"The sun with all the planets it sustains and yet can ripen a bunch of grapes."
—Ursula Le Guin
I’ve recently become a huge fan of mornings.
The way the light pools out from under the darkness, delving, slowly, into the bright yet dewy morning sun of the emerging summer solstice is such a raw delight. Filled with a gleaming, ripe splendor it brings me such peace, every morning, to be faced with the nature outside my bedroom window. I love to watch the sun change color across the beam of trees that concave around me; a little jungle girl amidst the lushness of the green. Green is my favorite color. “And there was a rainbow above the throne,” writes Derek Jarman in Chroma, “in sight like unto an emerald.”
My recent sleeping habits have made it such that I wake up between 5.30 to 6.45 am on most days. So, I’ve been able to reclaim the morning for my own, private embrace. They are mine like the daytime is not—my awakened life is filled with work and errands and work and errands — with an overwhelm of emails and projects that bring me great joy, but the morning is a reprieve because it is mine and mine alone.
Aloneness is amusing when you enjoy it. These days I’ve been cherishing my post-wake hours like a sweet treat that, languidly, for hours, I slurp on; a syrup that takes a while to caramelize. I enjoy being held by my own sanctuary, my morning, nurtured out of my slumber like I’m Cinderella—and the fact that the trees and the birds aid me in this process has been such a wonderful discovery. My aloneness since the pandemic has left me in such a state of self-curiosity. I am happiest alone and prefer living that way too. I enjoy waking to no one’s judgment or concern, and like being my own vessel and vehicle to the day, pulled only by my own intuition and desire. There’s something deeply satisfying about living for myself, for perhaps the first time ever. When I was younger, I may have lamented and said that sounds depressing ~ to live for oneself ~ but these days I see it as a gift of independence. It’s what trust in yourself affords you — a path, direction, an anchor in yourself. No matter what happens on the outside, I belong to me.
I was never a waker and a baker, throughout all my years smoking marijuana (many many years) I’ve never been someone who needed it. I’ve just always liked who I was more on weed, I guess. I liked how it could bring me out of myself. It took me LITERAL YEARS to understand that I had anxiety (big lols) because I had had it my entire life so I just didn’t know the difference between unanxious and anxious until I started therapy 2 years ago. Kind of wild I spent 29 years of my life thinking I had hacked the system because I was somehow miraculously a good person after living the garbage dump of my life. It took me years to be like, ohhhhhhhhhh I just hide everything real from myself, lol. I had been trained as a child to ensure that every negative emotion I felt be reinterpreted as my own problem, so as an adult I attracted people who would put me in positions of constant repair. Like an emotional handyman, I guess I prided my ability to negotiate until I began to see a pattern in myself—I only felt value as a giver because to sit with my needs would be too big a task. I had no idea where to start to know what I wanted.
Since eclipse season started I have really been sitting with how much I’ve performed my entire life. My mornings are a safe place to harvest new beginnings, as I tend to myself, by witnessing who I am without passing judgment, I can see how much I don’t want things to get back to normal because “normal” never felt safe to begin with. Interesting that our idea of normalcy is when everyone is complacent, silent (and silenced thank you Oprah), where a lot of us have to pretend that we are not dying inside. That we are not sad by our childhoods, our families who may have accidentally (or on purpose) failed us—where does grief go? Are we just going to pretend it’s all fine again?
Reclaiming my mornings is to deprogram productivity. It is to say that time with myself, cultivating my energy, my heart, my needs, my pain, my glory, my dreams—are all worthy investments of my time. Over-ready, eager from jump, I have always launched into all kinds of relationships with a deep hope that I would be met halfway. These days, I’m meeting myself completely. I’m arriving back at myself after years and years and years of hoping the answer would be outside of me. Seeing myself means taking myself in, it’s about honoring my own time and trusting when the body jolts or when it … screams. It’s knowing that instead of wasting energy trying to cultivate connection with others, why not begin with me.
