"I realise the idea of cycles can support the way we experience life and ourself. Something comes and goes, something changes, something stays and there is a very different temporality to the mindset of ‘okay I am going to be on the pill and I am going to be as effective as possible and I will run up the hill’. Constantly running up the hill... and then what? But being in a more horizontal plane, for me it is connected to this horizontal plane, I can allow myself to be porous.
It’s seems the right timing to talk about the menstrual cycle, for a long time I was on the pill and it is the first year that I am not and I think my personal history with my period is interesting. I didn’t have periods until I was 17, I was very skinny, I was in ballet school, my weight was well, I almost anorexic.
Once it (my period) started I didn’t know how to handle it, because I was trained to ‘keep going’, to not to skip training etc. It was only when I stopped dancing and went to university, that I gained something like 20 kilos. Before I was something like 39 or 40 kilos. It was the first time I gained weight and the first time I recognised myself as a woman, with shapes. I think that is very typical for people trained in techniques such as ballet to have similar circumstances as mine.
I remember one specific circumstance which this occurred, with close collaborators, with whom we had an art squat in St. Petersburg.
One day we had a meeting for a Laboratory. One friend involved is working on a very beautiful project with micro-urbanism and micro-choreography. She is a really amazing sound artist, working with field recordings; I like her philosophy of field recordings and I think that through this actually she introduced me to a slower pace of living. She told me a story, about how she ended up with these field recordings; when she was a child she was very curious about what to do with boredom and of course she now phrases it that there are so many ways of escapism, there are so many ways to escape, not to be bored; but what if you think to the very bottom of this boredom and explore it; what is the boredom?
So, we did this beautiful laboratory with her and I remember coming to the space, a space I built with my own hands with the guys and they had had a rehearsal without me. They hadn’t told me and what to do? I am a co-creator of the space. Afterward there was a discussion and everyone, apart from her accused me of having a ‘non-constructive dialogue’, for being too emotional and of course I am emotional!
Somehow, the hardest period was connected to when I started taking the pill. Maybe different things came together at the same time, but certainly it was one of the most difficult or most challenging periods in my life. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and my partner at the time had been struggling with similar things when we had met. He would always lie on my knees and cry; I was there to support. After this two and half or three years when I had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression I needed someone to hug me. I remember he was on a chair on the other side of the room, reading a book and saying ‘I am preparing for a lecture’. It was the first time I clearly asked for care and he told me ‘sorry not now, I cannot deal with you like this’. There seem to be so many contexts throughout my life, but an overall feeling that I am too emotional and it is not okay.
It also came from my family. My father would always say ‘I want you to be like your mother’ and she is an incredibly smart woman but she dedicated her life to her family, despite her education. I was always this rebel, running away from home and hanging out with guys. My father would say ‘I cannot talk to you, you are too emotional’ and he would really punish me for being emotional, for crying or being expressive. So, for me it is very connected to how I experience the world.
In the past two years I have finally realised, or started to understand; also on a conceptual level, how that different types of experiencing the world are not tolerated enough. Something very beautiful happened in these two years, due to my Masters I have met very beautiful females. I have never experienced such female friendship, a circle of six of us and for the entire lockdown we would write long emails to one another where there was no separation between factual information, asking for help, sharing artistry or theoretical details as well as what they ate today or anything else.
With them I really feel that to be emotional and hyper empathetic is a gift and a skill. I can sense and feel the stories and the happiness of the others. It is beautiful that I can sense and feel, some people cannot.
Emotional intellect and rational intellect, wow. I sometimes have this feeling that the higher rational intellect is, the emotional is so light and not well developed and it is kind of funny. It affects how I choose my circle, who I want to be with now. Before I was looking for intellectuals; raised in the dance world I felt I cannot talk about ‘pain in the hip all the time... so I wanted to be with ‘cool’ people and I considered cool people intellectuals. I wanted to talk about theory and after years of dealing with these circles, I realise the immaturity. I am now allowing myself to want to be close with those who are more empathetic, who understand the non-verbal, the language of touch. Those who do not prioritise rational over emotional and this has really supported my female growth. I realise the idea of cycles can support the way we experience life and ourself. Something comes and goes, something changes, something stays and there is a very different temporality to the mindset of ‘okay I am going to be on the pill and I am going to be as effective as possible and I will run up the hill’. Constantly running up the hill... and then what? But being in a more horizontal plane, for me it is connected to this horizontal plane, I can allow myself to be porous.
