One of the most important women in my adult life is my close friend Dr.Jules. She and I met in my second year of post secondary and I hated her. The brief is that Jules saw my potential and proceeded to challenge me and expect greatness. I complained about her endlessly and wanted nothing more than for her to leave me alone. This imagined conflict culminated in her teaching me performance art. This was new and I immediately hated it. She asked my class to come dressed in black that day, so I arrived dressed in red spandex as the Flash. The most unexpected happened, instead of being angry (as I’d hoped) she loved it, she felt I was making it my own and I loved her from that moment on.
She’s continued to have a huge influence on the shape and direction of my life. Jules was the first prof I had who suggested I teach. Not instead of doing art, but that there was something about me that said “I want this“. I radiated joy when talking about my kids or my students. My passion was uncontainable and she used to talk to me about what it’s like to teach. I loved those days. I would sit on the floor with my back against the bed, my hands buried in the rough shag carpet, and we would talk for hours about the best way to get through to people.
She always gets through to me.
We’ve both recently emerged from a period of isolation and I am so delighted to have her on the other side still willing to hold my hand and accept everything. There is nothing I wouldn’t share with this woman and in her grace and wisdom she’s shared with me her heart and ideas. Right now that is mostly about mindfulness and relating it back to performance art. I’m skilled at performing, I am frequently praised for my intense and isolated attention on the task at hand, and comments that my inattention to reality is mesmerising. Jules suggested focusing this energy on the present as a way of combatting anxiety. When I found that helpful I thought to apply it to a greater issue in my life; impulse control.
I haven’t talked with a counsellor about these thing so this is all just me expressing myself in imperfect words buuuuut… It helps me to recognize that although somewhere in my mind I’ve made a sudden decision that my body doesn’t have to act as quickly. I feel this small decision making box in my head that is on the lookout for decisions to make and when it does I feel I can’t do anything else.
Nowadays, instead of losing control over my actions, I breath in deeply and gesture slowly as I do in performance. I perform the tension of indecision/conflict, pushing my body and aura outwards and in large circles that threaten to implode or explode. I want to describe the tension I experience. It’s the inner conflict generated by having an impulse and not acting on it. This may seem tangential but humour me, I’ve recently been told of intrusive thoughts. These are unpleasant, undesirable, disturbing, obsessive, or hard to get rid of thoughts. I would use this to describe what it’s like for me to fight an impulse. I get an idea in my head and until I act on it, it pesters me in every second I’m not actively engaged. Like a siren wailing in my mind that can play for days, sometimes weeks, until I finally do the thing. The thing I didn’t get to choose. One of the worst triggers for my anxiety is the real or imagined loss of internal control (more on that tomorrow). When I feel out of control I can’t function and I spiral out unpredictably. My performance/mindfulness/gestures are a way to force me into the moment and recognize “I am in control. I am choosing this.”
I push at the boundaries of my physical embodiment and I remind myself I am here. I exist. Creating an imaginary circle around me and pulling my hands back into my chest and feeling myself breath until I feel like I can say no. I would have written earlier today but I’ve been fighting this all day. Fighting an urge that started this morning at 9, subsided till 1 and I haven’t been able to shake for more than 7 hours now. It’s overwhelming some days, but when it is, I have people. I have Jules. I have you anonymous strangers that I only semi explain my bizarre ritualized habits to!
Thanks for listening. Thanks for being an outlet.
P.S. I made a cake today, it taste like sugar cookies and has a chocolate icing to die for.