“Well I haven’t fucked much with the past/ But I’ve fucked plenty with the future.” –Patti Smith
As a disaffected fifteen year old, I attended a high school known for academic excellence, a terrible football team, and wealthy nitwits who would chant at their winning opponents “that’s alright, that’s ok, you’re going to work for us someday…”.
Hidden inside my beige NoteTote binder, the one that travelled with me from class to class, were two pages of subversion and salvation in the form of homemade lists that I added to on the daily while pretending to be studious. One list was titled “Fuck”, the other “Things to Do”.
The “Fuck” list contained angsty entries like “the system”, “apathy”, “ignorance”, “hypocrites”, “you”, “me”, “everyone and everything”. Teen misanthropy and self-righteousness at its finest. “Things to Do” was more whimsical and generative, suggesting undertakings like “be aware of wonder”, “dance”, “climb a tree”, and “learn to surf” (the last one I finally did in my 30s and it was awesome).
CEC’s December theme of “Fuck It” brought these lists to mind, as a beautiful hybrid of the two. On one hand, we can say “fuck it” to mean “I’m out. I’ve had enough. This is bullshit”. The breaking point that becomes the impetus to draw boundaries and stand up for what we know is right, destroy the systems and tendencies that hold us back – both the structures of oppression all around us and their echoes inside of us.
On the flip side, we can use “fuck it” to mean throw caution to the wind, to say “I’m in. Fuck yeah! Let’s goooooooo!”. This one liberates us from the “should” of it all, gives inspiration to be spontaneous, and permission to be different from who we think we need to be.
Earlier this month I “went” on a retreat, a week of meditating on Zoom from my apartment. While I miss the days of in-person retreats in serene settings with minimal distractions and meals cooked for me, I’ve noticed these pandemic-era home retreats actually give me the chance to better interrupt my ingrained habits and untangle patterns of behaviour in real time. Like many, when the pandemic lockdowns began 18 months ago, I had grand plans to put all this newfound time into improving the space I was now stuck in, cleaning, organizing, redecorating my small apartment that was now also my office, gym, restaurant, classroom and everything else. But I didn’t, instead sinking into a period of depression that made even small changes seem impossible.
Many months and a steady diet of therapy and medication later, I decided to use this latest Zoom retreat to face some of those tasks, and my resistance to doing them. What I found was a trove of feelings and stories that had become obstacles to even getting started: a fear of failure, a feeling of unworthiness, a resistance to change…each requiring its own unique cocktail of examination, understanding, acceptance and self-compassion to navigate. I left the week with a spruced up kitchen (yay!) and a deeper knowledge of why I find it so hard to invest in my own well-being.
It’s a tricky balance. While meditation has been an enormous boon to my mental health and life in general, sometimes practice becomes yet another goal-oriented task. The quest to be a “good meditator” becomes another thing to strive for and fall short of. At times like that, I switch up my practice by saying “fuck it”. Call off the search. The practice of just sitting, “doing nothing”, gives me the permission to exist just as I am. For someone who too often defines their worth by work and utility to others, this can be a radical act of self-acceptance.
This month I want to practice saying fuck off to these limiting beliefs that tell me that my existence is conditional. That I don’t deserve a place in the world unless I’m constantly earning my keep. Fuck that. And then say fuck yeah to acting from love and not fear, and embracing the everchanging nature of who I am.
The end of another strange, liminal year also seems a good time to reflect more broadly on what’s been interrupted, what can change, what’s worth investing in and what should be left behind for good as we maybe, possibly, move towards a post-pandemic world. My list says fuck yeah to putting less strain on the fragile planet, to continued rethinking of workplace culture, to supporting those places and people that make our communities better, to normalizing conversations of consent and boundaries, to making social time more meaningful and intentional, and finding innovative ways to bridge distance with global community…
And fuck it, no more to inequality, ignorance, apathy, hypocrisy…pretty much all the things that were on my teen angst “Fuck” list, really. Plus ça change…