Sunday, August 5, 2012

Things In My Cabinet: Sun and Dark

The Sunshine Blogger award. So...sunshiney.
I woke up this morning to a sky full of fog and two unexpected doses of intense sunshine in my inbox. First of all, the delightful A.F.E. Smith of Reflections of Reality nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger award. I have mixed feelings about these awards - they're sort of like chain emails, in that they kinda guilt-trip you into passing them along with the sense of "Well, at least somebody cares about me enough to pass it on, I'm not alone in the world, better make sure I send it to everyone I know!" And then, too, they don't tend to have much in the way of meaningful content (what's your favorite place to vacation? what's your favorite Christmas movie?) That being said, though, this kind of casual blog award is a sweet, unexpected indicator that hey, whoa, somebody out there is actually reading your blog! And likes it! And wants to share it! Which is lovely. And this one is, well, unusually topical.

See, I've been having a rough few weeks. Moving across the country has been much harder than I expected. I left behind a beautiful house full of art that I'd made, a wonderful partner, and a community of kind, creative people to come back to the Bay Area, because despite everything I'd made for myself in Massachusetts I knew it wasn't the right place for me, and I was homesick for fresh fruit and the smell of the jasmine and blue days full of sunlight that weren't soul-witheringly humid. And I thought that here would be the best place to seriously get to work on the Museum of Joy. I'd volunteer at the Exploratorium and learn a million things about how to make and run an amazing museum. I'd have contacts here, and family, a safety net. It would be a hard change, sure, but the right one! I didn't expect to find myself, a month out, walking around on the brink of weeping all the damn time. I didn't expect to find myself swamped so deeply in self-doubt that I'd actually consider moving back to the East Coast. I didn't expect to miss Kevin so viciously. I thought I'd be doing a splendid, adventurous thing, and it doesn't feel that way.

The installation I built in my old place, and the wonderful gentleman who
helped me every step of the way. I miss them both. Like real bad.
It doesn't mean that I did make the wrong decision; it just feels like it because being here is hard, and scary, and uncomfortable, and right now it doesn't feel joyous or meaningful enough to make it worth what I've given up to come here. My own space and my own privacy are deeply important things to me, part of what makes me tick - one of the reasons I want to build a Museum, not buy an existing building, is the love I have of creating a space that is in accordance with my heart and soul and spirit. And I'm staying with my folks out here - they are amazing people, and I love them deeply, and I am incredibly lucky to have the resource of a place to stay while I look for an apartment in the brutal SF housing market, but I don't even have a door I can close, and it is eating me alive. I am lonesome, and anxious, and restless. I love the Exploratorium, but I'm a volunteer and not an employee, and it feels like so far as if I don't know enough to be helpful in such a way that I can be given anything really useful to do - so, for now at  least, I'm still on the fringes looking enviously in at a rich, complex world I'm not qualified to take part in. I don't have the space - physically or mentally - to make art. Most of my friends are thousands of miles away. And my most constant support, the person who has held my hand through every doubt, every qualm, who has gentled me through all my own darkness and believed in me when I didn't have it in me to believe in myself - that person is now a voice on the other end of a phone, terribly far away, and I am panicking. So much for my grand, productive, creative, independent life in San Francisco! Turns out that this museum of which I dream is an Endeavor, and starting out is not a sprightly skipping amidst the flowers but a slow fearful journey into darkness.

So the Sunshine Blogger Award came at an interesting time - a time when I'm feeling the least sunshiney that I've felt since, oh, my last really awful heartbreak, which was four years ago. But it also came hard on the heels of the post I wrote about my determination to start down the path to the Museum of Joy by beginning to collect accounts of other people's experiences of joy, whatever they may be - a post that has become the repository of staggeringly beautiful words, images, feelings, and recollections from those kind souls who have come and commented. In my own moment of doubt and fear, those words have been the most radiant and healing force imaginable. Each person who comes to share their experience is helping to say to me, yes, this is the right thing to do, no matter how scary it is: joy is what matters to you, and no matter how long and dark the path may be to get there, this Museum will be worth it. Because when people talk about joy they become poets; their language becomes almost accidentally piercingly beautiful, and their words fill with an intensity and honesty that is incredible to read.

(If you'd like to share your own experiences of joy - please! I would be grateful & joyous! plus it's for SCIENCE! - you can do so here.)

Here's Rob. Like I said, a mensch.
Which brings me to the other shaft of sunlight in my inbox: R.S. Guthrie's post this morning. I've been asking bloggers & Twitter folk if they'd be willing to share my post on joy, somewhat shyly, because I'm not used to this whole social networking thing. But I really, really want as many people to come and share as possible - not just today, not just this week, but in an ongoing way, so that the post becomes a collection of joyful experiences that spark and radiate and do good things to our often sore, sick souls. So I asked Rob, and he responded by offering to blog about it, for which I called him a mensch (because he is a mensch). Well, the post he wrote was staggering. He wrote about his own darkness and loss and suffering with such poignancy that it had me weeping, and then he wrote:

Hope brings me joy. 

I needed to hear that, today. After everything Rob's been through, his writing about my post and his rediscovery of joy and the role in plays in his life, well, few people could have made me feel like what I'm doing might be worth it after all. Maybe it seems silly that I'm experiencing such suffering over something like a move when I've got people on both sides to love and support me, a roof over my head, enough money to get by. But suffering, like joy, is a funny thing - it pays no attention to perspective. You can suffer terribly in the midst of a seemingly pleasant life and you can experience joy in the midst of what seems to be enormous loss. Often it's some small thing that sets it off. I remember one of the deepest moments of grief I've ever experienced was seeing an old, probably homeless man on a bus hugging a teddy bear as tightly as a small child would; it opened a hole in my heart like someone had died, and the void of the universe came pouring through. Nobody I knew, or ever saw again, but the depths of the sorrow I feel even thinking of it are wordless and strangely, disproportionately enormous. And today, Rob's writing about what it meant to him that I called him a mensch opened up another hole, except that it wasn't a void pouring in, it was gladness pouring out, as if I had suddenly become a fountain or a well.

