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On Gratitude

Juniper Holloway, titular character from upcoming project. Follow all updates on my Patreon.

It's a beautiful Sunday where I am. Though it's cold, it's not bitter, and I have warm coffee and a comfortable home from which to work, sleep, cook, stretch, and dance. I need for nothing, and that fills me with so much gratitude.

I like the word gratitude.

It used to bother me, because it was hard to understand. When families gather around this time of year, they profess their gratitude, and it all sounds so rehearsed, without thought.

As a kid, I liked the holidays because I got to eat as much as I wanted, and get material presents. When I got older, and what I ate came under more scrutiny, and the gifts became fewer, holidays lost their luster. It didn't occur to me that was the only time of the year my family all gathered under one roof and ate dinner at the same table. This year I won't be with my family, or anyone for that matter, as I stay in quarantine. Perhaps not coincidentally, this would also be the first time in my still young life that I truly understand what I am grateful for.

I am grateful for absolutely everything. And I mean, everything. How am I granted so many blessings? In a cosmic and existential way, I deserve none of it. By molecular comparison, I am no greater or lesser than the beggar or the thief. My religious upbringing told me it was a karmic balance, that I deserve better for not being the beggar or the thief. But truthfully, I've never had the opportunities or motives to break my moral code. I never wanted for food or warmth, the base of my hierarchical needs was never shaken. And those who are cold and hungry and not cold and hungry for lack of trying.

So, as I left the church and sought "God" and the meaning of life on my own terms, I asked myself, why do I get to have what other people are actively denied? I can go out and volunteer, get involved in politics, and march and protest, to fight against these cosmic injustices, but what really frustrates me is that some have the POWER to oppress, and create those imbalances and injustices. We are all composed of the same amount of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc. These were the questions that drove me to study history, how did we get from nomadic hunter gatherers, to Hammurabi's code, the Holocaust, AI and a constant simmering threat of nuclear winter. Power is a socioeconomic invention, inevitable and unpredictable. It makes everything seem so big, difficult, and impossible.

As a kid on Christmas morning, I actively fought back tears because I didn't get this one thing I wanted, and my world came crashing around me. And in the grand scheme of things, it didn't matter. And in the grander scheme of things, none of this matters. Perhaps it was in the face of total nihilism did I finally understand how to love and be grateful for the few things I can claim as my own-- like my family, my body, and my art.

I hope others can begin to feel this gratitude, as we face challenges, fears, and anxieties.

I have been working on my new project. I've talked about it enough here, but it's already evolving to a point where I'm reconsidering and rewriting large swaths of what I thought was a completed story. But that's the process, I guess, as I become more intimately familiar with the story. Hard to believe that after eight years, there's still more to discover about these characters and their stories.

The image for today's post is of Juniper Holloway, the titular character. I think you will love her, but more importantly I hope that you can love like her. The way she lives and expresses love is so gracious and full-- it comes from a place of great loss. June, along with the other character Tal, both experience tremendous loss, but react differently as they age. June believes she never deserved love, while Tal cannot believe that her loved ones could hurt her. It's... well, it's hard to say it just over text. That's why I'm making a very long comic about it! But it deals a lot with the concept of womanhood and motherhood.

Through this project, I've been diving further into an exploration of female body horror and extraterrestrial searches as a storytelling device for motherhood. I wrote a short essay about it, which will be posted on my Patreon sometime in the next week, where I also share how it relates to my current project. Although it's not body horror or searching for aliens, it takes a look at similar themes of womanhood. I'll publish a slightly modified free version on Medium, but I encourage you to become a patron, because it's not a lot of money, I'll give you all of my books, and you can read all about my process and theories.

I've also finished this month's playlist, which I'll post along with some progress pages on my Patreon either today or tomorrow. Here's the first song on November's work playlist:

stay healthy, stay safe.

i love you all.

xo a.z.

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