Joanna Kosinska

Letters from a friend

recent letters between Talon Calloway and anon

anon:

So I decided to build from scratch. Not a true tabula rasa, since I had a clear image in my mind before I sculpted away at the dense marble, so to speak. Just a way to keep connected. And a way for these lonely ideas to find their home.

We all need solace from time to time. And what better way than through these inaudible conversations. Sometimes hearing your friends’ most intimate thoughts through your own inside reading voice is a spiritual experience unto itself.

Anyway, I’d love your feedback whenever you can. I think your perspective is gold. Hit me back up whenevs.

Talon:

Well I’m an open book, which I guess it means I’m not so private. While there are some people I keep out to protect myself, I also have a laundry list of people I want to update all at once about the same news! I end up copy pasting and forwarding entire paragraphs to multiple friends through facebook messenger. I wonder if others do this too, if anyone will catch on lol. I feel a certain vanity and exhibitionism, copy pasting. But it is my truth, and I wish for all the souls I call home to know me, just as I always wish to know them.

One of my friends started something similar and then dropped it. She created a google doc for all her friends to comment on, and she would write almost daily journal entries and then delete the previous entries and write over them with the new day’s entry. It would delete all the attached comments as well. It was very ephemeral. I like that my convos with you on this space exist for posterity. I love looking back at my old journals as a way of talking to the past. As we write, these are letters to our future selves.

I’m really thrilled by people’s avatars. They’re not entirely “made up” though, are they? Deep within us all, we have many faces. Art and identity, while performative, somewhere in there is our truth and the truth of all things. It reminds me of my brother and his first tattoo, Anansi the spider, the storytelling trickster god. The least powerful god who outsmarts all the other gods who bully him.

My brother sadly relates to this story too well, but has emerged triumphant. He is getting other “guardians” on his body down the line, as he calls them. I too have called upon a face to survive the many social negotiations I had to make between coworkers, lovers, relatives, friends and foes.

I’ve dubbed my face the kitsune, after the shape shifting fox spirit who disguises itself as a harmless woman and speaks many tongues. I used to resent what felt like not being true to myself. But sometimes we have to communicate a different way, not with words or preferences, but by embodying something else entirely. Now, I revel in the power of it rather than dreading it. It is mine to harness as needed.

I’ve taken steps to expand outside my comfort zone. I had started therapy back in August, and three months later, I am already done after 9 sessions. I feel more in touch with my inner voice than I ever have before. I went to work on my breakup, which shook my entire sense of self, but while I was there, I asked about all the questions that ever haunted me. I don’t reject myself anymore.

I decided to tackle all the things outside my comfort zone. I started with makeup, fashion, exercise, being present with my physical self. Things I honestly avoided and hated before. I hated it because in all the ways I’ve learned of those things before, it was often defined for me and didn’t listen to what I am about.

I took some classes, and I’ve learned how to do these things on my own terms! I am not an imitation of some fleeting persona that came before me like this or that fashion blogger. I am not merely a product of my time, soon to be replaced by the next decade, the next meme. I am entirely my own. I’ve found my soul is glamorous, goth and genderfucky, and it’s exciting to finally explore the deeper parts of my soul I didn’t know how to express before, the parts that were always there, the darker parts that lived in the grey area, the in between, the powerful primordial parts that transcend societies.

I leave you with a quote that conveys a kind of nonverbal intimacy:

“The conversation between our fingers and someone else’s skin. That is the most important discussion you can ever have.”

-Iain Thomas

anon:

Hey Talon –

I pray the day’s finding you easy. What a year it’s been, huh?

Change and transformation seems to be the only constant for me, in a blistering and mind-numbing fashion. But all is truly well, and the fruits of my endeavors are finally sprouting. Perhaps the same has been true for you.

I know this is extremely overdue, but perhaps the timing is what it is, complete in its own strange way…

Been reading over our last few email convos. Sometimes I get a taste of nostalgia after accidentally indulging, just for a few moments, a bite of food or melody or random object. And then I go down this rabbit hole, sometimes way farther than I have time for (when will we ever have “enough” of it?), and decide to unearth all the little tokens of memories I have at my fingertips.

These letters are one of those treasures. I wish I had energy to write more, but for now, I needed to send this away while my heart is still ripely fluttering.

Sending love.

Talon:

Hey!! Good to hear from ya.

Change is the only constant, isn’t that how the idiom goes? Haha. Life has been a bit of a roller coaster for me this year. But I am feeling in my highest vibration this full moon period, this start of October, so I am grateful for the timing of this email whereas only a week ago, I would have written you something much more miserable.

It’s fascinating to see this because my mentality has not changed too far from that last letter. That therapy session still marks the beginning of me being my truest self with no more regrets about the past. I have been building from that point ever since instead of longing to return to an earlier savepoint of me. I am continuing to unlearn and relearn the lessons of the shapeshifter, its tactical strategic faces and its theatrical indulgent ones.

I am thinking about how you walked away from your job only a few days before your probation would have been over. I am about to do the same. This year had a lot of big things, and I was one of the lucky bastards that actually enjoyed it. But now the cosmic work has caught up to me, and I am forced to face my biggest demons too alongside the rest of society. Drat!

I had the field advantage at first. Shadow work is my happy place, and I witnessed many individuals and parts of the world and institutions entering their forced shadow work for the first time. The shadow work I explored by choice was how to expand my expression, my throat chakra, my voice, how to take up more space, how to embrace the discomfort of uncharted creativity, but most importantly, how to create wildly in whatever form in takes, especially if it doesn’t fit on social media.

The big shadow I was forced to face was my anxiety in the face of authority figures. I have done so much boundary work with friends, family, time, strangers, but quite frankly I didn’t want to do the boundary work for work where I’ve assumed the power dynamic is stacked against me by default. I’m learning to stand up for myself and understand that a healthy work environment does exist, and I can demand it.

I am becoming visible in ways I find terrifying, while simultaneously learning to be okay with not being seen, being okay with the fact that there are some truths about myself that only I can see and appreciate. I have learned to be okay with the fact that my journey is sometimes walked alone, and it is still so necessary and significant even if some things only have meaning to me.

It’s a lonely beauty when I am witnessing a beauty specifically made for me. But it also makes me feel that these “lonely” gifts are gifts directly from the Universe, a coded language between me and my unseen power.

For the dirty details, my creativity was largely helped by me expressing gratitude towards ALL the ways I’m creative that isn’t capital A art, which includes my conversations with others, the way I savor my experiences, and how I arrange my home. My boundary work for work was initiated by fire.

I got my first nonprofit job on July 13, was so enamored by the idea of it, and then my heart was swiftly crushed by reality. Rather than canceling their events or reducing them due to covid, my org tried to do even more events in addition to making them all virtual. I landed in the thick of it with so much to do and not enough time to learn.

People have been so impressed by the CMO who was hired around the time I was, who is keeping on top of everything but at the expense of sleep and her personal life. I am not keeping up, and for a while I felt guilty, but now I refuse to blame myself. At first I wondered if I manifested this somehow, if there was some personal work I was avoiding that I was now repeating.

In a way, probably, I have a pattern of work I feel lukewarm or worse about, and bullshit tasks were normalized to me. But no, I wanted meaningful work and did not know that this job would have no respect for my capacity and overwhelm. This stressor has taught me how to love myself first, in the face of something I’m tempted to love more than myself, in the face of an authority I normally feel I can’t say no to.

I’ve learned that if work isn’t giving me half the compassion I get from my loved ones, they certainly don’t deserve more energy than my loved ones get. If they don’t fire me today, which I heard they would, I plan to quit on Monday. That’s how fresh this transformation is. This past week is the first time I’ve been able to hear my inner voice in two months, and the sound is so wonderfully mine. It says: everything I experience I transmute for my own purposes, and everything I transmute is wisdom I get to share with others. I get the most out of both pain and pleasure.

My abundance is not about painless riches. It is about finding the best parts of every waking moment. Very buddhist really. Once I quit, I’ll have more energy for myself again. My personal time has gone to utter hell.

I’d love to hear about all the transformation you’ve been going through! <3 I live for transformative. I’m sorry it’s been blistering though, sounds like a whirlwind and chaotic. Please do enjoy your fruits, and your roots! Ha.

All Love,

Talon

anon:

Dear Talon,

What a treat it is to receive this letter back. Your generosity of spirit and creativity is a welcome salve to my weary soul. But I won’t say my spirit is parched; quite the opposite. It anticipates harvest as I persevere, remain diligent, and gather whatever trust I can muster up each day to keep moving forward.

In small moments of brokenness and surrender, I get glimpses of my inner child playing, leading, building, and caretaking for many others. God and I commune in these quiet times, nestled deep inside and away from the outside chaos.

But fuuuck, apart from the poetic musings that spawn these thoughts, everything seems like it just drains me. It feels like a drag just to be alive when I wake up confused as to why I’m still in this plane of reality. But I know that this kind of thinking is my biggest temptation, demon. And it reeks of the slimiest parts of my ego. Or maybe, I dunno, probably…it’s that whatever’s outside is a reflection of some hidden places within me. Well, fuck.

I do resonate, however, with the shapeshifter archetype you mention. I am one too; the heyoka variety.

As for the authority thing…that’s a common one. I’m glad you’re claiming and wielding your power and autonomy, perhaps with a newfound paradigm of doing The Work. You mentioned: “This stressor has taught me how to love myself first, in the face of something I’m tempted to love more than myself, in the face of an authority I normally feel I can’t say no to. I have learned that if work isn’t giving me half the compassion I get from my loved ones, they certainly don’t deserve more energy than my loved ones get.” 

Yes! Hold onto these epiphanies; let it fuel the vessels of your sanguine body.

As for me, I initially thought in response to what you said, “I have too much audacity to let those in power shake me in any way”. But if I really reflect, I think I “give in” a lot more than I think I do. I have my own deeply rooted triggers when it comes to relating with people. Attachment wounds come at such a hefty price, and mine seem to be the source of most of my spiritual work. That and my childhood pains.

But I also know now that they become the anchors to a life of empathy and flourishing, if I can understand how to continually deepen my relationship with these points of trauma. They’re often the gatekeepers to my most sacred truths. No matter how finicky and heart-numbing the experience may be.

Like you, shadow work used to be an indulgent treat for me, perhaps in an unconsciously masochistic way. But the real shadows are the ones we do not choose to see or play with – the ones we have no control or timing over. And they seep through our pores most unexpectedly. How scary and unwelcome they feel, especially at first. 

What you said about creativity, claiming and wielding your inner power, the scariness of being truly visible, and every other pithy thing you said…I feel its truth. It’s mostly as I see it too. Thank you for that beautiful reflection.

And finally, “ My abundance is not about painless riches. It is about finding the best parts of every waking moment.” 

I will remember this today, and every day that I can.

Thank you, friend.

p.s. as for the details of my current endeavors, it actually pains me to think and write about them right now. I will share when I’m out of the rubble and have integrated more. But I am well, and grateful, overall.

with love, 

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