"I can make decisions," & other helpful affirmations
Sweetgrass, latin roots and...my Google Search history?
Wait, what is this again?
Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter! I’ll be sending these out once a month, right before a new episode of my podcast Material Feels drops. This is essentially the all-you-can-eat buffet of various rabbit holes not included in the usual MF programming.
Here’s the menu for the five course meal this week:
Word of the month
Talk to me
Word of the month
“From Latin decisionem, "a decision, settlement, agreement," noun of action from past-participle stem of decidere "to decide, determine," literally "to cut off," from de "off" (see de-) + caedere "to cut" (from PIE root kae-id- "to strike").” (Online Etymology Dictionary)
Ah yes, to sever something. This is the word of the month for me because at times it feels like I am drowning in pending decisions. I recently created my own business, which involves producing audio and making art for an Etsy shop. I am brand new to this and every day feels like a minefield right now. Yes, I’m being dramatic. But that’s what makes life exciting, right?
I’ve recently taken a new approach to my decision-making process: an intentional detachment from my fear of rejection, my perfectionistic impulses and my desire for control. First, I have to conjure this state of mind. I hover with my finger over “Submit” or “Send.” Then, I cast an age-old spell — the life philosophy of a wise elder who I had the privilege of interviewing a few months ago: “Bucket.” (That’s what it sounded like and that’s what I’m sticking with so I can keep this newsletter profesh.)
Not “Bucket” as in, “Never mind.” “Bucket” as in, “Here goes!” or “Why not?”
I’ve been warned plenty of times: when you hop off the 9-5 train and gallop haphazardly onto the rocky Freelancer path, you gotta be cool with you. Without meetings, the break room or consistent coworkers, you’re gonna have a lot more time with your thoughts… so it’s wise to try and make the majority of your brain ecosystem an environment you can survive in full time.
Speaking of thoughts, you would think that rigidity would be a great trait for making decisions. When you start making black and white blanket statements, shouldn’t that make decisions much easier? But something in the mosaic of my thought patterns doesn’t allow me that scapegoat. I start thinking in absolutes, and the absolutes paralyze me so I feel there is no decision I can make other than simply… not making any decision. It feels safer to hold the situation in my hand, even as it slips through my fingers or becomes too sticky to hold. We’re safe though! My lizard brain tells me, wildly looking around at anything but the hands-too-full MESS right in front of their eyes.
I’ve noticed this about myself this year and I’ve tried several strategies. Googling “Why are decisions so hard for me,” was my first genius idea. Talking with friends, colleagues and family was another. Armed with YouTube videos and advice from every angle, you’d think I’d be ready to cut ties with my pending decisions.
The YouTube videos were kinda cute, and the various advice is undeniably good. But none of this was helpful.
Right now, arbitrary decision-making seems to be my best bet; also the “bucket” mindset. And a term my therapist unearthed last week that previously I had only heard in passing: radical acceptance.
“Radical acceptance can be defined as the ability to accept situations that are outside of your control without judging them, which in turn reduces the suffering that is caused by them.”
My obsession with decision-making and my critical thought pattern where I beat myself up for not making enough decisions… it’s all about control. If I just accept whatever the outcome is, it makes it a lot easer to let go. I’m essentially pulling away the veil and seeing that my safety is not in holding on, but in letting go.
Pfft, so easy, right!? Not really… But as I read more about the term and what it means to accept something painful so as not to prolong the pain, I realize that I practice radical acceptance regularly when it comes to the material world and art making. When I’m working on a creative project and it doesn’t come out right, I take a deep breath and come back to it later. I look for the lesson that the material is trying to teach me. Often it is, “Don’t wait so long next time.” Or “Be more gentle with me, please.” I don’t stamp my foot and yell back an excuse, explanation or reprieve. I don’t try to change the material. I look around for solutions, tools and strategies, and whatever the outcome, I still see possibilities.
So instead of trying to conjure radical acceptance from scratch while I work to build relationships that focus on what I care about, both professionally and personally, maybe I can transfer some material teachings to that process.
What has a material taught you?
Where in your life does radical acceptance show up easily? Where does it feel particularly hard?
What’s YOUR word of the month?
Talk to me: musicals
Some of you responded on Speak Pipe last month and I loved it! This is a section where I ask you for your thoughts/input, if you’d like to send me a voice memo.
I'm putting together some writing about one of my all time favorite forms of joy: Musicals.
Has a musical ever impacted you? Which one was it? What was the moment you felt the intoxicating influence of song, dance and story transform a piece of you like dramaturgical alchemy? Dish via Speak Pipe, and I’ll share some of my favorite show biz moments next month.
Four current obsessions
1 . Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Walk Kimmerer. Every morning I wake up and read a chapter of this sweet, sweet book. Written by an indigenous ecologist, each chapter is lush and informative. This read is emotionally nutritive and scientifically intriguing. My favorite chapters so far involve the ritual of tapping Maples for syrup, the symbiotic, intimate relationship between the “three sisters” (corn, beans and squash), and the chapter that goes into intricate detail as to how craftspeople of the Haudenosaunee harvest Ash for basketweaving.
