This one is the doozy. Essentially because I had what turned into probably the most intense and busy three months of my entire adult life. I am now (in late December) finally catching my breath. And finally getting caught up on my blog – hence the three consecutive posts and nary a post in site for the previous two months. Ironic, right? Reality (check). But it really got me thinking. Yes, I was supposed to be basking in this awesome residence situation in which my primary goal was to reflect upon and enact moments of pause (via walking and observing “in place”). But the day-to-day unfolded such that several things were just all happening all at the same time. Torrential pouring. This had me in a constant shifting of gears and switching of modes. Transition from one mode to another has never been my specialty in the past; rather, it has usually been a source of tremendous impatience and exhaustion. But, I had no choice. And, I really did not rest. I basically ran (mentally and sometimes geographically) from one “event” to the next.
Please don’t get me wrong: I am not complaining. I am merely attempting to unpack this past autumn and resist the temptation to berate myself for failing to come through. For real: when I would put off a coffee date (“can we meet in January?”) or not reply to an email for several weeks (“I’m so sorry, I’ve been swamped”) my interlocutor would implore: “But I don’t get it: I thought you were supposed to be DOING NOTHING!” … Sigh. And so, I am instead trying to seize an opportunity to put all this in perspective – and learn a thing or two in the process. The following is a current reflection-in-progress:
Question 1: Did the project fail/did I fail my project in the first half of my residence?
…I mean… the project is, in part, about failure, but here I am again looking at failed failure (see June 6th post for an example). I guess it could go both ways. I didn’t stop. But I sure spent a ton of time thinking about why I couldn’t stop and how great it would feel when I did! Or more like waiting for the moment when I would have the time to properly reflect on why I had no time to really think. And also thinking about what all this meant. So… what to say… I tried to just move as gracefully as possible in all this acceleration and decided that there was no point in dwelling on whether what I was doing was harmonious with my project or a complete contradiction. It ended up being both. Which leads to
Question 2: What does it (really) mean to create spaces of pause and interval in the goings on of a “typical” westernized, capitalist, Protestant-work-ethic-infused-framework of a day-to-day?
I’ll start by answering a question with another question. My partner David recently asked: “Do you believe in cycles of hard work followed by vacation or that every day should be a vacation? Or, if you do need a special time for vacation, does that mean your life is out of balance?
…I.e.: am I working too much? (Pic seen here and above are of me on vacation. Something I rarely do. Thanks mom, for making this beach holiday possible and David for documenting the occasion).
I met another professor here at McGill named Bronwen Low with whom I had the pleasure of sharing another short chat. One comment she made struck a chord: she said that she is quite tired of how this mode has become the main characteristic of so many of her friends/colleagues lives. She finds this “Cult of Busy” almost absurd and wants to eradicate the very word from her vocabulary.
I guess the point I am trying to make is that even if in reality I (you, our friends, neighbours, family, colleagues) might in fact be really busy, is it still possible to shift our attitude toward how we view our (working) lives and adopt a more benevolent, spacious approach?
Other ways of asking this question now arise: Am I busy because I really am busy or am I busy because I feel like I am supposed to be busy?
If I say I am busy (or think/feel that I am) am I creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Do I want to be busy because I think I am healthier/more productive?
Do I want to be busy because I associate being busy with being SUCCESSFUL?
Question 3: How do I continue from here?
I should acknowledge, I did make time for certain things, for example the lovely walks that I took with Jessica G. up on Mt-Royal. But this raised yet another set of questions. Was I making time because of my publicly stated commitment to going on these walks as part of my project? Would I have done this if I hadn’t mandated myself to do so? And so does this fall under the purview of work (because this was part of my “contract”)? Do I need to make contracts with myself in order to make sure I insert downtime and rest into my schedule? Is that the only way I can make this happen?
I remember saying several years ago how I see my performance art practice as rehearsal for the rest of my life (with thanks to Linda Montano for confirming this notion for me). But I don’t think this was the kind of example I had in mind when I initially made this claim. No matter. I think for the time being that I will continue to play with this model because, quite honestly I’m not sure how else I will get there. Contradictions and all…
And in the meantime, I feel like I am going in circles; that I keep asking the same questions. My sense is that the frequency with which I ask these questions matches the depth of complexity that they imply. Conclusion: I will keep on asking these (same) questions as I continue attempting to unpack this intricate web of circumstantial evidences.
PS: Happy 2018!! May yours be filled with the calmest of solutions to even your most intricate and challenging life situations.