Sunday, July 27, 2014

Walk with ME: No Walks

I woke up grumpy. Like real crabby. Why? Cause it has been so hot and humid here in Minneapolis. I am not made to wake up sweaty and feeling like I am carrying around extra water weight. The other thing was, I woke up knowing there wasn't going to be any walks at Walker Open Fields. I just felt it.

I want to stop this chronological story telling to say a few things. When I saw that the Walker had opened a Public Practice Programs Director. I cheered. I wanted her job. But mostly I cheered. It was one of the reasons I felt good about  moving to Minneapolis. I am slowly getting to know people here. I am terrified of being rejected but I also no longer kiss ass. Which in LA, there were so many asses I kissed. Mostly metaphorically. Maybe one or two ass kisses happened while dancing. They were purely platonic. I also know how hard it is to put on events. I do it as my job. Alas, this Saturday, Open Fields was put on top of a hill out of the way of all the foot traffic. The awesome Open Field director said I could venture down to the sculpture garden to invite folks to walk. But there we were five different artists, mostly in a U-shape. And I felt a solidarity to them. Staying with theme. Like well, if I am meant to walk someone will come up here.

I had a great chat with an artist and her husband. I thought for SURE I could get the lady to walk with me. Alas, their son was one of the other artists so they were there to support him. And well they thought it was a great project but it was too scary...or so it felt.

An amazing Dad of two, came up and with a 7 month old strapped to the front of him asked some really insightful questions. Taking the time to be an adult for a minute while his 3 year old wanted to boss him around. That was an amazing moment to me. That he wanted to keep my zine and talk about my project seriously. (Please remember how crabby I started the day.)
Getting Set Up for Open Field

If someone gave me a check list of if my performance yesterday was a success. It would be diagnostically a no. No walks happened. I worried that the organizers would be upset at me for not following through not BUSKING in the park to get someone to walk. I just wanted to wait and see. I wanted a walk to come to me.

Well it didn't come but some other great things did. In the form of a clown. One of the other performers was a clown. And she was set up next to me. I like supporting artists. And with our slow turn out there was time to chat. I had time to chat with most of the artists. And it turned out that this lovely clown, Scooper, is opening up a business right by where I will live. I will let her announce her awesome news when she and her business partners are ready but DANG it felt serendipitous to meet this friendly woman who is passionate about art and opening a cool business by where I just decided to live! After a much maligned experience in my leaky Minneapolis slum lord apartment. We ended up having lunch after Open Field and discussing my desire to put together a Feminist Film Festival here in Minneapolis. Her time in Colorado. And possible funding opportunities for me. Along with much more. And though there were no walks. It sure felt like I came to Walker Open Fields to meet some nice artists including Scooper. Serendipity. Or something. I mean cool people propose projects to Walker Open Field.

So after many sunny hours and a back sunburn (I couldn't find my sunscreen but luckily Laura had some later in the day that saved my face and chest from burn.) A lovely lunch. I went and watched a fantastic performance by Maren Hassinger for the Radical Presence show that just opened at the Walker. She had local women artists, rip, twist, knot together, and roll into a ball newspaper and then the last woman threw the ball into the crowd. To me actually which was exciting and terrifying. I quickly threw it to the woman next to me. As a performance artist I loved every minute of it. And then we as a crowd got to make them. Things got very communal and loud and lovely as we all made our twisted newspaper strings. What I was in awe of was hands. Of course, doing walk with me. Holding hands and all I am attuned to them. But everyone noticed the glory of these women's hands. I noticed how differently each woman did each task. It was a glorious meditation.

I then went in watched The Clock, for awhile. Which I find panic inducing as there is no space to forget time and each minute. I wait for it to pass. I will go back though for the extended hour night and try to stay up late watching it.

I then grabbed a chihuahua dog at the hot dog stand and spent an hour and half reading "Americanah," by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie . Which is a most amazing book! I hope it ends up as a book read in colleges. My time in Africa makes me relate to some of it's issues of race and class more. But I think anyone would enjoy reading this book. A huge African wedding came into the garden as I packed up to go to "Wild Moon Bhaktis" the amazing Kirtan music group I spent 2+ hours with meditating and chanting. My friend Laila plays the flute with them often. She invited me and I had wanted to go for so many of their full moon celebrations. I am very glad I made it as I sang my heart out. Sat in meditation on the floor for two hours without my foot going to sleep (!) that is a first! There is nothing like being intuned to your spiritual center and then even make small movements. It is a strange and powerful feeling. Afterwards, I was blissed out beyond belief. I felt high. What a better way to get there than drugs!

