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Saturday, September 29, 2012

How A Sea Urchin Tea Set Taught Me To Value Intuition,
Or When The Going Gets Tough, Don't Be Lazy

When I first purchased my sea urchin tea set at the Rockefeller Center Anthropologie, I barely had enough money for that month's rent in my bank account.  It was a sad time for many reasons, but aside from being sad, it was a worrisome time.  The idea of letting my parents down, who I'd left miles back home in Los Angeles to start a life in a new city with a guy I'd only been going out with for six months, was beyond disappointing.  Having just moved out of my ex's apartment, the thought of rebuilding a new life after rebuilding a new life was just too daunting... And so, I would have not-so-happy happy hour oysters and beer with Bluebs who was kind of in the same boat at the time, in hopes that the delight they brought me would delete the malaise, or that some ancient secret from the sea would seep into my brain... Or, even more foolishly, that maybe I'd arrive at some sort of alcoholic epiphany.  I was giving Heineken way too much credit, it being so obvious that I was simply being fearful and lazy.

While shopping together one night- or rather, while Bluebs was shopping and I offered her company as I didn't want to be alone that evening- I spotted this sea urchin tea set, the one pictured up there.  I told Bluebs that I really, really wanted it, but I shouldn't be spending money on things I don't need.  The intuitive part of Annabelle was saying you need this tea set.  The rational part of Annabelle was saying you have no money so you cannot afford to purchase a tea set, especially since you do not need it.  The intuitive side won, strengthened by the idea that I needed to start reifying my independence.  

Both sides were right though.  I rarely use the tea set these days, however it brings me a lot of pleasure, not just because it's a beautiful object, but because it was one of the first steps in slowly rebuilding my life.  I set forth on making it happen one step at a time instead of sitting mystified at how I would make it through the slump. I wasn't going to have a fantastic job situation or a newly furnished apartment overnight, but little by little my new material life slowly presented itself.  There were many trying times and dangerous dips, but when you're treading that terrain, you remind yourself those are temporary and continue working towards what's beyond the stairs you're climbing, and (most importantly) be wary of using their ephemerality as an excuse.  If you don't keep your focus on what's beyond the stairs you're climbing, the temporary very soon becomes more and more permanent.

I cut down on the oysters and beer, and began working harder.  A couple of months later, I was self-sufficient again.  The film I'd been working on for a year went into pre-production shortly after my break up, and my confidence took off with it.  I carved out a nice life for myself in New York- I was working on something I loved, reading great books during off-time for inspiration, even had some opportunities to travel, and enjoyed my time with good friends and family.  The good friends and family part is crucial as the last thing you need when you're undergoing hardship is people inflicting more hardship on you.  Without the good friends to throw in an unexpected raise or remind you of why they think you are special, the climb can seem endless.  

During a period where my job was nurturing conversations on the subconscious, I reexamined the brief anxiety I had about buying that tea set in the first place. It seemed meaningless months later.  The reason I was so reluctant to buy a tea set (market price about $35), couldn't be the money.  My ostensible reason was I can't afford to buy this, but obviously I could afford it because I bought it.  To better solve the riddle, I examined what a tea set means.  To me, a Mexican-American woman brought up in California, tea sets conjure up ideas of luxury.  Idleness, or having extra time.  Comfort. On the historic tip, I think of fancy 17th and 18th century monarchs and aristocrats who introduced the idea of tea time after its discovery in the East.  Tea in a cup is cool, if you’re sick or going to sleep… But a whole set for the frills seems a bit much if you’re broke.  I was trained to think that superfluous purchases in times of frugality are unwise.  Perhaps what was really going on was that I didn't think I deserved the luxury of a nice tea set because of my financial state, but by allowing myself a tea set, I was psychologically untraining myself in a sense, for better or worse, and was symbolically on the road to creating a more stable domestic life for myself.

Einstein called the intuitive mind a sacred gift and the rational mind it's a faithful servant. He said "We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."  I am still grappling with whether this general sentiment holds true, since I feel like I'm in a society that highly values the artist, and where almost everyone I meet wants to be an artist. Growing up in a working class family, I was taught that intellect was a priority over imagination because intellect gets you good grades, which gets you into good schools, which gives you a better job and a better life. Imagination, the fun part, was highly encouraged as a child, but viewed as more of an indulgence upon entering the "real world". 

Approaching the end of my third decade alive, I’m carefully undoing that conditioning, trying to avoid the dangers of living a life guided foremostly by rationality. It’s almost a betrayal of your humanness.  It is very remarkable that humans invented bridges, boats, medicines, and as a former student of the natural sciences who was constantly clonked on the head with the importance of the scientific method, I greatly marvel at those and many other accomplishments, but what about the urge and imagination to conceive some of those and other ideas?  I tend to think in terms of cause and effect, a comes before b, do this first and then you can have this, but that's not the way things work outside of research labs and classrooms.  If people were constantly guided by such myopic thinking, even with Science’s best efforts, minds and offerings, I highly doubt there'd be an IMAX or iPhone, Mars Rovers or Sesame Street Grovers. Like everything else, it requires a delicate balancing act.

Two years now with my sea urchin set, I'm back at square one!  Q-tip (the rapper, not the object) is in the back of my head somewhere asking me "don't know you know that things go in cycles.”  I recently quit a great job to have more time for myself.  I am entering the Mesozoic to my previously detailed Cenozoic, only now the suffering is self-induced, so the sympathy is harder to come by. I take full responsibility.  While reading Marie Darrieussecq's Pig Tales as research for a screenplay I started to writethe prostitute piggy testifies "Rationality is the ruination of mankind," a well-timed reminder.  

