Envy And The Love/Hate Relationship With Social Media

Envy Plucking The Wings Of Fame — François Guillaume Menageot

Envy Plucking The Wings Of Fame — François Guillaume Menageot

In Japanese tradition, the morning of New Year’s Day = “Hatsumōde”, the first (hatsu) shrine visit (mode) to pray for good luck for the new year. My parents, who are both buddhist, have had this tradition of going to their church on January 1st every year and so, like clockwork, I feel the need to go each year, when possible, on January 1st.

During the last few weeks of December leading up to January 1st, I was starting to feel a strong pull towards change, like a cocooned butterfly, readying to spread its wings, or more so, a caterpillar attempting to transform. The desire to create art that connects more strongly, more genuinely, more directly, with others, continues to deepen. I love abstract art, but was starting to feel like something was missing, lost in translation between the strokes and process. So, I started to dig. The more I searched, the more vast and larger the hole became, and felt myself squirming with discomfort.

Did I want to go in a new direction? What is it that I’m trying to do, trying to say? Or, do I just stick to what I’ve been doing?

After the morning prayer service and sermon, I went downstairs to greet others who were there for Hatsumōde. Most of the conversations consisted of Happy New Year! and How are things going?, but one lady, who I’ve known for as long as I can remember, caught me off guard:

“How is your art practice going?”

The automatic button inside me was just about to reply with a “Good!” when I caught myself and remembered a promise I had made for this coming year: To be more honest, more sincere, and voice my thoughts as clearly as possible.

So, I took a breath, and as vulnerable and naked as I felt inside, said:

“Actually, I’m squirming.” (In Japanese, the word is もがく, mōgaku, which translates to struggling, but this translation feels a bit negative as my experience of being in this space was/is not negative. More explorative, with a mix of unease.)

She looked shocked and said:

“Satsuki! I’m surprised to hear so. You always look so peaceful and sure of yourself. I thought you had it all figured out!”

She’s not the first person who has said this to me, but not sure why. Perhaps it may be because when I am on a path which I believe in 100%, my focus becomes razor sharp, accompanied by a flow, and together could come off on the outside as confidence? If it is, then, I can attest — this is most definitely not always the case or the norm.

When I told her my true situation, without any sugarcoating, there was a sense of relief. Even though a part of me wished I could run off into the hills and never look back, I knew it was the right decision to share my honest feelings. Of course, though, there is a time and place for everything, including putting ourselves in vulnerable situations.

Reading a letter written by LEAH today about envy, there was much that connected with what had been going on internally. One of the thoughts mentioned was this idea of envy being created because of our heightened awareness with the lives of others. Some may say envy fuels them to fight harder, but personally, it’s an energy killer. As Leah says, it’s exhausting. Something about constantly feeling “less than” is taxing, not only on our psyche, but also on our physical wellbeing as well.

Although I don’t watch too much tv, I am very much engaged in social media and during this time of mōgaku, I found myself going head on with the feeling of envy — others who seemed to have figured it all out. It’s not jealousy, or anger. Maybe closer to the feeling of longing, with a few drops of why not me too? FOMO? I’m not sure, but I think you get the picture.

And I began to wonder if social media really is good for us or deteriorating our overall sense of happiness. I found myself teeter-tottering between the good and the bad, still sensing the positive outweighing the negative. Or, “bad” in my own terms as nothing is really “bad” by nature, only based upon our own definitions. Leah continues to talk about how although there are many articles written about how social media is a curation of one’s so-called perfect life or gives an illusion of desire for the unattainable, and that we may know intellectually not to let such things affect us, in reality, it does. The mind and heart are not always in sync and many times, it takes the heart a heck of a longer time to catch up to what my mind is deeming as the right direction to go.

