Bandersnatch – The CYOA Way

The only spoiler in here is more of a big picture or process spoiler. But even still, it’s probably best that you mess with the film until you’re exhausted, and then read this afterward.

OK. This is one of these experiments where if I was on Twitter, I’d just write a whole thread about what I just did for the past three hours. But I’m not due back, by my own doing, for the next eight days. So let’s see if we can do that “don’t write a thread, write a blog post!” thing.

Choose Your Own Adventure

First of all, I love Choose Your Own Adventure book series (also the less popular version Which Way…and there was some YA romance version, too) and, most likely, I love it more than you do. I have many of these books in storage right now that I haven’t even read.

I wrote some sort of essay in grad school that could have been something similar a few years ago, but I can’t fully recall. I just remember my instructor asking me if she could use this method or was I going to? I said I was going to, but I don’t remember what I wrote. That was in 2012.

Before then, I grew up going to Walmart as often as I could, buying these books (for $1.95 to $2.95) with my allowance. I loved them into adolescence. My favorite title was You Are a Genius. I would read with fingers kept in key parts where there was a seemingly fateful decision where one could mercilessly die. If I died, then I could go back to the last choice and choose differently. Ah, if only life were so easy!

For a YA book, it was pretty macabre–but not in a completely gruesome way. It’s more of a very final, existential way. I would dread reading words like this:

You are never heard from again. 

🥺

I’m not really obsessed with much as a dilettante, but my passion for CYOA books is as obsessed as I could be. Although, I wasn’t obsessed enough to be interested in the authors. It’s just my version of Pokemon-gotta-catch-em-all. I’m a collector if you will. I probably have at least 40 of these books, and that seems like a low number.

It’s more than a book–it’s a philosophy

As a teenager, I adopted the CYOA mindset as a way to deal with the theological conundrum that my friends in my church’s youth group would love to debate on occasion: do we truly have free will or is everything predestined (by God or life or whatever)?

In my mind, CYOA meant that we did have the freedom to choose, but the choices had fixed fates, fates you couldn’t necessarily choose your way out of. Even the choices weren’t up to you. And the choices that you think matter–they really don’t. But then there are inconsequential choices that can completely change your fate.

Enter Bandersnatch, Netflix’s latest film from the Black Mirror series. It dropped today. I actually renewed Netflix for Black Mirror, as I usually do for this series. And being the CYOA freak that I am, I was especially excited to see this on…my own black mirror.

Sidenote:

This would be a great short tweet thread here, but ever since I was researching 2001: A Space Odyssey and thinking about the black monolith, I’ve been viewing my TV as one–which it literally is and also, in a sense, is the same as it was intended in the film–some tool that ended up accelerating human evolution (TV has been revolutionary indeed).

So lately, my TV has creeped me out. It just looms over me in my bedroom. Although I love the images that Chromecast displays–art, space, landscape–when I move, I don’t think I’ll keep a TV in my bedroom anymore–or at least one was big as mine. It’s just imposing and leering and a little too…dark and ominous.

I bring this up because 1) I’ve been dying to share that but 2) it coincides with what Black Mirror is, according to the TV series creator Charlie Brooker.

The “black mirror” of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.

I cannot believe I just learned this today.

Anyway, cue “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai…

jamiroquai

It’s Black Mirror, or the “Coming Attractions” of our present dystopia!

Bandersnatch is a choose-your-own-adventure type film–interactive film as Netflix calls it. I had a Smart TV (a rather ancient one from 2012, but it still works…), but I had to watch it on my computer because it requires a mouse for you to choose.

Another technical note: On my Smart TV, I saw that the film was only two minutes long. I clicked to watch it, thinking that this is different from the trailer, or maybe I misunderstood the two minutes length, especially since this was an interactive film. So after clicking, I received a proper British apology about having the wrong technology to watch the movie. And by the way–you can’t cast from your Android phone either. 

Anyway…you have about 10 seconds to choose each choice. But if you’re really not into choices, then you’ll have choices made for you. I found that out while multitasking on my phone. So if you just want to watch it as a film, you could just let the time expire and let “fate” choose for you.

(I think I’m only going to watch this one more time, as a film, without choosing anything. It will be hard to be passive, but after spending so many hours going back and forth, between reality, dream, and delusion, it will probably feel like a deserved break.) 

