Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Dear Vincent, Thank you for responding to my hysterical phone call.


Dear Vincent,

Thank you for responding to my hysterical phone call. I think I found the perfect new apartment to live in. I will just need to get slightly richer and also, a washing machine. So far I’ve felt somewhat better for almost two days. In French, the parts of my body have different ages, while in English, they are different ages. The difference, it could be significant.

When I was fifteen years old, I wrote my memoirs in a scrapbook for Mrs. Cameron’s grade twelve English class. Being a gifted child, I took the class when I was in grade eleven and since I had skipped grade two, I was younger than everyone else. Halfway through the semester, I crapped out with an overdose on laxatives, and ended up going to a psych ward. For much of my homework that year, my teachers let me off the hook, though this didn’t make that much sense, as I still made time to go on 15k punitive runs with ankle weights. But I did complete the scrapbook. Like so many teenagers, the scrapbook is unfathomably intense, awkward, vulnerable, poignant and exquisite. At the end, I expressed having gained so much insight from the hospital and held such hope that I would get over so many of my dysfunctional patterns.

When my father read it he said, “You write well when you write about yourself. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

I joked and said, “Well, I’m much wiser now,” which wasn’t true since I’d graduated from laxatives to puking, from the gym to long distance running, and was now down to the weight I always thought would render me happy, but in fact left me strung out and neurotic.

“No, you didn’t gain any wisdom or insight,” said my dad, never one to provide false praise. “But you write well when you write about yourself.” I do not tend to show my dad all that much of my writing. Otherwise, writing is not all that embarrassing. Only a little bit.

Inside the scrapbook, at the end of the story of my life, I’d made a super intense yet beautiful and highly teenage collage.
 
With Mr. Sketch Smelly markers, I’d begun with an upside down rainbow. I’d considered rainbows to have symbol of my life, if for no reason other than my childhood obsession with the Wizard of Oz, and my childish desire to fly above the rainbow with Dorothy and the bluebirds. Just like in the song, above the Mr Sketch rainbow was a perfect clear turquoise sky, painted thickly with oils, and speckled with yellow petals of flowers someone had brought me in the hospital, and the psych ward craft room feathers. Below were a bunch of fragments. Angry conflicted oil paint from art therapy, a big red x. My trademark Crayola designs emblematic of the hundreds of homemade greeting cards I used to give. A patch from my sister’s childhood Rainbow Bright sheets. And a squiggle of orange and yellow pipe cleaner that symbolized something deep, like rage or conflict, but I can’t remember exactly what.

On the next page, I’d drawn a right-side up rainbow and written the words to Over the Rainbow with a special silver pen. Shiny quarter note and hummingbird stickers also decorated the page.

Then there was an excerpt from my grade one journals from Mrs Vanden Bosch’s class.  I’d drawn a rainbow according to the colours in the song, “I can sing a rainbow.” Under that rainbow stood a row of tiny humans outlined in pencil and coloured in with crayons according to the song’s colour scheme. All the tiny humans had circles for hands with five little nubs for fingers. They all wore top hats. Mrs. Vanden Bosch had granted a green circular sticker and a check mark for my respectable printing of the song’s lyrics, “red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue I can sing a rinbow.” I only misspelled one word, and forgot the period after blue.

My fifteen year old memoirs contain very few spelling mistakes. A few pages before the angsty collage, I summarized what the psychiatrist Dr. Roberts had concluded were my main problems. Dr. Roberts wore her hair in a bun that was so tight it looked like it was pulling on her face. Her skirts were similarly tight and oppressive looking and all the patients shuddered whenever they heard her coming down the hall in high heels. I used to call Dr Roberts the Nazi Psychiatrist, though maybe the Wicked Witch of the West would have been more accurate, and it would have matched the clever Wizard of Oz motif in the story of my life. But Wicked Witch or Nazi, Dr Roberts left me with decisive conclusions about my life, and some of them still feel almost true.

