On healing.

Jun. 6th, 2014 10:26 pm
morleyroarly: (animated)
This year has so far consisted mainly of two things: getting married (coming up in November) and regaining my health. Nobody really wants to hear about the travails of developing a guest list and picking out bridesmaids dresses, so instead I'll talk about my path through healing.

As most of you know, since last August I have been beset with a variety of fun and exciting medical problems. I fractured my tailbone last August (on a slide! at burning man! not even joking!) which set off a chain reaction all along the back side of my body. My hamstrings and calves tightened, and I had difficulty sitting for long periods. Then I worked in the field for almost two months in September and October, primarily on my feet, in work boots with insufficient arch support. This all led to a vicious and deep-seated case of plantars fasciitis, or soft tissue damage in my heels and arches.

Because I'm stubborn, I didn't take my doctors very seriously at the first diagnosis in December, nor the follow up in January. It wasn't until I saw a podiatrist in February that I started taking things seriously. I bought new podiatrist-approved shoes, I started stretching and icing daily, and I gradually began scaling back my on-my-feet time. Over the following two months I didn't improve (though at least it stopped getting worse) so in April my podiatrist gave me cortisone injections in both feet. Since mid-April I've been working primarily from home, staying off my feet, continuing my stretching/icing/shoes/etc. routine, and using a wheelchair when I am out and about.

To top things off, I was plagued with inexplicable vertigo from January through March, which led to many days of being unable to leave the house, or even my bed. And in March I was in a car accident, hit by a drunk driver, and suffered some nasty whiplash in my shoulder and neck. The vertigo disappeared as suddenly and randomly as it arrived, and I'm mostly healed from the whiplash, but while struggling with all of the above I became increasingly frustrated with myself and my health.

Healing takes time. Healing takes patience. Anyone who knows me at all understands those two virtues are not exactly core to my existence. I am impatient and stubborn, I don't like asking for help, I am active and busy as a rule. So these past nine months have been a struggle for me. I have gained weight, I have been battling the fringes of clinical depression again, and I'm nervous about James' and my plans to start a family soon. How can I be a parent when I'm unable to even take care of myself?

I struggle daily with the feeling that I am stagnating, resting on my laurels, slipping into early retirement, and otherwise withdrawing from the person I used to be, the person I want to be. In my previous post I quoted "dreaming of" writings from 5 to 10 years ago. Re-reading those writings was jarring. I recognize that voice, I remember those moments, but I have not been that person for the past nine months. I have been a shell, a shadow, a facsimile of that person, coasting along on the momentum of years of growth and challenge. Cruise control is an ugly, ugly thing when recognized in the story of my own life.

Some of this taps deeper than just the past nine months of physical problems with my body. Some of the desaturation of my personality happened through the pain and exhaustion of building Syzygryd. Some of my cynicism comes from finally pulling the ripcord and ending my deep, and deeply flawed, relationship with Colin. Some of it comes from age and a natural easing back on the throttle that was wide open in my 20s.

But I'm only 34. I am young, I am vibrant, and with another few months of healing under my belt I will be active again.

One of my fears right now is that I'll get to the end of this healing process and I won't have anywhere to go. I won't have adventures lined up, I won't have art waiting in the wings to be built. I'll just be... healthy and boring.

My body is healing. Very, very slowly. It will take several more months for me to get fully back on my feet, possibly longer. But the jury's still out on how long it will take for me to feel whole in my heart and spirit. I hope that returning to writing here is a good first step on that path.
morleyroarly: (Default)

Dear Timescale column artists, supporters, donors, and friends:

As you’re probably aware, Burning Man is unable to fund Timescale. We’ve discussed whether there might be room to negotiate, and there simply isn’t. All of their art grant budget is committed to other projects. This has been a disappointment, but we understand that Burning Man received many beautiful, engaging proposals, and some difficult decisions had to be made. We look forward to seeing our friends’ successful projects, funded or not, on the playa this summer.