If you do find a “you are never heard from again” ending (and believe me, it’s Black Mirror–so it’s no spoiler to say that there’s death in this film), interestingly the film does the bookmarking/finger held in place for you–to a certain extent. After a not-so-favorable ending, you’ll be brought back to key choices. “Try again” is a phrase you will hear often and, if you’re crazy or patient enough, you will do often.

I don’t want to give too much away. But, if you know Black Mirror, you know how everything is allegorical. Brooker does not shy from hammering home his points, almost in a hamfisted way. And, well–it’s a British show and I’m a stupid Yank who is a sucker for these limey accents. So the moral hamfisting–I guess I will just allow it.

But really, I allow it because the points being made are good ones and it’s part of the whole Black Mirror…schtick? Schtick may be the wrong word. Ethos is probably a better one.

The interactive quality involves more than the choices you’re making, but how the film is interacting with you. It’s not like going to see Captain EO at Epcot, or other films that bring in smells and sensations (think IMAX). It’s more psychological–and again, I don’t really want to spoil it much at all. Please watch it if you can.

I actually came to write about this tonight because there was one choice I made that I’m sure I made, and the movie chose the other choice. That only happened once. But I was pissed.

Maybe I didn’t click hard enough or correctly? It’s possible.

But even the questioning of myself falls into the realm of this movie. It really is a mindfuck, but not in the typical Black Mirror way. 

Is it art or is it a game? Can a game be art?

But unlike previous Black Mirror episodes, it is a game–and that’s what makes this a bit different. I’ll get into why in a little bit.

Lately, on mobile games (and I can only speak for those–I’m not a gamer with a gamer consoles), there are games that take on this fiction-as-gaming methodology.

There are a plethora of games in this genre, like Episodes (I personally find this platform to be trash because of poorly written stories, but it’s highly popular), Moments which, surprise–it has its moments, and my personal favorite, Choices.

In the past few years, these “interactive novels” have become increasingly popular. I’m pretty sure shoot-em-up games are more popular–but even those have become very entrenched in story. I was blown away when Halo first came out and how story-oriented Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was. I’m not a console gamer, so I can only imagine how story-oriented the shoot-em-up games have become.

So let me say in my most writerly voice: we live and thrive from our stories.

So these mobile games can be played for free, but it’s a freemium model. So, if you actually want to have fun or get a richer experience, it can all get a bit pricey because unlike Bandersnatch, if you want some more appealing or sexier choices, you’ll need to pay for them with diamonds.

You can earn a few gems by watching ads or logging in or reading a chapter…or, if you’re impatient and really dig the story, you can buy them. Dammit, it’s a good profitability model, but one that can easily bleed you dry. You’ll be stuck with a choice you know you want to make, but then it cost ten gazillion diamonds. Curses!

The quality of writing on some of these platforms leaves a lot to be desired–typos, plot holes, overused tropes, stupid characters, etc. These games are mostly aimed at a population which identifies as female (as far as I’ve seen) and most likely skews younger.

But after watching Bandersnatch, it makes me wonder if they will be more films made like this or if there will be even more games created as interactive novels for wider audiences–and hopefully of the same caliber of Brooker’s writing.

From my personal experience, when you’re involved in a story, it’s easier to become more emotionally involved and attached (thus the freemium model being so lucrative and effective). I believe it can make for a more deeply entertaining experience–hey, it’s why I’m talking about some book I bought over 20 years ago.

So why did I bring up gaming for Bandersnatch? Besides the fact that the genre of interactive novels has risen in popularity, it’s how I felt when I watch the film.

When you go through your first passes of Bandersnatch, you start to wonder if you can go back to a previous choice and get a similar result without some other unforeseen outcomes. Unlike a book, you can’t really go backwards at will, so I wrote down what I chose as a way to somewhat keep my finger on a page of the story. But you start to see if you can game the game, in essence.

But the game can’t be “played” like that.

What choices can we freely choose?

And that brings me back to this: the choices we “freely” make and having unavoidable fixed fates–that’s really enough of a spoiler, honestly. A CYOA-type book or game can bring a sense of madness. And it’s easily a metaphor for life.

Even if you could go back and change things–and you don’t have to talk about time-space continuums or changing other things in history or the butterfly effect. It’s not even that sensitive or precise.

Even if you could go back to change certain choices, it doesn’t matter. Some choices are made for you, whether you like it or not. That also means that some outcomes are unavoidable. It’s a bit of a wearying truth that comes from not only Bandersnatch, but from reading CYOA books and playing CYOA type games. We’re not as “free” as we think we are.

