The rooms of my house are made of gold
and covered in cloth tapestry.
The floors are bare, no
Persian carpets or mohair,
only hard, smooth wood.
Furniture is sparse--
the treasures are many:
little pearls, demurely shining things,
sometimes caked and crusted
in the dirt I find them.
At midnight, the cocks crow
and up the stairs I go
higher and deeper in
(yet somehow there's always a window
that opens to the ocean)
I turn a corner,
the window to sea at my left,
to my right, a soft landing,
a cat cubby,
the afternoon sun striking its center
and there I rest--
it was made for me--
I drench my skin in hot, liquid gold light.
I feel I could nap but
dare not sleep
for there are more stairs to climb,
more rooms to open up,
more treasures to find.
And just like that, Therese’s consciousness returned to her body where it lay, curled up in her mid-town apartment. Most of her was heavy with longing to return from whence she came. The piece of her that had set the alarm the night before commanded her body to rise, and she was propelled into wakefulness.
The course of the morning is pre-determined by stage-setting and programming. Therese was programmed for productivity. Her stage was set by her mother’s best intentions.
She stumbled the ten feet between her bed and the bathroom, flicked on the light and shut the door behind her. Blinking her eyes furiously, she cranked on the hot water in the shower, pissed, brushed her teeth, then hopped into the steaming stream. She spent just enough time in the water to scrub every bit of her body, not so much that she was able to relax into it. In the same style as she had forced herself out of bed, she now turned off the faucet, stepped out of the shower and into a towel. Rubbed herself down, blew her hair dry, and threw on the clothes she had hung on the door. She styled her hair, applied makeup à la coffee shop face. Light concealer, mascara, red lipstick.
She didn’t bother with breakfast. She had packed her briefcase, which she snagged on her way out the door, with an apple, some dry breakfast biscuits and a pouch of almond butter.
Her morning walk was mindless. She was in the zone of walking quickly whilst dodging anyone in less of a hurry than she, which, coincidentally, was most people.
Once she entered the cafe, she stepped up to the counter – no line this morning – and ordered her drink: double-shot espresso, steamed milk, but no, no sugar please (it made her head foggy and her writing suffered for it).
From the moment she had left the cocoon of her apartment, she steeled herself with the blank-face that served as the psychic armor of the city. Behind that mask, Therese ran circles around the day ahead of her. Everything she needed to complete, everything she hoped to do, all the plans she had made for that evening. The point of the coffee was to help her straighten that shit out.
Drink in hand, she made her way to the back of the coffee house and chose a table in the corner. She set her drink down, popped open her briefcase and pulled out her laptop. As she waited for the computer to start up, she sipped her coffee and surreptitiously munched on one of her biscuits.
She chose this spot for her work week after week, not because the drinks were particularly well-made, or for her fondness of veggie clubs, but for its lighting. More specifically, it had some. The opium den ambiance of the other neighborhood cafes seemed to inspire too much socialization for her productive grind. She could have her nose fully engrossed in her laptop, typing away furiously on the latest job, and some old lady would ask her, specifically, where to find such and such theater. A restless looking young man would ask her, where did she find her top? He wants to know for his sister. *wink*
She logged into her freelancing software – essentially an application that kept track of the hours spent on a project – and started in on today’s assignments.
She was developing content for a couple of law firm websites. Not her passion, not her calling, but that was where she had experience, and experience was what got her work. She recalled the internship for a fashion magazine she had been offered during her days at university. Days like today, she couldn’t recall why she had turned it down.
At least it was Friday.
Therese sat at a circular table across from her friend, Brandi, at an underground comedy club. On stage was a bald, caramel-skinned man in a charcoal gray pinstriped suit.
Therese and Brandi had first watched him perform stand-up at a comedy festival during their college days, and had bonded over their enjoyment of his ability to offend several different cultures in a single joke. Now, they met in this club every third Friday of the month to see his latest act. Somewhere between now and then, their sense of novelty and hilarity was traded in for familiarity. They were devoted to him not because of interested engagement, but because it was comfortable. A sense of belonging for a $30 cover charge.
The comedian was second-generation Pakistani, and particularly good at accented impressions. When they discovered Aziz Ansari months later, his act only got better. His performance tonight was especially offensive; the tables around them were raucously screaming in laughter. Brandi had an absent-minded smile pasted sideways across her face. Therese stirred her drink.
In between breaks in the routine, Therese and Brandi engaged in small talk. They called it “catching up.”
“How goes the freelancing gig now that you’ve quit your day job?” Brandi asked, maybe because she was genuinely interested, but more likely because there was nothing else new between them.