We have spent the last few weeks reviewing our own resources, discussing possible new sources of funding, and looking at ways to cut costs. After much effort, it became clear that a mile-long art project is inevitably expensive and time-consuming to build. The time spent on fundraising would directly impact the amount of time we could spend working on the project itself, especially since the work and the fundraising would have to start immediately.

When we add in projections for what we could realistically fundraise during a recession, it just doesn’t add up. We simply do not have the resources to build Timescale in a way that’s consistent with our artistic vision. We know this will disappoint the people who were looking forward to making column art, or to walking the corridor and gaining a deeper understanding of our planet’s history. We’re all quite sad that we won’t see 27 different visions for periods in Earth’s history. We received so many wonderful column proposals, and we’re truly sorry to have to walk away from the promise of such inspiring collaborations. However, at this point we’d have to make so many compromises for the project to succeed that it probably wouldn’t feel like a victory when we made it to the end. In the words of the inimitable Nina Rawkstah, “Burnout isn’t sexy.”

Upon the announcement that we’d lost funding, the outpouring of support, care, and offers of help from the community was an inspiration. Thank you all. Please don’t consider this a failure of our community, or a case where things could be different if we’d all tried harder. The scope of Timescale was set from the very beginning with the assumption of major grant funding. If we’d been denied funding initially, we’d probably have tossed the idea into the “too
expensive” pile and moved on. As it was, the momentum we built in the weeks following the original grant announcement allowed us to consider moving ahead regardless of funding status. At this point, we’re happy to have the team, even if the project can’t happen.

Since making this decision, our task has been to decide what to do now that we have a collection of motivated, interested artists who’ve cleared their schedules to build a big project. We’ve come up with a number of good ideas, narrowed it to the best one or two, and are already doing the preliminary design work. We have fourteen people and big box of tools — only good can come of it.

– Ian Baker, on behalf of the Timescale team

PS - Some people donated money to the project. We really, really appreciate that. Your donations will be returned over the next few days.

PPS - If you’re in the SF Bay area, please join us on Saturday, April 4th at 7pm for a Timescale Wake at NIMBY^2. We’ll take sledgehammers and explosives to some of our concrete test cylinders and column models to celebrate the creativity and dedication that was poured into this project before its untimely demise.

morleyroarly: (Default)
Timescale has begun! Or rather, the art grant proposal for Timescale has begun. Assuming the Burning Man organization agrees to write me a series of very large checks, about nine months from now Timescale will be a reality.  One mile long, and about eight inchees wide (plus, you know, about 50 feet of buffer.. gotta have that line of sight through the Earth's history for adequate humility!)

Last weekend I got together with [livejournal.com profile] raindrift  and [livejournal.com profile] nicoletbn  and we tied a bunch of tags to a piece of rope, creating a very lovely scale model of the proposed scale model.  This coming weekend, we will build some wooden formwork and begin casting concrete.  If all goes well, we'll wind up with a heavy, imposing concrete box in which to place the rope, upon which to mount the written proposal. The whole shebang will be delivered to the Burning Man offices in a matter of weeks, and then the finger-crossing begins. And the panic. And the joy, the planning in earnest, the stress, the massive coordination, the sleep deprivation, the work juggling, and the complete loss of extraneous social life.

[livejournal.com profile] headlouse  says "I love how vibrant you become when you are being creative." And this is just the beginning.
morleyroarly: (Default)
On the good days, I feel like I can take over the world!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who has responded to my post about DDI, both publicly and privately. You've given me lots of carefully crafted food for thought, lots of pithy little things to tell my brain when it starts getting frustrated and depressed, and lots of laughs.

On the good days, like today, I realize that DDI is something I innovated, something I helped to create, and something which went on without me. It was an idea that was big enough to merit a whole camp this year, and it happened without me at the helm. That speaks to the strength of the concept (in the burning man world, anyway) and to the strength of the project's cache to gain fans and contributors. That's pretty rad. A few people in particular stepped up this year to bring the project together, and it succeeded beyond our expectations and brought a lot of joy to people out on the playa. I remember the faces of the players waiting in line - people waited up to 3 or 4 HOURS to play. On the playa. Do you know how long 3 or 4 hours is on a Wednesday night at burning man? It feels like an eternity! The project really made people happy, and that's far more important than whether it gets in Rolling Stone or not.