I often say that the material world is my teacher; something will click internally while I’m working with clay, in a way it never would have otherwise. This is the philosophy of Braiding Sweetgrass, that by living in reciprocal relationship with the world around us, we are nourished. We love and are loved. This book should be required reading for everyone, ever.
2. Dandelion root. I’m gonna start out by apologizing for being that guy… who has forgotten they already bragged to you about how they quit caffeine. But have compassion, because I quit caffeine, so I’m just a little out of it these days. I also can’t spell that well anymore and am pretty much always down for a nap? But good news, my anxiety is down, and taking the edge off has really made space for my depression to werk the room, so there’s that. What was I saying? Right, dandelion root. Mm. So good. I have it every morning in something called “Dandy Blend,” with some oat milk, and it’s deliccciioousss! In all seriousness, I will likely have to start drinking green tea or work out or something because I'm just a lil’ slower now.
3. Lex. Calling fellow queerdos: this is an AMAZING app for designed especially for us! No pictures: just words. Styled after personal ads in the newspaper, Lex posts have a nice bold title, a little explanation and no visual clutter. Posts range from explicit sexy stuff to spontaneous cups of coffee, calls for advice about gender dysphoria or offers to cook a fancy meal. Folks typically have bare bones profiles where you can link your Instagram. Highly recommend for building queer community, dating and putting yourself out there in general.
4. School of Chocolate. I was recently introduced to this show by my housemate. Not only is sculpting chocolate deliciously similar to working with clay, I love the vibe on this show. No one is sent home or eliminated: it’s a proper learning experience where the same group gets to learn and develop over time. And very cool, very cute French chef Amaury Guichon is supportive and encouraging throughout. When people take risks and fail, he still praises them because he recognizes how the learning process works. I love this show because it models the way I would want to learn. While there are tense moments with dramatic music, it’s usually focused on the thrill of the craft rather than the emotional outburst someone is on the verge of having when the pressure of elimination and shame of failing gets to be too much. I’m not a big reality TV person (I cringe at the interpersonal drama and the terrible use of music) but this show is right up my alley!
Podcast recs: the music edition
Last month’s Material Feels episode was all about the music Liz makes for the show! Make sure to have a listen and dip your toe in the sonic soup they concoct for each and every material we spend quality time with. This piece explores their process for time, paper, pigment, glass, story and ritual. In this week’s episode, I’ll be talking about polymer clay, and, surprise, feelings.
To keep with the music-themed recs: Song Exploder. Soothing and musically inclined, these episodes are short so I'd recommend choosing a handful of artists you love and peppering them into your listening line up. I loved the episode on Cranes in the Sky by Solange, it was so imaginative and soothing and a celebration of Black women, or Holyfields by Bon Iver, he gets emotional during it and his voice is SO gravely and yummy.
Switched on Pop is such a fun show. It explores pop music and unravels all the influences that go into a particular song. What I love about this show is that they explore different genres, time periods, icons and cities that influence a particular sound - a guitar riff, a certain filter… You get to listen to so much more than the featured song, too! The episode on Silk Sonic’s Leave The Door Open was FANTASTIC.
Check out my interview on Art Supply Posse with the amazing Kim Coefield, out today!
Love stories this month:
Water. I fell back in love with walking around reservoirs! It’s something that is common in New York State, where I was raised, but In the Bay Area, a reservoir can feel hard to find. And that’s not far off, because we are dealing with a massive drought. Walking around a reservoir and being near water is a gift, and fills my spirit. Learn more about water conservation (specifically in California) and how you can do your part here.
Cats. I’m becoming increasingly attached to the neighbor’s cat, who we’ve dubbed Ezma. She’s VERY into being pet, to a point where she aggressively wheezes at you and head butts everything in sight until you hold her widdle head in your hands.
High Adventures in Anxiety:
Google it? Man… what a picture my Google search history would paint. I would share it if I had no ego, shame or professional aspirations. It really is like a secular person’s dialogue with the higher power. Prayers like, “How long can cooked eggs sit out before I shouldn’t eat them?”, “Which side of the mask is correct?”, and “Cold and clammy can’t sleep is it COVID?” I wonder about Google Search and its impact on my anxiety; I also question its impact on my ability to adult. Sort of like when someone uses Google Maps to drive around their neighborhood and then feels lost on everyday streets without the virtual overlay. Does anyone else have trouble retaining everyday life information that they rely on Google to store for them? Like, hot or cold water for a stain? Or the difference between an HMO and a PPO? Or, more generalized information, like, “Why am I like this?”
Thanks for tuning into my newsletter. I hope some of my obsessions/recommendations pique your interests. If you’re on the struggle bus, remember you’re not alone: I radically accept the fact that I’m right there with you <3