Monday, February 23, 2009

Awe Struck!

“Thou, Nature, art my goddess;
to thy law
My services are bound.”

Nature is my guide.
Nature is my saviour.
Nature is my Muse.

Some days are just so extraordinarily beautiful.

Even more so because they contain the moments that LEAP out at you from absolute mediocrity.
I am so grateful to be a witness. The passive observer; a park bench.
Have you ever looked at those park benches with the plaques left in memory of someone? I have.
When I see those plaques, I take a moment and wonder about the honouree…and the ones left behind. I wonder what this place, this view, and what this existence would have meant to the loved one being remembered. And what they gave in return.

There is so much within us to give.
There is so much continually being offered to us to ‘refill the well,’ if only we just take a deep breath and notice.
Today I RAPTUROUSLY drank in my share.

It’s Toronto, the end of February, bitterly cold and laden with snow.
I took my baby for a walk.
Perhaps a little foolish, I thought at first, after not tuning in to the weather network to see that the windchill is out for blood today!
So I took a detour.
To my favourite spot in our stale, suburbanite complex: the park, with the distant bridge overlooking the CN Tower skyline that beams golden at dusk. My million dollar view.
Thinking of Slumdog Millionaire, my heart glowing with “Jai Ho!” putting an extra chasse in my step.
My walk abruptly ends. The sidewalk has not been shoveled. My million dollar view fades in the distance. My shoulders sink; I turn back.
And then I am struck.
Literally whipped in the face with wind that prickles my skin like cactus thorns. Damn! That’s COLD!
I look for the sun. It is sinking, but gloriously blazing in its descent.
And I notice…how it illuminates the snow.
I watch the snow racing, PULSING, gliding, charging its way across the open field like a flock of eagles.

Jai ho…Jai HO…Jai ho-o-o-o-o…Jai Ho!

It’s singing in my head, louder and brighter.
The wind slashes across my face…the snow leaping, prancing, EXALTING, like a chorus of Bollywood dancers.
All my life I’ve had a choice between hate and love. I chose love. And I am here.”
The voice of AR Rahman at the Oscars rings a bell in my soul.

I feel the earth percolating; the drum of my heart pounding an Eastern rhythm, throbbing its way into this harsh Western landscape.
The winter tempest, so frigid, burns colour into my pale face; takes my breath away; forces my heart to pause from beating and EXCLAIM:

Love it.
Exalt it.
Claim it.
Drum it.
Dance it.
Serve it!

Jai Ho!....Jai HO!....Jai ho-o-o-o-o…Jai HO!

I don’t even really know the meaning of these lyrics, but it doesn’t matter because my soul connects with them in a way my mind never could.
That’s how I tend to live my life: follow the pounding rhythm.
It leads me to my guides. It leads me to my mentors. It leads me to the most extraordinary people and experiences beyond my powers of imagination; an ongoing list of breathtaking inspiration and light.
It is the pounding rhythm that makes me who I am.
And it leads me to those who have transformed me into more than I ever thought possible.

Jai Ho!.....Jai HO!....Jai ho-o-o-o-o-o-…Jai HO!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

VOR-tex and the Taskmaster

Wisdom & inspiration from Andrea Scher:

  • focus on little chunks of time, write during the cup of tea

  • rituals, discipline, routine - keep your 'artist's tool' with you like a pair of glasses you cannot see without

  • for one great picture there are 99,000 bad ones. you must make a mess to make a masterpiece

  • give voice and humour to the gremlins

  • a complete book begins with each word

  • see the beauty in everyday

  • see the bigger picture and the powerful intention behind what you want to create; remember your generosity of spirit; let that motivate you to take the next step


Many others are already doing what you want to do. And they are established in the industry. Who cares what you have to say? Who cares about the way you see things? Other people have credentials.

Your thoughts are not original.

That project will take way too much time and energy just to figure out where to begin. And then you have to stick to it - you aren't disciplined enough for that. You will give up. You will get too busy. It will take you years, maybe decades. Oh, just the COMMITMENT alone is enough to dread the very thought of it. Time will go by, you will be older and more experienced, and you will hate what you created before. You'll want to scrap it all. And if you actually go through with all this drudgery, no one will want to buy what you're offering and you will feel worthless.

Putting your work out there and being judged will make you feel like a failure.

Creativity is a luxury; it is a spoiled gift of North American society; it is frivolous. What about all those who are suffering in the world; what about those who are starving, those who have no home, those who are sick or terribly injured? You should be doing something to help them, not waste time on this self-indulgent fantasy. The world needs you to lend a hand, not a paintbrush.

Drama? Music? Writing? What are you going to do with that? You can't make a living.

It is SO HARD for me to create without imagining the final outcome. It is SO HARD for me to create without seeing the final product being thrown around by the world, ripped apart by its big mosh pit of criticism, and left to deteriorate on the cold, damp ground. Or worse, for my work to be delicately laid out there with its beautiful perfume and illuminating colours only to be completely ignored as everyone just hurries on by.

