This black and white photo was taken by me, in my studio, before heading to a boudoir shoot the week before last. I have been falling in love with myself and my body for a very long time, and I will be, forever. This is my happily ever after. My life is mine to create. My life is my canvas, and my thoughts, feelings, words, decisions, and deeds are the paint.
I am living now in Austin, Texas. In Hyde Park. One of the most gorgeous neighborhoods in this fine city. It’s been a long and winding road to get here. I count my blessings. Like the petals on a flower, like the minutes in an hour. I revel. In my sanctuary. My palace. My space. My studio. It is me. Everything is here, for me.
This past week has been remarkable. So much so, that I couldn’t stop talking about it the other day while cashiering at one of the most highly trafficked stores downtown. A co-worker essentially commanded me to blog about my life. I had been thinking about it for quite a while. I have had online diaries come and go. Feels like as great a time as any to begin again.
My week began last Saturday, after I had been invited to serve cacao at a wild triple birthday party at Indra’s Warehouse—a vibrant, creative hub in way east Austin.
I received an invitation to serve from my friend Sarrah a few weeks ago. A tantric coach and lithe, flowy, feminine powerhouse. Darling one. She was thrilled to have me join. A wildcat theme. We would be serving in leopard print bikinis. I used to think I could never wear a bikini. But I love my body, I love my skin, I love feeling my own movement. I love feeling the gusts of wind, the air, the water drip, the beads of sweat, the fire of the sun. Love to stretch. Love to curl up, and open up. To contract, and to expand. To breathe in and out. To get on the ground. To leap up into the air. To move. To allow movement to flow naturally through me.
Tea was served. No alcohol. A pool of cacao. DJs. Dance performers. Fire spinners. I wondered how many people have longed for and not yet found a space such as this, where people feel free to be open about who they are, to move their bodies as they wish to. Freedom of expression, squared.
It is sexy. It is natural. And sexy is natural. This is something I have contemplated for a great while. Because sex is part of our nature. Because we can be sexual, and be cherished and respected. Because that is the natural order. And, I believe, with each event such as this, we are returning to that awareness, and evolving beyond a status quo where sexuality is disordered, where intimacy is feared, where emotions are hidden. Nothing can long be disordered, feared, or hidden.
This is a time of emergence.
I feel a blossoming in so many areas of my life. Happy, Happy Summertime. Fruits in full bloom. Ripe. Delicious. I love that when I feel a flourishing in one area, it spills over into all others. So, it didn’t surprise me that this primal event transpired just days before the first class in my Emerging Teaching Artists fellowship—a program offered through the City of Austin.
I was on my way to the Mexican American Cultural Center on Monday afternoon, and I stopped to snap a photo of this lovely new mural outside of Container Bar on Rainey Street. Perfect. Yes. Creator State of Mind.
I heard a voice behind me. “Are you going to the MACC?” Indeed, I was. It was a fellow woman in my cohort, who is new to Austin and hadn’t been in this area of the city yet. An intuitive woman. A coach and yoga instructor. We walked together. Past the bars, the giant new apartment complexes. We walked upstairs and entered the classroom. I felt delighted. We entered to find a table filled with lovely coloured paper, popsicle sticks, markers, cotton balls. Crafty items. My eyes widened. I missed this. We were asked by our facilitator to create name tags, expressing who we are to the rest of our cohort.
I gathered my materials and sat down to this wonderful toolbox she had crafted for each of us. My Arts Educator toolbox. Filled with supplies. Notecards, pens, pencils, soothing tea, spearmint gum. And a letter, congratulating and welcoming me. I felt so much celebration inside myself. This welcoming. This homecoming. With each endeavor such as this, I am coming home. Coming home more, to myself. More to the fullness of who I am.
We went over the course syllabus. It had been a long time, since I’d been in a classroom. I felt so eager. So ready. I thought back to college. University of Connecticut. Spring 2009, just before I left, and embarked on a journey that would lead me to Texas. My favourite class, one unlike any other. Creativity + Social Change. The first of its kind. Led by my favourite professor.
I remembered the first time I had ever written a spoken word piece. It was a project for this class. I was free to express what I was learning, however I wished to. What a concept. Sometimes, an essay just doesn’t cut it.
I was majoring in Sociology, minoring in Human Rights and Women’s Studies. But, how I missed performing. Thankfully, I was able to feed myself through The Vagina Monologues, which I was cast in from 2007 to 2009. It felt inspiring to begin my journey, then, of exploring the possibilities of social transformation through art, through performance.
I didn’t call myself an artist back then. A poet, a writer, a dancer, a singer, an actress. None of that. I was exploring ideas. The ways of the world. Struggling to make it to class. Always asking questions. Doing too much. Marching. Volunteering. Writing. Organizing. Speaking. Wondering why so many liberal arts students spent so much time in a classroom, and not out in the streets, out in the world. Engaging. Grappling. That was a time in my life when I really began to feel the challenges of living as a fluid, multi-dimensional woman in 21st century post-9/11 United States. Goodness. It feels like another time. And yet… how it shaped me.
