A Prompt: Use the Red Balloon Emoji Instead
This week’s retrospective on the theme of finding your narrative loopholes — or rather, how I keep finding mine.
When life feels TOO BIG, let the little things carry you. It helps to notice and name them. For example: every week I can’t wait to hear the opening credits to Succession. Especially the way it sounds when paired with the grainy nostalgic film clip of children riding an elephant.
The music itself I might describe in another visual as an eyebrow raised in exaggerated show of bulletproof power and impunity — what the eyebrow raiser thinks applies unshakably to themselves, anyway, and based on a great deal of lived evidence.
The two storytelling mediums — music and visual — eclipse in this moment of perfect symbolism. It helps that the editor roughly matches the elephants crashing footsteps to dramatic thunderous punctuation on the score. Narcissism and doom.
Oh, it gives me tingles just to think about.
I am on the lookout lately for people who inspire in a profound way, but without meaning “to inspire,” if you know what I mean. They are just telling their truth and it radiates. Even better to recognize: this true-self energy might come in the form of an acquaintance, or even a stranger and, hey, without all that extra context (baggage), you can sometimes even hear them more clearly than the voice of a friend.
Art does this, too, but it’s like a good conversation: you’ve got to give yourself to it.
Gotta get outta your head.
It’s the only way to break a damaging narrative about yourself to yourself, or a damaging narrative you have about another person, particularly one you love very much and feel, erroneously often, that you deeply know.
You have to let other people evolve. You have to let yourself evolve in this, too.
Find your loophole.
The loophole is by definition not more of the same, therefore, it cannot be found in your head. The only way out of the head is into the body.
This weekend for example: My sister and I are making bouquets. We’ve treated ourselves to an old school sleepover where we exhibit such physical comfort with one another it zaps me with the electricity of it’s singular intimacy when I become awake to it.
Sisters have the ability to fart in front of the other (if lucky) but before you romanticize it (which people have, and I get it), sisters can also possess the most complex narrative loops of all. Loopdy-loops.
When I see my sister’s bouquet, I am stunned. The way the colors speak to one another: I can feel the beauty physically in my chest. I see her full spectrum of colors and a whole new dimension of her opens up to me.
Through my hands, I am learning about ways I want to approach making my Saturday bouquet. I want to come to the flowers with a story in mind.
How I arrived at this new commitment: at the flower shop this past Saturday I grabbed from the limited selection an array of purples, pinks and yellows. It was only after I began arranging that I realized there was a story to be told in those colors: sunrise. Pops of green-yellow burst from behind the sunflower as rays of sun. The dark greens arced from the chin of the purple hydrangea like a night sky filled with clouds that make the world feel as round and contained as they say it is.
Another thing that happens when we exit the loop: my sister shares about the characters she encounters in various areas of her life and it is an art form. She manages to create a vivid sketch of each person by sharing details that are so specific and unexpected together it is almost unreal, would be unreal, if taken just a step further. Everyone is a character for real and I want to keep reading life. Let yourself be an interesting character in someone else’s story, too
You can learn from your sister is what you always learn, myself says, it’s so boring! Just internalize it already!
But see how her storytelling got in my bouquet, tho?!, I say. Dope.
I watch a television show about the dating lives of young adults with autism who are reaching towards greater independence while still living at home with their parents. I recognize the ache of searching for another person who will invite, accept and tolerate your various quirks and strangenesses. The rejections and disappointments tap into the vein of my memories. When there is a spark present: it is undeniable.
I notice the integrity and honesty each person in the show moves with. They tell the truth to and about themselves, and to others. Some of that gift is the gift of autism — a club to belong to, another universe of normal — and of course, most of it is the gift of each individuals’ character, which is why they are featured on the show. Yeah, of course, there is editing, some level of scripting and coaching, but you can’t take it away from them, the characters radiate.
While watching I think of all the people — many fleeting in my life, but their impact has been potent — who have taught me so much about isolation, loneliness, desire and how to not dull the appetite for more connection — but also not manipulate with it — no matter the hurdles. Thank god for them.