Saboteurs, gremlins, internal Opera, inner critic, goblins, zombies, harpies - you name it, everyone has a destructor to constantly challenge their creative force. I don't really like to think about mine too much. I like to pretend like she's/he's not there (one thing I know though - it is both a she and a he.) "She" is the Taskmaster and "he" is the "Voice of Reason." Let's call him VOR-tex.

Yes, VORtex, he wants to SUCK all of my creative juices into his oppressive gravitational pull of logic, utility, practicality, rationale, left-brained 'orderliness.'

The Taskmaster - she is always looking down at me with those beady, critical eyes. She is absolutely perfect and knows that no one else can ever match her abilities, her talents, so why bother trying? She will only push me down if I try. And she is waiting for me to stumble, to create something crappy, so she can laugh at my inferiority. She can create a masterpiece in a second, and gloats with all of her credentials, awards and credits as I squirm and make excuses to avoid creating.

I don't like to think about these 'nay-sayers' because they are so NEGATIVE. I am a 'YAY-sayer'; I like to rise above the wave of doubt. I like to be happy, to enjoy life, to enjoy being me. And in my blissful goals of day to day living, I hide these two destructors in the closet. I hide them there and I try to ignore them, to pretend like they don't exist, but every time I open the closet to grab something for the day, they are there. They are there, smiling. They are there, gloating. They are there, inflating. Because the more I try to ignore them, the more powerful they become.

I don't like to acknowledge this. But with so many brave souls in this blogging group, I know I owe it to myself and everyone else to admit that these jerks exist and bring them the hell OUT of my closet!




VOR-tex - YOU can do the vacuuming and dusting since you are so good at 'sucking' and Taskmaster - since you are so meticulous and so perfect, you can do the organizing and mopping and wiping, and clean the stove and the cat litter and bathtub while you're at it cause I need to relax and wash your nasty grins from my memory!!!

At this moment, I am wishing I were better at visual art. I would love to draw or paint my image of these I could then light them on fire! It's the Taskmaster who holds me back. Who tells me I'm not an artist - not the 'visual' kind, anyway. "Your mother is an artist. Your sister, Devon, is an artist. Even your sister, Naomi - the most 'practical' one of you - is an artist. But YOU? No, stick to theatre and writing. No point in going past your comfort zone because they'll only laugh at you anyway. What a waste of your time."

I once did a workshop with kids to address these 'nay-sayers' in our minds. We brainstormed our 'vault' thoughts, then transformed them into our 'encouragement box,' and drew pictures of our destructors, then ripped them into a hundred pieces. It was a very gratifying day. I think I need to give myself this workshop. :) But then, right away, I hear VOR-tex, "How are you ever going to find the time??" Don't you have other things you would rather do? Wouldn't you rather write or work on your scrapbook? Or memorize those lines for the show - time is ticking! Or what about those elevator quotes you've been meaning to do for 2 years now?" (he chuckles to himself.)

DAMMIT VOR-tex! I am going to MAKE the time. I DESERVE an art picnic. In fact, my beau also deserves an art picnic. When the baby is in bed, we are going to have an art picnic and you and the Taskmaster are going to zip your lips and MAKE US MARTINIS!

Yes, my dialogue with these two is a little harsh, bossy, demanding, but you know what? I don't care. I don't have to be nice to them. I don't have to be patient with them. I certainly don't intend to send them on a vacation - they don't deserve it! After all this time of oppressing me, they can handle the backlash. They don't have a sensitive bone in their body. They can handle the raw truth. And it's time for me to stop being a blind doormat and give it to them!

Take that, VOR-tex! Take THAT, Taskmaster! My sword and my shield are OUT. I am Brittany Knight after all. Time to SHINE that metal I'm made of.

afterword: i recognize here that i like to complete every blog, every story, every poem in my life with a 'happy', uplifting, motivational ending. this is funny because in artistic mediums - movies, fairy tales, songs - i am not into happy endings. i like the muck, i like the conflict, the indecision - this is why my blog is 'living in the in-between'. but yet, i have almost a 'curse of positivity' to end everything with daffodils. i want to spread joy, empower and energize myself and others. this means that my writing shuts out the 'unattractiveness of uncertainty'. i am not sure what to do about this. but i AM aware of it. any thoughts or insights would be appreciated.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Self-focus is self love

Self-focus is self love.
It nurtures one’s Being.
It feeds the soul.


Because I am part of a younger generation. The one whose parents taught us that we could achieve anything we set our minds to; that we are unique; that all we had to do was believe in ourselves, and above all, (to quote Jann Arden) “be yourself.”

My mother married her high school sweetheart when she was nineteen.
They lived together in a small town.
They made an agreement that in five years they would start having children.
Five years came and her ‘sweetheart’ wanted to break the deal.
Determined, however, to have her family, their first child was born a year later. Brittany.
Four years later, my mom’s belly grew again…and so did my dad’s ism’s: workaholism, alcoholism, anti-socialism.
Two years passed, many angry, dark nights and one affair later, and my youngest sister –“Surprise!” – was born.

There were many bright days in between, mind you. My mom was a beacon of creativity at home. She baked our birthday cakes, sewed our Halloween costumes, taught us to paint Christmas ornaments and sold her paintings and three-dimensional artwork to a bevy of supporters.
My dad took me to sci-fi movies, taught me how to skate, introduced me to the new world of computers and tickle tortured me as we played Pac Man.

