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In praise of repetition
Dispatch #16: In praise of repetition
Today I feel like a little kid at show-&-tell. Let’s roll with that.
Here’s my face, in my living room, on an ordinary day. The fiddle leaf behind me used to only have one leaf. Over the last year, she has exploded like a firecracker, green & greener & greener still. The books, as you mighhhhht be able to peep, are organized by color.
& Here’s two polaroids.
A sky-brushing tree in our front yard. & My newly-cleared off desk in pre-dusk light. I’ve been making revisions on the novel (draft 4, here I come!) & when that pre-dusk light hits, I find myself drawn to sit here, seltzer at the ready, pen in hand.
& Here’s the poem, Here, by Aracelis Girmay. “Here is your heart, a red bicycle / without a kickstand, in the rain. Here / is your plain & famous pain.”
Here is a sports saying I recently heard that I like: “reps remove doubt” AKA commitment to repetition (shot after shot, lap after lap, showing up to the field day after day) removes doubt. I love repetition. I’ve often given myself repeatable assignments like, fill in a square inch with visual art for 365 days. I like seeing how doing the same thing over & over changes it, & changes me. I feel this mantra come alive in my writing practice.
When I show up, no matter the inner-tumult, & simply repeat the actions of a writer, I am a writer.
& What are the actions of a writer? Getting a sentence down. Changing it. Leaving it alone. Changing it again. Focusing on the beauty of a word. Letting it lead me. Getting lost. Getting found. Dunking fully into the work, the material, immersing myself, splashing around. Seeking a more accurate verb/noun/perspective. Seeking surprise. Saying it simpler. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Here is a collage I made while on my residency at AIR Serenbe in 2017.
During that month-long residency in Georgia, I collaged, painted, finished Odes to Lithium, & felt caught up in a type of singular flow that I still look back on with awe.
Here is a thought: today is a wonderful day because it is a new day. I woke up breathing (a wonderful repetition that is not to be taken for granted!), my hair super floofy from sleeping on it after a late-night shower, & thinking about this practice of sending you all love-notes, thought-notes, scraps, wholenesses, delights. It’s been a little over a year since I started this zine (here’s the 1st one!) (& here is the crowd favorite!) (& here’s my personal favorite). The practice, the repetition, has called me to show up, to reveal, share, commiserate, to ask deeper questions, to ponder amidst strangers & friends. I want to thank you so much for being here. For your support, your engagement, your shares, for the contribution of paid subscribers, for your felt attention.
Here is a sentence from a recent Washington Post article that blows my mind & expands my heart: “The very fabric of the cosmos is constantly being roiled and rumpled all around us, according to multiple, international teams of scientists that have independently found compelling evidence for long-theorized space-time waves.” More here.
The show-&-tell continues, loves…
• Drum roll please…registration for ISL August session officially opens TODAY! Step right up, we’d love to have you. Come create & grow alongside an incredible cohort of open-hearted, wild-wondering, risk-taking creativity-nerds! Plus, check out that roster of incredible Visiting Artists?! I, for one, can’t handle it.
• I loved this particular moment from the podcast 10% Happier in which journalist & meditator Dan Harris interviews former marathoner, social worker & psychotherapist (now Buddhist teacher) Cara Lai. The episode is called “Can You Get Fit Without Self-Loathing?” & centers on the tension point between discipline & self-compassion. As a recovering “striver,” I found this exchange about fostering a more “receptive, open, relaxed softening” encouraging.
Dan Harris: …Well, doesn’t the body & the mind respond well to severe testing, pushing it to its limits, & isn’t there a voice in our head that says…‘Sit on the couch, eat the Doritos, take care of yourself’ when actually it’s coming to the ball dressed up as self-compassion, but it’s actually laziness or fear?
Cara Lai: …The body can benefit from a lot of discipline, sometimes…yes. But now that I have a kid I wouldn’t want to say anything to myself that I wouldn’t want to say to him. Like, if I was telling him that he needed to go for a run [laughs] it would have to be from a place of love, not from the self-flagellating place that it was coming from for me. So if I’m going to be really disciplined with myself, if it’s coming from a place of not trusting myself, fear, self-hatred, self-doubt, then it’s not going to lead to the kind of freedom that I’m seeking. It might do something to shift some things for me, but ultimately the habit of that way of talking to myself is going to have to be a habit that gets undone…Does that make sense?
Dan Harris: Yes, so the body does respond well to pushing it to its limits, & there’s some discipline we need – but if the motivation, if the galvanizing force is self-hatred & that’s unexamined, then the fruit of the poisoned tree is going to be poisoned.
Cara Lai: Yeah – I had this pop up in my head a lot when I was on my long retreat: The dharma will not let you awaken through self-flagellation. It just doesn’t work that way. You can only get so far with awakening through forcefulness, because it’s a different kind of energy from that kind of release we’re seeking. & The release is much more of a receptive, open, relaxed softening. & So if we’re pushing, that’s the opposite kind of energy. & So we ultimately will need to release that grip in order to get there.
• Every time Toronto Ink Company’s The Colour Newsletter pops up in my inbox, I feel like I’m the recipient of something analog & wonderful. Time slows down, colors intensify, & I feel more connected to the vivid world beyond my screen. Every time!
• This perfect bite-sized poem by bpNichol
• Which reminded me of this bright gem
• Which of course brought me back to this little (& controversial) hero
• I finally saw Past Lives & it was breathtaking. Fun fact: I was at the Millay Residency in 2016 with Celine, the writer & director of the film. It’s so beautiful to see what she’s created!
• What?! Sade plus house music?! I’ve had this on repeat.
• Here’s a motivational speaker (& former tennis player) that I can get behind.
• Guiding words from Sonya Renee Taylor, “responding to the recent rulings by the US Supreme Court and asking us to look within ourselves to find our inherent dignity and sovereignty.”
• Are there any Dr. Kirk Honda fans in the house? I’ve been religiously watching his therapist-takes on reality tv for the past year now (most recently, The Ultimatum: Queer Love). Just a few days ago he released an incredibly vulnerable video in which his long-time friend & often-podcast-guest Humberto fight, cry, & resolve in real time. Even if you don’t know Dr. Kirk Honda or Humberto, there’s something incredible about watching two people – & two grown men & two therapists at that - be so vulnerable, human, & messy. I found it permissive & beautiful.
Here’s another collage from my residency time in Georgia.
Here is what I see right now: a half-drank glass of home-brewed hibiscus iced tea. A window full of blue & sun. A vine-plant I’m working to resuscitate; she’s got seven little leaves right now. How many will she have a year from now? If I repeatedly tend to her, she will certainly bloom. I am the plant. I am the window, ever-changing in what fills it, but constant in its border, its measure. I am the hibiscus, a color so itself, a flavor so itself.
In praise of repetition, what do you need to tell yourself? Keep telling yourself that.
In praise of repetition, what kind thing might you offer yourself today? & Might it be just as valuable & necessary tomorrow? Offer yourself that. Again.
In praise of repetition, thank you, thank you. For showing up to this loving room I try to create, for leaning in to show-&-tell, for your own particular windowness, hibiscusosity, plantitude. Here’s to that.
With ample maple syrup,
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