Laila and I went out for a drink afterwards at The Lowry (cause they have a parking lot!). Laila and I most definitely vibrate at the same high frequency. There are not that many of us out there. As Laila pointed out we are Highly Sensitive People. They have labeled us. I was proud as a highly Sensitive Person to not take today too seriously. To find the definite bright spots. To celebrate the hard work the Open Field people put in to make it happen. Can't wait to make the Group Walk next Saturday a more conventionally successful event. To celebrate what I have. A growing in depth friendship network here in Minnesota. A growing calm in loving myself and others. And a high vibration to hum/enact/set fire in this world.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Walk with ME: Walker Open Fields: Walk with ME Jon

So it was an intense moment coming back to the Walker after walking with my Mom. My body felt wide open, cracked open and sort of buzzing, humming. I felt bad because as per usual I left my mom when I should have stayed. I usually write with the person after the walk but the walk had gone on far too long and Jon had been waiting. Jon isn't an impatient person but he had waited close to an hour to walk with me.

It is hard to explain the importance of people in your life. But I have to say knowing Jon has been rather important. Why? Cause we are very similar people. We are both angsty artists who battle the demons of art making daily. We are both extremely intelligent. We both love to be the center of attention while on stage. Jon is the husband of my life coach. I met him in the role of accountability partner. Jon helped me apply to college but more importantly came over to the house I lived on in Bryn Mawr in 2007 and he came over for dinner with myself and my roommate Anne, once or twice. We would drink tea, talk about Japan, as Anne had been there and I have a great interest. And Jon would make us laugh as he developed his performance character, Zen Master Zero. It was a ball. I was depressed at the time and Jon was a humorous light spot within that.

So to the day at Walker Open Field. It was still raining and the official activities ended early or had been cancelled. Jon had gotten some lunch while he waited for my Mom and I to return. Jon got a magenta/pink rain plastic poncho from the Walker. It said something amazing and Walker-y like "It is Happening" or something. A wonderful conceptual saying to wear on a performance walk.

We walked up the hill behind the Walker and there was a man with a cassette tape player and headset staring off into the distance. I wondered if something profound would he would say something insightful or rageful and it would be our first benchmark. But he just kept staring off into the distance. Jon and I walked into the neighborhood and we chatted about how as an artist most of the time you feel what you do is shit. Till at the last moment you think it's wonderful and then you fall back to feeling like shit. This led to the great thought that the highlights, the things you strive for are never the things that feel fantastic. It's the unexpected moments that feel the greatest. That perfect conversation. The accidental discovery. The random person you meet that loves your work. It isn't the big shows. The things you work SO hard to get to. It is the surprises.

So we walked. It kept raining. Every once in awhile Jon would squeeze my hand not completely but in pulses of two or three. Lightly. It reminded me that we were holding hands. It was reassuring to hold Jon's hand. I felt VERY GROUNDED on this walk. Possibly the most I ever had. Though we were talking about religion and art and life...I felt very grounded. Like from my very root I was being nailed to the ground.

Jon discussed how believing in a religion is a feeling not a thought. That what feels right, feels right. This coming up after we passed the Unitarian Meeting Hall. As intellectuals, I think this is an important conversation. That we can go around and around but sometimes there are no answers. Or not one answer. Or no explanation for certain things. I think that is why I turned to binge eating and why I was depressed for so long. I needed answers and the answer is no answer. Oh how Zen. Ah so.

So on we went, Jon mentions in his writing how it didn't feel like an art project. (Shhhhh don't tell the Walker) But rather just a walk with a friend. I am actually worried that maybe this just isn't art anymore. That the boundary and art and life have collapsed. There is no reason to be doing this. That Kaprow would scoff at my performance and intentions. But why did it take an art project to get Jon and I to walk together? It would probably not be ok for me to hold Jon's hand, even though Laurie and Jon are very liberal, in every day life. Art gave me this transgression of the every day. Art gave me this space to bring joy to my life and to Jon's. How nice. Thanks art. And as Jon also wrote he had just been talking to a consultant/activist named Dylan that the best ideas come from "peripatetic pedestrian experiences." There is nothing more pedestrian than walking. And hell if I remember what peripatetic means. it is too hot outside to remember.

So in contrast to an intense family walk, here I walked with someone who is a mentor and an equal. Someone who validates my interest in, well everything I am interested in. Art, philosophy, religion...though I don't think Jon watches sports. Jon and I were brought to the present moment. We were allowed big thoughts in the rain. We were allowed to think about as Jon put it "the limits of our ability to understand REALITY." From housing issues to Catholicism to The Situationists we covered all that but we did it in a mundane, pedestrian way. It was so magical.