But despite my memories of a mostly happy childhood, the divide between my parents could have competed in scope with the parting of the Red Sea. My sisters and I drifted between them.

And then they divorced.

My mom, now a single parent, took on 3 jobs to support her girls.
When she had time to spend with us, she was usually exhausted, sick or stressed and attempted to ease her own emotional abandonment by feeding stray cats in the neighbourhood.
I was in my ‘tweens and spent most of my time grounded in the basement or babysitting my sisters (which usually meant I was bringing them to the mall and then walking 20 feet in front of them so no one knew we were related. Oh, puberty!)
There was not a lot of laughter during this time, and NO creativity.
We were just putting one foot in front of the other in order to survive.
Then, after dating a guy for 6 months, my mom married again.
He turned out to be a con artist and the arch nemesis of my teenage life.

Finally, when I was nineteen, my mom found Mark.
Mark Swan.
Happily, five years down the road, they mated for life.
I finished university. My mom went back to school to be a law clerk.
My sisters grew up and moved out of the house.

Then, in 2003, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I never doubted for a second that she wouldn’t conquer this like she had every other battle in her life.
She braved a lumpectomy, 6 months of chemo and 6 weeks of radiation with 6 months of her oldest daughter returning to the nest to help feed her spirit.

This is when she started to ‘get her groove back.’

My mother rekindled her inner spark.
She only allowed herself to watch funny movies, TV shows and read funny books. (Thank you Ellen and from ‘Pilot Guides’ – Ian Wright!)
She challenged herself to stay positive and remember the humour.
She bought 2 wigs that made her look gorgeous.
She attended Wellspring, a cancer ‘healing’ centre, and took classes and workshops that they offered.
She enjoyed Reiki and writing, support groups and above all, art therapy.
It took cancer for my mom to get back in touch with her inner artist: that poor neglected creature just shriveling in her soul over the years.
Cancer brought her Muse back.
It was the formidable catalyst that gave my mom ‘permission’ to focus, once and for all, on her Self.

Semi-retired, six years of “Cure” fundraising, 2 grandchildren born, several dear friends, her dog and her father passed on, a dedicated writer and painter, and now the Captain of her Dragon boating team, my mother understands the importance of self-focus. And so do I.
It is anything but selfish.
In its essence, it is the succulent fruit we devour; as the seeds fall instinctively, silently, and miraculously transforms the lives of those we love the most.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

yes Yes YESSSSS!!!

I woke up from a beautiful dream. I was flying. Like a plane. Way up over the city line, my arms stretched out like the Corcovado. Flying, happy, blissful, free. Inhaling the view. Drugs and booze wouldn't know the limits of this kind of 'HIGH'!

This came the morning after meeting the Russian clown’s wife. Not any Russian clown, but Nikolai Terentiev, the famous sidekick of Slava Polunin – who is to Russia what Roberto Benigni is to Italy. A creative icon who irrevocably infects people with decadent JOY.

Slava, and his Snowshow, changed my life. His show – which Nikolai also performs in – attacked my soul. Those clowns captured my heart in 1998 and took it hostage into a land of melting enchantment; a land strangely familiar and wildly foreign at the same time.

I fell in love like a train wreck that day and have never looked back.

And then, on Sunday, February 1st, 2009, I found myself in the home of the Terentiev family, with our exuberant hostess, Irina.

It is unbelievable to me how Life can suddenly catapult you into your wildest dreams. The Snowshow ignited my passion for clowning; it made me see art and life in a blindingly new, vibrant and life-affirming way. It made me pursue clowning, “play” with Brazilian clowns even though we did not speak the same verbal language, and share this passion with students for the last 8 years. And suddenly, after ‘taking the bull by the horns’ (in this case, my darling Ilia) and replying to a message posted in our building, WHACK! SLAM! POOF! There we were, our family of three, in the home of one of the most famous performers in all of Russia – who actually lives in OUR building! OUR BUILDING! Fate just can’t really get better than that.

YES! YES! YES! I say YES to life, to the unexpected, to taking the initiative, to sharing what makes you sparkle and connecting that to the twinkling of others. Just PROPEL yourself into the unknown and see what MAGIC awaits. Oh. My. gAWEd.

And timing. Timing is also a funny thing. For the last 8 months, since Elliott’s birth, I have been a ‘stay-at-home’ mom. A beautiful gift, but also a strange one for my ‘free spirited’, adventurous yearnings. Living in the domestic domain, rather than being a ‘citizen of the world.’ And yet, it is through my home, our place of residence, that this new gift of pure artistic JUBILATION comes!

Those who think that all the talk about the ‘universe providing’ is a bunch of new-age mumbo jumbo be warned! Again and again I have learned that it is so easy to let go of control and enjoy this living ride when you trust in where you are and what is to come, all at the right time, in the right place. YESSSS!

Having laid all my support and hopes on the table with these luscious new ‘neighbours,’ I can hardly wait to see what happens next in this colourful, luminescent chapter of my life. Viva la vida!