What endures, what lingers, and what gets washed away?

It’s  nearly been a whole year since the last Thanksgiving, already. I know, Thanksgiving as a Brit living England is technically not my holiday. However, I wish we had something similar in the UK. Like, I dunno, a Kindness-Day – a national holiday where everyone gets the day off & it’s a reason to take the time to really be grateful & help others out – without it having to be related to some underlying pilgrim genocide. But you know, a time to take in & be present for all the small things. Because they probably matter the most. And you guys have given me the bestest small moments this past year.
I started to pen this post in my head, slow walking home through a freezing fog through the quiet neon light of Sheffield city streets. I do like evening walks like that, just listening to christmas-jazz music. It makes me feel like I’m in a Hollywood movie.  But it’s also made me realize something about Sheffield that I love. I love how Sheffield’s meteorology is an excercise in whims and micro climates. I can see how Sheffield has become a city for rebels, artists, hackers, nerds, runners and hikers.  It often feels like we are not on the same schedule as everyone else. Time passes in a non-narrative mish-mosh of second winters, monsoons and fourth indian summers, calendar dates be damned. Ney, all this can happen in just one day! Those small things.
2013-2014 was very kind to me, work wise. And you were all very kind to me too. I got to draw some amazing things,  people and talks. Stories.
My medical ‘journey’ started making me think more about how narrative helps us all be more compassionate & empowered (if you’re telling the story)… How empathy is first an act of imagination. An illness is not merely a set of signs & symptoms – it is the story in which it is told that gives us the necessary clues of what needs to be done. What kind of support this person is looking for, how it is affecting their quality of life & ultimately what tests/treatments need to be done/undertaken. The thing is, it’s often the smaller things in a healthcare pathway which makes the most personal difference.
I tweeted the other day it was the 11th Anniversary from when my mom, bro & i were made homeless for about 6 months – properly (another post for another time). This is something I think of often when I check my privileges.  How I can never be certain of anything. We are made from our experiences – our failures & successes, our loves & dislikes, what we have witnessed; gentle creatures that get hardened by tragedy. I walk through streets, sit on the bus, in hospital waiting rooms and cafes and think about these people who surround me, I wonder what their stories are. What would be YOUR story?

Because I often find it hard to concentrate these days due to unruly fatigue, brain-fog or just general overwhelming pain on top of deadlines & clinical work – I’ve spent a crazy amount of time online & reading books trying to find a cheat to trick me into being more productive & waste less time. Ultimately – I’d like to gain more time so I don’t have to carry the guilt of not working as fast as I used to do.

But all i’ve learnt from this is that we are never-ever-satisfied. Life coaches think they’ve figured out the secret – to delete all your apps on your phone. Bullshit. Just turn it off!  #firstworldproblems. We await bigger phone screens, & watches that do the same as our phones  and complain about things that are arbitatory. I too am guilty of this. This is like a product of my generation.  But it’s just more proof of not us not enjoying our smaller things.

Robin Sloan in his book Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore writes about this idea that basically you write a book, a “Book of Life”, that represents everything you have learnt in your life. You work on drafts your entire life and it gets stored and read by a privileged few upon your death. Our lives are filled with a desire to know the universe, and to be known. To leave a dent.

As time becomes more valued to me as I know how quickly it can be erased, I started thinking about “quality time”. And its role as the primary means to an end for a fulfilled life. This quality time should be with our own selves, with our interests, and with those people we connect deeply with. They each feed into each other, without one – the others become disconnected. Quality Time becomes makes extremely clear that those smaller things become some of the most important moments in your life. Be present for them, but that’s not easy. Cultivating quality time means attempting to remove circumstances that hinder quality time, and it means attempting to put into place or strengthen circumstances that encourage quality time.

I am learning to be wild again. This week, I – arguably stupidly – decided to not do ANY work after class. I slept (because of the headache) I went on a date! I went to the movies with friends, I had 2 christmas parties, I stayed up and watched the Apprentice, I went reduced food shopping with rich, I finally managed to grab lunch with a friend I haven’t seen properly in ages. And the housemates and I sat down & had dinner together. I needed this. In so many different ways. I truly believe one of the keys to happiness is to build meaningful ways to make a living whilst working on something you wholeheartedly give a shit about — with good human beings who you give a really big shit about.

