Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

30 December 2022

What is your kiwi?

A few years ago I had lunch with a former intern who was in town and wanted to catch up. He told me a story of a man who had never eaten a kiwi.

"It's not a very interesting story," he said. "His parents didn't like kiwis so he never had them as a child. Only when he was older, and people started saying, 'you've never had a kiwi?', did he realise it was a weird thing. But he decided to make it a choice. He still hasn't eaten a kiwi."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because he thought, one day when life gets too dull or repetitive, or he feels depressed, he will know there is still something new to look forward to. All he has to do is go downstairs to the nearest shop and buy a kiwi." He paused heavily on that ending and leaned over our empty plates. "Angela. Do you have a kiwi?"

I can't remember how I answered. I like the idea of having some small, easily-accessible thing that remains to be experienced, a hedge against the everyday travails that can make life feel Sisyphean. In moments I've considered the question since, I mostly think about big kiwis: Moving to Paris. Half-moving to Italy. Learning to forge and tend fires. Learning to cook. That one time when, lonely in my new Paris life, so long ago, I took a four-hour improv class.

But the point of the story is that a kiwi isn't a big thing. It's a tiny thing that reinfuses a tiny dose of magic into life, enough to keep going, to hope again. I went to the Italian bookshop in Paris and practiced Italian with the shopkeeper, which made me nervous. I let Demo talk me into buying butter cookie-scented candles. I ate dark chocolate with octopus on top. I conducted that Covid experiment where I stayed up as late as I wanted, and slept when I wanted, and ended up living on a reverse schedule to everyone else: Breakfast became dinner, sunrise my sunsets.

The general vibe on the social networks right now is that people are tired of hoping for a "better" 2023 than the 2022 we got. I think of something a client said, months ago: Nobody believes anymore that life will be better tomorrow than it is today. Nobody thinks anymore that their children will do better than they did. 

Hope is being crushed, at a growing pace, under the burden of capital.

What a mindset to find oneself in, though. Where does one go from there? I've already done the rage against the machine, shuttled through the abject desolation that follows. There's no solace there. There is no there there. As King Solomon once said: "Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!"

It occurred to me, the other day, what my kiwi actually is. I've been fooling around with it for the last few years, and it has never stopped restoring my sense of wonder. 

My kiwi is making weird choices. Big, small. Doesn't matter.

When you're finally ready to cede to chaos, it merits remembering that chaos yields new cosmos. This is the lesson of trickster gods, and, oddly enough, kiwis: The fruit is thus named because it resembles the furry egg of the kiwi bird. It is a something that looks like something else—deceptive, but not shatteringly so. (Unless you're a kiwi bird, I suppose.)

Social conventions are collapsing. All the things we didn't dare do, for fear of punishment or opprobrium? Fuck it. Make the weird choice you didn't think was allowed. Go on vacation alone. Do the wacky masters degree. Run away from all the war news and take a salsa class. Quit your job and live on unemployment awhile. Take up a weird hobby that has zero viable hope for becoming a "career." Fuck careers. Learn High Valerian—or better yet, a real language like Tagalog—and speak it to strangers.

Call reality's bluff. Test the elasticity of your possible, your normal.

We spend so much time chasing rewards and avoiding punishment. Half of the rewards and punishments don't come to fruition. I suspect the worst thing we can do in this time is dig our heels into the old, dying promises and threats our system has made to sustain itself, and find ourselves alone holding an empty bag in the end.

Norbert Wiener once observed that the more one learns about the universe, the more one realises that life was an improbable gift, utterly squandered when you measure it by the arbitrary benchmarks of civilisation. The sum of this gift cannot simply be spent desperately pursuing capital or some golden standard of success. We need more.

Make weird choices. My weird choices have done more for me, and borne more beautiful fruit, than my careful plans. Sometimes the outcomes have sucked, but that was less than 5% of the time, and 0% were devastating. It has all been a good exercise in staying open, curious and childlike; and learning the many nuanced lessons that love still has to teach me.

To return to the topic of kiwis, though, here's a weird choice I made about them specifically once, when I felt too lazy to peel one. I bit straight into the skin. It wasn't fibrous or unpleasant; improbably, the skin is totally edible. Practically melts in your mouth. Because of this weird and vaguely antisocial choice, I will now spend the rest of my life knowing that peeling a kiwi is a luxury I can indulge in or not. 

It doesn't take a massive weird choice to make your life richer.

Chaos makes new cosmos. If you don't happen to like the one you find yourself in, another awaits around the corner of your next decision.