May 2001, Erica Schmidt, age 15:

“Dr Roberts concluded that because I based all self-worth on external praise, I created all this stress for myself trying to please others. I’ve prevented myself from growing as an individual and I’m stuck at about 12 years old instead of 15 or 16. I changed my personality around different people trying to be the person they wanted me to be and now I don’t know who I am or what makes me happy. I would change my voice and had a bad habit of speaking in an ‘infantile voice’ trying to seem cute, na├»ve and innocent. She said that not everyone will ever like me no matter how sweet. She said that sometimes too sweet is yucky.”

So often I remember the words, “too sweet is yucky.”

Two nights ago, on the Insomnia Bed, I yelled out in my sleep, because I was dreaming I had cut up the angsty teenage collage into small pieces. Chunks of my sister’s Rainbow Bright bedsheets were scattered everywhere. Though I woke up relieved, the rage I’d felt in and at the collage made sense. For now, nothing is quite destroyed, but I think I will avoid that page in the scrapbook.

September 15, 1993, Erica Schmidt, Age 8:

(Grade Four, Close to the Peak of My Life, Mrs Fournier’s Class)

“As soon as I woke up I decided I’d feed my fish. I got out of bed and got the fish food. I hadn’t even looked at my fish but when I did… Yuck! One of my fish was on the glass it was dead. The other two had black spots. (they looked sick) I told Mom. I found out that two of them died because when Mom took them out two were dead. The other one is fine. I bet it will be as tough as goldie my old fish. She went down the drain and came back alive. Isn’t that amazing.”

See you Wednesday, Vincent!

Love, Erica.

The End.

Vincent was my therapist from October of 2016, and May 2017. After we ran out of subsidized sessions, I began to write him daily imaginary emails.

I called the project, "Mondays without Vincent," and it turned out to be quite healing. You too can write imaginary emails to Vincent. In fact, if you'd like, you can send them to me, on any day of the week.


My secret address is: ericaschmidt85(at)gmail.com.


Let me know if you’d like a response. The correspondence can remain between us, or else we can share it here with others and maybe it could be healing for everyone.  Love, Erica. 







Thursday, 10 August 2017

Dear Vincent, Now we have passed my thirteenth Monday without you.


Dear Vincent,

Now we have passed my thirteenth Monday without you. I threw up the day several times. The crisis centre counsellor named Bernard said that meditation should really be giving me more benefits that I seemed to be experiencing that day. I told him that as crisis counsellor, he should know that most people come to yoga and meditation because their lives are a total disaster, and in the end, the results are not often all that revolutionary or spectacular. Then I asked if he had ever meditated, and he said yes, but that he had since stopped.

“Why,” I asked.

“Well, I have other things to do now,” Bernard replied. Everyone has other things and better things to do. Bernard’s English wasn’t excellent. I judged him on his appearance, which I will not describe.  When we had twenty minutes left, I went to dry heave in the bathroom next door.

“You don’t see me,” I wailed when I got back. “I miss Vincent.” One time a kid I was babysitting said she missed her old babysitter. I did not care enough to feel insulted.

That morning I’d woken up at 3:30 a.m. and meditated for forty-five minutes all through the Hour of God. Then I made coffee, drawing and colouring in six red moula bandha root chakras as it brewed.


moula bandha root chakra.
Courtesy of Crayola.
Since it was the Full Moon, I did not practice yoga. Instead I drank coffee and tried to complete the book I am working on about cleaning. It is called, “The Deep Cleans Life Cleanse: 99 Strategies for feeling smug and on type of life.” Strategies include cleaning the gunk underneath your light switches with a toothbrush, eradicating rubbermaids and bathroom baskets, and throwing out your fat pants. I only had 32 strategies left to go. Somehow, I listed them all in point form. When I was done, I masturbated, ovulated, ran out of the house to get a latte, and then totally crapped out. It seems I am no longer a two-coffee per-day sort of person.

