When I relaunched Queerly Complex, I committed to myself that I would deeply feel one emotion a month for a year. Expressing your complex emotions & radical beliefs is at the heart of my art, my life, and expressing myself comes easiest when I am intimately in touch with my emotions.
Emotions are tricky things. They provide an entire range of sensory information to our bodies & often help us intuit things we cannot comprehend. This is useful & helpful in keeping us alive. But just like logic & knowledge is deeply biased so, too, are emotions & how we sense / perceive / experience them. For me to really dig into them, I need tools & processes that will help me notice them, tend & care for them, & challenge my assumptions about / experiences of them. A good tool makes the process easier so you can be ready for the unexpected that is bound to arise. As I stated, emotions are tricky things, and if I am not careful in how I feel my emotions there is opportunity to become truly lost.
One tool that I find helpful is the frame of "a work-in-progress". "a work-in-progress", spelled this way, denotes & connotes four main ideas. One, the "a" informs you that it is one among many; that it is both singular & collective; that it has comrades. Two, the lower case "a," "w," & "p" tells you that it is not formal; assumes that you might misread its usage; forces you to read & re-read it for its intended meaning. Three, the "-" connects the dots; threads ideas into a single concept; creates a complex noun. Finally "work-in-progress" says "this is incomplete;" "do not judge using exacting standards;" "you too can take a risk & share something incomplete."
The image above is from a visual examination of grief I am going on. It is incomplete. In fact, I will be discarding the background layers in the final piece. I find the background beautiful & moving & an expression of my grief. And they are also not quite right for the piece I am creating for my A Queerly Complex Guide to Grief, which is a digital zine I will be releasing at the end of the month.
I wanted to share it because I want to reveal that even along the journey of creating something, other things get made that can (and should) be shared. The only real finality we have is death. Everything before that is a work-in-progress, even that film you made or that meal you ate or that story you've told yourself over and again. Those are never final for even if only one other person saw that film they have a different experience of it than yours; your meal becomes waste that feeds organisms; the story you've told yourself might actually be a lie. Plus, even after death one's story / art / life is no longer their own & continues indefinitely for it becomes the material from which more life springs.
I chose to start with grief because it is the emotion still closest to the surface; it is the comrade with whom I've spent the most time & so I am not as afraid to share my grief, or how it's still a work-in-progress, with others. In fact, while nerve-wracking it is also comforting because so many people are experiencing grief right now & sharing mine more publicly is connecting me to new & old comrades, who do not want to bear this grief alone.
There is so much to grieve right now, and so many people giving expert advice about it, coaching about it, counseling about it. I am not an expert, a coach, or a counselor. I am a neighbor, a comrade, & artist just trying to figure out how to make meaning of so much of the fucked up shit happening to my neighbors & comrades near & far. Art helps me process all of it.
Our leaders, the rich & powerful oligarchs of our many corporate nations, are careening us towards the extinction of the human race in such a manner that is transforming our entire ecosystem. Our extinction will leave in its wake a different planet, one that will survive. But I don't want survival. I want life.
Staying in touch with my grief, recognizing that all of this is a work-in-progress helps me remember that I want / need / desire is life. That isn't simply a hope, wish, or dream. That is a reason to live.
AND...if you need support in navigating your grief, please check out this video from Anton Treuer. He is Professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University in Minnesota (my home state). I am finding it helpful in navigating my father's death. One piece I am taking from this is the putting away of photos for a year, so that your ancestor can become an ancestor. I constructed an altar for / to my dad with my community in my living room last June, six months after his death. I committed to keeping the altar up for one year, and look at it every day, numerous times a day. After the one year mark, I am going to put it all away, including my father's pocket watch & his ashes. I want him to become an ancestor, to pass on, and I am mindful of how my altar does keep him tethered here.