Whatever the case may be, the only answer I’ve come up with so far is to keep sailing towards the direction of one’s inner North Star. If we were to block out all external input and tune into our souls, most of the time the answer is right there waiting for us, like a loving, patient friend. We may not know all the answers, but we do know what feels right and what feels forced. And what aligns may not be what others would understand or agree with, but if the other option is to live life like a zombie, waiting for the next thing to come in front of us, devouring it only for survival and nothing more, are we truly, living?

Envy and the discussion of social media on our psyche will most likely continue as long as we are humans since both play into: insecurity, fear, worry, acceptance, and more.

As for myself, I am like a dog on a hunt, looking for clues that will lead me towards my next step and don’t have all the answers yet, but what I do know is, the more I am honest with myself — the air feels clearer, the heart feels lighter, and the spirit feels freer.

Seeing Past What We Can’t See

Satsuki Shibuya studio (photo: Nitsa + Tasya for Women with Superpowers)

While sitting in the waiting area of the neurologist’s office, a woman with curly hair, glasses, and a very distinct, bright smile looked over. “Hey, is your doctor here because mine hasn’t arrived yet.” and began a contagious, shoulder-bouncing, laugh.

I saw her even before she said hello, walking past while being escorted to the examination room. The first impression I had was that there was something strange about her. Not a positive or negative assessment, just observation. While my arm was cuffed into the automatic heart rate monitor, I didn’t even think twice about what I had thought, just a passing moment, nothing more.

After my vitals were checked and temperature a-okay-ed, I was brought to the waiting area. Not truly a waiting area, more of a hallway with ten chairs lined against the wall, half being of a different pattern. I saw the woman again, sitting, looking at her phone and decided to sit two seats away from her. A good distance, not too close, but not too far. Far from what? I’m not sure, but there was something comforting about not being a lone ranger waiting in an unfamiliar place.

She continued to talk after her initial hello, telling me about a friend whom she said was a nuisance, talking about the same subject, over and over to her. She would call her, day and night, text her, and I found out they were roommates for over 20 years. She told me about her parents and how she was so ready to move out and that it was the only reason why she decided to become roommates with this crazy friend. This friend, is neurotic, attention-seeking, and lonely. I didn’t get much time to really say anything, just listen, and at first, I wasn’t sure if she was talking about herself or her friend as my mind was starting to feel overwhelmed with no break in sound. But, for some reason, I continued to listen.

Then, the conversation took a turn.

She asked me how long I had been coming to the neurologist’s office.
I said it was my first time.
I asked her if it was her first time.
“No, I’ve been coming here since I was young. I have epilepsy.”

For a minute, I wasn’t sure how to respond.
I’m usually quite good at things like this, being able to associate, understand, and yet, the way her smile suddenly disappeared, her shoulders, hunched as she looked at her hands, picking at her nails, and her curly hair covered her eyes. My heart stung. And, I was lost for words.

Then, as if breaking out from a trance, she looked up, smiled, and said, “Well, people get scared of me, of things they don’t understand.”

I quickly Googled epilepsy to make sure I wasn’t mistaking it for any other thoughts in my head and to address her sincerity with equal respect, or try, at least.

Now, my curiosity, coupled with compassion, kicked into overdrive.
“What do you mean when you say people get scared?”

Episode upon episode pour out from her lips. Stories of strangers passing by, ignoring her cry for help as she reached into the air during one of her seizures, unable to speak clearly due to her constricting throat. Collapsing onto the sidewalk suddenly because of another attack or onto some random person’s front yard and instead of worrying about her situation, is riddled with thoughts of the owner coming out and kicking her off of their property. 7, 8 people pretending not to notice, only for the 9th person to finally come and ask if she needs help.

As each story was told, she was eloquent, educated, and well-versed. I couldn’t help but notice a wedding ring on her finger as she drew images of the stories in the air with her arms. My mind was racing, “How could people do such things! And is she married? Is her husband also epileptic? Are her strange motions due to her seizure episodes?” And while these sentences overlapped one another faster than I could decipher, she interjects with, “And you know what? It’s because of our backwards society! People are so scared of getting sued, of being responsible for things happening to them, to get involved with something they don’t understand. It’s sad. And it’s not just me. So many of my friends or those I’ve met throughout the years who have epilepsy or other medical issues have encountered similar situations, have shared similar stories. What happened to being human?”