When I smoke, I feel liberated from the narratives of trauma, from pain, and I can just run on something that feels purer, an energy that is unburdened means it’s easier to alchemize. In my mornings I turn wood into gold, like how my IBS churns, the spleen gushes as the small intestine pulls and sheds, the liver an engine of masterful proportions pushes and moves and flows, and the energy crudes out of us like gold into shit; the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Our bodies are in flow, we are flow, like the tides of the ocean, lavender like lace, we are our own ecosystem. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes there’s diarrhea, sometimes you feel disgusting.
Trust your body. What is it telling you?
When the aliens come (fingers crossed) they’ll be like what the fuck is wrong with this boring-ass civilization…………. so let me get this str8……….. u all just basically decided to believe that ur powerless & unworthy & so all u do is just like make other people feel that way??????? wtf????????
I really enjoyed the high-functioning stoner representation of Lena Waithe in Moments in Love, the third and final part of Master of None. I’ve been thinking about Aziz a lot recently because I did a talk on Cancel Culture for Slow Factory yesterday… and, famously, Aziz was canceled. Which feels so far away now.
I have nothing to say about that other than being a celebrity seems fucking terrible and that to learn these lessons publically, at that scale, must be very embarrassing. I do think that each person’s path to enlightenment is different, and sometimes the universe kicks you in your ass to reveal your path. The only way you can survive it, and overcome the experience, is if you accept the lesson.
Naturally, I’ve been thinking about schadenfreude and our obsession with the guillotine. As a person trying to be an abolitionist (and identifies as one), I’ve been thinking about this question of rehabilitation a lot. Weed helps me with this, it helps me shape the mercurial, the unknown, into a real idea, not just a concept. It helps me exist in those liminal spaces and self-actualize into my sailor moon suit. Smoking in the mornings transitions me from my dream state into my awakened one, allowing the impermanence of life to quietly wrestle me in and out of states of conscious and unconscious. As I think about life, I listen to the birds chirp in that pristine morning, like a mangrove of singing, a chorus of hellos.
I’m a Mars in Sagitarrius. This, I realized, is important. It’s in the 6th house, which means, gratefully, I have a lot of precision in my need for spaciousness.
Meaning, I need the rough construct of routine. People love asking writers what their daily routines are but whenever I get asked the question all I really want to say is that I like the idea of having chaos in construct. I feel like Capricorns love a little chaos too because we enjoy the thrill, the challenge, of being pushed to unknown boundaries. We have the malleability of coming back onto our own course, to come correct with ourselves is an act of submission and domination we play with ourselves. This is both a gift and a curse because darkness can subsume us.
As I rise early these days, my mornings can bring different moods. Most days, I’ll put on WQXR, my fave Classical radio station that’ll play everything from Bach to Yo-Yo Ma. I let the tunes lull me through my reading, pooping, or daydreaming about any blissful morning. Other days I put on NTS and listen to whatever live tunes are playing. I miss the radio and long for days of waking up to the sounds of daily morning news. My dad would play the classical radio station as he dropped me off at school, there’s a ritual here; I am replaying intimacy with him.
Because I have #nochill I’ve been reading Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman some mornings. It’s one of the most important tools of self-reference I’ve ever found. My ability to go to the deep end isolates me less and less as I teach this class on vulnerability. Finding my students has made me feel less alone in a world that doesn’t know what to do with people who feel too much. My ability to go so readily into the deep waters feels safer to me these days and in the mornings I allow myself to swim, to explore the sacred tides of my mind’s possession, without judgment or reproach.
I think this came during my latest IBS episode, but it was really developed at my last ayahuasca sit in February, where I was asked to prioritize gentleness. I had not known that was a possibility. Built for war, my body has been so guarded, so distrusting, that I guess I hadn’t realized how much I moved with a defensiveness because I never felt safe and felt at the behest of everyone, but myself. I didn’t even know what it would feel like to live for me, until I realized being gentle, meant communicating the uncommunicable—it meant saying what I really needed and being firm about those needs actually being met and paying attention (and ensuring cautions) when they weren’t, because I respect myself.