And it sounds like I’ve fallen on the side of predestination. But really, it’s a blend that has so many variables, including other people’s “free will” choices. But it’s not some big deity is the heavens making all the choices. That’s a type of dangerous fatalism and nihilism for people who think they have no agency or autonomy.

It’s all of us, together, making choices which affect all of us–including people we’ll never meet.

If you watch this film, I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below! What did you most like or hate about it? What left you with more questions? What ideas or lessons did you come away with after watching? How long did you watch it for? Did you go back to certain choices repeatedly? What was your favorite ending? Looking forward to reading your thoughts!


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an ode to OK Computer

thomas hardy

In the next World War
In a jackknifed juggernaut
I am born again

–lyrics from the song, “Airbag” by Radiohead

Those are the beginning lyrics of “Airbag,” the first song on the album that changed my life, OK Computer, Radiohead’s third album. It was released on June 16, 1997 (it’s a Gemini!). The 20th anniversary re-issue, OKNOTOK, was released on June 22nd (it’s a Cancer–how nostalgic!), so a few days ago.

I thought I was going to go on and on about this album–and maybe I still will. 1997 was the first year of college for me, after waiting a year to go to college. The TL;DR version of that gap year is that my father was suffering from paranoid delusions about financial aid forms so I waited and prayed and then, miraculously, he changed his mind. It was a year marked with depression and weight loss and anger and sorrow. I somehow hadn’t heard of this album yet, though, even though I was ardently listening to alternative radio. But this is not a radio friendly album.

How I heard about OK Computer was when I went to college in Chicago. One of my fellow dormmates, Anne, a tall, kinda wild girl from D.C., loaned me the album. And this being 1997, this is the time of cassette tapes still, so I recorded the album onto a cassette. OK Computer was a part of my freshman year soundtrack.

As a musician, I wasn’t really listening to the lyrics of paranoia and alienation. But I was really relating to these themes, especially alienation, on a soul level. There was at least someone else in the world who could see that the world was kinda fucked up and wasn’t afraid to talk about it.

Speaking of kinda fucked up and alienation on a soul level–that was me, in college. Although I had some altogether sane, healthy relationships, I did have a kinda fucked up best friendship with this kid from New York–I’d venture to say it was probably my first real relationship with a guy, even though it was 99% platonic.

It’s taken so many years for me to really see this relationship for what it was–I had idealized and idolized it so much, because this atheist dude had rocked my little evangelical world.

Still, we were both probably fucked up on depression and brutally took it out on each other (IMO, him more than me). But hey, I made the Dean’s List that year, all while I was sleeping my way through it (according to my first year roommate).

But OK Computer wasn’t necessarily about all of that for me, the glories and the horrors of dealing with clinical depression in college while my family was being eaten alive by my father’s bipolar disorder and subsequent incarceration.

It was really about a sonic escape. It was so future-forward and prescient–the same issues and fears about technology that Yorke beautifully sings about are ones we’re currently battling right now. It was also a really good read on what was going on in our society at the time.

It’s funny, too, because the late 90s had all this hope for the future–except Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity”–I’m posting the video here because it was so innovative at the time:

Maybe the Brits knew something that we Yanks didn’t?

From that album on, I was a devoted Radiohead fan. I have seen them twice in concert–once in downtown Chicago and once in Wisconsin. Both times involved me being super hot and possibly dehydrated, being outdoors, with friends, being young. Twenty years later, Radiohead is all married with kids–and I’m in some weird life holding pattern. They were in their mid-20s in the late 90s. I just feel old typing about it.

With it being Cancer season, it’s easy for me to get lost in these large, warm waves of nostalgia, which now push me on the shores of late 2000, after I was out of college because my parents couldn’t pay my tuition and I think my father was in prison at this point.

I was at this church that was probably the closest thing to a real, ideal Christian community of my own imagination–full of art, music, and people on the fringes of society (OK, in retrospect, most of these folks are middle-class white folks, but their aesthetic was mine at the time–wearing thrift store clothing and retro sneakers, listening to 7″ vinyl aka hipsterish).

And there was a boy, a guitarist and photographer, J–either a Virgo or a Libra, and I can’t remember because we didn’t stay together long enough for us for me to remember his birthday. He was a couple of years older than me, this tall, slim kid from outside of Detroit. Just like the church, he was the closest thing to the real, ideal man of my own imagination. Even though there are so many details that I can’t remember as to why I felt like he was a paragon partner, but there was telepathy, there was real feeling, there was real love, however brief and intense, and there was Radiohead.

This guy was proto-hipster, listening to so much vinyl, listening to stuff from the 70s, and he felt our musical tastes only connected on major streets, like Milwaukee and North Ave and Damen. I still liked Creed at the time, unabashedly.

We had our favorite OK Computer songs, “Let Down” (mine) and “No Surprises” (his). He dubbed so many albums for me on cassette with his almost graffiti tag-like handwriting, including a mixtape that was definitely devoted to me. I still have it somewhere…It’s how I got into Slowdive.

One evening, he came over to my apartment and we were watching the documentary based on the tour for OK Computer, Meeting People Is Easy. We sat next to each other on the couch, and I was trying to watch the TV. I don’t know how far into the documentary we got–not very, maybe like 30 minutes in, but eventually he was staring at me with his wide blue eyes, eyes that seemed to take so much of the world in…

He said something like, “I’m a little too distracted to watch this.”  If he is a Libra, then he said it that seductive, Libra way that makes it hard to resist, that made it all about me.

Incredibly flattered (shit, I’m still flattered that I can be a distraction), I gave him a sidelong look back with a smile and walked him back to my bedroom.

My memory gets hazy here, because this may have been the night he told me he loved me. Let’s pretend it is, because he wasn’t over much. I came to his place more often.

I had leftover Christmas lights from college, multi-colored ones. Those were the only ones on, and they were strewn on my desk. It left my small bedroom with a full-sized bed–my first real mattress that I had bought months earlier–awash in a warm, pinked light. We were lying on my bed and I don’t remember how love came up.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you wholly,” I replied (yes, I was trying to one-up him, or at least be like–yeah yeah, I believe this, for real).

It had only been a week together, and then three weeks later, we broke up, on that same bed. He told me that being with me was like being on drugs. Again, I am flattered, but this is part of the reason we broke up. He didn’t think we didn’t had enough in common.

His BFF actually called me later to tell me that he thinks he was scared. I think he also wanted to affirmed that whatever had happened was real. that we weren’t on drugs. There were so many people rooting for us…

I tried to get him back once, in a letter where I only remember typing “Perfect love casts out fear.” He responded that he was “cold and locked up inside.” I wrote my first real poem after that.

“…and I am locked up right there with him…”

Shortly after our breakup, but before 9/11, weary of living in the land of Pres. W., he left for Brazil to probably be a permanent ex-pat. A friend of mine, half-jokingly, said that he probably left the country because of me. We only got back in touch one or two other times via email some time later.

Maybe now we could be friends, but I can only imagine, after how many hims and mes that we’ve become and thrown away–would we even recognize who we are now?

I am fine to leave us in my bedroom in Logan Square, swimming in pink light and tipsy on new love: frozen in time, as first love should be.

Maybe back then, I would have used the lyrics from the last song of OK Computer, “The Tourist” when we said those defining words to each other:

Hey man, slow down, slow down
Idiot, slow down, slow down

He did try to pump the brakes, because our short love affair was two parts–two weeks of passion and two weeks of silence. But we were already lost…

Because of the rapid speed, it was a love I questioned, out loud, to an older friend, who said–hey, if you’re feeling it, then it’s real.

Either way, there are no regrets. If love is there, you take it–especially when you’re feeling so out of orbit, so out of sync. For a brief but memorable moment, he was the square hole to my square peg.

And from the day I met him until the day I die, that will always mean something, because life can be so hard and lonely. For all of that, I will always be grateful: for the respite, for the adoration, for the passion, and for the music.

OK Computer definitely punctuated a large chunk of my forays into adulthood, and in love. I know it was a defining album for a band who so wanted to get away from the song, “Creep” from their first album, Pablo Honey.

Radiohead allowed me to be not only oh-so-cool and in love, but also curious and a little afraid of what’s happening to humanity. For all of that, I will always be grateful.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

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Thanks for your support! 💘

waiting for something decent and good

the waiting1

 

I applied for seven jobs today. It takes the edge off of the low-grade anxiety I’ve had for months. It almost crippled me yesterday–only to the point that I didn’t get to finish this article earlier to hopefully ensure I’d make it under the wire with getting paid today. I barely have any control over that, though. I was just too moody under this Cancer moon.