In each of our lives, things have changed, for better and for worse. Change and struggle is part of our every day. Becoming a new parent, as many of you are this year! is a struggle. Starting a new course, job, moving house, starting a new relationship is all full of struggle. But it makes us better, in some small shape or form.
My crazy 8 month headache (nicknamed Trevor today!) reminds me that whilst we might understand the surface of things, deep down there is unprecedented amounts of uncertainty that we have no idea of. All I know is that this Thanksgiving I am happy and thankful for the smaller things. The ability to hold a conversation, the ability to write a blog post, to live with several groups of amazing and kind friends in 3 different cities at different times of the year. I get to travel. I get to try and make a difference. I get to draw for my job. I get to hear your story. I get to call you my friends.
I believe that whilst our trauma’s may linger, kindness & friendship is the thing that helps us endure.
So this Thanksgiving, I ask you: What endures, what lingers, and what gets washed away?
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Trying to Understand Early Russian Formalism & the Smizz Life

1. ABSENTATION: A member of a family leaves the security of the home environment

Picture: It’s a few years ago. I left for America. I love America.  Except I wasn’t leaving home on my usual terms. I was feeling super run-down. I had been having nightsweats, bone pain, this insane fatigue that wouldn’t subside. The UK doctors told me it was just a “mono-style virus”, so I left for work & adventure. Except my boss in the USA was having none of me just waiting out the virus. She made me see a doctor, who made me see a haematologist oncologist, who then told me it looked bad & that I needed to go home & get it sorted ASAP.

I didn’t though. I thought that this guy is talking shit. I ran away from this statement. I suddenly felt the weight & value of time. I did a pretty amazing YOLO roadtrip visiting 3 coasts of America with friends, all with that thought in the back of my mind.

 

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In my younger days, I studied Media Studies as one of my A-Levels (& got an A, of course). We looked at a crazy Russian Literary Formalist called ladimir Yakovlevich Propp who came up with something called Morphology of the Folktale  which basically looks at breaking up fairy tales into sections and 31 functions/options of resolution and narrative. His elaborate categorisations of classifications pegs plots points: tricky, guidance, rescue, ect.

Propp claims that you can shuffle any of these into constant rearrangements. They mark a moment where an action takes us in a different direction. It’s a nice way to to look at disruptions. He says everything proceeds from us loosing our place.

 

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2.) INTERDICTION: An interdiction is addressed to the hero

We’re out of order and we’ve hardly begun. I was instructed to not stay in the USA and wait out what was happening to me. But I did.

 

3.)VIOLATION of INTERDICTION. The interdiction is violated (villain enters the tale).

The villain and hero here are both myself. The villain is an illness. A feeling of ill-health. A feeling that has slowly taken over and taken everything that was me. I was just in my early 20’s. I had never been properly sick. Sure I had colds and sore-throats, and sickness bugs – but this felt different.

I was a self-absorbed young adult with gritted determination to make it in the art world.  I had learned to be different, to try harder – no matter who I left behind. I had started to get just a tiny-lil bit cock-sure of myself. Just a tiny-tiny-bit. I had just got a prestigious artist residency at Site Gallery when I got hit.

I’d arrived somewhere without being invited.  Maybe I didn’t have the right to be in that place. Maybe that didn’t make it right that I fell ill, but maybe I wasn’t purely innocent either.

 

4.)RECONNAISSANCE: The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance. The villain (often in disguise) makes an active attempt at seeking information.

 

There was no tricky. But there was deception. For months and months, and months, this illness  hid away. Making itself really hard to put a name to. To be recognised. But, it knows who I am. It knew I stayed up working until late, that I was fairly active. It fed on my inability to get rid of it.

 

8.) VILLAINY or LACK: Villain causes harm/injury

The illness took virtually nearly everything. I no longer can work all day and stay up.  It made me work less, sleep more,  which in turn made people forget about me, helped me to ruin my own reputation I had worked so hard to get. It made me bleed in places I never knew I could bleed. I have days where I literally feel like I might be dying, I catch myself looking super tired & worn-down in pain in a mirror & saying to myself: “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok”. I’ve lost days, weeks, months of my life. I’m still  having pain which no one understands. This makes me feel alone.

 

17.) BRANDING: Hero is branded (wounded/marked, receives ring or scarf);

I was branded. I have no scarfs or rings but emotional scars & a few physical ones. Somethings have shifted under my skin. Emotions and lymph nodes. Things pressing on things which present as neuralgia or headaches or bone aches or passing outs. Swellings around memory, swellings around my intellect and pride which hurts.