This morning- er afternoon, I made myself a cup of coffee.  I noticed the sea urchin set which I haven’t used in a while, and told myself lazily that it's because I have no need for it.  There were a couple of old sugar cubes in there, along with gross dust on the base of the creamer.  I think a useful approach in times of transition or big changes is to question your initial thoughts, since these are the times where you’re more susceptible to be guided by the fear of what's ahead; adorably enough, this reevaluation serves as a pleasant sort of marriage of the intuitive and rational.  Our natural defense mechanism may push us towards panic, and at other times they may pull us towards inaction, hence my "I have no need for it."  Do so during trying times and you'll soon start to learn how often you lie to yourself.  

Instinctually, after reflecting on the first time I bought the set and why I got it, I cleaned the sea urchin set. I found myself reversing my thought pattern by making room for it's need. I refilled it with sugar, and cleaned up the creamer nicely.  Moments later, as I was sipping the coffee in my room, where the tea set rests, I noticed the coffee was a little bitter.  I went over to the reinstated sea urchin sugar container, scooped a small lump, and created what became a perfect sip.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Steinbeck via Miss Whistle

Miss Whistle always knows a good thought when she sees one...

"[...] it is a strange thing that most of the feeling we call religious, most of the mystical outcrying which is one of the most prized and used and desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say that man is related to the whole thing, related inextricably to all reality, known and unknowable. This is a simple thing to say, but the profound feeling of it made a Jesus, a St. Augustine, a St. Francis, a Roger Bacon, a Charles Darwin, and an Einstein. Each of them in his own tempo and with his own voice discovered and reaffirmed with astonishment the knowledge that all things are one thing and that one thing is all things—plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again."

- John Steinbeck, The Log from The Sea of Cortez (h/t MC)

This makes me want to read more Steinbeck followed by a re-read of The Rings of Saturn.
Thanks, Miss Whistle!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dialogue 3.5 Leave Me (a likely subconscious extension of Virgos Aging... at least on my part)

Image by Alisa / Words by Annabelle

Today I spent most of the day organizing my life, even though I'd decided I need to stop planning, purging, organizing and start acting... Finding new gigs.  Writing more. Doing all the things I thought I'd do if granted more time.  

Instead, I got rid of clothes I no longer wear or like.  I made a special pile for what needs to be dry cleaned (half of which will most likely end up normal cleaned), and I filled in my calendar with "important dates" that were floating around my head and are now stored more reliably.  A wedding, a bachelorette, a going away thing...  OK, so basically other people's important dates.  After my room was spic and span, I had the brilliant idea that I needed groceries since I was going to be home more often (most purchased items will end up expired after bucking up and resuming my NYC eating out ways). My absent-mindedness caused me to leave one of two bags at the market...  The good bag!  The one with the Almond Breeze, toilet paper and eggs!  

I went back and hollered and knocked outside of the Washington Heights Associated Foods for almost ten minutes.  Maybe an ambitious employee was in there tying up loose ends and thoroughly performing close out duties before calling it a workday.  That period after "workday" should really be a very uncertain question mark.  And just maybe, future cool decision-making should be more thoroughly scrutinized.  Read a handful of my previous posts and you'll see that I'm a relentless optimist, further marred by a handful of capricious quirks.

I quit the back-up job, and I had no back-up for the back-up job so this is the kind of thing I've been doing. Vague planning.  It's all you can do when you don't know what you're going to do.  I allowed myself that three-day-birthday-treat-staycation, museum hopping and prancing around town before buckling down, but I can't seem to get the belt through the final loops.  My self-induced panic has rapidly gone from slight simmer to working up a boil.  

You'll never be completely independent, and freedom isn't free;  I never imagined being left alone to be such a luxury.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ferdinand Hodler

My best bun, V, was in town for the weekend, and I couldn't ask for a better birthday present.
Of our three day sleepover, I think my favorite part was prancing around Museum Row together.
Together, we were introduced to Ferdinand Hodler's landscapes and portraiture at the Neue Galerie before stopping by the Met to quickly check out the Annenburg Galleries.
His devotion to documenting his partner, Valentine, on her deathbed was particularly affecting, but for some reason it gives me the chills to just think of linking to an image from that series, so I'll let you look those up out of your own accord.

And our favorite self-portrait...


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dialogue 3.0 Virgos Aging



A maiden born when September leaves
Are rustling in September's breeze,
sapphire on her brow should bind
Twill cure diseases of the mind.
                 - Gregorian Birthstone Poem

You're really something, Alisi.... We're on the same wavelength here.  I've been thinking about how I've been holding all of my facets, which the top right image reminds me of, and the left image reminds me of how I've been into herbs again lately.

A note to the Reader:  Alisa and I are both Virgos, but while I'm on the cusp (September 22, so I cheat between Virgo-Libra); she's a true Virgo (September 2).

Some other changes I plan to implement between 28-29:

No longer drinking water out of plastic, it's glass exclusively henceforth...

More to the exclusive side, following independent desires. I think it's a perfect age to do so, and all signs seem to be pointing to it.  No compromises.

I recently discovered my "life path", astrologically speaking, is one about finding meaning in the mundane, through observation, so I was happy to see the bear was my power animal on this hokey site.   Even if I don't get all literal about it, it's a nice animal for me to reflect on as I approach this new phase ahead.

About Me

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I'm an LA transplant now living in Brooklyn. I develop film projects by day, write at night, and have a dangerous predilection for vintage Robinson Golluber scarves- this blog serves as a tiny window to everything else I do when I'm not satisfying those first three passions. I'm trying to blog more and tweet less @annabelleqv. What about you?


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