YES. Exactly.

We get caught up in what we see and equate that to something we had either conjured up in our minds or have decided as truth, when in reality, it could be the farthest from the truth. Before sitting and talking with her, I had my own thoughts, my own conclusions. And yet, here I was, learning another important life lesson from someone I least expected to be a teacher. I knew what she was talking about because I have been there. We have all been there and yet, we forget. We forget because once it has passed or we see another as a separate being from us, it becomes distant. But what she taught me was before all else, to be human. That’s relatable, because, we are all human, after all. It is what connects us all.

As I was having this awakening conversation, internally riled up from dots connecting at lightening speed, now wanting to talk more, learn more, a nurse came and called her name. She jumped up and said, “That’s me!” and just as quickly as she jumped into my awareness, she leaped away behind the doors that read Personnel Only, calling out from the corridor, “Father! Father! I’m going in to see the doctor now. Come! Come!”

I see a gentleman, in jeans and a t-shirt, slowly walking past me, maybe in his mid-70’s, maybe a bit more, multiple bags under his eyes, creased down lips, staring blankly into his cell phone.

The thought that runs through my mind, “There must have been so much more to this story.”

(Painting: SURGE, close-up. Photo: Nitsa + Tasya for Women With Superpowers)

Gifts That Keep On Giving

Watching this commercial, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales going on in the U.S., it made me wonder about what gift giving has become compared to our parents or grandparents. It reminds me of the saying, “When I was your age, things were __________.”

As in this Elton John piece, Your Song, where he writes:

“It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money, but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live.”

What were the thoughts of our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and ancestors when they were giving gifts? Did holidays always equate to giving someone, something? For some reason, I feel we have lost a bit of the magic that comes with the act of giving a gift.

I was watching a TV show recently where the boyfriend interviewed said he did not want to do anything fancy when proposing as each following year, more would be expected.

There are other instances where women are upset at the size of their engagement ring because it is not of a particular size or loved ones receiving the “wrong” gift and putting on a fake smile to please the other.

But what is gift giving anyway? What is the point of gifting someone? As this commercial shares, depending on our intentions, it can be a life-altering moment. Something humble or grand, yet meaningful. It doesn’t have to be big, doesn’t have to be glamorous, doesn’t have to be the latest, but to be from the heart.

I remember laughing when my mom said to me one year near her birthday, “If you are planning to buy me something for my birthday, ask me. Let me know what you are thinking and I’ll let you know if I want it. There is only so much space in our house and the last thing I need is something I can’t use or want.” Hilarious! And love how straight up she can be. Gangster.

But it got me thinking — that’s true. We have so much stuff in our lives, so much stuff outside of our lives, and find ourselves getting stuff to figure out how to use the stuff we have too much of. I’m not saying we have to all go completely monk-style, but believe there is a need to reevaluate.

They say a consumer has the dollar power to shift what and how things are created, but perhaps we can also include why we decide to give — is it for our benefit to feel good about ourselves or is it about creating, giving, enhancing happiness in the life of another. Gifting, after all, is another language of love.

 

(Video via John Lewis & Partners YouTube page) 

Two People And The Tension Between

David Hockney,  Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) , 1972. Courtesy of Christie’s, via Artsy

David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972. Courtesy of Christie’s, via Artsy

I find it quite interesting to people watch. It is one of the things I love to do and find myself in gaze-mode whenever I am sitting alone, whether at a restaurant or waiting in line at the grocery store. There is something deeply enchanting about witnessing another’s facial expression, the way they interact with another, the thoughts that make eyebrows furrow, or why a woman decides to grow out a blonde mustache. We are lively creatures in the most intricate of ways. 

