Keen Queens to Soothe the Pain

… And For Some Reason Spain

Hi! How are you? 

No, no. That’s a dumb question. I meant, how are you coping? 

Have you stopped marking time? Have you stopped making plans? Maybe you are making plans! In your mind. For five years from now.

Are you eating a lot? Eating too little? Sleeping too much? Not sleeping enough? Are you watching endless hours of shows and films to which you would otherwise not give a moment of your life? 

Perhaps like me you’re starting each of them and giving up halfway through the second episode as nothing is able to hold your attention for long enough to care because everything feels meaningless and besides these shows are written as though they know you don’t have a choice so why bother making them any good I mean my god is screenwriting really this shit now or am I just crazy? 

Oh… well, I suppose both can be true.

Anyway, let’s catch up.

Back in March we were forced to accept that this virus is real and not just some abstract far away crisis affecting people we don’t know, will likely never know, and whose suffering is therefore just another harrowing headline among the countless we read everyday.

Alas, that’s the power of Pandemic, baby! Human biology in a globalized world doesn’t give a fuck about the insouciant, insular, and all but insentient little bubbles we’ve built for ourselves; they are helpless in protecting us from nature. We are all but one species, and whether you like it or not, looking out for the wellbeing of ‘other’ humans is the same as looking out for our own.

We have some idea about reality which is not quite true. Without having anything whatever against Cadillacs, refrigerators or all the paraphernalia of American life, I yet suspect that there is something much more important and much more real which produces the Cadillac, refrigerator, atom bomb, and what produces it, after all, is something which we don’t seem to want to look at, and that is the person. – James Baldwin

This illusory notion that some human lives are less valuable than others is the driving force of capitalism which is now being tested by this event. And if racism is the rulebook by which we’ve managed to justify such evil, it is now being questioned unlike ever before. Of course, it wasn’t for lack of trying before. But now it’s different because we’re all… home. Ya know? 

It’s much harder to evade inconvenient truths when we’ve got literally nothing else to do. So all the (white) folks who were able to comfortably operate as though our silence was surely innocent rather than woefully complicit… well, go on and clutch your pearls! Because the world is racist. Welcome. Things are not okay, they were never okay, and while we don’t know what will happen next, we know that things must never go back to the way they were. 

Sagrada Familia basilica, March 12th 2020
(C: Reuters)

The last piece I shared was a not so discreet condemnation of capitalism/consumerism from when I worked for the office of a novelty item manufacturer. I wrote a companion piece that was meant to follow it (The Plague of Plastic Flamingos and the Most Darling Landfill You Ever Did See), but I never made it public. Do I think I still might? Sure. But it’s been a year and a half since I first wrote it so… meh.

God, it’s hard being depressed.

Although I’ll admit I’m proud that I’ve made it this far without writing my usual disclaimer about it. “Sorry for my absence! It takes a lot for me to share my work…” or, “Sorry! I swear I write all the time but publishing conflicts with my gnawing desire to disappear completely…” and so on and so forth. I make sure to insert something of this nature at the beginning of every entry as though my infrequent posting is some exception to the rule. Which isn’t a testament to my depression so much as my delusion about my depression – that it’s but an ephemeral state, a temporary inconvenience.

Like construction obscuring an old cathedral you pass everyday on the way to work and think, “Wow, I bet it’s really nice under all that scaffolding!” Until months go by and you realize that no restorations are actually taking place and you’ll probably never get to see that beautiful stained glass nor the light shining through it as it was intended. 

Crazy me don’t think there’s pain… in Barlcelona” – Rufus Wainwright (Lyrics), Sagrada Familia

Depression is just a part of my structure. I would love to adjust my language to honor that and move on. Or to just stop apologizing for it.

Especially – and this is super important to note – that while I am depressed, I am not depressing. There’s a difference. 

In fact, as someone who understands so intimately what it’s like to feel worthless, I am hyper vigilant that my words and actions do not inflict that same feeling on others.

Come to think of it, some of the funniest and kindest people I’ve ever known or admired are also depressed! So just keep that in mind if you find yourself in the same boat. This isn’t a life sentence to being a bummer who is to be avoided at all costs. Although even if that were the case, these days I wouldn’t really know the difference. Social distancing measures have made it rather hard to distinguish…

“I think anyone who’s perfectly happy isn’t particularly funny.” – Joan Rivers

Anyway! How have I been spending this timeless time of our time? Well, at the beginning of March I was hired to work in the office of one of my favorite publications. It would be a dream job under any circumstances but I, being naturally skeptical and always waiting for the other shoe to drop, did not allow myself to get too excited. Sure enough, the day after signing all of the onboarding papers, I was informed that I would not be starting after all because of the Coronavirus.

Awesome. About two weeks later, I got it. My immune system wastes no time at all. I’m pretty certain all one had to do was say the word within my vicinity and I was infected. 

*If you’re concerned, first of all, thank you, and secondly, I’m fine. It sucked but it could’ve been worse. And, hey! Now I have at least temporary immunity. Which is neat.