“Oh, it’s…it’s dreadfully boring actually,” Therese confessed, deciding the occasion of the Friday called for frankness rather than the contented complacency of the workweek.
“I worry about you sometimes, you know. Living alone, working alone…”
“But that’s what I like about it!” Therese blurted. “It’s so freeing to not have to conform to other people’s expectations and schedules…” And that’s exactly why Therese chose to freelance: freedom. But now that she was in it, she realized she still conformed to others’ expectations and schedules, only on a shorter contractual lifetime. And this way, anything that went wrong fell entirely on her own head.
“But aren’t you lonely?” Brandi asked, her tanned face twisted in incredulity.
“Well, yes. But not any more than I was when I was working at the firm…”
“Girl, you should get on tinder.”
The last time Brandi made this suggestion, Therese told her that despite being interested from the standpoint of a social scientist, she couldn’t escape the feeling that it commodified sex somehow, which wasn’t something she was personally interested in. It felt so impersonal to her. It made her feel hopeless about romance, which was far from feeling hopelessly romantic.
This time, rather than respond, Therese stirred her drink.
Therese walked quickly through the dark city streets, her head down and her shoulders hunched. The cold wind ripped through her, drawing her attention to the fact that she wasn’t wearing anything more than a dark blue blanket, which she clutched tightly to her naked body.
Paranoia crept over her, and a gruff male voice called out, “Give it up, girlie!” Therese pulled the blanket tighter around her and picked up her pace.
Someone coughed, and Therese looked sharply to her right. A tangle of faces, with shadows for eyes, leered up at her from the darkness. She broke into a dead sprint, then tripped and smashed straight into the ground below.
Therese found herself alone in the waiting room of some kind of medical establishment. The walls were white, the floors and chair cushions a flat, clinical blue. Reception was empty; the phone was ringing.
A nurse in black scrubs walked into the room. She held a clipboard in front of her chest.
Therese stood up and followed the nurse through the swinging door into a whitewashed corridor. On either side of the long hallway was examination room upon examination room, each one with a small square window. She glanced into one of the rooms. A large, undressed woman sat on the examination table, her hands on her knees. Her face was grotesquely lumpy and her small eyes, set deeply into her face, stared blankly out at her.
Therese stirred sickly at the root, and her face flushed red. The nurse turned a corner, but Therese kept walking. The fluorescent bulbs overhead darkened into a thick forest canopy.
All was quiet. The light of a full moon burned coldly through the branches above her. Beneath her feet, the earth was dry and cool. The dirt sifted between her toes as she walked.
Just then, her momentum ran out. Everything that propelled her from home to city streets, to comedy clubs, to cafes, to cradled consciousness. It all shriveled up.
She fell hard to her knees and folded forward at the waist. A moment passed and she scooped a handful of dirt. She looked into it, took a breath, then poured it over her face. It’s coolness washed over her skin, down the front of her chest, over her belly and spilled back to the earth. She folded forward again, this time pressing her cheek to the ground before her, her arms stretched over and around her head. The earth curled up around her body and swallowed her whole.
Saturday morning, Therese awoke at daybreak. She slipped out of bed and into a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and a large cardigan. Slipped into her shoes and out the door.
She didn’t know where she was walking, only that walking was what was called for. She needed to feel ground beneath her feet, air moving over her skin, blood pulsing through her veins.
The light of the sun was just beginning to creep over the standing giants of the city. As she walked, the trance of the early morning was deep over her.
She stopped in front of an old used bookstore. On either side of the shop’s door was a box of flowers. Above a cluster of golden geraniums floated a tiny purple butterfly. Therese’s breath caught in her chest. How miraculous, she thought, that this paper-thin creature, alive with color, could be found fluttering amongst these walls of cement, steel and glass?
When she arrived home, she carried out her usual Saturday routine. Laundry, clean house, late breakfast, tend loose ends on her current writing assignments. Then, she shook it up. Rather than veg on the couch, watching Netflix into the late evening, she took a nap. And when she awoke from that deep, cleansing slumber, she sat before her desk with a pad of paper and a favorite pen, and she began to write a story. It went something like this.
From politics to pop culture, fetish holes to vitriolic misinformation, there’s so much slish available in the collective consciousness. How do we navigate this place in a way that nourishes ourselves and our purpose? The process can be quite simple so long as one is willing to be ruthlessly loving.