It really started to pour as we headed back down the hill. I worried about Jon's watch getting ruined in the rain. We were terribly soaked around the edges of our rain gear. I was very cold. We wrote inside as my mom waited to have lunch with me and Jon went to watch The Clock.

On a side note, as this project has been about me opening up to the idea of loving in a romantic sense. Jon and Laurie are my role models in that field. They are one of the few truly happy couples I know. Last time, I saw Jon, he said an amazing thing. That at the time I found strange maybe even a little uncomfortable because I have been alone for so long. But now it rings so true I have to bring it up.

We were at an awesome Cambodian place Jon brought me to. He was innocently discussing how much he adores his and Laurie's kittens. How they lick eachother to help eachother bathe. How they push eachother playfully around on the bed And I burst out, "Wow that sounds lovely. I wish I could play like that with someone." Not thinking how, well, sexual and how personal that was of me to say. It just spit out of my mouth. Imagine, two kittens. That carefree love and attention they lavish on each other. Completely unselfconsciously.

 Jon with out skipping a beat and with the most sincerity said, "Yes it is fun. You deserve that. And you will find it." Something to that effect but better said. It was a lovely thing to say. Not condemning for not having it yet. Not rejecting my sexuality by thinking my comment weird. For him as a mentor, to accept that I deserve that type of care was something no man in any role had done for me. He didn't deny me my whole personality. He didn't deny that cultivating love with another person isn't important. With that silly example of two beings caring for eachother in such a carefree way really resonated with me. I find it sad it took this long to realize I could cultivate that type of space in my life. Thanks Jon. I believe you now.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Walk with ME: Walker Open Fields: Walk with ME Mom

It sounds funny to write. A walk with your Mom. As part of a serious art practice. Or does it? Here I was nervous to have my work be a part of Walker Open Field. Just sort of wondering what I was doing there as I was clearly told this was sub-programming to what happens at the Walker. Of course, that is when your mother surprises you at the first day of four that you are putting yourself out there. 
From Noon to 1pm I waited. Waited for someone to want to walk. There was much excitement as the 100 choreographers got ready. I spoke with an awesome Walker employee, Ashley about the project. I tried to get Christina to walk with me but alas she was working. I handed out a few zines to some of the choreographers hoping that after their performance I could get two of them to walk with me. All told me how cool the project was but that they were busy. Places to dash off to after the performance.
Then it started to rain. This is what I had been hoping for! I was so nervous about doing this all at the Walker I had hoped to get rained out. It started raining right when the choreographers were supposed to go on. Well, I thought, I might as well get to see this awesome performance before I go home. I had one walker, Jon, on his way. I could get that walk done and then I could go home. Maybe even get a ride from Jon. 

As, I, in my rain jacket watched Laurie Van Wieren's 4 x 4 performance where 100 choreographers performed in 4 foot by 4 foot squares…or so most stuck to the rules. My favorite was two men dancing the electric slide in their square. 
Anywho, while up the hill, my mother had arrived wondering why I wasn't by my sign. And so had my friend/roommate Andrew, with his friend Ahndi, and Jon arrived for his walk. Jon said he needed some lunch so someone else could walk first. Here I was all worried and now I had 4 WALKERS! Well, the official Open Field event may had been cancelled but the thunder and lightening had passed so we decided to walk. 

I had been pushed to do Walk with ME with family members. That exploring family emotions while holding hands would be challenging I thought it was a good idea. But I never pushed it. I had gotten push back from my family about quitting my job and taking this project on the road. As is likely of a family unit that is concerned for my health and well being. They probably thought I was gong nuts instead of striking out into fresh territory. That traveling Walk with ME will always be a pivotal moment in my life. That I still don't know where it will take me. I had family members get angry that I was bucking normal societal rules. But my mother, though wanting me to keep my former job, was supportive. At least to my face. And here she was ready for a walk. 

To say the least, I was nervous. So off we went in our rain coats into the Walker Sculpture Garden. If you read this blog, you will know I wrote a very personal blog that has caused ripples/effects through my family unit. I spoke about being sexually harassed by a family member. Realizing that it had been going on for years. These incidents have not crippled me but they most definitely have effected my relationship to how I think about men and safety. 