Personally, on the good days I am able to take away the positive lessons and leave the rest behind. I have good ideas. I can organize people. I can motivate. I can build things. I am an artist. I can make things go BOOM. I can weld, solder, sew, carpenter and design. I have learned a great deal about the how and why of building large scale art, I have learned a great deal about myself and my needs.

I am in a much healthier relationship these days. A healthier relationship with my new amazing partner, and a healthier relationship with my art and my artistic motivations.

I was talking to [livejournal.com profile] avocado_tom on the phone about the whole subject and I realized something. He was talking about what it takes to motivate a project from the idea phase to the building phase, what it takes to actually make a project happen. He expressed some concern over how difficult that transition can be, how hard it can be to get things off the ground. I found myself saying that I don't have that worry, I know that I can make projects happen, I know that I can build and create. I found myself saying that after three years of building art for Burning Man, I don't need to build art for Burning Man anymore - I will make art wherever and whenever I want.

I understood this subconsciously when I wrote my previous post. I said
"How do you counteract DDI and IA with a creation built out of love and a *small* community in Pittsburgh?"
. I answered myself: building a creation out of love and a small community, building art personally, not giving a whit about the rockstar recognition*. Building for myself, for people I love, for the idea, for the pure joy of creation.

*[Amani astutely said "At the outset of DDI did you have any intent of being listed in WIRED/Rolilng Stone? nope. Just wanted to make a really freaking cool thing. So you did it." We didn't begin DDI in order to get popular, to do something that would get us noticed. In Burning Man 05 the project was way out on the fringes, and we didn't care, we still worked our asses off to bring it together. Somehow along the way it all went to our heads - I guess fame can do that. It's kind of retarded, really.]

It helps to know that if I wanted to build the next big thing, the next project to get credit and coverage, I know how. I could do that, if I wanted to. I understand the machinery of popularity now, and in the exact moment that I understood it, its power began to dissipate. Sure, I still love provoking a reaction, doing things to make an impact, pushing those buttons. But I feel I'm much more self-aware about it now, and I doubt the rockstar popularity could blind me the same way again.

I've had a few people ask me to work on their big projects for next year's burn, but I've turned them down. I'm not going back to Burning Man next year. I don't need to go back, there's a big wide world out there to explore and in which to create art. I'm working on my own personal projects, and I'm working on building a life in a new city. That's more than enough for now.
morleyroarly: (Default)
I have been pondering my connections to DDI (Dance Dance Immolation) and to Interpretive Arson in general.

My ponderings began with discussion on the ddi06 mailing list about whether next year's camp should be Camp DDI, Camp Interpretive Arson, or something else. There's talk of how people will recognize the project, how all IA projects should be linked together, etc.

Things I've realized in just the past few minutes of pondering:

  • I strongly identify myself with DDI because it was largely my idea. I got it going (with the help of many key folks, mainly including [livejournal.com profile] raindrift, Jonathan, Matt, Reed and [livejournal.com profile] nicoletbn). It feels like my baby. Yet....
  • DDI is not mine anymore. In fact, I think it ceased to really be mine after Burning Man last year. Perhaps even earlier. I had such horrible associations with the project, and I was so hurt by the drama, that I voluntarily walked away. At this year's burn I ran it for 2 nights (gate Wednesday, drunken MC Sunday) but really, it wasn't my baby. I wasn't camped with DDI, I didn't work on getting it ready for the playa, I didn't even pay dues. I got my rockstar points, but it's long since stopped being mine.
  • I feel a sense of hurt and frustration when people talk about IA moving forward to encompass all of the CampDDI people. I know that many (most?) of the people who camped with DDI this year put in a lot of effort. But to me, IA was more than just DDI, more than just people who built fire art. IA was our crew, our tight circle, our group that began from the lake merritt fire jams and moved on to create such amazing art. I remember the night at [livejournal.com profile] bigsockgrl's house when Ian came up with the name - we were trying to find the name for a fire poi group. That poi group never materialized, but we used Interpretive Arson for our artistic collective behind DDI. It stuck.
  • Now, I think of IA as basically the people who work out of the Beaver at NIMBY. To me, if you just show up and camp with DDI you're not really IA. You're DDI, sure, but to be IA you have to really *create* and *build* something. But I'm not about to tell this to the people on the ddi06 list. After all, who am I? Some girl with old skool cred who developed the idea, but who doesn't care enough to keep being involved. Someone who's running off to Pittsburgh to get married and be normal and boring.
  • Interpretive Arson is dead to me personally. It's not mine anymore. I wish it was - I remember developing the logo with Colin, I remember working SO hard and putting in so much HEART to the first projects and the fundraiser. But it's not my life anymore. And I think attempting to carry forward as part of IA is unhealthy. It just aligns me with people I'm better off without. Or rather, one PERSON whom I'm better off without, namely [livejournal.com profile] raindrift.