 

14.) RECEIPT OF A MAGICAL AGENT: Hero acquires use of a magical agent

Through this struggle, my whole world view changed. I gained this whole new perspective, this whole new weight of the importance of empathy. Before, I now realise, I had little empathy – towards everything. I wasn’t a dick or anything, but I didn’t or couldn’t understand others plights – because I was so blinded by myself. I just understood the system that affected others, not HOW it made them feel & how that affects them.

am more thankful. It’s just not in the way that’s immediately assumed. I am grateful for the pain, because now I understand it better. I am grateful for the struggle, because I can be of more use to those in the midst of it.

 

29.) TRANSFIGURATION: Hero is given a new appearance

I used to only work in art stuff. Now you can find me in both the art-world and in healthcare. I wanted to re-train myself to work in healthcare to both give back, and to be the person who understands because I felt (and still do) misunderstood on how the villain really affected my quality of life. The central question I now ask myself is “What’s the relationship between caring and understanding?”

 

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When I think about my life in these terms I see  all kinds of functions that I never asked for: struggle, challenge, trickery, frustration. There’s some fighting, and a lil bit of winning.  The gold-dust comes in the realisation of personal-growth and amazingly supportive friendships along the way.

The materials of my life, as memory recalls and deforms them, will always involve the villain: the stranger, the illness.

When I casually drop into conversation to people that I’m studying radiation oncology, as well as still working as an artist, and still feeling shockingly poorly, they look shocked. They think it’s a huge turn, or that art must not be working for me. But it’s not really. I sit in class, reflecting upon my own life like text. I feel like i’m still constantly shuffling together pieces of a puzzle i can’t see the edges to yet.

There is no function designated for this last part. Where the hero turns to studying healthcare & medicine alongside art to try and understand her own hurt and use it to try and help her to understand others hurt.

 

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23.) UNRECOGNIZED ARRIVAL

I could spend everyday like it was a holiday. I feel like I deserve to spend my life constantly on vacation. But you can’t. You have to return to normality. But this is hard. It’s hard to return to a familiar land, to return home, to do everything like you used to, when you no longer feel like yourself. Things have changed.

 

 

conspiracy theory no.1.

i have a story for EVERYTHING. Trust.

i live with my best friends in an apartment in an old victorian house. There’s 3 apartments in total in the building and we are on the 2nd floor.

The neighbours above us are like some sexual deviants.  man, you don’t even wanna hear the sorta stuff and people they bring home to do it. daaaaaaaaamn. and when they’re not doing that – they play really bad guitar music and play MUSE live DVD really live at stupid o’clock whilst having Thriller parties (dedicated to MJ) at like 2 am. stomping around. And if this wasn’t bad enough – they’re like 40+ years old. come on guys!

Whilst the neighbours below us are totally drug dealers.

i’m pretty sure they are. my friend dropped me off from the movies the other night and we couldn’t park their car because there were 7 black cabs/taxi’s parked right outside our house. people, strange people, are always going in and out the house at all hours of the day.  i’m pretty sure they use the taxi system to deal it out.  that’s kinda smart.  i think this is gonna end up in one of my crazy paranoid maps.

HolLa!

it’s been a while

hey all.

so whilst i’ve been gone, a lot of y’all have been pumping my visitor numbers!  Wow. talk about getting some crazy internet traffic!!!  thank y’all!  I mean, i’ll be honest — i think it’s just people who want to know who “sarah smizz” is from the #CLASS exhibition (http://hashtagclass.blogspot.com) – they wanna know who this incompetent wanna be is.

I will blog more about my POWERLESS 100. i had no idea that it was such a good idea.  and the class exhibition in general. I’ve had such a fun time with CLASS and i’ve learnt so much more. saying that, my NYC trips always teach me way more than art school teaches me anyways.

soooo why have i been so quiet? well i dont wanna take this platform to moan (like i usually do) but im just involved in so many things that its exhausting. and that’s fantastic, but things like blogging just get left behind – even though i enjoy doing this alot!

i have 3 artist collaborative groups to co-ordinate.

a sheffield blog to keep up with.

i now blog and interview folks for the worcester open ( http://www.worcesteropen.co.uk/biog.asp?refID=19 )

my own damn art work

degree show in t-minus like 4 -6 weeks!

just come back from nyc -obvs

part time jobs

a publication to get up and running and its like managing school kids half of the time

aim higher school talks!

agency website developing

and some other things that i can’t think of right now.

so here’s some new work i’m working on. i’ll post my artist statement and shizz laters, when i’ve finalized it. this is still in the works p- needs to be finished. and there’s plenty mo’ and better pieces where this came from!

but im back to drawing AND IT FEELS GOOD. yes.

sorry for my shitty phone pictures!

i’m embracing the paranoid smizz!

and one shot from: how to disappear: