Some Thoughts #68

    Once again I’ve been contemplating my sanity.  Although this time around it seems to have been worse than in the past.  I have had a tendency to take on more and more things - to try and do more and more, without ever letting anything go.  Needless to say this pattern eventually brings itself to a breaking point.  I got to my limit, but I couldn’t tell if I was about to lose my mind, because my reactions were not following the normal pattern of over-achiever stress.  This time around I found myself suffering intense social anxiety and these weird panicky feelings that came at unexpected times.  The littlest thing would cause me to feel like my mind was going to break.  I started to question if it was simply raw emotion at the surface or if it was actually chemical.  As I’m prone to do - I read a lot - studied up a bit on manic depression, on anxiety, panic attacks and the like.  Much of it fit - and yet even though to my own anal-scheduled life it felt disruptive - in the bigger picture of life - my feelings and emotional whackness were not ceasing my life to function.  So I did a lot of self-analysis and self-diagnosing.  I figured that I could list of a decent amount of reasons why I was feeling all that I was feeling and the results made sense - except that it had never been this way for me before.  Which is what caused the confusion.  In one of the fiction books I was reading - the main character suffered a nervous breakdown - and she passed out and then slept for 7 days.  The scary thing is - that sounded appealing to me.  In the midst of my own potential nervous breakdown - there was a part of me that was saying “bring it on” - almost as if I needed something to force me to slow down, to stop and take notice of my life and my pattern.  And right around this point I think I started to sort it out. 
    I told a friend about this and that I felt things were getting better - and she asked what I let go from my schedule and I had to say nothing - but I’m trying to be more mindful of it all.  By that I mean - I’m trying to be more of the moment.  To think “what is it that I really want to be doing now or today” and push in that direction, rather than continually freaking out about what I can’t get done in the next 10 minutes or 10 hours - instead embrace what I can do in that time and enjoy it and be “present” for it.  Somehow - it has been working.  Of course in many ways it makes me feel like I am slacking.  I’m giving in to the 8 hour sleeping day instead of forcing myself to only spare 5 hours; I’m putting off some work that I feel I should do so that I can continue reading the book I really want to be reading.  That sort of thing.  And it seems to be working.  I don’t really see anything changing in the longer picture - because there is still so much that I want to do and pursue, and there is so little time.  I have seriously considered taking a break from doing S&L.  One of my big fears I realized was that if I somehow let go of the self-perpetual schedule that is S&L that I might never move forward again.  That is pretty silly when a legitimate break is much deserved.  But I was also made to realize that ceasing to do S&L is really not what I want to do - having the time to really do it the way I want - is. 
    So in this season of heat and humidity I’m trying to find balance in my life once again.  Trying to remember what it’s like to cook and eat good wholesome food.  What it’s like to be spontaneous and do something on a whim cause it sounds fun.  And so many other things that I seem to have forsaken.  Right around this time I had a number of phone calls and visits from friends and pen pals and people who I usually don’t talk to - but that I really enjoy via letters.  I took that as a good connecting sign. The sort of inspiration that comes right when I need it.  In fact I have really given weight to these horoscopes I keep reading that are all along the lines of “don’t give up, now is not the time to quit, push on the inspiration will come, someone will help out unexpectedly, don’t burn out or fade away.”  And I took a lot of meaning from these written words that came at the right moments.  I find myself outside in the garden watching the sun come up at 6am because I can’t get myself to go to sleep at that magical hour.  I’ve found that spending that hour in the garden at dawn is so much more magical and enjoyable than during the scorching heat of mid day when I normally get up.  I’ve given into (my) natural schedule of staying up all night into the morning and then sleeping the day away.  And yet that is a fine balance to keep sanity when you are a sun-lover.  But there is nothing like watching the stars turn to the rising light of the new day.  When, even in the midst of the hottest part of the year, the plants are covered with a dew and mist and everything is quiet and peaceful.  And the plants are so much more receptive to being cared for.  I think that is the key to happy plants actually.  Watering them when they have already wilted in the middle of the day is shocking and painful for the plants.  But I have never really  had a choice before.  Now I’m trying to tend to a garden in it’s explosive state.  I planted a gourd plant this year and it’s taken off.  I swear it grows a foot a day on the vine and it’s sending out it’s tentacles all over the tomatoes.  In fact I’m afraid it will strangle off everything else.  The tomatoes are strangling out the peppers.  And I thought I had everything so well spaced this year when I doubled the size of the garden.  I’m still fighting the ants.  I feel like a warrior of death when it comes to the ants.  Every day I find a new nest and it’s one of the nastiest things there is.  I just can’t seem to figure it out.