So... I guess I need to come up with a name for my own design studio out in Pittsburgh.

One of the hardest parts is to take the success and the joy from DDI and move forward. I want to feel like I can claim those projects as my own. But due to all of my drama with [livejournal.com profile] raindrift I wind up violently, painfully, throwing it all out the window together. Baby, bathwater. It hurts too much to keep the good bits and throw out the bad. So I am left with a shell, a vague knowledge of my skills and successes and inclinations, but nothing to show for it. I am left feeling like a failure, because I still transfer my feelings of failure in my relationship with Ian to feelings of failure with DDI. Even though I had pure fun with DDI on the playa this year, even though it went off well, I still feel guilty. I still feel like I let my baby down, I gave up, I am a failure.

When I arrive in Pittsburgh, I will begin to grow my own studio, from the ground up. I will have my own work. I will make things - candle holders, patio furniture, sculpture, art. I know it will come, in time, and I know that if I apply myself I will be able to craft things that bring joy and light into the world. I know that my artistic vision and drive is broader than DDI and IA.

But there sure are days when it feels like all or nothing. When it feels like I'll never do anything as cool as DDI ever again. And there are days when I realize that no matter how cool DDI is, no matter the fact that it's going to be in WIRED and Rolling Stone in November, no matter the fact that it's been invited to trade shows in Florida and arts festivals in Europe, no matter the fact that the playa has now seen my crazy idea come to fruition, it's all so much smoke and mirrors. I can't claim that, I can't rightly take pride in that. I lost the privelige to take pride in DDI a year ago when I walked away.

In the end, there are days when the emotional and personal loss of DDI overshadows any technical and artistic gain, and it still feels empty and worthless.

And how do you build something more amazing and satisfying than DDI, than IA? How do you counteract DDI and IA with a creation built out of love and a *small* community in Pittsburgh? How can I possibly compete, in my own competitive and have-to-prove-something heart, with an article in Rolling Stone? I hate it, but I am starry-eyed in the face of popularity and recognition and fame. I feel cheap and tawdry saying this, but I will never be as rockstar as DDI has been. And I worry that the fame of DDI will always have a sour, biting edge to it. It will always cut me while it buoys me up.

How do I counteract DDI? How do I outrank it in my own heart and mind? I don't know the answer to that. I like to think that working hard at a job I hope I'll love, being with an amazing partner, traveling to the seven continents of the world, creating community in Pittsburgh, raising amazing children, and eventually doing my own small personally satisfying art projects will add up to even the bill. Letters to a Young Poet was a start.

But there are nights, like tonight, when the task seems so monumental that I worry I'll never complete it. I worry that DDI and IA will always loom over my shoulder, dark unbidden monsters of emotional failure to leer at me in the dark, poking my soft sensitive emotional spots and reminding me of just how fragile and helpless I really am. Reminding me that I am nothing, nothing without four proximity suits, custom-programmed open source software, 1450 pounds of propane and a team of stupidly gifted artists to execute my hair-brained schemes.

We'll see.


morleyroarly: (Default)

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