Thursday, September 29, 2011
Gratitude, and Benefit Recap
Its hard to believe the zine benefit show was nearly a month ago now (!). I thought I'd update everyone on how things went and repost what I read for folks who couldn't make it. We were able to raise $600, an amount well beyond my wildest dreams and which will help me cover printing costs for quite some time. I'd like to shout out Maria Arettines, Sarah Hanks, Tommy Pico, and Cynthia Schemmer for reading such amazing pieces, and Worriers, Slingshot Daokta, and Bridge & Tunnel for bringing both music and dialogue about loss to the stage.
The Worst So Far:
Back in 2008 a reviewer described the zine as “an intense compilation of grief stories”. I think the word intense best describes the reactions and dialogue around the zine that i have been privileged to take part in since the first copies entered the world. But in the beginning, I was shocked that people found the zine “intense” because for me as a griever, it was one of the first things i encountered that matched the strength and depth of the feelings that I was going through. It didnt seem intense at all, it felt comfortable and like a relief to read similar stories. I can truly say, around five years after I distributed the first call for submissions, that the process of making this zine has saved my life. I can also say, that, As ive grown both personally and publically, I’ve learned that yes, the zine really is intense. Sometimes even downright unreadable, depending on where someone is at on a given day. However, I spend a lot of time thinking about why grief and loss is so “intense”, and kind of a taboo issue in our culture.
As I said in the zine, we live in a capitalist society that is primed to generate loss and trauma while at the same time silencing us if we attempt to articulate our experiences of disempowerment. Silencing grief and our true feelings serves the status quo myth that everyone in our society has all of their needs met by the system as it is and nothing needs to change. If everything’s fine, we should all be able to to “keep calm and carry on”, instead of get pissed and fight oppression. I’m excited about The Worst because it provides so many opportunities for us to speak the truths of our experiences, and in that truth lies the power of community.
My dad died in 2001, and a big part of his life was music, so there are a lot of songs that remind me of him. On my birthday a few years ago, we had spent all night singing karaoke in a private room, and were leaving around 5am to go home, hoarse but exuberant at the new vocal heights we had reached together. As we entered the larger public room, I realized that a woman was singing along to L-O-V-E by Natalie Cole, a father-daughter duet that my dad and I had made up a ridiculous routine to when I was young. Exhausted physically and emotionally, I burst into tears and collapsed. At the same moment, recognizing the song and remembering that it was special to me, one of my dearest friends reached out and caught me. He shuffled me into an adjacent room and held me until I was done crying, and we eventually went outside to rejoin the rest of our friends. This simple act of memory and literally making a space to support my feelings stands out to me as the kind of authentic support I believe everyone is capable of offering to each other. The kind of authentic support I had hoped to illuminate through the creation of The Worst, and which has echoed throughout the project in emails, letters, and stories of connection in the face of loss.
In short, if you have the capacity to be a friend, you have the capacity to be a friend to someone going through bereavement. However, in order to access this capacity within ourselves, we have to talk about it. We have to write and read about it. And we have to do these things in dialogue with each other, so that we can practice new ways of offering support, so we can know when we’ve made a mistake, and so we can access creative ideas about how we might be able to try again.
Around the beginning of the summer, page 14 of issue 1 written by Cindy Crabb “went viral”. I’m still not really sure what Tumblr is or how it works, but all of a sudden, this page was Tumbling and REtumbling all over the world wide web (736 times and counting). What was on this page? It was a simple list of ways to help a friend whose parent has died. It included things like “for me to play music to you inside your room” “for me to get people to stop trying to cheer you up” “to go outside and scream”, “for me to ask you questions” “for me to just be near and silent”. Basic stuff, right? Why is this list of basic acts of care so illuminating when applied to grief? I think it has something to do with the taboos our culture places on grief and grieving. This list is so helpful because the items on it include ways to directly confront, address, and engage with the person’s experiences as they grieve. and in our culture, this is a radical notion. When we dare to break this enforced silence around grief and its associated emotions, when we name “our worsts,” we become empowered again to act, to cope, and to heal.
Looking around and seeing everyone who has contributed submissions, drove me to the printer to pick up boxes and boxes of photocopies, folded and collated and stapled, offered to play music tonight, to read, and all the faces i see of friends who have caught me when I stumbled trying to figure out how to carry this burden, I’m just left with tremendous gratitude. I’d like to thank Jordan from Silent Barn who had the show relocated mere days after Silent Barn was robbed. Eaden for letting us have the show here instead. For the Birds for believing in me and pushing me to do this after many years of not asking for help. All the readers and contributors, and bands who are here tonight--this is a collaborative project and would not exist without people taking the chance to speak, write, and read about the tough stuff.
**Extra thanks to the steadfast Virgo Kate Wadkins for taking these photos to document the event!!**