    Another factor that has forced the hand of enjoying time is mortality.  Sadly I have received too many phone calls of late to inform me of people I know dying.  It’s intense, sad, and emotionally painful to deal with the loss of a friend or even an acquaintance. And for that matter I’ve gotten to the point of raw empathy where news of death period brings this heavy sadness to me cause I know how it affects someone out there.  To think that one day this person was there and the next they are not.  I mean duh, but it could be your best friend, it could be your lover, or it could be you.  You never know what will happen.  And not to start to be totally paranoid - but it just reminds you all the more that if you’re not enjoying yourself right now - if you are not pursuing the path that calls to you now - if you are really putting off today what it is that you really want to be doing - you might not ever get the chance again.  And I can’t help but feel that way most of the time - which is why I’m always striving to get so much done at once.  But there is also something to be said for quality of the moment.  Cause in my case - here I may be doing a thousands things at once - but if I’m really not enjoying any of it and longing for the real essence of life - then what it the point?  So I’m trying to incorporate this philosophy into my current life.
    I’ve been indulging my reading with my obsession of strong women.  I have read so many rad books about women this spring that it got to the point where if I picked up a book that looked good and it was written by a man - I lost interest.  I’ve been on a bit of a fiction binge in addition to everything else.  I’m a big Barbara Kingsolver fan (in fact she’s one of my favorites). Fly said to me, I think her latest book - Prodigal Summer - is about plants and I thought of you.  That was the prompting I needed to get the hardback from the library and indeed it was and amazing women story of several different characters in a small mountain town in the Appalachians who each have their obsession with nature (coyotes, moths, organic apples, reviving the extinct American Chestnut)... it was rad.  Also read True Love and Homegrown Tomatoes cause I was lured in my the obsession with growing tomatoes.  And Big Stone Gap which is about more quirky mountain people in Virginia.  Red Dirt (which I reviewed) also about rural people (in Oklahoma) with a female main character and rich political family history. And of course Michelle Tea and her stories of women and love had me hooked into the world of girl-love and feminism along with Inga Musico’s Cunt (see book reviews).  I’ve been reading through Manifesta - which at times I’ve gotten totally into.  The two authors were once editors at Ms. magazine and they know their history of the women’s movement and feminism with amazing detail. I think the most amazing part of that book has been where they state how things were in 1970 - for perspective on how much has changed - much of it in a way we don’t even realize - especially those of the younger generation.  I mean I was born in 1971 - so I don’t know what it was like for women living then, besides all that I’ve read.  They are writing about the third wave of feminism and about what girls are doing today and I find it to be truly inspiring and the perspective on the big picture is really amazing.  I have skipped back and forth from reading it though cause they seem to have a bit of repetition in their telling though, which is strange.  I just started reading the Plain Reader - which is about making a simple life.  It’s a collection of essays from Plain Magazine - which is based in Quaker and Amish lifestyles.  There’s a bit too much god in it for me - but the simple living attitudes are so much akin to my own and many of the punks that I can overlook their religious influence and find my own wisdom in it (along with beautiful woodcuts!).  And I just started into Derrick Jensen’s A Language Older Than Words.  I have been enjoying Jensen’s interviews with amazing revolutionary thinkers in the Sun and so when I found this book (in Berkeley) I was beside myself.  It’s taken me a bit of time to finally get down to reading it - but wow - it’s a doosey and I think real soon I’ll be singing it’s praises loud.  I’ve got a bunch more rad women books that I’m ready to get into - Hearts of Fire is about rad women in American lore and legend, In Our Time is a second wave feminism memoir from Susan Brownmiller (I think this one will be a nice balance to Manifesta).  Everything from Seal Press continues to talk to me.  And I’ve got another Celtic women witch book called The Heart of the Fire that looks like an undertaking akin to the Mist of Avalon....