Last week, I got a letter where I was notified that I have to do some new hoop jumping to get SNAP. It’s like what I had to do for unemployment insurance–keep track of my job searches, do job-related things. Because being self-employed isn’t enough. This is new, as of last month. I guess Florida is employing people to do stupid admin work except for the people who actually need work. I need to talk to some case manager next Wednesday.

As I write this, I’m about $75 short on my phone bill, and I got the dreaded call earlier today that means that it’ll probably be turned off soon. For once, I’m not stressed out about it anymore. If it’s cut off, it’s cut off. It’s a waste of energy, resisting. There’s nothing I can do about it except ask for help continuously and keep looking for work that I can do.

Last week after my group, I had a talk with a friend, an Aries who co-leads the group. She had given me some blogging work and I was inquiring about more. I also wanted another POV on my work situation. She gave me some social media work that was optional for me to do. But I want to do it, so I can build up my portfolio.

You think taking advice from a Capricorn is hard? Whew. She gave me some good ideas but also made me look at myself, to see if I was too prideful. I will explore those job leads tomorrow. It was helpful to get new ideas of where to look because I knew I needed some new ideas. I even applied to a place that’s close to my house, a place I was told by another writer years ago that it was abusive. My Aries friend had worked there and I took her fiery enthusiasm and reconsidered. I consulted oracle cards twice and got the green light both times to apply.

I can’t really tell if I’m not being humble or open enough, even though my time in Florida has been taking it on the chin over and over–at least in my mind. And I’m a Capricorn–I’m born proud of myself.

Still, is it OK to say no to anything where I am on my feet for hours because of my jacked up knees? When does being humble transform into humiliation? Have I had enough of both?

These are questions for the Universe, and I don’t really feel the push to break my body to work–but I feel like that’s part of the narrative of poverty, of working in America.

In order to get help, you have to grovel, or be amusing, or to have successfully shown that you deserve it somehow. We glorify the stories of extreme asceticism and sacrifice, things we’re not even willing to do ourselves. But at the same time, we judge those who have less than us. It’s the same sort of mentality that has people thinking that people who get SNAP aren’t smart enough to buy food for themselves, or that all of them are lazy and aren’t doing enough.

It couldn’t be that the system is broken.

We value “working really hard”–unless you’re rich. Then it’s OK not to. We collectively think it’s OK because we all want to be rich one day. We all want the perks, the tax havens, the getting off easy for our sins, the different set of rules. We buy into the idea that if we work hard enough, then we’ll get that.

But most of us will never be rich.

Right now, we’re trying to dissect #Wealthcare, the new healthcare bill which is even worse than the current legislation. And guess who it serves? The rich–specifically, the insurance companies. The current climate seems to be bucking up against this idea of “hard work is salvation” and making the poor pay more. And of course, I’m a part of this climate, and it’s affecting me. All of these narratives play out in my mind and I question all of them, because this is about my humanity, our humanity,  after all.

It’s infuriating and inhumane and completely American.

Tomorrow, I need to check in on jobs I’ve already applied for, including one that hasn’t gotten back to me in weeks. I’ve let that go, in my mind.  Part of me doesn’t want to know, that I had put in all this work and that they decided to go with someone else and not tell me. I’m tough, but holding onto hope can be a wearying experience.

And I still can’t tell if I need to be working for myself or not–like officially. I wouldn’t mind it if it wasn’t in my room. Maybe in a co-working space…

I’m just kinda waiting around–but not. It’s more like stumbling around and looking. I’m not even sure what I’m looking for anymore. I’m not good at being lost.

I work almost every day, even weekends. It’s just hard when I’m doing all I can, but nothing has really broken through yet. Sometimes I think I should move because Florida is a tough state, but I don’t think I’m done here. I even asked the Universe about moving to the Gulf side of the state, but I got a strong no on that through oracle cards.

The questions continue. Do I want to be a writer anymore? It’s exhausting, doing these articles. Last week, I applied for a job that was more akin to what I used to do back in Chicago–a research coordinator. Maybe my writing life will be done soon.

And what of the rest of my life, that seems to be atrophying? A family. Friends I can rely on. Traveling this big, blue, beautiful world (I’m listening to Florence + The Machine), and just not struggling like this?

I had a huge epiphany: I had this belief that coming to Florida, I could finally be a full adult (or, my definition of it): self-sufficient, with furniture that matched, on my own, with my own transportation. I got to live like that for about a year.

The Universe had other plans.

All the while, I kept trying to bring the story back to that–self-sufficiency. Doing what I wanted, when I wanted. And that’s not the story to be told right now.