I should have asked Bernard why he became a crisis counsellor. It’s possible he became a crisis counsellor due to the fact that his life was a total disaster. Just like people who write self-help books about being smug and on top of life do so due to the fact that their lives are a total disaster. Their lives if not their Tupperware drawers. As it happens, I own no Tupperware. I own very little.

“Call us if you’re not okay,” Bernard said as I left. Pretty sure I won’t.

Facebook keeps showing me memories of my happy Prozac face.
Back when I used to be on Prozaac, and it wasn't making me twitchy or suicidal, I told you I was ready to fall in love. You laughed and said, “Everyone loves apple pie.” I don’t love apple pie, but will eat it on occasion to be polite.

I hope your Full Moon was better than mine.
Love, Erica.

Happy Prozac Face
Vincent was my therapist from October of 2016, and May 2017. After we ran out of subsidized sessions, I began to write him daily imaginary emails. I called the project, "Mondays without Vincent," and it turned out to be quite healing. You too can write imaginary emails to Vincent. In fact, if you'd like, you can send them to me, on any day of the week.


My secret address is: ericaschmidt85(at)gmail.com.

Let me know if you’d like a response. The correspondence can remain between us, or else we can share it here with others and maybe it could be healing for everyone. Love, Erica. 




Sad Face
Monday, August 8, 2017 (Full Moon)




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Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
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Bodhisattva Business Ventures:


Deep Cleans by Erica J. Schmidt (@deepcleanswitherica)
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Instagram: montrealhippiethreads



Dear Vincent. Are you lonely? Do you have a pain body?
Three Quickies, including, I still wish I was Miranda July
How I am violent, by Erica J. Schmidt



Sunday, 6 August 2017

Dear Vincent, How is your headstand going?


Dear Vincent,

How is your headstand going? Nice to run into you on the corner of Beaubien and St-Vallier, on Monday, July 31st, around 5:47 P.M. In fact, seeing you made my legs start to wobble, and my body proceeded to twitch for five and a half blocks before I began to sob in the company of my friend Caroline, as we stood beneath the glass of Plaza St. Hubert and in front of an unapologetic candy store where diabetics could easily eat their way into oblivion and/or death.

Yes, I would like to continue therapy with you. Even though I thought you ghosted me due to the fact that I confessed to writing you daily imaginary emails which might have made me seem to intense and crazy and attached to you. By the way, lots of people get too attached to their therapists. In case you weren’t aware. Though the whole world doesn’t know it, most of the world does know that I do not excel at professional boundaries. Perhaps we can discuss this in therapy. I’d also like to work on dissolving my Ego Project. My friend Caroline would recommend throwing this sort of thing into the Lachine Canal. That’s where I threw all my character defects in March of 2011. My ego likes the sound of the sentence, “The Lachine canal must be inundated with all sorts of thrown out dreams and deadened aspirations.” Inundated, deadened, and obscene. I enjoy all of these words.

Do you have an ego project? Maybe that’s the headstand. I tend to stand on my head between three and five times per week. These days my neck and shoulders are a little stiff. I’ve given up trying to sleep on the floor.

It was nice to run into you on the corner of Beaubien and St-Vallier Street on Monday, July 31st around 5:47 P.M. At least that’s the socially reasonable thing to say. Otherwise I’ll leave the professional boundaries up to you.

Love, Erica.

 The End.


Vincent was my therapist from October of 2016, and May 2017. After we ran out of subsidized sessions, I began to write him daily imaginary emails. I called the project, "Mondays without Vincent," and it turned out to be quite healing. You too can write imaginary emails to Vincent. In fact, if you'd like, you can send them to me, on any day of the week.


My secret address is: ericaschmidt85(at)gmail.com.


Let me know if you’d like a response. The correspondence can remain between us, or else we can share it here with others and maybe it could be healing for everyone. My ego project would love for this to be a success, but I'm trying to let that dissolve, so no pressure. Love, Erica. 