    Even though I’ve been in the midst of my social anxiety - it seems that I have been at more awesome shows of late than in a long while.  It’s strange, since I don’t feel like I’ve gone anywhere or done anything of late - but I guess in April and May I was led out of town a few times for book fairs and got to see some of my favorite bands.  The Solidarity Conference already seems like it was ages ago (in April) but that was a huge defining time for the season.  I was so impressed with that conference and got so much inspiration out of the workshops I was able to attend.  Especially Seth Tobocman’s presentation of War in the Neighborhood.  I was moved to tears it was so intense.  Couldn’t recommend it more highly, if you have the opportunity to see him! 
    Even though I feel that I have missed an awful lot of bands and shows due either to my work schedule, my mental state, or to just not knowing about what is happening in my own town - those that I have made it to have kept me alive.  Catharsis, Harum Scarum, Gunspiking and  Tem Eyos Ki have all been like my life-blood.  The sort of people, bands, and music that make it all worthwhile - that bring synthesis to everything - make all the waiting, all the travel time, all the days of wait worthwhile.  It’s like having a purpose and meeting up with people who you admire and sharing in an explosive moment of energy and expressive ideas.  And having a bunch of zines, books, and herbal salves for sale along with your tour is pretty rad too.  In fact, it really doesn’t get any radder.  Converge came back to Richmond after what seems like a few years.  They played with Most Precious Blood (the new ex-Inquisition band) which was cool and a big surprise was also getting to see Age of Ruin - a band I’ve been completely obsessed with.  Evil metal - akin to Darkest Hour - Swedish styled hardcore metal.  They ruled and yet everyone seemed to have not caught on yet so I was able to actually stand up front and not get my head pummeled.  That was not the case during Converge.  The first song was such an explosion of insanity - it was my favorite song - and I could have gone home happy right there - but there was more!  And last but not least on the show front, after a few years, I returned to ABC NO RIO in NYC to see the Oath, Limpwrist and Total Fury.  Limp Wrist didn’t play, much to my disappointment.  But the Oath was more than worth the trip.  I was in heaven.  I didn’t realize how much I missed the place, nor how much it was just what I needed at the time.  It was like being back in a place I once belonged - seeing so many old familiar faces.  Talking excitedly with old friends and just generally feeling the energy that is ABC.  I swear, it’s unlike any other place.  And this show as very much like the “old days” and I was happy for that.  It was awesome and I left there feeling good about things once again.  The posi-hardcore is coming to Richmond tonight with What Happens Next and Life’s Halt....and Crispus Attucks... what a jolt of fun that was.  Hardcore that is fun and serious and a laugh at the same time.  It’s the kind of hardcore that I can relate to.  The sort that makes the bands thrash and writhe with the music and jump around in the air.  And have something to say at the same time.  I was thrilled and found myself having a good time at the show in a way that is sadly too rare.  Many people seemed to comment about how much fun it was to have fun at a show.  And I enjoyed spending time with old California friends - and finding out that they don’t have fireflies west of the Rockies.  They were all going crazy over fireflies - I had no idea we were all so luck on the east coast!  When Matt from Crispus Attucks said that after being on tour for the past month he wanted to encourage everyone to find and follow their passion in life - whatever it may be.  He said he had found his and it’d been so great.  I was happy to hear someone else expressing with the same sort of inspired passion the very thing which I felt was the theme of the season for me.  Embrace your passion.  Dedicate yourself to that which you love and enjoy.  Spend your time on something worthy and enjoy it.  Enjoy yourself.  Yes - that is the key.  Finding happiness and satisfaction in the pursuit of your passion.  Go for it!!  I’m going to try to remember my own words and do some more of that myself.  I feel as though I’m on to a good start for the time being and I hope to continue it.  Frolicking in the garden, reading good books and listening to some good punk rock - and remembering that it’s about having fun!!  About getting to know people, sharing some ideas, maybe some good food, and forming new bonds of friendship.  Cause ya know, that is really what it’s all about.  So knock yourself out!
—Chris(tine) 6/01