My mother and I started out the walk just chit chatting for five minutes. About the Walker and this project. But I felt incredibly uncomfortable. We had to talk about the blog. I apologized to my mom. Told her that I love her and Dad. But what I said I wasn't taking back. I was told by my mother that it wasn't that what I said wasn't truth it was that I had done it in public.  
I don't want to perpetuate anymore anger in my family unit. So I will keep my observations a bit truncated. One, it is powerful when women support each other. It is powerful to have a mother who will come out and walk with you when you are not the favorite person in your family unit. Two, what I am doing maybe, just maybe, can heal some of this family unit. No one wants to talk about what I am talking about. No one wants to look at the male figures in our family and say…what you did isn't right. Which goes for a lot of the male figures in my family unit. You can love someone and want to point out behavior that isn't so great. My mother was open to talking about this and reassuring me. What a gift. She isn't taking sides. She isn't steam-rolling anyone's feelings. But she didn't condemn me. 

Well, that is what love is. Isn't it? Accepting someone no matter what? It tears me up that that is what love is. Because it gives excuses a bit to all those times people have yelled at my mother. Or been mean to my mother. What I hope is that instead of being a victim, my mother can stand up and say that isn't an ok way to treat me. To those people. Including me. Cause let me tell you. I have yelled at my mother. I think that we can love and respect ourselves. I think women deserve love that isn't predicated on abuse from men or women.  
As we walked I noticed the way my mother's knuckle rubbed against my skin and moved against her skin. My mother has RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and it was right there in the hands that we held. To say that my mother is a powerful person is an understatement. She is stubborn and persistent and ever optimistic. She is proud of all the crazy things I have pushed myself to do. She pushes herself to do the same. 

Getting older there is a crazy shift where you are an adult and no longer need the same caring from your family. This is where the bonds can break or weaken. But with my mother I want to let her know that I don't need her cooking, her money, or her home as support. Now is the great time, when we can love each other just because.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Walk with Me: Path to a Path #9: Misogyny in Family's Clothing

*NOTE* This is the most difficult post I have ever written. I know it will upset my family. It upsets me. But with all that is going on in the world of women's rights right now. I have to make the personal political.**************

It was a big weekend for really breaking through why I binge eat and my emotional issues surrounding my family. I just didn't realize it would come down to such a big issue. I didn't realize how wrapped up my safety was with my sexuality. I didn't realize how much these all has to do with the issue of misogyny. 

I was a binge eater. For most of my childhood, into adolescence, and then into adulthood. Three years ago, ironically around the time I was thirty. I started the process of breaking the addiction, as I do see it as that, of binge eating. I changed eating habits, I worked through emotional issues, I exercised. I started meditating. All of these things got me to a clearer head space to be able to control urges. What does my binge eating truly come down to? Safety. I don't feel safe. So I over eat to feel grounded and safe. I ate when sad. I ate when happy. I understand binge eating is not as "bad" as shooting heroin. I sometimes understand that. Sometimes I think binge eating is worse than shooting heroin, cause binge eating keeps you alive longer as you continue to hate yourself and the life you have built as you eat your way through life. Am I sober? No, I still on occasion binge eat. This weekend was one of those times.

Maybe you have read my blog and know of my journey the past few years. Especially my trip across the country the past year. Maybe you have heard I made the choice to move back to Minneapolis to be closer to my family and still live in an awesome art city. Things have been a bit rough with housing issues. But I love my job and am feeling pretty good about my entry into the art scene here with a some Walker Open Fields events planned this summer. 

To make a long story short I got it on most sides from distant relatives that are intimidated by me (I am just a struggling artist). No one was happy when I didn't have anything to complain about. They searched for weaknesses. Did I have job? Well, when was the next Walk with Me event? Not to really ask about me and my life but to be able to say HA! there are her weaknesses. Finally landing on my not having a boyfriend after asking all the other questions…my distant relative was able to walk away with what she felt was an upper hand. I feel sad to have missed an opportunity to really connect.Why ask me questions if you don't want to know what is going on? I bring this up because it was the beginning of a not so great night. This feeling that I don't fit is not new. I was always told it was my fault that I THOUGHT I was different, so I was made myself different. Well, I am different. I am a woman. I am a woman living in a misogynistic world. With all the political choices being made my sudden awareness of how misogyny effects woman to woman conversation just as much as man to woman was my first lesson of the weekend. My relative is intimidated by me cause I am a single woman who seemingly isn't lacking anything. I am a mostly happy, working hard, woman. And instead of celebrating that people try to make me feel less than. I think patriarchy has to do with this. (I am going to start reading some Mary Daly to inform myself but I think intuitively I am on to something.)

