Avatars

I spent last evening talking to a psychiatrist. A woman I've grown to know through ballet and is a childhood friend. She has accomplished so much in her career and currently works with high risk patients in our community with a compassion and resilience I've never witnessed before. I admire her steadfast commitment to clients she obviously cares about; encouraging her patients to 'stay one more day' and tirelessly seek out new or different treatment even when they're tired of 'trying'. 

I've not seen a mental health professional for a very long time (Feel free to insert whatever joke you'd like about my need of one, I left that wide open. Just make the joke to yourself, because while I can take it, someone else might find themselves in your joke). I took myself off of anti-depressants almost 20 years ago. Over a period of 6 months, I slowly unscrewed the capsules and measured less and less powder into my orange juice. Then I waited to absorb the roller coaster of emotions as my body readjusted to the absence of that aid. That's not the path for most and certainly not the path I advocate for those under mental health care, but in my particular circumstances it was important, and life affirming. To be clear, what I did was risky, and my story is my own. I'm not condoning anyone attempt to do the same. 

Before you read the quote below, I’m not depressed or suffering from depression. I'll admit I'm a bit mercurial, and quirky, but vibrationally (not a word, but I'm inclined), I’m settled, glowing at the center. Someone said, it's in my nature to know the "highest highs and the lowest lows" when I realized the Capricorn goat had a fishtail. And I've finally found a glorious balance between the crests and troughs and Jim Carrey articulates it well:

PC Allison Kazmierski (Font & Figure) 2013

PC Allison Kazmierski (Font & Figure) 2013

"People talk about depression all the time. The difference between depression and sadness is: sadness is just from happenstance—whatever happened or didn’t happen for you, or grief, or whatever it is. Depression is your body saying f*ck you, I don’t want to be this character anymore, I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you’ve created in the world. It’s too much for me. You should think of the word ‘depressed’ as ‘deep rest.’ Your body needs to be depressed. It needs deep rest from the character that you’ve been trying to play.” ~ Jim Carrey, 2017

I’ve explored a lot of deep crevasses in the darkness throughout my life, and initially wanted to share this photo from several years ago (I affectionately call "351 Rover") as a nostalgic 'throw back Thursday' post on social media. And now I'm here sharing the winding way that photo brought up Jim Carrey's words, which is (to me) one of the most resonating descriptions of my experience with depression. Depression is on the rise and in recent years it's spiked. Montana has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country: 20.5 per every 100,000. In my years attending high school, 3 individuals were victims of suicide in a school that averaged 350 students total. And I’d have been 4 had I not woke up 23 years ago. 

Surviving that near departure is something I'll share another day, maybe in a less public setting. But what I know is I vividly dreamt that night: I saw myself leaving my body and I chased what felt like a reversed gravity to climb back into into my chest, back into my heart, and something changed after that. I became porous to those around me, I listen to the energy of a person's body more so than I hear the words they speak. 

On the heels of two celebrity suicides, the country rallying around suicide prevention and awareness, visiting with a dear friend that is in the trenches of it all, and reflecting on my own story I drifted to Jim Carrey. You might not care for his comedy, or find his current self 'surreal', but I appreciate his boldness to say that depression should be acknowledged, it's your body asking for change. And in a lot of circumstances 'change' isn't available to those existing below the poverty line or suffering from progressive and terminal diseases + all the other factors that can blind side us into a solitary, and helpless, place. 

We can do more to help those with depression, and I've no criticism about the suggestions coming forward on the ways to reach out and be supportive to those with mental illness or suffering from situations of trauma or crisis. I would ask that we also consider for a moment Carrey's experience (or Robin Williams for that matter) as a comedic performer 'performing happiness', on and off the camera, and allow individuals to find a balance between the highest high and the lowest low. 

My two cents, if someone seems less enthusiastic, changed, more solemn, quiet, I think those are important qualities to check up on and I've provided resources below, but I can also attest to Carrey's thoughts on depression, "Depression is your avatar telling you it's tired of being the character you're trying to play." Let's allow each other to change, to be 'weathered' by this complex world, and love each other in the middle. 