I'm not going to pass on the Sunshine Blogger award in the way the rules ask me to. That's because it meant too much too me, today of all days, that someone saw me as a source of warmth of light. Instead, I want to use it as an opportunity to honor Rob and one other blogger for their work in writing honestly, fearlessly, and beautifully about the coupling of joy and sorrow, finding light in the dark, and making meaning in the midst of suffering. In addition to Rob's blog, I'd like to honor The Death Writer. I am constantly amazed at how she takes a topic that fills almost all of us with fear, and writes about it with clarity, compassion, kindness, and sensitivity, not to mention a deep, profound intelligence and wisdom. To them, and all other writers who are doing the hard work of writing about finding hope in the depths of hardship, I send my gratitude. You are helping me more than you know. May you have as much sunshine with you as you need.

I'm going to leave you all with this song, which is haunting and heartbreaking, and as much about joy as it is about sorrow. ("Sun and Dark" is a phrase from another of her songs, and I can't think of anything more appropriate. She is amazing.)


  1. Awww, Jericha. That right there brought joy to my day. I was sitting at my computer wondering how I was going to keep this death blog up and running. I'm out of interview subjects. My last one runs tomorrow and I don't have anyone lined up for Wednesday. Plus, I'm giving up the religion blog while I get my book ready for self publishing. That's another thing that's got me down. I know everyone and their brother is publishing their own books, but I kind of wanted to be chosen by a trade publisher. You know, handed the keys to the kingdom and all that. I'll get it done and for now my life has some focus. Get. Book. Done.
    Now, on to you. Moving cross country is STRESSFUL. I've moved more than twenty times in my life, which might explain this head full of white hair under the dye, and it stinks. Especially when you're looking for work, a place to live and you miss your man. It will get better, but it takes time. And the good thing about down times is that they make the joyful times more joyful.
    I say wallow in the sadness. Feel it in your bones. Cry. Write long love letters. Send mail art. Listen to the Carpenters. (or not. that's just my go to downer listening) But eventually, the universe will gift you with something that will bring a smile back to your face.

    1. me with something like, maybe, what you just wrote? Thank you, Pamela. I'm doing my best to just be here with the sadness, not push it away, just experience it fully & see what it's got for me. Knowing there are people like you out there listening & encouraging me is so huge.

      Sending you luck & gladness for your book. I'm really, really looking forward to reading it. If you ever want help & there's something I can do, just le me know.

  2. Well, I thought being called a mensch was inspiring---you have humbled me with this post. I want to say you are doing the right thing because it is what you are doing now. I recently made a HUGE decision, and it's on a clock, and sometimes all I can hear is the tick-tock in the background noise, promising me that this shot at joy is fleeting and that the sand is running. But we can't think that way. We need to live in the moment, and to me you seem like one of the best people I've met at doing that. What you're feeling now is what I call "car buyer's remorse". I have never purchased a vehicle where I did not walk away with a sick feeling in my gut that would not subside, no matter what I tried, for at least a few days (and I've never bought anything particularly "luxurious" or unnecessary). People ultimately know what's best for themselves. Change is scary. I think I said that today, or some other day---but it IS. Terrifying, actually. But nothing worthy ever starts off feeling easy or immediately glorifying.

    Anyway, I didn't mean to tangent off on a support note, just a HUGE THANK YOU for including me in your wonderful blog post. :)))

    1. Change IS scary! Which is why I know I can't go back to Massachusetts - that's too easy, and I wouldn't be happy if I did. It's just hard to stick to a course that takes you down a road of doubt, even if you know that the only way to feel like you're truly doing something worth doing is to get through it and out the other side instead of turning back when things get hard.

      You're welcome. Really, profoundly welcome.

  3. I follow both of their blogs, but I'm pretty sure I found both of them through you. I know I found Rob's through you.

    You know, you should think of the move as if you're a tree. How you can look at the rings and see where they went through trauma like drought or fires. But they survive and grow stronger because of it and grow to become towering beautiful things.
    The other option is to succumb and die.

    1. That's an awesome way of looking at it, Andrew. I wasn't planning to succumb and die by any means, but thinking of anythign to do with giant trees usually helps, somehow.

  4. Keep being fiercely you, and the joy will return. You are strong and capable and a little slice of light in my life. The heart lamp you made me is the only one I leave on in my apartment every hour of every day, because I like to think of your light being nearby even when you aren't in Mass anymore.

    You are doing what is right for you, no matter how difficult the transition. You will find your space to build and create in. This low will only intensify the high on the other side of the abyss. Keep gathering your joy. Keep hope close (in a pocket maybe?). And email me your address, my dear. I've been working on a little bit of light for you. xx

  5. Maine , Nice, Cheney.
    They got the Nallers.
    They got Nathalie and Martin and they got Marc.
    AK's - Germany - Texas.
    They got the " Zibbs".
    They got Connie Mack with Cho and " Cisco Kid".

    1. Well, that was a fascinating contribution.

    2. I got one too around the same time, but it told me to write about my own death.

    3. Huh! That's...almost meaningful?


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