There are a handful of places that I feel I know. There are less I’d say I know well. But I know pockets, and I’ve been known to be somewhat observant, and as I continue to travel, and experience, I’d like to try to share that with you.
I currently live in a world called Los Angeles. It’s an odd sort of place, but not without its charm–personally I delight in its weirder quirks. However, when I communicate my current residence to other travelers, I have noticed some great trepidation around transportation. And while I cannot in good faith say that this fear is completely unwarranted, I would like to make a case for why it is an experience you should not be miss out on.
Much like the subway is a huge part of New York city, and BART is signature to San Francisco, traversing the many interstates and streets that connect the Los Angeles neighborhoods is integral to truly experiencing the area. It’s a strange part of their personality, and while occasionally, unnecessarily hostile, it’s almost endearing if you take the right mindset about it.
Additionally, the public transit system leaves a lot to be desired. Ultimately you’ll limit where you can go, and while it’s not nearly as bad as the locals make out–I really value how I spend my time and waiting for infrequent and inconsistent transit was not, nor has ever been my cup of tea. Alternatively, depending on your plans for while you’re here, if you attempt to taxi/lyft/uber everywhere, you’re going to be paying at least double–probably more–than if you rented a car.
So my recommendation to drive has held pretty firm. Besides, as they say, when in a post-apocalyptic desert, do as the locals do.
…they say that here, right?
It’s Joelmas today. I didn’t make a video, because in the interest of self-care, it seemed to be pushing myself too far this week. My day job has been particularly busy, and therefore I’ve had a much smaller mana pool as of late to create magic and mayhem from.
Self-Care, while celebrated in particular today, is something that’s an on-going process.
This past year I’ve been redefining what that means to me.
You are really excited about this haircut. You’ve heard amazing things about this stylist. You’ve been waiting patiently for today.
You shake hands when you meet. Their handshake is firm, reassuring. You know, in the core of you, you have made the right decision.
They’ve got a great personality, you know you won’t have to engage in the dreaded awkward small talk you always do. They confirm that you want a cut, and you explain a little before they have you sit down.
There’s laughter. There’s chatting. You are comfortable and carefree, and completely at ease.
But then, as you’re talking, something starts to feel… different. You notice something that seems… off track from what you outlined to them. But no, that can’t be right. It’s just the lighting. You’re being silly. It’s fine.
But your expression betrays you.
You’re their client. They value you. They know what they’re doing.
Another strange snip that cuts far too short and seems it couldn’t possibly work into what you described you wanted.
You stiffen. You glance at the photo you brought in. “Just some layers, right?” You ask nervously. You are visibly uncomfortable.
“Yeah, Yeah,” They acknowledge your question, but it sounds dismissive.
Still. They said they got it. Maybe… you have to trust–
Out of the corner of your eye, you think you saw them grab a razor.
No. You’re their client. You are safe. You are valued. They don’t want to upset you, they’re following what you asked for. Don’t be silly.
You feel guilty for being uncomfortable, but your eyes still sting a little.
And then it happens. That definitive buzz where you know… they weren’t listening to you at all. They had an idea in their head how your hair should look, how that appointment should go, and hadn’t considered to care beyond that.
You know you have a choice at this point. You could get up, bedraggled and traumatized and likely sever relations with this stylist, the salon, and probably the friend who recommended them.
Or you could lie to yourself.
This is fine.
This is what you wanted.
This is fine.
You feel uncomfortable, and ugly. You’re ashamed for not saying more sooner (as if you could have known), and guilty because you feel that if you’re honest, you’re going to hurt this person you admire.
They finish and you struggle to make eye contact with them or your own reflection. You force a smile because you can’t lie to yourself without doing so.
It’s not fine.
You can’t look in any mirror.
It’s not fine, but you pay and tip well even though they blatantly disregarded your wishes.
And you do it all so you can leave as fast as you can.
And you try to convince yourself… it’s not a big deal. They didn’t ignore you, you probably should have said more. Spoken louder. Just left.
It’s fine… it becomes the mantra you repeat. The one that stops you from flinching immediately at your own reflection.
For most people, this is not a foreign experience.
But for a lot of people? It’s not about a goddamn haircut.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of suicide and the mentality of the suicidally depressed since the news about the exploitative vlogger disrespecting Aokigahara came out.
I ranted a bit on twitter about it in the moment, because at the time I had been so filled with anger it just sort of vomited out of me. Having taken some time to really mull over these thoughts and articulate them better… At least I hope
We have a common problem when dealing with mental illness, of looking at it from the mind-set of a healthy place and making our judgements there.
We cannot help people without empathy, and you cannot empathize with someone struggling from suicidal ideation with regular logic. You cannot apply your outside-looking-in thinking to someone inside depression.
Depression lies to you. It lies so well and so much.
Which is why you can’t scare or shock a person dealing with ideation out of being suicidal by showing them a dead body. That’s how you shock someone who WANTS to live. That won’t help here.
People who’ve struggled with ideation know what dead bodies look like. Being confronted with the dead isn’t what stops the suicidal from being suicidal. People dealing with ideation aren’t scared of being dead, they long for it. That’s what being suicidal means. Wanting that peace, being out of the anxiety of existing, getting to rest.
