I´ve decided to make a “Christmas calendar” on this blog. Meaning that every day from the 1th of december to the 21th (I´m heathen, what we celebrate is solstice) I will post little gifts. Right here. Recipes. DIYstuff. Interviews. Nature poetry. The works!
“Oh but why oh why, Andrea, weren´t you burnt out and didn´t you need time for yourself”
Yes I was and yes that is true.
However I had a spectacular realisation yesterday and now I´m going to write up a super long blogpost about it.
If you don´t have the time to read this is the point: I´ve felt I´ve been plenty generous and I´ve felt that I didn´t get enough in return. I´ve felt like I gave and gave, that I was used and taken advantage of, I felt like my generosity was spit upon and mocked, I´ve felt invaded and assaulted by pscyho vampires (it´s a thing, look it up), I´ve felt like a prostitute and I´ve felt like I was working for nothing. Take everything of me! Eat me up! I wanted to be generous with our lives and the emotional turmoil of living it because it could maybe inspire someone, make them feel less lonely, I felt like I really HAD something to give…. but after a while there were no sparks, not even embers left in my soul. I was empty. Empty as an empty vessel in a whole universe of empty. The balance of the giving economy felt skewed.
THEN, yesterday, I realised that I wanted to make a christmas calendar, I wanted to GIVE that to readers, to strangers.
“But you don´t have anything more to give?”
Turns out I do.
The moment I decided to make the christmas calendar I was overwhelmed by ideas and energy. Heathen wreaths. Bird feeders. Christmas cookies. Interviews with people I admire. Norse traditions. Poems. Image of the day. How to build a fire. The moment I decided to give even more- I received even more.
What I get out of it also became clear. It´s not money (I wish it was). It´s not peace (I wish it was). No. What I get out of it is just energy. More energy. Still more energy.
Which is, basically, also kind of currency I guess.
The point being the contours of this thought: Maybe you have to be an empty vessel before you can receive? Maybe you have to burn out all of the time? Maybe you have to keep on just giving and giving? Maybe the economy of it isn´t skewed but rather my ideas about money and peace? Prize! Maybe I don´t know about the real costs of things nor the prize, maybe I´m totally incapable of thinking differently about economy, maybe I´m stuck in a capitalistic system INSIDE MY OWN HEAD!
A STORY OF GIFT
I´ve said it before and I don´t mind saying it again. We ran to the forest because we were desperate. Modern life had us sick, depressed and weirded out. That´s why we ran. To look under every stone, to run along the currents, to find each other, to ripple with life all through the days!
Needles to say that we paid a high prize for our freedom. But then again: freedom´s just another word for nothing left to loose. And I feel free. Most important. You know it is most important.
We built two cabins in the wild and raised four children. We´ve had our share of animals, we´ve grown our share of vegetables, we now know that more than farmers we are hunters and gatherers and more than village people we´re forest people. We know that now. It´s ok.
When I put little Sigurd to sleep during the dark times we always pretend to be cave bears. Every single night. During the lighter summer nights he falls asleep out by the fire, murmur of humans, ghostly sounds of waving trees. It´s a good life. Poor in golden coins, rich in love and it sounds like a hippie dream only that´s it´s true. We DO. A life of love and spring water.
This is the path we have chosen. Sometimes it´s covered in snow and we can´t go anywhere, sometimes it´s slippery from rotten leafs, sometimes it´s hot and dark, sometimes we argue all the way. Sometimes we can´t see our own hands. Sometimes it is pure and utterly bliss in a way I can´t even describe, I don´t think I will ever find the words to describe it.
Six months ago he began to make music again. It´s been four years. He´s been busy walking… the path of our forest life.
Jeppe is a musician. He played at the Copenhagen Square, Tivoli, The royal Theater. Keys. He left that life because… for the same reason all artists at some point try to leave the loop: it´s rigged and you have to kiss a whole lot of ass to make it.
And I suspect “making it” keeps the artists occupied so they won´t shout out their songs of innocence and experience from the rooftops “emancipate yourself from mental slavery” But they should. We should. I should.
“Making it” is a lie. I should´t even dream about it.
He brought with him a lot of his musical equipment here to the forest. He has not touched it for years. He hammered nails in the roof and it sounded like music, he used his axe on the logs, he shouted of triumph and roared in defeat. There was much music in our lives… but the thing about music is that it is communal, unlike writing, which is solitary and that right there is the difference between my husband and me.
Well six month ago he salvaged the keys from under the bed or behind some tools in the shed or maybe from the loft under a pile of winter clothes. He´s been playing music for night and day ever since. Yesterday he travelled to Copenhagen. He´s taking his new songs to the studio, he´s going to play music with his friends.
I am so thrilled that music is back in his life. He´s been needing it, maybe we grew a little too old or a little too viking-amish. He needs the music. No doubt about it. I am so happy for him.
Here´s a picture of him and some fishing device he made out of and old spoon and a picture of some fishing, no particular reason, I just like the pictures and I like him too.
I tell you this story of Jeppe because it´s a story of gift.
Yesterday I realised how much we have been given. I´ve been focused on the hard prize we paid (blood, sweat, tears, all of our energy, last bit of our fire) but when you focus on how much you deserve what you have and the prize you paid to get there- there is a danger of becoming righteous. And I don´t want to be that. So yeah, we paid a high prize for our freedom (and I say “freedom” because I actually mean it). High prize. Yes. But we have also been given so extremely much. Healthy children. A happy home. Good neighbours. The help of strangers. We have been lucky. This is a rich life, it truly is, and I am in awe of it.
I am humbled when I sit down and think about it.
I think about it a lot because it feels like we have been running a marathon for four years now and we just reached the finishing line. It´s very slowly sinking in. We actually, actually did it. It´s over now. We´re home safe. For real.
I´ve been so busy living it, struggling, it is only now I REALIZE…..
It took some time to shake of the dust and the dull, the apathy and the paleness of modern life, we have been shaking, manic shaking, like wet dogs for four years now,what a strange dream, now be gone!
And here we are. I can write. He can play music. We built the home we live in with our own bare hands. Look at this! We did this!
A STORY OF THE PRIZE YOU PAY
All of the people we have welcomed in our home, all of the emails not to mention my book, I gave a lot when I wrote that. I gave a lot touring, speakings, readings, talks. You give your life to strangers and then they assault you with their problems. They load off all of their fears and anxieties on you. One day you´re their hero, next day you´re “too much”. There´s no logic to it. You can´t trust strangers. Not at all.
Only this happened. A reader wrote me a mail. “I think you feel your craft turned against you. The fuzz about your book and then the spotlight (realising that you liked it and at the same time despising yourself for that) maybe it made you feel that you lost your art”
How did she know?
I think she read it between the lines. That sole experience: a total stranger understands you better than you understand yourself… made me doubt my cocky statement. Maybe you CAN trust strangers? Not all of them but still… and come to think about it there were much of that. Strangers hugging me in the midst of the fuzz. Strangers defending me. Strangers with tears in their eyes telling me that my work matters. Strangers taking the piss out of me (which it like, I´m too serious). Strangers cheering. Strangers donating. Strangers sharing my work.
And after four years of struggles we have been given even more: we have been given back the gifts of our creativity.
I can write again. More free than ever. He can play music again. It flows through us!
There was creativity behind the pain. As there was release and redemption after the struggles.
Generosity becomes such a burden when you feel it only goes one way. Such a heavy load. Onwards you go until you have no life left in you. Empty. Empty until all you see is the empty. All you see is the giving. Not the receiving.
My work as a writer might never give me money nor peace. Why do I expect it to? Who told me it should be that way?
Should my work give me money or peace?
Ideally I guess it should, that would feel somehow fair, but it never does.
It seems that this is what I have to add to the world. And I´m thinking that I should somehow be PAID for what I GIVE.
And I´m thinking that this might be wrong.
I might have misunderstood it.
Maybe there is no prize or golden medal in the end. Maybe what you receive is not what you want- but what you need?
And maybe what you receive can´t be measured at all?
In regard of the release, the redemption and the realisations…. maybe you can never demand it? Expect it?
THE GIFT ECONOMY
Jeppe and me have been working “in the gift” for a long time now. We have done people favours and people have done favours to us. We have been giving and we have been receiving. There has been much doubt and a whole lot or worry about money. Situations like this “The decision we continue to make” which arguably underscores the problematic aspects of whether this is a free choice at all. I know. Though. That we have been lousy at recognising how much we have actually received. I think we have been lousy at this because we have been raised to measure success in money, security has been objectified (instead of personalised) and we have had a real hard time understanding our relationships to the broader community as well as amongst us.
The gift economy is part of the new paradigm, the cultural revolution some speak of. Him and me are practioners. We have the scars on our body to prove it.
We have been trying to make gift economy work and I´m not sure we succeeded on the other hand I´m not sure my conceptions of success is even valid.
If you want to read more about gift economy there is obviously the work of Charles Eissenstein. His personal assistant (I want one too! Jeez Louise! A personal assistant! Gimme! Someone to help me be me!) is named Marie Godwin and I really like her. In Danish we call people like her “Fire souls” (this is true, it´s an actual word in Danish: the people who burn, who give all, who make things happen).
She wrote an essay about “How to run a business in the gift economy” and I like that too. Mostly because I spent all night thinking if I even want to run a small business (I don´t think I do, if I wanted to I would have done it a long time ago, why don´t I want to? Why will I do the speeches but not sell handmade knitting sticks? Or make courses? A webshop? Why? Won´t I sell objects?… and so on, it continued all night…)
Such where my thoughts this morning tending to the animals and collecting some rafts for a fence will build next year, Sigurd running around, dog running around, hens running around, roaming in the wild.
Random thoughts about gift economy. Next post will be about something practical. FOR SURE.
I wanted to tell you that he has the gift of music and that he deserves it.
I wanted to tell you about the christmas calendar. It gives me energy just to think about it so maybe I´m not even doing it for you… but for me.
I don´t know. I don´t know the relationship between giving and receiving but I KNOW it is a challenge (and a duty) of our time is to explore it.
By the way: I saw a headline on a major Swedish newspaper yesterday when I drove Jeppe to town. It said “You´re right. This is the most miserable november in the memory of mankind”. Headline story. Stockholm got two hours of sunshine this month. I found that funny. Funny ´cause it´s true.
(consider this last anecdote a gift from me to you: thank you gift for reading all the way through my super long blogpost!)