For years, I have put myself in uncomfortable situations in the name of learning. In the name of diversity. In the name of wanting other sot feel better/comfortable/at ease. With my family it is my being an artist. My being eccentric. My being not of the mainstream. I always tried to meet people where they felt comfortable. Talking about things that are important to them. Talking to make people feel comfortable with me. I have recently taken that out of my personal life and leave that for when I am working as a PR person.

I am trying to just be me. I am a woman. I am an adult. And I deserve to be respected. The evening got worse when a cousin of mine got drunk. We, my mother, father, sister, brother in law, other relatives were at this cousin's house. He had kindly let us stay at his house. He drank about 4-6 glasses of whiskey and coke while we all ate pizza and chatted. I was tired. I was tired because I had used my old friend binge eating to get through this family weekend. I was so tired from eating things I don't usually eat, including many many many slices of pizza. That I decided to go to bed before everyone else. I had taken off my bra and put it by my bag and was saying good night to everyone when my cousin blocked my path to leave the living room. He started insisting I hug him. In front of everyone. Someone joked he wanted to hug me cause I didn't have my bra on. Everyone including me guffawed. Well, he wouldn't move. So I freaked out a bit. I ran away from him and told him to move. I was told by my sister, "I was just egging him on."


I put up with this behavior ALL THROUGH ADOLESCENCE. And well I was done. So I told him "To stop being a molester." He backed off and I went to bed. Him saying "You didn't have to be like that." 


In the moment, I wasn't mad. In the moment I went to bed. Not going back out to go to the bathroom one last time because I didn't want to have to fend off another hugging attack. TRULY, I didn't go pee because I didn't want to shake off my cousin trying to hug me. 

But it doesn't end. The next day, I had shrugged off the action of the night before. Cause I had shrugged off many days/nights of this type of behavior by men. And I asked a relative not to yell from the same room I was in while those she was yelling at others in another room. She then retorted with "Oh Paige, you are so sensitive! You are just too sensitive." 

I don't know if this was related to her watching my interaction with her son the night before. I don't know if she is just mad at me too for being a stronger woman than she. I don't know where this all comes from but I have realized her reaction is part of the internalized misogyny that is running rampant in my family. The cousin didn't speak to me as he scarfed down cake my brother in law made. When I left with my father, my aunt hugged me and said how great it was to see me after not speaking to me after our spat. 

The reason I haven't felt safe my whole life is because I am not. I just didn't realize it was always about sexuality. No one in my family stood up and protected me from what was labeled harmless harassment. I was supposed to protect myself. I was told I was over sensitive. I was told being a girl, a teen, a woman, was something that made me in the wrong and it is even ingrained in the women in my family. I don't get a voice, cause I am too sensitive. Too smart. Too full of myself. What is most intriguing is this was told to my aunt after she had a child at a young age. She was ridiculed for her choices or who knows possibly a non-choice that she paid the consequences for…she has misogyny written into her consciousness. It seems if she can't break the bonds of patriarchy, then she is trying to keep me in them also. By her words and actions. 

This is a huge break through for me. Cause this is what the Walk with Me journey has always been about. It is about intimacy and feeling safe enough to have it. I had to go back to my family to realize where my inability to love a man came from. It came from horribly dysfunctional dynamics that for my whole life I blamed myself for. I blamed myself that I couldn't fend off the teasing, the harassment, that was "harmless." I wasn't given the voice or the back up to say no. Because I am a woman my family hasn't protected me in the way I needed most. My family clothed, sheltered me, supported me financially, which is more than most women receive, but they have never stood up for me when I was teased or looked down upon for being me. Ever. 

I am standing up for me now. I will make a scene. I will scream. And most importantly I will not go. I moved back to Minnesota to be close to my family. But for now, that will be a truncated size of family. My mother, my father, and my sister's family on this specific side of family. I am beyond mad. I am beyond angry at myself for taking all of this in and blaming myself my whole life. This is what patriarchy and misogyny is. I was able to put it at arm's leg in a lot of ways by distancing myself from family. Well, I am back and I am in it. I will not turn away from this. I don't need to be groped or even hugged by any drunk man, relative or not. There is no behavior that is acceptable if not desired. I learned this from a walk with a S & M practitioner in Pittsburgh while holding her hand. I can say NO and I don't need a reason. 

I am safe because I make myself safe and I surround myself with people who will defend our rights to be safe. This was a sad weekend.

A Huffington blog that I think brings this conversation to another level and that I resonate with is this post by Kristina Wong. As a straight woman with queer politics I ail be reading this again as I mull these issues over.