The living… THAT is what gives the suicidal pause.
Not living with the people you love. Not getting to see them every day, not being around, knowing on some level you are going to hurt them.
It’s when depression has snuffed those thoughts out… that it wins.
When we have convinced ourselves it would be better on those we love, if we were not around. That we are doing them a favor.
That’s why I get so frustrated when anyone says suicide is the most selfish act a person can do. It denotes a complete lack of understanding of that person’s pain. Because to that person. Depression has convinced them that it is the most SELFLESS thing they could do.
I don’t want you to know what that place feels like first-hand, because it’s not an easy edge to walk away from. But I need you to try to understand from that point of view. We cannot help people struggling with mental illness without empathy, and you cannot help someone through that darkness without realizing they will not be using your logic.
You have clearer vision on the outside. And some people, will be able to acknowledge that. But a lot of people? That Depression has been lying to their brain for so long, they’re convinced the best thing they can do for you–the most loving thing they can do for everyone–is to go away.
No matter how untrue that is.
I walked away from that edge because I saw the absolute devastation my brother’s death left in its wake. The sobs and wailing from my sister on the way to the graveyard, the look in my parents’ eyes. The tremors we still feel today. The discomfort of going out to eat and remembering we’re a family of 4 now, not 5.
You don’t get used to it. People don’t get used to it.
I’ve got a bullet wound that never fully stops bleeding. You get distracted, and you don’t think about it all the time, but then out of the blue, I remember, ‘My brother genuinely thought the world would be a better place without him. That we would be better without him’.
And it hurts again.
Everyone is different, and everyone has different motives, so I don’t want to make a sweeping generalization here… But I have seen an uncomfortable trend with addressing those dealing with mental illness and suicidal ideation with the logic of being on the outside looking in.
And you can’t do that. That’s not empathy. And it won’t help anyone.
January has always been a strange time for me since we lost my brother in 2013. For better or for worse, I find myself feeling very introspective. What I’ve done, what I want to do, how I am mentally.
Joelmas (The self-designated holiday of mental health and self-care celebrated in the Curiosity Community on January 30th), of course is a day for taking care of myself mentally… I always treat myself to something special. Tea, a manicure, a massage, or even just a day free of guilt to play video games.
The importance we put around the new year has always struck me as a bit strange.
“New year, new me”, so many say and make resolutions of how this year will be different than the last. Some they keep, some they don’t.
But the truth of the matter is, it’s not new year, new you. It’s new day—new moment, new you. We’re these ever-evolving creatures, minutely shifting from ever experience we have, and normally we’re changing at a rate that our minds can keep up.
But then something throws us out of balance… We get out of sync.
I’ve been out of sync for a long time now.
I’ve been trying to find a structure I’m comfortable with in regards to creating, and, as I imagine you’ve noticed, I’ve been struggling. I’ve talked a bit about getting out of an unhealthy situation, and I’m sure you’ve pieced together that the past few years have been… difficult.
But I haven’t really admitted that to myself. I’ve been, for the most party, trying to carry on as if getting out was all I needed to do. As if post-traumatic stress wasn’t even a thing I could possibly have to worry about… And that’s been taking its toll.
I still have good days. I don’t want you to think I’ve been in this pit with no reprieve because that’s not true. But much like dealing with actual abuse, the recovery from abuse isn’t all bad days. So you convince yourself you’re fine. You’re not THAT hurt… all the while you’re still sort of emotionally bleeding out.
The past month or so, I’ve… really noticed where I’m still wounded. Where I’ve been using anger or distraction to ignore it.
So I’m currently taking steps to really address those broken pieces. So I can get out of this mostly numb state and back to… well… being me. 100% of the time me. Not disconnected, not blocked creatively save for the few spurts of emotional vomit or what have you…
So what does that mean? For me personally, it means a lot of things, like being a bit kinder on myself for one, and more importantly, reaching out for some professional help.
And it also means we’re going to wander a bit you and I. Creatively. We’re going to shrug off structure and let ourselves be messy. It means I want to create one new thing a week, and I’m not going to hold myself to what form that has to be.
Maybe it will be a vlog about nothing, or a video about cooking, a song, or a long-form written confession about my latest therapy break through—I’m giving myself that freedom. We’re leaning hard into the ‘whim’ of whimsy and see where that takes us.
At least, I hope you’ll come with me. That’s your own decision to make. But I hope you will. I’ll get back to something more structured eventually—I’d really like to get back to doing regular delves into curious things. Some may even come out of this freeform wander.
But if you want to wait till I get back to that. I understand. Do what’s best for you.
But if you are game to tumble down wherever the rabbit hole leads us…
Take my hand.
And get ready to jump.
We’ve got a whole lotta worlds to see.
Header image provided by Marcus Emerick
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since we last added to our collection in the Curiosity Cabinet, hasn’t it?
So… you’ve probably guessed I’ve been having a hard time keeping up my energy, and that I’ve been struggling with emotional drain and the like. But I’m okay. I’m figuring out what does and doesn’t work for me.
