Black Femme Collective calls for creative nonfiction submissions from Black Queer Femme Storytellers engaging in the theme REST.

An Essay in Seven Sacraments

Briana Ladwig
Visual Art: Briana Ladwig

One:

I have two understandings of rest. The first, a physical one, where I will prioritize caring for my body. In this state of rest, I’ll allow my body to exist without any external expectations of production. I’ll silence my phone and nap for hours. I’ll light candles and manifest future intentions. I’ll reschedule plans and binge nostalgic episodes of my favorite television shows. 

Yet often, even after resting, I’m still tired and thirsting for my next escape. There’s only so much that cat naps, DIY spa days, and re-binged episodes of Chewing Gum can do to fight the constant state of exhaustion that this society demands from us. From me.  

When I realize exhaustion still bags my eyes and that any rest is mainly my reaction to forced productions of my energy, I’m livid and imagining manifestations of my anger. I want my neon acrylics to transform into claws strong enough to rip apart brick banks. I want to gather the beings capitalism made into gods and place them in front of Osiris and Maat for judgement. I want to level all high rises, empty every state of all its buildings so there is an open space, open air to hear my thoughts. 

This rage and exhaustion, this anger and desire for a cataclysmic change, fuels my hunt for more rest. Always, my search leads me toward my creativity, my act of liberation. When creating, I can generate the beginnings of worlds and futures I want to inhabit. I can escape the blurring together of the day to day and process my thoughts at the granular level.  There is no pressure to produce or pretend another form of myself for society’s consumption.  With creating, a form of active rest, I can construct sacred sanctuaries of escapes, which will last beyond naps, treats, and other ephemeral moments of reprieve.

Two: 

But how? How and where does this process of creating my sanctuary begin? It begins in my body-ody-ody. I offer myself to feed myself, and from my body, I create a body of work. This act of creation is sacred, amplified by my energies, my creative blood. As I create, I reimagine worlds and concoct futures where you, the reader, and I, the writer, or you, the lover, and I, the loved, sit across from another. Together, once I am ready, we indulge in every sentence, every word, every touch of language that brings us pleasure. With one another, we can escape and enter a world where we no longer live on a periphery and instead live in the epicenter of care.

For me to arrive to you, for us to live in a pleasure away from expectation and in the joys of a creation, I must divorce myself from any world that wishes me ill. If I remain with the anger and hatred, if I continue to only be a tool of productivity and live in this society’s denial of both my individuality and my worth, then I am unseen. This invisibility makes me restless, then desperate for an outsider’s creation of my worth. When I realize that I can remove myself from any outside world, I can say hell no to the bullshittery, I can enter myself to create and offer testaments of my existence, then I can allow everything I create to be of my body and blood, my blood and body, the current consolidation of all my energies. 

Three: 

The journey toward myself is exhausting and blocked with distractions. When I prepare to create, I think of everything that I should be doing. Answering emails, deleting Tinder, returning calls, responding to missed messages, redownloading Tinder, new job applications, current job deliverables, etc., etc.

 

As the pull toward the outside world and its responsibilities grows, my fantasies intensify. Perhaps for a minute, even an hour, hell even this whole week, I’ll leave external responsibilities, question all practicality that’s only rooted in capitalism, and use my time to further craft myself. Because when writing or building, crafting or connecting, I am indulged. I am wanting, craving, hunting, gathering my thoughts to induce the pleasure of my satisfaction’s satiation. 

While internal, I ignore the hierarchies of creation. There is nothing good or bad, worthy, or unworthy, everything is for my essence and creates chambers of autonomy.  In these chambers of control, I am removed from society’s impulse to ignore our creativity and our dreams just so we can produce without intention. There is no self-implosion from deferring a dream. There are only the dreams, the unveiling thoughts, the forgotten connections we created in our waking lives—the pure creativity. 

Creativity and its time are beautiful and demand protection. For their demands, I’m offering you this prayer that no Deacons, Priests, or Fathers are prepared to say: 

Four: 

The more I create, the more my creativity desires my consistent presence. With a consistency in my practice, I understand that every act of creation is taking a part of my essence and instilling the object with myself. Any chance for Jason Derulo-level-narcissism, a type of narcissism where I must announce my name on every track—yes Jason Derulo we know it’s you…sorry I’ve digressed. As I was saying, any penchant for narcissism is lost because the part of myself that I am instilling is a colloid of unknown, curious, and experimented thoughts that remains buried in the daily tedious tasks until the chance to think allows a full exhale. 

A disappearance from my writing leaves me longing for the next exhale. As I wait, I gradually forget all the known and unknown parts of myself that operate underneath my skin. To remain consistent, I continue to develop my rituals for my creativity.  Sure, to an eye/I trapped in our culture of consumption, the paradox of creation may appear nonsensical or sacrilegious, an act without ritual. That’s not the case and is false like corporate allyship outside of June. Every created object requires a system of intention, a method of your promises and actions. 

Five: 

My method to creativity begins with a risk. I take the chance and carve out escapes from work, which allow me to breathe and build. In these escapes, I am all that exists. Whether it is my happiness or pain, my desire or exhaustion, my insight or the confusion, which wets my mind to a formable clay—it’s all mine to process at a tempo of my choosing. Some days, I process at the rate of techno. Other days, I’m as steady and melodic as Teena Marie. 

As I continue building out the infrastructures of my thoughts into material objects, being present for my work places me within the created object. I can transform and transmute the lost thoughts, the forgotten selves into another representation of myself. With this metamorphosis, I am the creator, created, and first reader—a three personed being who has wedded themselves to the manifestation of their ideas. 

Six

This commitment to my ideas, this act of revolution, this time away from expected productivity is elating. The joy involved with creating any work leaves me ignited and tempted to rush to someone who will witness creative work. Rather than flinging my pages into the streets like a literary Regina George, I let them sit, unread by any outsider. Any rush to meet a reader outside of myself is an external pressure that is unproductive to my creativity, and signals that my writing has stopped being for me. 

Seven

When I remain in my creations and their thoughts, in my energies and their transformations, then these herrings of new life deter me from society’s draining cycle, and the pretenses of selves and joys that it valorizes.  And so, when exhaustion causes me to feel an absence from myself and napping only tempts my imagination with dreams, I venture out from the day to day, and create. I allow creativity’s bewitching nature to overpower me and birth me into a world of my created joys.

My reader, my lover, I pray that you let the unsaid and unheard fuel your creativity, that you allow the breaths of your inner selves to rise then twine against one another. I pray you open yourself to every depth. Create from your pleasures and your denials, your joy and your pain, your histories and futures. Create from your hallows and allow the excitement for your work to curl your soul.  

Briana Ladwig
Briana Ladwig is a Black, queer, mama illustrator based in Lawrence, Kansas whose work centers around Black Liberation, decolonizing storytelling, generational healing, and afrofuturism. She grew up learning to draw on the floor of her dad’s art studio, receiving a natural education from closely watching his work as a master book illustrator. She now draws inspiration from the cycle-breaking work of her ancestors and Black speculative fiction, especially the works of Octavia Butler. Bri’s favorite medium is lush, textured watercolors under detailed pen lines. Bri is currently working on an illustration/design degree at the KU while doing freelance illustration work from home.

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