Sunday, June 26, 2011

The days in Poland were intense and full. My first experiences were all sensual and almost overwhelming- the way the trees smelled, the type of clothes people wore, the translucent quality of their skin, the sour salty food and epic amounts of alcohol- all these struck me with a strength that was different from a regular tourist experience. I felt strangely, immediately at home. Cracow felt nostalgic to me in an intuitive way that I have felt about no other place, and it didn't make sense- I had never been there before. The food felt like something I had tasted in my Grandmother's house, although this clearly was not the case- my Grandmother never cooked with bacon, for one thing.

Nostalgia is one of the queerest ways we fool ourselves. One of the reasons that I didn't want to go on a Holocaust-themed trip is because I deeply dislike contrived history. I know that all history is to some extent contrived, but I resent the way in which we are steeped in Holocaust culture in Israel and the way in which it's used to inform so many of our decisions and aspects of our lives. Maybe because I moved here at an advanced age and didn't grow up in it, it has always seemed artificial to me. However in Poland it made complete, "natural" sense to think about how my ancestors may have walked those very streets, or imagining what they might have been like or invent stories about how their lives may have been. This has never been true for any place else for me.

I was pleased that we spent so much time going around "regular Poland" (as though you could divorce the history of Polish Jews from the rest of Poland,,,). One of the most interesting things for me was learning how Poles saw their own history. I liked that we often passed groups of children on school trips as we tramped through forests or castles or grottos. I felt like we were getting similar stories.

Our hosts were unbelievably warm and generous, inviting us out every night- out to their hangouts or into their homes. I felt so welcomed, and maybe this was one of the reasons I felt safe enough to explore issues of family and history the way that I did. We never stopped having conversations, my Israeli traveling-mates and our Polish counterparts. Some evenings we only cut off conversations because it was too late and we had to go to bed, and continued them the next morning.

The trip was very much a juggling act between planned sightseeing, artmaking, going out with our Polish counterparts and downtime to just wander and soak up our surroundings. I generally enjoy art that has mystical elements in it, but in Poland my mystical tendencies became much more pronounced. By the end of our time there I felt as though I was being buffeted between long, great days and nightmares that cropped up every night. I felt as though there as so much to explore, that we were only getting the very tip of the iceberg. One of the things that I did before leaving was get the names of Polish authors from our new friends, so that I could continue to try and understand. I sincerely hope that this will not be the last time we meet up with them. I felt that what we had was a rare meeting, and it would be a shame for it to be just a one- time thing.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Alopecia: how much fun is it? (not even a little bit fun)

What I am doing: trying to eat well, doing yoga, taking antidepressants, getting enough rest, working in the studio every day, putting coins in a jar to remind myself of the positive even though it's hokey as hell.

What I am not doing: continuing to go to that acupuncturist who charged an arm and a leg for every session and had me on a schedule that revolved around doing things to/for my scalp. Enough. My finances are only just beginning to stabilize now after having gone to him for several months, and I need stress like that like I need another hole in my head.

What I am doing: hoping that I'm not acting like an idiot for stopping treatment, no matter how expensive or weird the treatment happens to be. Hoping that what I'm doing is enough. Trying to let my body take things at its own pace. Trying not to trawl wig stores online and wonder about just shaving it all off. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A longer post will take the place of this one, but just wanted to jot down: took valerian today, and anxiety at a discernably lower level. I have more of an attention span and of note is the fact that I've been studying and getting things done all day, it's close to midnight and I'm not exhausted. I mean, I'm not sleepy at all. And not in that I'm-awake-cause-I'm-too-anxious-to-sleep way. Just in a not tired way. Christ on a cupcake.
Plan for an installation: A group of people lying curled on overstuffed couches with their faces made up to look as though they had the shit kicked out of them. Maybe the couches organized in the center of the room like a fort?

Jumping off points would be the Saw franchise, Hostel, youtube uploads from Iraq..the public narrative of taking pleasure from torture.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plan for a sculpture: Chicken bones made of carved wood (cherry? holy god that's expensive), tied together with a twist-tie. The whole thing should be oversized- maybe larger that a person? Maybe the twist-tie should be one of those plastic ties that clack when you close them? Leaning in a corner of the room, like the proverbial elephant.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So if I'm not already in the territory of depression, I'm certainly in the outskirts of the area. The symptoms are easily recognizable at this point: dazed, tired and distracted all day but becoming wide awake at bedtime, not hungry (but still getting that sugar drop when I skip meals), lack of sex drive, generalized anxiety and vivd, awful dreams. All in all, I feel like i'm just barely making it through the day and accomplishing all my commitments, but only just. Thank god I got that day planner. I honestly don't know what's going to happen if it gets worse- at this point my mistakes at work are few and easily explained, but there's no garantee it'll stay that way.

At this point I've dealt with depression enough times to know what needs to happen in order for me to pull out of it. I've actually got a standard set of "guidelines for people dealing with depression" that I tell my friends, when they're also feeling sad and blue: Exercise. Eat right. Get enough sleep. Depression is a condition with physical effects, and just as you wouldn't beat yourself up for not being to run a marathon with a sprained ankle, so you shouldn't beat yourself up for not being able to accomplish as much while depressed. Be kind to yourself. Depression's mechanisms feed itself, and unless you make a conscious effort to pull yourself out of it, it will likely get worse before it gets better. Even if you try, it may still get worse before it gets better. Check out medication and see if it's right for you. Check out therapy and see if it's right for you.