While reading this article this morning, crunching on some cereal comprised of raisins, almonds, buckwheat flakes, and Cheerios-looking bean-based O’s, it made me think about a conversation I was having during a recent studio visit. The idea of 2-dimensional artwork not having as much impact as 3D as of late.

With computers and the internet taking over our brains, without realizing, we are becoming more and more accustomed to the stimulation that comes with a faster-paced life. Who has time for reading when there are apps that give you a summary? Where is the need for human interaction when a robot can do everything for you? And yet, a peculiar trend is happening: younger folks are choosing human gatherings over internet surfing, niche magazines are popping up more than ever, and mindfulness is becoming a trend.

What does this all mean? What is happening? 

I think we are missing human connection. One-on-one time. The energy shared with others. Something magical happens when we mix with one another and it can only be when we are face to face. But simply put: no matter how advanced we might become as a race, fundamentally, we are human. There is no escaping this fact. And humans are not built to live alone, and more-so, thrive on interconnectivity. The degree as to how much is on a sliding scale, but at the core, we all want to be acknowledged, understood, seen, and loved. 

There is something to be said about this in relation to art — that even with all the bells and whistles of the computer-age, with its moving images and creation of neo-reality, there is an innate need for us to stand still, take a moment, contemplate, and be with ourselves; a stillness we crave deep down. I believe this is why we are even more today, drawn to mindfulness, meditation, reading, and viewing art. These create moments where we can connect back to our humanness, a part of ourselves we tend to lose when hustling from one thing to another. 

That is why art is still relevant, painting is still revealing, writing is still transformative, and the gaze between two humans, enticing.

 

(Linked article via Artsy, Why This Painting Will Make David Hockney The Most Expensive Living Artist) 

Hello + Welcome

I decided to start a blog. But, not truly a blog because I’m bad at blogging. I’ve tried to start a blog 4 times now (does Tumblr count? Then, 5.) and have failed miserably. Why? Because, there is something about rules and rigidness that just does not jive with what feels right. I feel trapped and it becomes a chore. Then, I run away; far, far, away.

I asked on Instagram Stories the question:

I’m debating on whether to start blogging again. What do you think?

I was shocked at the responses and very, VERY, humbled. Thank you for taking the time to reply to my question. Some wrote back sharing their thoughts on writing another book instead or starting up the podcast again. Thank you. I’ve thought about both and hope to revisit these projects again as it is of deep interest.

But here I am, starting up another blog.

This time, though, it’s going to be different. The approach, different.

I thought about why I would even want to blog again and what good it would do in the ocean of other blogs on the internet. Would it even make a difference? And then, I got some advice that made me decide on going forth with the idea.

“People will always want more. You can give them ‘x’, but then they will ask for ‘y’. It has to ultimately be something you want to do. Something that brings you joy.”

Yes. That was the point I was trying to connect between blogging and why, because, everything takes time. Writing a post, takes time. Creating a painting, time. Being on Instagram, time. And time is not limitless as long as we are in human form. So, with it being limited, I thought, how would blogging enhance anything? Or, am I wanting to do it for the wrong reasons?

Blogging can’t be blogging for me. It wouldn’t be right for the friends who I dearly love and respect who make a living blogging. But, it can be a journal, a place where I share unfinished thoughts, kind of like my sketchbook, yet in words. There is so much that goes on in my mind and although I do journal religiously, there are just too many other interests, thoughts, feelings, emotions — just, things, swirling in my mind! So, a place I can be frank, honest, unfinished, unpolished, free, messy, doodle, typos, grammatical errors — whatever. A place to not worry about being perfect. A place to catalogue my journey, and along the way, share.

I don’t know how long I will be able to continue this, but one never knows until they try. I’ve tried several times, but then again, there are things in my life I’ve tried and disliked, only to try again at a later point in my life and fall in love. One never knows.

So, I guess, here we go, again! Welcome.

With love,
Satsuki