Feels like home

When someone shows their appreciation for you, it’s always heart-warming.

This past weekend amplified that sentiment. The sentiment came from two people, both whom I’ve know for less than a year. Both, with whom I’ve become fast friends. So natural. So frighteningly easy. The only other people with whom I became fast friends and long-time confidantes are my best friend, Ali and another woman, who I affectionately refer to my sister. My ‘sister’ shall remain nameless unless she reads this blog and decides it’s fine to refer to her by her name.

The first person who showered me with appreciation and big love was local birth photographer, Elliana Gilbert. I interviewed her for the Winnipeg Free Press and it appeared in the Saturday print edition and online over the weekend. She was floored by the coverage we gave her and the birthing community noticed what the paper had done in shining a light on her, and therefore the subject of birthing. She is a talented photographer with a huge heart and a strong sense of what is right and what is worth fighting for. You gotta admire that in a person. It was this great big dive into the mutual admiration society.

I’m not one for receiving or accepting compliments in a gracious manner because I’m never quite sure that what I’ve done garners that kind of attention. But, I am one to shower compliments to someone who thoroughly deserves it. I don’t throw compliments around like confetti. I can be a pretty discerning confetti thrower. Yeah, I was throwing confetti at her. Lots of confetti.

She throws it back pretty good, too, I gotta admit. I think I’ve managed to brush most of it out of my hair.

The second person to show their appreciation to me was my technical advisor for the current novel I’m working on. I’m still refusing to name him. And it’s probably going to stay that way. He read the interview I did with Elliana and sent me an email telling me how much he enjoyed reading it. And that led him to confessing how much he loves working with me, tossing out additional compliments I wasn’t expecting and telling me how honoured he was that I would seek him out for his help with some of the finer details in the novel.

Damned fool made me blush. It’s not easy to do to me. But he did it.

To be honest, I’m the one who is honoured that he would be willing to answer the questions I have. I’m honoured that he would share some of his time with me and impart some of his knowledge onto me and into my characters and my storytelling. It’s gracious and generous.

As a result, he is offering me more opportunities to learn from him and expand my knowledge base in his area of expertise. It is beyond cool and awesome. I cannot be more grateful to have this person in my life.

Does it sound kinda like a mutual admiration society thing going on here? Yeah, I thought so. Experiencing this kind of love from other creative folks is weird, but in a good way. Love from non-creatives is just different. It’s something I don’t care to seek out because it doesn’t feel easy or right. It’s sort of intuitive… the choice to be comfortable or not.

Being in the company of other creative minds, who also happen to share similar values and sensibilities, feels like home. It feels safe. It’s safe to be unguarded, honest and raw. It’s safe to be inspired and to grow from those associations and friendships. That’s nourishing for the soul. Well, for my soul, it is. Can’t speak for anyone else.

I have so much love and gratitude for the people who light the fire in me, who keep that fire burning and who inspire me to ask more of myself with whatever I endeavour to take on.

I couldn’t possibly ask for anything more than that.

Not normal

Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from
— Jodie Foster

For most of my life and without realizing it, I tried my damnedest to fit in, to blend in, to be perceived as normal (or at least live up to the perception, rightly or wrongly, people had about Chinese/Asian people — i.e. book smart, docile, non-confrontational, amenable), at the urging of my parents and to those I admired, respected or wanted to be friends with.

As I grew up and became an adult, I came to understand that fitting in, being normal, blending in with everyone around me was something that came at a price. My self-esteem took a beating. My place in the world, in society, was put into question. My value as a human being was under scrutiny, too. The opinions of others superseded my own opinions because I thought they somehow knew better than me.

Now, it’s clear that they don’t. Yeah, we’re all in the same boat but that doesn’t stop certain individuals from pretending they know everything. Everyone is trying to work within a set of parameters that have been constructed by someone else. (Patriarchy, I’m looking at you, you fucking piece of shit.) Everyone is trying, but that’s about it.