Friendship animates me.
A friend makes a mix called Caits Meet Dijon, so I can be touched by the music that touches him. Another friend and I combine our liked playlists, under Spotify’s direction, to create one serious playlist that feels correct for our friendship. The groove is real.
I bring a friend a sculpture from my travels and he — well! He has something for me too, and pulls out a novel he recently read and loved.
I leave a friend a voice memo about how I am watching the film in my mind of her blowing up a role as juicy as Vincent Cassel in La Haine (which she had no idea what I was saying at first, “LAAH HAYNE” — huh? Ohhh, she laughed, Lah ‘Ain!) I wish I could rewatch the film from inside her head, understanding both the French language and the art of acting. Dang, imagine that.
A friend tells me he has a book idea for me for the holidays — Oh!, Are we doing holidays, I asked? Well, I’m doing holidays, he says! And I love that. (Somehow I’ve normalized obligation. In a stoner voice: Whoa. In my voice: but really: woaaaaaah).
Friends, I admit I lost touch at home for some time: I was confused about how to elevate beyond the burdensome dance of figuring out how to pay rent and wrestle the daily. I forgot how to bring that energy of romance home. It came from inside me, I knew, but I was performing on fumes. I wanted a place to collapse. I resisted the relational space as my most powerful tool to break my way out of the loop I was in. A partner who speaks directly is a gift I had to learn how to receive. When I am seeing clearly, the mirror shows me where I am out of integrity with myself. He can only illuminate my obstacles: I have to be the one overcome them.
Was someone just playing the theme song to Curb Your Enthusiasm on violin as a warm up in some unseen apartment? I heard it waft through the courtyard between distant dog barks, I swear!!!
Under the clear autumn sky I heard a poppa say to his son on the street: “these are your neighbors,” (broad sweep of the arms), “You might see some of them at different train stops or stores. You will get to know some of them enough to say hello.”
I think of this as I hear postman Phil sing under his headphones boldly as ever, then deliver an equally loud burp in the hallway as he shuffles envelopes into their little homes.
I think of it again when I see the man who has been walking for hours daily, hunched back, for years now! For season upon season, starting during the first days of the pandemic, we see him at all different points on our long walks, at all hours of the day. “Not today, Satan!” we joke on his behalf because he’s so old but so fast with his steady shuffle!
We love him, nameless walker of our hood. Really, what we are saying with our laughs are: you bold ass mother fucker! Thank you for putting that thought in my own head by screaming it with your whole vibe:
NOT TODAY, SATAN!
I have had to remind myself this week that we create our future through how we inhabit our present. I was living a bit in my recent past. Sick of feeling cold and grey, I finally said: today I walk. I felt the benefit of seasons — the cool air cleared my sinuses, calmed my mind.
That was Sunday. Earlier in the day I had been sending photos of Piet Oudolf’s unbelievably subtle and textured and wild gardens to inspire The Jazz, and with that gesture, I supported myself, too. I was able to bring that seeing to our local gardens: the largest public gardens in New York City! The gardeners put their love here for you and me, and I could feel it when I looked this time.
When a friend recently told me he wanted to remove cowards from his life I thought, yes!
But I then I thought: Caits. Come on, get real. You gotta identify where the coward lives inside yourself, still.
Now I have to, in order to like myself, deal with my own cowardice. Which, in part, means moving on from people I’ve allowed to manipulate me. Which, in part, also means realizing ways in which I’ve subconsciously manipulated others in order to get my own “needs” met.
I read a line in a book where the author describes her arms being “soaped.” That active use of the word soap made me think of an adolescent love letter that included a whole scene describing how we’d “soap” each other in the shower. It was meant to be sexy but I have always thought being too clean is a turn off. The smell of soap is so sterile. I can now see that I feel this way because it is a metaphor for emotional health, too, in a relational context: keep yourself clean, and then let’s get a little messy together.