My mornings revealed that they wanted me, and like a lover’s touch, I took the call and found mercy in my bed, in my sheets, in a whole new, erotic way. But it wasn’t about sex, it was about touch, about honoring one’s surroundings, about tantra. I have often chalked up my love for home-making to my Cancer moon, but I really think it’s because it inspires me, as an energy flow, to be surrounded by beauty. My aloneness is not loneliness because when I am with myself, my own consciousness is letting me in deeper. I’m beginning to trust myself because I’m understanding all my internal landscapes, all my parameters, and I’m honoring them. Tantra to me is the act of balanced energy; a flow that is truly equal is erotic.
This morning I woke up and finished Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (translation: You Only Live Once, cue the classic) which made me cry a lot, lol. I don’t think that’s a barometer of a successful movie (no shade to me) but, rather, a statement on the hunger for authenticity that I find film gives me. I’ve said this before, but I think my desire for a cinematic life appeals most because I live on the emotional scale that film captures. Movies say things we dare not say to each other, but I long for that kind of connection and possession. I long to live that deeply all the time. I think that’s why I feel so safe in the folds of cinema, it meets me where humans cannot, or most fail to.
I personally love Zoya Akhtar’s work and found Zindagi so smart and honest (and still corny and camp, but in a way that was interesting). Contemporary Indian filmmaking excites me because the voice of younger generations in Bollywood seem to be clarifying what exactly Indian filmmaking is. In a culture with a lineage that is steeped in stories—from the stunning epic of the Mahabarata to Quranic verse to the croon of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan—what stories do this vast land want to tell now, at this stage of its conception?
Nepotism sucks, but I do find Akhtar’s lineage incredibly compelling in a postcolonial sense. She is the daughter of poet, lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar and screenwriter Honey Iran and is also the stepdaughter of Shabana Azmi. I can’t stress enough how this is Bollywood royalty, almost akin to being a Coppola, in an American sense… but really? It’s not translatable. Akhtar’s grandfather was the Urdu poet Jan Nisar Akhtar (who was, no offense, extremely hot) and she is the great-granddaughter of Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi, a poet and a scholar of Islamic studies and theology. What the Akhtar family roots evoke are the ghazals and lyrics of a lost greater-India, and it’s something that Zindagi tapped into that felt so quintessentially Indian.
I thought of how, despite what is happening across religious lines in India, how Bollywood is also an interesting microcosm of Hindu and Muslim storytelling intersecting. Some of the biggest Bollywood stars are Muslim Indians—Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan. Saif Ali Khan’s mother is epic Bengali film star Sharmila Tagore, a Hindu, and his father is the former captain of the Indian cricket team Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, a Muslim. In Zindagi, Akhtar captures this hybridity that feels so compelling and mirrors my own identity of multitudes.
A couple of months ago I started doing chakra mantras after I finished reading The Path of Practice by Maya Bri Tiwari, an incredible ayurvedic teacher I would one day like to work with. After reading about the correlation between IBS and the solar plexus (which is the chakra that determines worth) I asked myself what would it mean to commit to doing these mantras every morning.
After I have my time to dream, I eventually make my way to my altar which resides in my office. I like this idea, like praying to mecca, that the altar brings a point of significance in the home’s feng shui and state of existence, like a pillar towards God.
I begin with chakra meditations, lighting the incense of my ancestors, jasmine, vetiver, amber, and I use the smoke to clear the dust that’s settled and release myself from the expectations of this world. Afterward, I do my chakra mantras, pulling myself into my body, respecting how it feels that day, honoring the humility it takes to be present. Eventually, I pray.
I have seen how prayer has afforded me a sanity that I don’t think I would have had otherwise during this time. It’s given me a stability, too, because I am grounded in my own self, own knowing, own satisfaction. Yesterday my therapist reminded me, “You’re an extremely high functioning trauma survivor.” She exaggerated the “extremely” maybe because of how easily I forget that myself.
My mornings are about not forgetting. They’re about holding and tending, of gathering myself for myself. I sit with a resilence, perched on my bed, at my altar, at my table eating poached pears, remembering myself, my own life, for myself. Kate Zambreno writes in the Appendix Project, “Redaction is the opposite of witness.” To self witness is to sit with the unresolved and remember that the journey is an act of becoming. And it is unfolding, it is unfolding, what great mysteries will it bring?
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