In The Process of Processing

:: the process that i go through writing this blog ::

DMunk and i affectionately joke about my never-ending ability to be “meta” about everything. (and you better believe that when i found out that WordPress has a Tag Cloud above a section called Meta, i revel in staring at this cloud and seeing what shapes emerge.)

but i haven’t really gone very deep with the process of writing this blog. maybe because it is inherently about process that it seems redundant to do so. but then i hear these little words repeat themselves and i realize that i channel these words often when creating new work. in Saratoga, Anne Bogart told us that when she directs SITI Company, a common thing she says when something is cooking is, “could be more.” to me, this means: it’s good. keep it. and where else can it go?

well, DMunk just arrived to our thesis meeting and so i am going to get all meta with him and see where that leads this discussion…


well, one of the first things that DMunk started talking about when he arrived was how i am likely to get all meta. so there we have it.

and then we started talking about dreams.

at first i wasn’t sure how any of this related to my process of writing this blog. and then, as dreams tend to do when we start to pay attention to them and attempt to interpret their meanings, i found some interesting connections in terms of the process of creation.

last December, John Jannone and i discovered that, among many connections, we both have done a great deal of work with dreams. my obsession with Salvador Dalí is no secret and when i went home to visit my parents for the holiday, i found many books that i didn’t even know that i had (including one aptly titled “The Complete Dream Book”). that month, i decided to start recording my dreams in a new Dream Journal to see what would unfold. and i found out that John had done his thesis in grad school on dreams.  in fact, i just asked him what his thesis was about and he wrote:

“It was a thesis written from a dream; a dance piece:

The Prisoner and the Hermaphrodite”

well now, i don’t know why i am shocked, but when i met Ali in the park a few weeks ago, i was telling her part of my new philoSophie about how i believe we all embody male and female energy. i brought up Kate Bornstein’s book Gender Outlaw and the idea that we are assigned our gender at birth. who decides whether we are male or female? the doctors? and on what basis? one of the most striking questions she brings to my mind is: what criteria define our assigned genders? and furthermore, where do those of us fit that do not fall within the “normal” genetic, biological, and physical categories? Kate questions, “There are, in addition to the XX and XY pairs, some other commonly-occurring sets of gender chromosomes, including XXY, XXX, YYY, and XO. Does this mean that there are more than two genders?” that seems very possible to me. so if it’s not chromosomal, is it hormonal? then why do female hyenas have more testosterone than males? hm. then is it because of physical criteria? are you a female because you can give birth? and what if you are born without this ability or you lose it because of outside factors, such as through physical injury that renders you incapable of bearing children? are you not female then? Kate asks all of these thought-provoking questions, and the one that keeps haunting me is:

What if you had been born a hermaphrodite, with some combination of both genitals? A surgeon would have “fixed” you—without your consent or even acknowledgment of your parents, depending on your race and socioeconomic status. You would have been fixed—fixed into a gender. It’s a fairly common experience being born with different or anomalous genitals, but we don’t allow hermaphrodites in modern Western medicine. We “fix” them.

i’ll be honest. i’ve never really felt like a girl all that much. and my parents have consistently told me throughout my life that i was supposed to be a boy named Michael. and, well, i’ve never felt that i wasn’t a boy (though i would have changed my name to something more fitting, like Sam for example.). so what gender am i then???

over the past year, especially, i’ve been questioning that a lot—about what that means for my relationship to my own body and identity. when i was telling Ali about this, she brought up the mythic Greek figure Hermaphroditus, son of Aphrodite and Hermes, who was a minor deity of bisexuality and effeminacy. He was transformed into an androgynous being through a god-induced fusion with the water nymph Salmacis, thus becoming  “a creature of both sexes,” according to Ovid. when i started describing the ways in which i could see this as a solo performance piece about identity, Ali said, “your welcome. i just gave you your next project.”

so there you have that too.

anyhoo, back in December John and i started recording our dreams and sharing them, which turned out to be an excellent way for me to keep on top of the process of doing it. i get super lazy in the morning, which was my reason for recording them in the first place. i was disturbed that “i wasn’t having any dreams,” which i was well aware was an indirect result of my inability to acknowledge the fact that i needed to enter into the conscious world upon waking.

over Thanksgiving, my sister, Alicia, had given me two pixelated journals that reminded her of me (and my insane need to have many crazy-colored journals on hand). during Xmas, i chose one with various different colored rectangles in various shades of mainly pink and blue. it was kind of dream-inducing. and then for Xmas, her partner, DeanLogan, gave me a set of pink moustaches, and i abruptly felt it appropriate to slap one of them onto the cover. while working on Assumptions Made in the Dark, John had brought some Local Natives music to the table and one of the songs was called “Cubism Dream.” and thus, my Cubism Dream Journal was born. writing this now, it not only strikes me as surreal, but also incredibly gender ambiguous.

i need to keep my Cubism Dream Journal by my bed so that i can immediately grab it upon waking or else the dream escapes me. even if i think: there is no way that i could forget that one—it was so crazy! if i don’t write it down, i will forget. my memory is select in the most insistent of ways.

so i started being more strict with myself about this difficult act of dream journaling, as opposed to other activities that feel like second nature. looking back on this process, i feel that it likely has something to do with why i am now able to wake up earlier in the morning, even though the laziness will try to chase me backwards through time until i am not sleeping at all (or in a perpetual cycle of sleep).

but then: how can i share these with John?

i tried taking photos of the pages, but my writing is that of an insane person scrawl and my Lobster Phone mangles it up further when i try to capture its photographic essence. it’s too much work for me to take a photo with my “real” camera and then upload it and then attach it to an email. i just know i won’t do it. so i took to transcribing them. this act turned out to not only get the dreams over to John wherever he was, but it also helped me to articulate them for myself—in the process of transcribing them to read more clearly, i remember more details, or i have really practical interpretations of them after the fact (which “The Complete Dream Book” suggested we do). in some strange way, they have begun to make total sense.

i met with another amazing collaborator the night before, AE. we spoke about my Lobsterbird blog and she commented on the style in which it is written. in that moment, i realized that the tone was a result of the way in which i write it. i write this blog from all areas of time and space. it is written from the future to the past, in the present moment, and in the past transcribed into the future. (i am finishing this very post on July 5th and started it on June 29th, so what kind of funky time negotiations are happening there?) i write to you from my bed, at a computer in a library, in my journal on the train, and in various places around the world (and from various ensuing mental states as well). most of this time and space traveling behavior causes me to need to approach blog writing from a similar process as the dream journaling.

why am i telling you this?

well, much like dreams, i believe that personal matters such as writing are subject to interpretation. dream experts say that we are the best people to interpret our own dreams since they are composed of a series of symbols, of which each of us has a completely different relationship. only i can truly know what my own relationship or experience with something, say like a police officer, is. traditionally police officers are symbols of authority. and i can either respect that authority or dismiss it, depending on interactions that i have had throughout my life with the police. and they can also represent meanings other than authority, such as enforcement, systems, order, pigs, bicycles, or any other number of associations. our own personal culture determines what meanings we attach to symbols and the connections that we make with them in our worlds. (and by culture, i do not necessarily only mean ethnic culture, but rather a wider definition that includes elements such as our socioeconomic backgrounds, our family upbringings, our personal philosophical groups, and more.) and yet, it can sometimes be illuminating to have others who we trust and feel know us very well to interpret our dreams sometimes as well.

DMunk had a dream about me a few nights ago that he shared and he asked me what i thought it meant. i was relieved when he appreciated (rather than hated) my interpretation because i know how intimate sharing dreams can be. John and i sometimes do this for each other when the other person asks. and well, i had a dream about AE the night before i met DMunk that was an odd sort of lucid dream where i had conscious thoughts about what was happening while it was happening. and now i find my self writing it all down here.

so what does it all mean?

well, the thing about understanding our dreams (as with most things in life?) is that it takes awhile before we can really understand them. it is a process to try to do it, one that evolves as our ability to engage in it grows with time. in terms of dreams, we have our conscious mind trying to block them from invading its space. our dream world, likewise, tries to keep conscious thought out because it tends to put a damper on the Surrealist Gala being thrown in our minds. and so what happens when we try to bridge the two together? and what more, when we do so in collaboration with others?

well, in the process of writing to you, i write stream-of-consciously. i transcribe it and add things that are more conscious than streaming. and i try to figure out why i am doing that and what it all means. other people bring new insight to my life daily. and i discover that only time can tell. and so i will just have to keep writing to you and we shall see what other symbols and connections emerge…

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Written by lobsterbird