the sun did rise, and we have work to do

the sun did rise, and we have work to do

Days before November 8, I completed the most epic journey of my life.

A plane ride into the Brazilian jungle, a smaller plane ride deeper in, 4 days of traveling on a boat (read: canoe plus engine) upstream in the Amazonian rain forest to live withthe indigenous Huni Kuin.

Words fail to describe the experience. But suffice to say I understand the words deathand rebirth better than ever. I used to drink the word freedom from a glass but now, a spiritual curtain lifted, I stand under a waterfall.

Upon leaving, our heads bowed, one of the shamans explained to us who the Hunnikuin are. "Our nation," he said, "does not have borders. Our nation is anyone who is committed to peace, to love, to harmony. Our nation is everyone who is a warrior of consciousness."

But this is not how everyone thinks of the word nation. To some, the word nation means borders, it means hate. To some, when they say freedom they actually mean fear. To some, a nation is built upon separation not elevation.

And for those of us who are awake and know that we are children of light, our hearts can become weary fighting for our siblings to crawl out of the dark. But that's exactly what we need to do.

The human body itself is a community. When disease enters, every cell becomes activated. Messages fire between the immune, nervous and lymphatic systems. Oxygen travel to the parts most in need. White blood cells fight to undo the poison. Each cell is an individual with the purpose of making the whole better. 

We are each a cell. Our body is humanity, and we have a disease. But we are white blood cells, and we must fight.
 
I received a message today out of the blue, a friend who had been silently following . She said that now, more than ever, this work is so important. She shared her own story of being silently queer because of the real fear that exists in this country. She wanted to say thank you, that she's grateful, because projects like this remind her to use her voice.

Art has always been a vehicle for revolution. And now we need to spread it like wildfire.


On January 21, the day after the inauguration, we are premiering Names of Women and taking it on tour fully equipped with activism tool kits, community organizing resources and mechanisms for healing.

We are taking this to schools. We are speaking with students, building grassroots communities, creating a web of change agents. Because if art has been a vehicle for revolution, schools have been the site for ideas to take hold and movements to spread.

This film is already being used in a "Women, Health and Medicine" class and, in thespring, appearing in a double ticket film screening about reproductive justice. And this is just the beginning. 

We need your help.

**If you have connections to any high school, college or community that could benefit from screening Names of Women, send me an email at poppy@collectivsex.org
Let's ignite this movement together. 


In the meantime, take care of yourselves and one another. And remember, a fever isthe body getting better.

In solidarity
x Poppy

i don't know what will happen when my parents open this

i don't know what will happen when my parents open this

I don't know how other daughters tell their parents they have had abortions, 
but this is how I'm doing it.

Hi mom and dad,

I don't have many memories from when we first immigrated to America in 1993, but I know many of the stories. And somehow, these tales have become as much a part of me as the ones I do remember.

I remember the treat of one orange a week, because oranges are expensive but you made sure I grew up knowing the taste of citrus.

I remember my childhood photos where the print of the pillowcase matched the print of my pants because grandma was smart and knew how to be thrifty with fabric.

I remember mom the first time I saw blood in a trashcan and you said it came from you and that, one day, it would come from me too.

I remember the games we played when we blindfolded you, dad, and spun you as mom and I ducked just out of arm's reach laughing uncontrollably.

I remember, mom, you looking at me and asking "what does mother mean to you?" and I answered "peaches".

I remember, dad, you picking me up from preschool excited to teach me something about cars but when we got outside there was already a ticket on your expired license sticker.

Mom, I remember the beam of your headlights on my bedroom wall late at night after you tucked me to sleep as you went to take night classes.

Film still from Names of Women

Film still from Names of Women

But what I really remember are the lessons of humanhood you taught me.

Mom, how the health of our heart and the upkeep of our spirit is just as important as the health of our body.

Dad, that resilience, simplicity and clarity is all we need in order to travel light and travel far.

Mom, that the greatest form of strength comes in the courage to stay soft, the bravery to still care time and time again.

Dad, that our roots matter, where we come from matters, the soil that molded our bodies matter.

I don't know how else to share that I created this story for you. I didn't know how else to do it than this. 

This is the scariest thing I have ever done. But I am surrounded by such good people, mom and dad, I am not alone. The page you are about to open below has my entire heart on my sleeve. Please still hold me after you open it.

Your daughter,
Poppy

i left my heart in BK and my clothes in manhattan

i left my heart in BK and my clothes in manhattan

I am living the dream that I had as a kid.

I always had a hard time answering the question: "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Because how can you choose one thing?

Whenever asked I would promptly answer: "well there are 7 days in a week, right? SoI'll be an astronaut on Monday, a lion tamer on Tuesday, a gardener on Wednesday, a roller coaster tester on Thursday, a mad scientist on Friday... And Saturday and Sunday will be busy because of all my adopted kids".

I was commended for my imagination and told I was ambitious.

But I don't know if I resonate with that word. Ambitious. Because ambition has to do with success. And success has to do with attainment, accomplishment, and achievement... and somehow those words never fully described what it is what I want to be doing.

I would substitute the word ambitious for courageous. For boundless and passionate. For hungry, authentic and unafraid. Because "ambitious" doesn't quite capture how badly I wanted to sink my teeth into life and taste the bone marrow at the center.

And now, as I look around at my life, I think I have indeed landed in the bone marrow center. I think I am home. Nestled in the truest expression of myself.