Most Ego Project photos have already ended up on the Interwebs.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go

Bodhisattva Business Ventures:

Deep Cleans by Erica J. Schmidt (@deepcleanswitherica)
Montreal Hippie Threads (@mtlhippiethreads)
Instagram: montrealhippiethreads



God Box
The Permafrost is melting in Siberia
Lizzie

Monday, 31 July 2017

Dear Vincent, Are you lonely? Do you have a pain body?

Dear Vincent,

Are you lonely?
Do you have a pain body?
I think almost
everyone
has a Pain Body.
And I’m pretty sure that
almost
everyone
is lonely.


Everyone knows what loneliness is. As for the Pain Body, this happens when some circumstance or event triggers your deep human wounds, and then you feel like a four-year-old child whose ice cream has fallen off the cone. Some people’s pain bodies are exceptionally persistent and stubborn, and this makes it difficult to keep their weeping delicate in the Dollarama line-up where they might be buying vinegar, or envelopes, or shiny ocean animal stickers for their ten-year-old pen pal named Lucas who once wrote, “I don’t have brothers or sisters. I have autism.”

For the future, me and my friend Paul predict that Extreme Loneliness and Extreme Social Awkwardness will permeate the whole world. Much of this is due to smart phones and ghosting and a lack of face-to-face contact. The other Universal Predicaments of existence are Horny, Hungry, and Tired.
My sense is
that Awkward
will also get to be
a Universal Predicament.
And so there are five universal predicaments.
Lonely, Horny, Hungry, Tired, and Awkward.
 
Yesterday, I met with all five of the Universal Predicaments.
Plus a pain body that made it rather strenuous to keep my weeping delicate in the Dollarama line-up where I was buying vinegar, envelopes and shiny ocean animal stickers for my ten-year-old pen pal named Lucas who does not have brothers or sisters, but has autism .
 
Lonely, Horny, Hungry, Tired, and Awkward.
 
We have no idea if you – Vincent – are suffering from the Universal Predicaments, and if so, which ones, and what kind of Pain Body is making it hard for you to keep your weeping delicate in the Dollarama line-up.
Or maybe you are buying toothpaste at Jean Coutu,
or grapes at the fruiterie,
or cider or vodka
or whatever’s on sale at the SAQ.  
 
Nobody knows. The Real Vincent does not write back.
Today is my twelfth
Monday
Without Vincent.
I think I sound more
Obsessed with you
Than I actually am,
though I do sound very Obsessed.
So far today, I have only wept once, and mostly this weeping was delicate.
Love, Erica.




The End.


Vincent was my therapist from October of 2016, and May 2017. After we ran out of subsidized sessions, I began to write him daily imaginary emails. I called the project, "Mondays without Vincent," and it turned out to be quite healing. You too can write imaginary emails to Vincent. In fact, if you'd like, you can send them to me, on any day of the week.




My secret address is: ericaschmidt85(at)gmail.com.

Let me know if you’d like a response. The correspondence can remain between us, or else we can share it here with others and maybe it could be healing for everyone. Love, Erica. 


Inspiration equals: Bliss & Grit.


I listened to Bliss & Grit last night while cleaning someone else's glass surfaces.
Probably coulda helped at the beginning of the day
that did not see me weep
very delicately.
Bliss & Grit on Facebook
Episode 35: Pain Bodies in Action
Brooke Thomas is still quite delightful
even when she feels like a Debbie Downer.
Both Brooke and  Vanessa are delightful.
I forgot about the term
Debbie Downer and now remember
that I love it.
Thank you for your podcast, Bliss and Grit!





Debbie Downer
Pain Body
Picture for the Internet
July 30, 2017

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go


Bodhisattva Business Ventures:

Deep Cleans by Erica J. Schmidt (@deepcleanswitherica)
Montreal Hippie Threads (@mtlhippiethreads)
Instagram: montrealhippiethreads



Professional Depressed
Dear Vincent, Sorrowful Simon has written you a letter.
Today is Holy Thursday and I'm having a Holy Hell of a time meditating.










