September 26, 2019

Abandon, Watchfulness, Fear, The Unexpected, Los Angeles, A Cold

I think of abandon as standing in an open field, like in Austerlitz or in Johnson City, whatever I say or do absorbed readily into the air. Feeling vulnerable and alive, choosing to come back to myself in the face of a great expanse of horizon, deep and unknowable.

Lately I think a lot about how to maintain that feeling of expansiveness. In the past, I have been inclined towards watchfulness, seeking out sure bets and rules. But I find that my world constricts in that frame of mind. I have less pleasure, less curiosity. I become manipulative and overbearing. How to comfort that part of me that becomes anxious in chaos? How to validate it without letting it consume me?

In Los Angeles, the sunlight was so consistent, I couldn't keep track of time. I was sick all weekend and the combination of cold medication and relentless golden light made me feel like I was maybe going insane. One night, I accidentally took a dose of long release daytime medication that kept me up, my brain humming anxiously the way it used to during the worst of my insomnia. I have a habit of making impulsive decisions when I am fearful, as a way of getting rid of the fear. But I've come to see that acting from a place of fear does not make me courageous, as I used to think it did.

About a year ago, I made a decision to turn what I do in my work as a branded content consultant into a small business venture, with my reporting partner. At the time, I was just scraping by, so a vision of security, wealth, and sustained partnership was comforting. But lately, I get hostile thinking about having to take more time away from my writing than I already have. Worse, I get frustrated with my reporting partner for reasons that are all projection. I need to be up front with her about these feelings, but of course I am worried she will be disappointed and angry. That it might damage our relationship irreperably.

What would it mean to let this fall apart, to have grace for my past self, the anxious one who allowed her watchful self take the reigns in a time of chaos? To admit defeat and release the reality I tried to forge back into the reality that just exists. I have deceived myself into believing otherwise, playing every situation as if it's a hand of cards. Hopped up on cold medication in L.A., I thought to myself, "What if I choose not to play?"

I could observe, I could be present to myself and continue to pursue the unexpected paths. In Sancerre, I learned that I had to be patient in order to observe the forest come alive. Here, another reminder to stillness, to sit with my fear, to stop fitting my life into a narrative, to be humble in the face of what I don't know.

August 7, 2019

Tarot, The Fool, Letting Go, Aquamarine, Self Validation, Dragon Tattoo

My tarot card reader kept pulling the "Fool" card for me this past Saturday, so I have been thinking lots about what it means to start over, and how starting over means inevitably letting go. Without getting into it, this year has been marked by loss. Not the kind where I had something and woke up one day and didn't have it anymore (though there was some of that, too). Instead, I recognized that so many things I used to believe and identify with were illusions that I'd either created to protect myself, or that I didn't have full knowledge to see through.

I think I should feel liberated, and I do, of course, but I also feel strange. Expansive and opened up, a little listless. I spent the first half of the year on the road turning outwards, then decided to plant myself in New York for July and August, because I became a little homesick. With that stillness came grief. For people in my past, for the person I used to be. I feel I'm in a liminal space now, not yet quite new, the last threads of what was old, just slipping from my grasp.

From this vantage, I sense what I need to let go from my past, the feeling like light on closed eyes. I feel that in order for me to move on, I need to work to let the past go. Not the child, but who the child felt she needed to be. The woman I want to become--I can see she is just ahead of me now.

I've been moved to reflect on all of this so pointedly because I'm planning to get a tattoo in a week and two days. Emma drew it for me, a kind looking dragon, sprawled on its back like a playful cat. I've wanted it for years, but it existed as sort of fantasy until now and as soon as it dawned on me that it is happening, I began to spiral into the obvious sorts of anxieties: what if my tattoo artist screws it up, what if it looks awful on me, what if I hate it, what if it blurs in the future, what if my parents get mad, what if my future is affected by it?

An instinct I can remember ever since I was little: taking the plunge on something I want or like, then desperately wishing I hadn't done it afterwards, trying to find a way out of the consequences of my decision, for no reason except that my own validation wasn't enough. I asked Ma if I could paint my room a bright aquamarine when I was in middle school, she agreed and hired painters to come do it. Then afterwards, I spiraled in a fit of anxiety—counting out all the money I'd saved from my allowance, hoping it'd be enough to hire the painters back to paint the room in the original cream. When I told my mom this, she told me, no. I can't remember what happened after that, but years later, I remember someone saying they liked the color of my room, and my not even registering the color anymore at all.

When I felt frightened of the idea of getting this tattoo, I went for a swim and began to remember that the adventurous path can often be scary, even dangerous—that's part of the adventure. In Sancerre, I saw that it thrills me to choose this path, and that I'm capable of staying alert enough to gauge the danger. I can always walk away. But if all of this is true, then it means that I can also choose to lean into the excitement and thrill of adventure rather than the anxiety of it.

Today I began to think of what it might represent, getting this tattoo, wanting to get it despite the fear and equivocating. Of course it represents all the usual things: impermanence, youth, art. But personally, I feel as though this moment, before I leap into a new kind of self, I want to commemorate it, and also draw a line in the sand. To never go back. I want to go through a ritual, leave with a new body. Commit to that new body. The dragon, it symbolizes who I am, the liminal space that I've tried to make sense of my entire life. It also represents my own power, and my courage to keep going forward.

Emma also reminded me I could buy temporary tattoo paper to try it out on myself before next week. And even when I get to the shop, I can always walk, if it doesn't feel right. No need for blind leaps, I have the tools to make sure it feels good, to not fear seeing.