And even though I can look back and say, yes, this has been a long and deeply crappy year in many respects and being depressed at the end of it is a pretty reasonable response, it is still so frustrating to be back here. When I left Jlem I had finished off 5 years of therapy. I was going towards a fresh start, after having aquired new tools with which to deal with stress and anxiety. And here I am, back again.

It's not that I failed (and I have to keep reminding myself of that, since in my low state it's very easy to see it like that). But I had hoped that I would do better.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vivid vivid dreams lately. Can't remember what I dreampt about last night, other than I had to break down a dam- the water was cold and I kept diving down into it to push the bricks out, while books fell past me in the water. I woke up with my arms stretched over my head uncomfortably. And now, all day today I've been having daymares about my family getting killed, all of them, in a freak accident. I fold my laundry and imagine that I'm packing my dead family member's things up, to be givin away. I make lists of cousins whose help I'd enlist, the people I'd probably fight with, how I'd deal with selling the house.

Doc Matthews says that vivid dreams are a sign of heat, and we've been working on reducing that heat but I don't want to give them up. I like feeling neither here nor there, even when what I'm seeing is far from pleasant. I like the light feeling of unreality. It feels not unlike when I was just getting past the age when you believe in fairies- I didn't really believe anymore that you could enter a garden and enter an entirely different geography, but felt it would be rude to the residents of that place to stop believing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Plan for a sculpture: A 2/3 size* reproduction of Grampa sleeping on a table with two German Shepherds and a shotgun. He should be almost as short as the length of the table, with his body curled into a loose fetal position. The dogs should be nearly as large as he is, and he should be nestled in between them. The entire thing should be large enough/small enough that someone could look down on it as on an operating table, to be able to see a dissected body and assign a cause of death.

*"Why did you not choose to make the sculpture larger? Because I was not making a monument. Why did you choose to not make it smaller? Because I was not making an object."*

*Actually, maybe no. I think it might be an object. Gotta think about that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In the spirit of my friends here (and also recent events) I've been trying to get my act together. A day planner has been purchased and events written into it. I've been virtously doing laundry, folding my clothes and putting them away instead of leaving them in a pile and even doing dishes.

I kinda want to be responsible, that is, I want to know where things are when I put them down and not suddenly remember obligations at the last minute. It's a nerve-wracking way to live- I make myself crazy, I make other people crazy. I already find, writing things down in the planner, that I feel less anxious about my time. I know what's going to happen. It's written down, look.

I rubbed ginger on my head two nights ago, and cinnamon on my head last night. They're supposed to bring the blood to the surface of my scalp, and maybe make the hair grow back. Every time I look at the bald spots I am reminded that I am still adrift. That I am still in at least some ways at the mercy of my anxieties.

I talked with Hill this week about this and that. He told me how tired he was of living like a vagrant- he hasn't had a bedroom for the past five months. His current digs are in a squat, and while he's not paying rent the ceiling has taken to crumbling on his bed in the middle of the night. Before that he was working in the cornfields in Texas, and sleeping in a barn at night. I can only empathize. I haven't had a single living space of my own all year. I cannot wait (my reservations about living with Hill aside) to move this last time. My own bedroom..god. I haven't had one since moving out of my parents place last November.

I have a whole laundry list of the things I would like this studio to be. But I think more than anything else I want it to be my own.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bottom line: the women that I work with now that I'm on the evening shift are a real trip.

A few people in the office tried to warn me about them before I started, but I really do get it: they're shallow and can be petty and catty, and probably stave off the boredom of the longish shifts paired with little work with internal politics of the most pointless kind. They are the type of women that professionals would easily call "girls", and I'll admit that that's how I thought of them in the beginning: they have a childish viciousness to them borne of the same kind of small-mindedness that draws a person to aspire no higher than to get married, and have nice clothes along the way. I can see them in my mind's eye at the age of five, hitting their friends over the head with their dolls when they don't get their way.

That said, they are entirely professional at what they do. I often find myself lagging behind, even when the work is as simple as scanning and printing. They easily complete three pieces of work in the time it takes me to complete one. So while they're not people I would willingly hang out with, they do what they do well.

Yeah, they're shallow- an entire shift can go by with the only topic of conversation being fashion- and they're definitely petty. But they're not (most of them) genuinely stupid. They do however have that sort of laziness of intellect that you often get with people who are born pretty and as a result haven't had to try too hard over the course of their lives. The office is absolutely filled with the conventionally attractive, and the secretary pool is the last place where there would be an exception: all young, female, thin, (mostly) blond. I am sure that they were given their (fairly cushy) jobs not only on the basis of their abilities but also based on their ability to be an attractive front to the office, to be able to smile prettily when the clients come in.

Some of them are university students, which is why they're working the evening shift. The evening shift is ideal for that- you make a full time salary at a part-time position. I can imagine that this job is another in a long line of unearned perks, just for being pretty- they won't have to work slinging hash or cleaning stairwells. They can stay in the air conditioning, with the complimentary coffee.

Maybe it's all sour grapes, I don't know. Probably "On Not Being Pretty" is a series of (probably long winded and self-deprecating) posts all by itself. I'm doing what I always do in these kind of situations: do my job, keep my head down and think about what's going on around me.