finding resilience through reading and art practice
My best friend Taylor came over yesterday to talk about how life has been treating us. It has been almost a month between when we have seen each other last, time passing as ripples in the river. We talked about resilience over the dinner table after feasting on beef and lamb gyros and seasoned fries. Sometimes your friends hold up a mirror that you can see yourself reflected through, and this is what Taylor offers me: a chance to reflect, and to ask myself the difficult questions.
I have often spent these last few weeks succumbed to despair; dissociating at my work desk; wondering what purpose there is to all of this, to the endless monotony of working during a time of widespread emotional intensity and suffering. I have been fighting my burnout since this summer, when I developed shingles that has since transformed into postherpetic neuralgia. Each day, my back prickles. My chest feels as if a small creature is nestled beneath, piercing beneath my skin with its claws. Some days are days I give in to pain, to exhaustion, to that despair that follows me.
When I reflect on these first few weeks of 2022, I can see that I have been actively practicing resilience. Resilience, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”. I often feel that I don’t bounce back as easily as I should; that misfortune wounds me in a way that is too deep to heal completely. Yet, I have pressed on. I wake up, I make coffee, I clean myself, I put on an outfit for the day, I clock in, I work, I clock out, I eat food, I sleep. But in addition to the regular routine, I have been reading.
One way I cope, that I find my resilience, is by devoting my free time to activities that make me bloom. Reading is one of those habits that has wrapped itself around my shoulders like an old friend. As of today, I’ve finished twelve books this January. I’ve scoured 2,709 pages. I’ve devoured Joan Didion, bell hooks, a Pete Holmes audiobook, three poetry collections, a book of art practices, a YA romance, a true crime account, a book of affirmations, a queer memoir, and a collection of essays (So Sad Today by Melissa Broder, which almost deserves its own newsletter). In a time of distress, I have become addicted to words again. And it has been freeing.
I can cast away my physical and emotional pain when I devote time to reading, when I commit my time to entering another world. My addiction offers me solace from the dangers of our present reality. It offers me new realities: the pain and suffering of others, the love that is shared between others, the poems constructed by the hands of others. Reading is a window into otherness, into what others around me are living and experiencing.
Another way I practice resilience has been devoting time to art and building an art practice for myself. So instead of sharing a traditional poem with you today, I thought I’d share with you a current art project I’m working on, “SHADOW POEM”. This series uses stencils of poem lines to create shadows and echoes of the lines forming on various textures and surfaces using the rays of the sunlight filtering through my house.
PROMPT: How do you recover from the misfortunes and changes life deals you? Where and how do you find resilience?
If you’re writing this week, write a short essay or poem responding to this prompt. Or, if you’re looking for a challenge, try transforming your poem or written work into another form of art, like painting, collage, or a stencil. Allow yourself room to rest, to grow, to experiment. Focus less on the final piece, and more on the journey you’re on right now.
I hope this week, you can find something in your life that heals you, that returns you to wholeness, that builds on your resilience.
thank you for listening,