It makes so much sense, for me to have come across this opportunity now, this fellowship. For it to have found me.
As Walt Whitman said, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”
I am so much. I am so many things. A student and teacher amongst them. I feel thrilled about creating space for people to feel empowered in their own ability to express. Because it has meant the world to me when other people have guided me in such spaces. Because expression is everything. I am here on this Earth to celebrate expression. Because we deserve to live fully. To create the story of our lives. The story of us, that will weave seamlessly into the story of the world. It is happening, here, now, every day.
Of course, I treated myself to a film after my first day of class. Baby Driver. Again. I felt so thrilled by this film when I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago. So well-woven. The casting. The acting. The directing, the writing. The relationships between the characters. The visuals. The soundtrack.
I went to the Violet Crown for the first time. Service industry night. I love the cinema. I am in love. I become absorbed by whatever art form I am imbibing. I allow myself to be intoxicated by it, and this film certainly did that for me. The resonance I felt. The excitement. The story. This one drew upon the story of a generation. The iPod. Feeling music. The way we carry it with us, the way it adds so much meaning to our lives. To a moment. I could relate to the protagonist, when he rhythmically slithers his way through the streets in the second scene. I do that, I chuckled to myself.
I almost forgot to mention that earlier on Monday, I met with a group of actors and performers who have been sharing and supporting one another in their acting endeavors since earlier this year. It always feels affirming for me to be in the company of working artists. And, I am being reminded how much I adore acting. Embodying a character, an emotion. It feels like the most natural thing in the world for me. I am an explorer of the inner world. I do enjoy sharing my findings.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that he sees me as an artist, yes, but even more as an expressionist. You just have an unyielding desire to express yourself, Allyssa. It’s true. He’s right. I can’t be silent. Even my silence speaks volumes.
Tuesday evening rolled around. I had been invited to a night of gong fu cha and harp, by a dear fellow artist and muse in my life. At Mariposa House. A mystical, feminine, community-centered space intended for expression, connection, rejuvenation. I lived there for six months, prior to moving into my own studio. I certainly wrapped myself into a chrysalis last fall, and have been experiencing a blessed emergence this spring and summer. I have experienced some extraordinary magic in Mariposa, and this evening held the promise of more.
The warmth and aromas of the tea from the mountains of China invited me to settle. To be still. It didn’t take long for the sweet sounds of the harp to bring tears to my eyes. All the attendees chatted for a while, and after sitting alone and feeling moved by the sounds emerging from those strings, I suddenly felt inspired to share a children’s story I’d written recently. About a young fairy who struggles to be at peace with her negative emotions.
It took me about ten minutes to read it aloud, and when I was through, I received some glowing responses. One young woman expressed that she couldn’t wait for it to be printed, so she could read it over and over. My happy heart. And to think, I just sat one morning to write my morning pages, and this story flew out of me. I couldn’t leave my bed until it was finished. The creative process never ceases to amaze, delight, surprise, and satisfy me.
Creativity can be a starburst, or a slow burn.
Then came Friday. I had been looking forward to this for weeks. I had been invited to perform for Fusebox Festival’s 60 in Sixty, a fundraiser where 60 artists are given 60 seconds to take the spotlight on the stage, and share their creations. I felt elated to have been asked. I wondered what I would do. Just one minute. What could I say? What message could I condense and deliver to this off-beat audience? A poem of mine came to me. A poem that wanted to be spoken.
to feel comfortable
in her own home
is her temple
& hers alone
It didn’t take me long to decide how I wanted to deliver this poem. On stage. In my lingerie. Flaming red hair. A Siren’s statement. Think: A sex worker crossed with a preacher. A priestess. I may look “too sexy” to you, I may look “slutty”… and I am still worthy of praise. Respect. My body is sacred. No matter what, no matter what, no matter what.
I felt such nervous excitement leading up to the moment. My minute. Number 37. A full house. I take center stage. Remove my robe. Hear some cheers. Deliver my words. Felt the rush. Witnessed the rest of the performances. Dancers, actors, singers, comedians. Some brilliant, some bizarre. All some form of beautiful. The curtain call. We all gather and dance on stage. I exit the stage. I am greeted by person after person who felt moved and ignited by my performance. One woman said it was reminiscent of Eve Ensler. Honoured. Gratitude overflowing within. So grateful that I said yes.
Which begs this question… What is my next yes? What is today’s yes?
I meditated for about thirty minutes this morning. I danced. Sipped tea. Received some video inspiration. This week has come to a close. And now, a new moon, opening into a new week.
I am reminded that my life is here for me to craft, to shape, to lead, to create. I am an active wandress. An inner adventurer. A curious explorer, and an immeasurably playful spirit. An expressionist.
…a woman in bloom.
Thanks for exploring with me.