Okay, say the wolves eat me on my walk into my house… It’s a dark night in early December; my car won’t make the icy hill, so it will wait, in snow-softened slumber, by the highway. I will trudge in with no flashlight to the back forty, one kilometre away, to where my house sits, another silent sculpture in snow. But first, I’ll write, and I’ll tuck my few lines of wisdom – the experiences I want someone to benefit from, into my boots. Most likely the beasts won’t maul the rubber, only my flesh, so these nuggets, the rough gems of my life – polished by the miles I have covered – will eventually be discovered.
Or, if no one finds me, and I just lie there – muddy in spring, dusty in summer, red and gold in autumn, and once more sleeping, sleeping in winter stillness, perhaps after enough seasons, and gradually, cleansed of clothes, skin, and even the synthetic and rubber mix of my footwear, the gems will sparkle freely in the moonlight – diamonds beneath the tarsals of my toes.
These diamonds, which like the flash of a reporter’s camera, have created light at moments of great importance, preserving images and events and warning, “don’t forget!”, I bequeath to the daughters I never had, who will be nurtured in a future sister’s womb, or suckled at a still unformed breast. I will force my fingers, frozen in the winter night, to hold the pen, and, warming them and the ink with my breath, I’ll secure the jumbled arms of two pairs of eyeglasses under layers of head wear, necessary in advancing age and the weak dome light of the car. I will tell them what they need to know in this life. I will write.
First of all, you are alone. It’s your life and yours alone, and the only one you have. So focus. Listen to yourself, to know what it is you came here for, to make sure you do what is important to you. Not so easy. Because in order to even hear yourself, you have to have the space and time and freedom to do so, and this world – where you’re born, who brings you up, the culture, the wars, food preservatives and products in the air, water and earth (not to mention m-o-n-e-y and the jealousy of others) – all these influence you and may take you very far away from your necessary source. You’re alone in your decision to choose to make yourself, your voice, your feelings, a number one priority. You have to take the time – MAKE the time – to let yourself breathe, properly, deeply, without distraction or thought except “breath in, breath out”, and let the world fall away (much like that rotting flesh of mine on the road home, but faster, because consciousness always speeds things up).
Work, relationships, passion, resistance – to tell you how to move through all these parts of life would require a Dostoevsky novel, and I share with him only this white and isolated landscape. I cannot tell you what to do. You will learn through all the influences, listening, watching, studying and discussing. If, as you live, you remove yourself, briefly, regularly, to purposefully plug yourself into your idea of a true, expansive, creative, and loving spirit (your own, or something larger); if you can think of life as shopping for a way to bring you to your goals, so sometimes you only look, sometimes try on, sometimes spend and take home; if you practice listening to this spirit in you, you will learn what is really important – generally, for everyone, and particularly, for you. Your choices will be based on the bedrock of who you are. Therefore I, – Justzoevsky, writer – must insist that before any advice, you learn this exercise of “breath in, breath out”, bringing calm into yourself and the sound of your own voice and will. Then, with a clear sense and belief in you – alive, and part of a whole, healthy, and beneficent world, you decide what works for you. And I’ll just tell you my take on:
WORK. Important. To be independent, to support oneself, but also to be interested and involved in the world. Important to feel connected and contributing. That said, it all comes back to your choices, your values. Don’t work for people or companies you don’t respect. Money isn’t necessarily the first consideration. Don’t take the world’s definition of success; define it yourself, with what interests you. If you work for yourself, be prepared for no outside recognition or structure, and few ways of measuring progress; you must set your own goals and be your own record-keeper. If you decide to trust the goals and methodologies of an existing business, there are promotions and paychecks to acknowledge successes, but there are also personalities who contribute, and those who make life hell. (You can get the full range of madness, evil, joy, and inspiration from your own head, but you can’t escape it all at 5 o’clock). Businesses also downsize. In both scenarios, however, you can quit. Life is change. Don’t be afraid to move on. Recognize when you’ve done all you want to do, or need a change. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know”. Learning is the best work you can do. Don’t stop.
My best work moments have been: “NOT BEING RIGID” – giving up on the established method and just winging it (I was teaching French). Being honest with my frustration, engaging students in their thoughts and their play worked much better at that particular moment. I returned later to the ‘curriculum’. “NOT HAVING ALL SITUATIONS COVERED” – as a massage therapist, trusting an inner sense, even when it made no sense to me, or was indicating an unknown direction; having that intuition confirmed. “BRINGING REAL LIFE INTO WORK” – forgetting my inner censors while singing on stage, I finally included my self in the job. Realizing that what defines me, including feelings and thoughts, and liking myself enough to be spontaneous allowed me to create music in the moment. You, your whole personality, have much to add to whatever you do (work, like life and music, is not just the notes or execution). “REJECTING UNTHINKING AUTHORITY” – working for the government, I was processing tax forms. A supervisor (who earned ten times what we did) did nothing but walk up and down the aisles to watch and keep employees ‘in line’. I would put down my pen and wait until he passed – a small, personal protest. He never said “a mumblin’ word”. “WORKING FOR NOTHING AND EVERYTHING” – volunteering for women’s groups, my housing co-op, community health and recreation centres and a radio station have all given me skills and contact with people that I would never have been able to gain without costly training. Take opportunities in lieu of money.