Thank you for reading this, thank you for being here. Even if I've never met you - my take away is that I needed to share this and say to any (and all) in times of doubt: life is saturated with connections. Never underestimate the memories we create even in a few chance conversations. I suspect it's all worth it. I believe even the small things matter. I know in my heart that you matter.

*One more time, so we're clear: I'm healthy and well, contented and digging into the world in a whole new way. Some might even say I'm happy, a real and present happy, not fabricated. Just me, and it's so much easier. 

Additional Resources:
Jim Carrey - What It All Means | One Of The Most Eye Opening Speeches
Suicide Prevention Hotline
NAMI, Risk of Suicide
Montana tops national trend of increasing suicide rates, report shows
Montana Suicide Rate, 2016

Dance Matters, Part 2

Dance Matters, Part 2

Let's sharpen the pencil a bit. In Dance Matters, Part 1 I talked about how dance is more than an art form, it's the expression, artistry, and often historical record of the people that carved their form of dance into existence. I also compared dance to a language, a form of communication, of storytelling. Knowing one language or only reading one book is a fraction of light shining in a complex kaleidoscope of culture and history. I'm pretty sure not everyone dances the same. In the words of Deborah Hay an experimental choreographer and postmodern dancer, "Why not loosen things up a bit and play with the possibilities?" But how can we do that if we don't also support diverse programming? I think about how much dance has to offer when we can meet another culture through their dance art. It's a form of a listening, and listening fosters empathy, increased awareness, and raises consciousness. Those all sound pretty good to me.

Dance Matters, Part 1

Dance Matters, Part 1

Dance taught me about the world, about a portion of history, about other cultures, and about my own, in ways a text or a lecture could never do. Because it’s not just dance. It’s the woven histories of the people who carved their art-form into existence, and those weren't always joyous origins. To know your ‘family’ lineage as a dancer is part of honoring the history just as much as the form itself. As a young dancer, I was aware of the cultural legacy that Jazz, for example, holds in our country's narrative, and that’s only one in the entire world! I think about how Flamenco, Russian Character, Hip Hop, that one Krump class, Swing, Butoh, and so many other styles of dance have made an impression on how I interpret the world beyond my little bubble.

Specter

Specter

This is my offensive, my clandestine effort to challenge a fate that lives inside me; part of recognizing how stress affects my brain is slowing down enough to listen. The deeply coiled horror that was my young years, witnessing my father unravel in front of me is a story of its own. My journey to tend my own story is just beginning.

Daily Choreography

Daily Choreography

We are just returning from a wonderful adventure in the Montana winter landscape, we played in the snow and the rivers (yes IN the rivers - and I am still warming up). I'm now settling in for a month of art creation and reflection and observed my patterns and rituals to get ready for such tasks. While many of those tasks involve cleaning and organizing - it's a bit more than that. I've created a daily choreography, a literal and metaphorical 'house cleaning' that is a necessary part of my art practice. 

Arrivals

Arrivals

t's Thanksgiving, the observed American holiday not the Canadian one, and recently I've noticed I identify with being a Montanan more than I do say an American or even being from a particular place in Montana. Perhaps there's a distinction I'm yet to discover amid my interior wanderings, but what got me to that line of thinking was my progressing wrestle with how do I make space for stories often not shared? Especially on a day like today. "Wrighting", as in building, narratives is a vital part of how I (we) see the world, how I (we) interpret the past and present - how to visage the future. Instead of tending to meal preparations, I sat down this morning to a cup of coffee and began browsing ancestral journals. Thanksgiving is a challenging holiday for me. I'm not bound to any traditions, nor do I find the over stuffing of birds and bellies appealing, and the undercurrent of mass purchasing makes me wince.

That's my grapple, not anyone else's though.

Owl Road

Owl Road

Barren crags thrust up from the earth in a symmetrical row along a snow packed mountain road. Casting soft shadows into a frosty field below. A lone figure perched in the last hours of daylight surveying the landscape. Wings opened slightly like an unbuttoned jacket as the breeze passed through the chocolate charcoal feathers, flecked with accents of ivory.