In stopping with the pill I didn’t experience problems, it was very easy somehow, I noticed that I became more sexual; I want sex and that’s great, but I think it is a really big issue with men. How they react to women not being on the pill in cultures where it is normal or common. There is some kind of expectation. We don’t have to resist or defend ourselves. I don’t want to defend myself! I don’t want to be on the pill and if someone has a ‘thing’ with that, that is their problem. I have read and spoken a lot about the female need to defend ourselves, the inconveniences are not mine, if someone is disappointed for not experiencing what they imagined to experience, I will cut myself off.
It is a big question; how to talk about it with lovers and with people. Of course, for us and for me, there is a sense of ‘how can you not understand?’. I am trying to find ways, starting with my close circle, to talk about female health as public health.
I am curious how not to separate the world or circles of academia and the moving body. Of course it is happening, a lot of interesting things are there within academia, but it is amazing how much there is to unlearn. This is a big word for me; ‘unlearn’. From training at a very young age, which was not about listening to the body, there was everything but, listening to the body actually.
When I was at uni, I would watch fresh dancers, meaning those who had just arrived to movement and they moved so organically, I wanted it. I felt like I wanted my body back and I am still researching within movement how to truly sense and feel. In general it is such a western predicament to define life through action and/or thought, while in the eastern paradigm; there is no separation between theory and practice, thought and thinking and living goes together. You cannot separate the notion of care, care should be practiced, it is defined by practice. So in connecting to my emotional self, my emotional intellect and allowing myself not to take birth control pills, helps me to get back to sensing and feeling.
In the beginning of my sexual life I was found to be pregnant, though outside of the womb and this was scary. Recently I have moved through the guilt and the necessity to defend myself. I don’t want to just enjoy life and not to take care. The female organisms is incredible, what it can make, what it can do. Some one told me something, a cheesy phrase; that the female organism is a cosmos and the male organism is a track. It is a funny thought, but in a way it is true. We really can do so many things, one of which is to grow a life inside of us, but how we function day to day feels much more complex and interesting. The female organism is complex, we are emotional and it is beautiful, it is a layer of life. A layer which many people ignore, or value less, to talk about, to think about and yeah.
Today what interests me is how much I really oppressed my emotional self. The part of me that is ‘a woman with a cycle’. I struggled with this in the last years, trying to find my way as a theorist, I wanted to do a Master’s in Social and Political Philosophy, I would always receive the comment ‘wow you are so emotional’. I was criticised for being emotional.
This is just a small example, but in the past years I felt often like I was really controlling myself and my emotions in my social and romantic life. I really felt the difference, partners that I chose were interested in me because I am sharp, and this ‘producer of remarkably interesting content’; we were not talking about the weather, we were talking about contemporary philosophy or contemporary art, but of course I don’t always want to. I realised that when I came down, when I was less sharp or I don’t know, less of an ‘artistic persona’ and more me or more my emotional-me, people would lose interest in me.
It is challenging, at some point we become so castrated, especially living in urbanistic cities. I felt scared at some point that I couldn’t feel and sense.
In Amsterdam I had the resources but I felt castrated, like I couldn’t really reach things. There was a glass in-between and I don’t know why but I guess because of the life I am living there and the city itself, but it is scary to not be able to feel. Coming here (to the nature) I saw the mountains and of course I was amazed, but the second thought was ‘okay these are mountains’, like my brain is labelling the scenery based on images I have seen on social networks or the computer. It is another picture. I had to tell myself it is not a picture, I am not on Instagram, they are real mountains, and I can climb up the hill and lick the soil.