts I adore and run through in my mind over and again. Who is to say whether it is our noticing and noticing again of random events which give them their significance, or whether we notice the event of them because of their significance? Which comes first and in the end does it matter? (I think that yes, it does matter, because there is a certain amount of power involved and one way gives us more power, the other less. But that is all beyond the point of thought I am following tonight.)

For the last many days, I have been thinking of language. What am I saying? For the last many years, the last decades of a life that only does have a few decades, I have been thinking of language. And now my critical thesis revolves around language and my dreams focus on language and my insecurities stem from language.

I am working on the idea of code switching in language right now, a study which seems terribly overlooked and I am bound to generate far too many pages in my thesis if I do not cut myself off or learn to control my insatiable desire for more, for satisfaction, in this topic. It is a black whole of wondrous exploration at the moment.

The more I explore this idea and try to get inside the concept, the more I find myself surrounded by it every day and moment by moment. Being in this capital city certainly aides that, as I am regularly plunged into other languages on the metro, the streets, and in restaurants. (it is glorious!)

A few weeks ago now, I went out wandering and by a series of spontaneous decisions, ended up at a sushi happy hour. No sooner did I sit than I noted that the gentlemen at the table next to me were speaking English. A moment later, I thought, no, they are speaking Spanish, that's funny. Then it was English again. I couldn't figure out which language they were actually speaking (was it English or Spanish, and why was I having this difficulty deciphering which--it must be Spanish if I am thinking about it in English concernedly?) until finally they started switching back and forth between them--one in English the other in Spanish and then one in Spanish-English, the other in English-Spanish. We ended up talking after I could no longer not-listen and not-lean in towards them and it was delightful to discover not only fellow South Americans (I claiming that part of my identity) and make new friends, but to be part of what is this idea of code-switching, of moving across the borders of language and culture for various purposes. I had just been thinking about it and then there it was next to me and happening inside of me.

Tonight, getting on the metro for a rather long commute home, I stepped onto a nearly empty train car. I walked up the whole length of it to sit towards the front, where three people in three separate rows where talking across the space--about nothing less than language. About switching between languages and "wearing" accents and putting on culture. Did they know these are the ideas I dream about now at night and in my waking moments? So I listened, and when I started laughing with them, I was officially part of the group. I even moved up a row to sit directly with them. Now we were four strangers (as they were all, in fact, strangers) sitting together and talking language, connected by our Caribbean heritage and our chameleon abilities (or lack there-of). We went our separate ways one by one, saying good night, high-fiving, waving, all smiles. It was fascinating and wonderful and so beautiful it almost hurt me.

I realise I'm not really telling you anything here about code switching. Feel free to research it a little and let me know what you find. I don't think you will find much--I haven't yet (aside from 200+ pages culled out of linguistic, literary, and psychology journals that lightly touch the topic). But I am writing my thesis on it so you can know that you will likely be hearing much much more about it.

Really, I just wanted to say tonight how exquisitely wonderful it was to get on a nearly empty traincar and find myself in the midst of a circle of friends I do not and will not ever know the names of. To step into a basement Japanese restaurant at the edge of Chinatown for sushi happy hour and find friends who know the cities I have walked in and who coax back into my consciousness a language I have only turned over and held in my subconscious for years and years.

These beautiful strangers and these waking dreams and falling back into language are all the reasons I wanted to come back to city, to international life, to this world where by accident I can walk into all the places I know of as home and speak friend.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Challenge of Imagination

As a temporarily unemployed professional, I have done a lot of thinking about this process of searching for work in which I find myself these days. People ask questions like, "how are you doing,"  or "what sort of work are you looking for," or make comments like, "man, it must be rough to not have a job," or "boy, I sure wish I didn't have to be working, too."

I find that being between work does indeed leave a lot to be desired--security and stability, in sum, not to mention the fact that I happen to love working and really miss it. There are times when the narrow reality of my situation presses in on me and I feel my stress rising; blood in my ears and bile in my mouth. Times when I toss and turn instead of sleep, or when my eyes fly open from a deep sleep back to this waking, unsettling insecurity. Many of those who know me probably also know that for all my adventuring, I do actually like structure in my life and I love to work. This is not an easy experience for me.

What I have come to find when I am not holding onto narrow reality or demanding impossible answers to temporally irrelevant questions, however, is that this place of searching for work is a beautiful place to be. There is always something wondrous in being lost and much of the wonder of that comes in what you find along the wandering way.