And even if I’ve been a little quiet, I have found some amazing things on my latest travels through the worlds. And many of those were thanks to you!
Sound is a huge factor in how we relate to the world around us. Countless studies have dedicated time and effort to investigate how various sounds can soothe or irritate our mental states. Some can help us focus, some provide erratic distraction. So this is a huge one to consider in regards to creating your creative safe space. What do you need in terms of sound to do your art?
For some, they need absolute silence, for others, they work best when mentally tuning out the din of a busy coffee shop.
For me? It’s a storm. The sound of downpour and thunder soothes me into a place of contentment and introspection. Whatever the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder is, that’s me. Shut out the summer sun, I find it exhausting. Depending on the auditory input, I can get overstimulated and overwhelmed, but given the right ingredients, I can tune out the rest of the world, and with a storm and some music to set the mood of the scene I’m writing, I’m good to go. Of course, I can’t actually summon storms (I was just as shocked as you are), so I use a handy little tool like Noisli.
Even if you’re ultimately just going to be staring at a screen, or a page of paper, the visuals of what’s around you are incredibly important. Are they too bright, too dark, too garish? Is it cluttered, is it cramped, is it too open?
These are all things to consider regarding your comfort level. I personally have a very hard time working in a cluttered space. If the area around me is full of unorganized junk, my brain is also similarly discombobulated. I’ve found I work best in a clean well-lighted place.
Though “well lighted” can mean many things depending on the person. For me, it’s soft natural light in through my window. And if it’s too late in the day for that, I respond best with soft twinkly lights about my room that give the illusion of candlelight.
Where are you sitting when you create? Are you better standing? Are you comfortable, or does your back hurt? Do you need a straight back chair, or a cozy nest of pillows? It’s important to consider longevity in regards to this as carpal tunnel and back trouble are no joke, and can create future hinderances to your creative work.
Also I have come to the realization that I REALLY need to get ready for the day, even if I’m not leaving the house. I need that shower and I REALLY need to be wearing real pants. Not cozy pants! Real, I could go out into the world and look like a regular human (within reason) pants. Otherwise I feel like I’m just drifting about until I nap/sleep again. This may not be the case for you, but there’s something about the feeling of ‘ready for the day’ clothes that helps me get to work on my art.
We all know a little about our olfactory senses and how smell can strongly link us to certain memories or emotions. So creating a scent-scape, essentially, that is you “gonna make some art now!” can be very helpful. For me? I tend to light incense before I get to work. I’m pagan and a bit of a hippie, so I will often use some “banishing” incense to send away any current anxieties or mental distractions. This ritual in itself is helpful to me but I’ve done it often enough that the scent of incense gets me in a ‘let’s get to work’ sort of mindset. Perhaps for you it’s a particular kind of scented candle you light, or perhaps you just avoid this sense all together because you find it distracting.
This may also be a back burner sort of thing for a lot of people, because it tends to have less of an impact. But for me, routine and ritual are often very helpful in coaxing my mind into a state it may be reluctant to go. So I always make myself a nice pot of tea before I dive in to writing or filming. Maybe you need that cup of coffee. Maybe it’s a hearty breakfast or meal etc. Again, you may not need it, but it’s good to take some time to think about it.
While you shouldn’t need any of these to create, and maybe you can only bring your music with you if you’re on the go, these tools can be helpful. Because when I’m in a state of absolute ennui, I’m then able to create an environment that shifts that point of view. We’re able to sort of exploit our own sense memory into pulling us out of a numb state of defeat. Because even though you might be feeling ‘blah’, your five senses say… ‘wait… no, we gotta wake up.. it’s time to do some art’.
Healing from trauma is a non-linear ever-continuing process. I did not expect this book to become one of many tools in my collection to aid that process, yet here we are, and I’m still at a loss for words, even after days of letting my thoughts digest.
I was warned I would weep.
But, I did not. I wish it had been that simple.
Reading Irkadura, I felt inspired, and heartbroken. Hollowed out with an old wooden spoon, and frayed at the edges. The sort of sadness where you wish you felt like crying, because then it would release, and be gone. Instead it lingers in you like cold on the bones after standing in the chill too long.
I didn’t find the horrible events described triggering so much as a tool to look at those moments from a distance. Irina’s view of her abuse lends the reader a detached point of view to be able to view their own trauma, and while possibly not intentionally, provides a sort of language that eases the difficulty in speaking of it. A set of some kind of linguistic training wheels for those not yet able to muster the strength to speak so bluntly.
Dark, and grim, but laced with threads of hope in places you’d never think to look, it bleeds vulnerability.
In a few months I might read it again.
And maybe then, with my new set of tools and perspective, I’ll be able to cry about it.
We don’t often give a lot of credit to emotional labor. We sort of shrug it off as this thing that’s really nothing because we don’t have a tangible result from it.
I have to remind myself of that often.
Reason being is I probably do a lot more emotional labor than the average person per day, and it’s an exhausting process, but because I’m without a resulting product, I feel guilty. I feel like I still should be able to write, I should be able to film, I should still have energy to create and clean, and do everything else.
But you don’t.