Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

20 September 2021

Songline

Something in me is changing, which should come as no surprise. We all changed in pandemic times. But it increasingly occurs to me that the only thing that really matters, whether or not it is paid for, is the nature of my interactions, not only with people but with all things. No one being or object is especially sacred in and of itself, but interaction makes us so. Interaction lights a spark, creates a cosmos—possibility.

I'm not sure how true this is, but it's true enough for now.

There is also a part of me that thinks I've arrived at a place in my life where I'd like to say more here, in this strange quiet corner of public space. I have no idea who is reading this, or whether I mostly talk to myself. But I have often been tempted to say more out loud, and not indulged it. Or else I have done it in an irregular way, like a tap that chronically drips.

It doesn't seem worthwhile or skilful to convey anything true about oneself to more than one person at a time. But maybe that's also what makes it a good exercise. When I begin, it is hard for me to curate. There is only the constellation, every star its place. In the best moments, I feel like I am walking a songline, every meander a part of the myth logic, the scale of a serpent, dragon, god. 

It's strange, the size of the investment we made in linearity. But the lucky thing is, we can withdraw it when we like. One of the first things they teach you in accounting is that sunk cost fallacy is aptly named.

19 May 2021

Such a Lonely Word

In Paris, the weather is strange. For a moment it is sunny, then it will rain torrentially, like now. It feels like an expression of inner climate: Murky, uncertain, unstable.

We still live under a curfew. But stores will open soon. Restaurant terraces are being painted, preparing for public use after over a year of stagnancy. Next month, tourists will be welcomed back into the country and into our neighbourhoods, though most adults probably won't be vaccinated until deep into summer, maybe fall. 

Whose shitty plan was this? If this had been my job, I'd be fired. I'd be arrested.

I scheduled my vaccines. By July 15 I'll be clear. Still, I will probably miss my school gathering in England in June, not that the vaccination would have mattered; France is an amber country, so I would've still required a test to enter, a quarantine, then testing twice a week for the duration of the trip. It doesn't feel worth it. But maybe it doesn't feel worth it because I'm not interested in doing anything.

What are you doing this summer?

There is no more Cannes four times a year, no more family vacations with my in-laws. All my friends have spread out, into the countryside or back to their own lands. There is nowhere, really, to go, not with any meaningful clarity. I cannot go to Sark to play in the wild.

I have trouble sleeping at night. I can't seem to quit smoking. I shuttle from bed to computer to kitchen to computer to kitchen to bed; I can feel the furrows under my feet, in this small space, which is a haven but also so tightly contained that it seems impossible that complete cycles of life are occurring inside it. I work, I edit, I interact with people on screens, I occasionally get good feedback and new gigs.

The work and the life I designed were all my choice and I like all the people I interact and collaborate with. But I am listless, avoidant. I want to sleep. I feel trapped. Yet there is also nothing I'm interested in doing outside anymore—outside, where 90% of my life used to take place, even without cross-country travel. I have walked the length of Paris multiple times, at multiple hours of day or night, my legs hard and firm. I did not worry much about my weight, or the interesting new wrinkles blossoming around my nose and forehead, now so visible in all the Zoom calls.

My face never used to do that before.

But now my life is mostly this tiny home, in this tiny neighbourhood, which will soon flood with tourism.

The Americans are texting and messaging. They are making plans to visit; am I available? I find it overwhelming in a way I can't describe. They don't know what it's been like here, seem vaguely puzzled when I talk about how we haven't had bars or restaurants for over a year, we've gone out with special hall passes and are still living under a lockdown—still, even now. There is a part of me that feels an obligation to rise to the occasion. Another part of me doesn't know how to live in this world anymore.

The aggressiveness of the vaccine situation scares me—how the US, UK and Israel are treating it as a kind of silver bullet, "Okay, get vaccinated, RETURN TO NORMAL." All this pressure trickling down onto people whose pay has been sliced, whose lives became more uncertain. Commercial rents went up from the first lockdown onward. Normal was already difficult for most people at the best of times; now the upward slope back to that is steeper, more treacherous. 

What is normal? 

I have barely been able to process the changes I underwent, a menagerie of dramatic transitions. It will be years yet before we even understand the psychic or physical impact of the larger collective arc, this big strange time we all lived through and braced ourselves against together. Not only the pandemic but the rage. The lies, the confusion, the fights for power, dominance, money, land, right of life, control.

I'm so tired all the time. Is it my body needing rest, or is it depression? Do I give in or withhold?

A part of me thinks I should sit with these feelings: work with the murkiness, reconstruct my solitude. We are not good at things that don't fall on a binary, at not being pushed toward a touchpoint or a goal. I do not want anything anymore. Maybe that, too, is a depression signal. On the other hand, what a strange metric: When did we decide we needed to want things as evidence that we are okay? There is something insidious nested inside that idea, and I don't trust it—something opposite from the state of simply being. 

Do I give in or withhold?

