Illness and joy have had a strange and often fraught relationship in my life. My sickest years in my twenties, when I had to stop working and attending classes for several years, were also the time I came out and discovered writing. When I was on medical leave a couple of years ago, swimming outdoors was a balm when I could work myself up to leaving the house. But I lived in constant worry that someone would see me doing something fun and think I should be back at work already.
It has been hard for me to hold the simultaneity of illness and joy without making it an either/or, and even harder to trust that other people will do the same. It has been hard for me to remember that I deserve rest and pleasure outside of the frame of ‘earning’ them—either by being so sick I have to be in bed, or by being productive enough that I can see them as rewards.
I’m so happy two poems from the Garbage Poems have found a home in the Canthius Pleasures Project, especially Blessing for the swim selfie which is the most directly I’ve written about illness and joy. This eclectic online project explores pleasure from a feminist and intersectional perspective, and I am LOVING it so far – I adore reading about the why and how of artists’ processes when writing and creating about pleasure. I can’t wait to make my way through the rest of it.
With thanks to April White for their illustration work for the ongoing project, and for the underwater swimming selfie research (which I used to call “research” with scare quotes because how could research be fun?) which profoundly altered my ability to look at images of my own body with pleasure or interest instead of fear.
[Image ID: Photograph of a laptop and keyboard on a wooden desk, surrounded by carefully arranged rows of garbage including cans, bottles, chip bags, cigarette boxes, cups, and bottle caps.]