Saturday, 29 July 2017

Dear Vincent, Sorrowful Simon has written you a letter.

Dear Vincent,


Sorrowful Simon has written you a letter. He sounds quite sad. Sorrowful Simon initially reached out to me on the dating site, OkCupid. We’ve never met in real life. My excuse for not going a date with him was that I had already experienced a Sorrowful Simon in a rather extensive way. You, and some other people know that the first Sorrowful Simon in my life ended up jumping off a building. Perhaps my excuse for not going on a date was adequate. Now I have repeated the name, “Sorrowful Simon,” four-and now five-times in one paragraph. That’s enough times. It is time to address Simon’s plight.

 

Simon says,
 
By habit, or because they sense that I’m not doing too good, friends have been asking me how I am feeling more frequently lately, and I’m finding it difficult to answer them with any degree of clarity. Like Erica, I had a therapist which really helped me a few months back, and in the same way I ran out of allowed sessions so we had to part ways. Since then, I have strived to keep clarifying my feelings and emotions in my head, but inevitably I get lazy and stop doing it regularly, which then makes it harder to do so, and the cycle leads to where I’m at right now, I guess: having so much in my head that nothing can get out, or just barely, sometimes when I get drunk/high and start writing poems, or if I start talking with a friend or a lover and I’m in the right frame of mind (but then sooner or later I start thinking that I’m boring that person, imposing, or just not making sense, and I reel back my outspoken outburst).
 
Dear Simon, How are you?
 
So easily this question can trigger such performance anxiety. It sounds like your friends genuinely care and want to know, and yet you feel like you can’t quite open up, because what if the true answer is actually too much? My sense is that many people feel as though if they were to honestly reveal themselves, all their feelings and suffering and struggles, that this would be way too much for those around them. An unacceptable and tedious burden. And so you hold back. But this doesn’t sound like a viable option, since it is building up to more than you can bear. You need a mode of expression, a means of release. I’m sorry that therapy is no longer available. How can you replicate some of the relief it provided?
 
Alcohol and drugs, well, these can have their place, as long as they’re pursued without desperation or addiction. But substances have their limits as long-term sources of comfort. In my experience, they tend to isolate over time, in addition to generating shame and/or oblivion, whether immediate or in their aftermath. Thus, with as clear a mind as you can access, I think you need to reach out to real people, either your friends, or the kind voices at the end of a crisis helpline. Choose the most non-judgmental and compassionate person you can find, perhaps not your mother, but maybe. And then speak. So frequently I hear of people finally opening up to their loved ones, disclosing the deep and seemingly intolerable darkness on their hearts. And you know what their loved ones say? “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
 
Simon:
 
There are so many things I could say right now, things which I know are weighing down on me, but to explain them in a coherent manner would require so much back-story… I don’t know if you would think it relevant or even intelligible.
 
Some of those things concern my ex-wife and children… some are about the situation with my current lover… some are about my day-to-day life and yearnings… about writing, which I still consider to be my vocation, but a failed one… but mostly it’s about Loneliness, which (I realized recently) I am more afraid of than Death (which is paradoxical, seeing as I am a solitary person by nature, and quite enjoy solitude).
 
At some point it will likely be worthwhile to rehash and unleash all the backstory. But right now I want to talk about writing. Writing and then Loneliness. But first writing. Although failing at any vocation sounds immensely painful, writing is a particularly loaded thing to fail at. There are all sorts of so-called empowering self-help books on how to awaken your creativity and write incessantly, prolifically, uninhibitedly, and with unrelenting joy, great brilliance and then you get rich and famous. I have read most of these books. Last summer, I threw out a book called, “The Right to Write” and I hope to avoid encountering such publications for the rest of my life.
 