I am not not engaging. I do the work, one small thing at a time; respond to emails, take calls, engage in some hollow simulation of negotiations. I spent five days in Brittany with some of my best friends, witnessed how they have become parents, relished in the beautiful trappings of our lived-in adulthood, how multiple grownups in a space just know how to do things to keep a community going: setting tables, chopping vegetables, flying kites and reading stories with the kids, loading and unloading dishwashers. Then, at night, we can still drink too much wine and laugh until we cry.

I came home and had a cracked tooth filled at the dentist, scheduled another appointment. I cleaned my teeth and let them lecture me about smoking.

"I should quit smoking," I sighed.

"I should also quit smoking," my dentist sighed.

"The trouble is, I like to smoke," I said.

"Me too!" He laughed.

I finished a book, began another. Started a series and gave it my full attention. Returned emails. 

I was relieved to be back home, in my own bed, accosted by my apartment's sweet smell, as if some version of me had still been there, filling the space and lighting incense or switching on diffusers or spraying cedar into closets and patchouli on sheets, even though there was plenty of evidence of my absence: A bouquet of mint, wilted and dead, beside the still-flourishing orchid. The olives whose water grew mould spores. The tomatoes gone soft, too tender to cut clean. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, people are still talking, conversations in the air waiting for me to return to them. I wrote riddles, published other people's work, played with the internet.

There is a kind of electric live aroma coming out of the trashcan, which was too empty to change before leaving, but I should have anyway. All kinds of strange stuff is mixed in there—organic, wet, pulpy. Stuff that would be happy in a compost, but we don't have one of those, so instead they rot in bags, of use to no one, the life they could sustain unrealised, annulled. Somewhere in the world, those bags are just piling up, smoking from the inside.

I itched to write on the train, and wrote a little. Back at my desk, or belly-down in my bed, I did not want to write anymore. I feel, instead, an immense loneliness, larger than being alone. I have a letter to send that I still haven't sent.

The life I designed, in this context, feels like a holding pattern. I don't know how to make it not feel like that anymore.

01 May 2021

Reinventions

I did a podcast ep with my friend Aron Solomon recently. It's a fun ep, but he asked about the origins of Muse by Clio's new Reinventions series, which I never got around to explaining. I wanted to correct that in a winding Twitter thread that kinda feels like an extremely unfocused ad. 

If you're ruminating reinvention in this time of so much migration, renegotiation and change, I hope you'll read it and get something out of it. I hope you'll also get into Muse's Reinventions series, which is just starting and has so much wisdom to convey. I am quite excited about the ones yet to come.  

09 April 2021

On the Spin #4

Current mood: Like my feet are chained to the earth.

Listening: 

  • Needy, Molly Burch: "Oh I can be needy, way too damn needy/I can be needy, tell me how good it feels to be needed..." 

  • The Audible edition of Lafcadio Hearn's Japanese Ghost Stories, read by Eleanor Matsuura. Nothing I'd rather listen to while wandering my new neighbourhood, replete with ghosts I've yet to meet...

Reading: 

  • Four Eternal Women: Toni Wolff Revisited - A Study in Opposites, Mary Dian Molton and Lucy Anne Sikes. This explores the four psychic archetypes of women in patriarchy that Toni Wolff designed: the Mother, the Hetaira, the Amazon and the Medial Woman.

    Archetypes are always an attempt to simplify what is not by nature simple, and of course we contain them all; we are legion. But part of me struggles with the realisation that I identify most easily with the Hetaira, even as I feel the relief that often accompanies a long-desired diagnosis.

    A Hetaira's ego is mostly fed by the health and quality of her relationship to men or a particular man. She spends her energies helping them better realise and understand themselves, even as, ideally, she develops her own work and maintains a necessary autonomy. But there's a shadow part of my brain thinking, what if I have no great work of my own, and this is all I'm for? I hate it.

    On the other hand, I love the Hetairas that have walked with me in folklore and history: Aphrodite, Inanna, Circe, Simone de Beauvoir, Toni Wolff herself, and even Lyra Bellacqua of His Dark Materials. For all Lyra's scrappy independence—all the change she effects in whole universes!—in the myth logic of the world she lives in, she is Eve. One does not exclude the other.

Watching: 

  • His Dark Materials on HBO. I'd still gladly name my hypothetical daughter Lyra, something I decided when, as a kid, I first read this trilogy. Unrelated: I recently thought, if I ever have a son, I shall call him Rilke.

    Dix Pour Cent on Netflix. I miss this show when it's not around. It is just different enough from my old life to feel like reprieve, but similar enough that the stakes feel like my own. Also, it's a love letter to the Paris that I know, or once knew. She is becoming something else now, changing like the rest of us.

Studying: 

  • Myths, always myths, forever myths. I'm reading about Yaqui mythology presently, and of course there is my ongoing osmosis of Japanese ghost stories, which have a few charming resonances with Celtic stories, for example. Following the logic of Michael Witzel, that means such themes and stories are far older than even the cultures we happen to learn them in, scaling all the way back, perhaps, to the route from Africa.