22 December 2022

Fitful hibernation

I'm on a complicated journey. It's entangled in my feelings about capital and exploitation, and a newfound fear about whether I can continue to sustain myself—to make money, as if from air—as I've done for almost two decades.

I've changed, but the world has also changed.

This past month or so in Paris energised me, as it always does, a wolf mother feeding a prodigal cub. I activated myself for work in ways I haven't in two years. I began new projects, started turning the wheels on a different kind of life that will cost more and demand more of me. I barely slept. 

In those weeks, which slid by like water—and despite the challenges, which were numerous and insane—everything seemed possible. I seemed possible.

But now I'm back in Italy. However long I run the fire—and I've become so good at igniting it, nurturing it, feeding it and cleaning it—upstairs it remains cold as a marble tomb under night air. I can see my breath, even wrapped under covers. It is hard to crawl out of bed, to initiate the day. It is hard to do anything but tend fire.

My mobility, of course, is also not what it is in Paris. As long as I don't have a car here, I'm limited. The nights are longer, solstice having passed. I didn't mark it, but watched the sky go darker earlier. I spend the nights on the phone with banks, trying to sort international transfers, paving the way for new things.

We are in the lee of holiday time. Everything grinds to a halt; I shouldn't fret, that's what this time is for. It's Hekate's time, Crone time: A moment reflected in our days by the auspice of night, in our months through menstruation, and in the year with winter. Like all animals, we slow and recuperate energies for waking time, waking season. Sugar and water will once again rush up the veins of trees.

When I walk across the garden for firewood, I become aware of the stillness of the plants, and of the careful coverings Demo's father placed over the crops and the external faucets. The chickens no longer squawk. Everything is sleeping. Braced against the cold, I do my yoga—stilling my racing heart, trying to locate quiet as I listen to my body. Where are we aching, where is it tight? I refilled my private apothecary, combining oils and plants for muscular pain, nail fungi, lip balm, mouthwash, moisturiser. 

Constant movement but still I feel that anxiety, that all the energy I whipped up in Paris will somehow snuff out beyond reach and beyond reignition. That the hope and possibility I felt were contextual and temporary and now I'm back to stillness, waiting for a new life to begin while uncertain what to chase, or whether to chase.

I oscillate between offering services to people and wondering if there is anything, really, I can or want to offer. In a matter of days I've again lost my sense of fit. I drink peppermint tea mixed with cacao, filling my body with familiarity and comfort. I make porridges, alternating between salty and sweet.

In the night I'm fed by offerings: Thick stews Demo prepared, cool bean-based mixes his father set on the doorstep, one morning when I hadn't yet found the courage to face the chill beyond the sheets. My life here is quiet and almost maddeningly calm, and I think again about how, during our time together in Paris, Demo said it was hard to sleep because my relationship to time is different, I vibrate with stress, it rolls off my skin and permeates space. He's contemplating changes, too, to ease my back and forth swinging.

Eventually I will adjust, like always. I need to find a way to make peace with these dynamics and move forward regardless of where I am, locating equilibrium between these two selves, which can no doubt serve whatever I decide to do in their own way.

"What's happened with your PhD?" my Italian instructor asked pointedly.

"Nothing," I answered. "It's too expensive and I can't take it on right now."

He frowned. We talked a bit about where I could look in France. "France would be easier, and cheaper," he said. I told him about my fear of complex writing in French, even after all these years; he said he wrote his PhD in French while still learning it. "Some things I would say better today, other things not," he said. Then he shared his own anxiety: Next year he'll apply for a fascinating programme in California, one that excites even me, and he worries for his English.

I laughed. "I can help with that," I offered, and he smiled. I know he won't take me up on it but I also know he's glad that card is there. We like each other and share affinities. That I found an Italian instructor as taken by mythology as I am doesn't feel accidental.

I'm going to read, and do some handwriting—things I haven't done in weeks, so taken was I by the tides of Paris and what I've been needing to do there. The fire has finally caught, so I can step away for awhile. It wouldn't be right to say I don't dare to hope; rather, I don't have to hope. Instead I have to wait, slow down and reflect. I will need this rest for what's to come, whatever it is.

I think of the woman who married a bear. It burst into her tent, spiriting her away, locking her in his cave just in time for hibernation. Beside him, she falls into deep slumber; sometimes, in that time out of time, she wakes in the dark, her tummy a sharp hollow, and pokes him sharply. He groans and gives her his paw, from which she licks thick tears of oil. Just enough nourishment to fall back into sleep until spring, when she wakes as his wife.