Back in June I was able to go to a few protests and while I’d like to attend more to show my support in person, I find my physical limitations make it just too taxing. I still write emails and make phone calls and even though it all feels so fucking futile it’s certainly better than doing nothing. Or worse – circulating call-to-action posts on social media while actually doing nothing. If you do that, please know that I am legally allowed to find you and punch you in the throat.

But with the rest of my time I’ve been walking miles a day listening to music or podcasts and (as previously mentioned), watching the first episode and a half of every series ever made available for streaming before switching it off and lying on my floor while scrolling through Instagram or staring at my ceiling. To be fair it does wonders for my back.

I’ve also enjoyed watching clips like this:

“Oh, go to hell, Huffington Post! Fuck you, Nate Silver!”

As I was reading an article on our upcoming election when I started to sense what felt like a noose tightening around my neck; the dismal outlook of our future is not news to me so why do I bother consuming all of these ‘thought pieces’? Oh, right. Boredom and masochism. Anyway, embedded in the piece was the above video that if you didn’t click, shows Sarah Paulson screaming like an animal at the television airing the results of that fateful evening in November, 2016.

When I watched it, an unexpected feeling of relief washed over me.

Sadly I don’t have a place in which to try this myself without having the police called and perhaps more importantly I don’t have the fuel, (I’ve lost all faculties beyond my most base reptilian urges to eat, drink, sleep, and breathe). So I’ve taken to watching moments like this on film and they’ve served as a sufficiently cathartic substitute.

Thus far my favorites include the aforementioned, (or Sarah Paulson on any episode of AHS, to be fair), Toni Collette in Hereditary, and Florence Pugh in Midsommar. 

The word that comes closest to describing this behavior, (that I’ve come across), is keening. Keening is unique in that it’s not just screaming or crying or fainting or any other gesture so often seen on film; it’s not a cleaned-up choreographed performance depicting some male director’s idea of how a woman experiences pain.

And yet it’s a profoundly feminine expression.

“Ah! Ah! Ahhhhhh!”

To be brought to one’s hands and knees from a sorrow so powerful that it forces its own escape through heaves and howls while you remain but a vessel – while rare, is not unrealistic. I’ve experienced the kind of traumatic grief that elicits such a phenomenon and I can attest to that.

But I digress. If like me you’re nursing a broken spirit which has rendered you unable to feel neither hope nor rage, I highly recommend watching some of these clips.

Be advised: If you have roommates, they’ll be very curious to know what kind of porn you’re watching.

On another note, I feel like the term “traumatic grief” should be a thing.

Wait. No. Maybe it’s best that I withhold any contributions to the rapidly proliferating parlance of pathology spoken by us fucked up millennials in the age of the internet. When it comes to the various diagnoses I can claim on my punchcard I much prefer to just call it a wash and tell folks I’m mentally ill. It covers a lot of ground. I can forego the fun hashtags.

While I think it’s “brave” of people to be honest and vulnerable on social media, especially as the ruling motif has always been artifice, it has the potential to reach a tiring threshold. I recognize that being an influencer has become an art form in and of itself and I respect the skill that it takes to be successful, (if you came here through my Instagram, you already know it is not one of my strong suits). But if you’ve managed to construct an entire platform based solely on airing your ailments all the while capitalizing on them, it is no longer brave but rather self indulgent. I know capitalism is inescapable, and I don’t wish to shame anyone for turning their problems into paychecks… but it reaches a place at which point I lose trust in the creator whom I once felt was relatable. I guess I’m still resistant to the idea that ‘content’ is the same thing as ‘creation.’

Don’t praise me for sharing with everyone that I suffer, but do feel free to praise (*pay) me for striving to extract something more from my pain and create something new.

Artist: @itspeteki

Venmo @ bryneva_oc

These are trying times…

I have always struggled with advocating for myself and for my art. Yet lately, in the wake of all this upheaval, I’ve been feeling so at peace. I’m not judging the things I produce nearly as harshly as I used to – posting this essay being a perfect example of that.

I suppose with folks finally feeling faint in the coal mine, this canary is starting to sing. Literally! I’ve actually been writing music again. And while I’ll refrain from expounding further on it until I’ve released some, suffice it to say that it has been one of the best things I have ever done.

Capitalism conditioned me to believe that I cannot be an artist. Although what does it mean to “be” an artist anyway? Why do we have to be whatever thing we do that earns us an income? Is it fair to say that that is who or what we are? Of course not! And yet it’s the language we use.

With capitalism crippled, even just temporarily, my endeavors feel like more than mere frivolity but an invaluable lifeline in a world of meaningless commoditization.

When it feels like you have nothing left, it can also feel like you’ve nothing to lose.

Okay, okay, last soundbite…

Life is hard – no matter when you live it, no matter where you live it. But as long as there are people so will there be art. And as long as there is art, there is hope.

Spanish blues singer Beatriz Berodia “Betta” sings from her balcony during a daily evening concert to support health workers and to make it easier for her neighbors to bear the lockdown, in Madrid, March 19. REUTERS/Susana Vera

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