    To wit: A worthy man follows a beautiful immortal across the sea and into a world of endless summer, where he passes several blissful years married to her. Then, missing his family, he asks to go home for a visit. Alarmed, and fearing she'll never see him again, she gives him something to ensure he can return if he can just follow one instruction. (You see where this is going.) Of course, he returns to his village to discover hundreds of years have passed, all his people are dead, and defies the one instruction required to assure his return.

    This is the story of Oisín following Niamh to Tír na nÓg, but it's also the story of Urashima Tarō, following the Sea God's daughter to the Dragon Palace across the Sea of Japan.

Something I wish: 

  • The earlier part of Covid confinement was easier. I imagined myself on Aiaia, cultivating my own desires, finally, with the patience of eternity yawning before me. It is harder to maintain a grip on this mindset these days. I'm not sure why. Or rather, I am: Relationship disruptions, separation from my partner of 10 years, after we both tried so hard; moving; the inability to travel freely, which so punctuated my life up to this point; and returning to what feels like the unstructured, more compressed but chaotic life of student with no clear trajectory ahead.

    At this point in life, people have settled into a certain level of material and rhythmic stability, spreading out into larger spaces, buying homes. I feel like I did all that first, then dropped those balls and ran backward, or sideways. Somewhere off the map. When people come to visit my new, smaller apartment, however charming it is and glad I am to have so exquisite and apt an Angela nest, I wonder if this is what they think about: she went backward. Why?

    I wish it were easier to maintain the embodied conviction of Aiaia.

Looking forward to:

  • Something that feels like safe haven.

Projects: 

  • I joined the board of Creatives for Climate, an opportunity to direct years of creative experience into helping other creatives locate meaning in their work and effect long-term environmental systems change. Our recent learning event gave me a chance to try filtering my myth learnings into the larger world:


  • I'm still representing women in esports for Hurrah—which is now a group, not a baby anymore!—and WIGJ:


  • Late last year, I went back to grad school at Dartington Arts, where I'm working on an MA in their inaugural Poetics of Imagination programme. It's about oral storytelling and myth, my bread and butter these days. I just finished my second term paper, on the theme of betrayal as ritual in the story of Tristan and Isolde, and it enriched me in ways I didn't know I required. Whole days and nights of madness were spent trying to birth that paper, and when it was over it was as if my soul had eaten a complete meal.
All good work here. All crunchy, magical things. I'm just longing for my winged sandals. 

Underworld journeys are necessary, and we romanticise initiation times while skirting over the fact that they are, by necessity, agonising and uncomfortable. A death is required.

Knowing this intellectually does not make it easier to live through. I don't think it is meant to be easy. Maybe the trick is ignoring the urge to try constantly escaping it.

Sometimes Blogger feels like a crumbling empire. All the villagers left long ago; there's just birds here now, and stone edifices in various states of toppling. I like it.

07 April 2021

Unsolicited Pro Tip #1: Learn to Cook Vegan

Last year, just before Covid confinement descended, I decided I should finally learn how to cook, and bought a giant bundle of vegan cookbooks. 

I am not vegan. I bought the books because there was cheap deal on Humble Bundle, and also out of some vague idea that vegans who write cookbooks are people who enjoy eating, and, given the constraints of veganism, likely have interesting and creative strategies for making tasty but also nutritionally-balanced everyday meals.

I did not regret this choice. One of my favourite things about learning how to cook vegan is how much more diverse your meal options become. To start, I know how to do tons of stuff with vegetables now, and don't just have this vague, depressing idea that all vegetables are basically just salad. Veggies can be savoury, lush, textured, juicy, fleshy. Learning to cook them seasonally has become one of my greatest pleasures.

Vegan cooking is insanely creative. There are replacements for all kinds of stuff that frequently goes missing in the kitchen, like eggs or milk. If you want macaroni and cheese but are having a bad dairy week, some nutritional yeast will sort you out. Missing milk? Oat milk is a 20-minute make, and most of that is soaking. This is especially helpful in lockdown times, when your ability to shop is limited. 

It's also just nice to have this skill on-hand. If you can cook vegan, you don't worry about most guests with eating preferences. You can quickly prep something nice for them, instead of just serving side greens or extra leftover rice, and people are really grateful for that.

Today I had a hankering to make oatmeal raisin cookies, but had no eggs. Not a problem! Who doesn't have an overripe banana, or some cornstarch and water? I used an overripe banana, was pretty goddamn proud of myself, and my resulting cookies were not only pillowy but also softly banana-bread sweet.

So yeah. Learn to cook vegan. You won't believe how much you learn, and how much more possibility you'll see when others just see the need for a shopping trip. Plus, meat is expensive.


Yup. That's the post. 

10 March 2021

Always, Never

"Always and Never are countries that don't exist," someone said recently, probably in a podcast. And yet they are the countries that so often compose the language of early love. I will always. I will never. Always, never, always, never. So too for love at the end of its rope. You always, you never. I always, I never... 

A swing of promise, then reproach.