Curate your social media experience
Thank you Russell Brand for applying such apt terminology to this process (you can watch his video on the topic here). I’ve come across a lot of folks lately who bear the opinion that social media is inherently a negative and toxic place, but like all tools, it comes down to how it’s being used. While there’s still the issue of censorship, and the very real problem of social media addiction, it is still possible to use these platforms as a source of connection, education and inspiration.
Begin with unfollowing folks who regularly negativity, toxicity and misinformation. If you’re so inspired, unfollow anyone who you regularly scroll past. If the content they choose to post has no relevancy to your life, there’s no need for it to clog your feed. Facebook even allows for one to unfollow others while maintaining the friend connection, keeping the cyber bridge open for continued contact. On the flip side, find groups, accounts and pages that reflect your mission (or just downright make you feel good). The goal here is to create a space that inspires and excites you every time you access it.
Approach education with an eagle’s eye
In my college days, when reading dense informative text, I had an awful habit of writing down everything my mind told me was important. This tic comes from the the regurgitation-education model (you know, the one where you swallow “facts” and then spit them back out again without ever using tools of analysis or dissection). The result of this style of note-taking? Well, absolutely nothing. I never retained much of that knowledge beyond the situation of its immediate relevancy (tests, class discussions, etc.) It was a complete waste of time.
When we begin to take our education into our own hands, it becomes possible to do so as an eagle approaches the hunt. We survey what lies before our eyes and respond to what moves our intelligent animal bodies. Whether prey or predator, we pay attention to what activates us. Whatever comes up, follow that thread through its current context, other sources and our own life experiences. From there, we take notes*, create story, and seek discussion so we can better retain and build upon what we have gathered. This method can be applied to thoughts on fictional and nonfictional modes alike.
*For long-term note-taking, I recommend Luhmann’s method. It’s an artform I aspire to).
Turn your space into a personal Teaching Lodge
Our surroundings are a physical reflection of our psyche, and can thus be worked with positively in order to shape our minds. I encountered this concept most recently in my Medicine Woman tarot deck, in the form of one card in particular: the Teaching Lodge of the Arrows. Summed up, this card speaks to the process of engrossing oneself in that which encourages growth and learning.
As in the first section of this post, the primary step is to eliminate clutter. Anything that brings you down or no longer serves, goes. For me, if it still has practical/functional value, I sell or consign it. For things of a more personal or sentemental nature, I like to return them directly to the earth. I do this in a place that feels sacred and out-of-the-way, with a prayer for growth or healing appropriately connected to the object. I recycle what I can, and trash the rest (which, when all is said and done, ends up being pretty minimal). Use your own discernment for what’s appropriate in this process.
After you’ve cleared some space for the new, begin cultivating and creating the positive. Bring beauty into your home in the form of books, artwork, natural objects, what-have-you, and let it feed your soul. This can be done with little to no money. Lately, I particularly enjoy leaving inspirational and intention-setting notes for myself all over my walls. These images serve as daily reminders for the life I’m aiming to create. If you choose to do this one, be sure to use positive, rather than negative sentence structure (“I am” vs. “I am not”: “I am strong” rather than “I am not weak.”)
Create small altars all around your space and let them provoke, inspire or comfort you. Get creative and take care of them regularly. Let them grow and change in their own way. Expand on this idea. Your entire space is an altar, everywhere that you be is a temple. Act accordingly.
Tune your dial
Just as you would change the channel on an old-school television set, attune your body and mind to the frequencies you aim to broadcast. This is probably the most significant thing you can do in regards to navigating the collective consciousness, because the process carries on even when you’re not paying attention.
Many of us spend our time in that hazy space between channels – everything coming through is a bit distorted by the wash of white-noise and static across the screen. We have the power to tune into a clearer picture, and all it takes is a little applied know-how.
There are two major components to this process. The first is to adjust our bodies. Eating cleanly and healthfully, drinking clean water, yoga, pranayama, exercise and energy work are all useful mechanisms for this work.
The other significant step here is to ready our minds. Meditation is vital. Suggestion and prayer are helpful too. Intentional daydreaming can be fun. Using these tools, notice how different ones bring about different results – find what works best for you and use it/them.
No matter how polluted the waters of our psyche may seem, with the right filter, we can always get exactly what we need to heal and refresh our inner flow.
Do you ever say things
not because you mean them
but because other people have said them
and meant them?
Where do you go when you sleep?
What do you say
to the ones you love?
What do you do?
What is the name of your
In the space between
sleeping and dreaming
are you ever horrified
by what you bear
on your hands?
What, then, do you do
when you're awake?
Do you bury your hands
or wash (lave) them clean?