I haven't jetted to Mars yet, but I have time and space traveled every time I perform a role or invoke a world on a stage.
I can't say I've exactly tamed a lion, but I have committed myself to learning how to create spaces where people (and lions) can feel safe.
I don't garden in the traditional sense, but I do plant and grow communities wherever Igo.
I don't get paid to test roller coasters, but my entire life from morning until night (and even at night as my dream world is robust and nuts) is a roller coaster ride and it is all Ihave to do is buckle up for the ride.
I am not a mad scientist but... ok maybe I am a mad scientist.
I am not ready to adopt kids yet, but I do always feel like a mother.

I do not like answering the question "what do you want to be?" "what do you envision your goals are?" because life, LIFE, has consistently proved to be far more interesting than anything I could ever imagine. My only job is to let go and jump into the abyss.

And this is just the beginning.

x Poppy

it's impossible to take myself too seriously

it's impossible to take myself too seriously

I wasn't always called Poppy.

It started when I was 5. I've always been strong-minded. Feminist before I even knew what it meant - "Why does someone else get to decide what I am called?"

I liked my mother's name: Yan Yan, Sparrow. I didn't like mine: Yuan Yuan, Circle. 'Cuz moving to the suburbs of Minnesota I was self-conscious as a 5 year old being called "Circle" with my round Chinese face and my long thick black hair and the Other-ness of being bilingual. I felt exposed in a way that I imagine first-generation immigrants often feel. Even ones at age 5.

So I changed it. I wanted to be a bird also. So I named myself after my mother: XiaoYan Yan, Little Sparrow.
At age 5 I rigorously enforced this.

And then something incredible happened: people started calling me my new name.
Just like that. My 5 year old brain was blown.
At that very young age I had stumbled across what felt like the greatest secret: I make the rules for myself.

And so I spent the rest of my adolescence doing just that: I have a thought I speak up, I desire a change I manifest it, I become tired of my identity I create a new one.

In this way I cycled through a multitude of names. Nicknames, new names, reclaimed old names, Chinese names, English names, pseudonyms. I was trying on identities like outfits and I felt unbound. I felt free.

But something else was happening...

Little did I know, I was exercising a very important muscle: the muscle of non-attachment. A side-effect of not being able to sit still with any one name was that I also was not attached to any one version of myself. I was everyone and no one at the same time. Living with utter vitality and not taking myself seriously all at once.

Ah... and that, I have found, is the true pot of gold that I accidentally stumbled across as a 5 year old.

I'm Poppy right now, but who knows who I'll be when you see me again.

x a very circular poppy (for now...)

drinking my own medicine takes a couple gulps

drinking my own medicine takes a couple gulps

I finally got a dose of my own medicine.

 

2015 ended and 2016 began with the zeal of guerrilla style reflection. Where can I grow? What did I learn? How can I keep saying YES?

Some obvious answers started rolling in and I bulldozed through them like a rabid beast: Meditate in the morning - GO. Set intentions each day - DO IT. Think less, do more - GOT IT. Slow down - I’M SLOWING DOWN, OK???

And where did I find myself? Exhausted. Many questions and none of the right answers ...what was I missing? 

The answer turned out to be delicious and simple (as most forms of truth are). And it came in the form of a single word.

 

Surrender.

Ah, yes, surrender. That word I keep talking about but do not practice enough.

So I drank my own medicine and told myself to surrender. And surrender I did:

To asking for help when I need it.

To receiving love when it shows up.

To smelling my food before I eat it.

To watching my kettle slowly warm up.

I finally faced myself and acknowledged that I am someone who feels at home when I am fighting, when I am in the sacred hustle, when I am grinding towards something.

 

But to surrender is to say stop fighting. It is to say start letting.

Let what needs to happen, happen.

Let whatever comes, come.

Let whatever goes, go.

Because I am at my happiest when I am at my emptiest.

 

Empty empty happy happy. My mantra of this year.

x Poppy

the year i stood naked in front of the world

the year i stood naked in front of the world

This year started off in a bathtub....
 After a party, a 24 hour shindig. A bathtub with lavender inside of it and bath guests who played the ukulele and guitar for us bathtub fairies.

This year brought me the most unexpected surprise, when I met a human who was the first of their kind I had ever met, who quietly showed up next to me as we danced on a subway. A human whose presence has coaxed out some of the best versions of myself.


This year brought me to Haiti, delicious rugged sweet Haiti. It brought me the honor to witness a people who are grounded and resilient and anchored. It made me want to bow my body.


This year has had me stand completely naked in front of an entire audience side by side with artists I trust. And we stood without shame, without insecurity, eyes wide open, rashes and bruises and band-aids and all and we said “here I am, this is a human body, look at me”.

This year brought me Butoh, the quiet answer to a long question I have been asking myself. It was here that I re-found my fragility, my honesty, my vulnerability. It was here I found the most profound form of empathy: we sustain through pain by enduring it for one another.


This year has brought me the most incredible WOMEN who are my sisters, my creative companions, my safe spaces. Women whose hands have healed me, whose strength astounds me.


What I’ve learned this year can be summed up by a night I saw REVEREND at Union Pool when the guy jumped off the stage with his giant trombone and yelled “What does it mean to be in love? It means to be INSIDE of love, not outside of it, IN it” and I just nodded and said “yes, yes, that’s it, that’s exactly it, to be inside of love”.


I look around me and see how my life is filled with people I love and communities that inspire me and projects that energize me and I see what my days are filled with which is color and wonder and beauty, and there is no choice but to be left with... gratitude. Just gratitude.
I’m grateful, so unbelievably grateful.


x Poppy