I think and talk all the time about translating culture across boundaries, about shape and place and space and being. But how often do I think or take the time to consider the possibility of translating the [non-cultural shape of] myself? Now, every day when I look at job descriptions, I think, Can I do this? Do I want to do this? What skills and experiences would I bring into this? Who are they looking for?

I left the realm of "jobs which I obviously and easily can do" behind weeks ago now, and spend time looking at jobs that I would have said were out of my circle of possibility. I think that is wonderful. Searching for work is teaching me to see myself anew every day, and not only to see myself, but to imagine and to re-imagine myself over and again.

It is like acting in a way, looking at a role and saying, do I have something within me that I can call upon and respond to the call of this character to me? Can I embody this being and be it so well that the crowds roar, that my heart soars, that the integrity of the character is satisfied?

But the fact is, it is not actually acting at all: it is a translating of myself: not an act, but a new form of being. Sure, there is this "one me" with the list of things I have done. But we are not defined--should not be defined-- by what we have or have not done. That is what traps people and creates the silent despair so many people suffer through in their daily lives. That is a form of death, I think.

It is our being which matters, and our being is expansive and ever expanding (I think when our being ceases to expand we are like the dead). Our whole, elastic being contains so much more than simply what has been done, what we have accomplished. We are not wearied check lists buried under dusty stacks on a desk.

One of my favourite historical figures (alas that now I no longer have the possibility of dining with him!) is Vaclav Havel. He wrote, in addition to many other world changing things, this incredible speech about the power of the powerless. The fact is, we all have power; we all participate in the shaping of reality. We can pull out from the realm of imagination and enact; we can expand our being and do differently--challenge ourselves and step outside of what we think is possible to discover the boundlessness of possibility and the feebleness of reality.

It is incredibly uncomfortable to push the edges of reality. I think of my childhood, trying to step into a mirror all the time to find the other world and the frustrations when it would not yield to me. Frustration, disappointment, the risk of feeling one's trappedness or smallness after all. But fear is the worst possible jailor, and I refuse to put myself in shackles. If there will be shackles in my future, they will not be because I held out my wrists meekly or shackled myself fearfully. Fear is what keeps us powerless. Fear is what keeps us going in a dead end job because we are too afraid to re-imagine ourselves in a new life, in a new world. Fear is what confines us to one possible reality. Fear is what never lands on the moon.

Imagination is not child's play in the grown up world, but maybe if we exercised it more, or if we played harder and dared longer, we could grow into it again. I do think for many people, there comes a time when we have left the imagining and re-imagining of ourselves and possibilities so long in the past that we no longer know how to do it. Perhaps we no longer know how to see ourselves at all or are afraid of what we will see when we do simply look in that mirror. Not even that should stop us, though; search out your muscle memory, try and try again.

I know that right now, far beyond the discomfort and the instability, I just love this idea that I could be and try so many different things. I am discovering jobs, lifestyles, endless universes I did not even know existed! And when I look at myself in light of those possibilities, I see there on the other side of the mirror myself, smiling back.

Exploring. Becoming anew. It is spectacularly freeing and empowering. Expanding the universe of self.

Right now we are reading in my workshop here at residency this book called 19 Translations of Wang-Wei. It is based on this one, 4000 something year old ancient Chinese poem that has been translated and retranslated throughout history. Every version of it still is itself, but new and delightful and rediscovered. I want to be that poem. I want to be fully myself, with so many facets that I sparkle like the most gorgeous diamond in the world. That some intrinsic intricate part of me resonates wherever I go and echoes still in my absence, touching and changing and challenging the world. And I cannot wait to find this next translation of myself to fully step into and develop.

I think everyone should join me in taking on and enjoying at least one of these actions this year

identify your fears and embrace at least one of them
take a long look at yourself--all of you, the whole entire beautiful wondrous and terrifying essence of your being--and then re-imagine yourself in some way

I'd add at the end of both of those, "be different," or "be re-imagined," but the fact is, I think if any of us try any of these things, that will be the result no matter how small or large that difference seems at first. We are not dead; we are gloriously alive. And since we are alive--living matter, breathing being--we can shape and reshape and expand ourselves to encompass possibilities we can (or cannot yet!) only dream about right now.