No book will grant you with “The Right to Write.” It is all yours. Always. As for vocations and failure, humans invented both of these things, and while I don’t want to invalidate your perception, it could be helpful to challenge your beliefs on what it is you are “supposed” to be doing, and what it means to be successful.
 
On the bathroom wall of where I am staying, there’s a list written by a 90-year-old woman, containing 45 lessons that life taught her. The woman’s name is Regina
One of Regina’s lessons is, “All that really matters in the end, is that you loved.”
It’s possible that this sentence provides you with absolutely no relief. It might even fill you with cynicism. But I want you to consider what your list would be. Will becoming a successful writer truly provide you with the redemption you think you need? What societal bullshit are you clinging to? What personal bullshit are you clinging to? When you are 90 years old or younger and dying, what choices will seem like excruciating mistakes? What memories will bring you peace? What does your meaningful life look like? As Oprah would say, “What do YOU want?”
 
I used to think I wanted to be a best-selling novelist. Over and over again, I would write the first 80 pages of “My Life’s Work.” Then one morning after cranking my various spines through a sweaty yoga practice in India, I realized, the hell with it. I don’t want to write novels. The act of writing novels entails a whole slew of tasks I don’t particularly enjoy. For example, making things up. Rewriting drafts of long and imaginary stories over and over again. Writing about something other than myself and my own life. Well, this embarrassing, but honest. And what a relief to let that so-called dream unravel.
 

You get to choose the terms of your own success, creative or otherwise. During the spring of 2015, I decided that I would combat the unrelenting notion that I was perpetually failing creatively by committing to publishing two blogs per week, no matter what. This became my creative practice, and though I only maintained it religiously for a few months, it got me out of an angsty stagnant funk. I came up with a whole bunch of work that I am proud of and that even made me feel more at peace about the possibility of dying. Some people read it and most of the world didn’t. To a certain extent, Margaret Atwood’s experience is not all that different. We are all like Margaret Atwood, and not at all.

 

So I am wondering, Simon, if perhaps you could somehow take the “failure” and “vocation” out of your story about being a writer. Is there some sort of tangible and low pressure creative practice that might bring you a sense of accomplishment and joy? Ten minutes of rambling on the bus, a heartfelt email every afternoon, beginning the day with your pen and notebook and three to five sentences. Come up with something that’s small enough to pull off, but large enough to not feel like a cop out. During the times in my life when I am writing, no matter what I’m writing, and no matter what else is going on, I hate myself less, and am also less lonely.

 
That’s all I will say about loneliness this time. I will leave Simon, Vincent and our readers with the poem Simon wrote at the end of his letter:
 
I’m just half a person
part of me withered
(like Janus looking
at Death & Life
at the same time)
but still
I must take on
the Whole of my Life
 
no wonder
I’m so tired
-by Simon.
 
Yes, Simon, I can see why you’re tired. I’d be tired too. I wish you the deepest and most unshakeable peace available.
 
With love to Vincent and to this and every Simon,
Erica.


The End.


Vincent was my therapist from October of 2016, and May 2017. After we ran out of subsidized sessions, I began to write him daily imaginary emails. I called the project, "Mondays without Vincent," and it turned out to be quite healing. You too can write imaginary emails to Vincent. In fact, if you'd like, you can send them to me, on any day of the week.



My secret address is: ericaschmidt85(at)gmail.com.

Let me know if you’d like a response. The correspondence can remain between us, or else we can share it here with others and maybe it could be healing for everyone. Love, Erica.

"What truly happy person needs to stand in front of the mirror every morning to convince themselves they're happy?"
-Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.
Not me, Mark. No. Not me.




Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go

Bodhisattva Business Ventures:

Deep Cleans by Erica J. Schmidt (@deepcleanswitherica)
Montreal Hippie Threads (@mtlhippiethreads)
Instagram: montrealhippiethreads



Dear Vincent, This letter is about saving a begonia. Love, Erica.
Mourning, Wailing, Yearning, Wake Up.
Five Days of Creative Recovery