RELATIONSHIPS. Ahhh. How can we spread the love that we feel? How can we heal the hate we feel? How can we best express all the insights we perceive to help build a better world? As work is a facet of the self being implemented, so relationships are a facet of the self being connected to and part of a larger structure, interaction which to be effective requires commitment and honesty. Relationships should continue the work of the self and help others to do the same, so we might all aspire to a part in the healthy whole. Compassion, generosity, and humility alongside the integrity to one’s own values are necessary. But don’t lose your instincts in a “we are all one” fantasy. Revert to health on all levels: physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual. My basic rule here: if they don’t contribute, dump ’em. (after a reasonable amount of patience and openness). Save your soul.
My best relationship moments: “GIVING UP EGO” – my son was four; I was rushing to get him to daycare and me to work; he was being absolutely uncooperative and stubborn. In the middle of my insistence on our routine, I suddenly saw how miserable it was making both of us. I sat on the floor with him and played till we were both ready to leave. “HAVING THE COURAGE TO STAND ALONE” – speaking out against cruelty when no one else would, I accepted responsibility for “ruining” fun. “REFUSING TO BE BULLIED OUT OF REALITY” – I was working for an organization founded on religious principles, but my employers turned out to be dogmatic and inexperienced, rather than progressive or humane. I lost the job, (but bought a car with the severance pay). “DEMANDING STANDARDS” – I had opportunities to marry, even when pregnant, but rejected partners who would not be open. “ACCEPTING HELP” – I went to therapy; I cried with friends when I needed to. “KEEPING A SENSE OF HUMOUR” – I yelled at the Italian cops (second contingent) who interrupted my lunch with demands for legal papers. “Sto mangiando!!!” I screamed. (I’m eating!!!). They laughed and went away.
PASSION. ‘Como borar de mi alma esta pasion?’ I love that song, with, well… with a passion, and I ask myself the question (in English) – how can I remove this passion from my soul? How can I stop loving and needing? Not be outraged? Not scream my joy? Passion leaves me empty and longing; revved up and crazed. Overflowing. It makes a lot of problems, but without it, life is flat and colourless. Passion drives and moves to action. It gives voice and shapes the world. It’s very personal and can isolate you, but it is your life. Control or direct it, but never, ever ignore your passion.
- I have marched in protests; railed in letters at politicians; sung at vigils.
- I have had a public bus chartered only for me, after the driver, the company, and then the police tried to unfairly strand me. My demands, through tears, got action.
- I have existed on subsistence living, giving up normal comforts in order to focus on a reality that lives for me.
- I have given in to lust on a suburban hillside behind a mall, laughing at the moon and our downward slide.
- I have sent back an envelope unopened to an ex-lover when I suspected a monetary peace offering instead of honesty (“don’t try and buy my feelings”). I found out later it contained $10,000.
- I have rejected society’s conventions, my own religious background, my father and my child’s father (both of whom told me I was stupid for getting pregnant) to raise my child alone. I was smart enough to realize that for me it was a gift.
- I have refused to support businesses that exploit (I still won’t go into Walmart), or to accept words and images of powers that seek to control and dominate.
- I have betrayed, been very stupid, and lost.
- I have danced naked in the rain.
- I have experienced feeling and knowing beyond normal perception in following passion, in literally making love.
RESISTANCE. The piece de resistance. “When I was a child, I thought as a child…. Now that I have become a woman…” OK, the line said “man”, not “woman”, but only because men wrote and translated scriptures. And likewise most of everything else. So women take heed; beware of men’s rules. “In the beginning was the word….” Well, my word was “focus”. I insisted on attention to yourself before you enter this world at large. So I return there and reiterate. As a woman, you must listen to yourself, all the more because you will have your own inclinations and ideas (and truths). You’ll have to fight, however, to keep and implement them, because, unfortunately, men still have most of the power, and we are still using the history books they wrote, which left out so many women’s accomplishments. When I was a young woman, men told me I thought like a man. I didn’t. I just thought. And felt. And spoke. And acted. That’s about all I can offer to you, the woman of the future. You are not meant to act a certain way because of gender; you must act because you are alive. You need only be whole, resisting complacency, authority, and the urge to know and do everything. Resist submitting.
From a feminist to young women today – resist submitting. Zoe Chilco shares some of her journey to help empower others.