I’m more comfortable being the outsider, unable to truly fit comfortably within a set of parameters set up by some idiot who thinks I’m some sort of social and emotional chameleon/contortionist. Fuck that. You want submission? Bend over. I’ll give you a taste of submission. There might be a colostomy bag waiting for you after I’m done with you. I don’t imagine it will be fun.

I went to the monthly writers group meet-up over the weekend and I was reminded by my mentor how much my writing had changed once I gave up trying to follow his instructions. Apparently, he didn’t know how to get through to me during the early days of my developing my storytelling skillset. It wasn’t that I didn’t listen to him. I was. But the end result of my writing exercises/attempts were stilted and far from what I believed I could do and it left me frustrated. He arrived to the same conclusion.

Eventually, I said fuck it and I went off script to figure out the writing thing. As soon as I did that, something clicked. It was something that surprised him. Me? I wasn’t concerned if it surprised him. I was just thrilled that I was off and running. To paraphrase my mentor, the change was akin to letting a colt off its halter and letting it bolt around the pasture to find its legs, to explore the world around him and to taste a bit of freedom.

I appreciated his use of an equine analogy. It reminded me of my horse, Chaplin, when he was still alive and the leader in his little corral. He was the boss. Thankfully, he had a wicked sense of humour. But he was the boss. None of the other horses ever forgot.

My mentor said we both learned something from me going ‘off halter.’ I’m not sure what he learned but I learned that following tried and true constructs doesn’t work for me. Doing that leaves me frustrated, angry and homicidal. I have to get to the same place as everybody else by taking a very different path.

Is it juts a case of learning differently? I don’t know. I think it’s a case of looking at something differently, figuring out the approach from that perspective and running with it.

I don’t remember what I did specifically that was different, to be honest. But I think the difference might have been trusting my intuition and following my gut. My mentor believes that to be true. He believes the ease with which I access the right brain — when I do it my way and not follow some prescribed method — is a big reason for the shift in my writing and the way the story for my second novel has evolved.

I guess following my intuition might not be the norm? If it’s not, good. There is nothing ‘normal’ when it comes to creativity. Normal is a killjoy. Normal is a soul-sucking, non-life affirming way to live.

Fuck normal. I’m all for doing things my way.

In pursuit

Anyone in the pursuit of art is responding to a desire to make visible that which is not, to offer the unknown self to others — Hettie Jones

Anything that I have done, that would be considered in the realm of art, was done in the pursuit of self-expression, self-acceptance and maintaining some semblance of sanity.

That’s how it was with flamenco and piano. And that’s how it is with writing and photography.

Doing things to please anyone other than myself has always ended in eventual disappointment for me. For the others, not so much. The disappointment is something that everyone else fails to see or doesn’t want to see. Or if they do see it, they either ignore it or start shaming you for being for not being selfless enough. They want to ostracize you. They decide that you’re socially dysfunctional. They decide you’re not nice enough, not friendly enough. What they really mean is they decide that since you haven’t done enough to bend over backwards for them, you are not a decent human being.

To borrow from Darth Vader: Your lack of self-sacrifice and commitment to some form of servitude is disturbing.

Three words: Go. Fuck. Yourself.

In the personal pursuit of self-expression, self-acceptance and my version of sanity, I forget that there are folks I know who have read my writing (specifically the first novel), and who are asking me if there is another book in the works.

I was asked that question last week. Judging by the looks these three ladies gave me, they seemed to be chomping at the bit to read anything I produce. Instead of feeling daunted by their expectations, I still found myself surprised that anyone would want to read a bunch of words I string together in an effort to tell a story.

I told them they would see something eventually. They asked me politely to hurry it up. I guess I’ll have a meeting with my boys and the rest of the crew from the next novel about that this week.

I’ve come up with a general idea of when the next book will be ready. Can’t be more than that. Let’s just say the possibility of it being ready is a more tangible concept now than it would have been six months ago.

Now, if I can only get the rest of my life to co-operate with my plans…