Where do you find comfort? Is it in the faces of your family, the walls of your home, the folds of a soft a blanket? What does comfort look like, feel like? What is it for and how should we use it? When sadness, desperation, and fear sink into our daily lives and routines, are there ways to ease the effects, mitigate the damage?
I think the general consensus is that 2016 has been a hard year for everyone. Within a day I lost both my paternal grandfather and David Bowie - I’m a little ashamed to admit that they both had equal weight in shaping the person that I am today. Still, I think it is only right to acknowledge the way that pop culture influences us. Alan Rickman, Prince, and other figures of varying degrees of importance to different people were added to the list with frightening frequency. Then there were events that shook specific communities, some of which I am either personally or laterally a part of, events like the Pulse shooting and then the Oakland fire. Over the summer, border agents began enforcing an archaic and unnecessary law with prejudice, targeting my friends and colleagues. Now, many Canadian companions are prevented from travelling to and through the US for fear of being caught and banned. The policy effectively makes us, as individuals, illegal, and punishes us for our work, for having the courage to show our faces, and for standing up to a society that shames and disavows our right to agency over our bodies and our lives.
And finally, at the beginning of December, my outlook transformed from “maybe things will be better next year,” to “how worse will things get in the next four years?” Fear is a horrible thing, especially a fear that cannot be narrowed down and addressed. Living under general fear, something many of us do, takes its toll. We must be afraid because of who we are, what we do, because we do not fit into the boxes that assure us state-mandated safety. How should we deal with this fear? Do we take action, do we fight, do we make every day a battle? I guess I already know the answer to this but what I don’t know is how to stand tall when it is cold and dark, when the flowers have gone and I am tired. Sometimes, when I am frustrated to the point of inaction, I listen to angry music - I have a play list for just this purpose. It helps me refocus my emotions, inspires me to act rather than succumb. When I am sad and scared, I re-watch and re-read my favourite fiction. I like the certainty of knowing what is coming, what will happen, but also picking out the small details that I have missed, that transform my understanding of the work. Small sentences are underlined in most of my books, and comments are written in the margins. They point to the words that impressed me, inspired me. I relish my favourite passages the same way I think back on my favourite memories, reliving them. It’s a nice respite, diving into something that you know the outcome of. Comfort is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not retreating, it is not surrendering - It is a tool like any other.
A few weeks ago I bought an origami kit. It contains some pretty patterned paper and a small instruction book for a few basic folds. I’ve only perfected the crane so far and have made a few failed attempts at a butterfly and a carp. I’m hoping to move onto flowers soon, maybe some lilies. I’ve been telling myself I would take up origami for awhile now, it seemed an obvious choice of hobby considering my compulsive habit of folding paper. Previous to this I made fortune tellers, airplanes and little cups, but I wanted to up my game. The prints on washi paper have a similar effect on me as flowers do. They make me feel calm, at ease, remind me of the tiny, quiet wonders in life. I used to be an avid knitter, and I think it’s probably time I revisited that passion too. I think I love it for the same reason that I’m enjoying origami. If I can only concentrate and focus, I am rewarded with an object that is even more beautiful than the sum of its parts. The outcome is not guaranteed, and there are times when I fail more often than I succeed. The small successes make it worth it though. As the snow falls and the darkness prevails, I am resting and reserving energy, I am teaching myself the importance of perseverance and resilience. I am preparing to be source of support for my friends and loved ones and a tool of change. In the mean time, I fill my bookshelves with little paper cranes.