What I have been focusing on is uninteresting to me and yet it is the world I live in. Resisting it is tiring.

I don’t like obsessing over unpaid bills and the bales of ramen I will be eating until the 16th and whether I can afford some respite. I don’t like the sickening smells of food wafting in from the other side of the house. I don’t like listening to the incessant throat clearing and coughing from someone who doesn’t seem to give a shit about himself or others in this house. I don’t like having to remind the landlady to bring me a bathroom mirror and lights for outside of the house.

I have to separate myself from the stench, from the sounds, from the diet, from the bare wall in my bathroom that is missing a mirror.

Who the fuck am I outside of all these annoyances and failures?

And that’s why I have to go back to relying on a higher power–Someone who can who can unlock the cage from the outside, Someone who knows my whole story. Even if I’m not a Christian anymore, there’s still the part of me that needs to connect to something bigger, and better, than myself–especially in times like these.

I’ve been benevolently bailed out so many times. I can rely on that grace, even if it doesn’t show up when or how I want it to. So yeah, maybe tomorrow, the phone will truly turn off and it’ll take time to turn it back on.

Maybe things will just continue to worsen before they improve. But what will that do to me?

Whether it’s just my preoccupation with survival, or the feeling of doom that tries to snuff me out daily–I have to run on something else. I have to listen to something else. I have to focus on something else. Otherwise, it’s so easy to think something is wrong with me, that I’m not worthy of support or a good job or love or rest or anything else that is good. When things go wrong for a long time, it’s hard to believe that things will improve. It’s hard to wait, so very hard. It’s also difficult to keep pushing back at the narrative that because I’m in this frozen state, that means that I’m doing something wrong, that I’m wrong.

But if I don’t push back, I will get rolled over with doom, and I won’t survive it.

I think of all the things I’ve survived up to this point: a mentally ill father, my own mental illness in college, graduating college, dysfunctional friendships with white women (so, so many of these), peaks and troughs in my finances, unfair firings and layoffs, losing my car, grad school and all the disappointment, eviction (kinda twice), homelessness,  abusive landladies and roommates, infestations.

That’s the short list. I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of things.

Each painful incident, I’ve layered on rock-hard strength. I’m striated in multi-colored imperviousness. And as I get toughened, again, by the waiting and confusion and rejection and neglect, and by each article and job application and conversation and prayer and tarot card reading, I have to believe that it’s not just because the world is awful, and my strength is just a side effect of it.

One day soon, though, I will learn that the Universe holds all that I need–and that I can really trust. It seems to be the ultimate lesson here: how I’m never ever alone; how the spirit world is much more real and powerful that anyone I know.

Related to that: in tarot, I’ve been encountering the Magician card. Its basic meaning is that I have everything I need to create the life that I want. It seems like an enigma. What do I have? I do try to be grateful, but there’s something else impervious in me that is tired of painting on a faux face of gratitude–even though I believe in faking it to make it.

Still, I look at the card as it comes up each time. What do I have? I have myself–is that all I need? There’s a tension here, because I’ve been quite self-reliant and have been able to advocate for myself really well for my whole life. I’m torn between the steely nerve of self-reliance and the kinda scary, but soft and warm interdependence. It’ll always be like this, though, the seesaw between me and others.

But, I feel close in figuring out the balance, in figuring out this part of the journey. Like my last post, I don’t think there’s any new wisdom here to be found, or anything else to say, as I approach 2100 words. It’s more getting comfortable with uncertainty while I continue to learn to love myself–especially when life is hard. And that’s the essence of living a life, a spiritual life at that.

So what do I do while I wait, while I search, while I heal?

I went to the Dali Museum in St. Pete last weekend, and there was a Frida Kahlo exhibit. I had seen another exhibit at the SFMOMA in 2008. I’ve seen and loved the movie Frida. But in this exhibit, I really began to understand the amount of physical  and emotional pain she endured for all of her life. Because of the bus accident she survived, she turned to painting as solace. Her pain was beautiful, but it was definitely hers. As I read her quotes and looked at her self-portraits, I felt like I had found a comrade in suffering.

It made me think about all the pain that I’ve endured. What am I doing with it? The poverty, the abandonment, the frustration, the confusion, the rejection, the silence–they are all different colored paints that I can use to create something beautiful.

I can only hope that as I keep writing about this really tough time, something good, maybe even lasting, is being created.

I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.
– Frida Kahlo

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